When, as a young official, I worked in the European Commission’s team managing relations with the European Parliament, my (Strasbourg) plenary session week always began with an early Monday morning train ride down to Strasbourg. It was early enough to see deer in the fields and foxes returning after a night’s hunting and the line ran through two regions of great beauty, the Ardennes and the Vosges. The train also rattled – as it still does – through various towns and cities. One of these was the town of Profondeville (literal translation; ‘Deeptown’). I am being unfair to Profondeville and its inhabitants, I know, but nothing ever seemed to be happening there. I wrote a poem about it, a sort of Betjeman pastiche, which has just been published in an anthology. The copyright remains with me, though, so here it is:


Profondeville, Profondeville!

How deep run your waters?

And how still?

Gazing down from the Strasbourg train,

I glimpse your emotions through the rain.

As we furrow past, splashing light on your trees,

I sense low drama and ordinary deeds.

Those garage doors, so tightly shut!

That toy abandoned on a lawn;

A dent in a bumper, grass savagely cut,

And netted windows mysteriously drawn.

Wide, empty roads, a rural lane;

An ominous crow, and a sleep-drugged dog;

Domestic froth flooding from a drain,

And ivy strangling a fire-scarred log.

There’s carnage behind the deserted station;

A ploughed-up field and a grubbed-up plantation.

And then we are through and racing away,

As your sleep-shocked inhabitants face up to the day.

Oh! Profondeville, Profondeville!

How deep run your waters?

And how still ?