Autumn has crept up on me (je ne l’ai pas vu venir), but spotting the first of the yellow leaves (les feuilles mortes) I’m not surprised its colours are the themes of so many songs and poems.

One of the most famous ones is by Paul Verlaine, published in 1866, and starts like this:

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon coeur
D’une langueur
(The long laments of autumn’s violins wound my heart with a monotone fatigue)

It was once famous just for its beauty but now is better known for the way it was used during the second world war: it was the code used by the French resistance to warn of timing of the Normandy landings (le débarquement). The first three verses were spoken on the BBC to indicate the operation would start in the following two weeks; the last three that it would happen within 48 hours, and sabotage on French ground should start. You can listen to the whole poem here.

Some of the lines have also inspired Serge Gainsbourg, French chanson’s enfant terrible, in his beautiful song Je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais (I came to tell you I’m leaving):

I presume you will also be familiar with the French version of Autumn Leaves, Les Feuilles Mortes, sung by Yves Montand:

One of the best known cure for autumnal blues is – of course! – learning a foreign language with Alliance Française de Bristol et Bath; we have some spaces left in some groups and our French drama workshop and cooking workshop coming up.