Monday, 22 February 2016

André Soriac c. 1864 - ? - A French soldier-poet-artist

In commemoration of the Battle of Verdun, which raged from 21st February until 18th December 1916, here is a French soldier-poet-artist.  The French soldiers of the First World War are known affectionately as ‘Poilus’ (literally, the hairy ones), presumably because it was impossible to shave in the Trenches.   Verdun is a city on the River Meuse in Lorraine in the north east of France.

André Soriac was a French soldier poet artist (‘Poilu’) who was fifty when he volunteered in 1914.  He joined the 277th Regiment of the French Infantry and served in Lorraine in France.  He took part in the Battle of Verdun and was wounded three times before being invalided out of the Army in 1916.

I have not been able to find out when Andre Soriac died.  Below is one of his poems which I have translated very roughly for those of you who do not understand French.  As far as I have been able to ascertain, Diane Degaby was a musical hall artist.

If anyone has any more information about Monsieur Soriac, please get in touch.  Thank you.

‘Nos Bagues’ a poem by André Soriac

Dedicated to ‘la belle Diane Degaby, la Bienfaitrice Amie de tous les Poilus Artistes – affectueusement’.


La rafale est passée et les Poilus bien vite

Sans souci des obus, une Pioche à la main,

Bondissent des abris dans un trou de marmite

Pour retrouver au fond le blanc metal germain!...


Et puis, c’est l’atelier dans un coin des tranchées …

Quelques menus outils, une lime, un Marteau,

Pour polir nuit et jour ces bagues guillochées,

Hier … instrument de mort, aujourd’hui … humble aurea.


La bague est terminée et demain, bonnes mères,

Femmes, petites soeurs, ces bijoux des frontiers

Terniront à vos doigts vos plus riches joyaux!...


Car, toutes, vous saurez combine de moments tristes

De soucis, de dangers, vos chers Poilus-Artistes

Ont vécus pour la faire … au fond de leurs boyaux.


No. 28, 3e Série de Cartes-Sonnets illustrées de la Guerre

Edition Cigolia, 8, rue de Condé, Paris 6e.


‘Our Rings’

Dedicated to The Beautiful Diane Degaby, Benefactrice and friend of all the artist-poilus, with great affection.


The storm has passed and the Poilus rush

Heedless of the shells, shovels at the ready,

Leaping from their shelter in a shell hole

Gathering up  the spent, white, German metal.


Then, it’s action stations in a corner of the Trench …

A workshop with a few scant tools, a file, a hammer to hand,

Polishing night and day these machine-turned rings.

Yesterday an instrument of death, today … a humble gold band.


The ring is ready and tomorrow, dear Mothers,

Wives, little sisters, these jewels of the frontiers

Will shine – your most valued jewels – on your fingers.

For you will know just many countless moments of sorrow

Of care and danger your dear soldier artists

Have been through to make that ring … in the depths of their Trenches.


Number 28 in a series of illustrated poem cards of the Great War,

Editions Cigola, 8 rue de Conde, Paris 6.


  1. You might like to correct the spelling errors in the French version - for "aurea" you sould read "anneau" anf for "frontiers" try "frontières". Mike

    1. Certainly. Can you please let me know which words you would like corrected? Many thanks.