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"Liberté" (Liberty) is a 1942 poem by the French poet Paul Éluard. It is an ode to liberty written during the German occupation of France.[1][2]

by Paul Éluard
Written5 March 1942 (5 March 1942)
First published inPoésie et vérité
Publication date3 April 1942 (1942-04-03)



The poem is structured in twenty-one quatrains, which follow the same pattern. Éluard names many places, real or imaginary, on which he would write the word liberté. The first three lines of each begin with Sur (On) followed by the naming of a place, and the last line is twenty times, like a refrain, J'écris ton nom (I write your name). The 21st stanza reveals that name, saying Pour te nommer Liberté. (To name you Liberty). The first stanza reads:


The original title of the poem was Une seule pensée (A single thought). Éluard comments:

Je pensais révéler pour conclure le nom de la femme que j’aimais, à qui ce poème était destiné. Mais je me suis vite aperçu que le seul mot que j’avais en tête était le mot Liberté. Ainsi, la femme que j’aimais incarnait un désir plus grand qu’elle. Je la confondais avec mon aspiration la plus sublime, et ce mot Liberté n’était lui-même dans tout mon poème que pour éterniser une très simple volonté, très quotidienne, très appliquée, celle de se libérer de l’Occupant.[3]

(I thought of revealing at the end the name of the woman I loved and for whom this poem was intended. But I quickly realized that the only word I had in mind was the word Liberté. Thus, the woman I loved embodied a desire greater than her. I confounded it with my most sublime aspiration, and this word Liberté was itself in my whole poem only to eternalize a very simple will, very daily, very apt, that of freeing oneself from the occupation.)


The poem was published on 3 April 1942, without apparent censorship, in the clandestine book of poetry Poésie et vérité 1942 (Poetry and truth 1942).[4] According to Max Pol Fouchet, he convinced Éluard to reprint the poem in June 1942 in the magazine Fontaine, titled Une seule pensée, to reach the southern Zone libre.[5] The same year, it was printed in London in the official Gaullist magazine La France libre and thousands of copies were dropped by parachute by British aircraft of the Royal Air Force above occupied France maquis.[6] In 1945, the poem was published by Éditions de Minuit in Eluard's poetry book Au rendez-vous allemand. [7] The complex history of Éluard's collections is detailed by the editors of his complete works, Lucien Scheler and Marcelle Dumas, particularly in Vol. 1 of Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1975, p. 1606–1607.


Francis Poulenc composed in 1943 Figure humaine, FP 120, a cantata for double mixed choir of 12 voices on this and seven other poems by Éluard. Written during the German occupation of France, it could not be performed in France, but was premiered in a radio broadcast of the BBC in English on 25 March 1945.[8]

Liberal quotings from the poem created an underlying theme in the 2014 drama film Maps to the Stars.[9]


  1. ^ Hollier, Denis; Bloch, R. Howard (1998). A New History of French Literature. Harvard University Press. p. 949. ISBN 978-0-674-61566-3.
  2. ^ Shcheglov, Konstantinovich (1987). Poetics of Expressiveness: A Theory and Applications. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 87. ISBN 9789027215222.
  3. ^ "Liberté" (in French). Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  4. ^ Éluard, Paul (1942). Poésie et vérité 1942 (in French). Les Éditions de la main à plume.
  5. ^ Fouchet, Max Pol (1978). "A propos du poème «Liberté » d'Eluard in n° 22 de Fontaine. Juin 1942" (PDF). Les poètes de la Revue Fontaine (in French). Cherche Midi. p. 211. ISBN 9782222019817.
  6. ^ "La poésie de la résistance" (in French). Retrieved 6 February 2017. "One of the poems is Liberté, printed on leaflets, it is distributed in mass since it is parachuted by the RAF in thousands of copies, in crates with weapons, in the French maquis" (maquis shrubland (very difficult to penetrate, only on foot, sort of European jungle) hence maquis (World War II)
  7. ^ Paul Eluard / Au rendez-vous allemand / suivi de Poésie et vérité 1942 (avec le poème Liberté ) 1945. (in French) les editions de
  8. ^ "Figure humaine. FP 120 / cantate". BNF. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  9. ^ Collin, Robbie (September 26, 2014), "Maps to the Stars, review: 'tremendous'", The Daily Telegraph, retrieved 30 January 2017

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