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Guillaume Apollinaire

Born 26 August 1880(1880-08-26)
Rome, Italy1
Died 9 November 1918 (aged 38)
Paris, France
Occupation Poet, Writer, Art critic

Wilhelm Albert WŇāodzimierz Apolinary Kostrowicki, known as Guillaume Apollinaire (French pronunciation: […°ijom ap…Ēliňąn…õ Ā]; Rome, August 26, 1880 ‚Äď November 9, 1918, Paris) was a French poet, writer and art critic born in Italy to a Polish mother.

Among the foremost poets of the early 20th century, he is credited with coining the word "surrealism" and writing one of the earliest works described as surrealist, the play Les Mamelles de Tirésias (1917, used as the basis for a 1947 opera). Two years after being wounded in World War I, he died at age 38, a victim of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.



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Born Wilhelm Apollinaris de Kostrowitzky and raised speaking French, among other languages, he emigrated to France and adopted the name Guillaume Apollinaire. His mother, born Angelica Kostrowicka, was a Polish noblewoman born near Nowogródek (now in Belarus). Apollinaire's father is unknown but may have been Francesco Flugi d'Aspermont, a Swiss Italian aristocrat who disappeared early from Apollinaire's life. Apollinaire was partly educated in Monaco.

Apollinaire was one of the most popular members of the artistic community of Montparnasse in Paris. His friends and collaborators in that period included Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Max Jacob, André Salmon, Marie Laurencin, André Breton, André Derain, Faik Konica, Blaise Cendrars, Pierre Reverdy, Alexandra Exter, Jean Cocteau, Erik Satie, Ossip Zadkine, Marc Chagall and Marcel Duchamp. In 1911, he joined the Puteaux Group, a branch of the cubist movement.

On September 7, 1911, police arrested and jailed him on suspicion of stealing the Mona Lisa, but released him a week later. Apollinaire then implicated his friend Pablo Picasso, who was also brought in for questioning in the art theft, but he was also exonerated.[1] He once called for the Louvre to be burnt down.

He fought in World War I and, in 1916, received a serious shrapnel wound to the temple. He wrote Les Mamelles de Tirésias while recovering from this wound. During this period he coined the word surrealism in the program notes for Jean Cocteau and Erik Satie's ballet Parade, first performed on 18 May 1917. He also published an artistic manifesto, L'Esprit nouveau et les poètes. Apollinaire's status as a literary critic is most famous and influential in his recognition of the Marquis de Sade, whose works were for a long time obscure, yet arising in popularity as an influence upon the Dada and Surrealist art movements going on in Montparnasse at the beginning of the twentieth century as, "The freest spirit that ever existed."

The war-weakened Apollinaire died of influenza during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. He was interred in the Le Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.


Portrait by Maurice de Vlaminck, 1903

Apollinaire's first collection of poetry was L'enchanteur pourrissant (1909), but Alcools (1913) established his reputation. The poems, influenced in part by the Symbolists, juxtapose the old and the new, combining traditional poetic forms with modern imagery. In 1913, Apollinaire published the essay Les Peintres cubistes on the cubist painters, a movement which he helped to define. He also coined the term orphism to describe a tendency towards absolute abstraction in the paintings of Robert Delaunay and others.

In 1907, Apollinaire wrote the well-known erotic novel, The Eleven Thousand Rods (Les Onze Mille Verges). Officially banned in France until 1970, various printings of it circulated widely for many years. Apollinaire never publicly acknowledged authorship of the novel. Another erotic novel attributed to him was The Exploits of a Young Don Juan (Les exploits d'un jeune Don Juan), in which the 15-year-old hero fathers three children with various members of his entourage, including his aunt. The book was made into a movie in 1987.

Shortly after his death, Calligrammes, a collection of his concrete poetry (poetry in which typography and layout adds to the overall effect), and more orthodox, though still modernist poems informed by Apollinaire's experiences in the First World War and in which he often used the technique of automatic writing, was published.

In his youth Apollinaire lived for a short while in Belgium, mastering the Walloon dialect sufficiently to write poetry through that medium, some of which has survived.


