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Title: Frédéric Mistral - Poet and Leader in Provence
Author: Downer, Charles Alfred, 1866-1930
Language: English
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[Illustration: FRÉDÉRIC MISTRAL]

Columbia University








_All rights reserved_


Norwood Press
J.S. Cushing & Co.--Berwick & Smith
Norwood Mass. U.S.A.


This study of the poetry and life-work of the leader of the modern
Provençal renaissance was submitted in partial fulfilment of the
requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Columbia
University. My interest in Mistral was first awakened by an article from
the pen of the great Romance philologist, Gaston Paris, which appeared
in the _Revue de Paris_ in October, 1894. The idea of writing the book
came to me during a visit to Provence in 1897. Two years later I visited
the south of France again, and had the pleasure of seeing Mistral in his
own home. It is my pleasant duty to express here once again my gratitude
for his kindly hospitality and for his suggestions in regard to works
upon the history of the Félibrige. Not often does he who studies the
works of a poet in a foreign tongue enjoy as I did the privilege of
hearing the verse from the poet's own lips. It was an hour not to be
forgotten, and the beauty of the language has been for me since then as
real as that of music finely rendered, and the force of the poet's
personality was impressed upon me as it scarcely could have been even
from a most sympathetic and searching perusal of his works. His great
influence in southern France and his great personal popularity are not
difficult to understand when one has seen the man.

As the striking fact in the works of this Frenchman is that they are not
written in French, but in Provençal, a considerable portion of the
present essay is devoted to the language itself. But it did not appear
fitting that too much space should be devoted to the purely linguistic
side of the subject. There is a field here for a great deal of special
study, and the results of such investigations will be embodied in
special works by those who make philological studies their special
province. In the first division of the present work, however, along with
the life of the poet and the history of the Félibrige, a description of
the language is given, which is an account at least of its distinctive
features. A short chapter will be found devoted to the subject of the
versification of the poets who write in the new speech. This subject is
not treated in Koschwitz's admirable grammar of the language.

The second division is devoted to the poems. The epics of Mistral, if we
may venture to use the term, are, with the exception of Lamartine's
_Jocelyn_, the most remarkable long narrative poems that have been
produced in France in modern times. At least one of them would appear to
be a work of the highest rank and destined to live. Among the short
poems that constitute the volume called _Lis Isclo d'Or_ are a number of

This book aims to present all the essential facts in the history of this
astonishing revival of a language, and to bring out the chief aspects of
Mistral's life-work. In our conclusions we have not yielded to the
temptation to prophesy. The conflicting tendencies of cosmopolitanism
and nationalism abroad in the world to-day give rise to fascinating
speculations as to the future. In the Felibrean movement we have a very
interesting problem of this kind, and no one can terminate a study of
the subject without asking himself the question, "What is going to come
out of it all?" No one can tell, and so we have not ventured beyond the
attempt to present the case as it actually exists.

Let me here also offer an expression of gratitude to Professor Adolphe
Cohn and to Professor Henry A. Todd of Columbia University for their
advice and guidance during the past six years. Their kindness and the
inspiration of their example must be reckoned among those things that
cannot be repaid.

NEW YORK, March, 1901.


                 PART FIRST


CHAPTER                                                        PAGE

     I.     Introduction. Life of Mistral                         3
    II.     The Félibrige                                        24
   III.     The Modern Provençal, or, more accurately,
              The Language of the Félibres                       43
    IV.     The Versification of the Félibres                    75
     V.     Mistral's Dictionary of the Provençal Language.
              (Lou Tresor dóu Félibrige)                         92

                 PART SECOND


     I.     The Four Longer Poems                                99
              1. Mirèio                                          99
              2. Calendau                                       127
              3. Nerto                                          151
              4. Lou Pouèmo dóu Rose                            159
    II.     Lis Isclo d'Or                                      181
   III.     The Tragedy, La Rèino Jano                          212

                 PART THIRD

       CONCLUSIONS                                              237

       APPENDIX. Translation of the Psalm of Penitence          253

       BIBLIOGRAPHY                                             259

       INDEX                                                    265





The present century has witnessed a remarkable literary phenomenon in
the south of France, a remarkable rebirth of local patriotism. A
language has been born again, so to speak, and once more, after a sleep
of many hundred years, the sunny land that was the cradle of modern
literature, offers us a new efflorescence of poetry, embodied in the
musical tongue that never has ceased to be spoken on the soil where the
Troubadours sang of love. Those who began this movement knew not whither
they were tending. From small beginnings, out of a kindly desire to give
the humbler folk a simple, homely literature in the language of their
firesides, there grew a higher ambition. The Provençal language put
forth claims to exist coequally with the French tongue on French soil.
Memories of the former glories of the southern regions of France began
to stir within the hearts of the modern poets and leaders. They began to
chafe under the strong political and intellectual centralization that
prevails in France, and to seek to bring about a change. The movement
has passed through numerous phases, has been frequently misinterpreted
and misunderstood, and may now, after it has attained to tangible
results, be defined as an aim, on the part of its leaders, to make the
south intellectually independent of Paris. It is an attempt to restore
among the people of the Rhone region a love of their ancient customs,
language, and traditions, an effort to raise a sort of dam against the
flood of modern tendencies that threaten to overwhelm local life. These
men seek to avoid that dead level of uniformity to which the national
life of France appears to them in danger of sinking. In the earlier
days, the leaders of this movement were often accused at Paris of a
spirit of political separatism; they were actually mistrusted as
secessionists, and certain it is that among them have been several
champions of the idea of decentralization. To-day there are found in
their ranks a few who advocate the federal idea in the political
organization of France. However, there seems never to have been a time
when the movement promised seriously to bring about practical political
changes; and whatever political significance it may have to-day goes no
farther than what may be contained in germ in the effort at an intense
local life.

The land of the Troubadours is now the land of the Félibres; these
modern singers do not forget, nor will they allow the people of the
south to forget, that the union of France with Provence was that of an
equal with an equal, not of a principal with a subordinate. Patriots
they are, however, ardent lovers of France, and proofs of their strong
affection for their country are not wanting. To-day, amid all their
activity and demonstrations in behalf of what they often call "_la
petite patrie_," no enemies or doubters are found to question their
loyalty to the greater fatherland.

The movement began in the revival of the Provençal language, and was at
first a very modest attempt to make it serve merely better purposes than
it had done after the eclipse that followed the Albigensian war. For a
long time the linguistic and literary aspect of all this activity was
the only one that attracted any attention in the rest of France or in
Provence itself. Not that the Provençal language had ever quite died out
even as a written language. Since the days of the Troubadours there had
been a continuous succession of writers in the various dialects of
southern France, but very few of them were men of power and talent.
Among the immediate predecessors of the Félibres must be mentioned
Saboly, whose _Noëls_, or Christmas songs, are to-day known all over the
region, and Jasmin, who, however, wrote in a different dialect. Jasmin's
fame extended far beyond the limited audience for which he wrote; his
work came to the attention of the cultured through the enthusiastic
praise of Sainte-Beuve, and he is to-day very widely known. The
English-speaking world became acquainted with him chiefly through the
translations of Longfellow. Jasmin, however, looked upon himself as the
last of a line, and when, in his later years, he heard of the growing
fame of the new poets of the Rhone country, it is said he looked upon
them with disfavor, if not jealousy. Strange to say, he was, in the
early days, unknown to those whose works, like his, have now attained
well-nigh world-wide celebrity.

The man who must justly be looked upon as the father of the present
movement was Joseph Roumanille. He was born in 1818, in the little town
of Saint-Rémy, a quaint old place, proud of some remarkable Roman
remains, situated to the south of Avignon. Roumanille was far from
foreseeing the consequences of the impulse he had given in arousing
interest in the old dialect, and, until he beheld the astonishing
successes of Mistral, strongly disapproved the ambitions of a number of
his fellow-poets to seek an audience for their productions outside of
the immediate region. He had no more ambitious aim than to raise the
patois of Saint-Rémy out of the veritable mire into which it had sunk;
it pained him to see that the speech of his fireside was never used in
writing except for trifles and obscenities. Of him is told the touching
story that one day, while reciting in his home before a company of
friends some poems in French that he had written, he observed tears in
his mother's eyes. She could not understand the poetry his friends so
much admired. Roumanille, much moved, resolved to write no verses that
his mother could not enjoy, and henceforth devoted himself ardently to
the task of purifying and perfecting the dialect of Saint-Rémy. It has
been said, no less truthfully than poetically, that from a mother's tear
was born the new Provençal poetry, destined to so splendid a career.

We of the English-speaking race are apt to wonder at this love of a
local dialect. This vigorous attempt to create a first-rate literature,
alongside and independent of the national literature, seems strange or
unnatural. We are accustomed to one language, spoken over immense areas,
and we rejoice to see it grow and spread, more and more perfectly
unified. With all their local color, in spite of their expression of
provincial or colonial life, the writings of a Kipling are read and
enjoyed wherever the English language has penetrated. In Italy we find
patriots and writers working with utmost energy to bring into being a
really national language. Nearly all the governments of Europe seek to
impose the language of the capital upon the schools. Unification of
language seems a most desirable thing, and, superficially considered,
the tendency would appear to be in that direction. But the truth is that
there exists all over Europe a war of tongues. The Welsh, the Basques,
the Norwegians, the Bohemians, the Finns, the Hungarians, are of one
mind with Daudet and Mistral, who both express the sentiment, "He who
holds to his language, holds the key of his prison."

So Roumanille loved and cherished the melodious speech of the Rhone
valley. He hoped to see the _langue d'oc_ saved from destruction, he
strove against the invasion of the northern speech that threatened to
overwhelm it. He wrote sweet verses and preached the gospel of the
home-speech. One day he discovered a boy whom he calls "l'enfant
sublime," and the pupil soon carried his dreams to a realization far
beyond his fondest hopes. Not Roumanille, but Frédéric Mistral has made
the new Provençal literature what it is. In him were combined all the
qualities, all the powers requisite for the task, and the task grew with
time. It became more than a question of language. Mistral soon came to
seek not only the creation of an independent literature, he aimed at
nothing less than a complete revolution, or rather a complete rebirth,
of the mental life of southern France. Provence was to save her
individuality entire. Geographically at the central point of the lands
inhabited by the so-called Latin races, she was to regain her ancient
prominence, and cause the eyes of her sisters to turn her way once more
with admiration and affection. The patois of Saint-Rémy has been
developed and expanded into a beautiful literary language. The inertia
of the Provençals themselves has been overcome. There is undoubtedly a
new intellectual life in the Rhone valley, and the fame of the Félibres
and their great work has gone abroad into distant lands.

The purpose, then, of the present dissertation, will be to give an
account of the language of the Félibres, and to examine critically the
literary work of their acknowledged chief and guiding spirit, Frédéric

The story of his life he himself has told most admirably in the preface
to the first edition of _Lis Isclo d'Or_, published at Avignon in 1874.
He was born in 1830, on the 8th day of September, at Maillane. Maillane
is a village, near Saint-Rémy, situated in the centre of a broad plain
that lies at the foot of the Alpilles, the westernmost rocky heights of
the Alps. Here the poet is still living, and here he has passed his life
almost uninterruptedly. His father's home was a little way out of the
village, and the boy was brought up at the _mas_,[1] amid farm-hands and
shepherds. His father had married a second time at the age of
fifty-five, and our poet was the only child of this second marriage.

The story of the first meeting of his parents is thus told by the

"One year, on St. John's day, Maître François Mistral was in the midst
of his wheat, which a company of harvesters were reaping. A throng of
young girls, gleaning, followed the reapers and raked up the ears that
fell. Maître François (Mèste Francés in Provençal), my father, noticed a
beautiful girl that remained behind as if she were ashamed to glean like
the others. He drew near and said to her:--

"'My child, whose daughter are you? What is your name?'

"The young girl replied, 'I am the daughter of Etienne Poulinet, Maire
of Maillane. My name is Délaïde.'

"'What! the daughter of the Maire of Maillane gleaning!'

"'Maître,' she replied, 'our family is large, six girls and two boys,
and although our father is pretty well to do, as you know, when we ask
him for money to dress with, he answers, "Girls, if you want finery,
earn it!" And that is why I came to glean.'

"Six months after this meeting, which reminds one of the ancient scene
of Ruth and Boaz, Maître François asked Maître Poulinet for the hand of
Délaïde, and I was born of that marriage."

His father's lands were extensive, and a great number of men were
required to work them. The poem, _Mirèio_, is filled with pictures of
the sort of life led in the country of Maillane. Of his father he says
that he towered above them all, in stature, in wisdom, and in nobleness
of bearing. He was a handsome old man, dignified in language, firm in
command, kind to the poor about him, austere with himself alone. The
same may be said of the poet to-day. He is a strikingly handsome man,
vigorous and active, exceedingly gracious and simple in manner. His
utter lack of affectation is the more remarkable, in view of the fact
that he has been for years an object of adulation, and lives in constant
and close contact with a population of peasants.

His schooling began at the age of nine, but the boy played truant so
frequently that he was sent to boarding-school in Avignon. Here he had a
sad time of it, and seems especially to have felt the difference of
language. Teachers and pupils alike made fun of his patois, for which he
had a strong attachment, because of the charm of the songs his mother
sung to him. Later he studied well, however, and became filled with a
love of Virgil and Homer. In them he found pictures of life that
recalled vividly the labors, the ways, and the ideas of the Maillanais.
At this time, too, he attempted a translation, in Provençal, of the
first eclogue of Virgil, and confided his efforts to a school-mate,
Anselme Mathieu, who became his life-long friend and one of the most
active among the Félibres.

It was at this school, in 1845, that he formed his friendship with
Roumanille, who had come there as a teacher. It is not too much to say
that the revival of the Provençal language grew out of this meeting.
Roumanille had already written his poems, _Li Margarideto_ (The
Daisies). "Scarcely had he shown me," says Mistral, "in their
spring-time freshness, these lovely field-flowers, when a thrill ran
through my being and I exclaimed, 'This is the dawn my soul awaited to
awaken to the light!'" Mistral had read some Provençal, but at that time
the dialect was employed merely in derision; the writers used the speech
itself as the chief comic element in their productions. The poems of
Jasmin were as yet unknown to him. Roumanille was the first in the Rhone
country to sing the poetry of the heart. Master and pupil became firm
friends and worked together for years to raise the home-speech to the
dignity of a literary language.

At seventeen Mistral returned home, and began a poem in four cantos,
that he has never published; though portions of it are among the poems
of _Lis Isclo d'Or_ and in the notes of _Mirèio_. This poem is called
_Li Meissoun_ (Harvest). His family, seeing his intellectual
superiority, sent him to Aix to study law. Here he again met Mathieu,
and they made up for the aridity of the Civil Code by devoting
themselves to poetry in Provençal.

In 1851 the young man returned to the _mas_, a _licencié en droit_, and
his father said to him: "Now, my dear son, I have done my duty; you know
more than ever I learned. Choose your career; I leave you free." And the
poet tells us he threw his lawyer's gown to the winds and gave himself
up to the contemplation of what he so loved,--the splendor of his native

Through Roumanille he came to know Aubanel, Croustillat, and others.
They met at Avignon, full of youthful enthusiasm, and during this period
Mistral, encouraged by his friends, worked upon his greatest poem,
_Mirèio_. In 1854, on the 21st of May, the Félibrige was founded by the
seven poets,--Joseph Roumanille, Paul Giéra, Théodore Aubanel, Eugène
Garcin, Anselme Mathieu, Frédéric Mistral, Alphonse Tavan. In 1868,
Garcin published a violent attack upon the Félibres, accusing them, in
the strongest language, of seeking to bring about a political separation
of southern France from the rest of the country. This apostasy was a
cause of great grief to the others, and Garcin's name was stricken from
the official list of the founders of the Félibrige, and replaced by that
of Jean Brunet. Mistral, in the sixth canto of _Mirèio_, addresses in
eloquent verse his comrades in the Provençal Pléiade, and there we still
find the name of Garcin.

      Tù' nfin, de quau un vènt de flamo
      Ventoulo, emporto e fouito l'amo
    Garcin, o fiéu ardènt dóu manescau d'Alen!

     (And finally, thou whose soul is stirred and swept and whipped by a
     wind of flame, Garcin, ardent son of the smith of Alleins.)

This attack upon the Félibrige was the first of the kind ever made. Many
years later, Garcin became reconciled to his former friends and in 1897
he was vice-president of the _Félibrige de Paris_.

The number seven and the task undertaken by these poets and literary
reformers remind us instantly of the Pléiade, whose work in the
sixteenth century in attempting to perfect the French language was of a
very similar character. It is certain, however, that the seven poets
who inaugurated their work at the Château of Font-Ségugne, had no
thought of imitating the Pléiade either in the choice of the number
seven or in the reformation they were about to undertake.

They began their propaganda by founding an annual publication called the
_Armana Prouvençau_, which has appeared regularly since 1855, and many
of their writings were first printed in this official magazine. Of the
seven, Aubanel alone besides Mistral has attained celebrity as a poet,
and these two with Roumanille have been usually associated in the minds
of all who have followed the movement with interest as its three

Mistral completed _Mirèio_ in 1859. The poem was presented by Adolphe
Dumas and Jean Reboul to Lamartine, who devoted to it one of the
"Entretiens" of his _Cours familier de littérature_. This article of
Lamartine, and his personal efforts on behalf of Mistral, contributed
greatly to the success of the poem. Lamartine wrote among other things:
"A great epic poet is born! A true Homeric poet in our own time; a poet,
born like the men of Deucalion, from a stone on the Crau, a primitive
poet in our decadent age; a Greek poet at Avignon; a poet who has
created a language out of a dialect, as Petrarch created Italian; one
who, out of a vulgar _patois_, has made a language full of imagery and
harmony delighting the imagination and the ear.... We might say that,
during the night, an island of the Archipelago, a floating Delos, has
parted from its group of Greek or Ionian islands and come silently to
join the mainland of sweet-scented Provence, bringing along one of the
divine singers of the family of the Melesigenes."

Mistral went to Paris, where for a time he was the lion of the literary
world. The French Academy crowned his poem, and Gounod composed the
opera Mireille, which was performed for the first time in 1864, in

The poet did not remain long in the capital. He doubtless realized that
he was not destined to join the galaxy of Parisian writers, and it is
certain that if he had remained there his life and his influence would
have been utterly different. He returned home and immediately set to
work upon a second epic; in another seven years he completed _Calendau_,
published in Avignon in 1866. The success of this poem was decidedly
less than that of _Mirèio_.

During these years he published many of the shorter poems that appeared
in one volume in 1875, under the title of _Lis Isclo d'Or_ (The Golden
Islands). Meanwhile the idea of the Félibrige made great progress. The
language of the Félibres had now a fixed orthography and definite
grammatical form. The appearance of a master-work had given a wonderful
impulse. The exuberance of the southern temperament responded quickly to
the call for a manifestation of patriotic enthusiasm. The Catalan poets
joined their brothers beyond the Pyrenees. The Floral games were
founded. The Félibrige passed westward beyond the Rhone and found
adherents in all south France. The centenary of Petrarch celebrated at
Avignon in 1874 tended to emphasize the importance and the glory of the
new literature.

The definite organization of the Félibrige into a great society with its
hierarchy of officers took place in 1876, with Mistral as _Capoulié_
(Chief or President). In this same year also the poet married Mdlle.
Marie Rivière of Dijon, and this lady, who was named first Queen of the
Félibrige by Albert de Quintana of Catalonia, the poet-laureate of the
year 1878 at the great Floral Games held in Montpellier, has become at
heart and in speech a Provençale.

A third poem, _Nerto_, appeared in 1884, and showed the poet in a new
light; his admirers now compared him to Ariosto. This same year he made
a second journey to Paris, and was again the lion of the hour. The
_Société de la Cigale_, which had been founded in 1876, as a Paris
branch of the Félibrige, and which later became the _Société des
Félibres de Paris_, organized banquets and festivities in his honor, and
celebrated the Floral Games at Sceaux to commemorate the four hundredth
anniversary of the day when Provence became united, of her own
free-will, with France. Mistral was received with distinction by
President Grévy and by the Count of Paris, and his numerous Parisian
friends vied in bidding him welcome to the capital. His new poem was
crowned by the French Academy, receiving the Prix Vitet, the
presentation address being delivered by Legouvé. Four years later, _Lou
Tresor dóu Felibrige_, a great dictionary of all the dialects of the
_langue d'oc_, was completed, and in 1890 appeared his only dramatic
work, _La Rèino Jano_ (Queen Joanna). In 1897 he produced his last long
poem, epic in form, _Lou Pouèmo dóu Rose_ (the Poem of the Rhone). At
present he is engaged upon his _Memoirs_.

Aside from his rare journeys to Paris, a visit to Switzerland, and
another to Italy, Mistral has rarely gone beyond the borders of his
beloved region. He is still living quietly in the little village of
Maillane, in a simple but beautiful home, surrounded with works of art
inspired by the Felibrean movement. He has survived many of his
distinguished friends. Roumanille, Mathieu, Aubanel, Daudet, and Paul
Arène have all passed away; a new generation is about him. But his
activity knows no rest. The Felibrean festivities continue, the numerous
publications in the Provençal tongue still have in him a constant
contributor. In 1899 the Museon Arlaten (the Museum of Aries) was
inaugurated, and is another proof of the constant energy and enthusiasm
of the poet. He is to-day the greatest man in the south of France,
universally beloved and revered.

His life after all has been less a literary life than one of direct and
unceasing personal action upon the population about him. The
resurrection of the language, the publication of poems, magazines, and
newspapers, are only part of a programme tending to raise the people of
the south to a conception of their individuality as a race. He has
striven untiringly to communicate to them his own glowing enthusiasm for
the past glories of Provence, to fire them with his dream of a great
rebirth of the Latin races, to lay the foundation of a great ideal Latin
union. Wonderful is his optimism. Some of the Félibres about him are
somewhat discouraged, many of them have never set their aspirations as
high as he has done, and some look upon his dreams as Utopian. Whatever
be the future of the movement he has founded, Mistral's life in its
simple oneness, and in its astonishing success, is indeed most
remarkable. Provence, the land that first gave the world a literature
after the decay of the classic tongues, has awakened again under his
magic touch to an active mental life. A second literature is in active
being on the soil of France, a second literary language is there a
reality. Whether permanent or evanescent, this glorification of poetry,
this ardent love of the beautiful and the ideal, is a noble and
inspiring spectacle amid the turmoil and strife of this age of material

[Footnote 1: The word _mas_, which is kin with the English _manse_ and
_mansion_, signifies the home in the country with numerous outbuildings
grouped closely about it.]



The history of the Félibrige, from its beginning, in 1854, down to the
year 1896, has been admirably written by G. Jourdanne.[2] The work is
quite exhaustive, containing, in addition to the excellently written
narrative, an engraving of the famous cup, portraits of all the most
noted Félibres, a series of elaborately written notes that discuss or
set forth many questions relating to the general theme, a very large
bibliography of the subject, comprising long lists of works that have
been written in the dialect or that have appeared in France and in other
countries concerning the Félibres, a copy of the constitution of the
society and of various statutes relating to it. It not only contains
all the material that is necessary for the study of the Félibrige, but
it is worthy of the highest praise for the spirit in which it is
written. It is an honest attempt to explain the Félibrige, and to
present fairly and fully all the problems that so remarkable a movement
has created. A perusal of the book makes it evident that the author
believes in future political consequences, and while well aware that it
is unsafe to prophesy, he has a chapter on the future of the movement.

His history endeavors to show that the Felibrean renaissance was not a
spontaneous springing into existence. On the purely literary side,
however, it certainly bears the character of a creation; as writers, the
Provençal poets may scarcely be said to continue any preceding school or
to be closely linked with any literary past. In its inception it was a
mere attempt to write pleasing, popular verse of a better kind in the
dialect of the fireside. But the movement developed rapidly into the
ambition to endow the whole region with a real literature, to awaken a
consciousness of _race_ in the men of the south; these aims have been
realized, and a change has come over the life of Provence and the land
of the _langue d'oc_ in general. The author believes and adduces
evidences to show that all this could not have come about had the seed
not fallen upon a soil that was ready.

The Félibrige dates from the year 1854, but the idea that lies at the
bottom of it must be traced back to the determination of Roumanille to
write in Provençal rather than in French. He produced his _Margarideto_
in 1847 and the _Sounjarello_ in 1851. In collaboration with Mistral and
Anselme Mathieu, he edited a collection of poems by living writers under
the title _Li Prouvençalo_. During these years, too, there were meetings
of Provençal writers for the purpose of discussing questions of grammar
and spelling. These meetings, including even the historic one of May 21,
1854, were, however, really little more than friendly, social
gatherings, where a number of enthusiastic friends sang songs and made
merry. They had none of the solemnity of a conclave, or the dignity of
literary assemblies. There was no formal organization. Those writers who
were zealously interested in the rehabilitation of the Provençal speech
and connected themselves with Mistral and his friends were the
Félibres. Not until 1876 was there a Félibrige with a formal
constitution and an elaborate organization.

The word _Félibre_ was furnished by Mistral, who had come upon it in an
old hymn wherein occurs the expression that the Virgin met Jesus in the
temple among "the seven Félibres of the law." The origin and etymology
of this word have given rise to various explanations. The Greek
_philabros_, lover of the beautiful; _philebraios_, lover of Hebrew,
hence, among the Jews, teacher; _felibris_, nursling, according to
Ducange; the Irish _filea_, bard, and _ber_, chief, have been proposed.
Jeanroy (in _Romania_, XIII, p. 463) offers the etymology: Spanish
_feligres, filii Ecclesiæ_, sons of the church, parishioners. None of
these is certain.

Seven poets were present at this first meeting, and as the day happened
to be that of St. Estelle, the emblem of a seven-pointed star was
adopted. Very fond of the number seven are these Félibres; they tell you
of the seven chief churches of Avignon, its seven gates, seven colleges,
seven hospitals, seven popes who were there seventy years; the word
_Félibre_ has seven letters, so has Mistral's name, and he spent seven
years in writing each of his epics.

The task that lay before these poets was twofold: they had not only to
prune and purify their dialect and produce verses, they had also to find
readers, to create a public, to begin a propaganda. The first means
adopted was the publication of the _Armana prouvençau_, already referred
to. In 1855, five hundred copies were issued, in 1894, twelve thousand.
For four years this magazine was destined for Provence alone; in 1860,
after the appearance of _Mirèio_, it was addressed to all the dwellers
in southern France. The great success of _Mirèio_ began a new period in
the history of the Félibrige. Mistral himself and the poets about him
now took an entirely new view of their mission. The uplifting of the
people, the creation of a literature that should be admired abroad as
well as at home, the complete expression of the life of Provence, in all
its aspects, past and present, escape from the implacable centralization
that tends to destroy all initiative and originality--such were the
higher aims toward which they now bent their efforts. The attention of
Paris was turned in their direction. Jasmin had already shown the
Parisians that real poetry of a high order could be written in a patois.
Lamartine and Villemain welcomed the new literature most cordially, and
the latter declared that "France is rich enough to have two

But the student of this history must not lose sight of the fact that the
Provençal poets are not first of all littérateurs; they are not men
devoting themselves to literature for a livelihood, or even primarily
for fame. They are patriots before they are poets. The choice of
subjects and the intense love of their native land that breathes through
all their writings, are ample proof of this. They meet to sing songs and
to speak; it is always of Provence that they sing and speak. Almost all
of them are men who ply some trade, hardly one lives by his pen alone.
This fact gives a very special character to their whole production. The
Felibrean movement is more than an astonishing literary phenomenon.

The idea from this time on acquired more and more adherents. Scores of
writers appeared, and volumes whose titles filled many pages swelled the
output of Provençal verse. These new aims were due to the success of
_Mirèio_; but it must not be forgotten that Mistral himself, in that
poem and in the shorter poems of the same period, gave distinct
expression to the new order of ideas, so that we are constantly led back
to him, in all our study of the matter, as the creator, the continuer,
and the ever present inspirer of the Félibrige. Whatever it is, it is
through him primarily. Roumanille must be classed as one of those
precursors who are unconscious of what they do. To him the Félibres owe
two things: first of all, the idea of writing in the dialect works of
literary merit; and, secondly, the discovery of Frédéric Mistral.

Among these new ideas, one that dominates henceforth in the story of the
Félibrige, is the idea of race. Mistral is well aware that there is no
Latin race, in the sense of blood relationship, of physical descent; he
knows that the so-called Latin race has, for the base of its unity, a
common history, a common tradition, a common religion, a common

But he believes that there is a _race méridionale_ that has been
developed into a kind of unity out of the various elements that compose
it, through their being mingled together, and accumulating during many
centuries common memories, ideas, customs, and interests. So Mistral has
devoted himself to promoting knowledge of its history, traditions,
language, and religion. As the Félibrige grew, and as Mistral felt his
power as a poet grow, he sought a larger public; he turned naturally to
the peoples most closely related to his own, and Italy and Spain were
embraced in his sympathies. The Félibrige spread beyond the limits of
France first into Spain. Victor Balaguer, exiled from his native
country, was received with open arms by the Provençals. William
Bonaparte-Wyse, an Irishman and a grand-nephew of the first Napoleon,
while on a journey through Provence, had become converted to the
Felibrean doctrines, and became an active spirit among these poets and
orators. He organized a festival in honor of Balaguer, and when, later,
the Catalan poet was permitted to return home, the Catalans sent the
famous cup to their friends in Provence. For the Félibres this cup is an
emblem of the idea of a Latin federation, and as it passes from hand to
hand and from lip to lip at the Felibrean banquets, the scene is not
unlike that wherein the Holy Graal passes about among the Knights of the
Round Table.[3]

Celebrations of this kind have become a regular institution in southern
France. Since the day in 1862 when the town of Apt received the Félibres
officially, organizing Floral Games, in which prizes were offered for
the best poems in Provençal, the people have become accustomed to the
sight of these triumphal entries of the poets into their cities. Reports
of these brilliant festivities have gone abroad into all lands. If the
love of noise and show that characterizes the southern temperament has
caused these reunions to be somewhat unfavorably criticised as
theatrical, on the other hand the enthusiasm has been genuine, and the
results real and lasting. The _Félibrées_, so they are called, have not
all taken place in France. In 1868, Mistral, Rournieux, Bonaparte-Wyse,
and Paul Meyer went to Barcelona, where they were received with great
pomp and ceremony. Men eminent in literary and philological circles in
Paris have often accepted invitations to these festivities. In 1876, a
Felibrean club, "La Cigale," was founded in the capital; its first
president was Henri de Bornier, author of _La Fille de Roland_.
Professors and students of literature and philology in France and in
other countries began to interest themselves in the Félibres, and the
Félibrige to-day counts among its members men of science as well as men
of letters.

