Epitaph

I lived in those times. For a thousand years
I have been dead. Not fallen, but hunted;
When all human decency was imprisoned,
I was free amongst the masked slaves.

I lived in those times, yet I was free.
I watched the river, the earth, the sky,
Turning around me, keeping their balance,
The seasons provided their birds and their honey.

You who live, what have you made of your luck?
Do you regret the time when I struggled?
Have you cultivated for the common harvest?
Have you enriched the town I lived in?

Living men, think nothing of me. I am dead.
Nothing survives of my spirit or my body.

— Robert Desnos

L’Épitaphe

J’ai vécu dans ces temps et depuis mille années
Je suis mort. Je vivais, non déchu mais traqué.
Toute noblesse humaine étant emprisonnée
J’étais libre parmi les esclaves masqués.

J’ai vécu dans ces temps et pourtant j’étais libre.
Je regardais le fleuve et la terre et le ciel.
Tourner autour de moi, garder leur équilibre
Et les saisons fournir leurs oiseaux et leur miel.

Vous qui vivez qu’avez-vous fait de ces fortunes ?
Regrettez-vous les temps où je me débattais ?
Avez-vous cultivé pour des moissons communes ?
Avez-vous enrichi la ville où j’habitais ?

Vivants, ne craignez rien de moi, car je suis mort.
Rien ne survit de mon esprit ni de mon corps.

— Robert Desnos

Robert Desnos

The last known photo taken of Robert Desnos at Terezín Concentration Camp, 1945.
Public Domain

Surrealist poet Robert Desnos used his art in support of the French resistance during World War II, using a pseudonym to publish a series of essays that mocked the Nazis. This, in combination with his anti-Nazi poetry, led to his arrest by the Gestapo in 1944. After interrogation by torture, he was sent to a series of concentration camps: Compeigne, Buchenwald, and Floha. He died of typhus at Terezín on June 8, 1945.

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