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Title: Romantic Cities of Provence
Author: Caird, Mona
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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ROMANTIC CITIES OF PROVENCE


[Illustration: CLOISTERS OF ST. TROPHINE, ARLES.
_By E. M. Synge._]


ROMANTIC CITIES OF PROVENCE

by

MONA CAIRD

Illustrated from Sketches by
Joseph Pennell and Edward M. Synge



New York: Charles Scribner's Sons
London: T. Fisher Unwin



   TO
   MARGUERITE HAMILTON SYNGE


[All rights reserved.]



Preface


This volume can hardly be said to have been written: it came about. The
little tour in the South of France which is responsible for its existence,
happened some years ago, and was undertaken for various reasons, health
and rest among others, and the very last idea which served as a motive
for the journey was that of writing about the country whose history is
so voluminous and so incalculably ancient. Nobody but a historian and a
scholar already deeply versed in the subject could dream of attempting
to treat it in any serious or complete fashion. But this fact did
not prevent the country from instantly making a profound and singular
to be thus stirred. The vividness of the impression, therefore, was not
to be accounted for by associations of facts and scenes already formed
in the imagination. True, many an incident of history and romance now
found its scene and background, but before these corresponding parts
of the puzzle had been fitted together the potent charm had penetrated,
giving that strange, baffling sense of home-coming which certain lands
and places have for certain minds, remaining for ever mysterious, yet
for ever familiar as some haunt of early childhood.

An experience of that sort will not, as a rule, allow itself to be set
aside. It works and troubles and urges, until, sooner or later, some
form of transmutation must take place, some condensing into form of the
formless, some passing of impulse into expression, be it what it may.

And thus the first stray notes and sketches were made without ultimate
intention. But the charm imposed itself, and the notes grew and grew.
Then a more definite curiosity awoke and gradually the scene widened:
history and imagination took sisterly hands and whispered suggestions,
explanations of the secret of the extraordinary magic, till finally the
desultory sketches began to demand something of order in their undrilled
ranks. The real toil then began.

The subject, once touched upon, however slightly, is so unendingly
vast and many-sided, so entangled with scholarly controversy, that the
few words possible to say in a volume of this kind seem but to cause
obscurity, and worst of all, to falsify the general balance of impression
because of the innumerable other things that must perforce be left
unsaid. An uneasy struggle is set up in the mind to avoid, if possible,
that most fatal sort of misrepresentation, viz., that which contains a
certain proportion of truth.

And how to choose among varying accounts and theories, one contradicting
the other? Authorities differ on important points as radically and as
surely as they differ about the spelling of the names of persons and
places. There is conflict even as to the names in use at the present
day, as, for instance, the little mountain range of the Alpilles, which
some writers persistently spell _Alpines_, out of pure pigheadedness or
desire to make themselves conspicuous, as it seems to the weary seeker
after textual consistency. Where doctors disagree what can one do who is
not a doctor, but try to give a general impression of the whole matter
and leave the rest to the gods?

As for dates----!

Now there are two things with which no one who has not been marked out by
Providence by a special and triumphant gift ought to dream of attempting
to deal, namely, dates and keys--between which evanescent, elusive and
fundamentally absurd entities there is a subtle and deep-seated affinity.
If meddled with at all, they must be treated in a large spirit: no
meticulous analysis; no pursuit of a pettifogging date sharpening the
point of accuracy down to a paltry twelve months. And correspondingly,
as regards the smaller kind of keys, no one who values length of days
should ever touch them! They are the vehicles of demoniac powers. Of
course the good, quiet, well-developed cellar or stable-door key is
another matter; and thus (to pursue the parallel) dates can be dealt with
in a broadly synthetic fashion, in centuries and group of centuries, so
that while the author gains in peace of mind, the reader is spared the
painful experience of being stalked and hunted from page to page, and
confronted round every corner by quartets of dreary figures, minutely
defining moments of time which are about as much to him as they are to
Hecuba!

The chronology in this volume, therefore, may be described as frugal
rather than generous in character, but what there is of it is handled
in the "grand manner."

Such, then, is the history of the volume which still retains the character
of its irregular origin. Historically it attempts nothing but the roughest
outline of the salient points of the story about which a traveller
interested in the subject at all is at once curious for information.
The one thing on which it lays stress is the quality of the country as
distinguished from its outward features. For to many (for example, to
our severe critic whose impressions are recorded in Chapter III.) these
external features are devoid of all attraction. It is necessary to keep
this fact in mind.

A wide plain bounded by mountains of moderate height and an insignificant
chain of bare limestone hills (the Alpilles); cities ancient indeed, but
small, shabby, not too clean, with dingy old hotels, and no particular
advantages of situation--such a description of Provence would be accurate
for those who are not among its enthusiasts. To traverse the country
in an express train, especially with the eyes still full of the more
obvious beauties of the Pyrenees and the Alps, is to see all the wonder
of the land of the troubadours reduced to the mere flatness of a map.
In a few minutes the "rapide" had darted past some of its most ancient
and romantic cities--quiet and simple they stand, merged into the very
soil, with no large or striking features to catch the eye; only a patch
of grey masonry in the landscape and a few towers upon the horizon,
easily missed in the quick rush of the train.

A deeper sound in the rumble of the flying wheels for a couple of minutes
announces the crossing of some river: long stretches of waste land,
covered for miles and miles with sunburnt stones, and again stretches
of country, low-lying, God-forsaken, scarcely cultivated, with a few
stunted, melancholy trees, a farmstead on the outskirts here and there:
these are the "features of the country," as they might be described
without departure from bare, literal, all-deceiving fact.

How many travellers of the thousands who pass along this line every year
are interested in such a scene or guess its profound and multitudinous
experiences? How many realise as they rattle past, that in this arid land
of the vine and the cypress were born and fostered the sentiments, the
unwritten laws and traditions on which is built all that we understand
by civilised life? How many say to themselves as they pass: "But for
the men and women who dreamt and sang and suffered in this Cradle of
Chivalry, the world that I live in would never have been born, the
thoughts I think and the emotions to which I am heir would never have
arisen out of the darkness?"

But, indeed, the strange, many-sided country gives little aid or
suggestion for such realisations: it has reticently covered itself with
a mantle; it seems to crouch down out of sight while the monster engine
thunders by with its freight of preoccupied passengers.

A bare, flat, sun-scorched land.

Yes, these are the "facts," but ah! how different from the magic truth!

With facts, therefore, this volume has only incidentally to do. It
is a "true and veracious history," but by no means a literal one. As
to the mere accidents of travel, these are treated lightly. Exactly
in which order the cities were visited no reader need count upon
certainly knowing--and indeed it concerns him nothing--when and where
the observations were made by "Barbara," or the "severe critic," or the
landlady of the Hotel de Provence and so forth, the following pages may
or may not accurately inform him (with the exception, indeed, of the
curious, self-revelation of Raphael of Tarascon, which is given almost
word for word as it occurred, for here accident and essence chanced to
coincide); but he may be sure that though Barbara possibly did not speak
or act as represented then and there, she did or might have so spoken
or acted elsewhere and at another time. The irrelevancies of chance and
incident have been ignored in the interests of the essential. Barbara
may not recognise all her observations when she sees them. _Tant pis
pour Barbara!_ They are true in the spirit if not in the letter. And so
throughout.

From the moment that the original "notes" began to be written, the one and
sole impulse and desire has been to suggest, to hint to the imagination
that which can never be really told of the poetry, the idealism, the
glory, the sadness, and the great joy of this wondrous land of Sun and
Wind and Dream.



Contents


                                                                  PAGE

     PREFACE                                                         7


     CHAPTER

     I. THE SPELL OF PROVENCE                                       17

     II. AVIGNON                                                    29

     III. A SEVERE CRITIC--UZÈS AND BARBENTANE                      49

     IV. PETRARCH AND LAURA                                         67

     V. THE CITIES OF THE LAGOONS                                   81

     VI. THE BIRTH OF CHIVALRY                                      93

     VII. THE GAY SCIENCE                                          111

     VIII. ORANGE AND MARTIGUES                                    131

     IX. ROMANTIC LOVE                                             143

     X. ARLES                                                      159

     XI. SONG, DANCE, AND LEGEND                                   171

     XII. TARASCON                                                 189

     XIII. THE PONT DU GARD                                        209

     XIV. A HUMAN DOCUMENT                                         219

     XV. BEAUCAIRE AND ITS LOVE-STORY                              229

     XVI. CARCASSONNE, THE ALBIGENSES AND PIERRE VIDAL             241

     XVII. MAGUELONNE                                              261

     XVIII. THE SPIRIT OF THE WILDERNESS                           269

     XIX. ROSES OF PROVENCE                                        283

     XX. AN INN PARLOUR                                            295

     XXI. LES BAUX                                                 307

     XXII. RAIMBAUT DE VACQUEIRAS AND GUILHELM DES
           BAUX                                                    321

     XXIII. THE SORCERESS OF THE ALPILLES                          335

     XXIV. ACROSS THE AGES                                         349

     XXV. THE SONG OF THE RHONE                                    373

     XXVI. THE CAMARGUE                                            385

     XXVII. "ARTISTS IN HAPPINESS"                                 401



List of Illustrations


     CLOISTERS OF ST. TROPHINE, ARLES  (_E. M. Synge_)  _Frontispiece_

                                                                  PAGE

     A PROVENÇAL ROAD                  (_Joseph Pennell_)           19

     PONT DE ST. BENÉZET, AVIGNON      (_E. M. Synge_)              32

     PALACE OF THE POPES AND CATHEDRAL        "                     35

     CHARTREUSE DU VAL-DE-BÉNÉDICTION,
         VILLENEUVE-LES-AVIGNON               "                     43

     CASTLE OF ST. ANDRÉ,
         VILLENEUVE-LES-AVIGNON               "                     45

     CHATEAUNEUF, NEAR AVIGNON                "                     53

     RIENZI'S TOWER, AVIGNON                  "                     57

     STREET AT UZÈS                           "                     61

     GATEWAY, BARBENTANE                      "                     63

     VALE AND SOURCE OF THE SORGUE, VAUCLUSE  "                     71

     MILL IN VALE OF THE SORGUE AT VAUCLUSE   "                     78

     ON THE DURANCE                           "                     85

     AIGUES MORTES FROM THE CAMARGUE          "                     86

     AT THE PORT OF AIGUES MORTES             "                     96

     CHURCH AT BARBENTANE              (_E. M. Synge_)             101

     CASTLE OF MONTMAJOUR, ARLES              "                    106

     VIEW FROM ST. GILLES, IN THE CAMARGUE    "                    115

     FAÇADE OF CHURCH, ST. GILLES      (_Joseph Pennell_)          117

     OUTSIDE THE CHURCH, SAINTES MARIES       "                    119

     THE CHURCH OF LES SAINTES MARIES AT
         NIGHT                                "                    122

     FARM IN PROVENCE                         "                    126

     ROMAN GATEWAY AT ORANGE (ON THE
         LYONS ROAD)                          "                    134

     LOOKING DOWN THE GRANDE RUE, MARTIGUES   "                    135

     ON THE GRAND CANAL, MARTIGUES            "                    137

     CHURCH AT MARTIGUES                      "                    138

     BOATS, MARTIGUES                         "                    139

     THE PORTAL OF THE CHURCH, MARTIGUES      "                    140

     A SQUARE AT NIMES                        "                    145

     IN THE CAMARGUE, FROM THE RAILWAY (_E. M. Synge_)             149

     OLD BRIDGE AT ST. GILLES                 "                    155

     ST. TROPHIME, ARLES               (_Joseph Pennell_)          161

     LES ALISCAMPS, ARLES                     "                    166

     ARLES FROM THE RIVER                     "                    169

     ROMAN THEATRE, ARLES              (_E. M. Synge_)             170

     TARASCON FROM BEAUCAIRE, SHOWING KING RENÉ'S
         CASTLE                               "                    192

     THE CHÂTEAU OF KING RENÉ,
         TARASCON                      (_Joseph Pennell_)          198

     ENTRANCE TO KING RENÉ'S CASTLE,
         TARASCON                      (_E. M. Synge_)             205

     THE PONT DU GARD                  (_E. M. Synge_)             213

     THE ROMAN TOUR MAGNE, NIMES, FROM THE
         FOUNTAIN GARDEN               (_Joseph Pennell_)          215

     VIEW FROM VISIGOTH TOWER,
         BEAUCAIRE                     (_E. M. Synge_)             232

     VISIGOTH TOWER, CASTLE OF BEAUCAIRE      "                    235

     BEAUCAIRE FROM TARASCON           (_Joseph Pennell_)          238

     ROMAN FOUNTAIN AT NIMES                  "                    244

     ENTRANCE TOWERS, CARCASSONNE      (_E. M. Synge_)             247

     THE RAMPARTS, CARCASSONNE                "                    253

     MAGUELONNE FROM THE LAGOON               "                    265

     CHURCH OF MAGUELONNE                     "                    267

     ON THE VERGE OF LA CRAU                  "                    273

     BASE OF MONUMENT OF MARIUS,
         ST. REMY                      (_Joseph Pennell_)          285

     ROMAN ARCH, ST. REMY                     "                    287

     LA CROIX DE VERTU, ST. REMY       (_E. M. Synge_)             291

     GROVE AT ST. REMY                        "                    299

     ROMAN MONUMENTS, ST. REMY                "                    303

     QUARRY IN VALLEY BELOW LES BAUX          "                    310

     DAUDET'S WINDMILL                 (_Joseph Pennell_)          315

     LES BAUX FROM THE ROAD TO ARLES   (_E. M. Synge_)             317

     WINDOW IN RUINED HOUSE OF A SEIGNEUR OF LES
         BAUX                                  "                   319

     LES BAUX FROM THE ROAD TO ST. REMY, SHOWING
         PLATFORM IN FRONT OF CHURCH OF ST.
         VINCENT                               "                   331

     AT LES BAUX                       (_E. M. Synge_)             337

     LES BAUX FROM LEVEL OF THE TOWN          "                    341

     OLD HOUSE, ST. REMY                      "                    345

     THE CHURCH DOOR, SAINTES MARIES   (_Joseph Pennell_)          353

     LA LICE, ARLES                           "                    359

     A PROVENÇAL FARM                  (_E. M. Synge_)             366

     COW-BOYS OF THE CAMARGUE          (_Joseph Pennell_)          371

     ANGLORE ON THE RIVER BANK         (_E. M. Synge_)             379

     PORCH OF CHURCH OF ST. GILLES IN THE
         CAMARGUE                             "                    388

     AIGUES MORTES, LOOKING ALONG THE WALLS   "                    391

     THE CHURCH OF LES SAINTES MARIES SEEN FROM
         THE CAMARGUE                  (_Joseph Pennell_)          394

     CROSS IN VILLAGE SQUARE AT LES
         SAINTES MARIES                (_E. M. Synge_)             396

     LES SAINTES MARIES                       "                    398



CHAPTER I

THE SPELL OF PROVENCE


               "Aubouro-te, raço Latino--
               Emé toun péu que se desnouso
               A l'auro santo dou tabour,
               Tu siès la raço lumenouso
               Que viéu de joio e d'estrambord;
               Tu siès la raço apoustoulico
               Que souno li campano â brand:
               Tu siès la troumpo que publico
               E siès la man que trais lou gran
               Aubouro-te, raço Latino!"

     Latin race arouse thyself!
     With thy hair loosened to the holy air of the tabor,
     Thou art the race of light,
     Who lives in enthusiasm and joy:
     Thou art the apostolic race--
     That sets the bells a-chiming;
     Thou art the trumpet that proclaims:
     Thou art the hand that sows the seed--
     O Latin race, arise!

          From "ODE TO THE LATIN RACE," by MISTRAL.

  [Illustration: A PROVENÇAL ROAD.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

During the night there was a great and unexplained tumult: rustling
sounds in the little courtyard to which our rooms looked out; whisperings
along the corridors; distant bangings; footsteps, voices--or was it the
remaining rumours of a dream?

Then a great sigh and a surging among the shrubs in the courtyard. The
creepers sway against the windows, and something seems to sweep through
the room. Presently a rush and a rattle among the jalousies, and a high
scream as of some great angry creature flying with frantic wings over
the courtyard and across the sky.

The mistral!

There was no mistaking our visitor.

A great angry creature, indeed, and no one who has seen the Land of
the Sun and Wind only under the sway of the more benign power can have
any conception of the passion and storm of this mighty Brigand of the
Mountain.

We begin now to understand the meaning of the epithet, "windy Avignon."
And if one considers its position on the plain of the Rhone and the
Durance--the country stretching south and east to the mysterious stony
desert of the Crau[1] and the great regions of the mouths of the Rhone--it
is easy to see how the Black Wind, rushing down from his home in the
ranges of Mont Ventoux and the Luberon, must sweep the streets of the
city and fill every nook and corner with whirl and trouble.

The Rhone that "bends round Avignon to salute Our Lady on her high rock,"
as Mistral proclaims, grows white with anger under the lash, noble river
that she is!

Round farmstead and garden, along her banks, and far away on the great
spaces of this wonderful country, long, tall rows of cypresses keep
guard over house and home; for only these steadfast trees of Wisdom
and of Sorrow can stand against the fury of the mistral. For unnumbered
ages, long, long before all human history or tradition, he has lorded it
over the country, descending after the fashion of the ancient Ligurian
inhabitants from the hill-tops, for raid and ravage in the valleys.

Many have been his victims from first to last; among them the daughter
to whom Madame de Sévigné addresses her famous letters. She suffers from
his onslaught upon her Provençal château of Grignan, which was nearly
destroyed by the monster; unless, indeed, the lady is romancing a little
to keep her lively mother amused and quiet; for Madame de Sévigné writes:
"Vous dépeignez cette horreur comme Virgile!"

A householder seriously damaged in his property would be most unlikely to
describe the disaster thus classically. Perhaps a chimney or two blown off
and a roof carried away may have stimulated Madame de Grignan's fancy.
There were always those letters to be written and a certain dearth of
subjects for a lady besieged by the mistral in a Provençal château. What
Madame de Grignan must have said one gathers from the mother's reply--

"Voila le vent, le tourbillon, l'ouragon, les diables déchainés, qui
veulent emporter votre château.... Ah ma fille, quelle ébranlement
universel!"

The mother recommends taking refuge in Avignon; a curious place to flee
to from such a foe! But in those days there was no swift flight possible,
and a removal from the howling country to the whistling town was all
that could be achieved even by the wealthy. One wonders how the removal
of a household was effected when there were no railways and probably
few roads--and a mistral at full tilt across the plains!

Poets of all ages have sung of the feats of the amazing wind, and there
are descriptions of its furious descent upon the Crau, where in default
of anything better to wreak its anger upon, it sends the stones hurling
across the plain. Nothing can stand against it. Mistral says that in
tempest "il souffle toujours. Les arbres ... se courbent, se secouent
à arracher leurs troncs."

The ancients assigned a place to the great wind among their deities,
and the Emperor Augustus erected a temple in its honour. It is curious
how this pagan feeling of personality in the wind survives to this day.

Its famous namesake, the Provençal poet, whose home is at Maillane, on
the great plain among the guardian cypresses, expresses the sentiment in
a hundred forms, and he adduces a still more striking instance in the
account he once gave of his father--a fine specimen of the Provençal
farmer or yeoman--who had a positive adoration for "le bon vent."

"Le jour ou l'on vannait le blé, souvent il n'y avait pas un souffle
d'air pour emporter la poussière blonde, alors, mon père avait recours
a une sorte d'invocation au mistral.

"Souffle mon mignon, disait il, et il priait et implorait.

"Eh bien, le vent venait et mon père, etait plein de joie, et il criait
'brava, brava.'"

In his house at Maillane, protected from foreign intrusion by the double
army of the winds and the mosquitos, this chief of the Félibres passes
his days, rejoicing in their scourges because they frighten away the
wandering tourist--"tempted by our horizons and our sky"--from the land
of the Sun and the Cypress.

To him the roar and shriek of the mistral is always a "musico majestuoso."

This tremendous being (as indeed he seems when one has once felt the
very earth shaking beneath his assault) must be responsible for much in
the Provençal character and literature; it is impossible to believe it
to have been without profound influence on the imagination of the many
races that have made the country their home.

Its voice is elemental, passionate, sometimes expressing blind fury, but
often full of an agony that even its own tremendous cry cannot utter;
a torment as of Prometheus and a grandeur of spirit no less than his.

The mistral produces effects of astonishing contrast; for when he is
silent Provence is the most smiling, kindly land in the world; and half
its stories are of gentle and lovely things: of chivalry, of romance,
of dance and song and laughter. But when once the Black Wind begins to
rouse himself from his lair on Mont Ventoux, then tragedy and pain and
despair are abroad on wide dark wings.

       *       *       *       *       *

All the "merry hamlets" of Provence have delightful courts or _places_
shaded with plane-trees. Here the villagers assemble on Sundays and
Saints' days, and here may always be found a few happy loungers resting
on the benches, or playing some game of whose mysterious antiquity they
are blissfully unconscious.

It is the country of mediævalism; it is still more the country of
paganism, of Greek temples, Phœnician inscriptions and tombs, Roman baths,
amphitheatres, aqueducts; it boasts a profusion of exquisite churches,
splendid mediæval castles; scenes of troubadour history, of the reputed
Courts of Love; of a thousand traditions and stories that have become
the heritage of every civilised people.

In the valley of Elorn, near Landerneau--called the Cradle of
Chivalry--was found, according to the legend, the veritable round table
of King Arthur, and here rose into the sky the towers of the Château de
Joyeuse Garde of the Arthurian legends.

But Provence rests its claim to having been the birthplace of Chivalry on
better grounds than this, for the first troubadour was a Provençal, the
Comte Quilhelm de Poictier; a most _debonnaire_ gentleman, of attractive
appearance, courtly manners, and an exhaustive knowledge of the Gay
Science, making great havoc with the hearts of ladies.

The colour of the landscape in Provence is as vivid as the history of
its people.

A writer speaks of "la couleur violente, presque exaspérée, des
montagnes."

There is no country that can be less conveyed to the imagination by an
enumeration of topographical facts. The more exact the description the
less we arrive at the land that Mistral sees and loves.

Of this poet, characteristically Provençal, Lamartine is reported to
have said--

"I bring you glad tidings, a great epic poet is born among us. The West
produces no more such poets, but from the nature of the South they will
spring forth. It is from the sun alone that power flows."

It is from the sun that _life_ flows, is the irresistible conclusion
that one comes to under the skies of the Midi.

Science has insisted upon the fact, and no one seriously disputes it, but
not to dispute and to actually accept are two very different conditions
of mind. Legend, proverb, history, song, all seem to tell of a life more
intense, more "vibrant," as their great poet describes the Provençals--in
the troubadour country than elsewhere; unless indeed one goes still
farther into the regions of the sun and falls under the kindred spell
of Italy.

In England archæology seems cold and dead. In the South it conjures up
visions of a teeming life; generation after generation of peoples, race
after race, civilisation after civilisation.

Paradox as it seems, the multitude of dead or ruined or vanished cities
that have lined the coast from the Pyrenees to the Var strangely enhances
this sense of vitality and persistence of human activities.

       *       *       *       *       *

But one records and records, and yet one has not Provence. One has but
her mountains and contours, her blue sky, and perhaps her wild wind--but
there is always something beyond.

One sees the Rhone and the Durance on their way to the sea--splendid
headlong rivers; one sees the melancholy brooding wilderness of the Crau,
where Hercules and the quarrelsome Titans flung those huge stones at
one another in the dim old days; one sees always the strange, fantastic
little limestone chain of the Alpilles which finishes to the south-east
the great semicircle begun to the west by the higher ranges. The eye
follows everywhere, fascinated, the battalions of cypresses, while over
all is the flooding light, vibrating, living. And yet after all is said,
Provence is still an unknown land.

It is one of the haunted lands, the spell-weaving lands. It enslaves as
no obvious technical beauty of landscape can enslave.

Provence is like one of its own enchanting ladies of the troubadour
days, and strangely significant is it that this nameless quality of the
country should have been thus reproduced by the crown and flower of its
people. For this attribute of charm belongs to knight and baron, soldier
and singer, if we may trust the old songs and the old stories. But,
_par excellence_, it belonged to the cultivated lady of the epoch. Take,
for instance, the mysterious Countess of Die or Dia, of whose identity
nothing is certainly known. She was a writer of songs and the heroine of
one of the poetical love-stories of the age: a lady capable of deep and
faithful love, unhappily for her peace of mind. Of the subtlety of her
attractions one may judge by the power which the mere dead records wield
to this day over the imagination. This is how a modern author writes of
her--

     "Her voice had the colour of Alban wine, with overtones like
     the gleams of light in the still, velvety depths of the goblet,
     and when she smiled, it seemed as if she drew from a harp
     a slow, deep chord in the mode of Æolia. Though not at all
     diffident, and not at all prudish, she wore usually an air of
     shyness, the shyness of one whose thoughts dread intrusion."

How our author managed to gather such intimate detail from ancient volumes
is perhaps difficult to understand; and doubtless he has reconstructed a
voice and a smile from hints of the personality given by musty documents
written demurely in the quaint, beautiful old _langue d'oc_. Still,
there must have been some potent suggestion in the chronicles to set the
fancy working in this glowing way, and it is a fact that all that one
reads of the women of that time has a curious elusive element, producing
an impression of some attraction subtler and more holding than can be
expressed in direct words.

And Provence has a charm like that of her mysteriously endowed women;
unaccountable, but endless to those who are once drawn within the magnetic
circle. Have their sisters of to-day none of this quality? One here
and there, no doubt, but it is to be feared that modern conditions do
not favour the production of the type. Perhaps the women of to-day are
making a _détour_ out of the region of enchantment, but only in order
to obtain a broader, more generous grasp of the things of life. Some
day they will give back to mankind what has been taken away by the new
adventures, and when the tide turns, there will surely pour over the
arid world a flood of beauty and "youngheartedness" and romance such as
the blinder, less conscious centuries have never so much as dreamt of!

Meanwhile the troubadours had the privilege of dedicating their songs
and their hearts to the most fascinating women which civilisation had
as yet produced. Perhaps one associates such subtle attraction with the
powers of darkness, but there is nothing to show that such powers had
aught to do with the charm of the heroines of troubadour song. On the
contrary, they seem as a rule to have been of extremely fine calibre;
and if one consults one's memories of magnetic personalities--after all
there are not a very large array of them--it almost always proves to
be the powers of good in its broadest sense, and not of evil, that give
birth to the fascination that never dies.

And the fascination of this gay, sad, brilliant, sympathetic country is
not dreadful and diabolic. It is compounded of wholesome sunshine and
merriment, swift ardour of thought and emotion, of beautiful manners;
of the poetry of ancient industries: of sowing and reaping and tillage;
of wine-culture and olive-growing; of legends and quaint proverbs, and a
language full of the flavour of the soil and the sun that reveals itself
to the quick of ear and of heart long before it can be fully understood.
For it appeals to the heart, this sweet language of the troubadours, and
hard must have often been the task of those poor ladies, wooed in this
too winning tongue!

The traditions of chivalry are among the priceless possessions of the
human race, and it is in Provence that their aroma lingers with a potency
scarcely to be found in any other country. The air is alive with rich
influences. The heat of the sun, the extraordinary brilliance of light and
colour, the dignity of an ancient realm whose every inch is penetrated
with human doings and destinies, all combine towards an enchantment
that belongs to the mysterious side of nature and prompts a host of
unanswerable questions. The eye wanders bewildered across the country,
wistfully struggling to realise the wonder and the beauty. It sweeps
the peaked line of mountains with only an added sense of bafflement,
and rests at last, sadly, on some lonely castle with shattered ramparts
and roofless banqueting-hall, where now only the birds sing troubadour
songs, and ivy and wild vines are the swaying tapestries.



CHAPTER II

AVIGNON


         "Sur le pont d'Avignon,
         On y danse, on y danse!"

       "Avenio ventosa, sine vento
       Venenosa, cum vento fastidiosa."
          LATIN PROVERB.

     "Parlement mistral et Durance
     Sont les trois fleaux de Provence."
          OLD SAYING.

How the sun does pour down on to the great esplanade before the Palace
of the Popes! It is as warm as a June day in England and twice as light.
That astounding building towers into the blue, bare and creamy white,
every stern, simple line of it ascending swift and clear, in repeated
strokes, rhythmically grand, like some fine piece of blank verse.

The parapet alone shows broken surfaces. Neither cornice nor corbel
nor window pediment; scarcely a window to interrupt the mass of
splendid masonry, only recurrent shafts of stone (continuing from the
machicolations above) which shoot straight and slim from base to summit of
the fortress, to meet there at intervals, as if a line of tall poplars,
two by two, had bent their heads together to form this succession of
sharply-pointed arches.

The arrangement of massive wall and slender arch gives to the building
a singular effect of strength and eternity combined with a severe sort
of grace.

  [Illustration: PONT DE ST. BENÉZET, AVIGNON.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

It stands there enormous, calm, yet with a delicacy of bearing belonging
surely to no other edifice of that impregnable strength and vast bulk. The
genius of the architect has expressed in these sixteen-feet walls some
of the spirit of the palace as well as the rudeness of the stronghold,
and has given a subtle hint of the painted halls and galleries wherein
half the potentates of Europe were magnificently entertained, where
Petrarch dreamed and Rabelais jested.... And that hint seems to lie in
the general relations of mass to mass, and especially in the shallow
projection and towering height of that endless line of delicate arches.
Burke, in his sublime way, assures us that sublimity is the result
of monotonous repetition, and this surprising achievement of Papal
magnificence certainly bears out the theory.

The palace shows no more signs of age upon it than the glowing tint
of the walls through the beating of the sun upon them for hundreds of
brilliant years. How brilliant they must have been! What warmth, what
light! That is what astonishes Barbara: the light. She cannot get over
it. We seem to have awakened into a world woven out of radiance.

Not but that it is a very real and solid world, this sun-created realm
of rambling terraces and upward-trending pathways. Rich stone-pines
follow the slant of the road, as it mounts the famous Rocher du Dom in
easy zig-zags till it reaches the plateau at the summit, where once upon
a time, tradition says, all the witches and wizards of the country-side
used to celebrate their unholy rites. And thereby hangs a tale--perhaps
to be told later in the day.

Half-way up the rock, on a little platform of its own, stands a small
Romanesque Cathedral, singularly fine in style, and characteristic of
the architecture of the South of France. Creepers are hanging recklessly,
alluringly over the walls and parapets of the hill above. On the top there
is a little garden, with seats and shrubs and a pond inhabited by ornate,
self-conscious kinds of birds. We learn this in later explorations. Just
now the instinctive human desire to reach the highest point achievable
is half quieted by the warm comfort of this placid spot below, and we
turn our backs on the aspiring Mount.

There are sun-warmed stone benches under the young, sparsely-covered
plane-trees (no town in Provence ever dreamt of trying to exist without
plane-trees), and here we establish ourselves and watch the little events
of the square: the soldiers coming and going up the steps of the Papal
Palace (now a barracks); the three recruits being frantically drilled
(there is always an element of frenzy in French military exercises);
the slow moving of the shadows which rudely caricature the huge stone
garland on the Papal Mint, a design in Michael Angelo's most opulent
manner; the stray cats on the prowl from neighbouring kitchens; the
cheerful dog trotting across the square, tail in air, ready to answer
to a friendly word with which we detain him from more important affairs.

Ancient as is this city of the Popes, there are no weather-stains, as
we northerners understand them, only marks of the sun and wind. A good
friend this fierce, cleansing sun, and the wind from Mont Ventoux must
sweep away all impurities from the narrow streets, and--_il y en a!_

Away across the parapet a mass of roofs fills the slope to the river
bank--most wonderful of rivers!--and to the south there are hills
and bright distances: Provençal hills, distances of the land of "joy,
young-heartedness and love." And that makes the thought that we are in
Provence wake up with a cry that rings in the heart like a _reveillé_.
And on its heels comes a strange, secret rebound of sadness, keen as the
cut of a knife. As for the cause? Who can say exactly what home-sickness,
what vast longing it is that wakens thus when the beauty and greatness
of the world and the narrowness of individual possibilities point too
clearly their eternal contrast?

  [Illustration: PALACE OF THE POPES AND CATHEDRAL.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

"I can't get over that _light_," Barbara exclaims, in renewed
astonishment. "I don't feel as if I ever wanted to move from this bench."

And we let the sun make a considerable portion of his daily journey
across the palace walls before we move. Already the influence of the
South is in our veins. It makes one better understand the genius of this
"Rome transportée dans les Gaules." It must have been, in some sort,
the capital of Europe, when for sixty years or so the Papal Court drew
the great and the famous from the ends of the earth to the gay, corrupt
little city.

Seven Popes reigned here, but of the life at the Palace during that time
there is singularly little record. Instinctively one tries to recapture
misty reminiscences of schoolroom lore, for now the dry facts begin to
glow with the splendour and the pathos of real life, as one realises that
just on this very spot, in sight of these sunny hills and this rushing
river, those ancient things took place.

"Oh! Barbara, how magnificently learned I should be if only I possessed
all the information that I have forgotten!"

"What have you forgotten?" Barbara inquires soothingly.

Heavens! What with forgetting and never having known, one felt as arid
and futile as an extinct volcano. Had one but enjoyed the privileges
accorded to the characters of ancient drama, one would have stretched
forth hands in invocation to the mysterious eventful city.

"O city, O immortal city of the Rhone, lift but for one moment the veil
that hides from us those tremendous secrets which fill the air with
dreams and presences even to this hour!"

Perhaps the appeal was not altogether in vain, for a few isolated facts
began to drift, ghost-like, into view. They were images imprinted in
childish days while Avignon was nothing but a name, and so the ill-guided
imagination had placed the city on the plain; a bare, arid group of
houses surrounding a vague, vast structure, against which clouds of dust
were continually being driven.

It was curious and interesting to compare this long-cherished picture
with the reality. In connection with it was another painted in richer
tones. The subject was the journey of Philip of Valois through his
kingdom with the kings of Navarre and Bohemia in his train. After passing
through Burgundy--broad and spacious Burgundy, with its straggling, brown
villages--he arrives here at Avignon, where other kings have hurried to
meet him, and is magnificently received by the Pope. Which of the seven
Popes was it? Alas! memory failed, but King Philip was lodged over there
across the river at Villeneuve-les-Avignon.

"Beyond the island where the huge castle is on the hill?" Barbara
inquired. "What a shabby sort of place to put a king."

My idea, too, of Villeneuve, till I saw it, had been a brilliant little
pleasure-city, full of splendid cardinals' palaces.

"Let's go and see the town," said Barbara; "perhaps the palaces are
still there."

We decided to go that very day. A place is twice seen that is seen at
once. Some discerning person had read me Froissart's account of the
scene, and I had never forgotten it; the feastings and festivals that
burst forth all over the city, till Lent came; and then the thrilling
news that went flying through the country that the Saracens were marching
against the Holy Land. This was a threat to all Christendom. It was
difficult to imagine what it must have been to fear a possible invasion
of those terrible enemies.

But the city was spared. The Pope preached a great sermon to his
congregation of kings, exhorting them to take the cross. They all obeyed.
And then the visionary pictures became a procession: the King of France
with his retinue journeying westward into Languedoc----

"Languedoc?" questioned Barbara.

It was just before us across the Rhone; lovely brown hills on the horizon.

And so the royal company moved in picturesque progress through the
provinces of France: Auvergne, Berry, Beauce, and so on, till they
reached Paris.

