The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Autumn Leaves” is a short poem in free verse. Its forty-six lines are divided into four stanzas. The first and third stanzas contain twelve lines each, and the second and fourth stanzas have the same eleven-line refrain. The only punctuation in the entire poem is a period placed at the end of the last line. This almost complete lack of punctuation permits diverse interpretations of many lines because it is not at all clear exactly how one should interpret them. In many cases, two or three different explanations are grammatically possible.

The poem is written in the first person. The unnamed speaker is a man who is addressing a woman whom he used to love. Although their love for each other has now ended, he still feels an emotional bond with her. He addresses her with the intimate tu (for “you”), not with the formal vous. It is clear that these are two decent people “whom life has separated.”

In the first stanza, the speaker calls upon his former lover to “remember the happy days” that now exist only in their memories. When re-creating these days of happiness, Jacques Prévert utilizes the imperfect tense in French. This is entirely appropriate because the imperfect tense refers to habitual past actions or to past actions that lasted for an extended period of time. These were wonderful days for them because “they were then friends.” Their love is described as platonic and pure.

The title,...

(The entire section is 499 words.)