In 1874 one of the most remarkable of the celebrations, due to the
initiative of M. de Berluc-Pérussis, was held at Vaucluse to celebrate
the fifth centenary of the death of Petrarch. At this _Félibrée_ the
Italians first became affiliated to the _idea_, and the Italian
ambassador, Nigra, the president of the Accademia della Crusca, Signor
Conti, and Professor Minich, from the University of Padua, were the
delegates. The Institute of France was represented for the first time.
This celebration was highly important and significant, and the scenes of
Petrarch's inspirations and the memories of the founder of the
Renaissance must have awakened responsive echoes in the hearts of the
poets who aimed at a second rebirth of poetry and learning in the same

The following year the _Société des langues romanes_ at Montpellier
offered prizes for philological as well as purely literary works, and
for the first time other dialects than the Provençal proper were
admitted in the competitions. The Languedocian, the Gascon, the
Limousin, the Béarnais, and the Catalan dialects were thus included. The
members of the jury were men of the greatest note, Gaston Paris, Michel
Bréal, Mila y Fontanals, being of their number.

Finally, in 1876, on the 21st of May, the statutes of the Félibrige were
adopted. From them we quote the following:--

"The Félibrige is established to bring together and encourage all those
who, by their works, preserve the language of the land of _oc_, as well
as the men of science and the artists who study and work in the interest
of this country."

"Political and religious discussions are forbidden in the Felibrean

The organization is interesting. The Félibres are divided into
_Majoraux_ and _Mainteneurs_. The former are limited to fifty in number,
and form the Consistory, which elects its own members; new members are
received on the feast of St. Estelle.

The Consistory is presided over by a Capoulié, who wears as the emblem
of his office a seven-pointed golden star, the other Majoraux, a golden

The other Félibres are unlimited in number. Any seven Félibres dwelling
in the same place may ask the Maintenance to form them into a school.
The schools administer their own affairs.

Every seven years the Floral Games are held, at which prizes are
distributed; every year, on the feast of St. Estelle, a general meeting
of the Félibrige takes place. Each Maintenance must meet once a year.

At the Floral Games he who is crowned poet-laureate chooses the Queen,
and she crowns him with a wreath of olive leaves.

To-day there are three Maintenances within the limits of French soil,
Provence, Languedoc, Aquitaine.

Among other facts that should doubtless be reported here is, the list of
Capouliés. They have been Mistral (1876-1888), Roumanille (1888-1891),
and Félix Gras; the Queens have been Madame Mistral, Mlle. Thérèse
Roumanille, Mlle. Marie Girard, and the Comtesse Marie-Thérèse de
Chevigné, who is descended upon her mother's side from Laura de Sade,
generally believed to be Petrarch's Laura.

Since the organization went into effect the Félibrige has expanded in
many ways, its influence has continually grown, new questions have
arisen. Among these last have been burning questions of religion and
politics, for although discussions of them are banished from Felibrean
meetings, opinions of the most various kind exist among the Félibres,
have found expression, and have well-nigh resulted in difficulties.
Until 1876 these questions slept. Mistral is a Catholic, but has managed
to hold more or less aloof from political matters. Aubanel was a zealous
Catholic, and had the title by inheritance of Printer to his Holiness.
Roumanille was a Catholic, and an ardent Royalist. When the Félibrige
came to extend its limits over into Languedoc, the poet Auguste Fourès
and his fellows proclaimed a different doctrine, and called up memories
of the past with a different view. They affirmed their adherence to the
_Renaissance méridionale_, and claimed equal rights for the Languedocian
dialect. They asserted, however, that the true tradition was republican,
and protested vigorously against the clerical and monarchical parties,
which, in their opinion, had always been for Languedoc a cause of
disaster, servitude, and misery. The memory of the terrible crusade in
the thirteenth century inspired fiery poems among them. Hatred of Simon
de Montfort and of the invaders who followed him, free-thought, and
federalism found vigorous expression in all their productions. In
Provence, too, there have been opinions differing widely from those of
the original founders, and the third Capoulié, Félix Gras, was a
Protestant. Of him M. Jourdanne writes:--

"Finally, in 1891, after the death of Roumanille, the highest office in
the Félibrige was taken by a man who could rally about him the two
elements that we have seen manifested, sufficiently Republican to
satisfy the most ardent in the extreme Left, sufficiently steady not to
alarm the Royalists, a great enough poet to deserve without any dispute
the first place in an assembly of poets."

He, like Mistral, wrote epics in twelve cantos. His first work, _Li
Carbounié_, has on its title-page three remarkable lines:--

    "I love my village more than thy village,
    I love my Provence more than thy province,
    I love France more than all."

Possibly no other three lines could express as well the whole spirit of
the Félibrige.

Our subject being Mistral and not Félix Gras, a passing mention must
suffice. One of his remarkable works is called _Toloza_, and recounts
the crusade of the Albigenses, and his novel, _The Reds of the Midi_,
first published in New York in the English translation of Mrs. Thomas A.
Janvier, is probably the most remarkable prose work that has been
written in Provençal.[4] Only the future can tell whether the Provençal
will pass through a prose cycle after its poetic cycle, in the manner of
all literatures. To many serious thinkers the attempt to create a
complete literature seems of very doubtful success.

The problems, then, which confront the Félibres are numerous. Can they,
with any assurance of permanence, maintain two literary languages in the
same region? It is scarcely necessary to state, of course, that no one
dreams of supplanting the French language anywhere on French soil. What
attitude shall they assume toward the "patoisants," that is, those who
insist on using the local dialect, and refuse to conform to the usage of
the Félibres? Is it not useless, after all, to hope for a more perfect
unification of the dialects of the _langue d'oc_, and, if unification is
the aim, does not logical reasoning lead to the conclusion that the
French language already exists, perfectly unified, and absolutely
necessary? In the matter of politics, the most serious questions may
arise if the desires of some find more general favor. Shall the Félibres
aim at local self-government, at a confederation something like that of
the Swiss cantons? Shall they advocate the idea of independent

As a matter of fact, none of these problems are solved, and they will
only be solved by the natural march of events. The attitude of the
leaders toward all these differing views has become one of easy
toleration. If the language of the Félibres tends already to dominate
the other dialects, if its influence is already plainly felt far beyond
Provence itself, this is due to the sheer superiority of their literary
work. If their literature had the conventional character of that of the
Troubadours, if it were addressed exclusively to a certain élite, then
their language might have been adopted by the poets of other regions,
just as in the days of the Troubadours the masters of the art of
"trobar" preferred to use the Limousin dialect. But the popular
character of the movement has prevented this. It has preached the love
of the village, and each locality, as fast as the Felibrean idea gained
ground, has shown greater affection for its own dialect.

Mistral's work has often been compared to Dante's. But Dante did not
impose his language upon Italy by the sole superiority of his great
poem. All sorts of events, political and social, contributed to the
result, and there is little reason to expect the same future for the
work of Mistral. This comparison is made from the linguistic point of
view; it is not likely that any one will compare the two as poets. At
most, it may be said that if Dante gave expression to the whole spirit
of his age, Mistral has given complete expression to the spirit of his
little _patrie_. Should the trend of events lead to a further
unification of the dialects of southern France, there is no doubt that
the Felibrean dialect has by far the greatest chance of success.

The people of Provence owe a great debt to the Félibres, who have
endowed them with a literature that comes closer to their sympathies
than the classic literature of France can ever come; they have been
raised in their own esteem, and there has been undoubtedly a great
awakening in their mental life. The Félibrige has given expression to
all that is noblest and best in the race, and has invariably led onward
and upward. Its mission has been one that commands respect and
admiration, and the Félibres to-day are in a position to point with
pride to the great work accomplished among their people. Arsène
Darmesteter has well said:--

"A nation needs poetry; it lives not by bread alone, but in the ideal
as well. Religious beliefs are weakening; and if the sense of poetic
ideals dies along with the religious sentiment, there will remain
nothing among the lower classes but material and brutal instincts.

"Whether the Félibres were conscious of this danger, or met this popular
need instinctively, I cannot say. At any rate, their work is a good one
and a wholesome one. There still circulates, down to the lowest stratum
of the people, a stream of poetry, often obscure, until now looked upon
with disdain by all except scholars. I mean folklore, beliefs,
traditions, legends, and popular tales. Before this source of poetry
could disappear completely, the Félibres had the happy idea of taking it
up, giving it a new literary form, thus giving back to the people,
clothed in the brilliant colors of poetry, the creation of the people

And again: "As for this general renovation of popular poetry, I would
give it no other name than that of the Félibrige. To the Félibres is due
the honor of the movement; it is their ardor and their faith that have
developed and strengthened it."

[Footnote 2: _Histoire du Félibrige, par_ G. Jourdanne, _Librairie
Roumanille, Avignon, 1897_.]

[Footnote 3: The stem of the cup has the form of a palm tree, under
which two female figures, representing Catalonia and Provence, stand in
a graceful embrace. Below the figures are engraved the two following

Morta la diuhen qu'es,     Ah! se me sabien entèndre!
Mes jo la crech viva.      Ah! se me voulien segui!
  (V. Balaguer.)                (F. Mistral.)

(They say she is dead,    (Ah, if they could understand
  but I believe she         me! Ah, if they would follow
  lives.)                   me!)

[Footnote 4: In 1899, Félix Gras published a novel called _The White
Terror_. His death occurred early in 1901.]



The language of the Félibres is based upon the dialect spoken in the
plain of Maillane, in and about the town of Saint-Rémy. This dialect is
one of the numerous divisions of the _langue d'oc_, which Mistral claims
is spoken by nearly twelve millions of people. The literary history of
these patois has been written by B. Noulet, and shows that at the close
of the terrible struggles of the Albigenses the language seemed dead. In
1324 seven poets attempted to found at Toulouse the competitions of the
_Gai Savoir_, and so to revive the ancient poetry and the ancient
language. Their attempt failed. There was literary production of varying
degree of merit throughout two or three centuries; but until the time of
Jasmin no writer attracted any attention beyond his immediate vicinity;
and it is significant that the Félibres themselves were long in
ignorance of Jasmin. It is then not difficult to demonstrate that the
Félibrige revival bears more the character of a creation than of an
evolution. It is not at all an evolution of the literature of the
Troubadours; it is in no way like it. The language of the Félibres is
not even the descendant of the special dialect that dominated as a
literary language in the days of the Troubadours; for it was the speech
of Limousin that formed the basis of that language, and only two of the
greater poets among the Troubadours, Raimond de Vaqueiras and Fouquet de
Marseille, were natives of Provence proper.

The dialect of Saint-Rémy is simply one of countless ramifications of
the dialects descended from the Latin. Mistral and his associates have
made their literary language out of this dialect as they found it, and
not out of the language of the Troubadours. They have regularized the
spelling, and have deliberately eliminated as far as possible words and
forms that appeared to them to be due to French influence, substituting
older and more genuine forms--forms that appeared more in accord with
the genius of the _langue d'oc_ as contrasted with the _langue d'oil_.
Thus, _glòri_, _istòri_, _paire_, replace _gloaro_, _istouèro_, _pèro_,
which are often heard among the people. This was the first step. The
second step taken arose from the necessity of making this speech of the
illiterate capable of elevated expression. Mistral claims to have used
no word unknown to the people or unintelligible to them, with the
exception that he has used freely of the stock of learned words common
to the whole Romance family of languages. These words, too, he
transforms more or less, keeping them in harmony with the forms peculiar
to the _langue d'oc_. Hence, it is true that the language of the
Félibres is a conventional, literary language, that does not represent
exactly the speech of any section of France, and is related to the
popular speech more or less as any official language is to the dialects
that underlie it. As the Félibres themselves have received all their
instruction and literary culture in the French language, they use it
among themselves, and their prose especially shows the influence of the
French to the extent that it may be said that the Provençal sentence, in
prose, appears to be a word-for-word translation of an underlying French

Phonetically, the dialect offers certain marked differences when
contrasted with French. First of all is the forceful utterance of the
stressed syllable; the Provençal has post-tonic syllables, unlike the
sister-speech. Here it may be said to occupy a sort of middle position
between Italian and Spanish on the one hand, and French on the other;
for in the former languages the accent is found in all parts of the
word, in French practically only upon the final, and then it is
generally weak, so that the notion of a stress is almost lost. The
stress in Provençal is placed upon one of the last two syllables only,
and only three vowels, _e_, _i_, _o_, may follow the tonic syllable. The
language, therefore, has a cadence that affects the ear differently from
the French, and that resembles more that of the Italian or Spanish

The nasal vowels are again unlike those of the French language. The
vowel affected by the following nasal consonant preserves its own
quality of sound, and the consonant is pronounced; at the end of a word
both _m_ and _n_ are pronounced as _ng_ in the English word _ring_. The
Provençal utterance of _matin_, _tèms_, is therefore quite unlike that
of the French _matin_, _temps_. This change of the nasal consonants
into the _ng_ sound whenever they become final occurs also in the
dialects of northern Italy and northern Spain. This pronunciation of the
nasal vowels in French is, as is well known, an important factor in the
famous "accent du Midi."

The oral vowels are in general like the French. It is curious that the
close _o_ is heard only in the infrequent diphthong _óu_, or as an
obscured, unaccented final. This absence of the close _o_ in the modern
language has led Mistral to believe that the close _o_ of Old Provençal
was pronounced like _ou_ in the modern dialect, which regularly
represents it. A second element of the "accent du Midi" just referred to
is the substitution of an open for a close _o_. The vowel sound of the
word _peur_ is not distinguished from the close sound in _peu_. In the
orthography of the Félibres the diagraph _ue_ is used as we find it in
Old French to represent this vowel. Probably the most striking feature
of the pronunciation is the unusual number of diphthongs and
triphthongs, both ascending and descending. Each vowel preserves its
proper sound, and the component vowels seem to be pronounced more slowly
and separately than in many languages. It is to be noted that _u_ in a
diphthong has the Italian sound, whereas when single it sounds as in
French. The unmarked _e_ represents the French _é_, as the _e_ mute is
unknown to the Provençal.

The _c_ has come to sound like _s_ before _e_ and _i_, as in French.
_Ch_ and _j_ represent the sounds _ts_ and _dz_ respectively, and _g_
before _e_ and _i_ has the latter sound. There is no aspirate _h_. The
_r_ is generally uvular. The _s_ between vowels is voiced. Only _l_,
_r_, _s_, and _n_ are pronounced as final consonants, _l_ being
extremely rare. Mistral has preserved or restored other final consonants
in order to show the etymology, but they are silent except in _liaison_
in the elevated style of reading.

The language is richer in vowel variety than Italian or Spanish, and the
proportion of vowel to consonant probably greater than in either.
Fortunately for the student, the spelling represents the pronunciation
very faithfully. A final consonant preceded by another is mute; among
single final consonants only _l_, _m_, _n_, _r_, _s_ are sounded;
otherwise all the letters written are pronounced. The stressed syllable
is indicated, when not normal, by the application of practically the
same principles that determine the marking of the accent in Spanish.

The pronunciation of the Félibres is heard among the people at Maillane
and round about. Variations begin as near as Avignon.[5]

Koschwitz' Grammar treats the language historically, and renders
unnecessary here the presentation of more than its most striking
peculiarities. Of these, one that evokes surprise upon first
acquaintance with the dialect is the fact that final _o_ marks the
feminine of nouns, adjectives, and participles. It is a close _o_,
somewhat weakly and obscurely pronounced, as compared, for instance,
with the final _o_ in Italian. In this respect Provençal is quite
anomalous among Romance languages. In some regions of the Alps, at Nice,
at Montpellier, at Le Velay, in Haute-Auvergne, in Roussillon, and in
Catalonia the Latin final _a_ is preserved, as in Italian and Spanish.

The noun has but one form for the singular and plural. The distinction
of plural and singular depends upon the article, or upon the
demonstrative or possessive adjective accompanying the noun. In
_liaison_ adjectives take _s_ as a plural sign. So that, for the ear,
the Provençal and French languages are quite alike in regard to this
matter. The Provençal has not even the formal distinction of the nouns
in _al_, which in French make their plural in _aux_. _Cheval_ in
Provençal is _chivau_, and the plural is like the singular. A curious
fact is the use of _uni_ or _unis_, the plural of the indefinite
article, as a sign of the dual number; and this is its exclusive use.

The subject pronoun, when unemphatic, is not expressed, but understood
from the termination of the verb. _Iéu_ (je), _tu_ (tu), and _éu_ (il)
are used as disjunctive forms, in contrast with the French. The
possessive adjective _leur_ is represented by _si_; and the reflective
_se_ is used for the first plural as well as for the third singular and
third plural.

The moods and tenses correspond exactly to those of the French, and the
famous rule of the past participle is identical with the one that
prevails in the sister language.

Aside from the omission of the pronoun subject, and the use of one or
two constructions not unknown to French, but not admitted to use in the
literary language, the syntax of the Provençal is identical with that of
the French. The inversions of poetry may disguise this fact a little,
but the lack of individuality in the sentence construction is obvious in
prose. Translation of Provençal prose into French prose is practically
mere word substitution.

Instances of the constructions just mentioned are the following. The
relative object pronoun is often repeated as a personal pronoun, so that
the verb has its _object_ expressed twice. The French continually offers
redundancy of subject or complement, but not with the relative.

    "Estre, iéu, lou marran que tóuti L'estrangisson!
    Estre, iéu, l'estrangié que tóuti LOU fugisson!"

    "Être, moi, le paria, que tous rebutent!
    Être, moi, l'étranger que tout le monde fuit!"

(_La Rèino Jano_, Act I, Scene III.)

The particle _ti_ is added to a verb to make it interrogative.

E.g. soun-ti? sont-ils?   Petrarco ignoro-ti?
     èro-ti?  était-il?   Petrarque ignore-t-il?

This is the regular form of interrogative in the third person. It is, of
course, entirely due to the influence of colloquial French.

The French indefinite statement with the pronoun _on_ may be represented
in Provençal by the third plural of the verb; _on m'a demandé_ is
translated _m'an demanda_, or _on m'a demanda_.

The negative _ne_ is often suppressed, even with the correlative _que_.

The verb _estre_ is conjugated with itself, as in Italian.

The Provençal speech is, therefore, not at all what it would have been
if it had had an independent literary existence since the days of the
Troubadours. The influence of the French has been overwhelming, as is
naturally to be expected. A great number of idioms, that seem to be pure
gallicisms, are found, in spite of the deliberate effort, referred to
above, to eliminate French forms. In _La Rèino Jano_, Act III, Scene IV,
we find _Ié vai de nòstis os_,--_Il y va de nos os_. _Vejan_, _voyons_,
is used as a sort of interjection, as in French. The partitive article
is used precisely as in French. We meet the narrative infinitive with
_de_. In short, the French reader feels at home in the Provençal
sentence; it is the same syntax and, to a great degree, the same
rhetoric. Only in the vocabulary does he feel himself in a strange

The strength, the originality, the true _raison d'être_ of the Provençal
speech resides in its rich vocabulary. It contains a great number of
terms denoting objects known exclusively in Provence, for which there is
no corresponding term in the sister speech. Many plants have simple,
familiar names, for which the French must substitute a name that is
either only approximate, or learned and pedantic. Words of every
category exist to express usages that are exclusively Provençal.

The study of the modern language confirms the results, as regards
etymology, reached by Diez and Fauriel and others, who have busied
themselves with the Old Provençal. The great mass of the words are
traceable to Latin etyma, as in all Romance dialects a large portion of
Germanic words are found. Greek and Arabic words are comparatively
numerous. Basque and Celtic have contributed various elements, and, as
in French, there is a long list of words the origin of which is

The language shares with the other southern Romance languages a fondness
for diminutives, augmentatives, and pejoratives, and is far richer than
French in terminations of these classes. Long suffixes abound, and the
style becomes, in consequence, frequently high-sounding and exaggerated.

One of the most evident sources of new words in the language of Mistral
is in its suffixes. Most of these are common to the other Romance
languages, and have merely undergone the phonetic changes that obtain
in this form of speech. In many instances, however, they differ in
meaning and in application from their corresponding forms in the sister
languages, and a vast number of words are found the formation of which
is peculiar to the language under consideration. These suffixes
contribute largely to give the language its external appearance; and
while a thorough and scientific study of them cannot be given here,
enough will be presented to show some of the special developments of
Mistral's language in this direction.


This suffix marks the infinitive of the first conjugation, and also the
past participle. It answers to the French forms in -er and -é. As the
first conjugation is a so-called "living" conjugation, it is the
termination of many new verbs.

-a, -ado.

-ado is the termination of the feminine of the past participle. This
often becomes an abstract feminine noun, answering to the French
termination -ée; _armée_ in Mistral's language is _armado_. Examples of
forms peculiar to Provençal are:

óulivo, _an olive_.
óuliva, _to gather olives_.
óulivado, _olive gathering_.
pié, _foot_.
piado, _footprint_.

-age (masc.).

This suffix is the equivalent of the French -age, and is a suffix of
frequent occurrence in forming new words. _Óulivage_ is a synonym of
_óulivado_, mentioned above. A rather curious word is the adverb arrage,
meaning _at random, haphazard_. It appears to represent a Latin adverb,

Mourtau, mourtalo, _mortal_, gives the noun mourtalage,
_a massacre_.

-agno (fem.).

An interesting example of the use of this suffix is seen in the word
eigagno, _dew_, formed from aigo, _water_, as though there had been a
Latin word _aquanea_.

-aio (fem.).

This ending corresponds to the French -aille.

poulo, _a hen_.
poulaio, _a lot of hens_, _poultry_.

-aire (masc.).

This represents the Latin -ator (_one who_). The corresponding feminine
in Mistral's works has always the diminutive form -arello.

toumba, _to fall_.
toumbaire, toumbarello, _one who falls_ or _one who fells_.
óuliva, _to gather olives_.
óulivaire, óulivarello, _olive gatherer_.
canta, _to sing_.
cantaire, cantarello, _singer_.
panié, _basket_.
panieraire, _basket maker_.
caligna, _to court_.
calignaire, _suitor_.
paternostriaire, _one who is forever praying_.

Like the corresponding French nouns in -eur, these nouns in -aire, as
well as those in -èire, are also used as adjectives.

-aire = -arium.

The suffix sometimes represents the Latin -arium. A curious word is
_vejaire_, meaning opinion, manner of seeing, as though there had been a
Latin word _videarium_. It sometimes has the form _jaire_ or _chaire_,
through the loss of the first syllable.

-an, -ano.

This suffix is common in the Romance languages. Fihan, _filial_, seems
to be peculiar to the Provençal.

-ànci (fem.).

This is the form corresponding to the French -ance. _Abundance_ is in
Mistral's dialect _aboundànci_.

-ant, -anto.

This is the termination of the present participle and verbal adjective
derived from verbs in -a. These words sometimes have a special meaning,
as toumbant, _declivity_.

-ard, -ardo.

Gaiard is Provençal for the French _gaillard_.


This represents the Latin -arius. Abouticàri is Provençal for


This is an augmentative suffix of very frequent use.

porc, _hog_.
pourcas, _great hog_.
serp, _snake_.
serpatas, _great serpent_.
castèu, _fort_.
castelas, _fortress_.
rouco, _rock_.
roucas, _great rock_.


This is a pejorative suffix.

vido, _life_.
vidasso, _wretched life_.


In French this suffix has the form -âtre.

óulivastre (Fr. olivâtre), _olive in color_.


Coustat is in French _côté_ (side).

The suffix is often diminutive.

auc, _a gander_.
aucat, _gosling_.
passero, _sparrow_.
passerat, _small sparrow_.

-au, -alo.

This is the form of the widely used suffix -al. Mistral uses paternau
for _paternal_, and also the adjective formed upon paire, _father_,
peirenau, peirenalo, _fatherly_.

bourg, _city_.
bourgau, bourgalo, _civil_.

-edo (fem.).

pin, _pine_.
pinedo, _pine-grove_.
clapo, _stone_.
claparedo, _stony plain_.
óulivo, _olive_.
óulivaredo, _olive-orchard_.

-èire, -erello.

This suffix corresponds to the suffix -aire, mentioned above. It is
appended to the stem of verbs not of the first conjugation.

courre, _to run_.
courrèire, courerello, _runner_.
legi, _to read_.
legèire, legerello, _reader_.


This is an exceedingly common verb-suffix, corresponding to the Italian

toumbarèu, _kind of cart_.
toumbaraleja, _to cart_.
farandolo, _farandole_.
farandouleja, _to dance the farandole_.
poutoun, _kiss_.
poutouneja, _to kiss_.
poumpoun, _caress_.
poumpouneja, _to caress_.
segnour, _lord_.
segnoureja, _to lord it over_.
mistral, _wind of the Rhone valley_.
mistraleja, _to roar like the mistral_.
poudro, _powder_.
poudreja, _to fire a gun_.
clar, _bright_.
clareja, _to brighten_.

-en (masc.), -enco (fem.).

This is a common adjective-suffix.

souleu, _sun_.
souleien, souleienco, _sunny_.
mai, _May_.
maien, maienco, _relating to May_.
Madaleno, _Magdalen_.
madalenen, madalenenco, _like Magdalen_.

-ès (masc.), -esso (fem.).

This suffix corresponds to the French -ais, -aise. Liounès = lyonnais.

-et (masc.), -eto (fem.).

This is perhaps the commonest of the diminutive suffixes.

ome, _man_.
oumenet, _little man_.
fiho, _daughter_.
fiheto, _dear daughter_.
enfan, _child_.
enfantounet, _little child_.
vènt, _wind_.
ventoulet, _breeze_.
toumba, _to fall_.
toumbaraleto, _little leaps_.
chato, _girl_.
chatouneto, _little girl_
malaut, _ill_.
malautounet, _sickly_.

It will be observed that the double diminutive termination is the most

Sometimes the -et is not diminutive. _Óuliveto_ may mean a small olive
or a field planted with olives.

-èu (masc.), -ello (fem.).

This suffix is often diminutive.

paurin, _poor chap_.
paurinèu paurinello, _poor little fellow or girl_.
pin, _pine_.
pinatèu, _young pine_.
pinatello, _forest of young pines_.
sauvage, _wild_.
sauvagèu, sauvagello, _somewhat wild_.

Sometimes it is not.

toumba, _to fall_.
toumbarèu, -ello, _likely to fall_.
canta, _to sing_.
cantarèu, -ello, _songful_.
crese, _to believe_.
creserèu, -ello, _inclined to belief_.


This is a verb-suffix, marking the infinitive of a "living" conjugation.

bourgau, _civil_.
abourgali, _to civilize_.

-ié (fem.).

Carestié, _dearness_, stands in contrast to the Italian _carestia_.

priva, _to train_, _to tame_.
privadié, _sweet food given in training animals_.

-ié (masc.), -iero (fem.).

This is the equivalent of the French -ier.

óulivié, _olive tree_.
bouchié, _butcher_.
pinatié,  } _a dwelling_
pinatiero,}   _among pines_.

-ièu (masc.), -ivo (fem.).

This is the form corresponding to the French -if, -ive.

ablatièu, _ablative_.
vièu, vivo, _lively_.

-ige (m.).

According to Mistral, this represents the Latin -ities. We incline to
think rather that it corresponds to -age, being added chiefly to words
in _e_. -age fits rather upon stems in _a_.

gounfle, _swollen_.
gounflige, _swelling_.
paure, _poor_.
paurige, _poverty_.

-iho (fem.).

This suffix makes collective nouns.

pastre, _shepherd_.
pastriho, _company of shepherds_.
paure, _poor_.
pauriho, _the poor_.

-in (m.), -ino (fem.).

This is usually diminutive or pejorative.

paurin, _poor wretch_.

-ioun (fem.).

This corresponds to the French -ion.

nacioun, _nation_.
abdicacioun, _abdication_.
erme, _desert_.
asserma, _to dry up_.
assermacioun, _thirst_, _dryness_.

-is (masc.), -isso (fem.).

Crida, _to cry_.
cridadisso, _cries of woe_.
chapla, _to slay_.
chapladis, _slaughter_.
coula, _to flow_.
couladis or couladisso, _flowing_.
abareja, _to throw pell-mell_.
abarejadis, _confusion_.
toumba, _to fall_.
toumbadis, -isso, _tottering_ (adj.).

This suffix is added to the past participle stem.

-isoun (fem.).

This suffix forms nouns from verbs in -i.

abalauvi, _to make dizzy_, _to confound_.
abalauvisoun, _vertigo_.

-men (masc.).

This corresponds to the French -ment; bastimen = bâtiment, _ship_.

abouli, _to abolish_.
aboulimen, _abolition_.
toumba, _to fall_.
toumbamen, _fall_.

-men (adverb).

urous, urouso, _happy_.
urousamen, _happily_.

It is to be noted here that the adverb has the vowel of the old feminine
termination _a_, and not the modern _o_.

-ot (masc.), -oto (fem.).

A diminutive suffix.

vilo, _town_.
viloto, _little town_.

Sometimes the stem no longer exists separately.

mignot, mignoto, _darling_.
pichot, pichoto, _little boy_, _little girl_.

-oto (fem.).

passa, _to pass_.
passaroto, _passing to and fro_.

-ou (masc.).

This is a noun-suffix of very frequent use. It seems to be for Latin -or
and -orium.

jouga, _to play_.
jougadou, _player_.
abla, _to brag_ (cf. Fr. _hâbler_).
abladou, _braggart_.
abausi, _to abuse, to exaggerate_.
abausidou, _braggart_.
courre, _to run_.
courredou, _corridor_.
lava, _to wash_.
lavadou, _lavatory_.
espande, _to expand_.
espandidou, _expanse, panorama_.
escourre, _to flow out_.
escourredou, _passage_, _hollow_.
toumba, _to fall_.
toumbadou, _water-fall_.
abeura, _to water_.
abeuradou, _drinking-trough_.
passa, _to sift_.
passadou, _sieve_.
mounda, _to winnow_.
moundadou, _sieve_.


This is an adjective suffix.

iver, _winter_.
ivernouge, _wintry_.

-oun (masc.), -ouno (fem.).

A diminutive suffix.

enfan, _child_.
enfantoun, enfantouno, _little child_.
pauriho, _the poor_.
paurihoun, _poor wretch_.

-ounge (masc.).

A suffix forming nouns from adjectives.

vièi, _old_.
vieiounge, _old age_.

-our (fem.).

This is like the above.

vièi, _old_.
vièiour, _old age_.

-ous, -ouso.

This is the Latin -osus; French -eux, -euse. It forms many new words in

urous (Fr. heureux), _happy_.
pouderous (It. and Sp. poderoso), _powerful_.
aboundous, _abundant_.
pin, _pine_.
pinous, _covered with pines_.
escalabra, _to climb_.
escalabrous, _precipitous_.

-ta (fem.).

This is the equivalent of the Latin -tas, French -té. In Mistral's
language it is usually preceded by a connecting vowel _e_.

moundaneta, _worldliness_.
soucieta, _society_.
paureta, _poverty_.

-u (masc.), -udo (fem.).