"I should like to have seen it," said Barbara. "I wonder if they wore
long robes and ermine."

"Perhaps not quite so beautiful a garb as that, but, thank Heaven, we
know they didn't wear tweed suits! When the human race took to doing
that they bid goodbye to the charm and romance of life for ever."

"But I think men look quite nice in tweed suits," said Barbara. "I am
sure they would look ridiculous now in mantles and ermine."

"Oh, that's another matter. There is always something a little ridiculous
about civilised man, 'rough hew him how you may'; but nothing brings it
out so fatally as tweed."

Barbara remonstrated, and then wanted to know if I could remember any more.

I could remember nothing about Avignon, but between us we recollected
incidents about the beginning of the Hundred Years' War, which took
place just at this time. It was a luckless day for France and England
when Edward III. was so ill-inspired as to assert his roundabout claim
to the throne of France! The fair country became the scene of raids and
sieges, ravaging of provinces, taking and retaking of towns and castles,
battle and murder and sudden death.

Of this there are of course endless chronicles; of all the moil and toil
of war and rapine, of the clash of rival interests, of mad ambitions
which, once gratified, left their victims only more wild and craving
than before.

If the annals of the Middle Ages have a moral it is this: Fling away
ambition. Fling away this crude passion of kings and captains which seems
to drive a man like a fury through his untasted life, never giving him
pause to possess what he has won or even to realise the triumph of his
achievement.

"Tell me more," demanded Barbara.

But the pictures were at an end. Quite capriciously it seemed,
certain scenes had painted themselves on the mind, but what followed
chronologically had made no special impression, perhaps because there
was a general confusion of wars and tumults, till suddenly we emerge on
familiar ground at the battles of Creçy and Poitiers.

We had grown tired of trying to realise the things of the past, and
strolled down to the river, to the long suspension bridge, where, as
every French child knows, "on y danse, on y danse." And here one has a
fine view of Villeneuve, across the Rhone, and looking back, of Avignon.
From this point its walls are strikingly picturesque, ramparts of the
fourteenth century, built by Clement VI. and described by a modern
author as a "remarkably beautiful specimen of mediæval masonry, with
a battlemented wall for projecting machicolations on finely moulded
corbels"--corbels of four or five courses, which give an appearance
almost Eastern to these splendid walls and gateways.

"The intensest life of the fourteenth century," says the same writer,
"passed through the Gothic portal over which the portcullis hung in its
chamber ever ready to drop with a thundering crash, and fix its iron
teeth in the ground."

Barbara asked a great many searching questions about times and manners.
But here I began to experience what some discriminating person has
called a "reaction against the despotism of facts." I did not know any
more. I began to repent of having excited this inordinate thirst for
information. However, very little is needed to enable one to achieve a
general impression of France in the fourteenth century. One has merely
to think of the fair land under the horrors of sack and siege, burning
towns, starving people, all the agonies of chronic warfare. What is
more difficult is to descend from the general to the particular, and
to imagine what sort of life that must have been for the mortal who was
neither a King nor a Pope, nor a plundering freebooter, but only a human
being with a life to ruin and a heart to break.

       *       *       *       *       *

Even while one is dreaming of other things, that wonderful Palace is
impressing itself upon the sentiment with steady power. It stands there
in the blaze of light, tremendous, inevitable, like a fact of nature.
One can scarcely think it away. It resists even that mighty force, the
human imagination.

Avignon! the Roman _Avenio_; a place of many events, many influences,
which have helped to make our present life what it is--we are really
there, absurdly improbable as it seems; we, with our modern minds, modern
speech, modern preconceptions, in the bright land of the troubadours;
and, stranger still, in the land where the Phœnicians traded, the Greeks
colonised, the Romans built their inevitable baths and amphitheatres;
where the ancient Ligurians lived their lives on peaked hilltops, and
race fought race and tribe fought tribe, when there was neither Pope
in Avignon nor King in France, but only wild gods and wilder chieftains
ruling in the lawless, beautiful land.

From the height of the Rocher du Dom (we climb there at last by the
zig-zag pine-shadowed road) the whole country bursts upon us, blue, wide,
mountain-encircled, radiant; with the Rhone winding across the plain,
dreaming of mysterious things. The great river has a personality of its
own as strong as that of the palace. It sweeps to the foot of our cliff
and takes a splendid curve round the south side of the town, past the
ruined bridge of St. Benézet, with its romantic chapel poised midway
above the rush and flurry of the river.

Every year, on Christmas Eve, Mass used to be celebrated in this little
chapel of the Rhone, and strange must it have been when the yellow lights
glowed--just once of all the nights of the long year--on its lonely
altar, and the chanting of priests rose and fell above the sound of the
marauding waters. But for their aggressions, the grand old bridge would
still be carrying passengers from the Papal city across the two branches
of the river and the island of St. Barthelasse to the foot of the tower
of Philippe le Bel.

This old tower is, perhaps, the most striking building--except the
great castle--in the decaying town of Villeneuve where the Cardinals
built so many palaces. Here it was, in that forgotten little haunt of
pleasure, that the guests of the Pope were once so gloriously lodged
and entertained. And now--sad beyond all telling is the little town!
Ardouin-Dumazet, the author of "Un Voyage en France," seems to have been
impressed by its forlornness as much as we were, for he writes of it in
words that evoke the very spirit of the place:--

"Amas de toits audessus desquels surgissent des eglises rongées par
le temps, des edifices à physiognomie triste et vague--La ville est
d'apparence morne. Elle dut être splendide jadis: de grands hotels, des
maisons de noble ordonnance, des voies bordées d'arcades indiquent un
passé prosperé. Les moindres détails: ferrurues de portes et de balcon,
corbeaux, statuettes d'angle sont d'un art tres pur. Aujourd'hui on
rencontre surtout des chiens et des chats--On pourrait se croire dans
une ville morte--On va errer par les lamentables et pittoresques débris
de la Chartreuse du Val-de-Bénédiction où sont encore de merveilles
architecturales."

Everywhere, indeed, as one wanders, one comes upon these "architectural
marvels." A fine doorway giving entrance to a wheelwright's yard; delicate
pieces of iron-work on the balcony of a barber's shop; a scrap of stone
carving; a noble block of buildings in some ill-kept street.

The symphonic beauty of such relics of the Renaissance which are found in
almost every town of the South of France, bears in upon the imagination
the truth of the saying of the great architect Alberti that a slight
alteration in the curves of his design for San Francesco at Rimini would
"spoil his music."

The traveller who climbs the hill to the vast fortress of St. André--with
its battlements of the fourteenth century--enters a scene even more
eloquent of desolation. But splendid it must have been in the days of
its glory!

  [Illustration: CHARTREUSE DU VAL-DE-BÉNÉDICTION, VILLENEUVE-LES-AVIGNON.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

The huge drum towers of the entrance gate recall old dreams of romantic
adventure. But for the strange silence of the place, it might almost
excite expectations of clattering cavalcades, and one knows not what
medley of bright figures in harmony with the mediæval background. But
the silence broods on, unbroken. A black kitten is the only living thing
that meets the view as we pass through the shadows of the gateway. A
dishevelled grey village has grown up within the walls, its steep street
climbing upward to the summit of the hill, while a cypress-guarded
convent stands within its own high walls. Here the sisters pass their
lives, doubly immured. If some unhappy nun tried to escape, she would
not only have to penetrate the stern boundaries of her retreat, but
to scale the ramparts of the fortress into the bargain; the engines
of State and Religion arrayed against her; of this world and the next.
It prompted one to carry the significant symbol further afield, and to
follow in imagination the fortunes not only of the fugitive nun but of
the escaping woman!

As we begin the ascent of the desolate street, the black kitten slips
coquettishly across the way, at a slant, her tail high in the air,
like a ruler, as the School-Board essayist happily puts it. We hail her
as alluringly as may be, but she is away beyond our reach up a little
outside staircase leading to the doorway of one of the few habitable
houses. From this eminence she looks down upon us mockingly, clearly
enjoying our disadvantage. This piques us and we engage in pursuit. The
imp finally vanishes into the doorway, and presently a miserably clad,
dejected-looking woman emerges. Evidently the kitten had announced to her
the advent of visitors. She leads the way, a huge bunch of keys in her
hand, the kitten following in a self-willed, flighty sort of fashion.
While we are trifling with ancient walls and gruesome dungeons, the
kitten is busy catching phantom mice among the heaps of fallen masonry
that encumber the grassy hill-top, forlorn remains, indeed, of human
habitations.

  [Illustration: CASTLE OF ST. ANDRÉ, VILLENEUVE-LES-AVIGNON.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

The little chapel of the convent strikes with a chill as we enter--surely
it is something more than a chill; a sense of something deathly. In
a flash comes the horrified sense of the death-in-life that is hidden
behind these mysterious walls. One needs no detail, no assurance; the
whole beats in upon the consciousness, steals in like an atmosphere, as
we stand in the shadow looking at the little flower-decked altar, musty
and tawdry with its artificial flowers and flounced draperies.

"Of what Order are the Sisters?" we inquire, in undertones, after a long
silence.

"Sh--h," warns a reproving voice from a hidden part of the chapel, which
had been so arranged as to leave the west-end of it invisible to all
but the inmates of the convent.

"C'est une des soeurs," whispered our guide, and we turned and left the
devotee to her prayers.

A truly amazing thing the human spirit! There are times when one feels
entirely divorced from it, as if one were studying its manifestations
from the point of view of an alien race. And there is no epoch so
baffling to the modern mind as the mediæval. The ancients seem normal,
straight-going, and eminently human as compared with the men and women
of the Middle Ages.

We are taken to the dungeons in the entrance towers where our feudal
forefathers inflicted one dares not think what agonies, and without
a pang of remorse; rather with a sense of right and heaven-inspired
justice. It was within the walls of this fortress, probably in a cell
of the Convent, that the Man in the Iron Mask passed the dreadful days
and nights of his life.

The sentiment of the unimaginative ruffian who could condemn a
fellow-creature to this living grave is probably beyond the understanding
of a modern--short of a criminal lunatic. We are glad to hurry out again
into the light, oppressed by the shadow of misery and wickedness that
seems to hang about the place to this hour.

There are many who hold that the world has made no real progress except
in material civilisation. That is a subject that might best be studied
in some mouldering dungeon, which, be it remembered, was just as much a
"necessary part" of the mediæval castle as the kitchen or pantry is of
its descendant, the country-house of to-day.

If such strongholds were either let or sold in the feudal era, they were
doubtless recommended to intending purchasers as having well-appointed
torture-chambers, fitted with all the latest improvements in racks
and thumb-screws. Without venturing to claim too much for the average
modern, he may be said to have advanced a little beyond the stage when
the thumb-screw was an instrument that no gentleman's house should be
without. As the change of ideals to which this improvement is due may
be said to have taken place in Provence, fostered and impelled, paradox
as it seems, within the precincts of the feudal castle itself with its
chains and oubliettes, those sighing ruins become strangely moving and
significant.

Our poor, half-starved guide, however, looks as if she thought them
anything but significant as she leads us up and down the fallen masonry,
the kitten following always, and often springing to her shoulders and
curving its lithe little body round her neck.

"Il est comme notre enfant," she says, half apologetically. "Nous n'en
avons pas, des enfants." And the kitten swirls its tail in her face
as if to assure her that it could well fill the place of any number of
children. The faithful little acolyte had to be left outside the door
leading to the dungeons, for she used to get lost in the passages and
the turret staircase. But there she waited, mewing at intervals, till
we re-emerged, and then she sprang with a little purring cry on to her
mistress's shoulder.

We were at the entrance gate, and the round of the fortress was finished.
We bade goodbye to the woman, who pocketed her "tip" and hastened back
with her attendant sprite to the little grey, half-ruined house where
she passes her grey, unimaginable life!



CHAPTER III

A SEVERE CRITIC--UZÈS AND BARBENTANE


     "La cigalo di piboulo,
     La bouscarlo do bouissoun,
     Lou grihet di farigoulo
     Tout canto sa cansoun."

     The tree locust in the poplar, the thrush in the wayside bush,
     The grasshopper in the wild thyme, each sings its own song.

          MISTRAL.

At the _table d'hôte_ of our hotel, a little group of travellers was
clustered at the far end of the long, old-fashioned room--silent, French
though they were. My neighbour was a pale, faintly-outlined young man,
with short, colourless hair. Curious that so artistic a nation should
crop its hair so very close, I idly mused. That pallor? Presumably the
lack of outdoor exercise, not to enter upon dark possibilities of absinthe
and other Parisian roads to ruin.

At about the stage of the _entrée_ the subject of these conjectures,
bracing himself to the task, turned and said--

"Est ce que vous êtes depuis longtemps à Avignon, madame?" (Accent a
little provincial, I thought, perhaps Provençal, which was interesting!)

"Non, monsieur, je ne suis ici que depuis hier," I responded, not only
in my best French, but with as much sociability as I could throw into
the somewhat arid reply, for I desired to prolong a conversation that
might throw light upon the fascinating country.

"Ah!" said the close-cropped one, with a gesture that I thought Gallic,
"je suis un peu--de--dis--disappointed, as we say in English," he suddenly
broke up, with an exasperated abandonment of the foreign lingo. The man
was an Englishman, for all he was worth! Barbara laughed aloud, getting
wind of the situation. So much for the distinctions of national types.
My neighbour had made precisely the same mistake on his side that I had
made on mine.

With Avignon he was indeed "a little disappointed." He thought the Palace
bare and ugly, and the town dirty and unattractive. The view from the
Rocher du Dom? Yes, that was rather fine. Give the devil his due, he
evidently felt. What was the height of Mont Ventoux? I longed to rush
wildly into figures, but principle restrained me. Did I mean to go to
Chateauneuf? Our friend had been there. Tumble-down old place. One could
see it from the Rocher du Dom across the river. They made rather good
wine there.

Chateauneuf! Good wine there!

Was this the famous Chateauneuf, the ancient country seat of the Popes,
the lordly pleasure-house of the most luxurious and brilliant Court of
the Middle Ages?--("Not much luxury about it now!" said our tourist)--a
vast Summer Palace situated on one of the finest sites of the district,
whence one could see Vaucluse itself in the Vale of the Sorgue, Petrarch's
beloved retreat from the clamour of the Papal City; and Vacqueiras,
the home of Raimbaut de Vacqueiras, the celebrated troubadour, and many
another spot of greater or less renown.

Here, too, a modern singer had been born: Anselm Mathieu, and in the
old house of his family the Provençal Félibres used to meet, reciting
verses, singing songs, and doubtless pledging one another in the famous
vintage of Chateauneuf, the "rather good wine" of our severe critic.

  [Illustration: CHATEAUNEUF, NEAR AVIGNON.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

He placidly continued his crushing observations. Vaucluse he considered
a much over-rated spot, though the cliffs and crags above the source
of the river _were_ rather striking. Was there anything more to see
in Avignon after one had done the Palace and the Museum? I reluctantly
admitted there was but little one could recommend to a critical spirit.
Our level-headed tourist had spent an hour in Villeneuve that morning--the
little town across the bridge with the big castle, he explained--and found
it depressing--everything peeling off. The description was annoyingly
apt. There was no gainsaying it. Only it was not exhaustive.

Its author intended to go next morning to see the Pont du Gard, about
which one heard so many laudatory accounts. He was told that he wouldn't
think as much of it as he expected. How much he expected after this
warning I was unable to estimate, but I thought it safe to prophesy
disappointment. He said himself that he confidently anticipated it. I
wondered vaguely whether the condition of mind thus described was capable
of analysis, but did not attempt it. I felt Barbara was emotionally in
a state of unstable equilibrium, and dared not add to her provocations.
My neighbour further complained that considering the general importance
of Avignon and one's extreme familiarity with its name, historically
speaking, it seemed surprisingly shabby and small--narrow streets and
all that. We admitted the narrow streets.

And there wasn't a decent church in the whole place! Wouldn't compare
with Bruges or Rouen. My tourist was at Rouen in the autumn of '98, and
at Bruges in September of '99, on a cycling tour--or was it August?

I thought it might be August.

Yes (our friend's memory clarified most satisfactorily), it was the last
week in August. On the 18th he had left London. I knew that hot weather
we had all over England and the Continent at the end of August in that
year?

I evidently must have known it, so it seemed scarcely worth while
confessing that my memory failed to distinguish the particular heat of
that summer from the more or less similar oppressiveness of any other
season.

Well, he and two fellows cycled all through Holland and Belgium in ten
days and three hours; saw everything. They made an average of sixty miles
a day. Barbara, who hailed from north of the Tweed, said "Aw!" and the
flattered cyclist hastened to add, with becoming modesty, that of course
the roads were good and the country flat. They did ninety several days.
Pretty fair with the thermometer at 70° in the shade----

"An interesting country for such a tour?"

"Rather flat; never get a really good spin; though on the other hand,
there is no uphill work."

For general interest did the country compare at all with Provence? I
wanted to turn my informant from his line of ideas just for the fun of
seeing him work back to it, as an intercepted ant or earwig will pursue
its chosen path, no matter how many obstacles one may throw in the way.
Our tourist doubled and fell into line again almost at once.

Provence? He had been recommended to give it a trial, but so far had
seen nothing particular to attract one. Too hot for cycling, and hotels
very poor. And, as he said before, there were no churches, let alone
cathedrals. Look at the cathedral here, as they had the cheek to call
it, perched up on a rock like a Swiss châlet. And what architecture!
Baedecker called it Romanesque. He always called things Romanesque when
there was nothing else he _could_ decently call them. (This was cheering;
a sort of inverted enthusiasm which at least was less depressing than
indifference.) Why couldn't they stick to some definite style--Gothic or
something? However, he (my neighbour) didn't pretend to know anything
about these matters, though he evidently felt that the architects who
couldn't bring themselves to settle down decisively into "Gothic or
something" had made rather a poor thing of their profession. It seemed
to him that there was a baldness about the buildings here. They _might_
be all right, but so they struck him. Rienzi's tower, for instance--not
a rag of ornament!

I had begun to suggest an unsatisfied yearning for a few minarets with
a trifle of Early Perpendicular work down the sides, when I became aware
that for various reasons--Barbara especially--it was wiser to desist.

It was not till our friend had gone next day to court disappointment
at the Pont du Gard that we felt the lifting of the curious, leaden
atmosphere that he had thrown around him. His presence seemed to stop
the heart-beat of the place, nay, one's own heart-beat, till nothing
was left but hotels and averages and heights and dates. _Mon Dieu!_ And
some day somebody would have to travel with such a being--perhaps for
life. Heaven help the other traveller!

However, after all, it was possibly wholesome to have one's hot-headed
impressions subjected to the cold light of an Englishman's reason. Our
compatriot, with his severely rational way of conducting himself, had
doubtless gathered a crop of solid information, which was more than
could be said for _our_ methods. I told Barbara that I was going to
regard Avignon henceforth from the point of view of its population and
height above the sea, and I hunted up facts in guide-books and put her in
possession of all available dates from the earliest ages to the present
day. She did not seem to me to assimilate them satisfactorily.

  [Illustration: RIENZI'S TOWER, AVIGNON.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

The country round Avignon serves to remind one of the fact that it was,
in ancient times, a good deal nearer the sea than it is at present.
The outlines are like those of a sea-bordering country; such heights
as there are have the character of cliffs, or they are level-topped,
smoothed-out hills until one reaches the grotesque escarpments of the
Alpilles or the wild masses of the Luberon range, once island summits
rising from the waters.

Avignon stands majestically on one of these heights, with the Rhone
valley spreading wide on every hand.

It looks like a magic city in the sunshine or in the glow of evening;
the interminable Palace, the Cathedral, the spires and towers rising
against the sky with that particular serenity of beauty that we think
of as belonging to the land of dreams.

       *       *       *       *       *

A railway journey of about two hours from Avignon takes one to the little
ducal city of Uzès, which lies in the heart of this curious lateral
country, whose eminences have no peaks or highest points, whose lines
are all horizontal.

Upon the sky-line at the end of the leisurely journey appears a striking
mass of buildings and mediæval towers, announcing to the lover of
architecture that some delightful hours are before him.

A quaint old omnibus takes (and shakes) the passengers--mostly commercial
travellers--up the slight hill and in through the grey gates of this
stately little city, landing one and all at the big inn in the broad
main street. Except that it is so exceedingly quiet, it has something
in common with the street of an English cathedral town.

Obviously Uzès has been a place of importance in the past: the public
buildings are on a grand scale and of fine design; the Ducal Palace
announces the capital of a little Principality or Duchy, and the number
of churches would suggest either a large population or a very devout one.
But a sort of trance seems to have fallen upon the place, and not even
the bustle of the inn at its busiest moments, when the vast, dark-papered
dining-room is filled with hungry passengers, can overcome the sense of
suspended life that haunts the town.

But in the earlier centuries it had a stirring history. Uzès possessed
some valiant seigneurs in the days of Philippe le Bel, for that monarch
was so pleased with their prowess that he erected the town into a
"Vicomté." It was governed by its seigneurs and its bishops who shared
the jurisdiction, and a lively time they must have had of it!

It has always been a fiery little city, and during the religious wars of
the sixteenth century was the scene of terrible struggles and massacres,
even in the very churches, which were half ruined during this period.
Perhaps the tumult of those times has left Uzès weary and sad, for now
the place seems dedicated to the God of Sleep.

The shaded promenade or terrace, with its white parapet of short stone
pillars, runs round two sides of the Ducal Garden outside its walls--a
delightful spot to rest or loiter in, commanding a curious wide view
over the country, which is, however, suddenly shut in by a hard, high
horizon line as level as if it were ruled, or as if it were the edge of
a plain, though it is really a range of hills.

The trees of the shady old garden of the Duché drop their branches over
a high wall; at the back of the demesne the Cathedral stands half hidden
by some of the buildings of the Duché and beside it rises one of the
most singular and beautiful architectural monuments of the South, La
Tour Fenestrella, an exquisite Romanesque tower, much smaller but more
graceful than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which it otherwise resembles.

It springs upwards, tier after tier of little arches, with an effect
of exquisite lightness and strength, and leaves one wondering why this
delicate example of Romanesque work does not enjoy a greater renown.

Many hours might be well spent in this forgotten little city, where in
the old days the intense quiet that broods over it--as if invading it
from the strange, almost ominous landscape beyond the parapet--was broken
by the din of warfare more violent and more unappeasable than any other
sort of strife: that of religion.

       *       *       *       *       *

In early spring the plain of the Rhone in the neighbourhood of Avignon
is all flushed with young almond blossoms. The carriage of the tourist
trundles past field after field of misty pink, and for the time he might
fancy himself in the landscape of a Japanese fan.

Above this plain, perched on a bare hillside that gives a bird's-eye
view of the wide expanse of the Rhone valley, stands the ancient village
of Barbentane, a name that occurs constantly in the literature of
Provence, especially in the poems of Mistral. In Roman days Barbentane
or Bellinto, a station on the road between Tarascon and Orange, was an
island surrounded by the waters of the Durance.

  [Illustration: STREET AT UZÈS.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

It is of far less imposing aspect than Uzès and is approached by a long,
ascending road, which is continuous with the broad main street of the
town, whence other streets climb the hill, wandering into little platforms
and nooks and picturesque corners such as only a hill town in the Midi
can produce. There are ancient buildings at every turn, and above the
rest, beyond the gateway leading up to the windy limestone downs, stands
the tall ruined tower of Barbentane, which has a romantic story attached
to it. Mistral writes of it:

     "The Bishop of Avignon ...
       Has built a tower at Barbentane,
       Sea-wind it spurns, and tramontane,
       And round it demons rage in vain.
         He'll exorcise
         The walls that rise
         With turrets square
         From rocks so bare.
       Its front looks to the setting sun,
       And over the windows one by one--
       Lest demon ever through them may pass--
       He carves his mitre over the glass."[2]

To this demon-proof stronghold the Bishop appoints a warder, who--as is
the way of warders--has a charming daughter, Mourrette. Mourrette has a
lover who is determined to scale the walls of the fortress and carry off
the damsel or die in the attempt. Unfortunately, he dies in the attempt.

     "So true, so brave, he ne'er will stop
     Till he grasp her hand at the turret top.
     Alas! a branch breaks--with a hideous shock,
     Her lover is dashed on the hungry rock."

Tragedy as usual! If all had gone well, the story in all likelihood would
never have reached us. We may, perhaps, conclude that life is not quite
so dark as history and literature might lead us to believe.

       *       *       *       *       *

The author of "Un voyage en France" writes:--

"Les cultures enveloppent jusqu'au Rhone le petit massif sur lequel
se dresse la haute Tour de Barbentane," and these "cultures"--corn,
almond-trees, vines, olives--give an aspect of richness and prosperity
to the great valley.

  [Illustration: GATEWAY, BARBENTANE.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

On the opposite side of it stands an ancient but still inhabited castle
belonging to the Comte des Essars (or some similar name), situated upon
a sudden height or cliff and approached by a steep and shady avenue which
leads to a modern garden of evergreen shrubs, all very carefully grouped
and tended. At the highest point appears the great square castle, with
its round tower at each corner, and crenellated walls.

The caretaker admits the visitor to a large courtyard and thence to the
suites of sombre old rooms with their dark ceilings, stately mantelpieces
and rich, ancient furniture, all spell-bound as if waiting for the life
that has gone away. The owners only come there for about a month in the
time of the grape-harvest, but the evidence of their presence in little
personal belongings, such as racks full of pipes, carved sticks, riding
whips, photographs, and so forth, emphasises pathetically the silence of
the house, which is speckless and in perfect order, ready at any moment
for habitation.

The place is well worth a visit, not merely for its rather sad charm,
but because it helps the imagination to reconstruct the life and aspect
of the feudal castle; for such edifices as this are generally seen in
ruins, emptied of all their splendours. Here rises before one's eye
the scene of mediæval romance almost precisely as in the days of the
troubadours and their fascinating ladies.

It seemed a pity that our friend the critic had left Avignon without
having seen this place where the little touches of the modern (especially
that prosaic garden of well-groomed evergreens) would have cheered his
soul and proved to him that Provence could, after all, produce something
that was not either tumble-down or peeling off.

Such is the contradictoriness of human nature, that we began to regard
with regret the certainty that he would not be at the _table d'hôte_
that night to record his disappointments. It was quite interesting to
watch the process by which he would throw an atmosphere of spiritual
deathliness--a sort of moral incandescent gaslight--over the fascinating
things of this despised country.

We realised that, in spite of his powers of disenchantment, we had found
a sort of satisfaction (like the satisfaction of a discord in music) in
the bleakness of our friend's outlook upon life and things.

It made one, perhaps not very relevantly, think of Madame de Sévigné's
phrase:--

"Toujours soutenue de l'ignorance capable de Madame de B----"

"Ignorance capable!" We positively missed it!



CHAPTER IV

PETRARCH AND LAURA


     "Solea lontana in sonno consolarme
         Con quella dolce angelica sua vista
         Madonna; or mi spaventa e mi contrista;
         Né di _duol_, _né di téma_ posso aitarme:

     Ché spesso nel suo volto veder parme
         Vera pietà con grave dolor mista;
         Ed udir cose, onde'l cor fede acquista,
         Ché di _gioja e di_ speme si disarme.

     Non ti sovèn di quell' ultima sera,
         Dic' ella, ch'i lasciai gli occhi tuoi molli,
         E sforzata dal tempo me n' andai?

     I' non te'l potei dir all or, né volli:
         Or te'l dico per cosa esperta e vera;
         Non sperar di vedermi in terra mai."

          FRANCESCO PETRARCA (_Sonnetto CCXI._)

How well one understands why it is that the South has produced so much
art and so little philosophy! We found ourselves spending hours basking
in this delicious sun, while we idly wondered how often the beautiful
Laura crossed the square, exactly how she looked, and spoke, and smiled;
above all, how she felt: the real truth about that mysterious romance.
The customs of the day, the universal habit of love-making as part of the
necessary accomplishments of a gentleman, make it difficult to recognise
the genuine love-story when one finds it.

Barbara was much interested in these immortal lovers, much more so than
in Rienzi's tower or old churches; and we managed to glean a good deal of
desultory information on the subject, which brought us to the conclusion
that Laura was a real person and Petrarch's a real passion. The fact
that in his prose writings he scarcely ever alludes to his beloved one
seemed to us to support our views. He did not care to talk to all the
world of what he felt so deeply. Sonnets were more impersonal. In his
favourite copy of Virgil he records his first meeting with Laura, and
her death twenty-one years later. Barbara considered this conclusive.

"Laura, who was distinguished by her own virtues and widely celebrated
by my songs, first appeared to my eyes in early manhood in the year of
our Lord 1327, upon the sixth day of April, at the first hour in the
Church of St. Clara at Avignon." In the same minute way he records her
death while he was at Verona, "ignorant of his fate."

"I have experienced," he adds, "a certain satisfaction in writing this
bitter record of a cruel event, especially in this place where it will
often come under my eyes, for so I may be led to reflect that life can
afford me no farther pleasures."

He appears all through his career to have been struggling between his love
for this unattainable lady and the monastic view of life as inculcated by
St. Augustine. No wonder his was a tempest-tossed and melancholy soul!
Among his published works the imaginary dialogue between himself and
the saint lays bare the curious combat of a nature essentially modern
in its instincts, while intellectually under the dominion of mediæval
theories. His sentiment was noble in character: a noble love for a noble
woman; but the pitiless saint will not accept that as an excuse for the
soul's enslavement. The monitor does his utmost to prove that it is a
chain utterly unworthy of a rational being, whose thoughts should be
fixed on things eternal. It does not occur to Petrarch to make high claim
for the sentiment itself, still less to number it among eternal things,
as probably it would have occurred to a mind of that idealistic type
had he lived a few hundred years later. But his feeling and his mental
outlook are evidently not at one. He feels ahead of his thought by many
centuries, and never all his life does he succeed in harmonising the two
parts of his being, and that is probably why he was always unsatisfied,
sad at heart even at his gayest; unable to fully enjoy the savour of
life in spite of his extraordinary fulness of opportunity and his ardent
nature.

  [Illustration: VALE AND SOURCE OF THE SORGUE, VAUCLUSE.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

As for the theory that Laura was merely a symbol for _Laurea_, the crown
of poetic fame, it is not easy to accept the view in face of a letter
of Petrarch to his friend, Giacomo Colonna, in which he speaks of this
supposition: "Would that your humorous suggestion were true; would to
God it were all a pretence and not a madness!"

His defence of this passion, in the "Segreto," is described by a writer
of to-day as "purely modern."

     "Petrarch was modern enough to grasp, and even defend against
     the perversions of monasticism and the current of theological
     speculation, one of the noblest of man's attributes."

In the singular dialogue between the poet and the saint, the poet, while
making a brave stand for the unconquerable sentiment, finally allows
the saint to have the best of the argument.

Barbara flatly refused to listen to the theory that Petrarch and Laura
never exchanged so much as a word in their lives, but it is believed by
many. The poet is said to have worshipped the lady at a distance across
the golden shadows of the Church of St. Clara at Avignon, where she
used to come for the celebration of Mass. Her family--if to the family
of de Noves she really belonged--owned a château in the neighbourhood.
She married into the house of De Sades (or so runs the story) and she
was a niece of the famous Fanette, who was President of the renowned
Court of Love at the Château of Romanin in the Alpilles: those strange
little limestone mountains that we saw to the south as we looked over
the country from the Rocher du Dom.

Some writers, on the other hand, speak of a passionate history,
clandestine meetings, tragedy and despair. But of this there is not a
hint in the poet's own writings. Nothing certain seems to be known about
the matter, and it is even regarded as entirely fabulous by some sceptics
who would banish from history all its charming stories, the mere fact
of a romantic flavour seeming to them to prove a legend untrue. As if
real life were constructed on such dull and unimaginative lines!

If, however, the story of Petrarch and Laura be well founded, he must
have been the very prince of lovers, for his love was well-nigh untiring,
although seemingly hopeless, uncheered by even an occasional meeting;
and it remained in his heart obstinately and irrevocably, in spite of
the most persistent efforts of his intellect and his religious sense to
oust it; in spite of a life among the Courts of Europe the most brilliant
and varied that can be imagined.

Petrarch possessed also the genius of friendship, and had swarms of
friends. When Pope Clement VI., one of the number, lay dying in his
fortress palace, the poet sent a message: "Remember the epitaph of the
Roman Emperor Hadrian: 'Turba Medicorum Perii.'" And he wrote a letter
to the Pope in the same strain: "What makes me really tremble is to see
your bed surrounded with physicians who never agree."...

One likes to picture him in these old halls and to know that he possessed
the genial faculty of making people feel the happier for his presence.
Yet it is recorded that "deep remorse and profound melancholy afflicted
the poet's soul."

Perhaps his hopeless love may have clouded his spirit, for this does
happen in exceptional natures; or is it that, in truth, there are untold
agonies, late or soon, in the hearts of all who have the power to move
and to delight?

Certain it is that Petrarch possessed an immense attraction for almost
every type of mind and character. He must indeed have been a man of
infinite charm. He was the friend of kings, scholars, Popes, princes,
soldiers, statesmen. He ardently championed the cause of Rienzi, and of
the Emperor Charles IV.; for the idea of keeping up the succession of
the Holy Roman Empire appealed powerfully to his imagination, and when
that monarch gave up his campaign before he had made good his imperial
claims on Italy, Petrarch wrote bitterly reproaching him for abandoning
so sacred a heritage.

In Avignon, among hosts of devoted friends, were the Princes of the House
of Colonna; and the friendship was not destroyed even when Petrarch sided
warmly with Rienzi against the turbulent nobles of Rome, among whom the
Colonna were pre-eminent.

But in spite of his popularity in the Papal city, Petrarch heartily
detested this Gallic Babylon, as he called it, and loved to retire from
its splendours to Vaucluse, not far off, where he tried to regain serenity
in the silence of that strangely romantic spot. A sad-looking little house
is still pointed out as the home of the poet; with a shady, wild garden
running down to the waters of the Sorgue as they rush foaming from the
narrow vale, whose stupendous cliffs are as gloomy and hope-destroying
as St. Augustine himself!--St. Augustine as represented in the "Segreto"
at any rate.

Here, in his beloved retreat, the poet seems to have perpetually tormented
himself with reflections about the vanity of life and the folly of human
affections, as if the stern figure of his monitor were indeed still
shadowing his spirit. But the saint, for all his arguments, cannot conquer
the poet's nature, or free him from what he calls the adamantine chains
that bind him to Love and Fame.

"These charm while they destroy," he makes the saint declare.

"What have I done to you?" Petrarch exclaims, "that you should deprive
me of my most splendid preoccupations and condemn to eternal darkness
the brightest part of my soul?"

It is in the grip of his splendid preoccupations that one sees him
oftenest.

Petrarch's parents were forced to leave Florence, where his father
was a notary, by the same revolution that exiled Dante, and after some
wanderings they fixed themselves at Avignon, sending the poet to study
jurisprudence at Montpellier, close at hand. It was on his return to
the Papal city, after the death of his parents, that he saw Laura for
the first time.

Judging by the sonnets, he met her fairly often afterwards in Avignon,
but never with any hope of a return for his passion.

A glance, a word of greeting at most, were all his reward, but out
of these he appears to have woven a sort of painful joy. His was an
unquiet spirit. One feels it as almost a relief to read of his death
and of his peaceful tomb at Arqua in the Euganæan hills above a clear
and beautiful river. "It stands on the little square before the church
where the peasants congregate at Mass-time--open to the skies, girdled
by the hills and within hearing of the vocal stream."

