This Heart That Hated War
by Robert Desnos (1943)
This heart that hated war now throbs for combat and battle!
This heart that once beat only to the rhythms of the marshes, the seasons, the hours of day and night,
Now swells and sends through my veins a blood infused with saltpetre and hatred,
Sending such a noise in my brain that it whistles in my ears,
Such a noise that must be spreading through towns and fields
Like the sound of a church bell calling the people to riot and combat.
Listen! I hear it returning to me in echoes—
But no! it is the noise of other hearts, millions of other hearts like mine, beating all across France.
All these hearts beat to the same rhythm for the same duty,
They sound like the sea crashing against the cliffs,
And all that blood carries to millions of brains the same command:
“Revolt against Hitler! Death to his supporters!”
Though this heart hated war and beat to the rhythm of the seasons,
One word—liberty—sufficed to awaken the old anger
And millions in France prepare themselves in darkness for the task that the coming dawn will impose on them.
Because those hearts that hated war beat for liberty, for the rhythms of the seasons and the marshes, day and night.
—Translated by Eric T. MacKnight
Original text: « Ce cœur qui haïssait la guerre… »
About Robert Desnos (1900 – 1945), from Wikipedia:
During World War II, Desnos was an active member of the French Résistance network Réseau AGIR, under the direction of Michel Hollard, often publishing under pseudonyms. For Réseau Agir, Desnos provided information collected during his job at the journal Aujourd’hui and made false identity papers, and was arrested by the Gestapo on 22 February 1944.
He was first deported to the German concentration camps of Auschwitz in occupied Poland, then Buchenwald, Flossenburg in Germany and finally to Terezín (Theresienstadt) in occupied Czechoslovakia in 1945.
Desnos died in Malá pevnost, which was an inner part of Terezín used only for political prisoners, from typhoid, a month after the camp’s liberation.