This ending terminates the past participles of verbs whose infinitive
ends in _e_. It also forms many new adjectives.

astre, _star_.
malastru, _ill-starred_.
sabé, _to know_.
saberu, _learned_.

The feminine form often becomes a noun.

escourre, _to run out_.
escourregudo, _excursion_.

-un (masc.).

This is a very common noun-suffix.

clar, _bright_.
clarun, _brightness_.
rat, _rat_.
ratun, _lot of rats_, _smell of rats_.
paure, _poor_.
paurun, _poverty_.
dansa, _to dance_.
dansun, _love of dancing_.
plagne, _to pity_.
plagnun, _complaining_.
vièi, _old_.
vieiun, _old age_.

-uro (fem.).

toumba, _to fall_.
toumbaduro, _a fall_.
escourre, _to flow away_.
escourreduro, _what flows away_.
bagna, _to wet_.
bagnaduro, _dew_.

This partial survey of the subject of the suffixes in Mistral's dialect
will suffice to show that it is possible to create words indefinitely.
There is no academy to check abuse, no large, cultivated public to
disapprove of the new forms. The Félibres have been free. A fondness for
diminutives marks all the languages of southern Europe, and a love of
long terminations generally distinguished Spanish latinity. The language
of the Félibres is by no means free from the grandiloquence and
pomposity that results from the employment of these high-sounding and
long terminations. _Toumbarelado_, _toumbarelaire_, are rather big in
the majesty of their five syllables to denote a cart-load and its driver
respectively. The abundance of this vocabulary is at any rate manifest.
We have here not a poor dialect, but one that began with a large
vocabulary and in possession of the power of indefinite development and
recreation out of its own resources. It forms compounds with greater
readiness than French, and the learner is impressed by the unusual
number of compound adverbs, some of very peculiar formation.
_Tourna-mai_ (again) is an example. Somewhat on the model of the French
_va-et-vient_ is the word _li mounto-davalo_, the ups and downs. _Un
regardo-veni_ means a look-out. _Noun-ren_ is nothingness. _Ped-terrous_
(earthy foot) indicates a peasant.

Onomatopoetic words, like _zounzoun_, _vounvoun_, _dindánti_, are

Very interesting as throwing light upon the Provençal temperament are
the numerous and constantly recurring interjections. This trait in the
man of the _Midi_ is one that Daudet has brought out humorously in the
Tartarin books. It is often difficult in serious situations to take
these explosive monosyllables seriously.

In his study of Mistral's poetry, Gaston Paris calls attention to the
fact that the Provençal vocabulary offers many words of low association,
or at least that these words suggest what is low or trivial to the
French reader; he admits that the effect upon the Provençal reader may
not be, and is likely not to be, the same; but even the latter must
occasionally experience a feeling of surprise or slight shock to find
such words used in elevated style. For the English reader it is even
worse. Many such expressions could not be rendered literally at all.
Mistral resents this criticism, and maintains that the words in question
are employed in current usage without calling up the image of the low
association. This statement, of course, must be accepted. It is true of
all languages that words rise and fall in dignity, and their origin and
association are momentarily or permanently forgotten.

The undeniably great success of this new Provençal literature justifies
completely the revival of the dialect. As Burns speaks from his soul
only in the speech of his mother's fireside, so the Provençal nature can
only be fully expressed in the home-dialect. Roumanille wrote for
Provençals only. Mistral and his associates early became more ambitious.
His works have been invariably published with French translations, and
more readers know them through the translations than through the
originals. But they are what they are because they were conceived in the
patois, and because their author was fired with a love of the language

As to the future of this rich and beautiful idiom, nothing can be
predicted. The Félibrige movement appears to have endowed southern
France with a literary language rivalling the French; it appears to have
given an impulse toward the unification of the dialects and subdialects
of the _langue d'oc_. But the _patoisants_ are numerous and powerful,
and will not abdicate their right to continue to speak and write their
local dialects in the face of the superiority of the Félibrige
literature. Is it to be expected that Frenchmen in the south will
hereafter know and use three languages and three literatures--the local
dialect, the language of the Félibres, and the national language and
literature? One is inclined to think not. The practical difficulties are
very great; two literatures are more than most men can become familiar

However, this much is certain: a rich, harmonious language has been
saved forever and crystallized in works of great beauty; its revival has
infused a fresh, intellectual activity into the people whose birthright
it is; it has been studied with delight by many who were not born in
sunny Provence; a very great contribution is made through it to
philological study. Enthusiasts have dreamed of its becoming an
international language, on account of its intermediary position, its
simplicity, and the fact that it is not the language of any nation.
Enthusiasm has here run pretty high, as is apt to be the case in the

In connection with the revival of all these dialects the opinion of two
men, eminent in the science of education, is of the greatest interest.
Eugène Lintilhac approves the view of a professor of Latin, member of
the Institute, who had often noticed the superiority of the peasants of
the frontier regions over those from the interior, and who said, "It is
not surprising, do they not pass their lives translating?" Michel Bréal
considers the patois a great help in the study of the official language,
on the principle that a term of comparison is necessary in the study of
a language. As between Provençal and French this comparison would be
between words, rather than in syntax. Often the child's respect for his
home would be increased if he sees the antiquity of the speech of his
fireside; if, as Bréal puts it, he is shown that his dialect conforms
frequently to the speech of Henri IV or St. Louis. "If the province has
authors like Jasmin, Roumanille, or Mistral, let the child read their
books from time to time along with his French books; he will feel proud
of his province, and will love France only the more. The clergy is well
aware of this power of the native dialect, and knows how to turn it to
account, and your culture is often without root and without depth,
because you have not recognized the strength of these bonds that bind to
a locality. The school must be fast to the soil and not merely seem to
be standing upon it. There need be no fear of thereby shaking the
authority of the official language; the necessity of the latter is
continually kept in sight by literature, journalism, the administration
of government."

The revival of this speech could not fail to interest lovers of
literature. If not a lineal descendant, it is at least a descendant, of
the language that centuries ago brought an era of beauty and light to
Europe, that inspired Dante and Petrarch, and gave to modern literatures
the poetic forms that still bear their Provençal names. The modern
dialect is devoted to other uses now; it is still a language of
brightness and sunshine, graceful and artistic, but instead of giving
expression to the conventionalities of courtly love, or tending to
soften the natures of fierce feudal barons, it now sings chiefly of the
simple, genuine sentiments of the human heart, of the real beauties of
nature, of the charm of wholesome, outdoor life, of healthy toil and
simple living, of the love of home and country, and brings at least a
message of hope and cheer at a time when greater literatures are
burdened with a weight of discouragement and pessimism.

[Footnote 5: The edition of _Mirèio_ published by Lemerre in 1886
contains an _Avis sur la prononciation provençale_ wherein numerous
errors are to be noted. Here the statement is made that _all the letters
are pronounced_; that _ch_ is pronounced _ts_, as in the Spanish word
_muchacho_. The fact about the pronunciation of the _ch_ is that it
varies in different places, having at Maillane the sound _ts_, at
Avignon, for instance, the sound in the English _chin_. It is stated
further on that _ferramento_, _capello_, _fèbre_, are pronounced exactly
like the Italian words _ferramento_, _capello_, _febbre_. The truth is
that they are each pronounced somewhat differently from the Italian
words. Provençal knows nothing of double consonants in pronunciation,
and the vowels are not precisely alike in each pair of words.

Later this sentence occurs: "Dans les triphthongues, comme _biais_,
_pièi_, _vuei_, _niue_, la voix doit dominer sur la voyelle
intermédiaire, tout en faisant sentir les autres." Only the first two of
these four words contain a triphthong. _Vuei_ is a descending diphthong,
the _ue_ representing the French _eu_. _Niue_ offers the same two vowel
sounds inverted, with the stress on the second.

Lastly, the example is given of the name Jéuse. It is spelled without
the accent mark, and the reader is led to infer that it is pronounced as
though it were a French name. Here the _éu_ is a diphthong. The first
vowel is the French _é_, the second the Italian _u_. The stress is on
the first vowel.]



The versification of the Félibres follows in the main the rules observed
by the French poets. As in all the Romance languages the verse consists
of a given number of syllables, and the number of stressed syllables in
the line is not constant. The few differences to be noted between French
verse and Provençal verse arise from three differences in the languages.
The Provençal has no _e mute_, and therefore all the syllables
theoretically counted are distinctly heard, and the masculine and the
feminine rhymes are fully distinguished in pronunciation. The new
language possesses a number of diphthongs, and the unaccented part of
the diphthong, a _u_ or an _i_, constitutes a consonant either before or
after a vowel in another word, being really a _w_ or a _y_. This
prevents hiatus, which is banished from Provençal verse as it is from
French, and here again theory and practice are in accord, for the
elision of the _e mute_ where this _e_ follows a vowel readmits hiatus
into the French line, and no such phenomenon is known to the Provençal.
Thirdly, the stressed syllable of each word is strongly marked, and
verse exists as strongly and regularly accentual as in English or
German. This is seen in the numerous poems written to be sung to an air
already existing. The accents in these pieces fall with the rhythmic
beat the English ear is accustomed to and which it so misses on first
acquaintance with French verse. A second consequence of this stronger
stress is that verse is written without rhyme; the entire _Poem of the
Rhone_ is written in ten-syllable feminine verses unrhymed.

    "O tèms di vièi d'antico bounoumío,
    Que lis oustau avien ges de sarraio
    E que li gènt, à Coundriéu coume au nostre,
    Se gatihavon, au calèu pèr rire!"

(Canto I.)

Mistral has made use of all the varieties of verse known to the French
poets. One of the poems in the _Isclo d'Or_ offers an example of
fourteen-syllable verse; it is called _L'Amiradou_ (The Belvedere). Here
are the first two stanzas:--

    "Au castèu de Tarascoun, i'a 'no rèino, i'a 'no fado
                Au castèu de Tarascoun
                I'a 'no fado que s'escound.

    "Aquéu que ié durbira la presoun ounte es clavado
                Aquéu que ié durbira
                Belèu elo l'amara."[6]

We may note here instances of the special features of Provençal
versification mentioned above. The _i_ in _i'a_, the equivalent of the
French _il y a_, is really a consonant. This _i_ occurs again in the
fourth of the lines quoted, so that there is no hiatus between _que_ and
_ié_. In like manner the _u_ of _belèu_, in the last line, stands with
the sound of the English _w_ between this and _elo_. The _e_ of _ounte_
is elided. It will be observed that there is a cæsura between the
seventh and eighth syllables of the long line, and that the verse has a
marked rhythmic beat, with decided trochaic movement,--


In his use of French Alexandrine, or twelve-syllable verse, Mistral
takes few liberties as to cæsura. No ternary verses are found in
_Mirèio_, that is, verses that fall into three equal parts. In general,
it may be said that his Alexandrines, except in the play _La Rèino
Jano_, represent the classical type of the French poets. To be noted,
however, is the presence of feminine cæsuras. These occur, not
theoretically or intentionally, but as a consequence of pronunciation,
and are an additional beauty in that they vary the movement of the
lines. The unstressed vowel at the hemistich, theoretically elided, is
pronounced because of the natural pause intervening between the two
parts of the verse.

    "Per óuliva tant d'aubre!--Hòu, tout acò se fai!"

(Mirèio, Canto I.)

In one of the divisions of _Lou Tambour d'Arcolo_ (The Drummer of
Arcole), the poet uses ten-syllable verse with the cæsura after the
sixth syllable, an exceedingly unusual cæsura, imitated from the poem
_Girard de Roussillon_.

    "Ah! lou pichot tambour | devenguè flòri!
    Davans touto l'arma | --do en plen soulèu,
    Pèr estelà soun front | d'un rai de glòri," etc.

Elsewhere he uses this verse divided after the fourth syllable, and less
frequently after the fifth.

The stanza used by Mistral throughout _Mirèio_ and _Calendau_ is his own
invention. Here is the first stanza of the second canto of _Mirèio_:--

        "Cantas, cantas, magnanarello,
        Que la culido es cantarello!
    Galant soun li magnan e s'endormon di tres:
        Lis amourié soun plen de fiho
        Que lou bèu tèms escarrabiho,
        Coume un vòu de blóundis abiho
    Que raubon sa melico i roumanin dóu gres."

This certainly is a stanza of great beauty, and eminently adapted to the
language. Mistral is exceedingly skilful in the use of it, distributing
pauses effectively, breaking the monotony of the repeated feminine
verses with enjambements, and continuing the sense from one stanza to
the next. This stanza, like the language, is pretty and would scarcely
be a suitable vehicle for poetic expression requiring great depth or
stateliness. Provençal verse in general cannot be said to possess
majesty or the rich _orchestral_ quality Brunetière finds in Victor
Hugo. Its qualities are sweetness, daintiness, rapidity, grace, a
merry, tripping flow, great smoothness, and very musical rhythm.

_Mirèio_ contains one ballad and two lyrics in a measure differing from
that of the rest of the poem. The ballad of the _Bailiff Suffren_ has
the swing and movement a sea ballad should possess. The stanza is of six
lines, of ten syllables each, with the cæsura after the fifth syllable,
the rhymes being _abb, aba_.

    "Lou Baile Sufrèn | que sus mar coumando."

In the third canto occurs the famous song _Magali_, so popular in
Provence. The melody is printed at the end of the volume. Mirèio's
prayer in the tenth canto is in five-syllable verse with rhymes _abbab_.

The poems of the _Isclo d'Or_ offer over eighty varieties of strophe, a
most remarkable number. This variety is produced by combining in
different manners the verse lengths, and by changes in the succession of
rhymes. Whatever ingenuity Mistral has exercised in the creation of
rhythms, the impression must not be created that inspiration has
suffered through attention to mechanism, or that he is to be classed
with the old Provençal versifiers or those who flourished in northern
France just before the time of Marot. Artifice is always strictly
subordinated, and the poet seems to sing spontaneously. No violence is
ever done to the language in order to force it into artificial moulds,
there is no punning in rhymes, there is nothing that can be charged
against the poet as beneath the real dignity of his art.

Let us look at some of the more striking of these verse forms. The
second of _Li Cansoun, Lou Bastimen_, offers the following form:--

    "Lou bastimen vèn de Maiorco
    Emé d'arange un cargamen:
    An courouna de vèrdi torco
    L'aubre-mestre dón bastimen:
            Vèn de Maiorco
            Lou bastimen."[7]

This stanza reproduces in the sixth line the last word of the first, and
in the seventh the last word of the fourth.

An excellent example of accentual verse set to an already existing
melody is seen in _Li Bon Prouvençau_. The air is:--

    "Si le roi m'avait donné
    Paris, sa grand ville."

We quote the first stanza:--

    "Boufo, au siècle mounte sian
      Uno auro superbo
    Que vòu faire rèn qu'un tian
      De tóuti lis erbo:
    Nautri, li bon Prouvençau
    Aparan lou vièi casau
      Ounte fan l'aleto
      Nòsti dindouleto."[8]

This poem scans itself with perfect regularity, and the rhythm of the
tune is evident to the reader who may never have heard the actual music.

The stanza of _La Tourre de Barbentano_ is as follows:--

    "L'Evesque d'Avignoun, Mounsen Grimau,
    A fa basti 'no tourre à Barbentano
    Qu' enràbio vènt de mar e tremountano
    E fai despoutenta l'Esprit dóu mau.
          Sus lou roucas
        Forto e carrado
    Porto au soulèu soun front bouscas:
    Mememen i fenestro, dins lou cas
    Que vouguèsse lou Diable intra di vitro,
    A fa Mounsen Grimau grava sa mitro."[9]

Here is a stanza of _Lou Renegat_:--

    "Jan de Gounfaroun, pres pèr de coursàri,
        Dins li Janissàri
        Sèt an a servi:
    Fau, encò di Turc, avé la coudeno
        Facho à la cadeno
        Emai au rouvi."[10]

The stanza employed in _La Cadéno de Moustié_ is remarkable in having
only one masculine and one feminine rhyme in its seven lines:--

    "Presounié di Sarrasin,
    Engimbra coume un caraco,
    Em' un calot cremesin
    Que lou blanc soulèu eidraco,
    En virant la pouso-raco,
    Blacasset pregavo ansin."[11]

The "roumanso" of _La Rèino Jano_ offers a stanza containing only five
rhymes in fourteen lines:--

      "Fiéu de Maiano
    S'ère vengu dóu tèms
      De Dono Jano,
    Quand èro à soun printèms
      E soubeirano
    Coume èron autre-tèms,
      Sènso autro engano
    Que soun regard courous,
    Auriéu, d'elo amourous,
    Trouva, iéu benurous,
    Tant fino cansouneto
    Que la bello Janeto
    M'aurié douna 'n mantèu
    Pèr parèisse i castèu."[12]

The rhythm of the noble _Saume de la Penitènci_ is as follows:--

    "Segnour, à la fin ta coulèro
        Largo si tron
        Sus nosti front:
    E dins la niue nosto galèro
        Pico d'a pro
        Contro li ro."[13]

Another peculiar stanza is exhibited in _Lou Prègo-Diéu_:--

    "Ero un tantost d'aquest estiéu
    Que ni vihave ni dourmiéu:
    Fasiéu miejour, tan que me plaise,
        Lou cabassòu
        Toucant lou sòu,
          A l'aise."[14]

Perhaps the most remarkable of all in point of originality, not to say
queerness, is _Lou Blad de Luno_. The rhyme in _lin_ is repeated
throughout seventeen stanzas, and of course no word is used twice.

    "La luno barbano
        De lano.

    S'entènd peralin
    L'aigo que lalejo
    E batarelejo
    Darrié lou moulin.

    La luno barbano
      De lin."[15]

The little poem, _Aubencho_, is interesting as offering two rhymes in
its nine lines.

Mistral's sonnets offer some peculiarities. He has one composed of lines
of six syllables, others of eight, besides those considered regular in
French, consisting, namely, of twelve syllables. The following sonnet
addressed to Roumania appears to be unique in form:--

    "Quand lou chaple a pres fin, que lou loup e la rùssi
    An rousiga lis os, lou soulèu flamejant
    Esvalis gaiamen lou brumage destrùssi
    E lou prat bataié tourno lèu verdejant.

    "Après lou long trepé di Turc emai di Rùssi
    T'an visto ansin renaisse, o nacioun de Trajan,
    Coume l'astre lusènt, que sort dóu negre eslùssi,
    Emé lou nouvelun di chato de quinge an.

        "E li raço latino
        A ta lengo argentino
    An couneigu l'ounour que dins toun sang i'avié;

        "E t'apelant germano,
        La Prouvenço roumano
    Te mando, o Roumanio, un rampau d'óulivié."[16]

It would be a hopeless task for an English translator to attempt
versions of these poems that should reproduce the original strophe
forms. A few such translations have been made into German, which
possesses a much greater wealth of rhyme than English. Let us repeat
that it must not be imputed to Mistral as a fault that he is too clever
a versifier. His strophes are not the artificial complications of the
Troubadours, and if these greatly varied forms cost him effort to
produce, his art is most marvellously concealed. More likely it is that
the almost inexhaustible abundance of rhymes in the Provençal, and the
ease of construction of merely syllabic verse, explain in great measure
his fertility in the production of stanzas. Some others of the Félibres,
even Aubanel, in our opinion, have produced verse that is very ordinary
in quality. Verse may be made too easily in this dialect, and fluent
rhymed language that merely expresses commonplace sentiment may readily
be mistaken for poetry.

The wealth of rhyme in the Provençal language appears to be greater than
in any other form of Romance speech. As compared with Italian and
Spanish, it may be noted that the Provençal has no proparoxytone words,
and hence a whole class of words is brought into the two categories
possible in Provençal. Though the number of different vowels and
diphthongs is greater than in these two languages, only three consonants
are found as finals, _n_, _r_, _s_ (_l_ very rarely). The consequent
great abundance of rhymes is limited by an insistence upon the rich
rhyme to an extent scarcely attainable in French; in fact, the merely
sufficient rhyme is very rare. It is unfortunate that so many of the
feminine rhymes terminate in _o_. In the _Poem of the Rhone_, composed
entirely in feminine verses, passages occur where nine successive lines
end in this letter, and the verses in _o_ vastly out-number all others.
In this unrhymed poem, assonance is very carefully avoided.

The play, _Queen Joanna_, is remarkable among the productions of Mistral
as being the only work of any length he has produced that makes
extensive use of the Alexandrine. In fact, the versification is
precisely that of any modern French play written in verse; and we may
note here the liberties as to cæsura and enjambements which are now
usual in French verse. We remark elsewhere the lack of independence in
the dialect of Avignon, that its vocabulary alone gives it life. Not
only has it no syntax of its own, but it really has been a difficulty of
the poet in translating his own Alexandrines into French prose, not to
produce verses; nor has he always avoided them. Here, for instance, is a
distich which not only becomes French when translated word for word, but
also reproduces exactly metre and rhyme:--

    "En un mot tout me dis que lou cèu predestino
    Un reviéure de glòri à terro latino.

    "En un mot tout me dit que le ciel préstine
    Un renouveau de gloire à terre latine."

The effectiveness, the charm, and the beauty of this verse, for those
who understand and feel the language, cannot be denied; and if this
poetic literature did not meet a want, it could not exist and grow as it
does. The fact that the prose literature is so slight, so scanty, is
highly significant. The poetry that goes straight to the heart, that
speaks to the inner feeling, that calls forth a response, must be
composed in the home speech. It is exceedingly unlikely that a prose
literature of any importance will ever grow up in Provence. No great
historians or dramatists, and few novelists, will ever write in this
dialect. The people of Provence will acquire their knowledge and their
general higher culture in French literature. But they will doubtless
enjoy that poetry best which sings to them of themselves in the speech
of their firesides. Mistral has endowed them with a verse language that
has high artistic possibilities, some of which he has realized most
completely. The music of his verse is the music that expresses the
nature of his people. It is the music of the _gai savoir_. Brightness,
merriment, movement, quick and sudden emotion,--not often deep or
sustained,--exuberance and enthusiasm, love of light and life, are
predominant; and the verse, absolutely free from strong and heavy
combinations of consonants, ripples and glistens with its pretty
terminations, full of color, full of vivacity, full of the sunny south.

[Footnote 6:

    In the castle at Tarascon there is a queen, there is a fairy,
                In the castle of Tarascon
                There is a fairy in hiding.

    The one who shall open the prison wherein she is confined,
                The one who shall open for her,
                Perhaps she will love him.

[Footnote 7: The ship comes from Majorca with a cargo of oranges: the
mainmast of the ship has been crowned with green garlands: safely the
ship arrives from Majorca.]

[Footnote 8: There blows, in this age, a proud wind, which would make a
mere hash of all herbs: we, the good Provençals, defend the old home
over which our swallows hover.]

[Footnote 9: The bishop of Avignon, Monseigneur Grimoard, hath built a
tower at Barbentane, which excites the rage of the sea wind and the
northern blast, and strips the Spirit of Evil of his power. Solid upon
the rock, strong, square, freed of demons, it lifts its fierce brow
sunward; likewise upon the windows, in case the devil might wish to
enter thereby, Monseigneur Grimoard has had his mitre carved.]

[Footnote 10: John of Gonfaron, captured by corsairs in the Janissaries,
served seven years. Among the Turks a man must use his skin to chains
and rust.]

[Footnote 11: Prisoner of the Saracens, accoutred like a gypsy, with a
crimson turban, dried by the white sun, turning the creaking
water-wheel, Blac prayed thus.]

[Footnote 12: A son of Maillane, if I had come in the days of Queen
Joanna when she was in her springtime and a sovereign such as they were
in those days, with no other diplomacy than her bright glance, in love
with her, I should have found, lucky I, so fine a song that the fair
Joanna would have given me a mantle to appear in the castles.]

[Footnote 13: This poem will be found translated in full at the end of
the book.]

[Footnote 14:

    It was an afternoon of this summer,
    While I neither woke nor slept,
    I was taking my noonday rest, as is my pleasure,
    My head touching the ground at ease.

[Footnote 15:

    The ghostly moon is unwinding wool.
    Afar off is heard the gurgling water shaking the clapper behind the mill.
    The ghostly moon is unwinding flax.

[Footnote 16: When the slaughter is over, when the wolf and the buzzard
have gnawed the bones, the flaming sun scatters merrily the hurtful
vapors and the battlefield soon becomes green once more.

After the long trampling of the Turks and Russians, thou, too, art seen
thus reborn, O nation of Trajan, like the shining star coming forth from
the dark eclipse, with the youth of a maiden of fifteen.

And the Latin races, in thy silvery speech, have recognized the honor
that lay in thy blood; and calling thee sister, the Romance Provence
sends thee, Roumania, an olive branch.]




    Sant Jan, vèngue meissoun, abro si fiò de joio;
    Amount sus l'aigo-vers lou pastre pensatiéu,
    En l'ounour dóu païs, enausso uno mount-joio
    E marco li pasquié mounte a passa l'estiéu.

    Emai iéu, en laurant--e quichant moun anchoio,
    Per lou noum de Prouvenço ai fa ço que poudiéu;
    E, Diéu de moun pres-fa m'aguent douna la voio,
    Dins la rego, à geinoui, vuei rènde gràci à Diéu.

    En terro, fin qu'au sistre, a cava moun araire;
    E lou brounze rouman e l'or dis emperaire
    Treluson au soulèu dintre lou blad que sort....

    O pople dóu Miejour, escouto moun arengo:
    Se vos recounquista l'empèri de ta lengo,
    Pèr t'arnesca de nòu, pesco en aquéu Tresor.

"Saint John, at harvest time, kindles his bonfires; high up on the
mountain slope the thoughtful shepherd places a pile of stones in honor
of the country, and marks the pastures where he has passed the summer.

"I, too, tilling and living frugally, have done what I could for the
fame of Provence; and God having permitted me to complete my task,
to-day, on my knees in the furrow, I offer thanks to Him.

"My plough has dug into the soil down to the rock; and the Roman bronze
and the gold of the emperors gleam in the sunlight among the growing

"Oh, people of the South, heed my saying: If you wish to win back the
empire of your language, equip yourselves anew by drawing upon this

Such is the sonnet, dated October 7, 1878, which Mistral has placed at
the beginning of his vast dictionary of the dialects of southern France.
The title of the work is _Lou Tresor dóu Felibrige_ or _Dictionnaire
provençal-français_. It is published in two large quarto volumes,
offering a total of 2361 pages. This great work occupied the poet some
ten years, and is the most complete and most important work of its kind
that has been made. The statement that this work represents for the
Provençal dialect what Littré's monumental dictionary is for the
French, is not exaggerated. Nothing that Mistral has done entitles him
in a greater degree to the gratitude of students of Romance philology,
and the fact that the work has been done in so masterful a fashion by
one who is not first of all a philologist excites our wonder and
admiration. And let us not forget that it was above all else a labor of
love, such as probably never was undertaken elsewhere, unless the work
of Ivar Aasen in the Old Norse dialects be counted as such; and there is
something that appeals strongly to the imagination in the thought of
this poet's labor to render imperishable the language so dear to him.
Years were spent in journeying about among all classes of people,
questioning workmen and sailors, asking them the names they applied to
the objects they use, recording their proverbial expressions, noting
their peculiarities of pronunciation, listening to the songs of the
peasants; and then all was reduced to order and we have a work that is
really monumental.

The dictionary professes to contain all the words used in South France,
with their meaning in French, their proper and figurative acceptations,
augmentatives, diminutives, with examples and quotations. Along with
each word we have all its various forms as they appear in the different
dialects, its forms in the older dialects, the closely related forms in
the other Romance languages, and its etymology. A special feature of the
work in view of its destination is the placing of numerous synonyms
along with each word. The dictionary almost contains a grammar, for the
conjugation of regular and of irregular verbs in all the dialects is
given, and each word is treated in its grammatical relations. Technical
terms of all arts and trades; popular terms in natural history, with
their scientific equivalents; all the geographical names of the region
in all their forms; proper historical names; family names common in the
south; explanations as to customs, manners, institutions, traditions,
and beliefs; biographical, bibliographical, and historical facts of
importance; and a complete collection of proverbs, riddles, and popular
idioms--such are the contents of this prodigious work.

If any weakness is to be found, it is, of course, in the etymological
part. Even here we can but pay tribute to Mistral. If he can be accused,
now and then, of suggesting an etymology that is impossible or
unscientific, let it be gratefully conceded that his desire is to offer
the etymologist all possible help by placing at his disposal all the
material that can be found. The pains Mistral has taken to look up all
possibly related words in Greek, Arabic, Basque, and English, to say
nothing of the Old Provençal and Latin, would alone suffice to call
forth the deepest gratitude on the part of all students of the subject.

This dictionary makes order out of chaos, and although the language of
the Félibres is justly said to be an artificial literary language, we
have in this work along with the form adopted or created by the poet an
orderly presentation of all the speech-forms of the _langue d'oc_ as
they really exist in the mouths of the people.






The publication of this poem in 1859 is an event of capital importance
in the history of modern Provençal literature. Recognized immediately as
a master-work, it fired the ambitions of the Félibres, enlarged the
horizon of possibilities for the new speech, and earned for its author
the admiration of critics in and out of France. Original in language and
in conception, full of the charm of rustic life, containing a pathetic
tale of love, a sweet human interest, and glowing with pictures of the
strange and lovely landscapes of Provence, the poem charmed all readers,
and will doubtless always rank as a work that belongs to general
literature. Of no other work written in this dialect can the same be
asserted. Mistral has not had an equal success since, and in spite of
the merit of his other productions, his literary fame will certainly
always be based upon this poem. Whatever be the destiny of this revival,
the author of _Mirèio_ has probably already taken his place among the
immortals of literature.

He has incarnated in this poem all that is sweetest and best, all that
is most typical in the life of his region. The tale is told, in general,
with complete simplicity, sobriety, and conciseness. The poet's heart
and soul are in his work from beginning to end, and it seems more
genuinely inspired than any of the long poems he has written

In the first canto the author says,--

    "Car cantan que pèr vautre, o pastre e gènt di mas."

    For we sing for you alone, O shepherds and people of the farms,

and when he wrote this verse, he was doubtless sincere. Later, however,
he must have become conscious that a work of great artistic beauty was
growing under his hand, and that it would find a truly appreciative
public more probably among the cultivated classes than among the
peasants of Provence. Hence the French prose translation; and hence,
furthermore, a paradox in the position Mistral assumed. Since those who
really appreciate and admire his poetry are the cultivated classes who
know French, and since the peasants who use the dialect cannot feel the
artistic worth of his literary production, or even understand the
elevated diction he is forced to employ, should he not, after all, have
written in French? The idea of Roumanille was simpler and less ambitious
than that of Mistral; he aimed to give the humble classes about him a
literature within their reach, that should give them moral lessons, and
appeal to the best within them. Mistral, developing into a poet of
genius while striving to attain the same object, could not fail to
change the object, and this contradiction becomes apparent in _Mirèio_,
and constitutes a problem in any discussion of his literary work.