It is a pathetic picture that is left in the mind at the last, as the
poet writes from the sweet solitude of his garden at Parma, whither he
had retired towards the end of his days, drawn, doubtless, to his native
land, for which he had always a profound attachment.

"I pass my life in the church or in my garden," he says. The words are
so simple and quiet, and yet they are infinitely pathetic. When one
remembers what a centre of emotion and longing and sorrow the human
heart must be from its very nature, and what a stormy, ambitious, loving
and suffering spirit Petrarch's had always been, the quietness of those
words and the picture they call up is more touching and significant than
a hundred homilies. One knows a little now what sort of thoughts used
to pass through the poet's mind, as he bent his steps towards the great
painted chambers where his entry brought to all quick nerves a touch of
sunshine and a wave of harmony.

       *       *       *       *       *

Barbara gave a little laugh as we ascended the broad whitewashed
staircase, once rich with colour, that led to the endless galleries of
this leviathan of a palace.

"I wonder what our friend would say to this!" she exclaimed.

"Not a rag of ornament," I quoted sadly.

"Not Gothic or anything," Barbara complained.

"Wait a minute," I warned, as we entered a vast room with a vaulted
ceiling, which revealed by one small corner of the huge expanse the
magnificent canopy of rich frescoes that had once overhung the assemblies
of the Popes. "If it is not Gothic, at least it's--_any_thing!" I cried,
with enthusiasm. And truly anything and everything that is sumptuous,
mellow, exquisite in wealth and modulation of colour this great hall,
with its painted vaultings, must have been. But the splendour had been
desecrated by some Vandal, careless of his country's pride. Instead of
leaving the great audience chamber to tell its own eloquent tale, the
unpardonable one had cut it up into a couple of rooms--lofty indeed
even then--by dividing its height, and now the dinners of the troops
are cooked irreverently below, while the men spend their leisure in the
vaulted upper half of the Hall of the Frescoes; painted, perhaps, by
Giotto, if the faint tradition may be believed.[3]

The hall is filled with carpenters' benches, turning-lathes, tools which
lie scattered among wood shavings, glue-pots, and various disorderly
properties.

Through the enormous window at the end of this haunted chamber of history
there is a dazzling view of the plain of the Rhone and the circle of
mountains enclosing it, Mont Ventoux, richly blue, rising magnificently
in the centre of the amphitheatre.

We thought of Petrarch's famous ascent of the mountain, and of his
reflections on the vanity of all things when at last, after a hard
scramble, he reached the summit.

"No doubt he was tired," said the practical Barbara.

It was just what she would have said about one of her own brothers with
a similar excuse for pessimism.

Perhaps if Petrarch had had a Barbara to look after him he would not
have made so many reflections about the vanity of things. She would
have treated him as a charming child, whose fitful moods have to be
allowed for and soothed. It is indeed a rare man whom women do not feel
called upon to treat more or less in that way! However, Petrarch has
the support of a modern very different from himself when he complains of
the disillusions of mountain climbing. Nietzsche remarks the same thing,
but he accounts for it by the fact that the whole charm and spell of the
country has come from the mountain which draws one to it irresistibly,
but once we are there, the sorceress is no longer visible, and so the
charm disappears.

It was in this fortress-palace that the Anti-Pope Benedict XIII. (Pierre
de Luna) withstood the attacks of Charles V., whose religious sentiments,
outraged by the schism in the Church, prompted him to send one of his
generals to drive the pretender from his stronghold. The siege continued
for months, and ruined many houses in Avignon and killed many of the
people. At last, when the place was stormed the Pope took refuge in the
tower and finally escaped out of a secret door.

  [Illustration: MILL IN VALE OF THE SORGUE AT VAUCLUSE.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

We lingered for some minutes at the great window in the Hall of the
Frescoes studying the landscape, and trying to find out the direction
of Petrarch's romantic Vale of the Sorgue and the site of the Castle of
Romanin and Les Baux in the Alpilles. Near to the window to our left, as
a stern foreground to that radiant picture of Provence, stands Rienzi's
tower, bare and bald indeed. And there the last of the Tribunes passed
days of one knows not what anguish in his dark little prison, while
the sunlight beat and beat without upon its ruthless walls. There is a
touching story, showing the honour in which the troubadour's profession
was held in those days: that the people of Avignon interceded for the
condemned patriot, pleading for his life on the ground that he too was
a singer of songs. One is relieved to remember that at least he did not
end his days in this miserable dungeon, but met his death in the streets
of Rome, at the foot of the Capitol itself.

Alexandre Dumas says of this palace: "We find some sparks of art shining
like gold ornaments in dark armour! These are paintings which belong to
the hard style which marks the transition from Cimabue to Raphael. They
are thought to be by Giotto or Giottino, and certainly if they are not
by these masters they belong to their age and school. These paintings
ornament a tower which was probably the ordinary abode of the Pope, and
a chapel which was used as a tribunal of the Inquisition."

The young woman who showed us over the Palace with sustained hauteur,
told us that it was the custom to execute papal prisoners by throwing
them from the top of Rienzi's tower. This was the only subject that
seemed to interest our guide, a young lady of very modern type, and
aggressively "equal." In case we should have any doubt on the matter
she adopted an abrupt gait and an extremely noisy and resolved manner of
inserting the keys in the locks of the various doors through which she
admitted the sightseers. Barbara and I would fain have hung back among
the strange little passages hidden in the thickness of the inner walls,
ominous little mole-corridors suggestive of plot and passion such as a
Court of mediæval Popes could well be imagined to harbour. But our guide
fretted impatiently at the exit, eager to hurry us out, and she would
scarcely vouchsafe an answer to the meekest of questions. In fact, by
the time she had given us a very much foreshortened view of the Palace
(I am convinced that she did us out of more than half of the appointed
round), most of us felt more or less trampled upon--her equality was such!

       *       *       *       *       *

It is perhaps a paradox, but it is none the less true that one does not
fully realise the character of a scene till one has left it.

Under the shadow of that terrible building we were held by a spell,
wandering bewildered from dusky corridor to darker chamber, scarcely
able to take count of our own impressions. They were so strong and they
came so fast.

But once out again in the sunshine, we found that the images grouped
themselves into gloomy pictures, and all the crime and all the splendid
misery of that wonderful stage of mediæval drama seemed to crowd before
the mind's eye, re-peopling the melancholy place with brilliant figures,
filling it with voices and all the indescribable sound and murmur of a
stirring centre of human life.



CHAPTER V

THE CITIES OF THE LAGOONS


     "The Ligurians--subdued finally by Augustus ... had constituted
     the first nationality ... of Provence. Perhaps Asiatic in
     origin, they extended, with the Celts and the Iberians ...
     from the Pyrenees to the Alps, along the littoral ... at the
     epoch assigned for the founding of Marseilles, 590 or 600 B.C.

     "The Ligurians extended from the seventh or eighth century
     B.C. from the Pyrenees to the Arno along the Mediterranean
     shores.

            *       *       *       *       *

     "The Ibero-Ligurians have left memories of three tribes, the
     Bebrykes, the Sordes, and the Elesykes....

     "In spite of the successive influences of the Phœnicians
     and the Greeks, in spite of the mixture of the neighbouring
     Celts and the Roman colonists, the type of the Ligurians has
     perpetuated itself across the centuries."

          PAUL MARIÉTON.

The rivers of Provence are strangely fascinating; perhaps because they
so dominate and ensoul the country, and because of their tumultuous
flowing. The really fascinating thing for the living is life!

The river Asse is so impetuous that a proverb has grown up about it:
"l'Asse; fou qui la passe."

     "And fleet Durance ...
     Rugged in gait as wild of appetite...."

The Rhone has a little wind all to herself; the west wind that is called
_lou rosau_, the Provençal name for the river being _la Rose_.

The Rhone and the Durance are very different in character, though it
would take some telling to make the distinction clear. Both are swift
and strong, but the Durance is always a wild mountain creature, clear
and singing, while the Rhone is more humanised, more experienced, more
profound in the still passion of its flowing.

Its calm is perfect, its storm tremendous. _Rohan le taureau_ is a name
well deserved when the mistral descends from the mountains, waking the
"majestic music" of the river; impetuous, stormy, but always with that
mysterious under-note of calm that seems to belong to all great things.
Even the stern St. Jerome called the persuasive Hilarius "the Rhone
of eloquence," because nothing could resist the seductive power of his
language.

"His waves like herded cows that roar and bound" is one of Mistral's
many descriptions of the river which has inspired poet after poet and
traveller after traveller with a sense of its splendid power and beauty.

It is to the rivers, those patient builders, that the Gulf of Lyons
owes its curious formation which is of extraordinary interest to the
geologist as well as to the historian and the artist.

It was when the glacial epoch of the world was just over and the great
glaciers were breaking up along the valleys that lead down to the
Mediterranean that the present contours of the Gulf of Lyons began to
form. It is the old story of river-borne material forming deltas and bars,
but in this case, perhaps because of the great number of rivers--(the
Tech, the Aude, the Olbe, the Hérault, the Vidourle, the Durance, and
above all the Rhone)--there has arisen a sort of twin-coast; a double
shore enclosing a complicated series of lagoons or _étangs_ producing a
labyrinth of land and lake; "ephemeral isles," and wandering waterways,
long stretches of sand-dunes--shores that fly before the wind--great
swamps and deserts such as the Rhone-enclosed island of the Camargue and
the plain of the Crau. In its desolate way, this coast of many changes
and fortunes is one of the most interesting features of the country.

On the outer beach break the waves of the Mediterranean; the inner is
bathed by the smooth waters of the great chain of lagoons, blue, lonely,
strangely bright and still.

  [Illustration: ON THE DURANCE.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

This lake system in the early centuries was the scene of active navigation
and commerce, and on its shores were brilliant cities. A canal or _grau_
connected the lagoons with the sea, and these avenues in the prosperous
days were kept carefully open so that the sea could enter and keep the
water fresh and moving, and so perfectly wholesome.

Gradually, as one by one the great ports fell into decay, the canals were
neglected and the lakes became stagnant, silting up and so developing
into poisonous morasses, till the whole dismal regions in the Middle
Ages became a place of death.

  [Illustration: AIGUES MORTES FROM THE CAMARGUE.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

Let any traveller cross the Camargue on some calm afternoon in winter,
leaving the wonderful dark walls and towers of Aigues Mortes behind him
on the marshy plain, and he will probably be disinclined to admit that
any important changes can have taken place since those unhappy days.
Nevertheless vast improvements have been made, at any rate as regards
hygienic conditions; and though still dangerous in the hot season, these
swampy spaces cannot rival the old appalling death-roll which in certain
times of the year would summon so many victims from the marsh-encircled
towns that there were not sufficient hands left to bury them.

At Aigues Mortes the people used to say that the fever held its spring
assizes, and there were out of 1,500 inhabitants never less than five
or six deaths per day.

Aigues Mortes is but one of the Dead Cities of the coast; some of these
are still existing in that sadly pensive way in which once active and
famous centres survive their time of glory; while others are ruined or
have altogether disappeared.

The series begins at Port Vendre (Portus Veneris), following the coast
eastward past Narbonne, Aigues Mortes, Marseilles (the most famous of
all, with its Phocæan colonists) to Olba, whose site every traveller
passes on his dusty way to the Riviera.

Many of these ancient cities are now inland, but formerly they were still
on the shore; as, for instance, Rousillon (the ancient Roscino), Narbonne,
and Illiberis. This last is so ancient that Pomponius Mela and Pliny are
quoted as having referred to it as "once a great and glorious city." In
their day it was reduced to a small village. Its name is thought to be
Iberic or Basque, and signifies a new town (Illi beris).

One seems never able to get back far enough to arrive at the beginning
of Illiberis, for the city that was already decayed in Pliny's time
had a predecessor called Pyrene, named after the daughter of the king
of the mysterious Ligurian race of Bebrykes. Pyrene had for a lover no
less a person than Hercules, and she gave her name to the capital of
the Bebryke Kingdom and to the great chain of mountains that dominate it.

These vast masses of the Pyrenees seem to be the only fixed thing in
this region of deltas; this strange, lone land, which rises and flees
in a mist before one's eyes, gathering now here, now there in restless
dunes, encroaching on the sea at this point, falling back at that; always
wandering and wild; shifting, drifting against the walls of ancient
cities; stirring, shivering in forgotten corners, by forsaken ways and
shrines; silting up round old wrecks or ruins of years ago, till an
island or a mount is born out of the waste; giving way before the rush
of some swollen current, as it breaks forth into a fresh channel with
bright, victorious waves bearing new fortunes to whole regions along
the coast.

Among the many races that have populated this shore, besides the great
and far-reaching Ligurians and Iberians, there were the agricultural
Volscians in the fifth century and the Sordares or Sordi, another
traditional half-fabulous people who belonged chiefly to the country
about Rousillon, the ancient Roscino.

The whole coast was haunted by the Phœnicians from the earliest times; and
the Volscians held a large part of the region for centuries, cultivating
the land in quiet bucolic fashion. Narbonne, Agatha (Agde), Brescon,
Forum Dimitti (Frontigen), St. Gilles, Maguelonne, Aigues Mortes, were
among these old cities or ruins, of which Narbonne alone is of much
importance to-day.

When they were flourishing, the country was more or less covered with
vegetation; and of a dream-like loveliness these twin-shores must have
been with their fair cities dotting the green shores; towers and palaces
repeating themselves in the stillness of the lagoons; gliding ships
richly laden threading the waterways, passing and repassing; a fresh
little wind coming in from the sea, and the vast blue of those waters
stretching forth to the edge of the world!

       *       *       *       *       *

The most ancient of the dead cities, those whose origin recedes far back
before the Roman occupation, are generally a few miles inland, and mark
the old line of the coast.

Narbonne, the famous capital of Gallia, was, like all the Celtic cities,
sombre and severe in aspect, with mortarless walls of enormous blocks of
stone. The people of Marseilles who traded with Narbonne "found no charm
in these marshy solitudes beaten by all the winds in the midst of the
indefinite and shallow lagoons, which rendered almost unapproachable the
grey walled town whose sadness contrasted strikingly with the magnificence
of the elegant Massilia."

Since then the Romans have occupied Narbonne, the Visigoths and Saracens
have devastated it. This, the first Roman colony in Gaul, was civilised
and Romanised by Fabius Maximus, a bold undertaking in the newly conquered
country inhabited by wild Ligurians and Celts. But the Roman genius
for government and colonisation produced its usual brilliant results.
Theatres, amphitheatres, baths, temples and palaces sprang up in the
Celtic city which the traders from Marseilles had thought so gloomy,
and for many a long day Narbonne was the most important of flourishing
ports in Gaul always excepting Marseilles the immortal.

At Narbonne have been found "monumental stones" with small caps carved
upon them. When a Roman left in his will that certain of his slaves
should be liberated, a cap was carved upon their tombs, and so it has
become "the cap of liberty," the symbol of a freedom greater than the
freest Roman ever dreamt of.

There were also found in the burial-places of children little rude clay
toys representing pigs and horses.

More striking and unexpected than these discoveries, however, were those
of several tombs said to have been found in the city with inscriptions
proving that some Pagans at least believed in immortality, for the
survivors speak of looking forward joyfully to reunion in another life
with their lost ones.

The towns of Agde and Brescon, or Blascon, follow next in the chain
of dead cities, both situated on volcanic islands at the mouth of the
Hérault. If the speculations of etymologists have brought them to a
correct conclusion, the name of Blascon proves the Phœnicians to have
known something of geology. For Blascon is thought to be derived from the
Pnician root _balangon_, to devour with fire; so that these ubiquitous
traders must have recognised volcanic soil when they saw it.

Agde (Agatha Tyche--Good Fortune--from the happy position of its port,
nautically considered) was a Greek colony from Marseilles carrying with
it the cult of Hellas. A temple to Diana of Ephesus was erected on the
coast, this goddess being the tutelar deity of the mother city. A few
columns of the temple are said still to remain.

Agde was called the Black Town by Marco Polo; and by many a luckless
traveller in the Middle Ages, a Cavern of Thieves.

Across the whole of this district between the cities, great roads used
to run; the Domitian Way being founded on a primitive Ligurian or Celtic
road, and extending from Carthagena through Gallia Narbonensis as far
as the Rhone.

The Aurelian Way was another of these routes running further westward,
but as to its exact course, no profane outsider may dare to pronounce.
It is a subject that destroys all peace in antiquarian circles.

       *       *       *       *       *

It has been remarked[4] that all names on a certain line of route, ending
at Béziers in Languedoc, are Celtic, while all south of that route are
Latin. Among the first we find Ugernum (Beaucaire), Nemausus (Nimes),
Ambrossus (Ambrusian), Sostatio (Castelnau), Cessero (St. Thibery),
Riterræ (Béziers).[5] The second or Latin names comprise Franque Vaux
(Francavallis), Aigues Mortes (Acquæ Mortuæ), Saint Gilles (Fanum Sancti
Ægidii), Vauvert (Vallis Viridis), Villeneuve (Villa Nova), Mirevaux
(Mira Vallis), and so forth.

From their names, therefore, one may judge whether these towns were built
before or after the Roman occupation, and thence whether the district was
above water at that time, or at least whether it was possible for human
habitation. It appears that this historical theory tallies precisely
with the geology of the district, and that the whole country--even
including the Alpilles, whose peaks formed islands at the beginning of
our era--was covered with the sea. Mont Majour, near Arles--where is now a
magnificent ruined castle characteristic of the country--the Montagnette
de Tarascon, a curious little limestone height among whose recesses is
perched a strange old monastery, and one or two other places, form the
sole exceptions.

The old beach far inland can be traced easily by the line of sand-dunes
often covered with Parasol Pines and white poplars. This line, therefore,
marks the scene of some of the great changes and events of French history.

On the coast between sea and lagoon lies Maguelonne, a dead city
indeed, but one of the most romantic spots in the South of France. Its
fortress-church, gloomily shrouded by a grove of pines, stands on the
lonely island, listening, one might fancy, to the incessant beat of the
waters on the deserted shores--sole remnant of a great city.

Aigues Mortes with its wonderful walls untouched since they were built by
Philip le Hardi; St. Gilles, in the Camargue (famous for its exquisite
church), built perhaps on the site of the Greek city Heraclea, which
had disappeared even in Philip's time; Arles, "the Gallic Rome," the
residence of Roman Emperors and the capital of a later kingdom--these,
too, belong to the astonishing list which might lengthen itself almost
indefinitely.

Each town, moreover, is the scene of geological changes, of racial,
social, and historical romance which would take a lifetime to learn and
volumes to relate.

It is a strange, sad story--if truly the decadence of what we call
prosperous cities and the desolation of brilliant sights be sad.

"Scarcely two thousand years," says Lenthéric, "have sufficed to convert
these lagoons, formerly navigable, into sheets of pestilential water,
to annihilate this immemorial vegetation, to transform into arid steppes
this gracious archipelago of luxuriant wooded isles, and to outline this
coast with a desolating dryness and an implacable monotony."

But at least it is peaceful: at least it is free from the fret and fume
and tragedy of human life!



CHAPTER VI

THE BIRTH OF CHIVALRY


     "Quan vez la landeta mover
     De joi sas alas contra 'lrai,
     Que s'oblida e s laissa cazer
     Per la doussor qu'al cor l'in vai
     Ailas! qual enueia m'enve,
     Cui qu'ieu ne vai jauzion!
     Meraveillas m'ai quar desse
     Lo cor de dezirier no m fon."

     "When I behold the skylark winging its merry journey towards
     the sun and then forgetful of itself from sudden inebriety
     of pleasure, drop down precipitant; Oh! how I long then for
     a fate like hers! How much I enjoy then the joy to which I'm
     witness! I am astonished that my heart is not at once dissolved
     in longing."

          From M. FAURIEL'S "HISTORY OF PROVENÇAL POETRY"
            (_Poem of the Skylark_).

It is impossible to wander a day in Provence without being drawn to wonder
if not to speculate upon the origin of that extraordinary outbreak of
new sentiment that we call chivalry. It seems like a miraculous birth.
It is impossible even to imagine what would have been the destinies of
mankind had the beautiful inspiration failed to descend out of the blue
just at the most brutal epoch of European history.

The life of the early Middle Ages was barbaric beyond all our powers
of conception. Might was right in those days in a sense perhaps more
absolute than under conditions of primitive savagery.

In fact, there existed a sort of official savagery of Church and State.
Tolerance was undreamt of; there was no refuge for the oppressed, no
rights for the weak, no honour, no fair play. Such rights and qualities
belong to the ideals of chivalry. They had no nook or corner in the
preceding era, no niche in the Christian Church; and the heart in which
such outlandish feelings were untimely born must either have hardened or
broken--as surely many a heart did break for sheer loneliness, divided
by centuries from its brother spirits.

An extravagant picture? Only in the sense in which all rough sketches
are extravagant.

  [Illustration: AT THE PORT OF AIGUES MORTES.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

As for the tide in the affairs of women, it was at the neap. Lecky
traces to Jewish sources a good deal of the contempt in which they were
universally held. The tenth commandment, we may remember, enjoins that
a man shall not covet his neighbour's house, nor his wife, nor his
servant, nor his maid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is
his; a fairly plain and unvarnished way of expressing by inference the
general view of marital relations.

"A woman," says this author, "was regarded as the origin of human ills";
and he quotes the saying of a Jewish writer that "the badness of men is
better than the goodness of women." Our great-great-great-grandmothers,
we may remember, used to be sold by their feudal lords to the highest
bidder. That counts for something in a people's destiny. "Marriage,"
says M. Fauriel in his work on Provençal Poetry,[6] "was nothing more
than a treaty of peace or alliance between two seigneurs, of whom the
one took the daughter of the other as his wife."

Repudiation, the same author says, was a common device: in the case, for
instance, of a married noble covetous of new territory, he would become
conscience-stricken on reflecting that he was perhaps fourth cousin of
his wife, and he hurried to the Church to release him from the burden
of sin, the Church being complaisant towards a wealthy penitent.

     "The exaggerated pretensions, refinements, subtleties of this
     [chivalrous] love," M. Fauriel continues, "took its rise in
     the interested motives of feudal marriage. The sufferings of
     women as wives partly explain the adoration of the chevaliers."

The women of those dark days were, in fact, born to humiliation and
indignity as a mole is born to burrow in the earth. Both sexes suffered
vassalage under a feudal superior, but the woman also endured domestic
subservience. She was subject to the common lord and to her own particular
lord into the bargain.

And we must picture her as enveloped and overwhelmed by these conditions,
so that they form for her the canopy of heaven, the very nature and
ordinance of things, a set of laws so absolute that she could not so
much as think beyond them in her wildest flights of fancy--if flights
of fancy were possible to beings deprived of all that makes possible a
vital human existence.[7]

Patient Griselda, as we know, was the model wife of the day, and the
sentiment of the old story, in gradually attenuating strength, has ruled
the ideals and conduct of men and women for weary centuries. Indeed, it
remains even to this day as a sort of secret substratum to our current
domestic sentimentalities. The ideal, in its original strength, produced
a society the most degraded and miserable that the civilised world has
ever seen.

It is impossible to conceive anything more hopeless than the condition
of the whole population of the early Middle Ages. Where was rescue to
come from? What could the most sanguine hope for except a very slow
movement towards better things?

Yet that was not what happened.

Into this darkness the light of a new and beautiful ideal began to shine
like a veritable ray from heaven!

The clouds seemed to part and the troubled, stupid world became illumined
with a spiritual truth which to this hour is the source of the best that
we have ever conceived in character and manners.

Suppose it had occurred to no one that to torture and insult a fallen
foe was of all acts the most cowardly, that treachery was essentially
base; that honour, loyalty, and fair play to friend and foe were the
attributes of true knighthood and true manhood. Suppose that nobody had
ever questioned the conduct of such ruffians as the husband of Griselda,
or saw that Griselda's patience was in its essence mean-spirited rather
than noble; suppose--but it is wiser to suppose no further, for the
records of these old cities and castles and the dark stories that occur
even among the gayest troubadour traditions, give hints that the mind
dares not dwell upon.

It is impossible to state, much more to exaggerate, the profound and
indeed creative influence of the new order, often sinned against indeed,
but serving as a standard by which a man is instinctively judged, and
by which, in his inmost heart, he judges himself. But to whom do we owe
this enormous debt? That question has never received a convincing answer.
Nothing could have appeared more wildly Utopian than to hope for the
birth of such ideals at the time at which they actually arose. To lofty
motives of magnanimity, of mercy and tenderness towards the weak, was
added the most unaccountable innovation of all: respect for, worship of
women; women whose "goodness" had a little while ago been inferior to
man's badness. Suddenly this miserable sinner is exalted to the highest
honours, set on a pedestal, served and protected and deferred to as a
being who alone can inspire great achievements or shed a light and a
charm on the path of life.

A knight, it was said, was "the champion of God and the ladies."

"I blush," Gibbon adds, "to unite such discordant names."

The historian evidently does not approve of this new dispensation, and
indeed all through his writings displays that ancient deep-seated scorn
for the sex he calls frail which chivalry itself has not banished from
the heart of man.

The new ideals, it is to be remarked, applied only to the knight and
the noble. We have moved a little farther in regarding chivalry as an
attribute of the _man_, though the mediæval notion still lingers that
its qualities pertain _par excellence_ to the "gentleman." We have yet
further to go in making them extend in their full range to the womanly
character. The notion seems to be fairly widespread that it is feminine
to be at least a _little_ treacherous!

  [Illustration: CHURCH AT BARBENTANE.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

All advance has been, and apparently must be made along the lines of
chivalry. There is not a noble deed or a generous thought that does not,
in its essence, belong to this wonderful tradition which we accept so
unquestioningly that we do not even remember to ask whence it came. Yet
so fundamental is it in our most intimate thoughts as well as in our
public judgments that one can scarcely conceive any further progress
that should not consist in a steady extension of the knightly sentiment,
a generous widening of the wisdom of the heart, till every living being
capable of joy and of suffering, the greatest and the least, shall be
gathered together under the great "Cloak of Friendship."

       *       *       *       *       *

The early poetry of Provence, like that of every other country, celebrates
the wars and exploits of heroes, inspired in this case by the long
conflicts with the Barbarians and with the Saracens.

One must not forget that for centuries the people of Gaul had enjoyed
the civilisation of the Romans, more especially in the attractive South,
where those great colonists had built splendid villas and settled down
to a cultured and luxurious life.

The Gallo-Roman society was cultivated in a high degree, after the
Roman model. The Gauls had shown from the first great quickness in
adapting themselves to the new order, and the country had become truly
and completely Romanised, almost the only instance in history of such
an achievement. There were schools of grammar and rhetoric in all the
towns, and a Gallo-Roman literature had sprung up, which continued to
exist for a considerable time, almost a century, after the Barbarian
invasions.

In the fifth century in Gaul men were violently discussing the question of
Materialism _versus_ Spiritualism in philosophy, and there is a treatise
on the "Nature of the Soul" of this period in which the author undertakes
to "demonstrate the immateriality of this substance in opposition to
those who believe it inherent in the bodily organs and as being merely
a certain state or modification of those organs." The twentieth century
finds us still busy with the question.

This civilisation, as is well known, was not by any means immediately
destroyed by the Barbarian invasions. The Barbarians admired and imitated
Roman institutions and manners, especially the Visigoths, who were less
savage than either the Vandals, the Huns, or the Franks.

Their first king, Ataulphe--whose capital was at Toulouse--was more Roman
than the Romans; Theoderick II. read Virgil and Horace; and Euric made
a code of laws copied from the Theodosian code. The Burgundian chief,
Gondebaud, received as a high honour the Roman title of "Patrician," and
in his wars with Clovis he "affected quite a Roman repugnance to him and
his Franks, on whom he disdainfully bestows the epithet of Barbarians."

It was not till the sixth century, under the rule of the Franks, that
the decadence of literature truly began.[8] This decadence is lamented
by the famous Gregory of Tours. "The majority of men sigh and sing, 'Woe
to our age'; the study of letters has been lost among us, and the people
have no longer a man capable of recording the events of the times." It
is for this reason that he resolves to undertake the task of historian.

The downward movement which he bemoans continued under the Merovingians
and the Carlovingians--only temporarily arrested by Charlemagne's revival
of learning--and the country was reduced to something little removed
from pure barbarism, though the people still clung to classic customs:
the cultus of fountains and woods, practice of auguries and so forth.

In the tenth century the _Lingua Romana_ was spoken in Gaul. The end
of the decomposing process had come. The idiom had ceased to be merely
corrupt Latin, it was Romance, a definite language on a Latin foundation,
but full of words and forms belonging to the numberless races that had
inhabited or influenced the south of Gaul.

And now with the final destruction of the old order and language
began the process of constructing the new; the first movement of the
Romance-literature, the literature which for two centuries was to dominate
Europe and to form and found the ideals of life that we call modern.

The transition stages are marked in the history of the Church. In the
ninth century Charlemagne enjoins on the clergy that they shall translate
into Romance for the benefit of the people their Latin exhortations,
showing that at this date the classic tongue had ceased to be generally
understood, at least in the North. In the South it appears to have
lingered longer, for at Charlemagne's Council of Arles of about the same
date no such order is given, presumably because it was unnecessary.

Later, however, in the Churches of the South the clergy allowed songs
and responses in pure Romance to be introduced, and this concession M.
Fauriel regards as the beginning of the movement.

He gives an amusing account of one of the earliest specimens of Provençal
literature, a dramatic version of the parable of the wise and foolish
virgins.

The foolish virgins arriving too late, appeal in vain to the wise for oil.
They refuse, but recommend a good oil-dealer who may perhaps supply them.
But he, too, will not assent to their prayer, and alas! the Bridegroom
arrives before they have had time to come to an arrangement. He likewise
turns away from the foolish ones, saying He does not know them; and--in
a singularly un-Christian spirit--condemns them to be at once plunged
into the deepest depths of hell.

A troop of demons come in and seize the foolish virgins and drag them
down to the flames, while, presumably, their wiser sisters look on
complacently, basking in their own virtue and in the consequent favours
of the powers that be.

Legends of all sorts made the subjects of literary effort at this time,
among them that of the Sacred Tree, in which its seed, with that of the
cypress and the fir, is given by an angel in the Garden of Eden to a son
of Adam. The sacred seed goes through many adventures, first with Moses
in the wilderness, then with David at Jerusalem, where it develops so
rapidly that the singer is able to compose his psalms beneath its shade.

Solomon tries in vain to use a beam from the tree in his temple, but it
always becomes a few inches too long whenever it is placed in position
and shrinks again on removal. Finally it is taken to be made into the
Cross of the Saviour.

       *       *       *       *       *

At this time, just before as well as after the emergence of the troubadour
literature, the Court of Ventadour plays an important part.

One of its counts, Eblos III., was called _Cantor_ because of his
devotion to "verses of alacrity and joy." He was a contemporary of our
William the Conqueror, a fact which perhaps helps one to place in the
imagination this cultivated little Court of Limousin.

  [Illustration: CASTLE OF MONTMAJOUR, ARLES.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

It was a seigneur of Limousin, William IX. of Poitiers, Duke of
Acquitaine, Gascony, and many other provinces, who is usually regarded
as the first troubadour; a gay, insouciant soldier, singer, sceptic,
and free-thinker of the eleventh century. He is the first _trouvère_
or "finder" (from Spanish _trobar_) whose poems have come down to us;
born in 1071, but doing his work in the succeeding age. From this time
onwards we are in the real troubadour-land, and a multitude of singers
spring up, as if at the stroke of some magic signal, some mysterious
summons from the spiritual realm, to build a new heaven and a new earth
for the tormented, war-wearied human race.

Many writers have tried to account for the great movement by the worship
of the Virgin Mary; but the Virgin had been worshipped for ages before
the birth of chivalry. Certain of its qualities were doubtless fostered
by the feudal system which could only continue to exist if men were
faithful to their engagements and the word of honour was held sacred. But
there was nothing in feudalism to foster respect for women. As we know,
it had quite an opposite tendency. Some writers trace the institution
to the Arabs, who, after the conquest of Persia in the seventh century,
absorbed the culture of the vanquished race. Rather later than this
period (as the author of "Feudal and Modern Japan" points out), during
the golden age of those islands, with all Christian Europe plunged in
darkness, there was literary activity nowhere manifest save in Japan,
China, India, the Eastern Caliphæte and Saracenic Spain. With only one
of these lands could the South of France have come into direct contact,
viz., Saracenic Spain. From here, therefore, one is almost forced to
conclude, came the first definite impulse that set stirring the great
emotions and great thoughts of the new movement. The Saracen Arabs are
described as a nation of chivalrous soldiers, one of the most cultivated
and romantic of the earth, and the Crusaders could scarcely fail to be
influenced by such a people.

Nothing can have exceeded the splendour of this romantic Saracen Empire
in Spain.

"Palaces, mosques, minarets rose like an exhalation in vanquished Spain,"
writes Rowbotham in his book on the troubadours.

The country, he says, produced a wealth of valuable metals, loadstone,
crystals, silks, corals, rubies, pearls, and the cities were dreams of
colour and Eastern loveliness, where there was always the sound of lutes
and the enchantment of song. The Caliph lived in unimaginable luxury at
Zahra, where the "Pavilion of his Pleasures" was constructed of gold
and polished steel, the walls of which were encrusted with precious
stones. In the midst of the splendour produced by lights reflected from
the hundred crystal lustres a sheaf of living quicksilver welled up in a
basin of alabaster. "The banks of the Guadalquiver were lined with twelve
thousand towns and villages; lights in never-ending myriads troubled
the whole length of the stream. And as the boatmen glided past village
after village ... came the perpetual sounds of instruments and voices."

In the sumptuous houses was generally a cool central court with a
fountain, and here for the contentment of all good Moslems, the Saracen
minstrels would come and sing of love and beautiful ladies, while the
water splashed quietly into the basin in the languorous noonday heat.

There was no variation in the theme: always love and beautiful ladies.

"Shut your eyelids, ye eyes of the gazelle," was the popular mode of
beginning the entertainment.

Banished from religion, "music," according to the same author, "became
to Moslems an illicit pleasure like wine, and it grew up amid myrtle
blossoms and the laughter of women."

A life like this, splendid with colour and brilliance, might well have
inspired imitation among the impressionable people of Provence, and so
would help to account for certain elements in the movements of chivalry;
but it would scarcely account for the romantic adoration of the sex which
the Arabs--for all their songs in praise of charm and beauty--treated
after the immemorial fashion of the East.

Yet we are told that the first Crusade acted as a sort of edict for their
emancipation. "Women who had lived in constant terror ... of ill-usage
and violent treatment now came out in crowds--went to distant countries,
and a squadron of them even took up arms for the Cross. This brought
them into contact with the most gallant men on earth, famous for their
passionate adoration of women."

One can see how all this may, and indeed must have ousted many of the
older traditions and created a new romantic spirit. The mere fact of
increased liberty and experience for the subject sex tended to produce
a changed and more human relationship. But it is difficult to believe
that the woman of the West owes her salvation to the Moslem!

The charm and romance of the Eastern life gave the impetus; the increased
freedom introduced a more spiritual element, and then the quickened
imagination worked subtly as well as rapidly upon minds and hearts
already stirring with new ideas and emotions. Happily one can inspire
a great deal more than one actually communicates.