  • Le bestiaire ou le cort√®ge d‚ÄôOrph√©e, 1911
  • Alcools, 1913
  • Vitam impendere amori', 1917
  • Calligrammes, po√®mes de la paix et de la guerre 1913-1916, 1918 (published shortly after Apollinaire's death)
  • Il y a..., 1925
  • Julie ou la rose, 1927
  • Ombre de mon amour, poems addressed to Louise de Coligny-Ch√Ętillon, 1947
  • Po√®mes secrets √† Madeleine, pirated edition, 1949
  • Le Guetteur m√©lancolique, previously unpublished works, 1952
  • Po√®mes √† Lou, 1955
  • Soldes, previously unpublished works, 1985
  • Et moi aussi je suis peintre, album of drawings for Calligrammes, from a private collection, published 2006


Muse Inspiring the Poet. Portrait of Apollinaire and Marie Laurencin, by Henri Rousseau, 1909
  • Mirely ou le Petit Trou pas cher, 1900
  • "Que faire?",
  • Les Onze Mille Verges ou les amours d'un hospodar, 1907
  • L'enchanteur pourrissant, 1909
  • L'H√©r√®siarque et Cie (short story collection), 1910
  • Les exploits d‚Äôun jeune Don Juan, 1911
  • La Rome des Borgia, 1914
  • La Fin de Babylone - L'Histoire romanesque 1/3, 1914
  • Les Trois Don Juan - L'Histoire romanesque 2/3, 1915
  • Le po√®te assassin√©, 1916
  • La femme assise, 1920
  • Les √Čpingles (short story collection), 1928


  • Les Mamelles de Tir√©sias, play, 1917
  • La Br√©hatine, screenplay (collaboration with Andr√© Billy), 1917
  • Couleurs du temps, 1918
  • Casanova, published 1952


  • Le Th√©√Ętre Italien, illustrated encyclopedia, 1910
  • Pages d'histoire, chronique des grands si√®cles de France, chronicles, 1912
  • M√©ditations esth√©tiques. Les peintres cubistes, 1913
  • La Peinture moderne, 1913
  • L'Antitradition futuriste, manifeste synth√®se, 1913
  • Case d'Armons, 1915
  • L'esprit nouveau et les po√®tes, 1918
  • Le Fl√Ęneur des Deux Rives, chronicles, 1918


  1. ^ Time Magazine, STEALING THE MONA LISA, 1911. Consulted on August 15, 2007.


Appolinaire's grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery
  • Apollinaire, Marcel Ad√©ma, 1954
  • Apollinaire, Poet among the Painters, Francis Steegmuller, 1963, 1971, 1973
  • Apollinaire, M. Davies, 1964
  • Guillaume Apollinaire, S. Bates, 1967
  • Guillaume Apollinaire, P. Ad√©ma, 1968
  • The Banquet Years, Roger Shattuck, 1968
  • Apollinaire, R. Couffignal, 1975
  • Guillaume Apollinaire, L.C. Breuning, 1980
  • Reading Apollinaire, T. Mathews, 1987
  • Guillaume Apollinaire, J. Grimm, 1993

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

A new language, beyond the reach of grammarians.

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-08-26 ‚Äď 1918-11-09), a French writer of Italian birth and Polish descent, was hugely influential as a Modernist poet and as a spokesman for the Cubist painters. His original name appears in many forms along the lines of Wilhelm Albert Vladimir Apollinaris Kostrowitzky or WńÖŇľ-Kostrowicki.



  • De cette alliance nouvelle, car jusqu'ici les d√©cors et les costumes, d'une part, la chor√©ographie, d'autre part, n'avaient entre eux qu'un lien factice, il est r√©sult√©, dans Parade, une sorte de sur-r√©alisme.
    • From this new alliance ‚Äď for until now costume and scenery on one hand, choreography on the other, have been linked only artificially ‚Äď there has resulted in Parade a kind of sur-r√©alisme.
    • Excelsior, May 11, 1917; translation from Michael Benedikt & George E. Wellwarth (eds.) Modern French Theatre (New York: Dutton, 1964) p. xvii.
    • The first usage of the word surrealism in any language.
  • La g√©om√©trie est aux arts plastiques ce que la grammaire est √† l'art de l'√©crivain.
    • Geometry is to the plastic arts what grammar is to the art of the writer.
    • Les peintres cubistes (1913), reprinted in Oeuvres en prose compl√®tes (Paris: Gallimard, 1991) vol. 2, p. 11; translation from Lionel Abel (trans.) The Cubist Painters (New York: Wittenborn, 1949) p. 13.
  • The poems I am writing at the moment will be much closer to your present way of thinking.I am trying to renew poetic style,but within a classical framework.On the other hand,I don't want to lapse into imitating others.Letter to Picasso 1918