The story of _Mirèio_ may be told in a few words. She is a beautiful
young girl of fifteen, living at the _mas_ of her father, Ramoun. She
falls in love with a handsome, stalwart youth, Vincèn, son of a poor
basket-maker. But the difference in worldly wealth is too great, her
father and mother violently oppose their union, and so, one night, the
maiden, in despair, rushes away from home, across the great plain of
the Crau, across the Rhone, across the island of Camargue, to the church
of the three Maries. Vincèn had told her to seek their aid in any time
of trouble. Here she prays to the three saints to give Vincèn to her,
but the poor girl has been overcome by the terrible heat of the sun in
crossing the treeless plains and is found by her parents and friends
unconscious before the altar. Vincèn comes also and joins his
lamentations to theirs. The holy caskets are lowered from the chapel
above, but no prayers avail to save the maiden's life. She expires, with
words of hope upon her lips.

This simple tale is told in twelve cantos; it aims to be an epic, and in
its external form is such. It employs freely the _merveilleux chrètien_,
condemned by Boileau, and in one canto, _La Masco_ (The Witch), the
poet's desire to embody the superstitions of his ignorant landsmen has
led him entirely astray. The opening stanza begins in true epic

    "Cante uno chato de Prouvènço
    Dins lis amour de sa jouvènço."

    I sing a maiden of Provence
    In her girlhood's love.

The invocation is addressed to Christ:--

    Thou, Lord God of my native land,
    Who wast born among the shepherd-folk,
    Fire my words and give me breath.

The epic character of the poem is sustained further than in its mere
outward form; the manner of telling is truly epic. The art of the poet
is throughout singularly objective, his narrative is a narrative of
actions, his personages speak and move before us, without intervention
on the part of the author to analyze their thoughts and motives. He is
absent from his work even in the numerous descriptions. Everything is
presented from the outside.

From the outset the poem enjoyed great success, and the enthusiastic
praise of Lamartine contributed greatly thereto. In gratitude for this,
Mistral dedicated the work to Lamartine in one of his most happy
inspirations, and these dedicatory lines appear in _Lis Isclo d'Or_ and
in all the subsequent editions of _Mirèio_. Mistral had professed great
admiration for the author of _Jocelyn_ even before 1859, but as poets
they stand in marked contrast. We may partly define Mistral's art in
stating that it is utterly unlike that of Lamartine. Mistral's
inspiration is not that of a Romantic; his art sense is derived
directly from the study of the Greek and Roman classics. In all that
Mistral has written there is very little that springs from his personal
sorrows. The great body of his poetry is epic in character, and the best
of his work in the lyric form gives expression not to merely personal
emotion, but to the feeling of the race to which he belongs.

The action of the poem begins one day that Vincèn and his father Mèste
Ambroi, the basket-makers, were wandering along the road in search of
work. Their conversation makes them known, and depicts for us the old
_Mas des Micocoules_, the home of the prosperous father of Mirèio. We
learn of his wealth in lands, in olives, in almonds, and in bees. We
watch the farm-hands coming home at evening. When the basket-makers
reach the gate, they find the daughter of the house, who, having just
fed her silkworms, is now twisting a skein. The man and the youth ask to
sleep for the night upon a haystack, and stop in friendly talk with
Mirèio. The poet describes Vincèn, a dark, stalwart youth of sixteen,
and tells of his skill at his trade. Mèste Ramoun invites them in to
supper. Mirèio runs to serve them. In exquisite verse the poet depicts
her grace and beauty.

When all have eaten, at the request of the farm-hands, to which Mirèio
adds hers, Mèste Ambroi sings a stirring ballad about the naval
victories of Suffren, and the gallant conduct of the Provençal sailors
who whipped the British tars.

"And the old basket-maker finished his naval song in time, for his voice
was about to break in tears, but too soon, surely, for the farm-hands,
for, without moving, with their heads intent and lips parted, _long
after the song had ceased, they were listening still_."

And then the men go about their affairs and leave Vincèn and Mirèio
alone together. Their talk is full of charm. Vincèn is eloquent, like a
true southerner, and tells his experiences with flashing eye and
animated gestures. Here we learn of the belief in the three Maries, who
have their church in the Camargue. Here Vincèn narrates a foot-race in
which he took part at Nimes, and Mirèio listens in rapt attention.

"It seems to me," said she to her mother, "that for a basket-maker's
child he talks wonderfully. O mother, it is a pleasure to sleep in
winter, but now the night is too bright to sleep, but let us listen
awhile yet. I could pass my evenings and my life listening to him."

The second canto opens with the exquisite stanza beginning,--

    "Cantas, cantas, magnanarello
    Que la culido es cantarello!"

and the poet evidently fell in love with its music, for he repeats it,
with slight variations, several times during the canto. This second
canto is a delight from beginning to end; Mistral is here in his
element; he is at his very best. The girls sing merrily in the lovely
sunshine as they gather the silkworms, Mirèio among them. Vincèn passes
along, and the two engage in conversation. Mistral cannot be praised too
highly for the sweetness, the naturalness, the animation of this scene.
Mirèio learns of Vincèn's lonely winter evenings, of his sister, who is
like Mirèio but not so fair, and they forget to work. But they make good
the time lost, only now and then their fingers meet as they put the
silkworms into the bag. And then they find a nest of little birds, and
the saying goes that when two find a nest at the top of a tree a year
cannot pass but that Holy Church unite them. So says Mirèio; but Vincèn
adds that this is only true if the young escape before they are put into
a cage. "Jesu moun Diéu! take care," cries the young girl, "catch them
carefully, for this concerns us." So Vincèn gets the young birds, and
Mirèio puts them carefully into her bodice; but they dig and scratch,
and must be transferred to Vincèn's cap; and then the branch breaks, and
the two fall together in close embrace upon the soft grass. The poet
breaks into song:--

"Fresh breezes, that stir the canopy of the woods, let your merry murmur
soften into silence over the young couple! Wandering zephyrs, breathe
softly, give time to dream, give them time at least to dream of
happiness! Thou that ripplest o'er thy bed, go slowly, slowly, little
brook! Make not so much sound among the stones, make not so much sound,
for the two souls have gone off, in the same beam of fire, like a
swarming hive--let them hover in the starry air!"

But Mirèio quickly releases herself; the young man is full of anxiety
lest she be hurt, and curses the devilish tree "planted a Friday!" But
she, with a trembling she cannot control, tells of an inner torment
that takes away hearing and sight, and keeps her heart beating. Vincèn
wonders if it may not be fear of a scolding from her mother, or a
sunstroke. Then Mirèio, in a sudden outburst, like a Wagnerian heroine,
confesses her love to the astonished boy, who remains dazed, and
believes for a time that she is cruelly trifling with him. She reassures
him, passionately. "Do not speak so," cries the boy, "from me to you
there is a labyrinth; you are the queen of the Mas, all bow before you;
I, peasant of Valabrègue, am nothing, Mirèio, but a worker in the
fields!" "Ah, what is it to me whether my beloved be a baron or a
basket-weaver, provided he is pleasing to me. Why, O Vincèn, in your
rags do you appear to me so handsome?"

And then the young man is as inspired, and in impassioned, well-nigh
extravagant language tells of his love for Mirèio. He is like a fig tree
he once saw that grew thin and miserable out of a rock near Vaucluse,
and once a year the water comes and the tree quenches its thirst, and
renews its life for a year. And the youth is the fig tree and Mirèio the
fountain. "And would to Heaven, would to Heaven, that I, poor boy, that
I might once a year, as now, upon my knees, sun myself in the beams of
thy countenance, and graze thy fingers with a trembling kiss." And then
her mother calls. Mirèio runs to the house, while he stands motionless
as in a dream.

No résumé or even translation can give the beauty of this canto, its
brightness, its music, its vivacity, the perfect harmony between words
and sense, the graceful succession of the rhymes and the cadence of the
stanzas. Elsewhere in the chapter on versification a reference is made
to the mechanical difficulties of translation, but there are
difficulties of a deeper order. The Félibres put forth great claims for
the richness of their vocabulary, and they undoubtedly exaggerate. Yet,
how shall we render into English or French the word _embessouna_ when
describing the fall of Mirèio and Vincèn from the tree. Mistral

    "Toumbon, embessouna, sus lou souple margai."

_Bessoun_ (in French, _besson_) means a twin, and the participle
expresses the idea, _clasped together like twins_. (Mistral translates,
"serrés comme deux jumeaux.") An expression of this sort, of course,
adds little to the prose language; but this power, untrammelled by
academic traditions, of creating a word for the moment, is essential to
the freshness of poetic style.

What is to be praised above all in these two exquisite cantos is the
pervading naturalness. The similes and metaphors, however bold and
original, are always drawn from the life of the speakers. Mèste Ambroi,
declining at first to sing, says "_Li mirau soun creba!_" (The mirrors
are broken), referring to the membranes of the locust that make its
song. "Like a scythe under the hammer," "Their heads leaning together
like two marsh-flowers in bloom, blowing in the merry wind," "His words
flowed abundantly like a sudden shower on an aftermath in May," "When
your eyes beam upon me, it seems to me I drink a draught of perfumed
wine," "My sister is burned like a branch of the date tree," "You are
like the asphodel, and the tanned hand of Summer dares not caress your
white brow," "Slender as a dragon-fly," are comparisons taken at random.
Of Mirèio the poet says, "The merry sun hath hatched her out," "Her
glance is like dew, her rounded bosom is a double peach not yet ripe."

The background of the action is obtained by the simplest description, a
cart casting the shadow of its great wheels, a bell now and then
sounding afar off across the marshes, references to the owl adding its
plaint to the song of the nightingale, to the crickets who stop to
listen now and then, and the recurring verses about the "magnanarello"
reminds us now and then, like a lovely leitmotiv, of the group of
singing girls about the amorous pair.

The next canto is called _La Descoucounado_ (The Opening of the
Cocoons), and it must be confessed that there is a slight falling off in
interest. All that describes the life of the country-folk is full of
sustained charm, but Mistral has not escaped the dangers that beset the
modern poet who aims at the epic style. Here begins the recounting of
the numerous superstitions of the ignorant peasants, and the wonders of
Provence are interpolated at every turn. The maidens, while engaged in
stripping the cocoons, make known a long list of popular beliefs, and
then branch off into a conversation about love. They are surprisingly
well acquainted with the writings of Jean de Nostradamus, to whom the
Félibres are indebted for a lot of erroneous ideas concerning the
Troubadours and the Courts of Love. This literary conversation is not
convincing, and we are pleased when Noro sings the pretty song of
Magali, which, composed to be sung to an air well known in Provence, has
become very popular. The idea is not new; the young girl sings of
successive forms she will assume, to avoid the attentions of her suitor,
and he, ingeniously, finds the transformation necessary to overcome her.
For instance, when she becomes a rose, he changes into a butterfly to
kiss her. At last the maiden becomes convinced of the love of her
pursuer, and is won.

The fourth canto, _Li Demandaire_ (The Suitors), recalls the Homeric
style, and is among the finest of the poem. Alàri, the shepherd, Veran,
the keeper of horses, and Ourrias, who has herds of bulls in the
Camargue, present themselves successively for the hand of Mirèio. The
"transhumance des troupeaux" is described in verse full of vigorous
movement; the sheep are taken up into the Alps for the summer, and then
in the fall brought down to the great plain of the Crau near the Delta
of the Rhone. The whole description is made with bold, simple strokes of
the brush, offering a vivid picture not to be forgotten. Alàri, too,
offers a marvellously carved wooden cup, adorned with pastoral scenes.
Veran owns a hundred white mares, whose manes, thick and flowing like
the grass of the marshes, are untouched by the shears, and float above
their necks, as they bound fiercely along, like a fairy's scarf. They
are never subdued, and often, after years of exile from the salt meadows
of the Camargue, they throw off their rider, and gallop over twenty
leagues of marshes to the land of their birth, to breathe the free salt
air of the sea. Their element is the sea; they have surely broken loose
from the chariot of Neptune; they are still white with foam; and when
the sea roars and darkens, when the ships break their cables, the
stallions of the Camargue neigh with joy.

And Ramoun welcomes Veran, and hopes that Mirèio will wed him, and calls
his daughter, who gently refuses. The third suitor, Ourrias, has no
better fortune. The account of this man's giant strength, the narrative
of his exploits in subduing the wild bulls, are quite Homeric. The
story is told of the scar he bears, how one of the fiercest bulls that
he had branded carried him along, threw him ahead on the ground, and
then hurled him high into the air. The strong, fierce man presents his
suit, describing the life the women lead in the Camargue; but before he
has her love, "his trident will bear flowers, the hills will melt away
like wax, and the journey to Les Baux will be by sea." This canto and
the next, recounting the fierce combat between Ourrias and Vincèn, are
really splendid narrative poetry. The style is marvellously compressed,
and the story thrilling. The sullen anger of Ourrias, his insult that
does not spare Mirèio, the indignation of Vincèn, that fires him with
unwonted strength, the battle of the two men out alone in the fields
near the mighty Pont du Gard, Vincèn's victory in the trial of strength,
the treachery of Ourrias, who sneaks back and strikes his enemy down
with the trident. "With a mighty groan the hapless boy rolls at full
length upon the grass, and the grass yields, bloody, and over his earthy
limbs the ants of the fields already make their way." The rapidity, the
compactness of the sentences, impressed Gaston Paris as very remarkable.
The assassin gallops away upon his mare, and seeks by night to cross the
Rhone. A singularly felicitous use of the supernatural is made here.
Ourrias is carried to the bottom of the river by the goblins and spirits
that come out and hover over it at night. There is a certain terror in
this termination, something that recalls parts of the Inferno. Ourrias's
superstitious fears are the effect of his guilty conscience. The souls
of the damned, their weird ceremonial, are but the outward rendering of
the inward terror he feels.

A less legitimate use of the supernatural is made in the succeeding
canto, called _La Masco_ (The Witch). In fact, the canto is really a
blemish in the beautiful poem. Vincèn is found unconscious and carried
to the Mas des Micocoules, and various remedies tried. He comes to
himself, but the wound is deemed too serious to be healed by natural
means, and Mirèio, at the suggestion of one of her maiden friends, takes
Vincèn to the abode of the witch who lives in the Fairies' Hole under
the rocks of Les Baux. Besides the obvious objection that the magic
cure could not have been made, there is the physical impossibility of
Vincèn's having walked, in his dying condition, through the labyrinth of
subterranean passages, amid the wild scenes of a sort of Walpurgis
night. The poet was doubtless led into this error by his desire to
preserve all the legends and superstitious lore of Provence. Possibly he
was led astray also by his desire to create an epic poem, in which a
visit to the lower regions is a necessity. The entire episode is
impossible and uninteresting, and is a blot in the beautiful idyll.
Later on, this desire to insert the supernatural leads the poet to
interrupt the action of his poem, while the three Maries relate to the
unconscious Mirèio at great length the story of their coming from
Jerusalem to Provence. Interesting as folklore, or as an evidence of the
credulity of the Provençals, this narrative of the three Maries is out
of place in the poem. It does not help us out to suppose that Mirèio
dreams the narrative, for it is full of theology, history, and
traditions she could not possibly have conceived. The poem of _Mirèio_
and all Mistral's work suffer from this desire to work into his poetry
all the history, real and legendary, of his region.

The three Maries are Mary Magdalen, Mary, the mother of James and John,
and Mary, the mother of James the Less. After the Crucifixion they
embark with Saint Trophime, and successfully battling with the storms of
the sea, they land finally in Provence, and by a series of miracles
convert the people of Arles. This canto never would have converted
Boileau from his disapproval of the "merveilleux chrétien."

The poet finds his true inspiration again in the life of the Mas, in the
home-bringing of the crops, in the gathering of the workers about the
table of Mèste Ramoun. This picture of patriarchal life is like a bit
out of an ancient literature; we have a feeling of the archaic, of the
primitive, we are amid the first elements of human life, where none of
the complications of the modern man find a place. Mèste Ambroi, whom
Vincèn has finally persuaded with passionate entreaties to seek the hand
of Mirèio for him, comes upon this evening scene. The interview of the
two old men is like a Greek play; their wisdom and experience are
uttered in stately, sententious language, and many a proverb falls from
their lips. Ramoun has inflexible ideas as to parental authority: "A
father is a father, his will must be done. The herd that leads the
herdsman, sooner or later, is crunched in the jaws of the wolf. If a son
resisted his father in our day, the father would have slain him perhaps!
Therefore the families were strong, united, sound, resisting the storm
like a line of plane trees! Doubtless they had their quarrels, as we
know, but when Christmas night, beneath its starry tent, brought
together the head of the house and his descendants, before the blessed
table, before the table where he presided, the old man, with his
wrinkled hand, washed it all away with his benediction!"

But Mirèio and not Mèste Ambroi makes known to her father that it is her
hand Vincèn seeks, and the mother and father break out in anger against
the maid. Ramoun's anger leads him to speak offensively to Mèste Ambroi,
who nobly maintains his dignity amid his poverty, and recounts his
services to his country that have been so ill repaid. Ramoun is equally
proud of his wealth, earned by the sweat of his brow, and sternly
refuses. The other leaves, and then the harvesters continue their
merry-making, with singing and farandoles, about a great bonfire in
honor of Saint John. "All the hills were aglow as if stars had rained in
the darkness, and the mad wind carried up the incense of the hills and
the red gleam of the fires toward the saint, hovering in the blue

That night Mirèio grieved and wept for Vincèn, and, remembering what he
had told her of the three Saint Maries, rises before the dawn and flees
away. Her journey across the Crau and the island of Camargue is narrated
with numerous details and descriptions; they are never extraneous to the
action, and are a constant source of beauty and interest. The strange,
barren plain of the Crau, covered with the stones that once destroyed a
race of Giants, as the legend has it, is vividly described, as the
maiden flies across it in the ardent rays of the June sun. She stops to
pray to a saint that he send her a draught of water, and immediately she
comes upon a well. Here she meets a little Arlesian boy who tells her
"in his golden speech" of the glories of Arles. "But," says the poet,
"O soft, dark city, the child forgot to tell thy supreme wonder; O
fertile land of Arles, Heaven gives pure beauty to thy daughters, as it
gives grapes to the autumn, and perfumes to the mountains and wings to
the bird." The little fellow talks of many things and leads her to his
home. From here the fisherman ferries her over the broad Rhone, and we
accompany her over the Camargue, down to the sea. A mirage deceives her
for a time, she sees the town and church, but it soon vanishes in air,
and the maiden hurries on in the fierce heat.

Her prayer in the chapel is written in another verse form:--

    "O Santi Mario
    Que poudès en flour
    Chanja nòsti plour
    Clinas lèu l'auriho
    De-vers ma doulour!"

     O Holy Maries, who can change our tears to blossoms, incline
     quickly an ear unto my grief!

Before the prayer is ended, there begins the vision of the three Maries,
descending to her from Heaven.

Mèste Ramoun discovers the flight of the unhappy maiden, and with all
his family starts in pursuit. After the first outburst of grief, he
sends out a messenger.

"Let the mowers and the ploughmen leave the scythes and the ploughs! Say
to the harvesters to throw down their sickles, bid the shepherds leave
their flocks, bid them come to me!"

The boy goes out into the fields, among the mowers and gleaners, and
everywhere solemnly delivers his message in the selfsame words. He goes
down to the Crau, among the dwarf oaks, and summons the shepherds. All
these toilers gather about the head of the farm and his wife, who await
them in gloomy silence. Mèste Ramoun, without making clear what
misfortune has overtaken him, entreats the men to tell him what they
have seen. And the chief of the haymakers, father of seven sons, tells
of an evil omen, how, for the first time in thirty years, at the
beginning of his day's work, he had cut himself. The parents moan the
more. Then a mower from Tarascon tells how as he began his work he had
discovered a nest wherein the young birds had been done to death by a
myriad of invading ants. Again "the tale of woe was a lance-thrust for
the father and mother." A third had been taken as with epilepsy, a
shudder had passed over him, and through his dishevelled hair as through
the heads of thistles he had felt Death pass like a wind. A fourth had
seen Mirèio just before the dawn, and had heard her say, "Will none
among the shepherds come with me to the Holy Maries?" And then while the
mother laments, preparations are made to follow the maiden to the
shrines out yonder by the sea.

This poem, then, depicts for us the rustic life of Provence in all its
outward aspects. The pretty tale and the description of the life of the
Mas and of the Provençal landscapes are inseparably woven together,
forming an harmonious whole. It is not a tragedy, all the characters are
too utterly lacking in depth. Vincèn and Mirèio are but a boy and a
girl, children just awakening to life. The reader may be reminded of
Hermann and Dorothea, of Gabriel and Evangeline, but the creations of
the German and the American poet are greatly superior in all that
represents study of the human mind and heart.

Goethe's poem and Mistral's have several points of likeness. Hermann
seeks to marry against his father's wish, and the objection is the
poverty of Dorothea. The case is merely inverted. Both poems imitate the
Homeric style, Goethe's more palpably than Mistral's, since the German
poet has adopted the Homeric verse. He affects, also, certain recurring
terms of expression, "Also sprach sie" and the like, and there is a
rather artificial seeking after simplicity of expression. Goethe's poem
is more interesting because of the greater solidity of the characters,
and because of the more closely knitted plot. The curiosity of the
reader is kept roused as in a well-constructed romance. Mistral's poem
has, after all, scarcely any more real local color; the rustic life of
the two poems is similar, allowing for geographical differences, and we
carry away quite as real a picture of Hermann's home and the fields
about it as of the Mas of Mèste Ramoun. Mistral's idyll terminates
tragically in that Mirèio dies of sunstroke, leaving her lover to mourn,
but the tenor of the German poem is more serious and moves us more
deeply; the background of war contributes to this, but the source of
our emotion is in the deep seriousness of the characters themselves.

Vincèn and Mirèio are charming in their naïveté, they are unspoiled and
unreflecting. They are children, and lacking in well-defined
personality. They have no knowledge of anything beyond the customs and
superstitions of the simple folk about them. Their religion, which is so
continually before us, furnishing the very mainspring of the fatal
dénouement, is of the most superficial sort, if it can be called
religion at all. Whether you are bitten by a dog, a wolf, or a snake, or
lose your eyesight, or are in danger of losing your lover, you run to
the shrine of some saint for help. The religious feeling really runs no
deeper. In his outburst of grief upon seeing Mirèio prone upon the floor
of the chapel, the unhappy boy asks what he has done to merit such a
blow. "Has he lit his pipe in a church at the lamp? or dragged the
crucifix among thistles, like the Jews?" Of the deeper, nobler
consolations of religion, of the problems of human destiny, of the
relations of religious conviction to human conduct, there is no inkling.

All the characters are equally on the surface. They are types rather
than individuals. They have in common the gift of eloquence. They have
no thought-life, no meditation. They are eminently sociable, frequently
loquacious. They make you think of Daudet's statement concerning the man
of the south, "When he is not talking, he is not thinking." But they
talk well, and have to an eminent degree the gift of narrative. Vincèn's
stories of what he knows and has seen are told most beautifully, and the
poet never forgets himself by making the boy utter thoughts he could not
have conceived. The boy is merely a child of his race. In any rustic
gathering in southern France you may hear a man of the people speak
dramatically and thrillingly, with resonant voice and vivid gestures,
with a marvellous power of mimicry, and the faces of the listeners
reflect all the emotions of the speaker. The numerous scenes, therefore,
wherein a group of listeners follow with keenest interest a tale that is
told, are eminently true to life. The supreme merit of Mirèio lies in
this power of narration that its author possesses. It is all action from
beginning to end, and even the digressions and episodes, which
occasionally arrest the flow of the narrative, are in themselves
admirable pieces of narrative. Most critics have found fault with these
episodes and the frequent insertion of legends. In defence of the
author, it may be said, that he must have feared while writing _Mirèio_
that it might be his last and only opportunity to address his countrymen
in their own dialect, and in his desire to bring them back to a love of
the traditions of Provence, he yielded to the temptation to crowd his
poem rather more than he would otherwise have done.

Mirèio, then, is a lovely poem, an idyll, a charming, vivid picture of
life in the rural parts of the Rhone region. It is singularly original.
Local color is its very essence. Its thought and action are strictly
circumscribed within the boundaries of the Crau and the Camargue, and
its originality consists in this limitation, in the fact that a poet of
this century has written a work that comes within the definition of an
epic, with all the primitive simplicity of Biblical or Classic writers,
without any agitation of the problems of modern life, without any new
thought or feeling concerning love or death, or man's relation to the
universe, using a dialect unknown at the time beyond the region
described. Its success could scarcely have been attained without the
poet's masterly prose translation, and yet it is evident that the poem
could not have been conceived and carried out in French verse. The
freshness, the artlessness, the lack of modernity, would have suffered
if the poet had bent his inspiration to the official language. Using a
new idiom, wherein he practically had no predecessor, he was free to
create expression as he went along, and was not compelled to cast his
thought in existing moulds.

The poem cannot place its author among the very great poets of the
world, if only because of this limitation. It lacks the breadth and
depth, the everlasting interest. But it is a work of great beauty, of
wonderful purity, a sweet story, told in lovely, limpid language, and
will cause many eyes to turn awhile from other lands to the sunny
landscapes of southern France.


Mistral spent seven years in elaborating his second epic, as he did in
writing his first. The poem had not a popular success, and the reason
is not far to seek. The most striking limitation of the poet is his
failure to create beings of flesh and blood. Even in Mirèio this lack of
well-defined individuality in the characters begins to be apparent, but,
in general, the action of the earlier poem is confined to the world of
realities, whereas in _Calendau_ the poet has given free play to a
brilliant and vivid imagination, launching forth into the heroic and
incredible, yet without abandoning the world of real time and real
places. Allegory and symbolism are the web and woof of _Calendau_. The
poem, again, is overburdened with minute historic details and
descriptions, which are greatly magnified in the eye of his imagination.
A poet, of course, must be pardoned for this want of a sense of
proportion, but even a Provençal reader cannot be kept in constant
illusion as to the greatness of little places that can scarcely be found
upon the map, or dazzled by the magnificence of achievements that really
have left little or no impress upon the history of the world. As we
follow the poet's work in its chronological development, we find this
trait growing more and more pronounced. He sees his beloved Provence,
its past and present, and its future, too, in a magnifying mirror that
embellishes all it reflects with splendid, glowing colors, and exalts
little figures to colossal proportions. The reader falls easily under
the spell of this exuberant enthusiasm and is charmed by the poetic
power evinced. The wealth of words, the beauty of the imagery with
which, for example, the humble, well-nigh unknown little port of Cassis
and its fishing industry are described, carry us along and hold us in
momentary illusion. We see them in the poet's magic mirror for the time.
To the traveller or the sober historian all these things appear very,
very different.

With the Félibres the success of the poem was much greater; it is a kind
of patriotic hymn, a glorification of the past of Provence, and a song
of hope for its future. Its allegory, its learned literary allusions,
its delving into obscure historic events, preclude any hope of popular

Like _Mirèio_, the poem is divided into twelve cantos, and the form of
stanza employed is the same. The heroic tone of the poem might be
thought to have required verse of greater stateliness; the recurrence of
the three feminine rhymes in the shorter verses often seems too pretty.
Like _Mirèio_, the poem has the outward marks of an epic. Unlike
_Mirèio_, it reminds us frequently of the _Chansons de geste_, and we
see that the author has been living in the world of the Old Provençal
poets. This is apparent not merely in the constant allusions, in the
reproductions of episodes, but in the manner in which the narrative
moves along. Lamartine would not have been reminded of the ancient Greek
poets had _Calendau_ preceded _Mirèio_. The conception of courtly love,
the guiding, elevating inspiration of Beatrice, leading Dante on to
greater, higher, more spiritual things, are the sources of the chief
ideas contained in _Calendau_. Vincèn and Mirèio remain throughout the
simple youth and maiden they were, but Calendau, "the simple fisherman
of Cassis," develops into a great hero, performing Herculean tasks, like
a knight of the days of chivalry, and rises higher and higher until he
wins "the empire of pure love"--his lady's hand.

Very beautiful is the invocation addressed to the "soul of his country
that radiates, manifest in its language and in its history--that through
the greatness of its memories saves hope for him." It is the spirit
that inspired the sweet Troubadours, and set the voice of Mirabeau
thundering like the mistral. The poet proclaims his belief in his race.
"For the waves of the ages and their storms and horrors mingle the
nations and wipe out frontiers in vain. Mother Earth, Nature, ever feeds
her sons with the same milk, her hard breast will ever give the fine oil
to the olive; Spirit, ever springing into life, joyous, proud, and
living spirit that neighest in the noise of the Rhone and in the wind
thereof! spirit of the harmonious woods, and of the sunny bays, pious
soul of the fatherland, I call thee! be incarnate in my Provençal

We are plunged in orthodox fashion _in medias res_. The young fisherman
is seated upon the rocky heights above the sea before the beautiful
woman he loves. He does not know who she is; he has performed almost
superhuman exploits to win her; but there is an obstacle to their union.
She relates that she is the last of the family of the Princes des Baux,
who had their castle and city hewn out of the solid rock in the strange
mountains that overlook the plain of Arles. She tells the marvellous
history of the family, evoking a vision of the days of courtly love when
the Troubadours sang at the feet of the fair princesses. A panorama of
the life of those days of poetry and song moves before us. The princess
even describes and defines in poetic language the forms of verse in
vogue in the ancient days, the _Tenson_, the _Pastoral_, the _Ballad_,
the _Sirventés_, the _Romance_, the _Congé_, the _Aubade_, the _Solace
of Love_. She relates her marriage with the Count Sévéran, who
fascinated her by some mysterious power. At the wedding-feast she learns
that he is a mere bandit, leader of a band of robbers that infests the
country. She fled away through the mountains and found the grotto where
she now lives. The fishermen, seeing her appear and vanish among the
cliffs, take her to be the fairy Esterello, who is a sort of Loreley.
Calendau determines that either Sévéran or he shall die, and seeks him
out. His splendid physical appearance and bold, defiant manner arouse in
the bandit a desire to get Calendau to join his company, and the women
of the band are charmed with him. They ask to hear the story of his
life, and the great body of the poem consists of the narrative by
Calendau of his exploits. After the last one Calendau has risen to the
loftiest conception of pure love through the guidance of Esterello, like
Dante inspired by Beatrice. Then the Count holds an orgy and tries to
tempt the virtue of the hero. Calendau, after witnessing the lascivious
dances, challenges the Count to mortal combat. The latter knows now who
he is, and that Esterello is none other than the bride who fled after
the marriage-feast. Calendau is overpowered and imprisoned, and the
Count and his men set off in search of Esterello. But Calendau is freed
by Fourtuneto, one of the women, and journeys by sea from Cannes to
Cassis to defend the Princess. Here a great combat takes place with the
Count, who fires the pine-woods and perishes miserably, uttering
blasphemous imprecations. The Cassidians fight the fire, and Calendau
and the blond Princess are saved.

