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EU brings springtime cheer with poem for reporters

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

Brussels, Belgium   /   Wed, March 18, 2020   /   12:50 pm
EU brings springtime cheer with poem for reporters The European Union logo during a summit at European Union Headquarters in Brussels on Oct.17, 2019. (AFP/Kenzo Tribouillard )

The daily news may be grim in a Europe haunted by a deadly pandemic, but that is no reason to turn away from culture and the promise of spring.

On Tuesday, the European Commission's top spokesman took a moment during a daily briefing dominated by the coronavirus to read reporters a poem.

Posing a challenge to the EU's simultaneous translators, Eric Mamer launched into fellow Frenchman Victor Hugo's "Printemps".

"I don’t know if, like me, you notice that outside the sun is shining," he said, to a handful of reporters visiting the room and scores more online.

"Many people are confined to their home and therefore I want to read out a little poem for all of us, to remind us that nature continues and that spring is about to come."

Hugo's "Printemps", or "Spring", comes from the collection "Toute la Lyre", published three years after the writer's death in 1885.

"Here, then, are the long days," it begins. "Light, love, joy! Here is spring! March and April with their sweet smiles, the blossom of May and warmth of June." 

It was a break from EU news conference tradition, but one that was broadly well-received by the reporters.

The Wall Street Journal's Laurence Norman tweeted: "Only in Europe. Eric Mamer reads us all a Victor Hugo poem at end of midday briefing to cheer everyone up. And you know, good on him."

But some, like French reporter Anna Hubert, took a more ironic stance.

"I don't find it comforting at all. The midday briefing is supposed to be annoying and grim. It's not reassuring when things change," she tweeted.