“Little Song of the Mutilated”

Tonight was the 18th annual French recital where the 8th grade students recited French poems, acted out scenes in French, and performed the music of French composers. The ambiance of the room was very cafe-like (flowers and candles on the table-clothed tables, dimmed lights) and the students were wonderful. Organized by an amazing French teacher at our school, the energy was high, the talents varied and quite impressive, and the madeleines absolutely delicious.

I made a small contribution by reciting the poem by Benjamin Peret (1899-1959), “Little Song of the Mutilated.” It is a lilting poem whose rhythm contrasts with the words of a soldier who has been mutilated in World War I. Peret was a French surrealist and political activist who served in the Great War.

Petite chanson des mutilésHR_56600100889600_1

Prête moi ton bras

pour remplacer ma jambe

Les rats me l’ont mangé

à Verdun

à Verdun

J’ai mangé beaucoup de rats

mais ils ne m’ont pas rendu ma jambe

c’est pour cela qu’on m’a donné la croix de guerre

et une jambe de bois

et une jambe de bois


Lend me your arm

To replace my leg

The rats ate it for me

At Verdun

At Verdun

I ate a lot of rats

But they didn’t give me back my leg

And that’s why I was given the Croix de Guerre

And a wooden leg

And a wooden leg


This entry was posted in poetry, World War I and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “Little Song of the Mutilated”

  1. And you were awesome! Such a powerful poem – precisely because it is plaintively playful. Thank you so much!

  2. Jerome Bloom says:


    Are a



  3. writeejit says:

    Love the poem, and very inspired by that French teacher’s commitment to her students. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Justin says:

    Totally random internet find.
    Any chance you have a recording of you reciting this poem?
    I would love to do something with it for our little noisy sound project.
    Email me if interested.

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