Can you explain the literary form and meaning of the poem "Breakfast" by Jacques Prévert?

1 Answer

thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The poem "Déjeuner du matin" (English: "Breakfast") by Jacques Prévert was published in his 1945 collection Paroles, appearing at the end of World War II. Although this particular poem appears on the surface a simple lyrical poem expressing sadness about lack of communication in a relationship, it should be read in the context of the Nazi occupation and Prévert's own work with the French Resistance. In such a context, there was no guarantee that people who left in the morning would return, or even be alive in the evening, creating an additional sense of poignancy at the ending.

The form of the poem is vers libre (English: free verse), though it has some of the sound of a song lyric with frequent if irregular rhymes. The language is extremely simple, so much so that it is a perennial favorite of French instructors teaching the passé composé (functionally equivalent to the English simple past and/or present perfect, but formed by using an auxiliary verb, normally avoir, with a past participle).

The poem itself is a simple description of a morning routine. The unnamed man pours coffee into a cup, adds milk and sugar, drinks the coffee, smokes a cigarette, puts on a hat and raincoat because it is raining, and leaves without speaking to or looking at the narrator. The narrator takes her head in her hands and cries. It should be noted that the French verb "to rain" ("pleuvoir") in certain tenses is quite similar to "to cry" ("pleurer"), and derives from the same root.