I Have So Often Dreamed Of You

Lee Miller-Man Ray 1929

Robert Desnos was in many ways the archetypal surrealist spirit. Involved in Paris Dada he was in the literary vanguard of Surrealism and possessed an extra-ordinary talent for automatic writing during the Trance Period, rivalled only by Rene Crevel. Desnos, like many others, fell out with Andre Breton and joined the group centred around Georges Bataille and his magazine Documents and he was one of the signers of the anti-Breton polemic Un Cadavre.

During WWII Desnos was an active member of the French Resistance and he was captured by the Gestapo in 1944. He was deported to Auschwitz, then Buchenwald and finally Theresienstadt where he would die a few weeks after the camp’s liberation from typhoid.

I Have So Often Dreamed Of You

I have so often dreamed of you that you become unreal.
Is it still time enough to reach that living body and to kiss
on that mouth the birth of the voice so dear to me?
I have so often dreamed of you that my arms used as they are
to meet on my breast in embracing your shadow would
perhaps not fit the contour of your body.
And, before the real appearance of what has haunted and ruled
me for days and years, I might become only a shadow.
Oh the weighing of sentiment,
I have so often dreamed of you that there is probably no time
now to waken. I sleep standing, my body exposed to all the
appearances of life and love and you, who alone still
matter to me, I could less easily touch your forehead and
your lips than the first lips and the first forehead I
might meet by chance.
I have so often dreamed of you, walked, spoken, slept with your
phantom that perhaps I can be nothing any longer than a
phantom among phantoms and a hundred times more shadow
than the shadow which walks and will walk joyously over
the sundial of your life.

Translation Mary Ann Caws

66 thoughts on “I Have So Often Dreamed Of You

  1. Lovely and bittersweet. So many died soon after liberation. Their bodies were just spent and when the fight-or-flight energy they’d been living on for months or years finally dissipated with (relative) safety, they collapsed and yielded to starvation or illness.

    P.S. Going out of state for a week. May not reply to future entries in a timely manner. So don’t worry.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Strange to read someone’s beautiful words, and then hear about the terrible things that happened to them. Like a bad dream, almost.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know there is a whole world of heartache in that post. I choose the photograph of Lee Miller because she took a bath in Hitler’s bathtub so it seemed like a revenge in a way. Plus it is a dreamy picture and Lee was stunning.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a wonderful post. I’m thrilled to see that you selected a gorgeous photo of Lee Miller by Man Ray, I don’t believe he ever stopped dreaming about her, ever.

    Wonderful write up on Robert Desnos, truly tragic ending. “I Have So Often Dreamed Of You” is a beautiful and heartbreaking poem, I believe Desnos wrote it about his love for Yvonne George, terribly sad.

    I enjoyed this post very much, lovely presentation. Take care. ~ Mia

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for your lovely intelligent and insightful comments, I am very glad that you enjoyed the post. The photo seems to capture the mood of the poem but also my default mode is ‘pick a Man Ray, any Man Ray.’ Desnos end was truly tragic and appalling. Thanks again

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The photo is beautiful and the poem is kind of haunting. What a concept for a love poem. The longing and the kind of sighing resignation is heart wrenching. But lovely as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello the translator is Mary Ann Caws. I have this translation in Surrealist Painters and Poets: An Anthology edited by Mary Ann Caws MIT press 2002, the source notes state that the poem was published in 1925 and the translator is Mary Ann Caws who first published the translation in the work The Surrealist Voice of Robert Desnos published in 1978. I am aware that Auster translated some Surrealism poetry back in the day, but the American scholar is misattributing this particular translation. Hope this helpful.


      1. Hello,

        Here is a reply from _The American Scholar_ regarding the attribution of the translation of Desnos’ poem:

        ​”The translation is Paul Auster’s—we confirmed with him, and Amanda read from a photocopy of the poem from a different book edited by Mary Ann Caws: Essential Poetry of Robert Desnos, in which the translation is accredited to Auster. The same poem is also included in a 2018 collection edited by Caws, The Milk Bowl of Feathers: Essential Surrealist Writing, also accredited to Auster. I don’t have access to Surrealist Love Poems but I assure you that the translation of this poem is by Paul Auster!”


        Liked by 1 person

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