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Poetry: A Soldier From Auvergne

The following poem was published in Rimes des Diables Bleus (1917), a collection of poetry by writer and British Ambulance Committee serviceman Henry Baerlein. The poems are inspired by Baerlein’s experiences with the Diables Bleus, an elite corps of French mountain troops who — as Baerlein put it — commonly hailed “from the Vosges, the Pyrenees, Auvergne or the Dauphiné”.

“The Soldier From Auvergne” is a stirring piece of wartime poetry. There is something anthemic in it, and American readers may see a resemblance between its Romanticism and that of Irving Berlin’s classic tune “God Bless America” (which was also written around the same time):

WHEN, oh when shall I return

To the mountains of Auvergne,

The land I love?

Shall I see by ruined walls

Of Ventadour those waterfalls

That eagles float above,

And shall I see the Puy de Dôme

Behind the quivering turquoise veil?

Lord of the land which is my home—

When shall I tread your lofty trail?

Oh, that it may please God that I

Into those mountains shall return,

Where gorse and purple heather vie

To sing into the singing sky

Of old Auvergne.

For more poetry on Auvergne, click “History and Literature” below.