"The applause of two thousand souls salutes them and acclaims them.
'Calendau, Calendau, let us plant the May for the conqueror of
Esterello. He glorifies, he brings to the light our little harbor of
fishermen, let us make him Consul, Consul for life!' So saying the
multitude accompanies the generous, happy pair of lovers, and the sun
that God rules, the great sun, rises, illumines, and procreates
endlessly new enthusiasms, new lovers."

The poem clearly symbolizes the Provençal renascence; Calendau typifies
the modern Provençal people, rising to an ideal life and great
achievements through the memory of their traditions, and this ideal,
this memory, are personified in the person of the beautiful Princess.

The time of the action is the eighteenth century, before the Revolution.
This is a deliberate choice of the poet who has a temporal symbolism in
mind. "I shall thus combine in my picture the three aspects of Provence
on the eve of the Revolution: in the background, the noble legends of
the past; in the foreground the social corruption of the evil days; and
before us the better future, the future and the reparation personified
in the son of the working classes, guardians of the tradition of the

As regards the execution, it is masterly, and cannot be ranked below
_Mirèio_. There is the same enthusiastic love of nature, the same
astonishing resources of expression, the same novelty and originality.
In place of the rustic nature of Mirèio, we have the wild grandeur of
mountains and sea. There is the same, nay, even greater, eloquence of
the speakers, the same musical verse.

            "Car, d'aquesto ouro, ounto es la raro
            Que di delice nous separo,
    Jouine, amourous que siam, libre coume d'aucèu?
            Regardo: la Naturo brulo
            A noste entour, e se barrulo
            Dins li bras de l'Estiéu, e chulo
    Lou devourant alen de soun nòve roussèu.

            "Li serre clar e blu, li colo
            Palo de la calour e molo,
    Boulegon trefouli si mourre.... Ve la mar:
            Courouso e lindo coumo un vèire,
            Dòu grand soulèu i rai bevèire
            Enjusqu'au founs se laisso vèire,
    Se laisso coutiga pèr lou Rose e lou Var."

"For now, where is the limit that separates us from joy, young, amorous
as we are, free as birds! Look: Nature burns around us and rolls in the
arms of Summer, and drinks in the devouring breath of her ruddy spouse.
The clear, blue peaks, the hills, pale and soft with the heat, are
thrilled and stir their rounding summits. Behold the sea, glistening and
limpid as glass; in the thirsty rays of the great sun, she allows
herself to be seen clear to the bottom, to be caressed by the Rhone and
the Var."

These are the words of Calendau when, seeking his reward after his final
exploit, he learns that he has won the love of Esterello. The poet never
goes further in the voluptuous strain, and the mere music of the words,
especially beginning "Ve la mar" is exquisite. They are found in the
first canto. This scene wherein the Princess refuses to wed Calendau is
typical of the poet. The northern temperament is not impressed with
these long tirades, full of ejaculations and apostrophes; they are apt
to seem unnatural, insincere, and theatrical. Intense feeling is not so
verbose in the north. In this particular Mistral is true to his race. We
quote entire the words of Calendau after the refusal of Esterello,
itself full exclamation and apostrophizing:--

"Then I have but won the thirst, the weariness of the midshipman, when
he is about to reach the summit of the mainmast, and sees gleaming at
the limit of the liquid plain naught but water, water eternally! Well,
if thou wilt hear it, listen! and let the heath resound with it! It is
thou, false woman that thou art, it is thou that hast deceived me,
luring me on to believe that at the summit of the peaks I should find
the splendor of a sublime dawn, that after winter spring would come,
that there is nothing so good as the food earned by labor. Thou hast
deceived me, for in the wilderness I found naught but drought; and the
wind of this world and its idle noise, the embarrassment of luxury, and
the din of glory, and what is called the enjoyment of triumph, are not
worth a little hour of love beneath a pine tree! See, from my hand the
bridle escapes, my skull is bursting, and I am not sure now that the
people in their fear are not right in dreading thee like a ghost, now
that I feel, as my reward, thy burning poison streaming through my
heart. Yes, thou art the fairy Esterello, and thou art unmasked at last,
cruel creature! In the chill of thy refusal I have known the viper. Thou
art Esterello, bitter foe to man, haunting the wild places, crowned with
nettles, defending the desert against those who clear the land. Thou art
Esterello, the fairy that sends a shudder through the foliage of the
woods and the hair of the terrified hermit; that fires with the desire
of her perfumed embrace her suitors and in malevolence drives them to
despair with infernal longings.

"My head is bursting, and since from the heights of my supernatural love
a thunderbolt thus hurls me down, since, nothing, nothing henceforth,
from this moment on, can give me joy, since, cruel woman, when thou
couldst throw me a rope, thou leavest me, in dismay, to drink the bitter
current--let death come, black hiding-place, bottomless abyss! let me
plunge down head first!"

And when Esterello, fearing he will slay himself, clasps him about the
neck, they stand silently embraced, "the tears, in tender mingling, rain
from their eyes; despair, agitation, a spell of happiness, keep their
lips idle, and from hell, at one bound, they rise to paradise."

Like the creations of Victor Hugo's poetry, those of Mistral speak the
language of the author. They have his eloquence, his violent energy of
figurative speech, his love of the wild, sunny landscapes about them;
they thrill as he does, at the memories of the past; they love, as he
does, enumerations of trees and plants; they have his fondness for

The poem is filled with interesting episodes. One that is very striking
in the narrative of Esterello we shall here reproduce.

We are at the wedding feast of Count Sévéran and the Princess des Baux.
The merry-making begins to be riotous, and the Count has made a speech
in honor of his bride, promising to take her after the melting of the
snows to his Alpine palaces, where the walls are of steel, the doors of
silver, the locks of gold, and when the sun shines their crystal roofs
glitter like flame.

"Scarcely from his lips had fallen these wild words, when the door of
the banquet hall opens, and we see the head of an old man, wearing a
bonnet and a garment of rough cloth; we see the dust and sweat trickling
down his tanned cheeks. The bridegroom, with a terrible glance, like the
lightning flash of a fearful storm, turns suddenly pale, and seeks to
stop him; but he, whom the glance cannot harm, calmly, impassively, like
God when he clothes himself like a poor man, to confound sometimes some
rich evil-doer, slowly advances toward the bridegroom, crosses his arms,
and scans his countenance. And he says not a word to any one, and all
are afraid; a weight of lead lies upon every heart, and from without
there seems to blow in upon the lamps an icy wind.

"Finally, a few of them, shaking off their oppression, 'If there come
not soon a famine to wipe out this hideous tribe, we shall be eaten by
beggars within four days! To the merry bridal pair, what hast thou to
say, old scullion?' And they continue to taunt him cruelly. The outraged
peasant holds his peace. 'With his blear eyes, his white pate, his
limping leg, whither comes he trudging? Pelican, bird of ill omen, go to
thy hole and hide thy sorry face.' The stranger swallows their insults,
and casts toward the bridegroom a beseeching glance.

"But others cry: 'Come on, old man, come on! Come on, fear not the
company, the laughing and joking of these pretty gentlemen. Hunt about
the tables for the dainties and the carcasses. Hast thou a good jaw?
Here, catch this piece of pork and toss off a glass of wine!'

"'No,' at length comes an answer from the old man, in a tone of deep
sadness, 'gentlemen, I do not beg, and have never desired what others
leave: I seek my son.'--'His son! What is he saying--the son of this
seller of eelskins hovering about the Baroness of Aiglun?'

"And they look at each other in doubt, in burning scorn. I listened.
Then they said: 'Where is thy son? Show thy son, come on! and beware.
If, to mock us, thou lie, wretch, at the highest gargoyle of the towers
of Aiglun, without mercy, we'll hang thee!'

"'Well, since I am disowned, and relegated to the sweepings,' the old
man begins, draped in his _sayon_, and with a majesty that frightens us,
'you shall hear the crow sing!' Then the Count, turning the color of the
wall, cold as a bench of stone, said, 'Varlets, here, cast out this
dismal phantom!' Two tears of fire, that pierced the ground, and that I
still see shining, streamed down the countenance of the poor old man,
ah! so bitter, that we all became white as shrouds.

"'Like Death, I come where I am forgotten, without summons. I am wrong!'
broke out the unhappy man, 'but I wished to see my daughter-in-law.
Come on, cast out this dismal phantom, who is, however, thy father, O
splendid bridegroom!'

"I uttered a cry; all the guests rose from their chairs. But the
relentless old man went on: 'My lords, to tear from the evil fruit its
whole covering, I have but two words to say. Be seated, for I still see
on the table dishes not yet eaten.'

"Standing like palings, silent, anxious, the guests remained with hearts
scarce beating. I trembled, my eyes in mist. We were like the dead of
the churchyard about some funeral feast, full of terror and mystery. The
Count grinned sardonically.

"'Thou shalt run in vain, wretch,' said the venerable father, 'the
vengeance of God will surely reach thee! To-day thou makest me bow my
head; but thy bride, if she have some honor, will presently flee from
thee as from the pest, for thou shalt some day hang, accursed of God!' I
rush to the arms of my father-in-law. 'Stop, stop;' but he, leaning down
to my ear, said: 'Without knowing the vine or measuring the furrows,
thou hast bought the wine, mad girl! Go, thou didst not weep all thy
tears in thy swaddling clothes! Knowest thou whom thou hast? a

And the scene continues, weirdly dramatic, like some old romantic tale
of feudal days. Such scenes of gloom and terror are not frequent in
Mistral. This one is probably the best of its kind he has attempted.

On his way to seek Count Sévéran in his fastness, Calendau "enters,
awestruck, into the stupendous valley, deep, frowning, cold, saturnine,
and fierce; the daylight darts into this enclosure an instant upon the
viper and the lizard, then, behind the jagged peaks, it vanishes. The
Esteron rolls below. Now, Calendau feels a shudder in his soul, and
winds his horn. The call resounds in the depths of the gorges. It seems
as though he calls to his aid the spirits of the place. And he thinks of
the paladin dying at Roncevaux."

For the sake of greater completeness, we summarize briefly the exploits
of the hero. As has been stated, they compose the great body of the
poem, and are narrated by him to the Count and his company of thieves
and women. The narrative begins with the account of the little port of
Cassis, his native place; and one of the stanzas is a setting for the
surprising proverb:--

    "Tau qu'a vist Paris,
    Se noun a vist Cassis,
    Pòu dire: N'ai rèn vist!"

     He who has seen Paris, and has not seen Cassis, may say, "I have
     seen nothing."

No less than forty stanzas are taken up with the wonders of Cassis, and
more than half of those are devoted to naming the fish the Cassidians
catch. It is to be feared that other than Provençal readers and students
of natural history will fail to share the enthusiasm of the poet here.
Calendau's father used to read out of an ancient book; and the hero
recounts the history of Provence, going back to the times of the
Ligurians, telling us of the coming of the Greeks, who brought the art
of sculpture for the future Puget. We hear of the founding of
Marseilles, the days of Diana and Apollo, followed by the coming of the
Romans. The victory of Caius Marius is celebrated, the conquest of
Julius Cæsar deplored. We learn of the introduction of Christianity. We
come down to the glorious days of Raymond of Toulouse.

"And enraptured to be free, young, robust, happy in the joy of living,
in those days a whole people was seen at the feet of Beauty; and singing
blame or praises a hundred Troubadours flourished; and from its cradle,
amid vicissitudes, Europe smiled upon our merry singing."

"O flowers, ye came too soon! Nation in bloom, the sword cut down thy
blossoming! Bright sun of the south, thou shonest too powerfully, and
the thunder-storms gathered. Dethroned, made barefoot, and gagged, the
Provençal language, proud, however, as before, went off to live among
the shepherds and the sailors."

"Language of love, if there are fools and bastards, ah! by Saint Cyr,
thou shalt have the men of the land upon thy side, and as long as the
fierce mistral shall roar in the rocks, sensitive to an insult offered
thee, we shall defend thee with red cannon-balls, for thou art the
fatherland, and thou art freedom!"

This love of the language itself pervades all the work of our poet, but
rarely has he expressed it more energetically, not to say violently,
than here.

Calendau reaches the point where he first catches a glimpse of the
Princess. He tells of the legends concerning the fairy Esterello, and of
the _Fada_ (Les Enfées). This last is a name given to idiots or to the
insane, who are supposed to have come under her spell.

                            "E degun auso
    Se trufa d'éli, car an quicon de sacra!"

     And none dares mock them, for they have in them something sacred.

The fisherman makes many attempts to find her again, and at last
succeeds. She haughtily dismisses his suit.

    "Vai, noun sies proun famous, ni proun fort, ni proun fin."

     Go, thou art not famous enough, nor strong enough, nor fine enough.

He realizes her great superiority, and, after a time of deep
discouragement, rouses himself and sets about to deserve and win her by
deeds of daring, by making a great name for himself.

His first idea is to seek wealth, so he builds a great boat and captures
twelve hundred tunny fish. The fishing scenes are depicted with all the
glow of fancy and brilliant word-painting for which Mistral is so
remarkable. Calendau is now rich, and brings jewels to his lady. She
haughtily refuses them, and the fisherman throws them away.

          "--Eh! bèn, ié fau, d'abord, ingrato,
          Que toun cor dur ansin me trato
    E que de mi presènt noun t'enchau mai qu' acò,
          Vagon au Diable!--E li bandisse
          Pataflòu! dins lou precepice."...

     "Well," said I to her, "since, ungrateful woman, thy hard heart
     treats me thus, and thou carest no more about my presents than
     that, let them go to the devil!" and I hurled them, _pataflòu_,
     into the precipice....

Here the tone is not one that an English reader finds serious; the
sending the jewels to the Devil, in the presence of the beautiful lady,
and the interjection, seem trivial. Evidently they are not so, for the
Princess is mollified at once.

"He was not very astute, he who made thee believe that the love of a
proud soul can be won with a few trinkets! Ah, where are the handsome
Troubadours, masters of love?"

She tells the love-stories of Geoffroy Rudel, of Ganbert de Puy-Abot, of
Foulquet of Marseilles, of Guillaume de Balaün, of Guillaume de la
Tour, and her words fall upon Calendau's heart like a flame. He catches
a glimpse of an existence of constant ecstasy.

His second exploit is a tournament on the water, where the combatants
stand on boats, and are rowed violently against one another, each
striking his lance against the wooden breastplate of his adversary. His
victory wins for him the hatred of the Cassidians, for his enemy accuses
him of cornering the fish. Esterello consoles him with more stories from
the _Chansons de geste_ and the songs of the Troubadours.

In the seventh canto is described in magnificent language Calendau's
exploit on the Mont Ventoux. This is a remarkable mountain, visible all
over the southern portion of the Rhone valley, standing in solitary
grandeur, like a great pyramid dominating the plain. Its summit is
exceedingly difficult of access. It appears to be the first mountain
that literature records as having been ascended for pleasure. This
ascent is the subject of one of Petrarch's letters.

During nine days Calendau felled the larches that grew upon the flanks
of the mighty mountain, and hurled the forest piecemeal into the
torrent below. At the Rocher du Cire he is frightfully stung by myriads
of bees, during his attempt to obtain as a trophy for his lady a
quantity of honey from this well-nigh inaccessible place. The kind of
criticism that is appropriate for realistic literature is here quite out
of place. It must be said, however, that the episode is far from
convincing. Calendau compares his sufferings to those of a soul in hell,
condemned to the cauldron of oil. Yet he makes a safe escape, and we
never hear of the physical consequences of his terrible punishment.

The canto, in its vivid language, its movement, its life, is one of the
most astonishing that has come from the pen of its author. It offers
beautiful examples of his inspiration in depicting the lovely aspects of
nature. He finds words of liquid sweetness to describe the music of the
morning breezes breathing through the mass of trees:--

            "La Ventoureso matiniero,
            En trespirant dins la sourniero
    Dis aubre, fernissié coume un pur cantadis,
            Ounte di colo e di vallado,
            Tóuti li voues en assemblado,
            Mandavon sa boufaroulado.
    Li mèle tranquilas, li mèle mescladis," etc.

     The morning breeze of the Mont Ventoux, breathing into the mass of
     trees, quivered like a pure symphony of song wherein all the voices
     of hill and dale sent their breathings.

In the last line the word _tranquilas_ is meant to convey the idea "in
tranquil grandeur."

This ruthless destruction of the forest brings down upon Calendau the
anger of his lady; he has dishonored the noble mountain. "Sacrilegious
generation, ye have the harvest of the plains, the chestnut and the
olives of the hillsides, but the beetling brows of the mountains belong
to God!" and the lady continues an eloquent defence of the trees, "the
beloved sons, the inseparable nurslings, the joy, the colossal glory of
the universal nurse!" and pictures the vengeance Nature wreaks when she
is wronged. Calendau is humbled and departs.

His next exploit is the settling of the feud between two orders of
Masons. He displays marvellous bravery in facing the fighting crowds,
and they choose him to be umpire. He delivers a noble speech in favor of
peace, full of allusions to the architectural glories of Provence, that
grew up when "faith and union lent their torch." He tells the story of
the building of the bridge of Avignon. "Noah himself with his ark could
have passed beneath each of its arches." He touches their emotions with
his appeal for peace, and they depart reconciled.

And now Esterello begins to love him. She bids him strive for the
noblest things, to love country and humanity, to become a knight, an
apostle; and after Calendau has performed the feat of capturing the
famous brigand Marco-Mau, after he has been crowned in the feasts at
Aix, and resisted victorious the wiles of the women that surround the
Count Sévéran, and saved his lady in the fearful combat on the
fire-surrounded rock, he wins her.


In spite of its utter unreality _Nerto_ is a charming tale, written in a
sprightly vein, with here and there a serious touch, reminding the
reader frequently of Ariosto. The Devil, the Saints, and the Angels
figure in it prominently; but the Devil is not a very terrible personage
in Provence, and the Angels are entirely lacking in Miltonic grandeur.
The scene of the story is laid in the time of Benedict XIII, who was
elected Pope at Avignon in 1394. The story offers a lively picture of
the papal court, reminding the reader forcibly of the description found
in Daudet's famous tale of the Pope's mule. It is filled throughout with
legends relating to the Devil, and with superstitious beliefs of the
Middle Age. It is not always easy to determine when the poet is serious
in his statement of religious belief, occasionally he appears to be so,
and then a line or so shows us that he has a legend in mind. In the
prologue of the poem he says:--

    "Crèire, coundus à la vitòri.
    Douta, vaqui l' endourmitòri
    E la pouisoun dins lou barriéu
    E la lachuslo dins lou riéu."

     To believe leads to victory. Doubt is the narcotic, and the poison
     in the barrel, and the euphorbia in the stream.

    "E, quand lou pople a perdu fe,
    L'infèr abrivo si boufet."

    And when the people have lost faith,
    Hell sets its bellows blowing.

Then later we read: "What is this world? A wager between Christ and the
Demon. Thousands of years ago he challenged God, and when the great game
began, they played with great loose rocks from the hills, at quoits, and
if any one is unwilling to believe this, let him go to Mount Léberon and
see the stone thrown by Satan."

So we see that the theology was merely a means of leading up to a local

The story is briefly as follows: Nerto, like all Mistral's heroines, is
exceedingly young, thirteen years of age. Her father, the Baron Pons,
had gambled away everything he owned in this world, when she was a very
little child, and while walking along a lonely road one night he met the
Devil, who took advantage of his despair to tempt him with the sight of
heaps of money. The wretched father sold his daughter's soul to the Evil
One. Now on his death-bed he tells his child the fearful tale; one means
of salvation lies open for her--she must go to the Pope. Benedict XIII
is besieged in the great palace at Avignon, but the Baron knows of a
secret passage from his castle leading under the river Durance to one of
the towers of the papal residence. He bids Nerto go to seek deliverance
from the bond, and to make known to the Pope the means of escape. Nerto
reaches the palace at the moment when all is in great commotion, for the
enemy have succeeded in setting it on fire. She is first seen by the
Pope's nephew Don Rodrigue, an exceedingly wicked young man, a sort of
brawling Don Juan, who seems to have been guilty of numerous
assassinations. He immediately begins to talk love to the maiden, as the
means of saving her from the Devil, "the path of love is full of flowers
and leads to Paradise." But Nerto has been taught that the road to
Heaven is full of stones and thorns, and her innocence saves her from
the passionate outburst of the licentious youth. And Nerto is taken to
the Pope, whom she finds sadly enthroned in all his splendor, and brings
him the news of a means of escape. The last Pope of Avignon bearing the
sacred elements, _pourtant soun Diéu_, follows the maiden through the
underground passage, and escapes with all his followers. At
Château-Renard he sets up his court with the King of Forcalquier,
Naples, and Jerusalem and Donna Iolanthe his Queen. Nerto asks the Pope
to save her soul, but he is powerless. Only a miracle can save a soul
sold to Satan. She must enter a convent, and pray to the Saints
continually. The Court is about to move to Arles, she shall enter the
convent there. On the way, Don Rodrigue makes love to her assiduously,
but the young girl's heart seems untroubled.

At Arles we witness a great combat of animals, in which the lion of
Arles, along with four bulls, is turned loose in the arena. The lion
kills all but one of the bulls. The fourth beast, enraged, gores the
lion. The royal brute rushes among the spectators and makes for the
King's throne. Nerto and the Queen are crouching in terror before him,
when Don Rodrigue slays the animal, saving Nerto's life. Nay, he saves
more than her life, for had she died then she would have been a prey to
the flames of Hell.

Nerto becomes a nun, but Don Rodrigue, with a band of ribald followers,
succeeds in carrying her off with all the other nuns. They are all
driven by the King's soldiers into the cemetery of the Aliscamps. Nerto
wanders away during the battle and is lost among the tombs. At dawn the
next day she strays far out to a forest, where she finds a hermit. The
old man welcomes her, and believes he can save her soul. The Angel
Gabriel visits him frequently, and he will speak to him. But the Angel
disapproves, condemns the pride of the anchorite, and soars away to the
stars without a word of hope or consolation, and so in great anxiety the
pious man bids her go back to the convent, and prays Saint Gabriel,
Saint Consortia, Saint Tullia, Saint Gent, Saint Verdème, Saint Julien,
Saint Trophime, Saint Formin, and Saint Stephen to accompany her.

Don Rodrigue is living in a palace built for him in one night by the
Devil, wherein are seven halls, each devoted to one of the seven mortal
sins. Hither Nerto wanders; here Rodrigue finds her, and begins his
passionate love-making afresh. But Nerto remains true to her vows,
although the germ of love has been in her heart since the day Rodrigue
saved her from the lion. On learning that she is in the Devil's castle,
she is filled with terror, believing the fatal day has arrived. She
confesses her love. The maiden cries: "Woe is me, Nerto loves you, but
if Hell should swallow us up, would there be any love for the damned?
Rodrigue, no, there is none. If you would but break the tie that binds
you, if, with one happy wing-stroke, you could soar up to the summits
where lives last forever, where hearts vanish united in the bosom of
God, I should be delivered, it seems to me, in the same upward impulse;
for, in heaven or in the abyss, I am inseparable from you." Rodrigue
replies sadly, that his past is too dreadful, that only the ocean could
wipe it out. "Rodrigue, one burst of repentance is worth a long penance.
Courage, come, only one look toward Heaven!" The Devil appears. He
swells with pride in this, his finest triumph; black souls he has in
plenty, but since the beginning of his reign over the lower regions he
has never captured an immaculate victim like this soul. Rodrigue inverts
his sword, and at the sign of the cross, a terrific hurricane sweeps
away the palace, Don Rodrigue, and the Devil, and nothing is left but a
nun of stone who is still visible in the midst of a field on the site of
the château. In an Epilogue we learn from the Archangel who visits the
hermit that the knight and the maiden were both saved.

It is difficult to characterize the curious combination of levity and
seriousness that runs through this tale. There is no illusion of reality
anywhere; there is no agony of soul in Baron Pon's confession; Nerto's
terror when she learns that she is the property of the Devil is far from
impressive, because she says too much, with expressions that are too
pretty, perhaps because the rippling octosyllabic verse, in Provençal at
least, cannot be serious; it is hardly worth while to mention the
objection that if the Devil can be worsted at any time merely by
inverting a sword, especially when the sword is that of an assassin and
a rake, whose repentance is scarcely touched upon and is by no means
disinterested, it is clear that the Demon has wasted his time at a very
foolish game; a religious mind might feel a deeper sort of reverence for
the Archangels than is evinced here. Yet it cannot be said that the poem
parodies things sacred and sublime, and it appears to be utterly without
philosophical intention. Mistral really has to a surprising degree the
naïveté of writers of former centuries, and as regards the tale itself
and its general treatment it could almost have been written by a
contemporary of the events it relates.


The _Poem of the Rhone_, the third of the poems in twelve cantos that
Mistral has written, appeared in 1897. It completes the symmetry of his
life work; the former epics extolled the life of the fields, the
mountains, and the sea, the last glorifies the beautiful river that
brings life to his native soil. More than either of the other long
poems, it is an act of affection for the past, for the Rhone of the poem
is the Rhone of his early childhood, before the steam-packets churned
its waters, or the railroads poured up their smoke along its banks.
Although the poet has interwoven in it a tale of merest fancy, it is
essentially realistic, differing notably in this respect from Calendau.
This realism descends to the merest details, and the poetic quality of
the work suffers considerably in many passages. The poet does not shrink
from minute enumeration of cargoes, or technical description of boats,
or word-for-word reproduction of the idle talk of boatwomen, or the
apparently inexhaustible profanity of the boatmen. The life on the river
is vividly portrayed, and we put down the book with a sense of really
having made the journey from Lyons to Beaucaire with the fleet of seven
boats of Master Apian.

On opening the volume the reader is struck first of all with the novel
versification. It is blank verse, the line being precisely that of
Dante's _Divina Commedia_. Not only is there no rhyme, but assonance is
very carefully avoided. The effect of this unbroken succession of
feminine verses is slightly monotonous, though the poet shifts his
pauses skilfully. The rhythm of the lines is marked, the effect upon the
ear being quite like that of English iambic pentameters hypercatalectic.
The absence of rhyme is the more noteworthy in that rhyme offers little
difficulty in Provençal. Doubtless the poet was pleased to show an
additional claim to superiority for his speech over the French as a
vehicle for poetic thought; for while on the one hand the rules of rhyme
and hiatus give the poet writing in Provençal less trouble than when
writing in French, on the other hand this poem proves that splendid
blank verse may be written in the new language.

The plan of the poem is briefly as follows: it describes the departure
of a fleet of boats from Lyons, accompanies them down the river to
Beaucaire, describes the fair and the return up the river, the boats
being hauled by eighty horses; narrates the collision with a steamboat
coming down the stream, which drags the animals into the water, setting
the boats adrift in the current, destroying them and their cargo, and
typifying as it were the ruin of the old traffic on the Rhone. The river
itself is described, its dangerous shoals, its beautiful banks, its
towns and castles. We learn how the boats were manœuvred; the life on
board and the ideas of the men are set before us minutely. Legends and
stories concerning the river and the places along the shores abound, of
course; and into this general background is woven the tale of a Prince
of Orange and a little maiden called the Anglore, two of the curiously
half-real, half-unreal beings that Mistral seems to love to create. The
Prince comes on board the fleet, intending to see Orange and Provence;
some day he is to be King of Holland, but has already sickened of court
ceremonies and intrigues.

    "Uno foulié d'amour s'es mes en tèsto."

This dreamy, imaginative, blond Prince is in search of a Naïade and the
mysterious "swan-flower," wherein the fair nymph is hidden. This flower
he wears as an emblem. When the boatmen see it, they recognize it as the
_fleur de Rhône_ that the Anglore is so fond of culling. The men get
Jean Roche, one of their number, to tell the Prince who this mysterious
Anglore is, and we learn that she is a little, laughing maiden, who
wanders barefoot on the sand, so charming that any of the sailors, were
she to make a sign, would spring into the water to go and print a kiss
upon her little foot. Not only is the Prince in search of a nymph and a
flower, not only does he wish to behold Orange, he wishes also to learn
the language in which the Countess of Die sang lays of love with
Raimbaud of Orange. He is full of thoughts of the olden days, he feels
regret for the lost conquests. "But why should he feel regret, if he may
recover the sunny land of his forefathers by drinking it in with eager
eyes! What need is there of gleaming swords to seize what the eye shows
us?" He cares little for royalty.

"Strongholds crumble away, as may be seen on all these hills;
everything falls to ruin and is renewed. But on thy summits, unchanging
Nature, forever the thyme shall bloom, and the shepherds and
shepherdesses frolic on the grass at the return of spring."

The Prince apostrophizes the "empire of the sun," bordering like a
silver hem the dazzling Rhone, the "poetic empire of Provence, that with
its name alone doth charm the world," and he calls to mind the empire of
the Bosonides, the memory of which survives in the speech of the
boatmen; they call the east shore "empire," the west shore "kingdom."

The journey is full of episodes. The owner of the fleet, Apian, is a
sententious individual. He is devoted to his river life, full of
religious fervor, continually crossing himself or praying to Saint
Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors. This faith, however, is not
entire. If a man falls into the water, the fellows call to him,
"Recommend thyself to Saint Nicholas, but swim for dear life." As the
English expression has it, "Trust to God, but keep your powder dry."
Master Apian always says the Lord's Prayer aloud when he puts off from
shore, and solemnly utters the words, "In the name of God and the Holy
Virgin, to the Rhone!" His piety, however, does not prevent him from
interrupting his prayer to swear at the men most vigorously. Says he,
"Let whoever would learn to pray, follow the water," but his arguments
and experiences rather teach the vanity of prayer. He is full of
superstitious tales. He has views of life.

"Life is a journey like that of the bark. It has its bad, its good days.
The wise man, when the waves smile, ought to know how to behave; in the
breakers he must go slow. But man is born for toil, for navigation. He
who rows gets his pay at the end of the month. He who is afraid of
blistering his hands takes a dive into the abyss of poverty." He tells a
story of Napoleon in flight down the Rhone, of the women who cried out
at him, reviling him, bidding him give back their sons, shaking their
fists and crying out, "Into the Rhone with him." Once when he was
changing horses at an inn, a woman, bleeding a fowl at the door,
exclaimed: "Ha, the cursed monster! If I had him here, I'd plant my
knife into his throat like that!" The emperor, unknown to her, draws
near. "What did he do to you?" said he. "I had two sons," replied the
bereaved mother wrathfully, "two handsome boys, tall as towers. He
killed them for me in his battles."--"Their names will not perish in the
stars," said Napoleon sadly. "Why could I not fall like them? for they
died for their country on the field of glory."--"But who are you?"--"I
am the emperor."--"Ah!" The good woman fell upon her knees dismayed,
kissed his hands, begged his forgiveness, and all in tears--Here the
story is interrupted.

Wholly charming and altogether original is the tale of the little maiden
whom the boatmen name L'Anglore, and whom Jean Roche loves. The men have
named her so for fun. They knew her well, having seen her from earliest
childhood, half naked, paddling in the water along the shore, sunning
herself like the little lizard they call _anglore_. Now she had grown,
and eked out a poor living by seeking for gold in the sands brought down
by the Ardèche.

