“What happened on this day?” my father would often ask as we sat down to dinner. Today, of course, the answer would be D-Day. The invasion of Normandy. The beginning of the end on World War II. Even if we knew the answer to these questions, an impromptu history lesson usually followed. My father wasn’t a scholar or historian, but he had been a small boy during the war, and he revered the soldiers who fought it. And although he never said as much, I think these supper-time history lessons were his way of ensuring my sister and I shared his reverence.
My father isn’t here to ask that question today. But if he were, I know he would be honoring the brave men who landed on the beaches and parachuted into the French countryside seventy years ago.
One of those soldiers, Louis Simpson, captured the horrors endured and the sacrifices made by the courageous souls who fought to liberate “Fortress Europe” in “Carentan O Carentan.”
“Carentan O Carentan”
by Louis Simpson
Trees in the old days used to stand
And shape a shady lane
Where lovers wandered hand in hand
Who came from Carentan.
This was the shining green canal
Where we came two by two
Walking at combat-interval.
Such trees we never knew.
The day was early June, the ground
Was soft and bright with dew.
Far away the guns did sound,
But here the sky was blue.
The sky was blue, but there a smoke
Hung still above the sea
Where the ships together spoke
To towns we could not see.
Read the rest of the poem here or listen to actor Charles Durning recite the poem:
To read more about D-Day and see photos of Omaha Beach today, visit Remember D-Day by walking the beaches of Normandy by John Hanc.
Please be sure to visit Carol at Carol’s Corner for the Poetry Friday Round Up.
10 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “Carentan O Carentan””
I haven’t read this poem before, Catherine – so evocative of the mood of the time, isn’t it? The sense of marveling at the beauty of the earth and gearing ones spirit for battle.
What a moving poem and wonderful post of remembrance. So poignant to hear Simpson’s words.
I haven’t seen this before, beautiful & poignant, Catherine. I like “There is a whistling in the leaves/And it is not the wind”, although scary. My father died on this day a year later after D-Day, in the Pacific theater, so I do remember well D-Day & the story. Thanks for your good memorial.
Thank you for sharing this poem, Catherine, and honoring these brave men in your father’s absence.
Thank you for this. I’ll be sharing this poem with my kids later today.
This is just to say that I have been here and read your words, but surgery on both thumbs last Tuesday prevents me from typing a personalized comment. Forgive me — copy/paste is the best I can do this week! 🙂
Just listened to Durning’s recital of “Carentan.” It made me cry. I want to share this with the history teachers at my school. And thanks again for switching with me!
Like Tara this is the first time I’ve heard of this poem. The recital also brought tears to my eyes – so powerfully narrated.
This poem was new to me too.
I hope to make it to the beaches of Normandy one day. I have so much respect for the way the French have helped to preserve the memory of those who fought (and survived and died) on D-Day.
Thank you for sharing this poem and reading. Charles Dunning is a favorite of mine and the images on the screen were an amazing backdrop for the reading.