But the land which keeps its women shut away in harems and treats them
as personal property could scarcely teach the ideas of chivalry to the
West. Woman does not owe her redemption to the followers of Mahomet.
The paradox is unthinkable. In fact, she really owes it to herself: to
some power of intuition, a quick understanding of the bearing of things,
of the magic of ideas as distinct from established facts which enabled
her to win a steadily widening influence just at that favourable moment
when the new thoughts were in the air: honour, loyalty, generosity, fair
play. Then perhaps she was inspired to put in _her_ claim for fair play,
and when once that notion was really started in men's minds it seemed
to take fire with generous swiftness.

In any case, it is to the dreamers--men or women--of the tenth or eleventh
century, probably to both, that we owe these saving ideals. Practical
men of the preceding ages doubtless laughed at them as sentimental or
subversive. Happy the land that still breeds ideas at which the practical
man laughs!



CHAPTER VII

THE GAY SCIENCE


     "Li douz cossire
     Qem don amors soven
     Domnam fan dire
     De vos maint vers plazem
     Pessan remire
     Vostre cors car e gen
     Cui eu dezire
     Mas qu non faz parven;
     E sitot me deslei
     Per vos ges nous abnei
     Q'ades vas vos soplei
     De francha benevolensa
     Domna on beutaz gensa."

         From a famous Canzo by GUILHELM DE CABESTAING.

     "The sweet thoughts which love gives me often, Lady, makes me
     sing of you many a pleasant song. Thinking, I gaze on your dear
     and comely self, which I desire more than I allow to appear;
     and although I seem disloyal for your sake, it is not you I
     deny. For soon towards you I pray with true love, Lady, in
     whom beauty is an ornament."

The more we see of cities and castles the more our ignorance chafes
us, gets in our way. Our few books were insufficient. There was but one
thing to do: call at the famous little bookshop in the Rue d'Agricole
at Avignon--which alluring city we made our axis of movement--and lay
in a store of enlightening literature.

The shop is now the property of the widow of the poet Roumanille, who
with Mistral and Théodore Aubanel founded at Avignon the celebrated
Félibres, that wonderful band of poets--Troubadours of the twentieth
century--who have produced a literature in the once despised Provençal
tongue, breathing forth all the spirit of their native land. Intense
love of that land, of its ancient language, its architecture, costume,
history, creeds, has been the inspiration of this brilliant group, and
perhaps no other outburst of song has ever been fuller than this is of
warmth, colour, joy, sorrow, and that indefinable quality we call poetry.

The little shop in the quiet Rue d'Agricole was classic ground,
associated with many an enthusiastic meeting, many a happy hour of talk
and friendship among this warm-hearted fraternity. It was easy to find
books, but not easy to select them. There were piles and piles of the
works of the Félibres, and this title is claimed by a goodly number of
writers not now limited to natives of Provence, but including Englishmen
and Americans; and women too, for this genial brotherhood welcomes the
sex worshipped by their minstrel forefathers, and every seven years a
woman receives the honour of being crowned Queen of the Félibres.

With the kind help of Madame Roumanille, a selection was finally made,
the hard task being to choose that which was likely to be really useful
to travellers passing through a hitherto unknown country. There were
books on every conceivable subject: the ethnology of the Midi, with all
its mystery of race and language; the Phœnicians, the Greek colonies,
the Celtic, Ligurian, and Gallic inhabitants, endless histories of the
Roman occupation from the time when that astounding people settled in the
south-east corner of France and called it _Provincia_, "the Province."
Archæology of course has a gala time of it in this thoroughfare of the
nations, and the treasures of art are innumerable. The list begins with
implements of the Stone Age. Provence in the Middle Ages and the days of
the troubadours of course is profusely treated. Architecture also fares
brilliantly. Besides the splendid classic remains at Arles, Nimes, St.
Remy, Orange, there are churches of a style such as can be found in no
other part of the world; a version of the Romanesque which is peculiar
to the South of France.

  [Illustration: VIEW FROM ST. GILLES, CAMARGUE.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

A literature of controversy swells in volume daily: the vexed question
as to the spot where Hannibal crossed the Rhone on his way through Spain
to Italy having set almost as many professors by the ears as the problem
of the exact position of the great Aurelian road, parts of which have
been destroyed. The geology and physical geography of the littoral has
occupied another set of savants, notably the well-known Lenthéric, who
treats with remarkable vividness what would seem a somewhat unpopular
theme: the changes in configuration of the land and the works of natural
engineering accomplished by the Rhone as it reaches the sea by its many
mouths. Amongst all these subjects it was necessary to make a choice;
and here Barbara came to the rescue. She wanted to know more about
the troubadours. The books we had brought with us had already awakened
interest in their romantic songs.

It soon became evident that unless we were prepared to make a serious
study of their works we must be satisfied with a general notion of the
civilisation which they may be said to have created. Our authorities
therefore had to be consulted judiciously and the temptation resisted
to saunter down all the alluring bye-ways that they offered. There were
so many other doors to open and curtains to raise if we desired to have
even a faint idea of the brilliant drama of this extraordinary country.

  [Illustration: FAÇADE OF CHURCH, SAINT GILLES.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

We used to seek some quiet spot in the garden on the Rocher du Dom
and read or talk as fancy dictated. Soon we found ourselves in a very
labyrinth of story and legend. Veil after veil was lifted and the events
of bygone days began to loom out upon the background that was still real
and sunlit before our eyes. The lie of the land, the personality of the
cities, the part that the castles had played in the romantic story, all
rose before us like some bright mirage. The very air seemed full once
more of Provençal song and dance: tenso, chanson, rondo, pastorella,
descort, ballada; and one could almost hear the twang of lute and ring
of voice as the wind swept through the ruined windows, or we caught the
hurrying swish and murmur of the Rhone. It was quite an excitement, in
turning over the leaves of some old volume to come upon the poems of
troubadours whose stories we had smiled or sighed over. For there was
almost always something pathetic about these bright figures of wandering
minstrels, with their fine dress, courteous manners, ardent temperament,
and too often a disillusioned and lonely end, sometimes fighting against
the hosts of Saladin, not seldom within the shadows of the cloister.

       *       *       *       *       *

In thinking of this world of the troubadours, one must give one's
thoughts a longish tether and the imagination a touch of the spur, for
their journeyings were far and wide over the country, from the mountain
regions in the south-eastern districts of France to the farthest west
of Languedoc and the Dukedom of Acquitaine. There must stretch before
the mind's eye the whole beautiful region, sea-washed along its southern
boundaries, watered by splendid rivers, set with cities and ruins whose
names ring through the centuries; and away to the north the vision must
fade at its edges into sharp peaks, while vaguely beyond, on the verge of
the consciousness, must sweep back wave after wave of mountain country,
up and up in steeper and wilder masses to the towers and pinnacles of
the Alps.

But the real heart and centre of Troubadour-land is Provence, the region
east of the Rhone and south of the mountains of Dauphiny. It includes
the whole romantic hill-country on the spurs of the Maritime Alps; and
all along its shores to the east, the rocks cut clear and red into the
blue of that wondrous sea which has sung its soft and ceaseless song
through the tumult of all our civilisations and of all our dreams. And
beautiful among them has been the dream of Provence!

Much of the romance and beauty is the gift of the troubadours who taught
their countrymen--nay, all Europe--to see life with new eyes. For about
two hundred years they sang their songs; till they were silenced in the
thirteenth century by the Albigensian wars. They were a race of singers
and of lovers, for love was the principal theme and the main interest of
their lives. Their love-stories were invariably more or less unhappy, for
not only were the times disturbed and the dangers many, but the lovers
were seldom wise of heart or rich in knowledge of the art of life. And
so they were tossed on the sea of this rude age, on the sea of their own
wild jealousies and distrusts, and sorrow and disappointment generally
marked the end of the romance.

  [Illustration: OUTSIDE THE CHURCH, SAINTES MARIES.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

The famous Rudel, hero of Rostand's "Princesse Lointaine" who fell in
love with the distant princess whom he had never seen, and journeyed
far over the sea to visit her, only to die in her arms almost on the
instant that he beheld her, was perhaps one of the least unfortunate of
the fraternity, for he never knew the bitterness of disillusion; never
frittered away his sentiment in little quarrels and misunderstandings,
never suffered the miseries of jealousy.

Soon the famous names began to call up to us a living personality
like that of a friend: Raimbaut de Vacqueiras, Bernart de Ventadour,
Pierre Vidal, Cadenet, Bertrand de Born, Guilhelm de Cabestaing, Pons
de Chapteuil.... And then the charming Countess of Die, the Sappho of
Provence whose voice "had the colour of Alban wine" according to her
modern biographer already quoted. The leaves of the volume were always
sharply arrested when we came upon her name.

In vain, it would appear, had she a beautiful voice and a beautiful
face, for she fell in love with that Provençal Don Juan, Count Raimbaut
d'Orange, who soon grew tired of her, as her sad songs relate.

We were delighted to come upon the following truly disconsolate canzo,
for it seemed to bring us in touch with the poor lady:--

     "A chantar m'er de so qu'ieu no volria
     Tant me rancur de lui cui sui amia;
     Car ieu l'am mais que nuilla ren que sia:
     Vas lui n'om val merces ni cortesia,
     Ni ma beltatz ni mos pretz ni mos sens,
     C'atressi'm sui enganad' e trahïa
     Com degr'esser, s'ieu fos desavinens."

This was translated into French prose as follows:--

     "Le sujet de mes chants sera pènible et douleureux. Hélas!
     J'ai à me plaindre de celui dont je suis la tendre amie; je
     l'aime plus que chose qui soit au monde; mais auprès de lui,
     rien ne me sert, ni merci, ni courtoisie, ni ma beauté, ni
     mon mérite, ni mon esprit. Je suis trompée, je suis trahie,
     comme si j'avais commis quelque faute envers lui."

The Countess goes on in the same strain at some length. Raimbaut, it
appears, was very popular with the ladies of his brilliant world, but
the poetess reminds him that he ought to know who "best loves him and
is true withal." But no appeal moves him--to Barbara's great annoyance.

The account of this gentleman's hardness of heart called forth many
exclamations, as I read verse after plaintive verse. How any lady could
have set so much store on so coarse-grained and worthless a person as the
Count of Orange was difficult to understand; but as Barbara conclusively
pointed out, she had fallen in love with him for some unfathomable
reason best known to the Laughing Gods. But it was very annoying, all
that waste of emotion and suffering. We found ourselves almost as much
troubled over it as if it had happened to some friend whose infatuation
one had tried in vain to cure with arguments and pure reason.

It was a strange, emotional world that we were wandering in, and as the
books with which we were trying to find a clue to the puzzle took opposite
views of the manners and ideals of the age, it was not a little baffling.
To find our way was like trying to get out of a labyrinth. Often an author
would insist that these ardent canzos were merely conventional exercises
in the style of the day and meant nothing personal. But the theory would
not stand investigation. Hueffer, in his book on the troubadours, says
of these singers:

     "Frequently they may, and in some cases we positively know they
     did, mistake gracious condescension for responsive love--it was
     the privilege of high-born and high-minded women to protect
     and favour poetry, and to receive in return the troubadour's
     homage."

  [Illustration: THE CHURCH OF LES SAINTES MARIES AT NIGHT.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

The fact seems to be that there was perfect social freedom for the forming
of romantic friendship between troubadours and ladies on the foundation
of artistic sympathy, and this was the relation really aimed at and taken
for granted. It was scarcely a friendship as one now understands the
term, because the attitude of the troubadour was necessarily (according
to the theory) one of extreme homage and devotion, in which the element
of romantic love might or might not mingle. But it was modern friendship
with that devotional attitude in addition.

One of the most striking characteristics of the age is its
"young-heartedness," the quality that every true knight and lady was
expected to show. The festivals, the dancing, the prevalence of song
and gaiety were all an expression of that youth of the spirit which
belongs to certain epochs, races, and individuals, and is by no means
incompatible with a profound seriousness of thought and of outlook.

It proceeded, doubtless, from the great vividness of the life, and the
immense impetus of thought and emotion that produced and was produced
by the new ideals.

"So true it is," says John Addington Symonds, "that nothing lives and
has reality for us but what is spiritual, intellectual, self-possessed in
personality and consciousness. When the Egyptian priests said to Solon,
'You Greeks are always children,' he intended a gentle sarcasm, but he
implied a compliment; for the quality of imperishable youth belonged
to the true Hellenic spirit, and has become the heritage of every race
which partook of it."

There was a characteristic Charter issued to the "King of Youth" at
one of the many festivals or celebrations which set the whole land
of Provence dancing and rejoicing. And there was also _l'Abbaye de la
Jeunesse_, a sort of club which every town, big and little, is said to
have possessed, the members choosing a chief of the group annually, to
lead their gay processions and inspire their songs and festivals.

One other quaint and humane institution which this singular country
boasted was the "Hospice des Mal-Mariés," but except the arresting title
nothing seems to have survived in the uncertain records.

The quality of young-heartedness and that other beautiful attribute that
the French call "politesse du coeur" belonged essentially to this land
and epoch.

Of course among the golden threads some very black ones are interwoven:
traits of horrible treachery and barbarity standing out violently
amidst the texture of beauty that the finer spirits were weaving for
the ennobling of all human life; but these traits were survivals of a
former set of traditions and of the instincts which these had created.

     "Quand l'Auroro, fourrado en raubo di sati
     Desparvonillo, san brut, las portos del mati."[9]

These lines might well describe the historical moment of the new birth.
Love was then held to be "the ultimate and highest principle of all
virtue, of all moral merit, of all glory," and it produced--that is
when it was of the genuine kind demanded by chivalry--a state of "happy
exaltation of the sentiment and charm of life." This age seems to have
invented--or reinvented--the "joie de vivre" and the "joy of love."
It is remarkable that the language of the troubadours had two forms of
the word _joy_: _joi_ and _joia_; _joi_ being used for an expansive and
energetic state of happiness, _joia_ for the passive, reposeful form of
the sentiment.

While the troubadours were carrying everything before them in Provence
and Italy, the minnesingers were plying their romantic trade in Germany;
that is late in the twelfth century; but the Gay Science had spread from
Provence to the other countries, the troubadours visiting foreign Courts
and giving lessons in their art.

This outburst of poetry is described by M. Fauriel as

     "the result of a general or energetic movement in favour of
     social restoration, of an intense enthusiasm of humanity
     reacting on every side against the oppression and the
     barbarity of the epoch. The same sentiment ... impelled them
     to seek and to find a new type and new effects in the other
     arts, particularly in architecture. Thence arose palaces and
     churches...."

It is not a little strange and satisfying to realise that the strong wave
of sentiment of which one is conscious in all great architecture was in
the Middle Ages the same that produced the magnificent flight heavenwards
of the human imagination in all that regarded life, its problems and its
relationships. M. Fauriel, on the subject of the freedom of chivalrous
love, writes:--

     "The exaltation of desire, of hope, of self-sacrifice by which
     love manifests itself and in which it principally consists,
     could not have any moral merit nor could it become a real
     incentive to noble actions except on certain conditions. It
     was to be perfectly spontaneous, receive no law except its
     own, and could only exist for a single object."

"A woman," he continues, "could only feel her ascendancy and dignity,
as a moral being, in relations where everything on her part was a gift,
a voluntary favour, and not in relations where she had nothing to refuse."

As an example of the darker threads we may take the career of Guilhelm
de Cabestaing, the unfortunate author of the famous canzo, a fragment
of which is printed at the head of the chapter. He is one of the most
prominent figures in troubadour history. He celebrated the charms of
Berengaria des Baux, but his real love was for the wife of the Count of
Rousillon, a ferocious person who suspected the troubadour's passion and
set to work to entrap him by questions as to the state of his heart.
Guilhelm, seeing his danger, admitted that he was seriously in love,
but with the wife of another seigneur.

"Ah!" said the Count, pretending great sympathy, "I will help you in
your suit; we will go at once to the castle of the fair lady."

Guilhelm had reluctantly to go, dreading the worst; but the lady,
realising the situation, played up to the part, acknowledging her love
for Guilhelm, and the Count's suspicions were thus allayed, but only
to be aroused again by the canzo ("lou douz cossire") which Sermonda
asked her lover to write to assure her that his faithlessness was only
apparent. The gruesome end of the story, the treacherous slaying of the
troubadour, the serving up of the heart at table to the wife, and her
suicide on hearing the ghastly truth, illustrates too well the darker
side of the life of the epoch.

  [Illustration: FARM IN PROVENCE.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

Pons de Chapteuil was a troubadour whose story greatly interested us,
partly because of the romantic idea of the two mountain-set castles, one
the home of Pons, at Chapteuil, near Le Puy, the other that of Alazais of
Mercoeur, about twenty-five miles distant, "as one would measure across
the mountains of Auvergne," says Justin Smith in his charming account
of the story.

"Really it seems a little strange and eerie," he exclaims, "the romance
between these two castles in the sky--a little like a love-affair between
the Jungfrau and the Finsteraarhorn."

The story was tender and bright and sad, as love-stories are apt to be,
and very characteristic of the time. First the admiration and sympathy and
the necessary adoration, then the taking fire of two generous natures;
for this time the hero of romance is one to claim our admiration as a
noble follower of the laws of chivalry.

     "It was his pleasure to defend the weak of every sort, to be
     brave, true, faithful, liberal, and always to stand for the
     right."

Alazais had been married, probably by her father or her feudal over-lord,
to Count Ozil de Mercoeur, for whom she made no pretence of any feeling,
not even of esteem. It was evidently a _mariage de convenance_, as most
marriages were in those days, and the love of the Countess of Ozil for
her neighbour across the mountains at least did not rob the Count of
her affections, since he had never possessed or apparently desired them.

"In essential womanliness," says Justin Smith, "and in the graceful arts
of social intercourse, we may think of her as the equal of any lady we
have met.... Courtliness was her abiding principle, the true courtliness
which consisted in ... graceful speech, in avoiding all that could
annoy others, and in doing and saying everything that could make one
loved." The mutual attraction of these two, the same writer continues,
"penetrated by the fire of two ardent natures, came to be love, as the
rich flow of the grape, changing its quality insensibly, acquires in
time the sparkle, the bouquet, and the passion that make it wine."

Taking into consideration the times in which they lived, one would
suppose that fortune favoured these two, and that for once one should
have a nice cheerful story to console us for the many sad ones.

But no; Pons must needs harbour doubts of the sincerity of Alazais, and
so he determined to test her by the time-honoured device of exciting
jealousy. He therefore proceeded to devote himself ostentatiously to
another lady, expecting a "burst of passionate anger" from Alazais.
But that lady, one is glad to learn, disdained reproaches and kept a
dignified silence. After all, she seems to have argued, Pons was not
bound to devote himself to her or to continue to do so if he were tired
of it.

So Pons, much astonished and chagrined, "became uneasy," as we are told,
"quitted the lady of Roussillon, and returned to pray for pardon." But
Alazais apparently thought that trying experiments upon a person one
professes to love was somewhat inconsequent, and she intimated that she
preferred not to receive Pons. He sent her a song, explaining his conduct.

"Ah, if you ask what urged me to depart," it begins (although, in fact,
Alazais had never asked anything of the kind, much to the troubadour's
annoyance)--

     "'Twas not inconstancy nor fickleness;
     It was a wish conceived of love's excess,
     To try the test of absence on your heart.
     How grieved I, how regretted, when to me
     That you were touched nor word nor token proved!
     But think not that you're free although unmov'd:
     From you I cannot, will not severed be!"

But Alazais replied never a word. His influence over her seemed to
have been entirely lost. Pons then "employed three ladies to plead his
cause," and they entered so warmly into the undertaking that finally they
succeeded. So Pons made another song, very joyous this time, swearing
that "henceforth he will keep strictly to the path of love, without
deviating a hair's-breadth."

But in the midst of this new-found happiness Alazais falls ill and dies.

Barbara was much aggrieved. I scarcely liked to read her the end: how
Pons wrote a piercing lament, saying he would close his heart and rend
his strings, and

     "Die tuneless and alone,"

a resolve which he actually carried out. He became a member of one of
the military brotherhoods of the day, and died fighting in the Third
Crusade.

This story, however, sad as it is, is among the most attractive of the
troubadour romances, because the characters of Pons and Alazais were,
on the whole, a near approach to the chivalric standard for men and women.

"When Pons" (to quote Justin Smith once more) "rode out of the lists,
bearing his lady's glove in triumph, he felt a joy quite fresh in the
experience of mankind."

This is, after all, a big fact, and it disposes once and for ever of
the depressing doctrine that there is nothing new under the sun. If the
twelfth century produced a new and beautiful fact in human history, so
can the twentieth.



CHAPTER VIII

ORANGE AND MARTIGUES


     "Beauty gives men the best hint of ultimate good which their
     experience as yet can offer."

          "The Life of Reason"--GEORGE SANTAYANA.

Every one who has travelled in mountain regions has been puzzled by the
curious fact that the more peaks his journeyings reveal to him the more
there are to reveal. The number of the mountains seems to increase in
geometrical proportion and the traveller has presently to learn that, in
spite of all appearances, the last towering summit that moves into view
will presently become the platform from which he must crane his neck
to contemplate a still more towering wooer of the clouds and a still
grander scene of desolation and primæval silence.

The traveller in Provence receives a similar impression in relation not
to material but to historical immensities. No sooner has one spot been
explored, than another mountain-peak of tradition comes into sight,
luring ever farther afield.

This is one of the pains of the ardent traveller, and it forms a
curious analogy with the life-journey itself, in which renunciation
after renunciation has to be made, not merely of things far distant and
beautiful, but of things beautiful and near, which only need the stretch
of the hand to touch, but yet are farther from reach than the Pole-star
itself. Among the serious renunciations that had to be made during our
Provençal visit must be counted Courthéson, where one of our favourite
troubadours, Raimbaut de Vacquciras, spent so many of his early days at
the Court of Guilhelm des Baux (of whom more hereafter). Then there was
Ventadour--not exactly near, but still within hail--once so brilliant
a centre of learning and song; and Salon, the reputed scene of Mary
Magdalene's later life. Of this bright little prosperous city, famous for
its oil trade, with its dripping fountain and grey donjon, we did catch
an early morning glimpse _en route_ for an inexorable train. Rocamadour,
full of romantic beauty; Le Puy, strangest of rock-set cities; ill-fated
Béziers, of the Albigensian wars; Dragignan, and a hundred others were
one and all alluring and unattainable.

  [Illustration: ROMAN GATEWAY AT ORANGE (ON THE LYONS ROAD).
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

A few hours between trains permitted a visit to Orange and its great
theatre and triumphal arch, which redeem the place from a somewhat
featureless commonplace.

  [Illustration: LOOKING DOWN THE GRANDE RUE, MARTIGUES.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

We had to ask our way to the theatre, unluckily of some perfidious
inhabitant whose misdirection would have landed us in the suburbs, had
not Fortune, in the shape of a dapper youth in the first rosy flush of
a dawning moustache, come to the rescue.

In the pursuit of his father's trade as a corn-dealer, he had travelled
and learnt English together with a becoming admiration for the British
nation, his enlightenment being assisted by an English mother. It seemed
strange to think of an Englishwoman settled down in this little French
provincial town, but as our guide chattered on, unconsciously revealing
the life of the place, it was clear that French provincial human nature is
much the same as any other. Heartburning, gossip, jealousies, stupendous
proprieties, "convenances" of the most all-shadowing and abstruse kind
made up the dreary existence of the inhabitants. Wretched "jeunes filles"
unable to cross a street unattended, mothers on the prowl for husbands
for the "jeunes filles" (our young friend intimated delicately that he
had a perilous time of it among enterprising parents); the men intent on
business and the recreations of the _café_ and so forth--it all sounded
disheartening enough, and the hopelessness of it seemed to settle on
the spirit like a blight.

Our guide regarded his native town with disdain. Its narrow streets and
dingy aspect he pointed out with ironical pomp.

"This, you see, is our main street. Magnificent you cannot deny!" Had
he not travelled and seen better things?

But the great monuments?

The youth shrugged his shoulders.

For those who liked that sort of thing----!

  [Illustration: ON THE GRAND CANAL, MARTIGUES.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

From behind blinds of discreet windows inquiring heads might often be
seen peering out at our quaint procession of three, and our guide would
then pull himself up and step out with a brisk experienced stride, as
of one who has relations with a world that is not Orange!

But those faces dimly seen behind blinds--one smiled, but they brought
a shiver at the same time.

"English tourists often come to have a look at the monuments, and then
I always try to act as guide. I like to talk to them--I get so tired of
living here. It is terrible!"

  [Illustration: CHURCH AT MARTIGUES.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

Poor budding, ambitious youth!

The great Roman theatre stands apart from the rest of the buildings,
a vast, blank surface of masonry forming the façade. Inside are the
circular tiers of seats, and up these we clambered to the top, looking
down into the silent stage and feeling that familiar, bootless longing
of the traveller for a glimpse of the scene in the days of its glory.

The Roman arch is at the farther end of the town, standing apart in its
majesty, a grand forlorn monument of that wonderful people.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was hard sometimes to steer among so many possibilities of adventure.
It behoved us to choose wisely since time and tide were hastening. But
perhaps it was we, not time and tide, that were really hastening. These
do not hasten; it is only their unhappy victims who are never ready
for their coming. To the truly wise and understanding mind, doubtless,
haste would be a thing unknown. Its possessor would be able to meditate
serenely between trains at Clapham Junction.

  [Illustration: BOATS, MARTIGUES.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

But for less accomplished mortals the sense of limited time with otherwise
unlimited opportunity, tends to a certain breathlessness which, however,
in our case, gradually gave way before the influences of the country.

  [Illustration: THE PORTAL OF THE CHURCH, MARTIGUES.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

One of the places that we had to renounce, might, from all accounts,
have been a sort of Finishing School for students of Serenity. This was
Martigues, the little town on the Etang de Berre, where all good painters
go when they die. They also wisely go there in swarms before they die.
They place here, in opposition to orthodox scholarship, the site of
the Garden of Eden. And judging by their records, this, if mistaken, is
not surprising. The place induces on a suitable temperament a sort of
sketching debauch:--Martigues from the Lagoon; Old Houses, Martigues;
Churches, Martigues; Groups of Boats, Martigues; Nooks and Corners,
Martigues; the Harbour, Martigues; Sailors and Fishermen, Martigues;
Martigues in the Morning; Martigues at Noon; Martigues at Night; Martigues
_ad infinitum_.

Quiet waterways among the mellowest of old houses, churches keeping
tranquil guard above the ripple of the lagoon; the silence of the sunny
port cheerily broken by cries of sailors and bargemen, by the drowsy
life of the place; lights and shadows, colour in every tone, form in a
thousand avatars; creepers clambering over decaying walls, flowers in
odd crannies; all this offers infinitely more attraction to the artist
than all our Horticultural-Gardens-of-Paradise put together. So it is
not to Heaven that he goes, if he can help it; he goes to Martigues.

He is never tired of it, as his numerous sketches show.

Not to have seen Martigues is a precious privilege in its way: it is
a life-long safeguard against satiety; for then, whatever comes, _one_
unfulfilled desire at least remains: to see Martigues--and sketch!



CHAPTER IX

ROMANTIC LOVE


     1. Marriage cannot be pleaded as an excuse for refusing to love.

     2. A person who cannot keep a secret can never be a lover.

     3. No one can really love two people at the same time.

     4. Love never stands still; it always increases--or diminishes.

     5. Favours which are yielded unwillingly are tasteless.

     6. A person of the male sex cannot be considered a lover until
        he has passed out of boyhood.

     7. If one of two lovers dies, love must be foresworn for two
        years by the survivor.

     8. No one can love unless the soft persuasion of love itself
        compel him.

     11. It is not becoming to love those ladies who only love with
         a view to marriage.

     13. A love that has once been rendered common and commonplace
         never, as a rule, endures very long.

     14. Too easy possession renders love contemptible.

     15. Every lover is accustomed to grow pale at the sight of
         his lady-love.

     16. At the sudden and unexpected prospect of his lady-love,
         the heart of the true lover invariably palpitates.

     18. If love once begins to diminish, it quickly fades away
         and rarely recovers itself.

     20. Every action of a lover terminates with the thought of
         the loved one.

          _The Laws of Love accepted by Courts of Love._
            (As given by Rowbotham.)

  [Illustration: A SQUARE AT NIMES.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

Criticise and condemn as we may the conceptions of the time, the
institution of chivalry accomplished a marvellous work of regeneration
wherever it was able to establish itself.

One can but turn with emotion and gratitude to the land where it has
blossomed into some of its most beautiful forms, where the warm blood of
the South took fire and impelled to the following of noble ideals with
the ardour of heroes and the steadfastness of saints.

Greek, Celtic, Phœnìcian, Iberian, Ligurian, Saracen blood flows in the
veins of the people; and in looking at their faces one can understand
why the troubadours sang such sweet and merry songs, and why the country
to this day may be called the land

     "Of joy, young-heartedness, and love...."

It was the Duke of Acquitaine, himself a troubadour, who gave us those
words so descriptive of Southern France, in the gay little verse,--

     "A song I'll make you worthy to recall,
     With ample folly and with sense but small,
     Of joy, young-heartedness, and love will I compound it all."

In truth it was a wonderful time, full of colour and passion in which
there was the shadow of tragedy, but seldom the grey and dust-colour of
the sordid and the mean.

For women it was literally a coming-of-age. A modern author speaks about
the "advent of woman in man's world," when she "became for the first
time something more than a link between two generations."

Love, as a romantic sentiment, became possible between men and women,
because the woman's individuality as a human being was recognised, and
with it her right to give or to withhold her love. True love and true
friendship, as we moderns understand them, may almost claim to take
their rise in the age of chivalry.

Fraternity of arms constituted an honoured tie among knights. They
received the Sacrament together, exchanged armour, and from that time
forth supported one another wherever they went, and at all hazards.

     "From this day forward ever more
     Neither fail, either for weal or wo,
     To help other at need.
     Brother be now true to me,
     And I shall be as true to thee."

This brotherhood in arms, however, should perhaps be described as a
revival of an ancient idea, whereas love, as it developed under the laws
of chivalry, was a thing hitherto unknown to mankind. Doubtless there
had been obscure precursors of the ideal, for many times must a new
thought be uttered before the air vibrates with sufficient strength to
awake answering movements in other minds. The first to think and feel a
new world into existence--which is the ultimate mission of thinking and
feeling--often leaves nothing but that new world behind him; neither
name, nor fame, nor fortune. And so we shall never know in what noble
hearts the true romantic love between man and woman first sprang into
being.

The new mode of thought kindled generous impulses. Often fantastic, not
to say ridiculous, they were always graceful and full of the flavour of
romance.

"Many a knight," we are told, "would sally forth from a besieged town
during a suspension of hostilities and demand whether there was any
cavalier of the opposite host who, for love of his lady bright, would
do any deed of arms."

"Now let us see if there be any amorous among you," was the usual
conclusion of such a challenge. And out would come prancing some armoured
knight from the gates of the city, and the two, with much ceremony of
salutation, would fall to and hack each other to pieces with the utmost
courtesy and mutual respect.

"The air was rent with names of ladies" in the big tournaments of the
day. "On, valiant knights, fair eyes behold you!"

The proclamation of the beauty of his lady, as all romances of that day
remind us, was one of the serious duties of the knight, and Cervantes
only slightly caricatures the custom when he makes Don Quixote "station
himself in the middle of a high road and refuse to let the merchants
of Toledo pass unless they acknowledged there was not in the universe
a more beautiful damsel than the peerless Dulcinea del Toboso."

There was also a sort of official post or title, _Poursuivant d'Amour_,
the knight dedicating himself to love as to a religion with solemn
fervour. The Duke of Lancaster, says Froissart, "possessed, as part of
his inheritance in Champagne, the Castle of Beaufort, of which an English
Knight called Poursuivant d'Amour was Captain." It appears that this
was a title which knights used to give themselves on account of wearing
the portraits or colours of their mistress and challenging each other
to fight in her honour.

To be in love was a social necessity. It was hopelessly "bad form" to
be otherwise.

"A knight without love is an ear of wheat without grain," says some
authority of the day.

It certainly was a lovelorn time! "Love was everything," says Justin
Smith, an author whose two large volumes on the troubadours testify to
wide study of the subject, "and we cannot wonder that much was made of
it. Its hopes and fears were the drama of that day. Sweet and passionate
thoughts were the concert and the opera. Tales of successful and
unsuccessful wooing were the novels.... Love, as we are to learn, was
the shoot of modern culture, and the tree that now overspreads us with
its boughs bloomed, even in their time, into a poetry as unsurpassed
and as unsurpassable after its kind as the epics of Homer."

       *       *       *       *       *

But this immense change in the attitude of mind towards life and towards
women naturally could not take place without producing a universal
upheaval of the current morality: a thorough upsetting of the doctrines
upon which the husband had hitherto founded an authority practically
limitless.

  [Illustration: IN THE CAMARGUE, FROM THE RAILWAY.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

For women obedience and morality had been synonyms. The wife was "good"
in proportion as she acknowledged by word and deed her husband's
"rights" over her, as over any other of his possessions. Conduct
implying independence, an infringement on these "rights," was the
acme of wickedness. To act as if she belonged to herself was a sort of
embezzlement, and of course this was the case still more unpardonably
if she made so free as to bestow her heart on some other man; then they
both became involved in the sin of purloining that which belonged to
another. To flirt was a sort of petty peculation. It was because she so
belonged to him, as real property, that the husband thought his "honour"
injured by his wife's conduct, quite irrespective of any wound to his
affections. If a man fails to keep a possession, given securely into
his hands by law and custom and universal sentiment, he must indeed be
a sorry sort of lord and master! Such was the popular view of the case,
and the coarser and more brutal the society the more violent was this
feeling of wounded vanity or "honour," as it was pompously called. But
suddenly--or at least without traceable gradations--this bulwark of
marital sovereignty was rent as by an earthquake, and the idea began
to get abroad that the woman somewhat _belonged to herself_; no longer
entirely to her feudal or to her domestic lord. Had this new idea taken
complete and undisturbed possession, it would have worked out a modern
society very different from the society that now exists. But it did not
obtain such mastery. It only shared the field with its predecessor. The
confusion of standard was therefore extreme, for nobody paused to separate
and choose between the two ideals; they were held simultaneously, nor is
it only in the time of the troubadours that men and women hold beliefs
about social matters that are mutually destructive.

So the old rights of property in the wife continued to hold sway even
while she began dimly to feel and inwardly to claim the right to herself,
with the resulting right to bestow her love where she pleased, or where
she needs must. And that wrought wonderful changes.

One must approach this imaginative, passionate world, if we desire to
understand it, with a spirit swift to detect differences and shades of
feeling, to muster all the local conditions before the imagination; and
one must banish scrupulously all ready-made maxims belonging to our own
day, for these at once place us outside the epoch that we are trying to
enter. It is this difficulty, this subtlety in the subject, which makes
the study of that age and country so keenly interesting to all who are
curious of the movements of human thought as it grows and changes under
the pressure of its varying destinies.

These new ideals were now universal among kings and princes and all who
had any pretensions to cultivation and good breeding. Love-affairs of
which a married woman was the heroine were looked upon as essentially
belonging to the chivalric order of things.

     "These Courts of Love laid down rules for love," says
     Baring-Gould; "they allowed married women to receive the homage
     of lovers, and even nicely directed all the symptoms they were
     to exhibit.... There is the case of Dante and Beatrice, and
     of Wolfram von Eschenbach, one of the noblest and purest of
     singers, who idealised the Lady Elizabeth of Harlenstein....
     It is precisely this unreal love, or playing at love-making,
     that is scoffed at by Cervantes in Don Quixote and the peerless
     Dulcinea del Toboso."