The little maid believed in the story of the Drac, a sort of merman,
that lived in the Rhone, and had power to fascinate the women who
ventured into the water. There was once a very widespread superstition
concerning this Protean creature; and the women washing in the river
often had a figure of the Drac, in the form of a lizard, carved upon the
piece of wood with which they beat the linen, as a sort of talisman
against his seduction. The mother of the Anglore had told her of his
wiles; and one story impressed her above all--the story of the young
woman who, fascinated by the Drac, lost her footing in the water and was
carried whirling down into the depths. At the end of seven years she
returned and told her tale. She had been seized by the Drac, and for
seven years he kept her to nurse his little Drac.

The Anglore was never afraid while seeking the specks of gold in the
sunlight. But at night it was different. A gem of poetry is the scene in
the sixth canto, full of witchery and charm, wherein the imagination of
the little maid, wandering out along the water in the mysterious
moonlight, causes her to fancy she sees the Drac in the form of a fair
youth smiling upon her, offering her a wild flower, uttering sweet,
mysterious words of love that die away in the water. She often came
again to meet him; and she noticed that if ever she crossed herself on
entering the water, as she had always done when a little girl, the Drac
would not appear. These three or four pages mark the genuine poet and
the master of language. The mysterious night, oppressively warm, the
moonlight shining on the little white figure, the deep silence, broken
only by the faint murmur of the river and the distant singing of a
nightingale, the gleam of the glowworms, compose a scene of fantastic
beauty. The slightest sounds startle her, whether it be a fish leaping
at the surface of the water to seize a fly, the gurgling of a little
eddy, or the shrill cry of a bat. There is a certain voluptuous beauty
in the very sound of the words that describe the little nymph, kissed by
the moonbeams:--

    Pèr li rai de la luno que beisavon
    Soun fin coutet, sa jouino car ambrenco,
    Si bras poupin, sis esquino rabloto
    E si pousseto armouniouso e fermo
    Que s'amagavon coume dos tourtouro
    Dins l'esparpai de sa cabeladuro."

The last three lines fall like a caress upon the ear. Mistral often
attains a perfect melody of words with the harmonious succession of
varied vowel sounds and the well-marked cadence of his verse.

When Apian's fleet comes down the river and passes the spot where the
little maid seeks for gold, the men see her and invite her on board. She
will go down to Beaucaire to sell her findings. Jean Roche offers
himself in marriage, but she will have none of him; she loves the vision
seen beneath the waves. When the Anglore spies the blond-haired Prince,
she turns pale and nearly swoons. "'Tis he, 'tis he!" she cries, and she
stands fascinated. William, charmed with the little maid, says to her,
"I recognize thee, O Rhone flower, blooming on the water--flower of good
omen that I saw in a dream." The little maid calls him Drac, identifies
the flower in his hand, and lives on in this hallucination. The boatmen
consider that she has lost her reason, and say she must have drunk of
the fountain of Tourne. The little maid hears them, and bids them speak
low, for their fate is written at the fountain of Tourne; and like a
Sibyl, raising her bare arm, she describes the mysterious carvings on
the rock, and the explanation given by a witch she knew. These carvings,
according to Mistral's note, were dedicated to the god Mithra. The
meaning given by the witch is that the day the Drac shall leave the
river Rhone forever, that day the boatmen shall perish. The men do not
laugh, for they have already heard of the great boats that can make
their way against the current without horses. Apian breaks out into
furious imprecations against the men who would ruin the thousands that
depend for their living upon the river. One is struck by this
introduction of a question of political economy into a poem.

During the journey to Avignon the Prince falls more and more in love
with the little Anglore, whom no sort of evidence can shake out of her
belief that the Prince is the Drac, for the Drac can assume any form at
pleasure. Her delusion is so complete, so naïve, that the prince,
romantic by nature, is entirely under the spell.

There come on board three Venetian women, who possess the secret of a
treasure, twelve golden statues of the Apostles buried at Avignon. The
Prince leaves the boat to help them find the place, and the little maid
suffers intensely the pangs of jealousy. But he comes back to her, and
takes her all about the great fair at Beaucaire. That night, however, he
wanders out alone, and while calling to mind the story of Aucassin and
Nicolette, he is sandbagged, but not killed. The Anglore believes he has
left his human body on the ground so as to visit his caverns beneath the
Rhone. William seems unhurt, and at the last dinner before they start to
go up the river again, surrounded by the crew, he makes them a truly
Felibrean speech:--

"Do you know, friends, to whom I feel like consecrating our last meal in
Beaucaire? To the patriots of the Rhodanian shores, to the dauntless men
who, in olden days, maintained themselves in the strong castle that
stands before our eyes, to the dwellers along the riverbanks who
defended so valiantly their customs, their free trade, and their great
free Rhone. If the sons of those forefathers who fell bravely in the
strife, to-day have forgotten their glory, well, so much the worse for
the sons! But you, my mates, you who have preserved the call, Empire!
and who, like the brave men you are, will soon go and defend the Rhone
in its very life, fighting your last battle with me, a stranger, but
enraptured and intoxicated with the light of your Rhone, come, raise
your glasses to the cause of the vanquished!"

The love scenes between the Prince and the Anglore continue during the
journey up the river. Her devotion to him is complete; she knows not
whither she goes, if to perish, then let it be with him. In a moment of
enthusiasm William makes a passionate declaration.

"Trust me, Anglore, since I have freely chosen thee, since thou hast
brought me thy deep faith in the beautiful wonders of the fable, since
thou art she who, without thought, yields to her love, as wax melts in
the sun, since thou livest free of all our bonds and shams, since in thy
blood, in thy pure bosom, lies the renewal of the old sap, I, on my
faith as a Prince, I swear to thee that none but me, O my Rhone flower,
shall have the happiness to pluck thee as a flower of love and as a

But this promise is never kept. One day the boats meet the steamer
coming down the river. Apian, pale and silent, watches the magic bark
whose wheels beat like great paws, and, raising great waves, come down
steadily upon him.

The captain cries, "One side!" but, obstinate and angry, Apian tries to
force the steamer to give way. The result is disastrous. The steamer
catches in the towing cables and drags the horses into the water. The
boats drift back and are hurled against a bridge. William and the
Anglore are thrown into the river and are lost. All the others escape
with their lives. Jean Roche is not sure but that he was the Drac after
all, who, foreseeing the shipwreck, had thus followed the boats, to
carry the Anglore at last down into the depths of the river. Maître
Apian accepts his ruin philosophically. Addressing his men, he says:
"Ah, my seven boats! my splendid draught horses! All gone, all ruined!
It is the end of the business! Poor fellow-boatmen, you may well say,
'good-by to a pleasant life.' To-day the great Rhone has died, as far as
we are concerned."

The idea of the poem is, then, to tell of the old life on the Rhone.
To-day the river flows almost as in the days when its shores were untrod
by men. Rarely is any sort of boat seen upon its swift and dangerous
current. Mistral portrays the life he knew, and he has done it with
great power and vividness. The fanciful tale of the Prince and the
Anglore, suggested by the beliefs and superstitions of the humble folk,
was introduced, doubtless, as a necessary love story. The little maid
Anglore, half mad in her illusion, is none the less a very sympathetic
creation, and surely quite original. This tale, however, running through
the poem like a thread, is not the poem, nor does it fill
proportionately a large place therein. The poem is, as its title
proclaims, the Poem of the Rhone, a poem of sincere regret for the good
old days when the muscular sons of Condrieu ruled the stream, the days
of jollity, of the curious boating tournaments of which one is described
in _Calendau_, when the children used to watch the boats go by with a
Condrillot at the helm, and the Rhone was swarming like a mighty
beehive. The poet notes in sorrow that all is dead. The river flows on,
broad and silent, and no vestige of all its past activity remains, but
here and there a trace of the cables that used to rub along the stones.

As we said at the outset, what is most striking about this poem is its
realism. The poet revels in enumerating the good things the men had to
eat at the feast of Saint Nicholas; he describes with a wealth of
vocabulary and a flood of technical terms quite bewildering every sort
of boat, and all its parts with their uses; he reproduces the talk of
the boatmen, leaving unvarnished their ignorance and superstition,
their roughness and brutality; he describes their appearance, their
long hair and large earrings; he explains the manner of guiding the
boats down the swirling, treacherous waters, amid the dangers of shoals
and hidden rocks; he describes all the cargoes, not finding it beneath
the dignity of an epic poem to tell us of the kegs of foamy beer that is
destined for the thirsty throats of the drinkers at Beaucaire; as the
boats pass Condrieu, he reproduces the gossip of the boatmen's wives; he
does not omit the explanations of Apian addressed to the Prince
concerning fogs and currents; he is often humorous, telling us of the
heavy merchants who promenade their paunches whereon the watch-charms
rattle against their snug little money carried in a belt; he describes
the passengers, tells us their various trades and destinations, is even
cynical; tells of the bourgeois, who, once away from their wives, grow
suddenly lavish with their money, and like pigs let loose in the street,
take up the whole roadway; he does not shrink from letting us know that
the men chew a cud of tobacco while they talk; he mentions the price of
goods; he puts into the mouth of Jean Roche's mother a great many
practical and material considerations as to the matter of taking a
wife, and a very wise and practical old lady she is; he treats as
"joyeusetés" the conversation of the Venetian women who inform the
Prince that in their city the noblewoman, once married, may have quite a
number of lovers without exciting any comment, the husband being rather
relieved than otherwise; he allows his boatmen to swear and call one
another vile names, and a howling, brawling lot they frequently become;
and when at last we get to the fair at Beaucaire, there are pages of
minute enumerations that can scarcely be called Homeric. In short, a
very large part of the book is prose, animated, vigorous, often
exaggerated, but prose. Like his other long poems it is singularly
objective. Rarely does the author interrupt his narrative or description
to give an opinion, to speak in his own name, or to analyze the
situation he has created. Like the other poems, too, it is sprinkled
with tales and legends of all sorts, some of them charming.
Superstitions abound. Mistral shares the fondness of the Avignonnais for
the number seven. Apian has seven boats, the Drac keeps his victim seven
years, the woman of Condrieu has seven sons.

The poem offers the same beauties as the others, an astonishing power of
description first of all. Mistral is always masterly, always poetic in
depicting the landscape and the life that moves thereon, and especially
in evoking the life of the past. He revives for us the princesses and
queens, the knights and troubadours, and they move before us, a
fascinating, glittering pageant. The perfume of flowers, the sunlight on
the water, the great birds flying in the air, the silent drifting of the
boats in the broad valley, the reflection of the tall poplars in the
water, the old ruins that crown the hilltops--all these things are
exquisitely woven into the verse, and more than a mere word-painting
they create a mood in the reader in unison with the mood of the person
of whom he is reading.

In touching truly deep and serious things Mistral is often superficial,
and passes them off with a commonplace. An instance in this poem is the
episode of the convicts on their way to the galleys at Toulon. No
terrible indignation, no heartfelt pity, is expressed. Apian silences
one of his crew who attempts to mock at the unhappy wretches. "They are
miserable enough without an insult! and do not seem to recognize them,
for, branded on the shoulder, they seek the shade. Let this be an
example to you all. They are going to eat beans at Toulon, poor fellows!
All sorts of men are there,--churchmen, rascals, nobles, notaries, even
some who are innocent!"

And the poet concludes, "Thus the world, thus the agitation, the stir of
life, good, evil, pleasure, pain, pass along swiftly, confusedly,
between day and night, on the river of time, rolling along and fleeing."

The enthusiasm of the poet leads him into exaggeration whenever he comes
to a wonder of Provence. Things are relative in this world, and the same
words carry different meanings. Avignon is scarcely a colossal pile of
towers, and would not remind many of Venice, even at sunset, and we must
make a discount when we hear that the boats are _engulfed_ in the
_fierce_ (_sic_) arch of the _colossal_ bridge of stone that Benezet,
the shepherd, erected seven hundred years ago. A moment later he refers
daintily and accurately to the chapel of Saint Nicholas "riding on the
bridge, slender and pretty." The epithets sound larger, too, in
Provençal; the view of Avignon is "espetaclouso," the walls of the
castle are "gigantesco."

Especially admirable in its sober, energetic expression is the account
of the _Remonte_, in the eleventh canto, wherein we see the eighty
horses, grouped in fours, tug slowly up the river.

"The long file on the rough-paved path, dragging the weighty train of
boats, in spite of the impetuous waters, trudges steadily along. And
beneath the lofty branches of the great white poplars, in the stillness
of the Rhone valley, in the splendor of the rising sun, walking beside
the straining horses that drive a mist from their nostrils, the first
driver says the prayer."

With each succeeding poem the vocabulary of Mistral seems to grow, along
with the boldness of expression. All his poems he has himself translated
into French, and these translations are remarkable in more than one
respect. That of the _Poem of the Rhone_ is especially full of rare
French words, and it cannot be imputed to the leader of the Provençal
poets that he is not past master of the French vocabulary. Often his
French expression is as strange as the original. Not many French
writers would express themselves as he does in the following:--

"Et il tressaille de jumeler le nonchaloir de sa jeunesse au renouveau
de la belle ingénue."

In this translation, also, more than in the preceding, there is
occasionally an affectation of archaism, which rather adds to than
detracts from the poetic effect of his prose, and the number of lines in
the prose translation that are really ten-syllable verses is quite
remarkable. On one page (page 183 of the third edition, Lemerre) more
than half the lines are verses.

Is the _Poem of the Rhone_ a great poem? Whether it is or not, it
accomplishes admirably the purpose of its author, to fix in beautiful
verse the former life of the Rhone. That much of it is prosaic was
inevitable; the nature of the subject rendered it so. It is full of
beauties, and the poet who wrote _Mirèio_ and completed it before his
thirtieth year, has shown that in the last decade of his threescore
years and ten he could produce a work as full of fire, energy, life, and
enthusiasm as in the stirring days when the Félibrige was young. In this
poem there occurs a passage put into the mouth of the Prince, which
gives a view of life that we suspect is the poet's own. He here calls
the Prince a young sage, and as we look back over Mistral's life, and
review its aims, and the conditions in which he has striven, we incline
to think that here, in a few words, he has condensed his thought.

"For what is life but a dream, a distant appearance, an illusion gliding
on the water, which, fleeing ever before our eyes, dazzles us like a
mirror flashing, entices and lures us on! Ah, how good it is to sail on
ceaselessly toward one's desire, even though it is but a dream! The time
will come, it is near, perhaps, when men will have everything within
their reach, when they will possess everything, when they will know and
have proved everything; and, regretting the old mirages, who knows but
what they will not grow weary of living!"



The lover of poetry will probably find more to admire and cherish in
this volume than in any other that has come from the pen of its author,
excepting, possibly, the best passages of _Mirèio_. It is the collection
of his short poems that appeared from time to time in different
Provençal publications, the earliest dating as far back as 1848, the
latest written in 1888. They are a very complete expression of his
poetic ideas, and contain among their number gems of purest poesy. The
poet's lyre has not many strings, and the strains of sadness, of pensive
melancholy, are almost absent. Mistral has once, and very successfully,
tried the theme of Lainartine's _Lac_, of Musset's _Souvenir_, of Hugo's
_Tristesse d'Olympio_; but his poem is not an elegy, it has not the
intensity, the passion, the deep undertone of any of the three great
Romanticists. _La Fin dóu Meissounié_ is a beautiful, pathetic, and
touching tale, that easily brings a tear, and _Lou Saume de la
Penitènci_ is without doubt one of the noblest poems inspired in the
heart of any Frenchman by the disaster of 1870. But these poems, though
among the best according to the feeling for poetry of a reader from
northern lands, are not characteristic of the volume in general. The
dominant strain is energy, a clarion-call of life and light, an appeal
to his fellow-countrymen to be strong and independent; the sun of
Provence, the language of Provence, the ideals of Provence, the memories
of Provence, these are his themes. His poetry is not personal, but
social. Of his own joys and sorrows scarce a word, unless we say what is
doubtless the truth, that his joys and sorrows, his regrets and hopes,
are identical with those of his native land, and that he has blended his
being completely with the life about him. The volume contains a great
number of pieces written for special occasions, for the gatherings of
the Félibres, for their weddings. Many of them are addressed to persons
in France and out, who have been in various ways connected with the
Félibrige. Of these the greeting to Lamartine is especially felicitous
in expression, and the following stanza from it forms the dedication of

    "Te counsacre Mirèio: eo moun cor e moun amo,
            Es la flour de mis an;
    Es un rasin de Crau qu' emé touto sa ramo
            Te porge un païsan."

The entire poem, literally translated, is as follows:--

    If I have the good fortune to see my bark early upon the waves,
            Without fear of winter,
    Blessings upon thee, O divine Lamartine,
            Who hast taken the helm!

    If my prow bears a bouquet of blooming laurel,
            It is thou hast made it for me;
    If my sail swelleth, it is the breath of thy glory
            That bloweth it.

    Therefore, like a pilot who of a fair church
            Climbeth the hill
    And upon the altar of the saint that hath saved him at sea
            Hangeth a miniature ship.

    I consecrate Mirèio to thee; 'tis my heart and my soul,
            'Tis the flower of my years;
    'Tis a cluster of grapes from the Crau that with all its leaves
            A peasant offers thee.

    Generous as a king, when thou broughtest me fame
            In the midst of Paris,
    Thou knowest that, in thy home, the day thou saidst to me,
            "Tu Marcellus eris!"

    Like the pomegranate in the ripening sunbeam,
            My heart opened,
    And, unable to find more tender speech,
            Broke out in tears.

It is interesting to notice that the earliest poem of our author, _La
Bella d'Avoust_, is a tale of the supernatural, a poem of mystery; it is
an order of poetic inspiration rather rare in his work, and this first
poem is quite as good as anything of its kind to be found in _Mirèio_ or
_Nerto_. It has the form of a song with the refrain:--

    Ye little nightingales, ye grasshoppers, be still!
    Hear the song of the beauty of August!

Margaï of Val-Mairane, intoxicated with love, goes down into the plain
two hours before the day. Descending the hill, she is wild. "In vain,"
she says, "I seek him, I have missed him. Ah, my heart trembles."

The poem is full of imagery, delicate and pretty. Margaï is so lovely
that in the clouds the moon, enshrouded, says to the cloud very softly,
"Cloud, beautiful cloud, pass away, my face would let fall a ray on
Margaï, thy shadow hinders me." And the bird offers to console her, and
the glow-worm offers his light to guide her to her lover. Margaï comes
and goes until she meets her lover in the shadow of the trees. She tells
of her weeping, of the moon, the birdling, and the glow-worm. "But thy
brow is dark, art thou ill? Shall I return to my father's house?"

"If my face is sad, on my faith, it is because a black moth hovering
about hath alarmed me."

And Margaï says, "Thy voice, once so sweet, to-day seems a trembling
sound beneath the earth; I shudder at it."

"If my voice is so hoarse, it is because while waiting for thee I lay
upon my back in the grass."

"I was dying with longing, but now it is with fear. For the day of our
elopement, beloved, thou wearest mourning!"

"If my cloak be sombre and black, so is the night, and yet the night
also glimmers."

When the star of the shepherds began to pale, and when the king of
stars was about to appear, suddenly off they went, upon a black horse.
And the horse flew on the stony road, and the ground shook beneath the
lovers, and 'tis said fantastic witches danced about them until day,
laughing loudly.

Then the white moon wrapped herself again, the birdling on the branch
flew off in fright, even the glow-worm, poor little thing, put out his
lamp, and quickly crept away under the grass. And it is said that at the
wedding of poor Margaï there was little feasting, little laughing, and
the betrothal and the dancing took place in a spot where fire was seen
through the crevices.

"Vale of Val-Mairane, road to the Baux, never again o'er hill or plain
did ye see Margaï. Her mother prays and weeps, and will not have enough
of speaking of her lovely shepherdess."

This weird, legendary tale was composed in 1848. The next effort of the
poet is one of his masterpieces, wherein his inspiration is truest and
most poetical. _La Fin dóu Meissounié_ (The Reaper's Death) is a noble,
genuinely pathetic tale, told in beautifully varied verse, full of the
love of field work, and aglow with sympathy for the toilers. The figure
of the old man, stricken down suddenly by an accidental blow from the
scythe of a young man mowing behind him, as he lies dying on the rough
ground, urging the gleaners to go on and not mind him, praying to Saint
John,--the patron of the harvesters,--is one not to be forgotten. The
description of the mowing, the long line of toilers with their scythes,
the fierce sun making their blood boil, the sheaves falling by hundreds,
the ruddy grain waving in the breath of the mistral, the old chief
leading the band, "the strong affection that urged the men on to cut
down the harvest,"--all is vividly pictured, and foretells the future
poet of _Mirèio_. The words of the old man are full of his energy and
faith: "The wheat, swollen and ripe, is scattering in the summer wind;
do not leave to the birds and ants, O binders, the wheat that comes from
God!" "What good is your weeping? better sing with the young fellows,
for I, before you all, have finished my task. Perhaps, in the land where
I shall be presently, it will be hard for me, when evening comes, to
hear no more, stretched out upon the grass, as I used to, the strong,
clear singing of the youth rising up amid the trees; but it appears,
friends, that it was my star, or perhaps the Master, the One above,
seeing the ripe grain, gathers it in. Come, come, good-by, I am going
gently. Then, children, when you carry off the sheaves upon the cart,
take away your chief on the load of wheat."

And he begs Saint John to remember his olive trees, his family, who will
sup at Christmas-tide without him. "If sometimes I have murmured,
forgive me! The sickle, meeting a stone, cries out, O master Saint John,
the friend of God, patron of the reapers, father of the poor, up there
in Paradise, remember me."

And after the old man's death "the reapers, silent, sickle in hand, go
on with the work in haste, for the hot mistral was shaking the ears."

Among these earlier poems are found some cleverly told, homely tales,
with a pointed moral. Such are _La Plueio_ (The Rain), _La Rascladuro de
Petrin_ (The Scraping from the Kneading-trough). They are really
excellent, and teach the lesson that the tillers of the soil have a holy
calling, of which they may be proud, and that God sends them health and
happiness, peace and liberty. The second of the poems just mentioned is
a particularly amusing story of choosing a wife according to the care
she takes of her kneading-trough, the idea being derived from an old
fablieau. There are one or two others purely humorous and capitally
told. After 1860, however, the poet abandoned these homely, simple
tales, that doubtless realized Roumanille's ideas of one aspect of the
literary revival he was seeking to bring about.

The poems are not arranged chronologically, but are classified as Songs,
Romances, Sirventés, Reveries, Plaints, Sonnets, Nuptial Songs, etc.

The _Cansoun_ (Songs) are sung at every reunion of the Félibrige. They
are set to melodies well known in Provence, and are spirited and
vigorous indeed. The Germans who write about Provence are fond of making
known the fact that the air of the famous _Hymn to the Sun_ is a melody
written by Kuecken. There is _Lou Bastimen_ (The Ship), as full of dash
and go as any English sea ballad. _La Coutigo_ (The Tickling) is a
dialogue between a mother and her love-sick son. _La Coupo_ (The Cup)
is the song of the Félibres _par excellence_; it was composed for the
reception of a silver cup, sent to the Félibres by the Catalans. The
_coupo felibrenco_ is now a feature of all their banquets. The song
expresses the enthusiasm of the Félibres for their cause. The refrain
is, "Holy cup, overflowing, pour out in plenty the enthusiasms and the
energy of the strong." The most significant lines are:--

    Of a proud, free people
    We are perhaps the end;
    And, if the Félibres fall,
    Our nation will fall.

    Of a race that germs anew
    Perhaps we are the first growth;
    Of our land we are perhaps
    The pillars and the chiefs.

    Pour out for us hope
    And dreams of youth,
    The memory of the past
    And faith in the coming year.

The ideas and sentiments, then, that are expressed in the shorter poems
of Mistral, written since the publication of _Mirèio_, have been, in the
main, the ancient glories and liberties of Provence, a clinging to
national traditions, to local traditions, and to the religion and ideas
of ancestors, a profound dislike of certain modern ideas of progress,
hatred of the levelling influence of Paris, love of the Provençal
speech, belief in the Latin race, in the Roman Catholic Church, unshaken
faith in the future, love of the ideal and hatred of what is servile and
sordid, an ardent love of Nature, an intense love of life and movement.
These things are reflected in every variety of word and figure. He is
not the poet of the romantic type, self-centred, filling his verse with
the echoes of his own loves and joys and woes, nor is his poetry as
large as humanity; Provence, France, the Latin race, are the limits
beyond which it has no message or interest.

Possibly no poet ever wrote as many lines to laud the language he was
using. Such lines abound in each volume he has produced.

    "Se la lengo di moussu
      Toumbo en gargavaio
    Se tant d'escrivan coussu
      Pescon de ravaio,
    Nàutri, li bon Prouvençau
    Vers li serre li plus aut
      Enauren la lengo
      De nòsti valengo."

     If the language of the messieurs falls among the sweepings, if so
     many comfortably well-off writers fish for small fry, we, the good
     Provençals, toward the highest summits, raise the language of our

The Sirventés addressed to the Catalan poets begins:--

    "Fraire de Catalougno, escoutas! Nous an di
    Que fasias peralin reviéure e resplendi
          Un di rampau de nosto lengo."

     Brothers from Catalonia, listen! We have heard that ye cause one of
     the branches of our language to revive and flourish yonder.

In the same poem, the poet sings of the Troubadours, whom none have
since surpassed, who in the face of the clergy raised the language of
the common people, sang in the very ears of the kings, sang with love,
and sang freely, the coming of a new world and contempt for ancient
fears, and later on he says:--

"From the Alps to the Pyrenees, hand in hand, poets, let us then raise
up the old Romance speech! It is the sign of the family, the sacrament
that binds the sons to the forefathers, man to the soil! It is the
thread that holds the nest in the branches. Fearless guardians of our
beautiful speech, let us keep it free and pure, and bright as silver,
for a whole people drinks at this spring; for when, with faces on the
ground, a people falls into slavery, if it holds its language, it holds
the key that delivers it from the chains."

The final stanza of the poem, written in honor of Jasmin in 1870, is as

"For our dead and our fathers, and our sacred rights as a people and as
poets, that yesterday were trampled beneath the feet of the usurper,
and, outraged, cried out, now live again in glory! Now, between the two
seas the language of Oc triumphs. O Jasmin, thou hast avenged us!"

In the _Rock of Sisyphus_ the poet says, "Formerly we kept the language
that Nature herself put upon our lips."

In the _Poem to the Latin Race_ we read:--

"Thy mother tongue, the great stream that spreads abroad in seven
branches, pouring out love and light like an echo from Paradise, thy
golden speech, O Romance daughter of the King-People, is the song that
will live on human lips as long as speech shall have reason."

Elsewhere we find:--

"Oh, maintain thy historic speech. It is the proof that always thou
carriest on high and free, thy coat of arms. In the language, a mystery,
an old treasure is found. Each year the nightingale puts on new plumage,
but keeps its song."

One entire poem, _Espouscado_, is a bitterly indignant protest against
those who would suppress the dialect, against the regents and the
rectors whom "we must pay with our pennies to hear them scoff at the
language that binds us to our fathers and our soil!" And the poet cries
out, "No, no, we'll keep our rebellious _langue d'oc_, grumble who will.
We'll speak it in the stables, at harvest-time, among the silkworms,
among lovers, among neighbors, etc., etc. It shall be the language of
joy and of brotherhood. We'll joke and laugh with it;--and as for the
army, we'll take it to the barracks to keep off homesickness."

And his anger rising, he exclaims:--

"O the fools, the fools, who wean their children from it to stuff them
with self-sufficiency, fatuity, and hunger! Let them get drowned in the
throng! But thou, O my Provence, be not disturbed about the sons that
disown thee and repudiate thy speech. They are dead, they are still-born
children that survive, fed on bad milk."

And he concludes:--

"But, eldest born of Nature, you, the sun-browned boys, who speak with
the maidens in the ancient tongue, fear not; you shall remain the
masters! Like the walnuts of the plain, gnarled, stout, calm,
motionless, exploited and ill-treated as you may be, O peasants (as they
call you), you will remain masters of the land!"

This was written in 1888. The quotations might be multiplied; these
suffice, however, to show the intense love of the poet for "the language
of the soil," the energy with which he has constantly struggled for its
maintenance. He is far from looking upon the multiplication of dialects
as an evil, points to the literary glory of Greece amid her many forms
of speech, and does not even seek to impose his own language upon the
rest of southern France. He sympathizes with every attempt, wherever
made, the world over, to raise up a patois into a language. Statesmen
will probably think otherwise, and there are nations which would at
once take an immense stride forward if they could attain one language
and a purely national literature. The modern world does not appear to be
marching in accordance with Mistral's view.

The poems inspired by the love of the ancient ideals and literature of
Provence are very beautiful. They have in general a fascinating swing
and rhythm, and are filled with charming imagery. One of the best is
_L'Amiradou_ (The Belvedere), the story of a fairy imprisoned in the
castle at Tarascon, "who will doubtless love the one who shall free
her." Three knights attempt the rescue and fail. Then there comes along
a little Troubadour, and sings so sweetly of the prowess of his
forefathers, of the splendor of the Latin race, that the guard are
charmed and the bolts fly back. And the fairy goes up to the top of the
tower with the little Troubadour, and they stand mute with love, and
look out over all the beautiful landscape, and the old monuments of
Provence with their lessons. This is the kingdom of the fairy, and she
bestows it upon him. "For he who knows how to read in this radiant
book, must grow above all others, and all that his eye beholds, without
paying any tithe, is his in abundance."

The lilt of this little _romance_, with its pretty repetitions, is
delightful, and the symbolism is, of course, perfectly obvious.

There is the touching story of the Troubadour Catalan, slain by robbers
in the Bois de Boulogne, where the Pré de Catalan now is; there is the
tale that accounts for the great chain that hangs across the gorge at
Moustiers, a chain over six hundred feet long, bearing a star in the
centre. A knight, being prisoner among the Saracens, vows to hang the
chain before the chapel of the Virgin, if ever he returns home.

    "A ti pèd, vierge Mario,
    Ma cadeno penjarai,
        Se jamai
        Tourne mai
    A Moustié, dins ma patrio!"

There is the tale of the Princess Clémence, daughter of a king of
Provence. Her father was deformed, and the heir-presumptive to the
French crown sought her in marriage. In order that the prince might be
sure she had inherited none of the father's deformity, she was called
upon to show herself in the garb of Lady Godiva before his ambassadors.
This rather delicate subject is handled with consummate art.

