Robert Desnos (1900-45): I’ve Dreamed of You So Much

Translated by Timothy Adès

J’ai Tant Rêvé de Toi

J’ai tant rêvé de toi que tu perds ta réalité.
Est-il encore temps d’atteindre ce corps vivant et de
    baiser sur cette bouche la naissance de la voix qui
    m’est chère?
J’ai tant rêvé de toi que mes bras habitués en étreignant
­    ton ombre à se croiser sur ma poitrine ne se plie­raient
    pas au contour de ton corps, peut-être.
Et que, devant l’apparence réelle de ce qui me hante
    et me gouverne depuis des jours et des années, je
    devien­drais une ombre sans doute.
O balances sentimentales.
J’ai tant rêvé de toi qu’il n’est plus temps sans doute
    que je m’éveille. Je dors debout, le corps exposé à
    toutes les apparences de la vie et de l’amour et toi,
    la seule qui compte aujourd’hui pour moi, je pourrais
    moins toucher ton front et tes lèvres que les premières
    lèvres et le premier front venu.
J’ai tant rêvé de toi, tant marché, parlé, couché avec
    ton fantôme qu’il ne me reste plus peut-être, et
    pour­tant, qu’à être fantôme parmi les fantômes et
    plus ombre cent fois que l’ombre qui se promène
    et se promènera allégrement sur le cadran solaire
    de ta vie.
I’ve dreamed of you so much that you lose your reality.
Is there still time to reach that living body and to kiss on
    those lips the birth of the voice I love?
I’ve dreamed of you so much that my arms, which always
    find my own breast even as they clutch at your shadow,
    may never close on the contours of your body.
So much that, confronted by one who has haunted and
    controlled me for days and for years, I would certainly
    become a shadow myself.
O the seesaw of emotions.
I’ve dreamed of you so much that it’s probably too late to
    wake up. I’m asleep on my feet, my body exposed to
    all the sensations of life and love, and you, the only
    woman these days who counts for me, I couldn’t
    touch your mouth or your brow as well as I could the
    next one that comes along.
    I’ve dreamed of you so much, walked, talked, slept with
    your phantom so much that all that’s left to me, perhaps,
    is to be a phantom among phantoms and a hundred
    times more shadowy than that shadow walking in joy,
    now and in time to come, across the sun-dial of your life.


The last sentence, slightly altered, is inscribed on the walls of the Monument to the Martyrs of Deportation, behind Notre-Dame in Paris, at the end of the island. It had come back from Terezin, translated into Czech. In a slightly altered French guise, it was taken to be a new poem, his last, addressed not to a loved one but to Liberty, or to France.
The entire poem ‘Ce Coeur Qui Haïssait La Guerre’ is also inscribed there. Desnos is the only writer to be honoured at the Monument with two quotations.
Translation: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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