Of course, in this state of things there was much that seemed disorderly
and was disorderly if the older view is to remain, in any sense, as
a standard. Indeed it was, in some respects, perhaps, disorderly from
_any_ point of view, as was inevitable during so vast an upheaval of
social conditions. It was a battle of good and evil, but infinitely in
advance of the previous state, when there was no battle, because evil
was securely enjoying uncontested possession. From that enthroned and
law-supported wrong there seemed no escape except through the "moral
chaos"--if so it really was--of the troubadour era. Certainly the men
and women of that time treated life very boldly and frankly, and they
talked more about sentiment and the joy of life than about morality;
but the atmosphere which lingers around them, as one feels it in their
songs and stories, in all the delicate courtesy of their manners, the
dignity and fineness of their sentiments, makes it impossible to think
of them as essentially base or unlovable, whatever condemnation their
departure from ancient standards may induce moralists to pronounce upon
them.

Their ideals may have been false; that is a matter of individual opinion;
but they lived in devotion to those ideals with an enthusiasm that has
never been surpassed.

Perhaps the long repression, the second-hand vicarious existence suffered
for so many ages by women, had made them almost intoxicated with this
new experience, this coming of age as human beings, this entering into
possession of themselves.

It was like a re-birth, and tempted to all sorts of wild adventures.
Rebellion was in the air, and especially was it rife on all questions
of love. As a recent writer remarks, men and women began to love each
other because they should not have done so.

But love was treated very seriously as well as very fancifully. There
was no aspect in which it did not play an important _rôle_ in this
extraordinary age.

It set vielles lightly tinkling and lutes twanging, but it also took
possession of great hearts and minds and ruled them for a lifetime. Love
was sometimes a "lord of terrible aspect," as Dante has represented him.
As women developed personality and individual qualities in their new
freedom, the _grande passion_ became for the first time really possible.
And their mental and spiritual development tended to promote the growth
of the character of men in the same direction.

There seemed a sort of expectation running through the society of that
time that a new source of joy had been found, a force that was to redeem
and beautify life.

The author of "The Women of the Renaissance" represents the men of
this later age--which, however, was still inspired by the chivalric
outburst--asking themselves what was the good of learning, money, labour,
or even semblances of joy if their hearts were empty.

     "The heart," they complain, "makes itself felt above the claims
     of work, above the intellect, demanding for life a recompense,
     a goal. We perish for lack of something to love; out of mere
     self-pity we ought to bestow on ourselves the alms of life,
     which is love. All is vanity save this vanity, for before
     our birth, until our death, throughout our whole existence it
     bears in front of us the torch of life."

Looking back from this point to the Griselda-epoch, we have travelled
far indeed!

With such aspirations, such ideas in the air (whether or not
they were expressed in a definite way), marriage, which carried
Griselda-associations with it, was naturally looked upon as altogether
outside the realm of romance or happiness.

"To mingle it with love, the absolute, great enthusiasms of heart or
intellect, was to lay up for oneself disasters, or at least certain
disappointment," says M. de Maulde de La Clavière, and he instances as
the object of ridicule in that era a lady who speaks with a sigh of the
"unaccustomed pleasure" of loving the man she married. He defines the
Renaissance view of wedlock as "the modest squat suburban villa in which
you eat and sleep: passion is a church spire piercing the sky...."

That being the general consensus of opinion on the subject, it is not
surprising that nearly all the love-stories of that day are entirely
disconnected with the idea of marriage. The holy estate itself was
defined as "the suburbs of hell." Marriages were "unions of policy
and position." And almost without exception they were arranged by the
parents, in accordance with material considerations, the old feudal idea
lingering on in this department of life and the daughter being handed
over by the father to a suitable (or unsuitable) husband, without his
ever dreaming of consulting her views in the matter. She was generally
too inexperienced to have any views of importance, and even had she been
consulted probably would not, at that time, have been able to make a
much better choice than her father made for her.

But clearly if that was the order of things, love and romance must
establish their kingdom outside of marriage, and this was exactly what
occurred.

     "Since love is, by the nature of things, free and spontaneous,
     rebellion and revolution were inevitable unless womankind were
     to become something else than human."

The point of view becomes clearer in the light of some of the decisions
and rules of the Courts of Love; for even if, as so many writers insist,
these tribunals never really existed, the quoted rules and judgments
must at any rate represent the ideas that swayed the society of the day.

  [Illustration: OLD BRIDGE AT ST. GILLES IN THE CAMARGUE.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

These courts were said to be held under the presidency of some great
lady of the district, assisted by a council of ladies and knights.

One of the questions submitted to the Court of the Comtesse de Champagne
was: "Can true love exist between two persons who are married?"

And the Countess, aided by her councillors, pronounced as follows:--

     "Therefore, having examined the said arguments by the aid of
     sound science, we proceed hereby to enact that love cannot
     extend his laws over husband and wife, since the gifts of
     love are voluntary, and husband and wife are the servants of
     duty. Also between the married can there be in our opinion no
     jealousy, since between them there can be no love.... This
     is our decision, formed with much deliberation and with the
     approval of many dames; and we decree that it be held firm
     and inviolable."

This decree proved a serious stumbling-block to one betrothed lady who
had promised a cavalier that if ever she should find herself at liberty,
she would accept his devotion. "Presently she married the lover to
whom she was plighted, whereupon the second knight resumed his suit,
conceiving--according to the ideas of the day--that the lady was now fully
at liberty. She, however, could not be persuaded against the evidence
of her feelings, ... and the matter was referred to the queen, Eleanor,
wife of Henry II. of England. Her award could not run counter to that
of the Countess of Champagne, who has pronounced that love cannot exist
between husband and wife. It is our decree, therefore, that the dame
aforesaid keep faith with her cavalier."

The only means of evading this decree was for the lady to declare that
henceforth she intended to abandon love altogether, but if she did that
she was obliged to make up her mind to endure social ostracism, for then
"she was sure to be shunned by the gay ladies and gentlemen who then
formed the vast majority of the fashionable world." We are not told what
the lady decided to do in this most trying dilemma.

Altogether the state of society under the sway of the Courts of Love--or
of the sentiment they represent--seems like that of some strange
fairy-tale. Nothing could have been more fantastic or romantic; but
however ridiculous they may seem to the critical mind, there was always
a strain that one can only call noble running through it all. It might
be dangerous, impracticable, subversive, "immoral," if one will, but it
was never paltry or base.

In their own fashion the reputed Courts of Love upheld a very high ideal.
They insisted upon the absolute sacredness of a promise and of the word
of honour, which a knight or a lady must keep to the death. They demanded
fidelity between lovers, for that was considered "to be the essence of
high-toned gallantry."

All this is our own inheritance of to-day. As regards the etiquette
of love-making the Court instituted what were called the four degrees
of love: "hesitating," "praying," "listening," and "drurerie." "When
the lady consented to enter this last stage, she granted the gentleman
his first kiss ... after which there could be no withdrawal from the
engagement."

The lady was often unwilling to give it, and there are many stories of
troubadours who try to obtain it by fraud or artifice. It seems strange
that, in that case, in a society with a high sense of honour, it should
have possessed any binding value, but apparently it had something of the
quality of the marriage ceremony, and therefore, perhaps, something of
the idea of a tie which might be enforced against the will of the person
concerned.

It is difficult, perhaps impossible, for the modern eye to see this era
exactly as it was. Writers represent it as corrupt and unlovely or as
romantic and noble according to their own particular bias. The former
attitude is perhaps largely determined by a leaning towards the older
order of thought which the advent of chivalry challenged; while the less
severe view is apt to accompany sympathy with the newer doctrine, which
establishes the woman as an independent being, for good or for evil, and
refuses to regard her as the property in any sense whatever--whether
by gift or by "contract"--of another person. As this latter ideal is
in its infancy even yet, the majority of writers see little in the
troubadour epoch but hopeless licence. It is to them merely an outbreak
of "immortality," and neither the passionate rebellion against an old
and degrading system nor the enthusiastic reaching out towards something
better saves it from their severe condemnation. But we have all of us
good reason to be thankful for this stage of social upheaval through which
our spiritual ancestors passed, and it ill becomes us to cast reproaches
at those who have brought us, in one great burst of inspiration, so much
farther on our way.



CHAPTER X

ARLES


     "The name of Arles has raised great discussions.... Some
     see in it a Greek origin, _Agns_, others regard it as Latin,
     _Ara lata_ (raised altar), because the Romans there found an
     altar consecrated to Diana of the Ephesians by the Phoceans
     of Marseilles: ... others as Celtic _Ar-lath_, moist place,
     on account of its marshes.... It is sufficiently evident that
     the name Arelate has not a physiognomy either Greek or Roman;
     and the radical _Ar_ which is found ... in the name of the
     Arekomique Volcians ... the Arnnematici, the Arandunici ...
     permits one to affirm that this city was contemporary with
     those ancient peoples, and existed in the fifth century before
     our era.... Placed between its river and its inland sea, Arles
     had in fact two ports as she had two cities: on the left bank
     of the Rhone was the Patrician town, with its temples, its
     amphitheatre, its theatre, its forum, the baths, triumphal
     arches, statues.... On the right bank ... was the city of
     business men, sailors, and the people. Larger in those days
     than the Patrician city, _Trinquetailles_ is nothing to-day
     but the maritime suburb of the modern town. A bridge of boats
     connected the two towns, and Constantine substituted for it
     a bridge of masonry of which one can still see the remains on
     the quays of the Rhone."

          TRANSLATION FROM CHARLES LENTHÉRIC.

  [Illustration: ST. TROPHIME, ARLES.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

A few more turns of the kaleidoscope of life, and we find ourselves
sitting in a Roman amphitheatre among a crowd of spectators.

That odious descendant of the Roman games, the bullfight, does, at certain
times, carry on in a far milder form the ancient tale of agony in this
very arena, but the present performance given by a troup of Laplanders
is of quite another character.

The people of Arles had come in considerable crowds to see them, but what
interested us was the spectators, not the Laplanders. It was Sunday, and
many of the women had on their famous costume: a black skirt, white muslin
or tarlatan fichu, a picturesque white cap with a band of embossed black
velvet round it, which hangs gracefully at one side. The Arlésiennes
are beautiful, and carry themselves perfectly.

A picturesque costume is popularly said to "make people look handsome;"
as if the dress created a beauty that was not really there!

At Arles, by comparing the faces of those who wear the costume with
those who have abandoned it for modern garb, one can clearly realise that
beauty--which consists in relations of line and tint--is not _made_ but
_revealed_ by its setting. One sees, too, how, on the other hand, it can,
by the same means, be disguised and hidden, just as it would be easy to
disguise the symmetry of some fine freehand design by tacking on to its
outline a random selection of octahedrons or oblate spheroids. This, be
it added, is too often the sort of process pursued by the designer of
modern costume.

The beauty of the Arlésiennes is attributed to their Greek descent from
the original founders of the city. Judging by appearance, one would
say there was a strong touch of Saracen blood mingling with the clearer
current of the classic.

The hair is generally black, the eyes dark, the features regular and
often noble in character.

Arles is a place of narrow streets, of ruins, of tombs. It stands in a
wilderness of vast lagoons at the mouths of the Rhone, and in ancient
times it could only be reached by water, for the land was all covered
with these meres to the foot of the Alpilles. In the time of the Romans
and during the Middle Ages these great waters were navigated by the
_utriculares_, or raftsmen, whose flat craft were made of extended skins.

Merchandise from Central Gaul had to come to Arles to be transshipped on
its way to the East or elsewhere, _viâ_ the Mediterranean. The raftsmen
carried it over the shallow water round the city, and plied a roaring
local trade as well.

At Arles all interested in architecture will be apt to linger before
the very remarkable church of St. Trophime.

The interest lies in the characteristic Provençal blending of the pure
Roman style with its offshoot, the Romanesque, an architecture which
forms a curious analogue to the Romance languages, formed during the
same period when things Roman were falling to pieces, yet were still
the only standards and models, the type of all possible achievements in
human life and art.

The Romanesque is the _patois_ of the classic architecture (with a history
singularly analogous to that of the language), developing finally into
the eloquent Gothic of our great cathedrals. But it was in the north,
not in the south--just as in the language--that the more evolved form
established itself. That leaves to the southern speech and architecture
a primitive charm all their own.

Of the porch of St. Trophime the engaged pillars are classic as to their
capitals, Romanesque in the half barbaric carving of their bases. The
figures in the niches formed by the pillars are Roman in general type,
yet with a touch of Byzantine, which may be described as the architectural
Romance dialect of the East.

The interior was a surprise. The half-barbaric richness of the porch
had disappeared. The choir had something of the northern Gothic, but
the nave was severe, and indeed rigid in character, yet with none of
the massiveness that makes the Norman version of Romanesque so fine.
In another country one would have concluded that the interior was of
earlier date than the highly decorated porch; but in Provence this
rigid manner belongs to the second period of architecture, when the
Cistercians--afraid, apparently, lest imaginative decoration might make
things too pleasant and beautiful for sinful mortals--introduced a new
style in which such irrelevancies were sternly banished: hence even the
piers of the nave are merely square blocks of masonry. One must hope
that the worshippers of St. Trophime received commensurate spiritual
benefit for the deprivation thus imposed upon them.

The church gives one a sense of chill, of hardness; an atmosphere from
which all the inspiration and intuition of religious feeling has been
driven out, and only the intolerance and cold-blooded pieties remain.

It is exceedingly interesting none the less, for it is so fine an example
of the emotionless Cistercian style of the twelfth century--the twelfth
century, strange to relate, when the troubadours were singing their
loudest and best, when the great castles were overflowing with gaiety,
and all the land was full of dance and song.

The cloisters belong to the earlier and richer period, the pillars being
carved with real Romanesque beasts and birds of the most aggrieved and
untamed character, with vigorous foliage and volutes, and every variety
of ornament; yet all balanced with that perfect instinct of the mediæval
carver, never afraid to let himself go, to plunge into a profusion almost
riotous, while always some sane inner guidance builds up the richness
into a beautiful whole, wherein the quality of reserve which seemed so
recklessly broken down in the spendthrift detail reappears as by miracle
to bind all into one. There is no lack of emotion here. It informs every
rampant beast and indignant bird, every living curve of leaf and swirl
of volute; but it is like the clamour of tumultuous music, all welded
together into harmony.

       *       *       *       *       *

In this city of the lagoons there are endless associations of Roman
days and of days far earlier, as well as tangible relics of those
dim ages that, at best, remain so profound a mystery even to the most
learned. Of the Greek colony a few marbles remain, and a few words.
The Provençal herdsmen in the mountains call their bread _arto_,
from the Greek αρτος. The sea also is _pelagre_ (πελαγος), and there
are a few more as obviously or more indirectly derived.

It was to Arles, among other Provençal places, that St. Martha came to
convert the people to Christianity. With a little company of saints, she
arrived one day in the gay pagan city just when they were all celebrating
the festival of Venus. And forthwith St. Trophimus--the beloved friend
of St. Paul--lifted up his voice and addressed the laughing, dancing
crowd, and suddenly, with a great crash, the statue of the goddess fell
to the earth, and the people were converted. Encouraged by this rapid
discomfiture of one of the most powerful of the Olympians, the little
band dispersed through the country--St. Eutropius to Orange, St. Saturnin
to Toulouse, and St. Martha to Tarascon to reform the Tarasque, with
what success we shall presently know.

Perhaps it was because the weather had lost its brilliance that Arles
seemed to us a little sad. Its beautiful, poplar-bordered Aliscamps,
the famous avenue of tombs, was scarcely a cheering place to loiter
in at the close of a winter afternoon. It brought home too clearly the
Roman idea of death: sombre, cold, grim, merciless. Sometimes, not very
often, the tombs revealed regret for the dead that appeared more than
conventional; sometimes one seemed to discern, breathing out of the
damp-stained marble, a passion of grief that was unbearably hopeless;
human love beating, beating for ever, with bleeding hands, against a
hateful, unyielding doorway. One had to hurry past those tombs....

  [Illustration: LES ALISCAMPS, ARLES.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

This avenue is the sole remains of what was once a very large Roman
cemetery, destroyed when the railway came to the city. Among the tombs
was found one of Julia, daughter of Lucius Tyrannus, proudly representing
in sculpture all the musical instruments on which she could play, among
them an organ, said to be the earliest example known. Marble sarcophagi
are ranged in rows beneath the poplars, leading the eye along the solemn
glade to the church of St. Honorat, another fine example of Provençal
Romanesque, with a bell tower built on lines almost purely Roman.

St. Virgilius, under whose direction it was erected, had no little trouble
at the beginning of his work. The pillars of the church had arrived, and
were just going to be set up, when the workmen found that they could
not get them lifted, do what they would. The reason was obvious. They
found sitting solidly on the columns a very small but very determined
demon, and budge he would not. He sat there square and firm, resolved
that the obnoxious church should never be completed if he had any say
in the matter. At last, in despair, they had to send for St. Virgilius,
who was Bishop of Arles, and with holy-water and various exorcisms the
obstructive demon was driven away and the columns triumphantly hoisted
into their places, where one can see them to this day. It seemed to us
that that demon had not altogether departed from the church. The place
was gloomy, uncanny, damp, and unwholesome, but undoubtedly a fine
example of its style.

St. Virgilius, no doubt on account of his saintship, was much beset by
demons and false appearances--a very discouraging feature in the lives
of the saints.

He was one night looking out over the lagoons, when he saw a phantom ship,
and a voice called out saying that the crew was bound for Jerusalem and
had come to take St. Virgilius with them. But the wary saint replied,
"No, thank you; not until I know who you are!" And he made the sign of
the cross, and instantly the ship became a drift of mist, and rolled
away across the water.

This is said to be a version of the legend of the "Flying Dutchman."

It is not surprising that Arles should have had so many splendid Roman
buildings, for not only did it become a Roman colony,[10] but it was the
residence of Roman emperors, and was nicknamed the Rome of Gaul--_Gallula
Roma, Arelas_.

The museum was rich in relics of the Imperial occupation. There is a
beautiful bust of the Empress Livia among the treasures, and one exquisite
little head of a boy, son of one of the Cæsars, a delicate, pathetic
little face, evidently an individual, not a type.

The collection also boasts a Phœnician tomb which looks as if it were made
yesterday, and some fine reliefs of dancing figures, decorated foliage,
instinct with that quality of beauty, lightness, magic that the Gods have
bestowed upon the art of Greece. This quality comes into strong evidence
in this museum, where there are Pagan and Christian sarcophagi side
by side in large numbers. Fine as are the earlier Christian sculptures
(that is, on tombs before the withdrawal of protection from Christian
cemeteries),[11] they are not to be compared with the pure pagan work;
and the later tombs of Christian origin are "rude and childish in design
and execution."

One can spend hours wandering about the nooks and corners of the city,
loitering by the river-side, where there are the wretched remains, worse
than ruined, of a palace of Constantine; lingering about the silent
theatre where the famous Venus of Arles was found.

Cyril, an enthusiastic deacon, had the building destroyed, knocked down
all the statues and all the noble pillars, of which only two sad ones
are now standing above the ruin.

One might sit for hours unmolested on some fragment of the seats once
so gaily filled with fashionable citizens of the Empire, for though
the ruins are surrounded by houses on three sides there is little sign
of life in those quiet and ancient dwellings of the citizens of Arles.
The fine tower of St. Trophime rises conspicuously behind them, a true
southern tower, square and solid, with the three stories marked with
flat arcading and round-topped windows: simple, characteristic, with a
grave charm which is almost impossible to define, yet very obvious.

  [Illustration: ARLES FROM THE RIVER.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

The parapet dividing the auditorium from the stage is still standing here
and there, and from this the two columns rise into the air, supporting
even yet a fragment of the entablature on their ornate capitals.

Cyril, the iconoclastic deacon, had the place smashed up in indignation
at the levity of the performance.

There is little levity now at any rate to trouble any deacon, however
serious! One feels, looking at the desolation, and listening to the
silence--for it is a silence that throbs and cries more loudly than ever
the audience applauded in days gone by--one feels as if the good Cyril
need hardly have troubled himself to interfere so stormily with the
doings of the people. He could not stamp out "human levity" by knocking
down fine columns and statues. He might stamp out human happiness and
the sense of the beautiful, perhaps, and help to make a coarser, duller
race to inhabit the earth. But happily the "levity" must survive in some
form or other, devastate our deacons never so wisely!

  [Illustration: ROMAN THEATER, ARLES.
   _By E. M. Synge._]



CHAPTER XI

SONG, DANCE, AND LEGEND


     "At eventide it delighted him much to sit by the blazing fire
     of fagots on the hearth and tell us tales of the Reign of
     Terror, when during the Revolution he had dug a pit and had
     hidden there many a poor fugitive. Then my mother would sing
     the sweet old Provençal songs, _La Bello Margountoud_, _L'aucen
     engabia_....

     "Ballads and stories would be told by her while I drank in
     with delight the wild legends of Provence."--MISTRAL'S ACCOUNT
     OF HIS PARENTS.

There are so many famous things connected with Provence that one never
comes to the end of them. There are dances and festivals and fires on St.
John's Eve in honour of Baal (as there are, or were till quite lately,
in Scotland). There are rich wines and the far-famed _bouillabaisse_,
a dish of fish of mixed sorts, boiled with saffron, and, to feminine
palates, extremely nasty!

Great was our delight to see, in passing a side-road leading to a small
hostelry, a sign-board with the mystic word printed in triumphant letters.
This was local colour indeed! Our enthusiasm rose to boiling-point; I
doubt if even our critical friend could have chilled us at that moment.

Here was Provence and _bouillabaisse_; nothing disappointing; the
concoction not one whit less nauseous than one might have expected!

Dumas writes with ardour about the dish:--

     "While polenta and macaroni possess all the characteristics of
     primitive and antediluvian simplicity, _bouillabaisse_ is the
     result of the most advanced state of culinary civilisation;
     comprising in itself a whole epic of unexpected episodes and
     extraordinary incidents."

The celebrated wines of Chateauneuf-des-Papes, Sainte Baume, and others I
doubt if we tasted; but all the wines seemed ambrosial to us; especially
when it was "weather for singing the Peyrenolle," a very ancient song
of which only the name remains in this saying of the people.

The dance of the _farandole_ is of Greek origin and must be infinitely
graceful, but alas! we only heard of it, never saw it danced. The dancers
join hands to form chains, each chain led by a man or a woman, who plays
a merry air on the _gaboulet_. These chains, following their leaders,
then form into lines, passing rapidly before one another in contrary
directions--like divergent currents--dancing in time to the music. And
then they swing off into circles and dance round and round maypoles and
walnut-trees, till the whole place is wild with merriment. On occasions
of great rejoicing the people used to dance the _farandole_ through the
streets, all joining in the whirling circles, rich and poor. It was like
a wind of joy flying through the city!

The people of Provence have also some Saracen dances, bequeathed to them
by that marauding people when they lived in the Mountains of the Moors,
in their rock-set fortresses: _Li Mouresco_ and _lis Ouliveto_, which
was danced after the olive harvest.

This pervasive characteristic of dance and song for which Provence is
so famous, doubtless springs from the fact that this people have never
ceased to be pagans.

The clergy of the Middle Ages in vain tried to suppress this element.
There are strange stories of the mingling of ancient customs
and diversions with Christian ceremonies: dancing and songs, the
antique chorus, and love-poems sung or recited in the very churches;
ecclesiastical discipline being far less stringent in the south than in
the north of France, where classic influences had been weaker. Religion
was associated in the minds of the Provençals with gaiety and festivals;
and the clergy, in order to attract and retain the people, had found
it necessary to recognise this pagan spirit which took its origin in
far-off generations when the Greeks founded Marseilles and its numerous
off-shoots; when for five and a half centuries the Romans ruled and
civilised the country. In the ninth and tenth centuries, moreover, the
clergy and the people of the south were more or less closely assimilated,
and this touch of paganism in the priesthood made possible what at first
sight challenges belief.

At Limoges, for instance, during the feast of St. Martial, the people used
to substitute for the words of the Latin liturgy some original couplets
in the Romance tongue: "St. Martial, pray for us, and we will dance for
you," and they furthermore broke out into a dance in the church, without
the faintest sense of incongruity; for to these people worship, song,
and rhythmic movement were parts of one and the same impulse.

And--if one comes to that--on what ground have they been divorced?

The feast of Flora was celebrated in Provence till the sixteenth century,
when it was suppressed; the "mimes" and actors of antiquity were familiar
figures of the Middle Ages; among them a class of women jongleurs who
went about from city to city; and the wild feast of the Lupercal is said
to have had its mediæval representative in this essentially pagan land.

This was the epoch when Latin had about ceased to be a living tongue,
and from its corpse, so to speak, had arisen a multitude of dialects all
over the Roman world, among them the Romance or Provençal, the _Langue
d'Oc_, in which poems and legends were now written. Authors at this
time were nearly always monks, but they treated their subjects with
much freedom, as, for instance, in the _Vision of St. Paul_,[12] who
descends to the Infernal Regions to visit the "cantons of hell" and to
see the luckless sinners in their misery, each tormented appropriately
according to the nature of their transgression. The poem was evidently
a crude forerunner of the Divine Comedy.

From this popular literature the troubadour poetry of the next centuries
sprang, without, however, extinguishing its predecessors, which continued
to exist side by side with the new forms of art.

That character makes destiny is very clearly evidenced in Provençal
history. This rich, eventful, romantic story is just what a people
renowned for _bonté d'esprit_, grace, good looks, poetry, eloquence,
sentiment, passion, must inevitably weave for themselves in the course of
ages. From the time when paleolithic man was making rude stone implements
and living in caves or holes in the earth, this country has been busily
forming and developing the human body and soul, perhaps in a more clear
and visible sequence of progress that can easily be traced elsewhere.

The variety and persistence of ancient legends and customs serves to
indicate the road of evolution from stage to stage with picturesque
vividness. The prehistoric is not far off in this land, where Time
loses its illusory quality and seems to assume the character that all
philosophers attribute to it when they speak of the _Eternal Now_.

The mountains contiguous to the mountains of the Moors, the beautiful
Esterelles, so familiar to visitors on the Riviera, have a legend of
a fairy Estelle, or Esterella, who used to be worshipped there and to
receive sacrifices. The woodcutters dread the apparition. Her smile is
of such unearthly beauty that any man who sees her is so fascinated
that he is for ever drawn by a resistless longing to find her again,
and some "have spent years leaping from crag to crag, while others have
wandered away to lead the life of a hermit in forest shades." Is this
a myth typifying the search after the Ideal and the Beautiful?

The Incourdoules have their Golden Goat which haunts the most inaccessible
fastnesses, living in a cavern full of precious stones and treasure.[13]

One day a mysterious man appeared and began to build a _cabanoun_, or
hut, in a lonely spot. He wore a sheepskin, red turban, and blue sash;
and when a woodcutter spoke to him he laughed mockingly and cried:--

     "Taragnigna, Taragnigna!
           Fai attension a la mouissara.
                   Vau a la vigna,
                       Vau a la vigna--
                             Vai-ti-pia!
                                   Vai-ti-pia!
                                           Taragnigna mia!"

                       ("Cobweb! cobweb!
                       Mark that spy!
                       I am going to the vineyard.
                       I am going to the vineyard.
                       We are in danger--we are lost!
                       Cobweb mine!")

Whereupon an enormous black spider came swinging from the branch of
a pine, with menacing looks. The woodcutter said it was as large as
a _tesa-negra_ (blackhead or linnet). He flees in horror, but can't
resist returning on the morrow to the mysterious _cabanoun_. He feels a
shivering feeling creep over him as he approaches, and is again greeted
by a burst of laughter. "_Ha, ha, ha, mon vieux, toccan li cique sardino
ensen_" ("Let us touch the five sardines together, neighbour," _i.e._,
shake hands--common Provençal expression).

     "Taragnigna! Taragnigna!
     Fai attension a moun Vesin!"

and the great spider fixed his eyes on Sieur Guizol, the woodcutter, and
ran nimbly down its silken cord. Then the strange host comes down from
among the rafters and begins to talk. Finally, he tells his guest that
he has come to seek the _Cabro d'Or_, and breaks out again in a wild
song--"Taragnigna, you and I are going to make our fortunes."

     "Barba Garibo, e giorno, leve vo!
         Porte de zenzibo,
             Dame do a tre mério.
                 Un ome come vo
                     Ch' ha vist tante cause
                         E ben giust che se repause
                             Che vos par d'aisso?
                                 Barba Garibo! Barba Garibo!"

             ("Uncle Garibo! it is day, arouse thyself!
             Bring dry raisins,
             Two or three small new potatoes--
             A man like you,
             Who so many things hast seen,
             It is most just he should repose himself.
             What think you of it? What think you of it?
             Uncle Garibo! Uncle Garibo!")

And the spider seemed to dance in a wild ecstasy, vibrating on his line
with immense impetus, quite close to Sieur Guizol's face.

Then Guizol asks if his host really believes in the Golden Goat, and
the man addresses the spider indignantly.

"Ha! dost thou hear him Taragnigna? He doubts that the _Cabro d'Or_
lives here! But he won't doubt when he gets some of his gold!"

And then he goes on to say that after that he will marry Guizol's
daughter, Rosette, and they will all go down to the woodcutter's home,
and the spider shall dance Li Mouresco every night.

"And thou shall give us _lis Ouliveto_," he adds, addressing the
formidable insect; "for the Sieur does not know perhaps that I am a
_cornamousaire_."

He draws out a bagpipe and commences to play.

"What, _brave ome!_ art thou going to dance? Now let me see if you have
forgotten the farandole," and the musician lilted up a wild fantastic
tune, "and Sieur Guizol's feet began to keep time to the music, and anon
faster and faster as the player played, faster and faster poor Guizol
danced, while the spider swung about as though in rapture."

Thus the poor woodcutter is drawn under the will of the recluse and his
spider, and night after night, against his better judgment, against his
wish, he goes to meet the sorcerer at the hole in the mountain where
the Golden Goat guards his treasure.

       *       *       *       *       *

Guizol is set to work to excavate, the other watching and holding aloft
two pine-torches. Fortunately for Guizol, Gastoun, the lover of Rosette,
had followed him one night, wondering uneasily at his regular absences
from home. Suddenly the gold-seeker leaps up, seeing a flag of stone.

"The treasure!" he yells. There is not a moment to lose, for if they do
not get the gold before the goat awakes, the chance is over.

"Oh, thou dear little _bletta oulivié_" (olive rod used for gold finding),
"thou didst not deceive me after all," the man shouts, pouncing on a
vase and other buried objects. They begin to find the gold, when the
sorcerer suddenly takes an iron bar and knocks down his companion and
thrusts him into the hole crying, "Gold, gold, all mine now!"

But Gastoun rushes in and the two engage in a death-wrestle in the pitch
darkness.

"_Lo cabro d'or, lo dian!_" screams the man and rushes away past his foe,
who is dressed in a goat-skin; and so finally the story ends happily
with the rescue of the stunned Guizol and the betrothal of Gastoun and
Rosette.

When Gastoun afterwards visited the _cabanoun_ of the recluse, he found
it all burnt and a blackened skull lying among the stones. "A rustling
sound was heard and a huge black spider ran hastily across the stones and
climbed on the dead man's skull," fixing its eyes on the intruder. Then
it shot out its line and wafted itself to the few half-burnt rafters,
"and there it swung round and round in a perfect gavotte." And for many
a day after, as it was rumoured in the mountains, there were strange
sounds at nightfall from the ruined _cabanoun_, and the peasants said
they heard the drone and cry of the _cornemuse_ and saw a skeleton seated
on a stone playing a horrible dance.

This story--founded on a legend that is said to exist in some form or
other all over the world--affords a quick picture of the place and the
people; but it is further remarkable as a story which seems founded on
some case of mesmeric power, probably by no means uncommon among these
mountaineers, a Celtic people, it is said, and perhaps for that reason
especially sensitive to this mysterious force.

There is a version of the legend at Nice in which the treasure-chamber
is under the bed of the Paglion. On a round table a life-sized gold goat
and kid are watched over by an exemplary demon who takes only an hour's
sleep out of the twenty-four. If a bold adventurer can then creep in
and blow the golden trumpet that the demon is so ill-advised as to keep
handy for the purpose at his side, that imprudent spirit is forced to
remain fixed to the chair, while a swarm of little goblins come trooping
in to offer their services in carrying the treasure to any spot that
the seeker may decide.

The entrance to this treasure-chamber is the house of a magician between
the Tina dei Pagani (the Pagan's Wine-vat, or Roman amphitheatre) and
the temple of Apollo, at Cimiez. The district is somewhat haunted by
demons and the sort of society that they frequent. The Witches' Rock,
rising high beyond Mont Chauve in inaccessible crags, was dear to the
uncanny crew, and it was here they danced their "unearthly reels."

On the Rocca di Dom at Avignon witches and wizards (_masc_ and _masco_)
used to assemble in the far-off days when there were only a few windmills
built upon the rock.

The story of the Hunchback of the Rocca di Dom is told of other places
also, but it seems to suit this spot better than any. Duncan Craig gives
a picturesque version of it.

The hunchback wandered up one night when the mistral was thundering
over the hill, setting the sails of the windmills tearing madly round.
And the moonlight was shining on the rock, calm through all the tumult.
The man can have had no tendency to insomnia, for he fell fast asleep
in the uproar, and when he woke it was to sounds of barbaric music and
the clashing of cymbals. And presently La Rocca was alive with a crowd
of faces, high-crowned conical hats, black satins and silks; and to the
great scandalisation of the watcher, grave and respected citizens of
Avignon arm-in-arm with the witches. And they were all dancing as hard as
they could dance, and the dust raised by the mistral whirled with them,
and the windmill sails tore round scrooping and creaking. New arrivals
would come on the scene, and these would receive strange salutations.

"Bon Vèspre, Cousin Chin!" ("Good evening, cousin dog.") "Bono sero,
Cousin Cat!" "Bono niue, Coumpaire Loup!" ("Good-night, gossip Wolf.")
"Coume vai, Misè Limace?" ("How are you, Mistress Snail?") "Pas maw,
pas maw, Cousin Jano."

And so they danced to their Saracenic music, and presently they began
to sing together a curious doggerel:--

"Dilun, Dimars e Demecre tres! Dilun, Dimars e Demecre tres!" ("Monday,
Tuesday, and Wednesday, three.") And they sang it over and over and over
again.

At last this seems to have got upon the poor man's nerves, for suddenly
he starts up and shouts--

"Dijou, Divendre, e Dissate, sieis." ("Thursday, Friday, and Saturday,
six.")

"Oh, lou brave gibous!" shriek the witches in chorus. "The dear hunchback
has come up here to complete our verse for us; Zou, we will make a man
of him."

And they come towards him in a whirling circle, dancing round and round
him till he is dazed and dazzled and seems to lose consciousness, when
suddenly he finds himself breathless on the rock alone and--straight as
a pine!

Another hunchback, hearing of this strange cure, went up to La Rocca on
a night of storm, all ready to finish the witches' rhyme for them. This
time it was:--

     "Dilun, Dimars, e Demecre tres,
     Dijou, Divendre, e Dissate sieis."

"E Dimenche, set," cried the hunchback, with enthusiasm. Whereupon there
was an awful howl and a great shudder that convulsed all the wicked crew.

"Who dares to speak of the Holy Day in these our revels?" a voice asked.

"Es lou gibous, lou marrit gibous! Zou, la gibo, la gibo. Gibo davans,
gibo darriè!"