Alcools (1912)

  • A la fin tu es las de ce monde ancien
    Berg√®re √ī tour Eiffel le troupeau des ponts b√™le ce matin
    Tu en as assez de vivre dans l'antiquité grecque et romaine
    • At last you're tired of this elderly world
      Shepherdess O Eiffel Tower this morning the bridges are bleating
      You're fed up living with antiquity
    • "Zone", line 1; translation from Donald Revell (trans.) Alcools (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1995) p. 3.
  • Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
    Et nos amours
    Faut-il qu'il m'en souvienne
    La joie venait toujours après la peine
    Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
    Les jours s'en vont je demeure
    • Under Mirabeau Bridge flows the Seine.
      Why must I be reminded again
      Of our love?
      Doesn't happiness issue from pain?
      Bring on the night, ring out the hour.
      The days wear on but I endure.
    • "Le Pont Mirabeau" (Mirabeau Bridge), line 1; translation by William Meredith, from Francis Steegmuller Apollinaire: Poet Among the Painters (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973) p. 193.
  • L'amour s'en va comme cette eau courante
    L'amour s'en va
    Comme la vie est lente
    Et comme l'Espérance est violente
    • And love runs down like this
      Water, love runs down.
      How slow life is,
      How violent hope is.
    • "Le Pont Mirabeau" (Mirabeau Bridge), line 13; translation by William Meredith, from Francis Steegmuller Apollinaire: Poet Among the Painters (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973) p. 193.
  • Passent les jours et passent les semaines
    Ni temps passé
    Ni les amours reviennent
    • Nor days nor any time detain.
      Time past or any love
      Cannot come again.
    • "Le Pont Mirabeau" (Mirabeau Bridge), line 19; translation by William Meredith, from Francis Steegmuller Apollinaire: Poet Among the Painters (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973) p. 193.
  • Mon beau navire √ī ma m√©moire
    Avons-nous assez navigué
    Dans une onde mauvaise à boire
    Avons-nous assez divagué
    De la belle aube au triste soir
    • O pretty ship, my memory
      Isn't this far enough to sea,
      And the sea not fit to drink?
      Haven't we drifted far and lost
      From fair dawn to dreary dusk?
    • "La Chanson du Mal-Aim√©" (Song of the Poorly Loved), line 51; translation by William Meredith, from Francis Steegmuller Apollinaire: Poet Among the Painters (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973) p. 95.
  • Adieu faux amour confondu
    Avec la femme qui s'éloigne
    Avec celle que j'ai perdue
    L'année dernière en Allemagne
    Et que je ne reverrai plus
    Voie lact√©e √ī sŇďur lumineuse
    Des blancs ruisseaux de Chanaan
    Et des corps blancs des amoureuses
    Nageurs morts suivrons-nous d’ahan
    Ton cours vers d'autres nébuleuses
    • Farewell, false love, I took you for
      The woman that I lost last year
      Forever as I think:
      I loved her but I will not see
      Her any more in Germany.
      O Milky Way, sister in whiteness
      To Canaan's rivers and the bright
      Bodies of lovers drowned,
      Can we follow toilsomely
      Your path to other nebulae?
    • "La Chanson du Mal-Aim√©" (Song of the Poorly Loved), line 56; translation by William Meredith, from Francis Steegmuller Apollinaire: Poet Among the Painters (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973) p. 95.
  • Moi qui sais des lais pour les reines
    Les complaintes de mes années
    Des hymnes d'esclave aux murènes
    La romance du mal-aimé
    Et des chansons pour les sirènes
    • I've made a song for the poorly loved
      And songs for everything I grieved ‚Äď
      For unaccompanied slave and shark,
      For queens who've gone into the dark.
    • "La Chanson du Mal-Aim√©" (Song of the Poorly Loved), line 91; translation by William Meredith, from Francis Steegmuller Apollinaire: Poet Among the Painters (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973) p. 97.
  • Et ma vie pour tes yeux lentement s'empoisonne
    • And for your eyes my life takes poison slowly.
    • "Les colchiques" (The Saffrons), line 7; translation from Donald Revell (trans.) Alcools (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1995) p. 35.
  • Et l'unique cordeau des trompettes marines
    • And the single string of the marine trumpets.
    • [Alternatively:] And the solitary row of megaphones.
    • "Chantre" (Singer), in its entirety; translations by William Meredith, from Francis Steegmuller Apollinaire: Poet Among the Painters (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973) p. 210.
  • Un jour
    Un jour je m'attendais moi-même
    Je me disais Guillaume il est temps que tu viennes
    Pour que je sache enfin celui-là que je suis
    Moi qui connais les autres
    • One day
      One day I waited for myself
      I said to myself Guillaume it's time you came
      So I could know just who I am
      I who know others
    • "Cort√®ge", line 19; translation from Roger Shattuck (trans.) Selected Writings of Guillaume Apollinaire (New York: New Directions, 1971) p. 75.
  • Je passais au bord de la Seine
    Un livre anciens sous le bras
    Le fleuve est pareil à ma peine
    Il s'écoule et ne tarit pas
    Quand donc finira la semaine
    • I used to walk by the river
      An old book under my arm
      The river is the same as pain
      It elapses mindlessly
      And when will the week be over
    • "Marie", line 21; translation from Donald Revell (trans.) Alcools (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1995) p. 75.
  • J'ai cueilli ce brin de bruy√®re
    L'automne est morte souviens-t'en
    Nous ne nous verrons plus sur terre
    Odeur du temps brin de bruyère
    Et souviens-toi que je t'attends
    • I picked this sprig of heather
      Autumn has died you must remember
      We shall not see each other ever
      I'm waiting and you must remember
      Time's perfume is a sprig of heather
    • "L'Adieu" (The Farewell), line 1; translation from Donald Revell (trans.) Alcools (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1995) p. 83.
  • Passons passons puisque tout pass√©
    Je me retournerai souvent
    Les souvenirs sont cors de chasse
    Dont meurt le bruit parmi le vent
    • We hurry since everything hurries
      And I shall never not return
      Memories are all archaic horns
      Silenced by the wind.
    • "Cors de chasse" (Hunting Horns), line 9; translation from Donald Revell (trans.) Alcools (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1995) p. 159.