The idea of federalism is found expressed with sufficient clearness in
various parts of these poems of the Golden Isles, and the patriotism of
the poet, his love of France, is perfectly evident, in spite of all that
has been said to the contrary. In the poem addressed to the Catalans,
after numerous allusions to the dissensions and rebellions of bygone
days, we read:--

"Now, however, it is clear; now, however, we know that in the divine
order all is for the best; the Provençals, a unanimous flame, are part
of great France, frankly, loyally; the Catalans, with good-will, are
part of magnanimous Spain. For the brook must flow to the sea, and the
stone must fall on the heap; the wheat is best protected from the
treacherous cold wind when planted close; and the little boats, if they
are to navigate safely, when the waves are black and the air dark, must
sail together. For it is good to be many, it is a fine thing to say, 'We
are children of France!'"

But in days of peace let each province develop its own life in its own

"And France and Spain, when they see their children warming themselves
together in the sunbeams of the fatherland, singing matins out of the
same book, will say, 'The children have sense enough, let them laugh and
play together, now they are old enough to be free.'

"And we shall see, I promise you, the ancient freedom come down, O
happiness, upon the smallest city, and love alone bind the races
together; and if ever the black talon of the tyrant is seen, all the
races will bound up to drive out the bird of prey!"

Of all the poems of Mistral expressing this order of ideas, the one
entitled _The Countess_ made the greatest stir. It appeared in 1866, and
called forth much angry discussion and imputation of treason from the
enemies of the new movement. _The Countess_ is an allegorical
representation of Provence; the fair descendant of imperial ancestors is
imprisoned in a convent by her half-sister France. Formerly she
possessed a hundred fortified towns, twenty seaports; she had olives,
fruit, and grain in abundance; a great river watered her fields; a
great wind vivified the land, and the proud noblewoman could live
without her neighbor, and she sang so sweetly that all loved her, poets
and suitors thronged about her.

Now, in the convent where she is cloistered all are dressed alike, all
obey the rule of the same bell, all joy is gone. The half-sister has
broken her tambourines and taken away her vineyards, and gives out that
her sister is dead.

Then the poet breaks into an appeal to the strong to break into the
great convent, to hang the abbess, and say to the Countess, "Appear
again, O splendor! Away with grief, away! Long life to joy!"

Each stanza is followed by the refrain:--

    "Ah! se me sabien entèndre!
    Ah! se me voulien segui!"

    Ah! if they could understand me!
    Ah! if they would follow me!

Mistral disdained to reply to the storm of accusations and
incriminations raised by the publication of this poem. _Lou Saumede la
Penitènci_, that appeared in 1870, set at rest all doubts concerning his
deep and sincere patriotism.

_The Psalm of Penitence_ is possibly the finest of the short poems. It
is certainly surpassed by no other in intensity of feeling, in genuine
inspiration, in nobility and beauty of expression. It is a hymn of
sorrow over the woes of France, a prayer of humility and resignation
after the disaster of 1870. The reader must accept the idea, of course,
that the defeat of the French was a visitation of Providence in
punishment for sin.

    "Segnour, à la fin ta coulèro
          Largo si tron
          Sus nòsti front:
    E dins la niue nosto galèro
          Pico d'a pro
          Contro li ro."

     Lord, at last thy wrath hurls its thunderbolts upon our foreheads:

     And in the night our vessel strikes its prow against the rocks.

France was punished for irreligion, for closing the temples, for
abandoning the sacraments and commandments, for losing faith in all
except selfish interest and so-called progress, for contempt of the
Bible and pride in science.

The poet makes confession:--

    "Segnour, sian tis enfant proudigue;
          Mai nàutri sian
          Ti vièi crestian:
    Que ta Justiço nous castigue,
          Mai au trepas
          Nous laisses pas!"

     Lord, we are thy prodigal sons; but we are thy Christians of old:

     Let thy justice chastise us, but give us not over unto death!

Then the poet prays in the name of all the brave men who gave up their
lives in battle, in the name of all the mothers who will never again see
their sons, in the name of the poor, the strong, the dead, in the name
of all the defeats and tears and sorrow, the slaughter and the fires,
the affronts endured, that God disarm his justice, and he concludes:--

    "Segnour, voulen deveni d'ome;
          En libertà
          Pos nous bouta!
    Sian Gau-Rouman e gentilome,
          E marchan dre
          Dins noste endré.

    "Segnour, dóu mau sian pas Pencauso.
          Mando eiçabas
          Un rai de pas!
    Segnour, ajudo nosto Causo,
          E reviéuren
          E t'amaren."

     Lord, we desire to become men; thou canst set us free!

     We are Gallo-Romans and of noble race, and we walk upright in our

     Lord, we are not the cause of the evil. Send down upon us a ray of
     peace! Lord, aid our Cause, and we shall live again and love thee.

The poem called _The Stone of Sisyphus_ completes sufficiently the
evidence necessary to exculpate Mistral of the charge of antipatriotism
and makes clear his thought. Provence was once a nation, she consented
years ago to lose her identity in the union with France. Now it is
proposed to heap up all the old traditions, the Gai Savoir, the glory of
the Troubadours, the old language, the old customs, and burn them on a
pyre. Well, France is a great people and _Vive la nation_. But some
would go further, some would suppress the nation: "Down with the
frontiers, national glories are an abomination! Wipe out the past, man
is God! _Vive l'humanité_!" Our patrimony we repudiate. What are Joan of
Arc, Saint Louis, and Turenne? All that is old rubbish.

Then the people cry with Victor Hugo, "_Emperaire, siegues maudi, maudi,
maudi! nous as vendu_" and hurl down the Vendôme column, burn Paris,
slaughter the priests, and then, worn out, commence again, like
Sisyphus, to push the rock of progress.

So much for the conservatism of Mistral.

We shall conclude this story of the shorter poems with some that are not
polemical or essentially Provençal; three or four are especially
noteworthy. _The Drummer of Arcole_, _Lou Prègo-Diéu_, _Rescontre_
(Meeting), might properly find a place in any anthology of general
poetry, and an ode on the death of Lamartine is sincere and beautiful.
Such poems must be read in the original.

The first one, _The Drummer of Arcole_, is the story of a drummer boy
who saved the day at Arcole by beating the charge; but after the wars
are over, he is forgotten, and remains a drummer as before, becomes old
and regrets his life given up to the service of his country. But one
day, passing along the streets of Paris, he chances to look up at the
Pantheon, and there in the huge pediment he reads the words, "_Aux
grands hommes la patrie reconnaissante_."

"'Drummer, raise thy head!' calls out a passer-by! 'The one up there,
hast thou seen him?' Toward the temple that stood superb the old man
raised his bewildered eyes. Just then the joyous sun shook his golden
locks above enchanted Paris....

"When the soldier saw the dome of the Pantheon rising toward heaven, and
with his drum hanging at his side, beating the charge, as if it were
real, he recognized himself, the boy of Arcole, away up there, right at
the side of the great Napoleon, intoxicated with his former fury, seeing
himself, so high, in full relief, above the years, the clouds, the
storms, in glory, azure, sunshine, he felt a gentle swelling in his
heart, and fell dead upon the pavement."

_Lou Prègo-Diéu_ is a sweet poem embodying a popular belief. Prègo-diéu
is the name of a little insect, so called from the peculiar arrangement
of its legs and antennse that makes it appear to be in an attitude of
prayer. Mistral's poetic ideas have been largely suggested to him by
popular beliefs and the stories he heard at his fireside when a boy.
This poem is one of the best of the kind he has produced, and, being
eminently, characteristic, will find juster treatment in a literal
translation than in a commentary. The first half was written during the
time he was at work upon _Mirèio_ in 1856, the second in 1874. We quote
the first stanza in the original, for the sake of showing its rhythm.

    "Ero un tantost d'aquel estiéu
    Que ni vihave ni dourmiéu:
    Fasiéu miejour, tau que me plaise,
          Lou cahessòu
          Toucant lou sòn
              A l'aise."


It was one afternoon this summer, while I was neither awake nor asleep.
I was taking a noon siesta, as is my pleasure, my head at ease upon the

And greenish among the stubble, upon a spear of blond barley, with a
double row of seeds, I saw a prègo-diéu.

"Beautiful insect," said I, "I have heard that, as a reward for thy
ceaseless praying, God hath given thee the gift of divination.

"Tell me now, good friend, if she I love hath slept well; tell what she
is thinking at this hour, and what she is doing; tell me if she is
laughing or weeping."

The insect, that was kneeling, stirred upon the tube of the tiny,
leaning ear, and unfolded and waved his little wings.

And his speech, softer than the softest breath of a zephyr wafted in a
wood, sweet and mysterious, reached my ear.

"I see a maiden," said he, "in the cool shade beneath a cherry tree; the
waving branches touch her; the boughs hang thick with cherries.

"The cherries are fully ripe, fragrant, solid, red, and, amid the smooth
leaves, make one hungry, and, hanging, tempt one.

"But the cherry tree offers in vain the sweetness and the pleasing color
of its bright, firm fruit, red as coral.

"She sighs, trying to see if she can jump high enough to pluck them.
Would that my lover might come! He would climb up, and throw them down
into my apron."

So I say to the reapers: "Reapers, leave behind you a little corner
uncut, where, during the summer, the prègo-diéu may have shelter."


This autumn, going down a sunken road, I wandered off across the fields,
lost in earthly thoughts.

And, once more, amid the stubble, I saw, clinging to a tiny ear of
grain, folded up in his double wing, the prègo-diéu.

"Beautiful insect," said I then, "I have heard that, as a reward for thy
ceaseless praying, God hath given thee the gift of divination.

"And that if some child, lost amid the harvest fields, asks of thee his
way, thou, little creature, showest him the way through the wheat.

"In the pleasures and pains of this world, I see that I, poor child, am
astray; for, as he grows, man feels his wickedness.

"In the grain and in the chaff, in fear and in pride, in budding hope,
alas for me, I see my ruin.

"I love space, and I am in chains; among thorns I walk barefoot; Love is
God, and Love sins; every enthusiasm after action is disappointed.

"What we accomplished is wiped out; brute instinct is satisfied, and the
ideal is not reached; we must be born amid tears, and be stung among the

"Evil is hideous, and it smiles upon me; the flesh is fair, and it rots;
the water is bitter, and I would drink; I am languishing, I want to die
and yet to live.

"I am falling faint and weary; O prègo-diéu, cause some slight hope of
something true to shine upon me; show me the way."

And straightway I saw that the insect stretched forth its slender arm
toward Heaven; mysterious, mute, earnest, it was praying.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such reference to religious doubt is elsewhere absent from Mistral's
work. His faith is strong, and the energy of his life-work has its
source largely, not only in this religious faith, but in his firm belief
in himself, in his race, and in the mission he has felt called upon to
undertake. Reflected obviously in the above poem is the growth of the
poet in experience and in thought.

Lastly, among the poems of his _Isclo d'Or_, we wish to call attention
to one that, in its theme, recalls _Le Lac_, _La Tristesse d'Olympio_,
and _Le Souvenir_. The poet comes upon the scene of his first love, and
apostrophizes the natural objects about him. All four poets intone the
strain, "Ye rocks and trees, guard the memory of our love."

    "O coumbo d'Uriage
      Bos fresqueirous,
    Ounte aven fa lou viage
      Dis amourous,
    O vau qu'aven noumado
      Noste univers,
    Se perdes ta ramado
      Gardo mi vers."

O vale of Uriage, cool wood, where we made our lovers' journey; O vale
that we called our world, if thou lose thy verdure, keep my verses.

Ye flowers of the high meadows that no man knoweth, watered by Alpine
snows, ye are less pure and fresh in the month of April than the little
mouth that smiles for me.

Ye thunders and stern voices of the peaks, murmurings of wild woods,
torrents from the mountains, there is a voice that dominates you all,
the clear, beautiful voice of my love.

Alas! vale of Uriage, we may never return to thy leafy nooks. She, a
star, vanisheth in air, and I, folding my tent, go forth into the

       *       *       *       *       *

Apart from the intrinsic worth of the thought or sentiment, there is
found in Mistral the essential gift of the poet, the power of
expression--of clothing in words that fully embody the meaning, and seem
to sing, in spontaneous musical flow, the inner inspiration. He is
superior to the other poets of the Félibrige, not only in the energy,
the vitality of his personality, and in the fertility of his ideas, but
also in this great gift of language. Even if he creates his vocabulary
as he goes along, somewhat after the fashion of Ronsard and the
_Pléiade_, he does this in strict accordance with the genius of his
dialect, fortunately for him, untrammelled by traditions, and, what is
significant, he does it acceptably. He is the master. His fellow-poets
proclaim and acclaim his supremacy. No one who has penetrated to any
degree into the genius of the Romance languages can fail to agree that
in this point exists a master of one of its forms.



The peculiar qualities and limitations of Mistral are possibly nowhere
better evidenced than in this play. Full of charming passages,
frequently eloquent, here and there very poetic, it is scarcely
dramatic, and certainly not a tragedy either of the French or the
Shakespearian type. The most striking lines, the most eloquent tirades,
arise less from the exigences of the drama than from the constant desire
of the poet to give expression to his love of Provence. The attention of
the reader is diverted at every turn from the adventures of the persons
in the play to the glories and the beauties of the lovely land in which
our poet was born. The matter of a play is certainly contained in the
subject, but the energy of the author has not been spent upon the
invention of strong situations, upon the clash of wills, upon the
psychology of his characters, upon the interplay of passions, but rather
upon strengthening in the hearts of his Provençal hearers the love of
the good Queen Joanna, whose life has some of the romance of that of
Mary, Queen of Scots, and upon letting them hear from her lips and from
the lips of her courtiers the praises of Provence.

Mistral enumerates eight dramatic works treating the life of his
heroine. They are a tragedy in five acts and a verse by Magnon (Paris,
1656), called _Jeanne Ire, reine de Naples_; a tragedy in five acts and
in verse by Laharpe, produced in 1781, entitled, _Jeanne de Naples_; an
opéra-comique in three acts, the book by De Leuven and Brunswick, the
music by Monpon and Bordèse, produced in 1840; an Italian tragedy, _La
Regina Griovanna_, by the Marquis of Casanova, written about 1840; an
Italian opera, the libretto by Ghislanzoni, who is known as the
librettist of _Aïda_, the music by Petrella (Milan, 1875); a play in
verse by Brunetti, called _Griovanna I di Napoli_ (Naples, 1881); a
Hungarian play by Rakosi, _Johanna es Endre_, and lastly the trilogy of
Walter Savage Landor, _Andrea of Hungary_, _Griovanna of Naples_, and
_Fra Rupert_ (London, 1853). Mistral's play is dated May, 1890.

It may be said concerning the work of Landor, which is a poem in
dramatic form rather than a play, that it offers scarcely any points of
resemblance with Mistral's beyond the few essential facts in the lives
of Andrea and Joanna. Both poets take for granted the innocence of the
Queen. It is worth noting that Provence is but once referred to in the
entire work of the English poet.

The introduction that precedes Mistral's play quotes the account of the
life of the Queen from the _Dictionnaire_ of Moréri (Lyons, 1681), which
we here translate.

"Giovanna, first of the name, Queen of Jerusalem, Naples, and Sicily,
Duchess of Apulia and Calabria, Countess of Provence, etc., was a
daughter of Charles of Sicily, Duke of Calabria, who died in 1328,
before his father Robert, and of Marie of Valois, his second wife. She
was only nineteen years of age when she assumed the government of her
dominions after her grandfather's death in 1343. She had already been
married by him to his nephew, Andrea of Hungary. This was not a happy
marriage; for the inclinations of both were extremely contrary, and the
prince was controlled by a Franciscan monk named Robert, and the
princess by a washerwoman called Filippa Catenese. These indiscreet
advisers brought matters to extremes, so that Andrea was strangled in
1345. The disinterested historians state ingenuously that Joanna was not
guilty of this crime, although the others accuse her of it. She married
again, on the 2d of August, 1346. Her second husband was Louis of
Tarento, her cousin; and she was obliged to leave Naples to avoid the
armed attack of Louis, King of Hungary, who committed acts of extreme
violence in this state. Joanna, however, quieted all these things by her
prudence, and after losing this second husband, on the 25th of March,
1362, she married not long afterward a third, James of Aragon, Prince of
Majorca, who, however, tarried not long with her. So seeing herself a
widow for the third time, she made a fourth match in 1376 with Otto of
Brunswick, of the House of Saxony; and as she had no children, she
adopted a relative, Charles of Duras.... This ungrateful prince revolted
against Queen Joanna, his benefactress.... He captured Naples, and laid
siege to the Castello Nuovo, where the Queen was. She surrendered.
Charles of Duras had her taken to Muro, in the Basilicata, and had her
put to death seven or eight months afterward. She was then in her
fifty-eighth year.... Some authors say that he caused her to be
smothered, others that she was strangled; but the more probable view is
that she was beheaded, in 1382, on the 5th of May. It is said that a
Provençal astrologer, doubtless a certain Anselme who lived at that
time, and who is very famous in the history of Provence, being
questioned as to the future husband of the young princess, replied,
'Maritabitur cum ALIO.' This word is composed of the initials of the
names of her four husbands, Andrea, Louis, James, and Otto. This
princess, furthermore, was exceedingly clever, fond of the sciences and
of men of learning, of whom she had a great many at her court, liberal
and beautiful, prudent, wise, and not lacking in piety. She it is that
sold Avignon to the popes. Boccaccio, Balde, and other scholars of her
time speak of her with praise."

In offering an explanation of the great popularity enjoyed by Joanna of
Naples among the people of Provence, the poet does not hesitate to
acknowledge that along with her beauty, her personal charm, her
brilliant arrival on the gorgeous galley at the court of Clement VI,
whither she came, eloquent and proud, to exculpate herself, her long
reign and its vicissitudes, her generous efforts to reform abuses, must
be counted also the grewsome procession of her four husbands; and this
popularity, he says, is still alive, after five centuries. The poet
places her among such historic figures as Caius Marius, Ossian, King
Arthur, Count Raymond of Toulouse, the good King René, Anne of Brittany,
Roland, the Cid, to which the popular mind has attached heroic legends,
race traditions, and mysterious monuments. The people of Provence still
look back upon the days of their independence when she reigned, a sort
of good fairy, as the good old times of Queen Joanna. Countless castles,
bridges, churches, monuments, testify to her life among this
enthusiastic people. Roads and ruins, towers and aqueducts, bear her
name. Proverbs exist wherein it is preserved. "For us," says Mistral,
"the fair Joanna is what Mary Stuart is for the Scotch,--a mirage of
retrospective love, a regret of youth, of nationality, of poetry passed
away. And analogies are not lacking in the lives of the two royal,
tragic enchantresses." Petrarch, speaking of her and her young husband
surrounded by Hungarians, refers to them as two lambs among wolves. In a
letter dated from Vancluse, August, 1346, he deplores the death of the
King, but makes no allusion to the complicity of the Queen.

Boccaccio proclaims her the special pride of Italy, so gracious, gentle,
and kindly, that she seemed rather the companion than the queen of her

Our author cites likewise some of her accusers, and considers most of
the current sayings against her as apocryphal. Some of these will not
bear quotation in English. Mistral evidently wishes to believe her
innocent, and he makes out a pretty good case. He approves the remark of
Scipione Ammirato, that she contracted four successive marriages through
a desire to have direct heirs. Another notices that had she been
dissolute, she would have preferred the liberty of remaining a widow.
The poet cites Pope Innocent VI, who gave her the golden rose, and sets
great store upon the expression of Saint Catherine of Siena, who calls
her "Venerabile madre in Gesù Cristo," and he concludes by saying, "We
prefer to concur in the judgment of the good Giannone (1676-1748), which
so well agrees with our traditions."

The first act opens with a picture that might tempt a painter of Italian
scenes. The Queen and her gay court are seated on the lawn of the palace
garden at Naples, overlooking the bay and islands. At the very outset we
hear of the Gai Savoir, and the Queen utters the essentially Provençal
sentiment that "the chief glory the world should strive for is light,
for joy and love are the children of the sun, and art and literature the
great torches." She calls upon Anfan of Sisteron to speak to her of her
Provence, "the land of God, of song and youth, the finest jewel in her
crown," and Anfan, in long and eloquent tirades, tells of Toulouse and
Nice and the Isles of Gold, reviews the settling of the Greeks, the
domination of the Romans, and the sojourn of the Saracens; Aix and
Arles, les Baux, Toulon, are glorified again; we hear of the old
liberties of these towns where men sleep, sing, and shout, and of the
magnificence of the papal court at Avignon.

    "Enfin, en Avignoun, i'a lou papo! grandour
    Poudé, magnificènci, e poumpo e resplendour,
    Que mestrejon la terro e fan, sènso messorgo,
    Boufa l'alen de Diéu i ribo de la Sorgo."

     Lastly, in Avignon, there's the Pope! greatness, power,
     magnificence, pomp, and splendor, dominating the earth, and without
     exaggeration, causing the breath of God to blow upon the banks of
     the Sorgue.

We learn that the brilliancy and animation of the court at Avignon
outshine the glories of Rome, and in language that fairly glitters with
its high-sounding, highly colored words. We hear of Petrarch and Laura,
and the associations of Vaucluse.

At this juncture the Prince arrives, and is struck by the resemblance of
the scene to a court of love; he wonders if they are not discussing the
question whether love is not drowned in the nuptial holy water font, or
whether the lady inspires the lover as much with her presence as when
absent. And the Queen defends her mode of life and temperament; she
cannot brook the cold and gloomy ways of the north. Were we to apply
the methods of Voltaire's strictures of Corneille to this play, it might
be interesting to see how many _vers de comédie_ could be found in these
scenes of dispute between the prince consort and his light-hearted wife.

    "A l'avans! zóu! en fèsto arrouinas lou Tresor!"

    Go ahead! that's right, ruin the treasury with your feasts!

and to his objections to so many flattering courtiers, the Queen

    "Voulès que moun palais devèngue un mounastié?"

    Do you want my palace to become a monastery?

Joanna replies nobly and eloquently to the threats of her husband to
assume mastery over her by violent means, and, in spite of the
anachronism (the poet makes her use and seemingly invent the term
_Renascence_), her defence of the arts and science of her time is
forceful and enthusiastic, and carries the reader along. That this sort
of eloquence is dramatic, appears, however, rather doubtful.

The next scene interests us more directly in the characters before us.
The Prince, left alone with his confidant, Fra Rupert, gives expression
to his passionate love for the Queen, and pours forth the bitterness of
his soul to see it unrequited. The fierce Hungarian monk denounces,
rather justly, it appears to us, the license and levity of the Italian
court, and incites Andrea to an appeal to the Pope, "a potentate that
has no army, whose dominion extends from pole to pole, who binds and
unbinds at his will, upholds, makes, or unmakes thrones as an almighty

But Andrea fears the Queen would never pardon him.

    "E se noun ai en plen lou mèu si caresso,
    L'empèri universal! m'es un gourg d'amaresso!"

    And if I have not fully the honey of her caresses
    The empire of the world is to me a gulf of bitterness.

Finally the monk and La Catanaise stand alone before us. This woman is
the Queen's nurse, who loves her with a fierce sort of passion, and it
is she who commits the crime that causes the play to be called a
tragedy. This final scene brings out a flood of the most violent
vituperation from this veritable virago, some of it exceedingly low in
tone. The friar leaves with the threat to have a red-hot nail run
through her hellish tongue, and La Catanaise, standing alone, gives
vent to her fury in threats of murder.

The next act reveals the Hall of Honor in the Castel-Nuovo at Naples.
Andrea in anger proclaims himself king, and in the presence of the Queen
and the Italian courtiers gives away one after another all the offices
and honors of the realm to his Hungarian followers. A conflict with
drawn swords is about to ensue, when the Queen rushes between the
would-be combatants, reminding them of the decree of the Pope; but
Andrea in fury accuses the Queen of conduct worthy a shameless
adventuress, and cites the reports that liken her to Semiramis in her
orgies. The Prince of Taranto throws down his glove to the enraged
Andrea, who replies by a threat to bring him to the executioner. The
Prince of Taranto answers that the executioner may be the supreme law
for a king,

    "Mai pèr un qu'a l'ounour dins lou piés e dins l'amo,
    Uno escorno, cousin, se purgo emé la lamo."

    But for one who has honor in his breast and his soul,
    An insult, cousin, is purged with the sword.

Andrea turns to his knights, and leaving the room with them points to
the flag bearing the block and axe as emblems. The partisans of Joanna
remain full of indignation. La Catanaise addresses them. The Sicilians,
she says, waste no time in words, but have a speedier method of
punishing a wrong, and she reminds them of the massacre at Palermo. The
Prince of Taranto discountenances the proposed crime, for the Queen's
fair name would suffer. But the fierce woman points to the flag. "Do you
see that axe hanging from a thread? You are all cowards! Let me act
alone." And the Prince nobly replies, "Philippine, battles are fought in
the sunlight; men of our renown, men of my stamp, do not crouch down in
the dark shadow of a plot." And the Catanaise again shows the flag. "Do
you see the axe falling upon the block?"

Joanna enters to offer the Prince her thanks for his chivalrous defence
of her fair name, and dismisses the other courtiers. The ensuing brief
scene between the Queen and the Prince is really very eloquent and very
beautiful. The Queen recalls the fact that she was married at nine to
Andrea, then only a child too; and she has never known love. The poorest
of the shepherdesses on the mountains of Calabria may quench her thirst
at the spring, but she, the Queen of the Sun, if to pass away the time,
or to have the appearance of happiness, she loves to listen to the echo
of song, to behold the joy and brilliancy of a noble fête, her very
smile becomes criminal. And the Prince reminds her that she is the
Provençal queen, and that in the great times of that people, if the
consort were king, love was a god, and he recalls the names of all the
ladies made famous by the Troubadours. Thereupon the Queen in an
outburst of enthusiasm truly Felibrean invokes the God of Love, the God
that slew Dido, and speaks in the spirit of the days of courtly love, "O
thou God of Love, hearken unto me. If my fatal beauty is destined sooner
or later to bring about my death, let this flame within me be, at least,
the pyre that shall kindle the song of the poet! Let my beauty be the
luminous star exalting men's hearts to lofty visions!"

The chivalrous Prince is dismissed, and Joanna is alone with, her
thoughts. The little page Dragonet sings outside a plaintive song with
the refrain:--

      "Que regrèt!
    Jamai digues toun secrèt."

      What regret!
    Never tell thy secret.

La Catanaise endeavors to excite the fears of the Queen, insinuating
that the Pope may give the crown to Andrea. Joanna has no fear.

"We shall have but to appear before the country with this splendor of
irresistible grace, and like the smoke borne away by the breeze,
suddenly my enemies shall disappear."

We may ask whether such self-praise comes gracefully from the Queen
herself, whether she might not be less conscious of her own charm. La
Catanaise is again alone on the scene, threatening. "The bow is drawn,
the hen setting." This last comparison, the reader will remark, would be
simply impossible as the termination of an act in a serious English
play. This last scene, too, is wofully weak and purposeless.

The conversation of three courtiers at the beginning of Act III apprises
us of the fact that the Pope has succeeded in bringing about a
reconciliation between the royal pair, and that they are both to be
crowned, and as a matter of precaution, the nurse Philippine, and the
monk Fra Rupert are to be sent upon their several ways. The scene is
next filled by the conspirators, La Catanaise directing the details of
the plots. It is made clear that the Queen is utterly ignorant of these
proceedings, which are after all useless; for we fail to see what valid
motive these plotters have to urge them on to their contemptible deed. A
brilliant banquet scene ensues, wherein Anfan of Sisteron sings a song
of seven stanzas about the fairy Mélusine, and seven times Dragonet
sings the refrain, "Sian de la raço di lesert" (We are of the race of
the lizards). And there are enthusiastic tirades in praise of the Queen
and of Provence, and all is merry. But Andrea spills salt upon the
table, which evil augury seems to be taken seriously. This little
episode is foolish, and unwrorthy of a tragedy. We are on the verge of
an assassination. Either the gloomy forebodings and the terror of the
event should be impressed upon us, or the exaggerated gayety and high
spirits of the revellers should by contrast make the coming event seem
more terrible; but the spilling of salt is utterly trivial. After the
feast La Catanaise and her daughter proceed to their devilish work, in
the room now lighted only by the pale rays of the moon, while the voice
of the screech-owl is heard outside. The trap is set for the King; he is
strangled just out of sight with the silken noose. The Queen is roused
by her nurse. The palace is in an uproar, and the act terminates with a
passionate demand for vengeance and justice on the part of Fra Rupert.

And now the Fourth Act. Here Mistral is in his element; here his love of
rocky landscapes, of azure seas and golden islands, of song and
festivity, finds full play. The tragedy is forgotten, the dramatic
action completely interrupted,--never mind. We accompany the Queen on
her splendid galley all the way from Naples to Marseilles. She leaves
amid the acclamations of the Neapolitans, recounts the splendors of the
beautiful bay, and promises to return "like the star of night coming out
of the mist, laurel in hand, on the white wings of her Provençal
galley." The boat starts, the rowers sing their plaintive rhythmic
songs, the Queen is enraptured by the beauty of the fleeing shores, the
white sail glistens in the glorious blue above. She is lulled by the
motion of the boat and the waving of the hangings of purple and gold.
Midway on her journey she receives a visit from the Infante of Majorca,
James of Aragon, who seems to be wandering over that part of the sea;
then the astrologer Anselme predicts her marriage with _Alio_ and her
death. She shall be visited with the sins of her ancestors; the blood
spilled by Charles of Anjou cries for vengeance. The Queen passes
through a moment of gloom. She dispels it, exclaiming: "Be it so, strike
where thou wilt, O fate, I am a queen; I shall fight, if need be, until
death, to uphold my cause and my womanly honor. If my wild planet is
destined to sink in a sea of blood and tears, the glittering trace I
shall leave on the earth will show at least that I was worthy to be thy
great queen, O brilliant Provence!"

She descends into the ship, and the rowers resume their song. Later we
arrive at Nice, where the Queen is received by an exultant throng. She
forgets the awful predictions and is utterly filled with delight. She
will visit all the cities where she is loved, her ambition is to see her
flag greeted all along the Mediterranean with shouts of joy and love.
She feels herself to be a Provençale. "Come, people, here I am; breathe
me in, drink me in! It is sweet to me to be yours, and sweet to please
you; and you may gaze in love and admiration upon me, for I am your

The journey is resumed. We pass the Isles of Gold, and the raptures are
renewed. At Marseilles the Queen is received by the Consuls, and swears
solemnly to respect all the rights, customs, and privileges of the land,
and the Consul exacts as the last oath that she swear to see that the
noble speech of Arles shall be maintained and spoken in the land of
Provence. The act closes with the sentiment, "May Provence triumph in
every way!"