And the luckless man found that, so far from being cured, he was
now doubly deformed--the old hump on the back and a new one on the
chest--through the malicious sorcery of the witches of La Rocca.

       *       *       *       *       *

Provence is full of proverbs and quaint sayings, many of them very like
our own country saws about the weather and so forth.

     "Ne per Magio, ne per Magiàn,
     Non te leva o pelicàn."

     ("Neither for May, nor for warmest May,
       Your winter coat should you take away.")

         "Se Febraro non febregia
         Mars marsegia."

         ("If February be not cold
         March will pierce the young and old.")

"Non est tout or che relus," is our old friend, "All is not gold that
glitters."

There is a Nizard proverb very neatly put. "Experience keeps a school:
and it is the only one where thoughtless men will learn."

Another saying expresses an all too common fate in a few words: "A dou
mau de la cabro de Moussu Sequin, que se bategue touto la niue 'me lou
loup, e piei lou matin, lou loup la manje."

("He had the bad fortune of Monsieur Sequin's goat, which fought all
night with the wolf, and then the wolf eat him in the morning.")

There are many madrigals and songs of all sorts, all of them
characteristic; most of them inexpressibly charming. Perhaps the best
known is Magali, a quaint and tender expression of undying love which
death itself cannot daunt. Magali persistently refuses and flees from
the love of her adorer, who declares he will follow her even to the grave.

The following few quatrains taken here and there, will give the character
of the poem:--

     "Less than the sound of wind that murmurs
       Care I for thee or heed thy lay;
     I'll be an eel, and in the ocean
       Through the blue waters glide away."

         "O Magali, if thou dost turn
           Eel in the ocean,
         Then 'tis a fisher I will be
           And fish for thee."

     "If in the sea thy net thou castest
       And in its toils I fall a prey,
     I'll be a bird, and to the forest
       On my light pinions fly away."

         "O Magali, if thou dost turn
           Fowl in the forest,
         Then 'tis a fowler I will be
           And capture thee."

     "Vain is thy passion, vain thy pursuit,
       Never a moment shall I stay,
     But in some oak's rough bark I'll guise me,
       And in the dark woods hide away."

         "O Magali, if thou dost turn
           Oak in the forest,
         Then 'tis the ivy I will be,
           And cling to thee."

            *       *       *       *       *

     "Should'st thou once pass yon convent's portals,
       Naught shalt thou find but lifeless clay;
     Round me the white-veiled sisters weeping,
       As in the grave my corpse they lay."

         "O Magali, when thou, alas!
           Art dead and silent,
         I'll be the earth that buries thee:
           Then mine thou'lt be."

     "Now I believe no mocking mean'st thou;
       Faithful thy vows; my heart they move,
     Take from mine arm this crystal bangle,
       Wear it in token of my love."

         "O Magali, see how the stars
           That bright were shining
         Now thou art come, O Magali,
           Turn pale and flee."[14]

It is most singular what an effect of song there is everywhere in this
country. The rivers seem to sing as they flow; the tall yellow reeds
sing as the wind stirs them; the olives have a little whispered canzo
of their own, and the mistral--even he roars a sort of rough baritone
in the general concert. No wonder the troubadours were born in this most
lyrical of lands.

They had songs for every possible occasion: the morning song or _aubade_,
the _serena_ or evening song, the _canzo_ or love-song, the _tenso_
for argumentative moods, the _descort_ when reproaching a cruel lady,
the complicated _sestina_ for moments of unbridled literary energy, the
_sirvente_ for general expression of views, the _planh_ or complaint, for
laments, as, for example, when Folquet of Marseilles (whose acquaintance
we are to make presently) writes of the death of Count Barral, Viscount
of Marseilles.[15]

     "Like one who is so sad that he has lost the sense of sorrow,
     I feel no pain or sadness; all is buried in forgetfulness.
     For my loss is so overpowering that my heart cannot conceive
     it, nor can any man understand its greatness."

In the following translation of some extracts from a tenso, the
troubadours Bernart de Ventadour and Peirol discuss relations of personal
feeling and artistic creation:

_Peirol._ Little worth is the song that does not come from the heart,
and as love has left me, I have left song and dalliance.

_Bernart._ Peirol, you commit great folly, if you leave off those for
such a reason; if I had harboured wrath in my heart, I should have been
dead a year ago, for I also can find no love nor mercy. But for all that
I do not abandon singing, for there is no need of my losing two things.

And so they go on sharpening their wits in gay debate.

The _Ballada_ is the merriest and most joyous of all these songs. It is a
dance-song of the people dating from Greek times. It is sung and danced
by one person only, and seems to be a sort of outburst of individual
joy and delight in life. Its secret is said to lie in the "rhythm and
graceful waving motion, in conjunction with the musical accent"; the
effect, says Hueffer, "must have been of surpassing charm."

          "A l'entrada del tems clar, eya
          Per joya recommençar, eya,
          E per jelos irritar, eya,
          Vol la regina mostrar
          Q'el' est si amoroza,
          Alavi, alavia, jelos
          Laissaz nos, laissaz nos
          Ballar entre nos, entre nos."

     ("At the beginning of the bright season, eya,
     In order to begin again joy, eya,
     And to irritate the jealous, eya,
     The queen resolves to show how amorous she is,
     Away, away, ye jealous,
     Let us, let us dance by ourselves, by ourselves.")



CHAPTER XII

TARASCON


     "Amo de longo renadivo,
     Amo jouiouso e fièro a vivo,
     Qu'endibes dins lou brut dóu Rose e dóu Rousau!
       Amo di séuvo armouniouso
       E di calanco souleiouso,
       De la patrio amo piouso,
     T'apelle! encarno-te dins mi vers prouvençau!"

          "CALENDAU"--MISTRAL.

       ("Soul of my country ever new,
       Joyous and fiery, gallant, true,
       Who laughest in the waves of the Rhone,
       Upstirred by Rousau on his throne,
       Soul of the pine's wood harmony,
       And of each sun-creek of the sea;
       Soul of my Fatherland's dear shrine,
       Inspire Provençal verses mine.")

          TRANSLATION BY DUNCAN CRAIG.


"You seem to have found a very interesting book," said Barbara, with an
amused smile, to which I had grown accustomed.

"You have been poring over it for half an hour. I suppose it's poetry,"
Barbara went on, with philosophical but not at all disdainful aloofness
from that particular form of human aberration.

"No--o; not conventionally speaking, poetry."

In truth it was the local time-table.

But it was poetry after all. Consider the list of names: Avignon,
Tarascon, Beaucaire, Arles, Nimes, Montpellier, Béziers, Carcassonne,
Albi, Aigues Mortes, Carpentras, Cabestaing, Uzès, Vaucluse, L'Isle sur
Sorgue, Aix-en-Provence--all printed irreverently in heartless columns,
as if they were not worth mentioning except for their relation to time
and tide.

"Now which of all these desecrated shrines of history shall we go to?"

Barbara said they were one and all Greek to her at present, and she
would be happy with any of them.

"Suppose we just drift along this line--this bejewelled line--and let
things happen to the south-east, with only a few tooth-brushes in a
hand-bag?"

Barbara was perfectly willing, but said she _must_ take a night-gown
and a comb as well.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a glorious morning when the train puffed out of the station at
Avignon and took a sharp swerve in order to give us a fine last view of
that "little city of colossal aspect," as Victor Hugo calls it. Always
that dominating palace on the height stretching long and massive across
the hillside. The high mountains to the south-east stood entrancingly
blue, Mont Ventoux looking as heavenly and innocent as if the bare
thought of harbouring--much more of deliberately producing a mistral
were a baseness of which she was utterly incapable. She would hesitate
at so much as a stiff breeze! Yet we had caught her in the act but
yesterday and had left behind in our boxes damning proof of her guilt
in the remnants of two once quite respectable hats which her _protégé_
had playfully divided into segments as we crossed the street to post
our letters.

  [Illustration: TARASCON FROM BEAUCAIRE, SHOWING KING RENÉ'S CASTLE.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

"Let us go to Tarascon!"

Barbara jumped at it, and we centred our hopes and imaginings on that
most Provençal of Provençal cities as the train puffed along on its
leisurely way.

The towers of Chateau Renard in the middle distance have a romantic,
mysterious effect, standing as they do on a rocky little hill just far
enough away to look strangely mysterious, with the soft bloom of the
spaces and the peaked ranges behind it. The station of Barbentane is
on the line, but we did not succeed in making out the village on the
hill-top.

Ardouin-Dumazet writes:--

"Les cultures enveloppent jusqu'au Rhone le petit massif sur lequel se
dresse la haute Tour de Barbentane."

This gives one at once the character of the country. Further on we
come to La Montagnette de Tarascon, which "contrasts its bare slopes
with the opulent plain. It is like an island rising out of verdure--the
white calcined rock takes in an amusing fashion, the airs of a chain of
rocky mountains. The Montagnette is a miniature of the Alpilles, those
miniature Alps."

The Alpilles--strange little knobbly mountains--grow into greater
prominence as we move eastward and the outline shows itself more than
ever eccentric and altogether out of fashion, as one imagines fashion
among mountains.

They have a style of their own, a marked personality that is very
fascinating. They were yet to explore, with their memories of the
campaign of Marius, their Courts of Love, their rock-hewn city of Les
Baux, their Trou d'Enfer, their haunts of the famous witch Tavèn and
her demon-companies. We had half a mind to divert from our route at once
and take the little local train up into the heart of the range, but not
liking to think ourselves lacking in decision of character, we nailed
our colours to the mast, and resolved to see Tarascon first.

The famous town lies charmingly on the river-side; a mass of roofs and
towers, with its castle of King René--that most delightful and lively
of monarchs; a real drawing-master castle, absurdly picturesque, with
two vast round machicolated towers (very troublesome to shade), and a
frowning entrance between them. (Surely all drawing-masters have taken
this castle as their model since time began!) On the landward side is
a dry moat and a stretch of grass and weeds (the weeds worked in with a
sharp professional touch in the foreground). Just across the Rhone the
vast bridge, which Tartarin thought too long and slender, leads to the
town and high up on the hill, proud and desolate, the rival castle of
Beaucaire.

"Embarras de Beaucaire!"

Ardouin-Dumazet says that in his childhood his family had a neighbour,
a good woman, whose exclamation on the smallest obstacle was invariably
"Embarras de Beaucaire!" And that, he adds, "gave us a grand idea of
the encumbered state of this famous town."

"Si vous aviez vu Beaucaire pendant la foire!"

As we looked across that stupendous bridge, the phrase brought with it
the picture of a mass of booths along the quay, shipping and flags and
merchandise; and crowds in holiday costumes of every colour, for people
flocked from all countries to buy and sell at the great fair "celebrated
even beyond the Syrian deserts."

         "Lougres difformes,
     Galéaces énormes,
         Vaisseaux de toutes formes...."

Dumazet records a conversation he had with one old man who remembered
the great fair in his childhood.

"Then one should see Beaucaire!"

He described the coming of hundreds of ships, carrying each a whole
stable full of horses for towing up the river on the return journey;
and how the great canal brought boats from Aigues Mortes and Albi, and
the sea brought Turks, Algerians, Greeks, Italians, Spaniards, with
silk, pearls, figs, and a thousand objects of merchandise. Then the good
people of Beaucaire were inundated with heretics and pagans. When there
were disputes between the merchants, a tribunal on the spot settled the
matter. All was arranged in departments: silks, wools, cottons, whole
streets of booths devoted to jewellery, spices, coffee, and so forth.
In the evening the company cooked their dinners between stones on the
shores of the river; "and one shouted and one laughed, and the physicians
and the acrobats and the bear-tamers called to the crowd with loud cries
amid the noise of cymbals and tambourines. Fine ladies and gentlemen
came from long distances to see all that!"

We heave a sigh of regret at the passing away of so many bright and
cheering things, such as fairs and picturesque shipping, and turn to
wander, as the fancy takes us, about the pleasant streets of Tarascon,
visiting the tomb of St. Martha, but, through misdirection, missing
the Tarasque. However, we knew all about his very singular personal
appearance from descriptions and drawings. Tarascon is now probably more
associated with Tartarin in our minds than with St. Martha, but it is
a beautiful legend of the gentle saint who by sheer force of lovingness
was able to change the ravaging Tarasque--a creature certainly born with
no hereditary turn for polite usages--into a pleasant, regenerate animal
of gentlemanly manners. Along the bright ways of the city, as the legend
goes, the procession moved: a crowd of excited people, a beautiful woman
with a light playing round her head, leading by a silken cord the reformed
monster who ambles after her as quietly as if he were a pet-lamb: this
huge hybrid of a creature, with the body of an alligator, the legs of
a grand-piano, the head of a dragon, and a "floreat tail" of heraldic
design which he flourishes affably in response to the plaudits of the
multitude.

And never again did he ravage the country round Tarascon or carry off
so much as a single babe, after St. Martha had pointed out to him, with
her usual sweet reasonableness, how wrong-headed and how essentially
immoral such conduct had been.

It is disappointing to be told by an innovating savant that this sweet
lady was not St. Martha at all, but merely the Christianised form of the
ancient Phœnician goddess Martis, the patroness of sailors, who had for
her symbols a ship and a dragon. What _is_ one to be allowed to believe?

The Phœnicians, one has to admit, plied a busy trade along these coasts.
Their language has left traces in the Provençal dialects, and images
have been found at Marseilles of Melkarth and Melita, or Hercules and
Venus, known in the Bible as Baal and Ashtaroth. There has even been
discovered a tariff for sacrifices in the temple of Baal, giving a list
of dues legally established for the payments of the priests.

(Barbara was utterly confounded to find these distinctly Biblical deities
figuring so far from home.)

The tariff is a long affair, and goes into all possible details. But
the following extract maybe worth quoting:--

"For an entire ox, the ordinary sacrifice, the priests are to receive
10 shekels. At the sacrifice, in addition, 300 shekels of flesh," and
so on.

But it does not follow, from all this, that St. Martha did not subdue
the Tarasque. Moreover, Tarasques are being subdued every day by Marthas
not by any means arrived at saintship. The old legend, be its origin
Christian, Phœnician, Celtic or classic, reads almost like a parable
by which to convey the old truth that love and kindness have power to
subdue evil which force has failed to overcome.

St. Martha's tomb and shrine are in the church dedicated to her at
Tarascon, and, until lately, there were yearly processions through the
city, in which the gigantic creature was paraded in triumph, the legs
of the man inside being ingeniously "dissimulated by a band of stuff."

     "... les porteurs dansent et cabriolent de façon à faire agiter
     le queue et a renverser les curieux trop voisins. (Pour queue
     une poutre droite.)"

The Tarasque is furious on the second Sunday after Pentecost. But later,
on the day of St. Martha, he passes, gentle as a lamb, led by a young
girl. The man inside, with his "dissimulated legs," curvets and gambols
amiably. And the people sing the "Lagagdigadeu," a song invented, it is
said, by King René himself, inspired perhaps by the tumult of the _fête_
passing his castle down by the Rhone. Or just the swish of the waters as
they sweep past the walls of the donjon might easily set fancies ringing
in a head like King René's, who saw things as they are, with the song
and the radiance in them.

And the people went following the procession, shouting:--

     "Lagagdigadeu!
       La Tarasco!
         Lagagdigadeu
           La Tarasco!
             De Casteu!
               Laissas la passa,
                 La vieio masco!
                   Laissas la passa--
                     Che vai dansa...."

And the Tarasque wags his tail (a straight beam, be it remembered)
and overturns some of the crowd. And the people are delighted with the
prowess of their beast. If one is injured they cry:

"A qua ben fe, la tarascoa rou un bré" ("Well done, the tarasque has
broken his arm").

And the clumsy procession moves away and the crowds sing and shout:
"Voulen mai nostro tarasco" ("We wish again for our tarasque"). And so
they let off any amount of superfluous energy.

  [Illustration: THE CHÂTEAU OF KING RENÉ, TARASCON.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

It is a subject for reflection among sociologists whether the dying out
of pageants and dancing, festivals of harvest and seed-time--all the
natural expressions of human joy--does not constitute a serious danger
to the modern state. For either that joy will find some less healthy
kind of expression or it will be killed altogether; and in that case
the race, as a race, must be killed also, as a flower deprived of the
sunshine and the airs of heaven. It is not joy, but the lack of it that
drives a nation mad!

So much for Puritanism!

No one can be in the South, above all in Provence, knowing of its ancient
festivals, its music, its farandoles and Saracenic dances, and fail to
be startled into new realisation of this element that has passed out of
our life, the menace that lies in the pervading dullness, that benumbed
worship of sorrow, of "work" and "duty" without understanding and without
freshness, that absence of fantasy and outcry that binds the modern world
in a terrible and unnatural silence. Of what avail is it that the people
are law-abiding at the cost of the very spring and essence of being?
There is a Nemesis that follows this sort of virtue: and it visits the
virtues of the fathers upon the children for many a hapless generation.
There is a curious example of this in the experience of the Society of
Friends who took upon themselves to banish colour and music from their
lives, for righteousness' sake, and have now succeeded--according to
the testimony of one of their number--in also destroying all response
to those artistic appeals, so that whole realms of being are shut off
from the children of a race that was afraid to accept their complete
inheritance as human beings. It is to be hoped that the heart too has
been atrophied, for it is difficult to imagine a hotter hell than that
must be for a man or woman capable of the full tide of emotional life
and yet unable to find expression for it in heaven or earth!

For the vast majority of mankind there are now no recurrent pleasures
worthy of the name, no balance to the dead weight of mere toil and
_ennui_, no taste of that mysterious magnetism that dwells in throngs bent
on the same object, inspired by the same joyous idea. With the world of
to-day has come a dulling of the aspect of things, a loss of _élan_ and
fire; a perilous deprivation of the primitive form of artistic outpouring.
And it is more than doubtful whether mankind can exist without it. Is
there indeed any object in trying that dangerous experiment?

Why are the majority of moralists, who are so much concerned for the
"good of humanity," so terrified at the sight of humanity a little happy
and spontaneous?

       *       *       *       *       *

It is at Tarascon, for some unknown Provençal reason, that the famous
Arles sausages are made. We wondered if the accomplished city also
provided Arles with its beautiful women.

There is some difficulty in persuading oneself of the great antiquity
of the cheerful, sleepy little town. It looks indeed by no means new,
but the wear and tear seems rather that of the life of to-day than of
centuries ago. Yet Strabo (says Paul Mariéton) mentions ταραςκον
as much frequented in his time. Moreover, at Beaucaire, just across
the Rhone, there is a quarter called _Rouanesse_, which is said to be
a corruption of _Rhodanusia_, an ancient Greek colony.

For some reason or other we happened, in our wanderings, to return and
return again to the place till at last all strangeness seemed to depart
from it. It was beginning to have for us more or less the aspect that it
probably had for the natives, allowing, of course, always for the effect
upon them of never having seen much besides the sunny main street and
broad square, with their hotels and homely houses, and the plane-trees
whose thin shade is grateful even on a November morning. To see a place
too much is never to see it at all.

We grew familiar even with the faces of the people as they came and went
along the ample pavement which sets back the houses pleasantly far from
the road.

In the middle of this spreading, easy-going, desultory main street a
row of carriages for hire stand waiting under a few small trees for
the chance traveller who descends to see the sights of Tarascon between
trains.

"Voulez-vous une voiture, Mesdames, pour voir la ville? l'Église de Ste.
Marthe, le Château du Roi René, la tarasque, et Beaucaire; tout dans
une heure et quart, ou vingt minutes sans Beaucaire."

We made this classic round on our first visit, including Beaucaire, and
a wonderful circlet of picturesque mediævalism it is; but afterwards we
preferred to find our own way; to wander through the great stone gate
on the left and glance or saunter down dozens of alluring byways, where
one would come upon fine old doors, carved lintels, canopies, shrines at
the street corners, flowers on the window-sills, the quick perspective
of street line dark against the sky, and everywhere the sharp lights
and shadows of the south.

Sometimes, indeed, we would take a drive if only to please the
good-natured "_Tartarins_" who drove the carriages. Their black eyes and
bronzed skin were very impressive at first, but when the effect of these
had begun to wear off, we realised that close resemblance to the tenor
of an opera did not involve anything dramatic in type of character. They
were quiet, industrious, polite fellows, earning their meagre living by
a somewhat precarious industry. But of that presently.

Our particular Tartarin was somewhat shocked that we had not yet seen
the tarasque, so there was nothing for it but to set forth in quest of
the monster.

There is in the museum at Avignon a strange, uncanny beast carved in
stone which is called the tarasque, but the effigy that is, or used to be,
carried round the town at Tarascon is quite a young and giddy creature,
built of painted wood, and passes its existence during the intervals of
public function in a sort of large stable which is kept under lock and
key.

We were driven solemnly through the narrow streets, till at length the
fly drew up and we alighted at a stately portal, where, after a few
moments of waiting, the custodian appeared with his keys, and then back
the doors scrooped on their hinges.

Laughter was out of keeping with the occasion; our poor _cocher_ would
have been cut to the heart, but it was hard work to behave decorously.
Out of an old-Dutch-master gloom of background loomed forth a grotesquely
terrible monster, whose proper sphere was certainly the pantomime.
Enormous red-rimmed eyes stared ferociously at the intruders from a
round, cat-like face rayed with bristling white whiskers. There was
also a touch of hippopotamus in the cast of countenance, only it lacked
the sweeter expression of that more philosophic beast. The creature had
evidently had a new coat of paint--black with red facings--for the huge
body was beautifully glossy.

"La voilà, la tarasque!" said our coachman, with pardonable pride.

We hesitated in our comments. Barbara, rather from lack of familiarity
with the _nuances_ of the language than from any want of frankness,
murmured something about "très jolie"; and Tartarin said, "En effet,
Madame, mais on devait la voir quand on fait le tour de la ville au jour
de fête, mais c'est épatant!"

"Je le crois bien," I murmured appreciatively.

Tartarin suggested that we might like to see the rest of the animal before
leaving, and so we made the round (he extended far into the depths of
his gloomy dwelling), admiring the pose and the noble proportions of the
creature--rather like an old-fashioned locomotive--and the formidable
nature of the tail. Then we felt that without indiscretion we might
depart. As we drove off we caught a last glimpse of that unspeakably
ridiculous beast who stood glaring at nothing in the darkness, silent
and steadily ferocious to the last. Then the great doors were swung
together and the pride of Tarascon was hidden from our view.

One could but laugh, and yet that absurd effigy was the representative
of the beginnings of our history as a race!

The Christian version of the story is of yesterday: the arrival of the
saints on the shores of pagan Gaul and the conversion of Tarascon to the
new faith by St. Martha. Some trace the legend to Phœnician sources, as
has been already mentioned; more frequently the animal is regarded as
a Celtic deity or demon, and there are stories of Hercules and a giant
named Taras or Tauriskos: the classic form of the tradition. In any case
it belongs to the Twilight of the Gods, and if one could really trace
the family tree of that mongrel monster to its roots one would possibly
acquire a good deal of knowledge that would startle archæologists.

It was not till late in the fifteenth century, however, that the _fête_
of the tarasque was instituted by King René, that most artistic of
monarchs, who loved to see his people gay and happy; so it was somewhat
later than the real troubadour days that our cat-hippopotamus began
to enjoy a sort of established position; which shows that no one need
despair of appreciation if only he will wait long enough.

We visited more than once the shrine of the gentle conqueror of the
tarasque: standing--it was startling to remember--on the very spot
where Clovis, King of the Franks, once stood, when newly converted to
Christianity by his saintly wife Clothilde. The shrine is in a quiet,
half-subterranean chapel in the church of her name. The tomb is under
a low vault and the marble figure of the saint rests on the big stone
slab with joined hands and a look of deep peace on her beautiful face.
Certainly it is the face of a woman who might win over ravaging monsters
to sweetness and light. Above the tomb is the inscription:

     _Solicita non turbima._

Broad steps flecked with colour from the stained-glass window opposite
lead down to the dim little crypt where she sleeps, and one hanging
lamp burns in the twilight and the silence which seems too deep and
too far below the surface of the life of the moment to be disturbed by
the irrelevant steps and voices of visitors, or by the troops of little
girls who come under the care of a nun to visit the shrine.

       *       *       *       *       *

The regions down by the Castle of King René are delightful to loiter in on
a warm day. Of vast size and solidity, this fourteenth-century fortress
is full of the atmosphere of romance. The southern wall plunges sheer
into the Rhone; at right angles to this river front stretches the mass
of the building; tower and barbican and battlement in splendid array,
the dry moat and the road running alongside.

What observant traveller passing at the foot of some ancient tower has
not noticed the magical aspect of its line of luminous contact with the
fields of the air?

  [Illustration: ENTRANCE TO KING RENÉ'S CASTLE, TARASCON
   _By E. M. Synge._]

The immense block of masonry from its roots in the soil to its battlements
in the sky stands clear against the mysterious spaces, and presently
it seems to stir and lean forward, as if it might fall or drift away
in emulation of some free-born cloud that swims over its head. It is
delightful to loiter in the road by the moat just below the hillock that
rises to the river-bank and opposite the last of the towers, which stands
at the angle of the castle between land and water. At this spot nothing
can be seen of hill and river, only the tower and sky. They meet at the
magic line--inexorable stone and quivering ether; substance enthralled
and infinity in motion!

Floods of light from the steady tumult of the waters are reflected upon
the cream-white walls and fill the whole atmosphere. It seems to tremble
against the tower as one watches. And one knows that more obviously than
usual one stands at the gate of the Eternal Mystery.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the top of the hillock the river bursts into view, incredibly broad,
hurrying, joyous, with Beaucaire on its opposite shore watched over by
the ruined keep on the height: the scene of that most charming of old
French romances, "Aucassin and Nicolette."

Just before the eye, a little below King René's Castle, is the famous
bridge; it might be the bridge between this world and the next, between
Good and Evil, between Heaven and Hell, so long it is. The great whisper
of the tide is audible now to any one who elects to pause here in
the sunshine and listen. There is a little hidden corner at the angle
between the castle and a curtain of wall that meets it into which the
water sweeping along the castle side is flung and repulsed with a great
back-surge, meeting, as it returns, the edges of the main current and so
falling into an immense conflict, fascinating to watch with its hundred
whirlpools and hollows, swellings and eddies, and all the babbling and
complaining of torrents detained in their ever-pressing errand. One
could spend hours on the spot, and in adventurous moods might yield to
the temptation of walking along the broad ledge of the curtain-wall till
one stood just above the dizzy spot where the waters swing together and
hurl themselves back with anger and trembling into the great stream.

                 "Mais radieux
     Et ivre de votre lumière du Rhone,
     Haussez les verres à la cause vaincue."

Truly the spot in which to drink to lost causes!



CHAPTER XIII

THE PONT DU GARD


     "Qui donc disait qu'il n'y a ni fraicheur ni ombre en Provence!
     Il semble y avoir là-bas dans le tortueux lointain de la
     rivière, un infini de rêverie, un paradis melancolique....
     Je contemple la noble structure du Pont Géant, ces arcades
     silencieuses qui semblent dévorer de l'azur."

          PAUL MARIÉTON.

Barbara had heard of the approaching arrival of some cherished relations
in Provence, and as blood is the thickest of all substances--impenetrable
by the X or any other rays--it was arranged that she should meet them
at an appointed rendezvous and stay with them till the common fluid
that flowed in their veins had been satisfied. Then she was to return
to continue our joint adventures.

So one fine day I found myself alone at Tarascon. It is supposed to be
necessary to have some idea of what one is going to do with oneself
in a place before electing to go there, but this I believe to be a
superstition. It is only necessary to present oneself and destiny will
do the rest.

Yet I had seen everything of note in Tarascon, and Tartarin was evidently
concerned about me, for even he could suggest nothing further. We
were discussing possibilities in a desultory manner when one of his
professional brothers passed at a rattling pace with a fare evidently
just returned from doing Tarascon in the twenty minutes--"sans Beaucaire."

The inmate of the fly was pale and lank, with colourless hair. I gave a
start--my critical Englishman of the Pont du Gard! The hat went off, and
I caught, as the carriage rolled by, the simple words, "Wretched hole;
not a decent----" but the movement of the fly bereft me of the end of
the sentence.

"How far is it to the Pont du Gard?" I asked, with the swiftness of
inspiration.

Tartarin's face brightened.

"Est-ce que Madame désire d'y aller?"

"Certainement."

Tartarin rubbed his hands. We could start after the _déjeuner_ and be
back at the Hôtel de la Couronne in the late afternoon. It was about
eighteen kilometres; a fine long job for Tartarin, who usually had to
take his chance with the many other drivers for quite a short round of
the town. The Pont du Gard being more usually visited from Nimes, the
expedition was a windfall for our friend.

So we set off. The carriage would not open, and as the day was warm with
the sun in spite of a cold wind, it was annoying to be shut into a stuffy
little box which hid from view half the long stretches of country, and
allowed one no time to dwell upon the features of the farms and villages,
for one could look neither back nor forward. But there were, as a matter
of fact, but few villages, only farms. _Mas_ is the Provençal for a
farm, as any reader of Mistral will soon learn, for the poet is never
tired of dwelling on the simple and, it would seem, exceptionally happy
life that is passed in these homesteads; the owner a sort of benevolent
patriarch directing the labours of sowing, sheep-shearing, the vintage,
the olive gathering, the treading of the corn, and the harvest. It is
Mistral's own father whom he describes so often with so much affection
and reverence:--

  [Illustration: THE PONT DU GARD.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

"When the old man came to die he said, 'Frederi que tems fai?'
('Frederick, what kind of weather is it?') I replied, 'Plou, moun paire.'
'Ah! ben, se plou fai ben tems per li semenco,' and rendered up his soul
to God.[16] You won't wonder," added the poet, at my writing in Mireille
this verse--

               "'Coume au mas, coume au tems de
               Moun Paire, ai! ai! ai!'"

     ("As at a farm in the time of my father, Alas, alas, alas!")

The carriage soon swallowed the eighteen kilometres of level road, the
country changing in character as we neared the banks of the Gard. Here
began the great cliffs which had inspired the Romans with the truly
Imperial idea of carrying water to Nimes across the river from height
to height, for with all their engineering skill this great people did
not know that water will rise to its own level.

The magnificent bridge came suddenly into view, startling in its
forty-nine metres of solid grandeur. Three tiers of arches lifted
themselves one above the other; the lowest series short and solid, the
second more slender and taller, rising in its haughty Roman way to carry
the third and most towering of all, at whose summit in the sky used to
run the water which supplied the people of Nimes when they were Roman
citizens. It was there on hot summer days that they revelled in their
splendid baths (fed by the great aqueduct) which may still be seen in
the public gardens, with cool open marble courts some eight or ten feet
below the level of the soil, where stone Tritons and Neptunes kept watch
over the waters that flowed refreshingly among the white columns, and
lay green and still in little murmuring grottoes well sheltered from the
sun. It was then, too, that these luxurious citizens used to assemble in
their thousands to see beasts and men fight for dear life in the great
amphitheatre; and then that some Roman built the curious Tour Magne
that puzzles the learned and dominates the town to this day. The Pont du
Gard must have presented precisely the same aspect to those old Romans
as it does to us, for scarcely a stone has been disturbed in all these
centuries.

  [Illustration: THE ROMAN TOUR MAGNE, NIMES, FROM THE FOUNTAIN GARDEN.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

It is not surprising that its magnificent design should have been
attributed in the middle ages to the devil.

The story is that the architect, overwhelmed with the difficulty of the
task and the number of times the river had carried away the uncompleted
arches, was almost thinking of abandoning it altogether, when the
enterprising enemy of mankind approached with the offer to construct
the bridge in such a way as never bridge had been constructed before,
for the trifling consideration of the first soul that should cross it
after its completion.

The architect went home to his wife in mingled elation and despair.

The couple had evidently not had traffic with the devil for nothing,
for they hit upon the contemptibly mean device of thrusting the penalty
of their evil compact upon helpless and innocent shoulders. The wife
suggested that they should set free a hare at one end of the bridge
and let it run across to the devourer of souls, who was to wait at the
other end with an open sack to catch his prey. And the trick succeeded.
When the poor hare arrived at the fatal end of the bridge the devil,
recognising in a fury how he had been duped, flung the animal against
the wall, where it is said its impress on the stone can be seen to this
day.[17]

The task of the tourist is to cross the river on the topmost tier of
arches, through the disused aqueduct, and I set forth to accomplish this
apparently break-neck feat. It is in reality quite easy. One has but to
walk over the bridge that runs along the lowest tier of arches and then
scramble up the rough hill on the opposite side of the river. The arches
seen thus in sharp perspective are sublime, and they seem never-ending.

On the hillside grow many sweet-smelling aromatic plants, and they tempt
one to linger that one may bruise the leaves and so enjoy the fresh
wholesomeness of the perfume. Below, at a dizzy distance, runs the Gard,
the shores rich with woods over which now is a sort of mysterious bloom
that seems in perfect keeping with the unseen Enchanted Castle filled
with exquisite works of art from all the quarters of the globe, that
hides somewhere among the foliage a little lower down the stream.

Ascending to the level of the aqueduct one sees traces of its route over
the hill on the way to Nimes. To reach it one must mount a short stair,
and then one finds oneself in an immensely long tunnel, about seven or
eight feet high, roofed in with stone slabs, which, however, are lacking
here and there, so that the passage is dimly lighted. Along this ruined
watercourse I crossed the Gard. It was like walking through a catacomb
open at intervals to the sky. Here and there through chinks between the
slabs, or in places where they had been broken away, one could catch
glimpses of beautiful reaches of the river.

One emerges at the end of the tunnel on to a rough hillside, covered with
shrubs, brambles, shaggy trees, and masses of ivy, a sort of Salvator
Rosa landscape under the clouded heavens; for the day had changed and
a mantle of grey spread itself over the majestic scene.

Scrambling down by chance steep pathways among the shrubs--losing my way
more than once by following tracks that led to the edge of some miniature
precipice--I found myself wondering, in the foolish, insistent way that
one does wonder about trivial things, whether our tourist friend had
managed to feel as disappointed as he had expected he would be with the
Pont du Gard.

It looked absolutely sublime as one retreated from it on the homeward
way; its towering arches rearing themselves tier above tier, like some
dauntless human life lived steadily for a great purpose. And the storms
of centuries have not been able to touch its splendour, though for ever
they assail it--rain and sun, rain and sun, as the Provençal children
sing--

     "Plou, plou, souléio
     Sus lou pont de Marseio."



CHAPTER XIV

A HUMAN DOCUMENT


     "How many a rustic Milton has passed by
     Stifling the speechless longing of his heart,
     In unremitting drudgery and care.
     How many a vulgar Cato has compelled
     His energies, no longer tameless then
     To mould a pin or fabricate a nail.
     How many a Newton to whose passive ken
     These mighty spheres that gem infinity
     Were only specks of tinsel fixed in heaven
     To light the midnights of his native town."

          SHELLEY, "Queen Mab."

The inside of the fly being stuffy and the view impeded from that
position, I decided to make the return journey from the Pont du Gard
on the box. Tartarin was too philosophic and too polite to show any
surprise at this new form of Britannic madness, so we set off, and the
good _cocher_ proved a most entertaining companion.