Calligrammes (1918)

Translations and page-numbers are from Donald Revell (trans.) The Self-Dismembered Man: Selected Later Poems of Guillaume Apollinaire (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 2004).

  • Me voici devant tous un homme plein de sens
    Connaissant la vie et de la mort ce qu'un vivant peut conna√ģtre
    Ayant éprouvé les douleurs et les joies de l'amour
    Ayant su quelquefois imposer ses idées
    Connaissant plusieurs langages
    Ayant pas mal voyagé
    Ayant vu la guerre dans l'Artillerie et l'lnfanterie
    Blessé à la tête trépané sous le chloroforme
    Ayant perdu ses meilleurs amis dans l'effroyable lutte
    Je sais d'ancien et de nouveau autant qu'un homme seul pourrait des deux savoir
    • You see before you a man in his right mind
      Worldly-wise and with access to death
      Having tested the sorrow of love and its ecstasies
      Having sometimes even astonished the professors
      Good with languages
      Having travelled a great deal
      Having seen battle in the Artillery and the Infantry
      Wounded in the head trepanned under chloroform
      Having lost my best friends in the butchery
      As much of antiquity and modernity as can be known I know
    • "La jolie rousse" (The Pretty Redhead), line 1; p. 133.
  • Nous voulons explorer la bont√© contr√©e √©norme o√Ļ tout se tait
    • We mean to explore kindness and its enormous silences.
    • "La jolie rousse" (The Pretty Redhead), line 26; p. 135.
  • Voici que vient l'√©t√© la saison violente
    Et ma jeunesse est morte ainsi que le printemps
    √Ē soleil c'est le temps de la raison ardente
    • And now comes the summer of violence
      And my youth is as dead as the springtime
      O Sun it is the time of fiery Reason
    • "La jolie rousse" (The Pretty Redhead), line 31; p. 135.
  • √Ē bouches l'homme est a la recherche d'un nouveau langage
    Auquel le grammairien d'aucune langue n'aura rien à dire
    • O mouths humanity seeks a new language
      Beyond the reach of grammarians
    • "Victoire" (Victory), line 21; p. 125.


  • Come to the edge.
    We might fall.
    Come to the edge.
    It's too high!
    And they came
    And he pushed
    And they flew.
    • Christopher Logue's poem "Come to the Edge" from New Numbers (London: Cape, 1969) pp. 65-66. It was originally written for a poster advertising an Apollinaire exhibition at the ICA in 1961 or 1962, and was titled "Apollinaire Said"; hence it is often misattributed to Apollinaire (Source: Quote‚ĶUnquote Newsletter, July 1995, p. 2).

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