Voices from the Fields banner

Intro | Poetry | Sketches | Links | Contact | Comments | Home

Brian Pohanka
- Ceux de 14 Excerpt
- Gravesite of Joyce

- In Honor of Veterans
- Saki Remembered at

- The Somme:
   Beaumont Hamel

- Serre Road
   Cemetery No. 2

- A Tribute to Alan

- Powers Album Photos

The Western Front


Excerpt from Ceux de 14
by Maurice Genevoix

Comments by Brian Pohanka - February 3, 2000

...One thing I did in a brief spare moment was take a passage from Maurice Genevoix's memoirs of World War One, Ceux de 14, which to my knowledge -- though a very well written and powerful book, reflecting in it his love of nature as well as his experiences in the horrors of war, and the bonding with his fellow soldiers -- has never been translated into English....

[In this passage,] Lieutenant Genevoix is talking with a fellow officer, Lieutenant Ravaud, as they are briefly out of the line for a rest, and walking in the dark toward the forest where their men are encamped. Ravaud is clearly disturbed and when Genevoix asks him if it is because they had buried one of their men earlier that day, Ravaud elaborates in a passage that gives the book its title, "Ceux de 14" -- "Those of '14" (as in 1914).

poppy by DLO

Translated Excerpt from Ceux de 14

He stopped again, took my arm, and looked me straight in the eye:

"Have you never thought about the other dead, those who we haven't known, the dead of all the other regiments? Ours, nothing but ours, and they've planted hundreds under our feet. Wherever we go, the little crosses rise up behind us, the two sticks with the red kepi hanging on top. We don't even know ourselves how many we've left: we march on…. And in the same way the other regiments march, hundreds of regiments each leaving behind them hundreds and hundreds of dead. Can you conceive of it? That multitude? One dares not even imagine it. And there are still all those that the wagons have jolted along the roads, bleeding on their litters of straw, those the rail cars with the red crosses have borne toward all the cities of France, the dead in the ambulances and the dead in the hospitals. More crosses, multitudes of crosses, rank on rank, lined up in formation inside the military cemeteries."

As he spoke the tenor of his voice became stronger and stronger, then dropped again.

"But I foresee," he said, "a misfortune even worse than these slaughters…. Perhaps these poor souls will be very quickly forgotten…. Be quiet, listen: they will be the dead of the outset, those of '14. And there are going to be so many others! And on those piles of corpses one will see only the last to fall, not the skeletons that are underneath…. Who knows, even? Since the war has taken hold of the world like a cancer, who knows if there won't come a time when the world will have gotten used to living with this disease? Things will take their course, you understand, the war is there, tolerated, accepted. And it will be considered a normal part of life, that these young men must be condemned to death."

He fell silent as we walked into the forest. I could barely distinguish his silhouette.

"My curse, you see, has been to understand a little sooner than many others that this war is going to go on and on…. It's entered me like a shock, so brutal I feel like I’ve been demolished…. But that will pass. I'll pull myself together...."

Copyright © 2003 - 2005
1st Dragoon's Great War Site. All rights reserved.
Spider Map Index