He had read a great deal in one way and another, and had developed quite
a philosophy of his own, Epicurean in the true, not the popular sense
of the word, strange as it may appear. Hard experience had wrung it out
of him as wine from the wine-press. He was born at Tarascon, and had one
sister who had also lived in the city of St. Martha since her birth. The
two did not live together; no, she was a little--_enfin_, she had her
ways of living and he had his. He liked his liberty, and she--well, she
did _not_ like it: _his_ liberty, _bien entendu_. She could not support
that he should have a key of the house; she would always sit up for him
if he was out in the evenings, and it was _gênant_. Not that Tartarin
cared to stay out late, he was quiet in his tastes. "_Je ne fais pas
la noce moi_," he explained; "_c'est vide tout ça; néomoins il faut que
je suis maître de moi-même; quoique je ne le suis pas_," he added with
a philosophic shrug and a good-natured "Ain!" to his horse. He lodged
"_chez Bottin_" in the main street with a number of his colleagues.
They were hired to drive the carriages, and if they did not get many
fares the _patron_ reproached them for laziness. Most of the drivers
were eager to make a good haul, for if they were very unsuccessful the
employer might discharge them. Tartarin's attitude was characteristic.
He made his effort; set forth the attractions of Tarascon and the Castle
of Beaucaire, and calmly awaited the result. If the visitors took the
carriage he was pleased; if one after another passed him, "_Eh! bien, tant
pis_"; he hoped for better luck next time. And resolutely he abstained
from adding to the little turn of ill-fortune the pain of regret.

After all, he had "_le bon soleil_." When it was cold--and it _can_ be
cold in the Midi--he needed all his philosophy: to wait and wait for
visitors who never came, to pass hours and days in the bitter wind, and
to have time to think about life and what it must always be for him!
Yes, there were moments, "_Mais que voulez-vous? C'est la vie._" One
thing he was sure of: _la vie_ was always more or less like that _même
pour les riches_ (Oh! deep-visioned Tartarin!).

He had not always lived at Tarascon. When he was a boy he had been full
of ambition. He would make his fortune and have a merry time of it. He had
wandered far and wide in his own country, seeking fortune and experience.
And he had found experience but not fortune. Among other adventures, he
joined a band of athletes and used to perform in the streets of Paris,
in tights, with two other youths and a girl in spangles. She was the
daughter of the employer, his first love, "_c'est à dire le premier
amour sérieux. Ah! comme elle était belle!_" But he had no luck; she
loved another, "_un animal de joueur sur le mandolin_." And she would
not look at Tartarin when the gay rival was present.

The rejected one wandered farther afield for fresh adventures; engaged
himself with a travelling theatrical company, first in the capacity
of scene-shifter, but later he was offered a temporary post as
walking-gentleman, and probably he would have gone far in the profession
but for another amorous complication. The leading-lady had pleased his
fancy and appeared to reciprocate his sentiments. But one day, in the
side-scenes, he discovered her in a non-professional love episode with
the permanent villain, and after a painful interview, during which he
and the villain came to blows, Tartarin resolved to leave the perfidious
one and the troupe, and throw up such chances as might there offer
themselves. Dispirited and disillusioned, he returned to his native
town, where he engaged himself to Bottin and earned his little crust of
bread in peace, if not too gaily. He had given up all idea of marriage,
not because he was indifferent to _les femmes_, "_au contraire_," but
he did not care to ask a woman to share so poor a life. "_Je suis mieux
seul._" As it was, he had not to reproach himself for bringing another
into the struggle of life.

"_Et quelque fois on va au marché et on achette des enfants_," he added
fantastically, "_et alors, que voulez-vous?_" After that the deluge, he
seemed to imply.

"_Je gagne 40 francs_," he said, "_avec le logement_."

"_Par semaine?_"

"_Et mon Dieu non: si c'etait par semaine!_" He raised his eyes to heaven
as if he had a vision of beatitude. "_Non, par mois._"

That and a few tips given him by his clients was all he had to live upon.

But that did not trouble him, in itself. His fear was of losing his health
and not being able to work. But he put away black thoughts, and turned
his mind to the good that he possessed. After all, he had his health
and his livelihood, so where was the profit of thinking of a possible
time when he might lose both? Would that help him? He had suffered when
he was young and full of ambition; _mon Dieu_, he had always desired
something he did not possess, and if after great efforts he acquired
what he wanted, always the desire ceased and there was some new thing
that made him restless.

"_A quoi bon se tourmenter toujours de cette façon?_"

And so he came to see that all his happiness, if ever he was to enjoy
any, was stored in his own consciousness, and that nothing from without
would avail him, though it were riches and honours without end.

"_Néomoins_," he added, with a naïve little gesture, "_néomoins_, if
chance _were_ to make him the possessor of a little fortune, he would
buy a little house--_toute petite_, with a garden; he would have one
servant whom he would treat very well, and he would have a little trap
and horse which he would drive himself. And then he would envy no man!"

After all then a desire still lingered.

"_Ah ça ne me fait pas de mal!_" he said with a shrug, "_ç'a m'amuse_."
"I am not unhappy in knowing it can never come. _Voilà la différence!_"

Poor Tartarin! And yet in truth was he to be pitied or envied? He must
have seemed somewhat strange to his comrades. They would get excited and
troubled over all sorts of trivial things, and they would offend one
another and flare up into quarrels. Not so Tartarin. He would quietly
evade points of difference, laugh off some threatening dispute, make
peace between hot-headed combatants. Such things seemed to him needless,
foolish. "_A quoi bon?_" as he asked. "_Ça ne vaut pas la peine, mon
Dieu!_"

As we were nearing our destination his confidences grew more rapid.
After all a man who had thought and felt about things to this extent
must have badly needed a means of expression at times.

One is so apt to imagine that the lives one touches thus casually are
all more or less what one calls "normal." But when the veil is lifted
by some accident, it is not often the purely normal that one finds
below it. When Tartarin mentioned that he and his sister were born at
Tarascon, I had vaguely pictured an ordinary well-conducted French family.
But I found my mistake. The man spoke hesitatingly of his childhood.
He had the Frenchman's conventional and inconsequent respect for his
mother--inconsequent considering the unceremonious manner in which she
has previously been treated, as a woman. In this case the conduct of
the mother had been painfully out of order. The Frenchman reverences his
mother surprisingly indeed, but on strict condition that she carries out
her _rôle_ in absolute conformity with expected sentiments. _La mère_ is
_la mère_, neither more nor less, an esteemed functionary rather than
a private individual. Is this to be doubted in the country under whose
laws the mother is unhesitatingly sacrificed in the case of having to
choose between her life and the child's?

So poor Tartarin's state of mind must have been most complex, for his
mother had shown a spirit anything but official. She could not stand
uninterrupted family life, it appears, and used to go off at intervals
in a sort of exasperation, for a week or a month of solitude. Tartarin
spoke of it with bated breath, not severely, but sadly, for was she not
_la mère_? She appears to have shown singularly small appreciation of the
creditable fact. What she had, at moments, permitted herself to remark
about _les enfants et la famille_ generally, her good son refrained from
quoting, but I gathered that it was something truly appalling! Of course
this led to quarrels; the neighbours were scandalised, and incited the
husband to take strong measures, and that was the end.

"If you had but let me go now and then I would not have left you," she
cried, as she fled from the house never to return. And thus Tartarin and
his sister had been deprived in their early years of _la tendresse d'une
mère_. He spoke of it with a sort of self-pity, evidently engendered
by the comments of indignant neighbours and by the sentiments of a
maiden-aunt who joyfully seized the happy opportunity to fill the place
thus left vacant. The brother and sister had therefore enjoyed all the
_tendresse_ that they could have desired, and evidently it was as like
the ordinary _tendresse d'une mere_ as one egg is like another. For
there was nothing in the way of alternate embracings and irrelevant
punishments that had been lacking in the system of education of that
admirable aunt. She had worshipped the children; so altogether it was
difficult to see what the pair had missed. They had certainly gained the
prestige of their misfortune, for all Tarascon had petted and pitied them.

"And where do _I_ come in?" the aunt might have inquired, but she never
did. On the contrary, she started the chorus and shed the signal-tear,
so that little Tartarin and Antoinette evidently had a splendid time of
it.

And was the truant mother still living? Yes, she had a little property,
a little house at Arles where she passed her days. And now and then
Tartarin and his sister went to see her. The mother was glad to welcome
them, and, as far as I could gather, she was fond of Tartarin, not exactly
as a son, but as a good fellow whose _bonhomie_ and urbane philosophy
appealed to her. It was a curious story, and a most unexpected one in
this out of the way city of the south.

The drive had taken about a couple of hours, time well spent, apart from
the charm of the country we had passed through, for a human life, in
its emotions as well as in its events, had been unrolled before me.

And strangely pathetic it was; the life of this good-hearted,
disillusioned, unembittered philosopher, who, with a sort of sad
cheerfulness, waited in fair weather and foul under the plane-trees in
the main street, trying to tempt the tourist to take the round of the
sights--preferably the whole round, but if that piece of good-luck failed
him, then "_sans Beaucaire_."

Yes, sometimes his heart was a little heavy; he was more or less dependent
on his employer, he was solitary though he had many good comrades among
the people of his native town. But he was spared anxiety in that his
risks were his own and his alone; but he had no one to live for, no
one to care for. A wife, as he had before declared, he would not have;
_la misère à deux_ was not the route to happiness; and in his case _la
famille_ had not proved comforting. Often when he went back to Bottin's
after the day's work, he felt a sinking of the heart, for, after all,
was it a life, this? But "_enfin, que voulez-vous?_" He was better off
than many a poor devil, and so he said to himself: "_Raphael_" (for
that was poor Tartarin's real name), "_Raphael, mon vieux, tu es donc
un imbécile_."

And that usually restored him to a more satisfactory frame of mind; though
there were times when even this rousing adjuration lost its efficacy.
At these moments the gloom would last the night and pursue him when he
went to his work next morning, and he would feel as if he could endure
the empty monotony no longer.

Then suddenly--a ray of sunshine, the flight of a bird, and all the dark
thoughts would melt away!

I almost started as Tartarin said these words. As a philosopher I already
knew him, but here was an artist!

We parted with many expressions of good-will, I promising to send him a
copy of Maeterlinck's "La Sagesse et la Destinée," for I thought he might
gain comfort and enjoyment from a philosophy which had many points in
common with his own. Perhaps the Belgian poet would help him a step or
two further on his road, and teach him to know the value of the wisdom
he had already won.

In acknowledgment, he sent me an illustrated post-card of the Pont du
Gard, with a charming little inscription expressing his gratitude for
my having thus remembered "_le pauvre cocher_."

And this good-hearted philosopher will hereafter always be to me the
real Tartarin de Tarascon.



CHAPTER XV

BEAUCAIRE AND ITS LOVE-STORY


     "The central love-poetry of Provence, the poetry of the Tenson
     and the Aubade, of Bernard de Ventadour and Pierre Vidal, is
     poetry for the few, for the elect and peculiar people of the
     kingdom of sentiment. But below this intenser poetry there
     was probably a wide range of literature ... reaching ... an
     audience which the concentrated passion of those higher lyrics
     left untouched ... the only representative of its species,
     M. Fauriel thought he detected in the story of Aucassin and
     Nicolette, written in the French of the latter half of the
     thirteenth century ... and there were reasons which made him
     divine for it a still more ancient ancestry, traces in it of
     an Arabian origin...."

          WALTER PATER.

Beaucaire, it may be remembered, has a hill-set castle opposite King
René's at Tarascon. The two stand frowning at one another across the
river, unforgetful of their old feuds.

The town was the property of the Counts of Toulouse, before the
Albigensian wars snuffed out that great family, and it had its share
of suffering in those desperate persecutions. The Pope gave all their
domains to his accomplice, Simon de Montfort, because Raimon VI. of
Toulouse--one of the noblest figures of the Middle Ages--had dared to
oppose the massacre of the helpless Albigenses.

  [Illustration: VIEW FROM VISIGOTH TOWER, BEAUCAIRE.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

At last the young Count raises a revolt against de Montfort while the
latter is at Beaucaire. It is a relief to hear of his being seriously
opposed after all the atrocities that he has committed in this exquisite
land, all the savage destruction of beautiful things and thoughts of
which he is guilty. He is, indeed, almost as terrible a scourge as his
coadjutor, the Puritan of the north; they are spiritual twins: the soldier
who persecutes with fire and sword, and the equally pitiless and bigoted
saint who persecutes with the fire and sword of the spirit, rejoicing,
he too, when the gladness and the passion of life lie bleeding beneath
his feet. Between them, in their different spheres, they have lain low
how much of beauty and of happiness!

       *       *       *       *       *

The persecution of the Albigenses broke up the whole delicate edifice
of what one may call the troubadour civilisation and plunged the country
once more into chaos.

The luckless Count of Toulouse found himself obliged to lay siege to his
own castle of Beaucaire, where de Montfort was installed with a powerful
garrison.

It is a dream of peace and beauty now, as we approach it up a hill-side
through pine-trees and irises, a wonderful sight surely in the season
of blossoming.

An old Provençal poem gives an account of the siege: a sharp battering-ram
injured the wall, but the besieged ingeniously made loops of cord
attached to a beam, and noosed the head of the too-lively ram and held
it imprisoned and harmless. Then, after the fashion of the day, they let
down sulphur and boiling pitch upon the enemy by means of a chain, the
materials being wrapped in sackcloth. Finally de Montfort--perhaps for
the first time in his life--is defeated, after a fierce struggle, for
the Powers of Darkness had deserted their faithful servant, who shortly
afterwards ended his atrocious career at the siege of Toulouse, which
had revolted against him.

After passing through the grove of pines and irises, we emerge upon
a sunlit plateau high above the town, and the ruins of the castle are
before us.

These and a fine little Romanesque chapel in which St. Louis said Mass
before starting for the Crusades, give character to the scene--a beautiful
background to the famous old story of Aucassin and Nicolette.

"The adventures of the lovers," says Pater, "seem to be chosen for the
happy occasion they afford of keeping the eye of the fancy, perhaps
the outward eye, fixed on pleasant objects, a garden, a ruined tower,
the little hut of flowers which Nicolette constructs in the forest....
All through it one feels the influence of that faint air of overwrought
delicacy, almost of wantonness, which was so strong a characteristic
of the poetry of the Troubadours. The Troubadours themselves were often
men of great rank; they wrote for an exclusive audience, people of much
leisure and great refinement.... There is a languid Eastern deliciousness
in the very scenery of the story, the full-blown roses, the chamber
painted in some mysterious manner where Nicolette is imprisoned, the cool
brown marble, the almost nameless colours, the odour of plucked grass
and flowers. Nicolette herself well becomes this scenery, and is the
best illustration of the quality I mean--the beautiful, weird, foreign
girl, whom the shepherds take for a fay...."

We sit down at the foot of the walls to rest. Above us stands the curious
three-cornered tower built by the Visigoths during their rule in the South
of France in late days of the Empire. The object was to oppose only the
angle of the building to the enemy's assault, while the garrison could
attack from the sides as usual.

Was this the tower in which Aucassin was imprisoned by his father, the
Count of Beaucaire, to prevent his marrying the little Saracen maid
Nicolette? Was it here that she watched and waited on one moonlit night,
long ago, hearing Aucassin lamenting in his captivity? One likes to
think of the good sentinel ostentatiously humming a warning song, when
he heard the town-guards advancing to kill the devoted Nicolette, by
order of the Count.

  [Illustration: VISIGOTH TOWER, CASTLE OF BEAUCAIRE.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

I had copied out some of the songs and fragments of the story from Andrew
Lang's translation, in order to have the pleasure of reading them on
the spot.

Barbara was much amused at Aucassin's interview with the Captain of
the City of Beaucaire who had imprisoned Nicolette in his house, by the
Count's command.

Poor Aucassin is very disconsolate, and in his distress he makes some
very free remarks about Heaven and hell, pointing out that in Heaven
the company is intolerably dull, whereas all the jolly good fellows and
pleasant ladies are to be found--elsewhere.

"With these I would gladly go," he says, "let me but have with me my
sweetest lady."

But nobody will allow that; for the way of the world is to be immensely
active about other people's business. So the Count and all the rest of
Aucassin's nearest and dearest bestir themselves to separate him and
Nicolette.

     "Aucassin did so depart
     Much in dole and heavy of heart
     For his love so bright and dear,
     None might bring him any cheer....

     Nicolette, how fair art thou,
     Sweet thy foot-fall, sweet thine eyes,
     Sweet the mirth of thy replies,
     Sweet thy laughter, sweet thy face,
     Sweet thy lips and sweet thy brow,
     And the touch of thine embrace...."

Nicolette's escape from prison was much appreciated by Barbara.

"Nicolette lay one night on her bed, and saw the moon shine clear through
a window, yea, and heard the nightingale sing in the garden, so she
minded her of Aucassin her lover, whom she loved so well."

Then it goes on to tell how she knotted linen and sheets together and
let herself down from her window.

"Her locks were yellow and curled, her eyes blue and smiling, her face
neatly fashioned.... She came to the postern gate, and unbarred it, and
went out through the streets of Beaucaire, keeping always on the shadowy
side, for the moon was shining right clear, and so wandered she till
she came to the tower where her lover lay."

"Just here," said Barbara, looking up.

"The tower was flanked with buttresses--" the account continues.

"It isn't!" cried Barbara in disappointment.

"Architecture is so often inaccurate," I suggest, soothingly.

"And she cowered under one of them, wrapped in her mantle. Then thrust
she her head through a crevice of the tower that was old and worn, and
so heard she Aucassin wailing within...."

And then she tells him all that has happened, and not being able to
reach her hand to him, she casts her curls into the dungeon, and--

     "Aucassin doth clasp them there,
     Kissed the curls that were so fair...."

It is a love scene almost more charming than that of Romeo and Juliet,
for it seems more genuine. Aucassin does not say such elaborate things,
but there is a glow and fervour about his utterances that commends itself
to us as ringing beautifully true.

They argue about which of them loves the most, until at last the
town-guard comes along, "with swords drawn beneath their cloaks, for
the Count Garin had charged them that if they could take Nicolette they
should slay her."

But luckily the sentinel on the towers sees them coming, and decides,
as we have seen, to befriend Nicolette, "for if they slay her, then were
Aucassin, my damoiseau, dead, and that were great pity."

So the sentinel considerately sings a song in which he gives a broad
hint of what is menacing, and Nicolette shrinks under the shadow of a
pillar till the men have passed. Finally she jumps down into the fosse
and, hurt and bruised as she is, climbs the castle wall and goes out
into the forest, where she builds "a little hut of flowers as a token
to Aucassin that she had passed that way." Later, Aucassin finds her
there after many wanderings, and they are happy for a little while.

  [Illustration: BEAUCAIRE FROM TARASCON.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

And so, through adventures and sorrows, the story goes till the lovers
are hopelessly parted--pirates, tempests, Saracens are banded against
them, and Nicolette seems lost for ever.

The final scene is once more in this old castle, after many years,
when Count Garin is dead and Aucassin rules in his stead. Then comes
a minstrel--a woman--to the castle, with a "vielle." Aucassin, we may
suppose, was taking a walk along the ramparts. And suddenly he hears a
voice singing to the vielle in the castle court below. He listens and
the song makes him weep; and he asks for more songs. And the singer sings
again, about strange adventures; and the story is that of Nicolette! And
finally, the minstrel runs away to Aucassin's mother in the castle and
throws off her disguise. The Countess is overjoyed, for she has been
in despair at her son's incurable grief; and she dresses Nicolette in
splendid raiment and leads her back to the bewildered Aucassin. And then
there is a meeting such as happens rarely in human story. Deep sorrow
has been gnawing in Aucassin's heart, and he had never married, in spite
of much urging by his friends. And suddenly he knows that the day of his
tribulation is over, and the deepest joy he can ever feel has come to
him after weary waiting. And once more, with a rapture learnt of long
sorrow and heartache, he folds Nicolette in his arms.

And soon afterwards their marriage feast is prepared with great pomp and
ceremony, and Beaucaire has a splendid time of it with tournaments and
jousts and dancing. And in the good old fashion, Aucassin and Nicolette
are not only married--which any fools can be--but they are happy ever
after!



CHAPTER XVI

CARCASSONNE, THE ALBIGENSES AND PIERRE VIDAL


     "Oh! garden that is blooming in the fields of Montolian,

            *       *       *       *       *

     Ye are crimsoned with the blood of the slain."

          From MS. poem on the Albigensian Crusades found by M. FAURIEL
          in the "Bibliothèque du Roi."

With the siege of Beaucaire fresh in our minds, Simon de Montfort and
Count Raimon VI. of Toulouse became enrolled among the names that jumped
to the eyes wherever they occurred. We pursued any trail that led to
further particulars of these two men who satisfied the human instinct to
worship, on the one hand, and to whole-heartedly abominate on the other.

There was no call at any time to moderate one's detestation of de Montfort
on account of some untimely incident betraying him in amiable sidelights.
He was never discovered playing at ninepins with the children of his
captive foe, or chivalrously endowing with a competence for life the
widow of the wretch whom he had sent to die in his deepest dungeons.
Never was he caught in unguarded moments of virtue; never did he tarnish
the full gloss of his villainy by any little inconsistency of honour or
compunction. He went on adding contempt to our hatred by a splendid and
unremitting variety of treachery and baseness. At his worst, he was a
fiend incarnate; and a better moment he never had.

  [Illustration: ROMAN FOUNTAIN AT NIMES.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

Thus for the purposes of melodrama he was invaluable. He gave one's
emotions no trouble. He was a beautifully consistent, unmitigated ruffian,
and it was a pleasure to undisturbedly loathe him.

Count Raimon of Toulouse and Viscount of Béziers made a very good
companion-opposite to this satisfactory scoundrel.

The two seemed to fill the position in our affections of a handsome
pair of ornaments on a well-regulated mantelpiece--related by the
sharpness of their contrast: Summer and Winter, Vice and Virtue, or the
little meteorological man and woman who appear at the house-door, one
in and one out (never both at the same time), to indicate fair or foul
weather--perhaps also as a sly comment on domestic felicity!

Count Raimon and his companion interested us more especially when we
entered Languedoc, the Count's own territory and the principal scene of
the Albigensian wars. Beaucaire, as we had seen, which also belonged to
Count Raimon, had fallen into the hands of the arch-villain, but there
his wonderful luck at last deserted him.

The Pope had set his mind on consolidating the power of the Church
and on annexing the lands of the few reigning nobles who protected the
Albigenses. Of these Count Raimon of Toulouse was the most determined.
He is one of the most striking examples of religious toleration, almost
the only one, at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Without
any leanings towards the doctrines of the heretics, he yet stood by
them from first to last, trying by every means in his power to avert
the fury of the Pope and the Crusaders. He tried diplomacy, he tried
conciliation, but without avail. He held firm in his refusal to hand
over any subjects in his dominions, whatsoever their faith, to the fury
of the Inquisition. Fortune was against him, with Innocent the Third on
the throne, St. Dominic, the powerful originator of the terrible tribunal
on the persecuting side, and Simon de Montfort as its military leader.

The Pope had actually recalled the Crusaders from the Holy Land to turn
their arms against their own kindred. Heretics at home, he held, were
more dangerous than infidels abroad. The war-intoxicated Defenders of the
Faith needed no incitement. Their ruthless savagery has cast a shadow
over the land to this day. This shadow hangs heavily over the scene of
the worst atrocities of the war, and it was remarkable how the radiance
so thrillingly pervasive in Provence failed to follow us into the richer
country of Languedoc.

Count Raimon's persistent defence of his Albigensian subjects kept the
war centred more or less within his dominions, of which Toulouse was
the capital.

Here, in Languedoc, it was, above all, that the gracious life which we
had learnt to associate with the troubadours was blotted out and quenched
in a very sea of blood and suffering.

It is saddening, too, to think that one of those very singers in his
later days became infected with the spirit of the Church, and ended as
one of the most ferocious of the persecutors.

This renegade was Folquet of Marseilles, who loved Azalais, the wife
of Count Barral of Marseilles. He was of a tenacious, zealous, gloomy
temperament--not at all of the true troubadour spirit--and this
characteristic afterwards shows itself in his ardour against the heretics.

"Too late," he laments, "I have discovered love's falsehood: I am like one
who swears never to gamble again after he has lost his whole fortune."
Azalais dies, and Folquet enters the monastery of Citeaux. And then he
becomes Abbot of Toulouse in the heart of the Albigensian troubles. From
that time forth he devotes himself to persecution.

  [Illustration: ENTRANCE TOWERS, CARCASSONNE.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

The taking of the hill-set city of Béziers, where a brilliant Court used
to be held, is one of the most terrible incidents in this twenty years'
war.

"Kill! kill!" shouted the leaders; "Kill! kill!" the cry was echoed
through the blazing city, and sixty thousand souls are said to have
perished on that awful day.

Folquet, the ex-troubadour, had been told that heretics and faithful
were being indiscriminately massacred.

"Slay them," he cried; "God will know his own."

There is also a similar story about de Montfort, to whom two heretics
were brought: one firm in the faith, the other open to conviction.

"Burn them both," shouted de Montfort. "If this fellow means what he
says the fire will expiate his sins; and if he lies he will suffer for
his imposture."

We saw the city of Béziers from the windows of the train: a picturesque
mass of houses climbing up a steep hill to cluster round the fine
fortress-cathedral--another characteristic example of the architecture
of Southern France.

Our train puffed along the valley of the Aude to the famous walled city
of Carcassonne, the next scene of this savage drama.

It was here that Count Raimon--or the Viscount of Béziers, as he was
also called--had established himself when the news came of the fall of
Béziers. A bad day that must have been for the Count and his garrison!
His brother-in-law, King Pedro of Arragon, had come to help him in this
almost hopeless cause, and he went at once to mediate with the Crusaders,
pleading Raimon's own unimpeachable orthodoxy.

But it was of no use. The Defenders of the Faith were panting for plunder
and massacre. They said the Count and twelve knights might depart in
peace, but the town must be given up and every other soul in it.

"That shall be when an ass flies to heaven," replied the Count, and
prepared for defence.

It was almost with a sense that we were to be present at one of the
most terrible moments in mediæval history that we watched the flying
landscape for a first sight of Carcassonne on its height.

Who could ever forget that first impression of it, as the train slowed up
to the station of the lower town in the valley and a strange vision came
into the sky of a double-walled mediæval city with a forest of towers
rising tall and pointed through the mists and mystery of a far-away
romance?

This was a return to the Middle Ages indeed!

The hotel omnibus trundled us--amid a vibrating heap of rugs, handbags,
umbrellas--through the ancient streets of the lower town, which the
natives spoke of as "modern" to distinguish it from "la Cité," which
was far more ancient, seeing that it possessed more than one tower
belonging to the misty times of the Visigothic kingdom, whose capital
was at Toulouse.

As we drove, the turn of the road placed us at different angles with
the City of Dreams; and it stood the test.

No sign of fading away, or of dwindling into anything less than its
astonishing self.

At the hotel we were received by a most elegant landlady in widow's
garb. If it had not been for her pressing us to have our lunch before we
started, I feel sure that we should have been off and up to the _cité_
without a moment's delay. However, we first made acquaintance with this
lady's wonderful _cuisine_ in the old, low-pitched _salle-à-manger_,
where only a few Frenchmen of the commercial type were taking their
luncheon. We were neither of us much given to what we called "fussing
over our food," but it was impossible for the most benighted of women
to fail to notice the delicate art which distinguished every detail of
the repast. What we had I cannot remember, but it was a succession of
masterpieces. Such modulation of flavours, such opposing of salt and
sweet, acid and flat, creamy and piquant; such coquetry in the salad
dressing, such sentiment in the sauces! It was wonderful, as all true
art is.

Altogether Carcassonne was a place of artistic achievement.

The city, as we wended our way towards it, grew more and more dazzling
to the sense of reality. That progress through the lower town, across
the Aude, was like walking straight into the background of a mediæval
painting--and who has not longed for that excursion? There was not a
sight or a sound to mar the perfection of the place. Doubtless in the
old days there would have been more stir as one approached the great
double-towered gateway and crossed the bridge over what was once a moat.
And there would have been sentries, and perhaps the flash of armour
caught between the crenellations of the lower outer walls. Otherwise
precisely the same sights and sounds met our senses as met those of the
wayfarers of the thirteenth century.

Immediately within the inner walls there is a street of smallish houses.
But soon we diverge from this and are admitted by the custodian--a most
singular person, by the way--through a side door and up a steep staircase
to the ramparts.

And here on emerging, one holds one's breath. Towers, towers, and
more towers; towers with high conical roofs in fantastic medley; round
towers, square towers, tall, emaciated towers springing above the mass
of building; towers with crenellated parapets showing rounded contours
to the enemy and flat sides to the town; Visigoth towers recalling the
momentous days when barbarian races began to swarm and settle in the
fertile provinces of Roman Gaul.

Wonderful was that walk round the walls passing through the long
procession of the towers. It was a veritable city of towers, moving like
living figures as we moved, appearing in new groups between the houses,
opening into vistas, falling back and reappearing.

It seemed as if those silent sentinels were trying to keep us always
in view, stealing out cautiously from behind the buildings, crossing,
falling back, making way for one another, with a sort of secret movement
round the whole circle of their orbit.

There were great flights of steps corbelled out on the inner side of
the ramparts, apparently to provide a means of descending to the city,
and also of reaching certain points of the fortifications. There were
gateways, barbicans, turrets, and a marvellous everchanging series of
architectural groupings; walls, bulwarks, battlements.

Below were the outer walls, within which was a spacious grassy enclosure
where the men-at-arms used to keep guard.

Citywards, there was the castle, and the cathedral. And at the foot of
the ramparts, backing into them, were the little gardens of the citizens
of Carcassonne. Boughs would sway against the masonry--Merovingian some
of these splendid blocks of stone!--while the bright, quiet sun of a
November afternoon poured with broad, equal glow into the silent city.

And far away on the horizon, miles and miles beyond the sweeping plains
of Languedoc, the faint white peaks of the Pyrenees!

       *       *       *       *       *

Our guide was the most singular of men. Whether he had a patriotic hatred
of the English I cannot tell, but he did his best to ignore our presence
altogether.

Having reeled off his stock information--(not to us, but to the universe
generally)--he would retire and lean gloomily over the battlements as if
he were taking a stroll on his own account and were contemplating life
from the pessimist standpoint. Perhaps he was resisting an inclination
to dispose of us mediævally in one of the oubliettes.

Sometimes he would gaze down into the gardens below as if he were watching
some one at whose folly he was thoroughly disgusted. Yet not a soul was to
be seen. An attempt at geniality on our part was met in the most freezing
manner. There was something really extraordinary about the man, and I
incline to think he was either a patriot sustaining his country's honour
by this simple means, or a person suffering from melancholy madness of
a very aggravated type.

Even if he unlocked a door for us he studied the far distance till we had
passed through. Then he re-locked the door and hurried on in front as if
dreading we should ask him stupid questions. It may be he was horribly
bored by this eternal round of the bulwarks with foolish tourists.

The longer we lingered on the ramparts of Carcassonne the more incredible
it appeared that the town could ever be taken by the means of assault
available in the thirteenth century. Yet taken we sadly knew that it
was, and by Simon de Montfort!

That was virtually the end of the house of Toulouse and of the cause of
the Albigenses.

The lower outer walls were as solid as they could be. Then between
the outer and inner walls were stationed sentries and men-at-arms. But
supposing these dangers to be overcome, and the foe to aspire to pass
through the high inner walls, from whose battlements hundreds of arrows
might be flying and boiling pitch be pouring, perhaps the assailant would
rush up some cunning, wall-embedded staircase which seemed to promise
access to the city or the ramparts. But instead of that it would turn
out, after many windings and confused branchings, to be merely a blind
passage fashioned thus on purpose to mislead an enemy and prevent his
surprising the town. Moreover, even if the impossible were achieved and
those vast walls scaled, there was still the castle or inner fortress,
where the inhabitants could all collect in time of emergency and bid
defiance to every foe except hunger and thirst.

  [Illustration: THE RAMPARTS, CARCASSONNE.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

Probably Count Raimon and his garrison expected to be able to hold out
against de Montfort in spite of the invariable success of the latter.
One can imagine with what ardour the preparations were made for the
defence: every watch-tower and turret, every outlook and barbican haunted
by anxious faces scanning the country.

And then the attack! The first assault was led by the prelates solemnly
chanting the "Veni Creator," and the God of the Christians was called
upon to fight on the side of slayers and torturers, of murderers of
unarmed citizens and women and children. It was de Montfort who boasted:
"Neither age nor sex have we spared; we have slain all!"

This first onslaught was repulsed, and perhaps if it had not been for
a failure in the water supply, the beautiful city and its noble cause
might have prevailed.

How they must have prayed for rain in that wondrous colour-flooded
cathedral, when day after day the cruel, cloudless heavens smiled down
ironically upon the dusty streets and glaring walls!

At last a parley was arranged between the Count and the besiegers. They
gave him a pledge of safe conduct, and he went out to the camp. In the
service of Heaven and the Church, the Crusaders considered ordinary
honour and good faith superfluous--the usual plea of a good motive for
villainous deeds--and they traitorously seized him, and when the city fell
they threw him into a dungeon in his own citadel at Carcassonne--with
all the beautiful precepts of chivalry ringing in their ears--a piece
of work after de Montfort's own heart.

It is better not to dwell on the sack of the city: a sack of the
thirteenth century conducted by de Montfort.

"For thou hast delivered them to the vilest of mortal men," the Comte
de Foix had exclaimed to the Pope, speaking of the Albigenses at the
Council of the Lateran, "to Simon de Montfort."

Count Raimon died in prison, nobody knows by what means. We were shown
the noisome little hole in which the noble and tolerant spirit saw the
last of this sad and cruel and beautiful world.

In virtue of the poet's faculty of imaginative sympathy Pierre Cardinal,
the famous troubadour, had the insight to understand the nobility of
this man born centuries too soon.

"As water in the fountain, so chivalry has its source in him. Against
the basest of men, nay, against the whole world he stands." So writes
the poet of the hero. It was a sorry age in which to be born before
one's time!

Happily there are other and brighter memories to associate with
Carcassonne. The troubadour of far renown, Pierre Vidal, must have
often passed in and out at the great gateway: that delightful, foolish,
brilliant personage; courtly, naif, and infinitely charming, yet
pathetically unsuccessful, for all his genius--perhaps partly because
of it. He was born at Toulouse, and so belonged to this country, then
ruled by Raimon V., but his fate was chiefly active at the court of
Marseilles where he fell in love with Azalais de Rocca Martina, wife
of Count Barral, a lady who is described as possessing "charms of the
sort that intoxicate; an emotional power, a magnetism, a luxurious will
that swept all resistance away." He called her "Vierna," and wrote his
canzos to her under that name.

One of his biographers says of him: "He was one of the most foolish
men who ever lived, for he believed everything to be just as it pleased
him, and as he would have it." It is a moot point whether this may not
be rather wisdom than folly, for believing things to be as one desires
them often goes a long way towards fulfilling that tacit prophecy.

Alas, things were not exactly as Vidal wished, in spite of his pleasant
believings, but he had rosy hours and sang enchanting songs and gave
much joy with his gifts and his charm. "Vierna," however, did not at all
appreciate him. She gave him a ring and a little perfunctory graciousness,
as she was bound to do to sustain her character as a courteous lady; but
she appears to have wearied of his songs and his devotion. At last her
husband tried to reconcile her to the troubadour, and to induce her to
treat him more kindly. Vidal lost heart after a time, and concluded he
was a fool.

