APOLLINAIRE, Guillaume (1880-1918)

Autograph quatrain signed « G.A. » to Paul Lombard
[Nîmes], 15th March 1915, 1/4 p. in-4to

« Tu regardes debout sur la tour cette guerre »

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APOLLINAIRE, Guillaume (1880-1918)

Autograph quatrain signed « G.A. » to Paul Lombard
[Nîmes], 15th March 1915, 1/4 p. in-4to
Fold mark, some tiny missing bits on left and right margins (see photos)

Apollinaire sends an epistolary quatrain in alexandrins to his friend Paul Lombard

« Ainsi que Didier Lombard, ô Paul Lombard
Tu regardes debout sur la tour cette guerre
Prends garde qu’un conseil du civil de naguère
Ne fasse en un clin d’oeil un terrible soudard
G.A. »

This epistolary quatrain to Paul Lombard, of which this manuscript version is unpublished, is part of a set of poems exchanged between the two friends between February and April 1915, when Apollinaire, as volunteer, was studying in Nîmes. A journalist, Paul Lombard was one of the sons of Jean Lombard, a writer who had his hour of fame and to whom Apollinaire devoted a tasty echo in La Vie anecdotique, a column he held at the Mercure de France. Was Didier Lombard another of his brothers?

Thanks to the recent publication of the letters addressed by Paul Lombard to Apollinaire, it is possible to interpret the quatrain as a response to a previous quatrain of Paul Lombard, sent from Paris on March 13, 1915:

Ton profil de médaille antique, Apollinaire,
A précédé ton nom dans l’immortalité
Mais ton soixante-quinze, irritable et crotté,
Restitue au passé la horde sanguinaire.

The compliment is accompanied by an unveiled criticism of Apollinaire’s participation in the war. Apollinaire’s response denounces his friend’s entrenchment in his protective (ivory) tower and threatens him with a brutal metamorphosis. He too, if he becomes aware of the need for commitment, can become “in the blink of an eye” a brutal and rude soldier… Another way to recognize with lucidity the barbarity inherent in the war in which he wanted to participate, which will earn him a head injury and probably an early death.

Beyond private allusions, this exchange thus deciphered takes on its full value: it testifies to the misunderstanding that is established between the fighters and the “ambushes”, a misunderstanding that goes so far as to compromise the friendship of yesteryear.

Œuvres poétiques Pléiade, p. 827,
Œuvres complètes, tome 4, Balland et Lecat, p. 861,
Correspondance générale, 1915, tome 2, H. Champion, établie par Victor Martin-Schmets, p. 205,
Guillaume Apollinaire Poèmes en guerre, Les Presses du réel, established by Claude Debon, 2018, p. 100.

Only the version of the Correspondance générale does not end with an end point, which the manuscript seems to confirm.

Volume 3 of the Correspondance générale provides some information on Paul Lombard and the relationship between Apollinaire and him, pp. 1032 and 1033

A last recent publication gives more information thanks to the publication of the letters addressed by Paul Lombard to Apollinaire: Lettres reçues par Apollinaire, edition of Victor Martin-Schmets, volume III, H. Champion, 2018.

Lettres reçues par Apollinaire, Edited by Victor Martin-Schmets, Volume III, Honoré Champion, 2018, pp. 532 à 539.