The last act brings us to the great hall of the papal palace at Avignon,
where the Pope is to pronounce judgment upon the Queen. Fra Rupert,
disguised as a pilgrim, harangues the throng, and two Hungarian knights
are beaten in duel by Galéas of Mantua. This duel, with its alternate
cries of Dau! Dau! Tè! Tè! Zóu! Zóu! is difficult to take seriously and
reminds us of Tartarin. The Queen enters in conversation with Petrarch.
The Hungarian knights utter bitter accusations against the Queen, who
gives them in place of iron chains the golden chains about her neck,
whereupon the knights gallantly declare their hearts are won forever.
The doors open at the back and we see the papal court. Bertrand des
Baux gives a hideous account of the torture and death of those who had
a hand in the death of Andrea. The Queen makes a long speech, expressing
her deep grief at the calumnies and slander that beset her. The court
and people resolve themselves into a kind of opera chorus, expressing
their various sentiments in song. The Queen next reviews her life with
Andrea, and concludes:--

"And it seemed to me noble and worthy of a queen to melt with a glance
the cold of the frost, to make the almond tree blossom with a smile, to
be amiable to all, affable, generous, and lead my people with a thread
of wool! Yes, all the thought of my mad youth was to be loved and to
reign by the power of love. Who could have foretold that, afterward, on
the day of the great disaster, all this should be made a reproach
against me! that I should be accused, at the age of twenty, of
instigating an awful crime!"

And she breaks down weeping. The page, the people, the pilgrim, and the
astrologer again sing in a sort of operatic ensemble their various
emotions. The Pope absolves the Queen, the pilgrim denounces the verdict
furiously, and is put to death by Galéas of Mantua. So ends the play.

_La Rèino Jano_ is a pageant rather than a tragedy. It is full of song
and sunshine, glow and glitter. The characters all talk in the
exaggerated and exuberant style of Mistral, who is not dramatist enough
to create independent being, living before us. The central personage is
in no sense a tragic character. The fanatical Fra Rupert and the low,
vile-tongued Catanaise are not tragic characters. The psychology
throughout is decidedly upon the surface.

The author in his introduction warns us that to judge this play we must
place ourselves at the point of view of the Provençals, in whom many an
expression or allusion that leaves the ordinary reader or spectator
untouched, will possibly awaken, as he hopes, some particular emotion.
This is true of all his literature; the Provençal language, the
traditions, the memories of Provence, are the web and woof of it all.

It is interesting to note the impression made by the language upon a
Frenchman and a critic of the rank of Jules Lemaître. He says in
concluding his review of this play:--

"The language is too gay, it has too much sing-song, it is too
harmonious. It does not possess the rough gravity of the Spanish, and
has too few of the _i_'s and _e_'s that soften the sonority of the
Italian. I may venture to say it is too expressive, too full of
onomatopœia. Imagine a language, in which to say, "He bursts out
laughing," one must use the word _s'escacalasso_! There are too many
_on_'s and _oun_'s and too much _ts_ and _dz_ in the pronunciation. So
that the Provençal language, in spite of everything, keeps a certain
patois vulgarity. It forces the poet, so to say, to perpetual
song-making. It must be very difficult, in that language, to have an
individual style, still more difficult to express abstract ideas. But it
is a merry language."

The play has never yet been performed, and until a trial is made, one is
inclined to think it would not be effective, except as a spectacle. It
is curious that the Troubadours produced no dramatic literature
whatever, and that the same lack is found in the modern revival.

Aubanel's _Lou Pan dóu Pecat_ (The Bread of Sin), written in 1863, and
performed in 1878 at Montpellier, seems to have been successful, and
was played at Paris at the Théâtre Libre in 1888, in the
verse-translation made by Paul Arène. Aubanel wrote two other plays,
_Lou Pastre_, which is lost, and _Lou Raubatòn_, a work that must be
considered unfinished. Two plays, therefore, constitute the entire
dramatic production in the new language.




It would be idle to endeavor to determine whether Mistral is to be
classed as a great poet, or whether the Félibres have produced a great
literature, and nothing is defined when the statement is made that
Mistral is or is not a great poet. His genius may be said to be limited
geographically, for if from it were eliminated all that pertains
directly to Provence, the remainder would be almost nothing. The only
human nature known to the poet is the human nature of Provence, and
while it is perfectly true that a human being in Provence could be
typical of human nature in general, and arouse interest in all men
through his humanity common to all, the fact is, that Mistral has not
sought to express what is of universal interest, but has invariably
chosen to present human life in its Provençal aspects and from one point
of view only. A second limitation is found in the unvarying exteriority
of his method of presenting human nature. Never does he probe deeply
into the souls of his Provençals. Very vividly indeed does he reproduce
their words and gestures; but of the deeper under-currents, the inner
conflicts, the agonies of doubt and indecision, the bitterness of
disappointments, the lofty aspirations toward a higher inner life or a
closer communion with the universe, the moral problems that shake a
human soul, not a syllable. Nor is he a poet who pours out his own soul
into verse.

External nature is for him, again, nature as seen in Provence. The rocks
and trees, the fields and the streams, do not awaken in him a stir of
emotions because of their power to compel a mood in any responsive
poetic soul, but they excite him primarily as the rocks and trees, the
fields and streams of his native region. He is no mere word-painter.
Rarely do his descriptions appear to exist for their own sake. They
furnish a necessary, fitting, and delightful background to the action of
his poems. They are too often indications of what a Provençal ought to
consider admirable or wonderful, they are sometimes spoiled by the
poet's excessive partiality for his own little land. His work is ever
the work of a man with a mission.

There is no profound treatment of the theme of love. Each of the long
poems and his play have a love story as the centre of interest, but the
lovers are usually children, and their love utterly without
complications. There is everywhere a lovely purity, a delightful
simplicity, a straightforward naturalness that is very charming, but in
this theme as in the others, Mistral is incapable of tragic depths and
heights. So it is as regards the religious side of man's nature. The
poet's work is filled with allusions to religion; there are countless
legends concerning saints and hermits, descriptions of churches and the
papal palace, there is the detailed history of the conversion of
Provence to Christianity, but the deepest religious spirit is not his.
Only twice in all his work do we come upon a profounder religious sense,
in the second half of _Lou Prègo-Diéu_ and in _Lou Saume de la
Penitènci_. There is no doubt that Mistral is a believer, but religious
feeling has not a large place in his work; there are no other
meditations upon death and destiny.

And this _âme du Midi, spirit of Provence_, the genius of his race that
he has striven to express, what is it? How shall it be defined or
formulated? Alphonse Daudet, who knew it, and loved it, whose Parisian
life and world-wide success did not destroy in him the love of his
native Provence, who loved the very food of the Midi above all others,
and jumped up in joy when a southern intonation struck his ear, and who
was continually beset with longings to return to the beloved region, has
well defined it. He was the friend of Mistral and followed the poet's
efforts and achievements with deep and affectionate interest. It is not
difficult to see that the satire in the "Tartarin" series is not unkind,
nor is it untrue. Daudet approved of the Félibrige movement, though what
he himself wrote in Provençal is insignificant. He believed that the
national literature could be best vivified by those who most loved their
homes, that the best originality could thus be attained. He has

"The imagination of the southerners differs from that of the northerners
in that it does not mingle the different elements and forms in
literature, and remains lucid in its outbreaks. In our most complex
natures you never encounter the entanglement of directions, relations,
and figures that characterizes a Carlyle, a Browning, or a Poe. For this
reason the man of the north always finds fault with the man of the south
for his lack of depth and darkness.

"If we consider the most violent of human passions, love, we see that
the southerner makes it the great affair of his life, but does not allow
himself to become disorganized. He likes the talk that goes with it, its
lightness, its change. He hates the slavery of it. It furnishes a
pretext for serenades, fine speeches, light scoffing, caresses. He finds
it difficult to comprehend the joining together of love and death, which
lies in the northern nature, and casts a shade of melancholy upon these
brief delights."

Daudet notes the ease with which the southerner is carried away and
duped by the mirage of his own fancy, his semi-sincerity in excitement
and enthusiasm. He admired the natural eloquence of his Provençals. He
found a justification for their exaggerations.

"Is it right to accuse a man of lying, who is intoxicated with his own
eloquence, who, without evil intent, or love of deceit, or any instinct
of scheming or false trading, seeks to embellish his own life, and other
people's, with stories he knows to be illusions, but which he wishes
were true? Is Don Quixote a liar? Are all the poets deceivers who aim to
free us from realities, to go soaring off into space? After all, among
southerners, there is no deception. Each one, within himself, restores
things to their proper proportions."

Daudet had Mistral's love of the sunshine. He needed it to inspire him.
He believed it explained the southern nature.

Concerning the absence of metaphysics in the race he says:--

"These reasonings may culminate in a state of mind such as we see
extolled in Buddhism, a colorless state, joyless and painless, across
which the fleeting splendors of thought pass like stars. Well, the man
of the south cares naught for that sort of paradise. The vein of real
sensation is freely, perpetually open, open to life. The side that
pertains to abstraction, to logic, is lost in mist."

We have referred to the power of story-telling among the Provençals and
their responsiveness as listeners. Daudet mentions the contrast to be
observed between an audience of southerners and the stolid,
self-contained attitude of a crowd in the north.

The evil side of the southern temperament, the faults that accompany
these traits, are plainly stated by the great novelist. Enthusiasm turns
to hypocrisy, or brag; the love of what glitters, to a passion for
luxury at any cost; sociability, the desire to please, become weakness
and fulsome flattery. The orator beats his breast, his voice is hoarse,
choked with emotion, his tears flow conveniently, he appeals to
patriotism and the noblest sentiments. There is a legend, according to
Daudet, which says that when Mirabeau cried out, "We will not leave
unless driven out at the point of the bayonet," a voice off at one side
corrected the utterance, murmuring sarcastically, "And if the bayonets
come, we make tracks!"

The southerner, when he converses, is roused to animation readily. His
eye flashes, his words are uttered with strong intonations, the
impressiveness of a quiet, earnest, self-contained manner is unknown to

Daudet is a novelist and a humorist. Mistral is a poet; hence, although
he professes to aim at a full expression of the "soul of his Provence,"
there are many aspects of the Provençal nature that he has not touched
upon. He has omitted all the traits that lend themselves to satirical
treatment, and, although he is in many ways a remarkable realist, he has
very little dramatic power, and seems to lack the gift of searching
analysis of individual character. It is hardly fair to reckon it as a
shortcoming in the poet and apostle of Provence that he presents only
what is most beautiful in the life about him. The novelist offers us a
faithful and vivid image of the men of his own day. The poet glorifies
the past, clings to tradition, and exhorts his countrymen to return to

Essentially and above all else a conservative, Mistral has the gravest
doubts about so-called modern progress. Undoubtedly honest in desiring
the well-being of his fellow Provençals, he believes that this can be
preserved or attained only by a following of tradition. There must be no
breaking with the past. Daudet, late in life, adhered to this doctrine.
His son quotes him as saying:--

"I am following, with gladness, the results of the impulse Mistral has
given. Return to tradition! that is our salvation in the present going
to pieces. I have always felt this instinctively. It came to me clearly
only a few years ago. It is a bad thing to become wholly loosened from
the soil, to forget the village church spire. Curiously enough poetry
attaches only to objects that have come down to us, that have had long
use. What is called _progress_, a vague and very doubtful term, rouses
the lower parts of our intelligence. The higher parts vibrate the better
for what has moved and inspired a long series of imaginative minds,
inheriting each from a predecessor, strengthened by the sight of the
same landscapes, by the same perfumes, by the touch of the same
furniture, polished by wear. Very ancient impressions sink into the
depth of that obscure memory which we may call the _race-memory_, out of
which is woven the mass of individual memories."

Mistral is truly the poet of the Midi. One can best see how superior he
is as an artist in words by comparing him with the foremost of his
fellow-poets. He is a master of language. He has the eloquence, the
enthusiasm, the optimism of his race. His poetic earnestness saves his
tendency to exaggerate. His style, in all its superiority, is a southern
style, full of interjections, full of long, sonorous words. His thought,
his expressions, are ever lucid. His art is almost wholly objective. His
work has extraordinary unity, and therefore does not escape the monotony
that was unavoidable when the poet voluntarily limited himself to a
single purpose in life, and to treatment of the themes thereunto
pertaining. Believers in material progress, those who look for great
changes in political and social conditions, will turn from Mistral with
indifference. His contentment with present things, and his love of the
past, are likely to irritate them. Those who seek in a poet consolation
in the personal trials of life, a new message concerning human destiny,
a new note in the everlasting themes that the great poets have sung,
will be disappointed.

A word must be said of him as a writer of French. In the earlier years
he felt the weight of the Academy. He did not feel that French would
allow full freedom. He was scrupulous and timid. He soon shook off this
timidity and became a really remarkable wielder of the French tongue.
His translations of his own works have doubtless reached a far wider
public than the works themselves, and are certainly characterized by
great boldness, clearness, and an astonishingly large vocabulary.

His earlier work is clearly inspired by his love of Greek literature,
and those qualities in Latin literature wherein the Greek genius shines
through, possibly also by some mysterious affinity with the Greek spirit
resulting from climate or atavism. This never entirely left him. When
later he writes of Provence in the Middle Age, of the days of the
Troubadours, his manner does not change; his work offers no analogies
here with the French Romantic school.

No poet, it would seem, was ever so in love with his own language; no
artist ever so loved the mere material he was using. Mistral loves the
words he uses, he loves their sound, he loves to hear them from the lips
of those about him; he loves the intonations and the cadences of his
verse; his love is for the speech itself aside from any meaning it
conveys. A beautiful instrument it is indeed. Possibly nothing is more
peculiarly striking about him than this extreme enthusiasm for his
golden speech, his _lengo d'or_.

To him must be conceded the merit of originality, great originality. In
seeking the source of many of his conceptions, one is led to the
conclusion, and his own testimony bears it out, that they are the
creations of his own fancy. If there is much prosaic realism in the
_Poem of the Rhone_, the Prince and the Anglore are purely the children
of Mistral's almost naïve imagination, and Calendau and Esterello are
attached to the real world of history by the slenderest bonds. When we
seek for resemblances between his conceptions and those of other poets,
we can undoubtedly find them. Mireille now and then reminds of Daphnis
and Chloe, of Hermann and Dorothea, of Evangeline, but the differences
are far more in evidence than the resemblances. Esterello is in an
attitude toward Calendau not without analogy to that of Beatrice toward
Dante, but it would be impossible to find at any point the slightest
imitation of Dante. Some readers have been reminded of Faust in reading
_Nerto_, but beyond the scheme of the Devil to secure a woman's soul,
there is little similarity. Nothing could be more utterly without
philosophy than _Nerto_. Mistral has drawn his inspirations from within
himself; he has not worked over the poems and legends of former poets,
or sought much of his subject-matter in the productions of former ages.
He has not suffered from the deep reflection, the pondering, and the
doubt that destroy originality.

If Mistral had written his poems in French, he would certainly have
stood apart from the general line of French poets. It would have been
impossible to attach him to any of the so-called "schools" of poetry
that have followed one another during this century in France. He is as
unlike the Romantics as he is unlike the Parnassians. M. Brunetière
would find no difficulty in applying to his work the general epithet of
"social" that so well characterizes French literature considered in its
main current, for Mistral always sings to his fellow-men to move them,
to persuade them, to stir their hearts. Almost all of his poems in the
lyrical form show him as the spokesman of his fellows or as the leader
urging them to action. He is therefore not of the school of "Art for
Art's sake," but his art is consecrated to the cause he represents.

His thought is ever pure and high; his lessons are lessons of love, of
noble aims, of energy and enthusiasm. He is full of love for the best in
the past, love of his native soil, love of his native landscapes, love
of the men about him, love of his country. He is a poet of the "Gai
Saber," joyous and healthy, he has never felt a trace of the bitterness,
the disenchantment, the gloom and the pain of a Byron or a Leopardi. He
is eminently representative of the race he seeks to glorify in its own
eyes and in the world's, himself a type of that race at its very best,
with all its exuberance and energy, with its need of outward
manifestation, life and movement. An important place must be assigned to
him among those who have bodied forth their poetic conceptions in the
various euphonious forms of speech descended from the ancient speech of

In Provence, and far beyond its borders, he is known and loved. His
activity has not ceased. His voice is still heard, clear, strong,
hopeful, inspiring. _Mireille_ is sung in the ruined Roman theatre at
Aries, museums are founded to preserve Provençal art and antiquities,
the Felibrean feasts continue with unabated enthusiasm. Mistral's life
is a successful life; he has revived a language, created a literature,
inspired a people. So potent is art to-day in the old land of the
Troubadours. All the charm and beauty of that sunny land, all that is
enchanting in its past, all the best, in the ideal sense, that may be
hoped for in its future, is expressed in his musical, limpid, lovely
verse. Such a poet and such a leader of men is rare in the annals of
literature. Such complete oneness of purpose and of achievement is rare
among men.

[Footnote 17: See _Revue de Paris_, 15 avril, 1898.]


We offer here a literal prose translation of the _Psalm of Penitence_.



Lord, at last thy wrath hurleth its thunderbolts upon our foreheads, and
in the night our vessel strikes its prow against the rocks.

Lord, thou cuttest us down with the sword of the barbarian like fine
wheat, and not one of the cravens that we shielded comes to our defence.

Lord, thou twistest us like a willow wand, thou breakest down to-day all
our pride; there is none to envy us, who but yesterday were so proud.

Lord, our land goeth to ruin in war and strife; and if thou withhold thy
mercy, great and small will devour one another.

Lord, thou art terrible, thou strikest us upon the back; in awful
turmoil thou breakest our power, compelling us to confess past evil.


Lord, we had strayed away from the austerity of the old laws and ways.
Virtues, domestic customs, we had destroyed and demolished.

Lord, giving an evil example, and denying thee like the heathen, we had
one day closed up thy temples and mocked thy Holy Christ.

Lord, leaving behind us thy sacraments and commandments, we had brutally
lost belief in all but self-interest and progress!

Lord, in the waste heavens we have clouded thy light with our smoke, and
to-day the sons mock the nakedness and purity of their fathers.

Lord, we have blown upon thy Bible with the breath of false knowledge;
and holding ourselves up like the poplar trees, we wretched beings have
declared ourselves gods.

Lord, we have left the furrow, we have trampled all respect under foot;
and with the heavy wine that intoxicates us we defile the innocent.


Lord, we are thy prodigal children, but we are thy Christians of old;
let thy justice chastise us, but give us not over unto death.

Lord, in the name of so many brave men, who went forth fearless,
valiant, docile, grave, and then fell in battle;

Lord, in the name of so many mothers, who are about to pray to God for
their sons, and who next year, alas! and the year thereafter, shall see
them no more;

Lord, in the name of so many women who have at their bosoms a little
child, and who, poor creatures, moisten the earth and the sheets of
their beds with tears;

Lord, in the name of the poor, in the name of the strong, in the name of
the dead who shall die for their country, their duty, and their faith;

Lord, for so many defeats, so many tears and woes, for so many towns
ravaged, for so much brave, holy blood;

Lord, for so many adversities, for so much mourning throughout our
France, for so many insults upon our heads;


Lord, disarm thy justice. Cast down thine eye upon us, and heed the
cries of the bruised and wounded!

Lord, if the rebellious cities, through their luxury and folly, have
overturned the scale-pan of thy balance, resisting and denying thee;

Lord, before the breath of the Alps, that praiseth God winter and
summer, all the trees of the fields, obedient, bow together;

Lord, France and Provence have sinned only through forgetfulness; do
thou forgive us our offences, for we repent of the evil of former days.

Lord, we desire to become men, thou canst set us free. We are
Gallo-Romans, and of noble race, and we walk upright in our land.

Lord, we are not the cause of the evil, send down upon us a ray of
peace. Lord, help our cause, and we shall live again and love thee.


M. Pierre Devoluy, of the town of Die, was elected at Arles, in April,
1901. The Consistory was presided over by Mistral.


The following list contains the most important works that have been
published concerning Mistral and the Félibrige. Numerous articles have
appeared in nearly all the languages of Europe in various magazines. Of
these only such are mentioned as seem worthy of special notice.



JANVIER, THOMAS A., Numerous articles in the Century Magazine, New York,
      1893, and following years.

  _An Embassy to Provence_. New York, 1893.

PRESTON, HARRIETT, _Mistral's Calendau_. The Atlantic Monthly, New
      York, 1874.

  _Aubanel's Miòugrano entreduberto_. The Atlantic Monthly, New
      York, 1874.


CRAIG, DUNCAN, _Miéjour Provençal Legend, Life, Language, and
      Literature_. London.

  _The Handbook of the Modern Provençal Language_.

CROMBIE, J.W., _The Poets and Peoples of Foreign Lands: Frédéric
      Mistral_. Elliot, London, 1890.

HARTOG, CECIL, _Poets of Provence_. London Contemporary Review, 1894.


BOISSIN, FIRMIN, _Le Midi littéraire contemporain_. Douladoure,
      Toulouse, 1887.

DE BOUCHAUD, _Roumanille et le Félibrige_. Mougin, Lyons, 1896.

BRUN, C., _L'Evolution félibréenne_. Paquet, Lyons, 1896.

DONNADIEU, F., _Les Précurseurs des Félibres_. Quantin, Paris, 1888.

HENNION, C., _Les Fleurs félibresques_. Paris, 1893.

JOURDANNE, G., _Histoire du Félibrige_. Roumanille, Avignon, 1897.

LINTILHAC, E., _Les Félibres à travers leur monde et leur poésie_.
      Lemerre, Paris, 1895.

  _Précis de la littérature française_. Paris, 1890.

LEGRÉ, L., _Le Poète Théodore Aubanel_. Paris, 1894.

MARGON, A. DE, _Les Précurseurs des Félibres_. Béziers, 1891.

MARIÉTON, PAUL, _La Terre provençale_. Lemerre, Paris, 1894.

  Article _Félibrige_ in the _Grande Encyclopédie_.

  Article _Mistral_ in the _Grande Encyclopédie_.

MICHEL, S., _La Petite Patrie_. Roumanille, Avignon, 1894.

NOULET, B., _Essai sur l'histoire littéraire des patois du midi de la
      France, aux VIIIe siécle_. Montpellier, 1877.

PARIS, GASTON, _Penseurs et poètes_. Calmann-Lévy, Paris, 1896.

RESTORI, _Histoire de la littérature provençale depuis les temps les
      plus reculés jusqu'à nos jours_. Montpellier, 1895. (Translated
      from the Italian.)

ROQUE-FERRIER, A., _Mélanges de critique littéraire et de philologie_.
      Montpellier, 1892.

SAINT-RENÉ-TAILLANDIER, V., _Etudes littéraires_. Plon et Cie,
      Paris, 1881.

TAVERNIER, E., _La Renaissance provençale et Roumanille_. Gervais,
      Paris, 1884.

  _Le mouvement littéraire provençal et Lis Isclo d'Or de Frédéric
      Mistral_. Aix, 1876.

DE TERRIS, J., _Roumanille et la littérature provençale_. Blond,
      Paris, 1894.

DE VINAC, M., _Les Félibres_. Richaud, Gap, 1882.


BÖHMER, E., _Die provenzalische Dichtung der Gegenwart_.
      Heilbronn, 1870.

KOSCHWITZ, E., _Ueber die provenzalischen Feliber und ihre Vorgänger_.
      Berlin, 1894.

  _Grammaire historique de la langue des Félibres_. Greifswald and
      Paris, 1894.

  A study of Bertuch's translation of Nerto in the _Litteraturblatt für
      germanische und romanische Philologie_. 1892.

  A study of Provençal phonetics with a translation of the _Cant dóu
      Soulèu. Sonderabdruck aus der Zeitschrift für französische Sprache
      und Litteratur_. Berlin, 1893.

SCHNEIDER, B., _Bemerkungen zur litterarischen Bewegung auf
      neuprovenzalischem Sprachgebiete_. Berlin, 1887.

WELTER, N., _Frederi Mistral, der Dichter der Provence_.
      Marburg, 1899.[18]


LICER, MARIA, _I Felibri_, in the _Roma letteraria_. June, 1893.

PORTAL, E., _Appunti letterari: Sulla poesia provenzale_. Pedone,
      Palermo, 1890.

  _La Letteratura provenzale moderna_. Reber, Palermo, 1893.

  _Scritti vari di letteratura classica provenzale moderna_. Reber,
      Palermo, 1895.

RESTORI, A., _Letteratura provenzale_. Hoepli, Milan, 1892.

ZUCCARO, L., _Un avvenimento letterario; Mistral tragico in the Scena
      illustrata_. Florence, 1891.

  _Il Felibrigio, rinascimento delle lettere provenzali, Concordia_.
      Novara, 1892.


TUBINO, _Historia del renacimiento literario contemporaneo en Cataluña,
      Baleares y Valencia_. Madrid, 1881.


Mirèio. 1859.

Calendau. Avignon, 1867. Paris, Lemerre, 1887.

Lis Isclo d'Or. 1876.

Nerto. Hachette, Paris, 1884.

Lou Tresor dóu Fébrige. Aix, 1886.

La Rèino Jano. Lemerre, Paris, 1890.

Lou Pouèmo dóu Rose. Lemerre, Paris, 1897.


H. GRANT, _An English Version of F. Mistral's Mirèio from the Original
      Provençal_. London.

HARRIETT PRESTON, _Mistral's Mirèio. A Provençal Poem Translated_.
      Roberts Bros., Boston, 1872. Second edition, 1891.

A. BERTUCH, _Der Trommler von Arcole_. Deutsche Dichtung, Dresden, 1890.

  _Nerto_. Trübner, Strassburg, 1890.

  _Mirèio_. Trübner, Strassburg, 1892.

  _Espouscado_. Zeitschrift für französische Sprache und Litteratur,
      XV2, p. 267.

HENNION, _Mireille_. Traduction en vers français.

E. RIGAUD, _Mireille_. Metrical translation into French, with the
      original form of stanza.

JAROSLAV VRCHLICHKY. Translation of several poems of Mistral into
      Bohemian, under the title, _Z básni Mistralovych_, in the Review,
      _Kvety_. Prague, 1886.

  _Hostem u Basniku_. Prague, 1891. Contains seven poems by Aubanel and
      thirteen by Mistral.

DOM SIGISMOND BOUSKA, _Le Tambour d'Arcole_, in the Review, _Lumir_.
      Prague, 1893.

  Cantos IV and V of _Mirèio_, in the Review, _Vlast_. Prague, 1894.

PELAY BOIZ, _Mirèio_, in Catalan.

ROCA Y ROCA, _Calendau_. Lo Gay Saber, Barcelona, 1868.

C. BARALLAT Y FALGUERA, _Mireya, poema provenzal de Frederico Mistral
      puesto en prosa española_.

MARIA LICER, _L'Angelo_ (Canto VI of _Nerto_). Italian. Iride,
      Casal, 1889.

A. NAUM, _Traduceri_. Jassy, 1891. (Translation into Rumanian of
      Canto IV of _Mirèio_, _The Song of Magali_, and _The Drummer
      of Arcole_.)

T. CANNIZZARO, _La Venere d'Arli_, in _Vita Intima_. Milan, 1891.

[Footnote 18: The present work was completed in manuscript before the
reception of Welter's book.]


Aasen, Ivan, 94.
Alexandrine verse, 78, 89.
Alpilles, 11.
Amiradou, 76, 196.
Arène, Paul, 21, 234.
Ariosto, 20, 151.
Armana prouvençau, 17, 28.
Aubanel, Théodore, 15, 17, 21, 36, 88, 233.
Aucassin and Nicolette, 170.

Balageur, Victor, 31, 32.
Bello d'Avoust, 184.
Berluc-Pérussis, 33.
Boileau, 102.
Bonaparte-Wyse, 31, 33.
Bornier, Henri de, 33.
Bréal, Michel, 34, 72.
Brunet, Jean, 16.
Brunetière, 79, 249.
Byron, 250.

Calendau, 18, 79, 127.
Capoulié, 19, 35, 36.
Catalans, 31.
Cigale. Société de la, 20, 33.
Countess, the, 199.
Cup, 31, 32, 190.

Dante, 40, 73, 130, 133, 160, 248.
Darmesteter, 41.
Daudet, 9, 21, 69, 152, 240 _seq._
Dictionary of the Provençal language, 20, 92.
Drac, 165 _seq._
Drummer of Arcole, 78, 204.

Espouscado, 194.
Evangeline, 122.

Faust, 248.
Félibre, 5, 27.
Félibrige, 24 _seq._
Félibrige de Paris, 16, 20, 33.
Félibrige, foundation of, 15.
Félibrige organized, 19, 34.
Fin dón Meissounié, 186.
Floral games, 20, 32, 35.
Font-Ségugne, 17.
Fourès Auguste, 37.

Garcin, Eugène, 15.
Giéra, Paul, 15.
Goethe, 123.
Gounod, 18.
Gras, Félix, 36, 37, 38.
Grévy, 20.

Homer, 13, 123.
Hugo, Victor, 79, 138, 181, 203.

Isclo d'Or, 19, 181.

Janvier, Mrs. Thomas A., 38.
Jasmin, 6, 14, 29, 43, 73, 193.
Jeanroy, 27.
Jourdanne, 24, 37.

Koschwitz, 49.

Lamartine, 17, 29, 103, 130, 181, 182, 183, 204.
Landor, Walter Savage, 213, 214.
Latin race, 30, 191, 193.
Legouvé, 20.
Lemaître, Jules, 232.
Leopardi, 250.
Lintilhac, Eugène, 72.
Littré, 94.
Longfellow, 6.

Maillane, 10, 12.
Marot, 81.
Mary, Queen of Scots, 213, 217.
Mas, 11.
Mathieu, Anselme, 13, 16, 21, 26.
Meissoun, 14.
Meyer, Paul, 33.
Mila y Fontanals, 34.
Mirabeau, 131, 243.
Mirèio, 12, 17, 28, 79, 99.
Mistral's marriage, 19.
Mistral's Memoirs, 21.
Mont-Ventoux, 148.
Museum of Arles, 21.
Musset, 181.

Napoleon, 164.
Nerto, 20, 151.
Noulet, 43.

Paris, Gaston, 34, 69,115.
Petrarch, 18, 19, 33, 34, 36, 73, 148, 220.
Poem of the Rhone, 21, 76, 89, 159.
Political separatism, 15.
Prègo-Diéu 84, 204, 205 _seq._, 239.
Provençal language, 43, 191 _seq._
Psalm of Penitence, 84, 182, 200 _seq._, 239, 253.

Queens of the Félibrige, 36.

Rèino Jano, 21, 89, 212.
Rock of Sisyphus, 193, 208.
Ronsard, 211.
Roumanille, 7, 9, 14, 15, 17, 21, 26, 30, 36, 70.

Saboly, 6.
Sainte-Beuve, 6.
Saint-Rémy, 7, 10.
Simon de Montfort, 37.
Songs, 189.
Sonnets of Mistral, 86.

Tartarin, 69, 230, 240.
Tavan, Alphonse, 15,
Translation, 87, 89, 178, 247.
Tresor dón Felibrige, 20, 92.
Troubadours, 40, 44, 87, 112, 132, 147, 225, 251.

Versification, 75.
Villemain, 29.
Virgil, 13.
Voltaire, 221.

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