BENJAMIN (Song in the popular language of the Treguier)

Not long ago behind the town square
There was a lovely beech tree
Whose bark bore deeply engraved
Letters and numbers
For all the men of the village
Had a long-standing tradition
To mark their names in the tree
Before leaving for the army.

When it came the turn of Benjamin
The widow’s eldest son
He, too, engraved
On the tree his natal name
Almost as soon as he had left
The war was unleashed
And never again did
Benjamin return to his Brittany.

At dusk the grieving mother
Would go to reminisce
Beside the tree engraved
With her son Benjamin’s name
But then came a day for woodcutters
With tools on their shoulders
They set down at the back of the square
To cut down the big beech tree.

The old tree was screaming
Under the teeth of the long saw
Her sap flowed out
Her long life was ended
When the mother heard the cracking
She ran out of her house
And showed the woodcutters
Her son Benjamin’s name.

The woodcutters were kindly folk
Carefully and heedfully
With their saw they cut
That whole piece of wood
Respectfully carried the plaque
To the poor mother’s house
And set it as a base
Under Benjamin’s portrait.

June 1967.

Translated by Lenora Timm
This poem in breton

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