Coqs de combat - lignes 1-23

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Coqs de combat - lignes 1-23

Contributor: Bernard Clark

Language of text: French
Type of text: Poem
Author or source: Edmond Adam
Intended age of students: Key Stage 3/4
Source reference: The extract is from a long poem written from the point of view of a French officer leading a night patrol in no-man's land. The extract is attached to this entry.

Coqs de combat
En rampant je sors de mon trou,
de ma tranchée noire, où la boue
nous enlise.
Je rampe en allongeant le cou
et sans oser lever la tête.
Mon sang bout, et bat mes tempes.
Je rampe
et mes hommes me suivent
en rampant dans la boue,
et s'accrochent aux fils de fer
qui grincent et les écorcent
de leurs dents croches,
et leur baïonnette cliquette.

Tacatacatac... dzzitt! dzitt!...
On se fait plat... Tacatac... dzitt!!...
On voudrait s'aplatir davantage.
«Ils nous ont vus... - Ils nous ont entendus!»
Pointu comme une baïonnette,
un frisson nous glace le dos...
Mon poing crispé serre mon revolver.
Et je relève un peu la tête.
Mon front est moite et mon corps sue.

Attached files:
Lines 1-23 of the poem.

File nameFile typeSize
Coqs de combat - Edmond Adam lignes 1-23.docxNo description10.82 kBInfo

The poem is written simply in the present tense. The students need to read out loud while looking at the layout of the lines to see appreciate how the poet uses rhyme and shortened verse to emphasise certain words.
The poem also focuses on parts of the body (not the ones normally taught) as the officer is very aware of his own body and the precarious situation it finds itself in.
There is also a great use of onomatopoeia, both where the poet tries to replicate the sound of a machine gun and of the bullets, but also where the sounds of barbed wire and clinking bayonets threaten to give away their presence.

During the anniversary of the Great War, it is important that students are aware of its effect on the French nation. This poem makes the students think about the individual soldier, and particularly the officer leading his men into mortal danger. The poet fought throughout the war and was killed by shrapnel in August 1914. Students could study this alongside English war poetry.

Students could write their own translation. They need to focus on the layout and the description of sounds. How can they capture the sounds in English? Translating poetry (or any piece of literature) is not just about the literal meaning but needs to capture what makes a poem a poem.

Topics or themes:
This would make an interesting poem to introduce parts of the body! This could be part of the GCSE or Key Stage 3 topic of health!
Cross-curricular links on the Great War

En + present participle
The use of first person object persons (me/nous) with present and perfect tenses.

The rhymes and onomatopoeia should be used to consolidate various phonetic rules (the nasal sounds 'am', 'an', 'em', for example).
Reading out loud or learning by heart should be encouraged.

How much time required:
1 hour with follow up.

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