"But beauty makes the sanest man go mad," he sang or said, and though
he had many love-affairs and fancies, they seem to have been of slight
seriousness compared with his passion for Azalais. In his erratic
life, he haunted the neighbourhood of Carcassonne and Toulouse; visited
Albi--whence the luckless Albigenses took their name--and Saissac and
Cabaret near Carcassonne. In Provence he had an unpleasant adventure at
St. Gilles, where the husband of a lady to whom he addressed love-songs
and of whose love he had boasted, became enraged and bored the poet's
too eloquent tongue.

In these strange times, the exquisite chivalric civilisation being but
newly formed--like a sheet of ice on a dark pool--had very thin places.
Vidal's friend Ugo del Baux bore him off--perhaps to his wonderful eyrie
in the Alpilles--and nursed him till he was well again.

Vidal's wanderings were far and wide in Languedoc and Provence. We even
hear of him singing in the little grey hill-top village of Beuil in the
mountains to the north of Nice.

       *       *       *       *       *

Near Carcassonne lived a famous beauty, Loba de Pegnautier. She inhabited
the fortified town of Cabaret, and there knights and troubadours flocked
to visit her, among them Pierre Vidal.

The story goes that in order to please her he adopted the crest or emblem
of a Wolf in compliment to her name, Loba; and, dressed in a wolf-skin,
ran out into the field and had himself hunted by the shepherds with their
dogs. But Loba only made fun of him, and it appears that the shepherds
hunted him rather too seriously, and altogether the foolish poet came
off unhappily in this fantastic scheme of love-making.

He is said to have joined Richard Cœur de Lion in his Crusade, to have
visited Spain and Italy, notably the Court of Montferrat, and everywhere
to have pursued his troubadour's calling and the will-of-the-wisp of a
satisfying love.

He once tried boldness with Azalais and ventured on stealing a kiss one
morning while she was sleeping. But he lived to rue the day. She fell
into a passion of anger and refused to accept any apology. However, he
murmured ancient saws about women and hoped on. Count Barral laughed at
his wife for taking the wild poet's doings so seriously. She was not to
be appeased, and finally Vidal went off to Cyprus and characteristically
married a Princess who claimed the title of Empress of the Eastern Empire.
And the two set up an Imperial Court and ordered an expensive throne,
and thoroughly enjoyed themselves until Vidal had spent all his money.
Presumably the Princess died, or they parted, and then Barral insisted
on Vidal's returning to Provence; and he met him joyously at Les Baux,
and brought him home to Marseilles where Azalais welcomed him with a
freely given kiss as a token of forgiveness. And poor Vidal breaks out
into a veritable spring-song of joy and thankfulness. But the Countess
tired of him very soon, and never had the least idea of returning his
passion.

So he starts again on his wanderings, and goes all over the world with
one patron and friend after another, and so ends his strange, brilliant,
joyous, troubled, unsatisfied life.

With all his natural susceptibility and need of affection he seems never
to have overcome his love for the beautiful Azalais, nor, with all his
charm, does he appear to have been able to inspire a serious attachment
in any of the innumerable ladies to whom he warbled his graceful canzos.
He never seems to have thoroughly grown up, and probably no woman capable
of passionate attachment could have bestowed the full flood of it on a
nature so immature.

What exactly the quality or qualities may be that bestow the power of
inspiring a _grande passion_ is one of the unfathomed mysteries of the
heart. Vidal possessed every attribute that could charm--or so one would
suppose--yet ladies only laughed at him affectionately, petted him, and
gave their hearts elsewhere.

He is one of the most attractive and pathetic of the troubadours,
and gives the impression of a sort of erratic genius. His naïveté is
astonishing and charming, in spite of his outrageous habit of boasting
of his successes in love and war.

One can easily picture the richly-dressed figure issuing from the great
gates of Carcassonne on his beautiful horse--his horse was surely a
noble one--followed by his accompanist and his servant, who carried his
vielle; and we saw him in our mind's eye riding through the country on
his way to Cabaret to pay homage to Loba de Pegnautier--and so he fades
into the far away.

Alas, those beautiful towers and walls were destined to be battered and
broken by de Montfort and his Crusaders, as we have seen. And it was not
long after the taking of the city that the cause of the Albigenses was
finally lost on the field of Muret, in this district. De Montfort was
killed a little later by a stone at the siege of Toulouse, and a yell
of joy and execration went up from the whole Midi which he had tortured
so hideously.

We saw his tomb in the cathedral at Carcassonne--and wondered! Our
feelings of hatred died away in the glory of that cathedral.

When we entered, we found ourselves suddenly bathed in waves of colour.

The entire east end of the building was a splendid expanse of stained
glass stretching from floor to roof, and from wall to wall: the whole
breadth of the cathedral, divided only by a few slender mullions. The
transmuted glow of the afternoon sun was flooding the church, kindling
the tints of the glass to the liquid glory of gems; and it was perfectly,
radiantly still.

After all, it is unspeakable pity rather than hatred that madmen like
de Montfort ought to inspire; for frenzied cruelty such as his implied
a misery and darkness of spirit beyond the power of human speech to
express, and surely, sooner or later, an awful expiation.

"But what opinion was it that the Albigenses held which made the Pope
and the Crusaders treat them so ferociously?" cried Barbara, bewildered
at the accounts of their cruelty and of de Montfort's specially hateful
savageries. Well might she ask!

For one thing, the Albigenses _would_ have it that three nails were
used at the Crucifixion; whereas all true believers know that there were
four----

Barbara stared.

I had chapter and verse for it. A learned controversialist had denounced
the Three Nail view as unworthy of Catholics and Christians.

"And for that they killed and racked and tortured----"

In truth it was for that among other errors of doctrine. It is difficult
to find out what the Albigenses really believed, for they were so
calumniated. Baring-Gould contends that they had revived the ancient
paganism of the country.

They believed in two forces, a good and an evil: the nine-lived Manichæan
heresy.

But that belief is represented in our good old friend the Devil, who,
indeed, is probably a remnant of Pagan ideas. They rejected the Trinity,
refused to worship saints, and discouraged marriage. They seemed very
much like any other enthusiastic sect that breaks off from the main body
of believers, and is ready to die for Three Nails instead of the orthodox
Four. Will the history of religious persecution never cure people of
their Three-Nail controversies?



CHAPTER XVII

MAGUELONNE


     "Aigues Mortes is a dead town!
     Maguelonne is the ghost of one."

Maguelonne--the dwelling on the Pool.

The name has an aroma of romance, and a sort of tender melancholy which
penetrates to the imagination before one knows whether it is a city or
a mountain or some gloomy castle in an old fairy tale.

Once it was a splendid city spreading along the shores of the lagoon;
now there remains but a solitary church, one of the characteristic
fortress-churches of the Midi, a bare, primitive-looking building,
closely protected on three sides by a grove of dark trees, in the centre
of a little island formed by the sea and the lagoons which run, like an
enamelled chain, all along these mournful coasts.

One can reach the island by boat across the lagoons from the little
cardboard town of Palavas where the people of Montpellier go in summer
for sea-bathing. In very calm weather it is possible to approach the
isle by sea. The church is a most singular piece of early Christian
architecture, without a window in the white, thick walls; and above, one
sees the curved machicolations, as in a fortress, whence boiling lead
and oil could be poured down on the heads of Saracen assailants, those
terrible enemies of whom the ancient church builders stood in such dread.

Of the original Mother Church of St. Peter there has survived only the
principal nave, "flanked before the destruction of the city with several
towers."

It has "curved machicolations going from one buttress to the next," and
is considered one of the most complete types of the fortified churches
of the Middle Ages, "which are ranged in a line along the coast."

The church of Maguelonne has fine Romanesque windows, and arches of full
half-circle, and resembles a fortress almost more than a church.

The inside is very dark and solemn, stirring in the grave simplicity of
its style. True Provençal Romanesque in its structure of vast arches and
apses; the Roman idea but little modified except in the capitals of the
columns where the classic flow and grace yields to the naïveté of early
Christian sentiment. Indeed, that sentiment very seriously pervades the
whole building. There is none of the sumptuous triumphant spirit of a
grand classic edifice, although the general lines are the same in both
cases. A careful draughtsman, conscientiously rendering the church of
Maguelonne, might produce a portrait correct and unrecognisable, as many
portraits are; the bare lines without the meaning behind them, the matter
without the spirit; and a portrait of that sort might be indistinguishable
from that of some great Roman interior--palace, bath, hall of justice.
The painted hall of the Villa Madama on the hillside above the Milvian
bridge near Rome is constructed on the same broad scheme of arch and
apse, and above, on vault and spandril, garlanded, arabesqued, a riot of
rosy gods and goddesses--the exquisite work of Giulio Romano--voluptuous,
expansive, rich in beauty and power. Maguelonne with its classic
structure--a style which had been developed during centuries for stronger
and stronger expression of Pagan magnificence--nevertheless breathes
forth the sentiment of poverty and asceticism, the spirit that drove
men and women into the wilderness, that set them writhing under the
consciousness of sin, or exalted them to the state of emotion wherein
the pains of martyrdom were transfigured into ecstasy. Truly a thing of
potency the human spirit! How, by the same general means, it can express
emotions at once so strong and so completely opposed is one of the great
mysteries of art.

  [Illustration: MAGUELONNE FROM THE LAGOON.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

Maguelonne is the last relic of the splendid city of that name which
stood on the opposite shores of the lagoon, its towers mirrored in the
blue water. The island was first the site of a Greek settlement, then
of a Roman town--once attacked by Womba, King of the Visigoths; finally
the Saracens built a city there which Charles Martel destroyed when he
changed for good and all the fortunes of Europe by the great victories
which turned back those marauding people just at the critical moment
when they were on the point of becoming masters of Christendom. For
many years it was the site of a famous monastic establishment which has
earned a reputation for a mild and beneficent and altogether admirable
administration of great wealth and greater power.

Maguelonne is famous for its charming old story of "Pierre de Provence
et la belle Maguelonne," known in most European countries among the
people, and sold at fairs and markets for a few pence. It was written
by a deacon of Maguelonne, Bernard of the Three Ways, about whom one
desires in vain to know more. The story is of lovers parted, wandering;
exchanging rings which are carried off by ravens and finally turn up
miraculously inside a tunny fish caught on the coast, and so lead to
the meeting and reunion of the despairing Pierre and Maguelonne.

  [Illustration: CHURCH OF MAGUELONNE.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

There are a few small buildings near the church, in one of which live
the woman and her family who look after it. They do not trouble the
visitor with gratuitous information, but hand him the key and leave him
severely alone, unless, indeed, he is adventurous and elects to go on
the roof. Then a boy unlocks the staircase door that gives access to
that windy spot, and amuses himself by sliding down the stone slabs of
the roof while the visitor turns to admire the view of sea, mountains
and lagoons spread forth in a brilliant circle round him. The remarkable
and characteristic roof, however, is what he comes officially to see. It
is formed of thick, overlapping slabs of stone laid at a gentle slope,
and is considered a marvel of architectural skill.

How the problem of weight distribution is solved is, indeed, difficult
to understand. The builders of these early churches perhaps knew some
of the secrets of the Roman architects who at Nimes, in the Temple of
the Nymphs, have erected a seemingly miraculous ceiling composed of
heavy square stones which are guilty of the misdemeanour of existing in
their places "without visible means of support." The feat is accounted
for, though it is scarcely made clear, by the fact that on their upper
surfaces the stones are cut so that they are thicker and heavier on one
side than on the other, and thus the weight is thrown obliquely from
stone to stone across the roof, instead of downwards, a method involving
elaborate mathematical calculations and perfection of workmanship.

The twentieth century has no monopoly of ingenuity after all!

Maguelonne makes a beautiful, sad picture as one leaves it to pass
down to the sea. The blank walls with their arched machicolated
abutments--recalling the fortifications of the Papal Palace--look bare
and acquainted with adversity in the blinding sunshine. On the side of
the lagoons the protecting pines crowd round the building like a sacred
grove; and through their branches the sea-wind makes a low, ominous music.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE SPIRIT OF THE WILDERNESS


     "Sa desolation grandiose ... immense et caillouteuse comme
     une steppe d'Orient."

          PAUL MARIÉTON.

Fanfarigoule in the Crau[18] is the haunt of the ghouls.

Let any one wander alone in that extraordinary desert, and if he have
not nerves of steel or a cast-iron imagination he will understand how it
earns that reputation. As for disputing the existence of those ancient
beings, to what reasonable mind would it occur--especially at the hour
of sunset?

Immense silent world of stones--stones rounded by centuries of rolling
and wearing at the mercy of the Alpine torrents--a long range of far-away
mountains with Mont Ventoux as their highest point, an atmosphere thrilled
with the sunlight, with that strange purity that speaks of absolute
solitude--such is La Crau.

If one is disposed to imagine that Provence is a land all brilliancy
and gaiety, as first impressions would perhaps suggest, a sight of the
Crau and the Camargue is enough to correct the error.

When any place has gathered through long centuries a certain kind of
reputation, there will always be found particular potent influences that
hang about the spot. And sometimes these influences are very mysterious
and hard to account for.

This is the case with the Crau. The reflections of heat, and light from
the immense body of stones may produce peculiar conditions of atmosphere
and ether and so affect that delicately responsive instrument the human
brain.

In any case, in its power of stirring and impressing it is a place apart.

A strange story is told by Baring-Gould of his experience when a child,
of crossing the baking plain with his father, on a hot summer's day. He
was on the box watching the post horses. As he looked, he "saw a number
of little men with peaked caps running about the horses and clambering
up them." His father sent him inside the carriage out of the hot sun,
but for some time, he says, "I continued to see these dwarfs among the
pebbles of the Crau, jumping over the tufts of grass, or careering along
the road by the carriage side, making faces at me."

However, one must not attribute a monopoly of the power of evolving such
visions to the Field of Pebbles, for the author goes on to relate how in
after years, one of his boys, while picking gooseberries, "saw a little
man of his own height with a peaked cap, red jacket, and green breeches."

Moreover, strange to say, the same thing happened to his wife when a
girl of thirteen, so that one cannot account for the marvel by heredity,
that convenient explanation of mysteries. Sun on the head, the author
supposes, must have caused all these experiences.

"But why," he adds, "should the sun on the head superinduce a vision of
Kobolds? Is it because other people have suffered from the sun that the
fables of little men, brownies, pixies, gnomes, fairies, is to be found
everywhere? Or--is it possible that there is such a little creature only
visible to man when he is subject to certain influences?"

  [Illustration: ON THE VERGE OF LA CRAU.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

We first approached this forsaken region in the train, when the sun was
beginning to get low, and wonderful tragic lights were showing along the
western horizon. The olives and the pleasant farmsteads had been left
behind, and we found ourselves rushing on through the evening glow into a
limitless desolation. And suddenly there flashed past close to the train
a tall, dark shadow and a little station, and then another shadow and
another, till presently the shadow grew continuous except for recurrent
flashes of light, pulsing steadily as the train raced on; and we found
that the line was bordered on one side with an immense wall of cypresses,
and between their trunks one caught glimpses of the white wilderness
beyond. For miles this sombre rampart runs on and on beside the line
protecting it from the mistral which sweeps with terrible violence across
these huge spaces. The stones are described by many writers as gigantic,
but they look not more than about a foot in diameter in this southern
part of the plain, and in the neighbourhood of St. Martin-en-Crau they
appear rather smaller and of extraordinary uniformity of size and shape.

But not only is the eye amazed by this tremendous extent of water-worn
stones (there are really two other lesser Craus beside the Crau d'Arles):
the imagination is startled by the extraordinary depth of this strange
deposit, an average of from ten to fifteen metres; that is at the lowest
estimate over thirty feet, and at the highest forty-five feet.

Imagine that depth of vast pebbles being poured down from the Alps over
miles and miles of plains! No wonder the ancient tribes called in the
aid of their gods in trying to account for the stupendous catastrophe.

Among the distant mountains--many miles away--in the strange landscape
of the Luberon range lies Varigoule, the scene of the Provençal Sabat.
Valmasque, the Witch's Vale, was the home of the persecuted Vaudois.
Witches, wizards, dracs (or water spirits), and a hundred other uncanny
creatures have been associated by the people for unnumbered centuries with
these gloomier scenes: rivers springing out of unknown sources, black
cliffs, fantastic pinnacles whose names belong to forgotten tongues:
Ligurian, Gallic, Phœnician, one knows not what, bestowed one knows not
when; perhaps when Hercules fought the Ligurians on the Crau and his
father Jupiter came to his aid with a shower of enormous stones.

Æschylus makes Prometheus direct the footsteps of Hercules to the Crau,
where he tells him he will encounter the native Ligurians and be helpless
in their hands for want of a single stone, which the country cannot
supply. In this dilemma he will touch the pity of Jupiter who will cover
the sky with clouds and send down a hail of stones with which Hercules
can drive back the Ligurian hosts.[19]

The ancient Ligurian race of which one hears so much, occupied the country
from the Pyrenees to the Arno in the seventh or eighth century B.C., and
were not subdued till the reign of Augustus, who raised the well-known
monument at La Turbie, near Monaco, to celebrate his victory. As one
of their great tribes, the Salyans, had for their cities Marseilles,
Tarascon, Arles, Glanum (St. Remy), it is not improbable that the
natives of this district, now growing so familiar, were the descendants
of the Ligurians or Ligyens, "ce peuple harmonieux," as they have been
called. They are thought to be of Asiatic origin, and are described as
a small, dark-haired people, open to all the arts, particularly music,
and "sensitive to all the delicacies of life." They gave a high place to
their women, who had the _rôle_ of arbitress in all large affairs and who
have left behind them many traditions of their "heroism and largeness of
soul." Perhaps it is to this "harmonious people" that France and Italy
owe their brilliant artistic history.

If one may not regard the ordinary man and woman of the towns of Provence
as the direct representatives of this primitive people, they have surely
left living records in the peasants of the remoter nooks and corners of
Southern France.

In Languedoc, Provence, indeed everywhere in the great regions of the
Ligurians, notably on the hills of the Riviera, one comes upon a curious
brown-skinned, flat-featured type, not "plain," as a modern face may
be plain from failure in harmonious development, but merely roughly
fashioned. It is a type not without a harsh comeliness, a wholesome
success in its own archaic fashion.

The faces seem scarcely European. There is in them a singular look
of antiquity; something unfinished, half animal (in the sense of
unreflecting), with steady, open gaze, not intent but unswerving,
revealing very little that we understand by "human nature." One seems
to be looking at human nature in the making.

These people live in little vales by a mountain stream, in nooks in the
hills; fauns or satyrs one might fancy them in the twilight--cultivating
a few olives and keeping a few cocks and hens and perhaps a cow, and so
living as their ancestors must have lived for centuries while the great
tides of life and history were flowing and flowing past them.

Perhaps this was the dusky race that the Greeks and Romans actually took
for satyrs, or divinities of the woods, for the term "work like a satyr"
is the Provençal equivalent for "work like a nigger," and it is thought
likely, by some authorities, that the term thus became embedded in the
popular traditions.

There is a strange corroboration of the idea that in this rough-hewn type
we may really see the ancient inhabitants of Gaul, the predecessors of
the Gauls themselves, for near Aix was discovered among the remains of a
prehistoric village some primitive stone carving attributed to Ligurian
workmanship, and the features there so crudely wrought are practically
identical in type with those of the true _gens du pays_.

Any one who visits the little grey towns that cap so many mountain peaks
of the Maritime Alps, will encounter examples of this prehistoric face.

Without any reasonable doubt such people fought for their lives and
homes--probably caves and huts of mud and reeds in the fastnesses of
the hills--many and many a time, and the tradition of their combat with
Hercules is probably the echo of some monster battle between Greeks and
Ligurians on the plain of the Crau.

       *       *       *       *       *

Why any one should desire to visit the Crau puzzles the gaiety-loving
Provençal not a little, and that a traveller should for that purpose
deliberately make a railway journey to a little, windy, solitary station
beyond Arles, where but few trains stop--that argued a form of madness
probably considered as peculiar to Britons.

At Arles unhesitating informants had insisted that from St. Martin-en-Crau
one could easily reach the Field of Pebbles, and on arrival there I
asked the porter in which direction it lay. He stared, and referred me
to the stationmaster, a majestic creature in blue and buttons.

"La Crau? les cailloux?" Ah! no, there was no one who could give me any
information about them here. "But at Miramas----"

Miramas! But that was miles along the line!

Monsieur le Chef de Gare looked at me pityingly. True, but he understood
I was inquiring about the stones of La Crau.

So I was----!

"Eh bien, il y a des entrepreneurs a Miramas----"

Then I understood. He thought I wanted to enter into negotiations for
buying stones for building or other purposes.

When at last he took in the situation he shook his head and shrugged
his shoulders as a French official shrugs when he regards your case as
at once foolish and hopeless.

To arrive _en pleine Crau_ one must go at least five kilometres. It
did seem hopeless indeed, for even if disposed for the lonely walk,
there would not have been time to go and return in time to catch the
only reasonable train back to Arles. I had made many efforts already to
accomplish this project, and all had failed through inaccurate directions
of this nature. Naturally there were no excursion trains to the Crau.
Still I could not resign myself to failure. Was there no trap, no inn
where I could hire something to drive in? I didn't care what it was.

This grand indifference seemed to strike an answering spark. Well, there
was a little _mas_ (farm) over the way. The farmer had an old dog-cart
that he drove in; perhaps I might make an arrangement with him.

Monsieur le Chef de Gare pointed to a barn opposite where I found an
old cart, the farmer, several labourers, and a lot of dogs.

They all looked on during the interview, which ended by the farmer's
agreeing to drive me where I wanted to go--_après tout c'était mon
affaire_. So off we started, the farmer himself driving and two of the
dogs following joyously.

Very exhilarating was our somewhat jolty progress across the large
level sunny district. It seemed more hushed than any inhabited district
I had ever visited; as if it felt the presence of the great desert a
few miles off. There were none of the little events of the country; no
cattle looking over walls, no children along the roadside, no coming and
going about the farmsteads, of which there were very few and those few
singularly small and lifeless. The trundle of the wheels and the sound
of the horse's hoofs on the road outlined themselves upon a blank sheet
of silence. It seemed unnatural; the more so as there was everywhere
such golden brightness.

The only scene of activity that we passed, soon after leaving the farm,
was a group of men cutting down some ancient olive trees, and the farmer
called out to them something in Provençal, to which there were some
shouted replies, and all caps went off in a friendly way to _le patron_.

He was a quiet, worthy sort of man, very little different from an English
farmer of the same condition. He was not unwilling to answer questions,
but it was curious how he contrived to reply without conveying the
slightest information, a peculiarity, be it remarked, of the type that
is called "worthy."

If one asked, for instance, whether the land was owned by the peasantry
themselves in the district, or whether it was in the hands of wealthy
proprietors, he would flick the point off a branch of bramble in the
hedge, and say with a shrug, implying that the inquiry was somewhat
trivial: "Oui, il y en a."

It was useless to press the matter further, for that merely produced a
still more effective barrier against the inquiring mind.

It is a fact, however, that in many districts of the South of France
(contrary to the usual belief) the land is by no means always held by
the peasants.

Again and again, in reply to inquiries, I have been informed that this
or that stretch of country belonged to Monsieur or le Baron So and So,
who was "enormement riche."

Questions about ancient customs were almost always futile. No promptings
could produce a description or even a clear admission that such things
existed. The true native is most damping to archæological enthusiasm.

The one thing he warms up about is the new village pump, or the hideous
crucifix in cast iron which the municipality has just erected on some
ancient stone pedestal where for centuries the discarded, moss-stained,
prayer-assailed image used to stand, in all its pathetic significance.

My friend seemed to know little or nothing about his own surroundings,
or perhaps he knew them so well and so exclusively that he could not see
that there was anything to tell about them. Besides, he could not tell
it; that was the way _le bon Dieu_ had made him.

Whenever we came to a very stony bit of land--and there was plenty of
it--he at once pointed it out. He took it that my hobby was stones, and
very insatiable in that respect he must have thought me, for nothing
would satisfy my cravings in that direction short of the unnumbered
millions of the Crau!

He seemed a kind-hearted man, and fond of his dogs. The illness of one
poor beast through apparently incurable eczema much concerned him. He had
often been urged to destroy the dog, but he never could bring himself
to put an end to "un aimi fidèle." The animal looked up and wagged his
tail, as if understanding he was being talked about.

My offer to write down the name of a remedy (Jeye's fluid) that
had effected a cure in a similar case I knew called forth something
approaching animation in my conductor for the first time.

Almost the only man-made object in the whole journey was a dynamite
factory with white glass retorts full of the explosive, actually ranged
in long rows by the public roadside. It seemed a fitting industry for
this forlorn district.

Last winter snow had fallen on the retorts and broken them in, and the
dynamite had exploded. But still they rested by the roadside!

Suppose there came along a shying horse or an unmanageable motor? The
farmer shrugged his shoulders.

"That would be a bad business!"

In this much-managed Republic that was how they managed things!

       *       *       *       *       *

As we drew near our journey's end, the vegetation grew sparser till there
were only shrubs of diminishing size, growing in harder and harder soil.
Then the cart left the road--this strange "morose route"--and we began
to drive over grass: a rough sort of waste land with many pebbles; and
before us was a great light such as greets the traveller coming in sight
of the sea. It was the Crau!

"Nous y sommes," said the farmer, pulling up his horse to allow me to
get down, "nous sommes maintenant en pleine Crau."

       *       *       *       *       *

I knew now for certain where the silence came from that had brooded over
the country all the way!

       *       *       *       *       *

He thinks he knows what silence is who has lived in some remote spot
in the heart of the English country, who has stood, on some breezeless
evening, by the shores of an inland lake, or alone on far-away moorlands
when the birds have gone to their rest and the night is coming up over
the sky.

But _that_ is not silence!

In the woodlands there is the tremor of a leaf, not perhaps quite heard,
but not unknown to the finer consciousness; by the lake-side the water
noiselessly stirs against the bank; on the moors the creatures are
breathing in their holes and hiding places, the tiny bells of the heather
ring an inaudible chime----

But on the Crau----

To say that there is not a sound is meaningless. There are strata upon
strata of silence, deep as the deep sea; one hesitates on the verge,
half dreading to advance.

Here at last is a realm untouched by human passion. It belongs utterly
to the kingdom of physical "Nature," Nature in her heaviest mood, without
the smallest thrill of manifested life or emotion.

To understand this to the full one must tramp over its hard stones and
feel its lonely breath in one's face.

       *       *       *       *       *

Turning one's steps humanwards again, one hastens with the eagerness
of an exile to claim as dear friend and brother the first, humblest
creature, animal or human, for sheer sympathy of the living with the
living, for sheer relief after the meeting face to face the cold white
Spirit of the Wilderness.



CHAPTER XIX

ROSES OF PROVENCE


          "Ai vist la roso adematin
          Tout bello e fresco espandido...."

     "I have seen the morning rose expanded all beautiful and
     fresh...."

          ROUMANILLE.

               "Sweet month of May,
               So fresh, so gay,
               Hast come again?
                 Nature awakes,
               Soon morning breaks
               In hawthorn glen,
               The birds' refrain
               Thrills forth its strain."

          FROM THE PROVENÇAL OF AUBANEL.

  [Illustration: BASE OF MONUMENT OF MARIUS, ST. REMY.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

What is the mysterious force in life that always makes it impossible
to linger in any place where conditions are entirely congenial? We
can stay so easily and with so much general approval in odious spots,
among exasperating companions. But let a charm attach to any scene or
circumstance and straightway every factor of one's destiny flies into
violent collision with every other factor, so that immediate flight
becomes necessary, to the farthest limits of the railway system.

Only "le violence de notre étoile," or at any rate of Barbara's "étoile,"
could drive us from these bright regions; but then her star _was_ very
violent. Our country clamoured for us. It would have seemed flattering
had we not known that it sprang chiefly from the desire that consumes
the majority of people to act as sheep-dog towards wandering members
of the community; an instinctive feeling that if they are "away" it is
high time that they should come back again.

Barbara announced that she must go in about a week or ten days; and all
that remained for us to do was to make the most of her remaining time.

Our strange little mountains, the Alpilles, still held our fancy. Why
not go to the little town at their foot, St. Remy, with its industry of
seed culture? We had read of its Roman monuments and of the cordon of
flowers which surround it in the blooming season.

     "C'est le chevalier du guet,
     Compagne de la majorlaine,
     C'est le chevalier du guet,
     Gai, gai, dessus le quai,"

runs the local rhyme.[20]

It must be beautiful here in May when the vines are yellow-green to the
tips of their young fingers. But greater beauty than now, at this late
time, is scarcely possible to believe in.

The plain is gold and brown, with splashes of crimson where the sun shines
through some eccentric spray of vine-leaves passionately red beyond its
fellows.

St. Remy is the ancient Glanum of the Romans, and has memories not
scholastic of Cæsar's Gallic Wars. Along the passes of the Alpilles,
Marius moved with his army at that stirring moment which was to decide
whether the hordes of the Cimbri and the Teutons were to overrun all
Italy and take possession of the Eternal City itself. So near a thing
it was that the barbarians insolently asked the Roman soldiers if they
had any messages for their wives and sweethearts in Rome, as they would
soon be there.

Everything hung on the strategy of the Roman general, and it is only on
the scene of that great contest that one realises what a desperate and
universal moment it was.

Had the campaign of Marius ended otherwise than it did--had he yielded an
hour too soon to the impatience of his soldiers to begin the fight--the
whole course of history would have been different in all probability,
and perhaps not one of us would have been born!

       *       *       *       *       *

The railway from Tarascon to our little City of Gardens brings one into
the very heart of the country. The carriages are so small--two-storied
though they are--that one feels as if one were taking a drive in a
donkey-cart or station fly, and more than once we were almost impelled
to call out to our driver to stop and let us gather wild-flowers by
the wayside. And the wayside is so absurdly near. There is none of the
dignified aloofness of the ordinary train journey.

  [Illustration: ROMAN ARCH, ST. REMY.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

The same general features of the country are, of course, as before, but
now we are intimately among its details: the vines, the low olive-bushes,
the farmsteads, the cypresses, the patches of cultivation, the plantations
of yellow canes rustling and swaying. And ever we are nearing the
Alpilles. The train stops dutifully at a dozen little stations, where no
one gets in or out. They are scarcely more than sentry-boxes; sometimes
a mere frame filled in with the stalks of the reeds. Were it not that the
mistral can blow through them, it seems impossible that these trivialities
could withstand his lightest breath.

St. Remy, once the country seat of the Counts of Provence, has no walls
of stone, but four-square leafy ramparts of plane-trees. From the door
of the _Hôtel de Provence_ one may turn to the right or left and blindly
follow the avenues round the little town till one returns to one's
starting-point, where probably a brown-eyed youth will still be grinding
coffee beside the footpath. There are almost no sounds in St. Remy, for
there are no vehicles except the hotel omnibus which trundles to and
from the station, marking the lapse of time.

The visitors all, or nearly all, come with the same intent: to negotiate
with the growers of seeds, and, at the proper season, they arrive
in great numbers from every part of the world, including America the
ever-enterprising.

Pinks and carnations and lilies, and purple acres of pansies with their
texture of velvet; flowers and flowers in multitudes, blooming and budding
and blushing--this is the sweet merchandise of St. Remy en Provence.

The hotel has the homely, spacious character of old-established inns
in country towns. One feels a sense of comfort as one enters, and
the courteous greeting of the landlord and his wife confirms one's
satisfaction. The long, dark-papered _salle-à-manger_ has a broad streak
of sunshine across the polished floor from an open window which gives
on to the regions at the back of the hotel. The waiter hastens to shut
this, but desists with a shrug and a smile at our remonstrance. If we
like to sit in draughts and endanger our lives, after all it is our own
affair. He feels with Madame de Sévigné, "Mais ce sont des Anglais!"

The window allows one to pass out into a nondescript territory where
boots are cleaned, firewood is stacked, and the omnibus is regularly
put to bed and tucked in after its day's work.

To the left, a magnificent plane-tree spreads golden foliage far and
wide, brimming up to our bedroom windows just overhead. And a little
further from the house, on this side of a sombre row of cypresses, with
an ethereal view to the left of palest mountain peaks--a Provençal rose
garden!

"But gather, gather, Mesdames," invites our kind host, "gather as many
as you will." He smiles at our amazed delight, and waves a hospitable
hand towards the masses of blossom, radiantly fresh and fair.

Roses of Provence!

The sun draws out the fragrance and shines through the petals till they
gleam like gemmed enamel. We linger entranced.

In the narrow path we are elbow high in roses. And everything seems to
stand still and wait in the hot sun. Nothing moves on. There is only
a tiny floating back and forwards of a thread of cobweb between rose
and rose; and very slowly now and again a broad swathe of plane-foliage
heaves up and down on a little swell of air which the tree has all to
itself in the shade-dappled precincts that it rules.

Looking across the roses from this spot we can see the rich tapestry
of blossom against the cypresses, tall, grave warders of the Garden of
Pleasure.

And still nothing moves forward. The flies come out and make drowsy,
foolish noises in the warmth. But they return upon their paths and make
buzzing circuits. A particular spasmodic burnished insect that darts
suddenly to a distance and then remains thunderstruck before the heart
of a flower, keeps on doing the same ridiculous thing all round the
garden, and only adds to the impression of changelessness. It is as if
the world had really come to a pause, and time and trouble had ceased
their eternal pulse-beat.

And we gather our roses--while we may.

"Mais Mesdames, vous n'avez choisi que les roses les plus communes;
tenez Mesdames." And Monsieur the landlord plunges into the bushes and
cuts bloom after bloom of the most exquisite sorts: red and yellow and
creamy white, till his generous hand can grasp no more. He stands smiling
discreetly while we bury our faces in the flowers, and hold them at
arm's length to admire them the more.

"Elles vous rendent heureuses, les roses, Mesdames," he says, with a
little smile and a bow; "alors vous rendez heureuses les roses--et votre
serviteur."

We try to make a co-operative bow (bowing was not Barbara's strong
point), and to indicate as well as we can that only in this delightful
country had we ever met with such lovely roses or such kind people.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first part of the day was occupied in wandering over the open
country that surrounds this placid little town of the Romans. The plain
is wide--immense in its spaces, marked with the inevitable walls of
cypresses and dotted with shrubs and farms as far as the eye can follow.

The strange, almost grotesque outline of the Alpilles closes in this
view to the South, and between these mountains and the town there are
endless rough tracks and paths among the hollows and risings of the land,
quaint cuttings in the soil which lead the eye to the blue of the hills.

  [Illustration: LA CROIX DE VERTU, ST. REMY.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

Here and there would be a small dwelling, here and there a field enclosed
for pasture, but this was rare. The greater part was wild, rough country,
owing little to the care of man.

In one of the highest spots of this singular district stands a curious
stone cross, called by the people _La Croix de Vertu_, why it is
impossible to discover. It is a monolith supporting a small iron cross,
which is doubtless of much later date than its support.

It is approached from four sides and occupies the highest ground at
which the four paths meet.

A strange, little lonely mysterious monument, whereby, doubtless, hangs
many an ancient tale!

We spent the rest of the day in visiting the Roman remains--two
well-preserved relics of Imperial days--a triumphal arch and a tall
monument which is said to have been built to celebrate the great victory
of Marius over the Teutons.

They stand lonely and singularly unspoiled, at the foot of the Alpilles,
and before them stretches a wide plain over which the light is growing
soft and warm, the few shadows of olives and low bushes beginning to
lengthen.

And we sit down on the dry grass near the monuments and are silent.

The agitated figures on the bas-relief of the triumphal edifice stand
out well in the glowing light. They are fighting and struggling in some
unknown contest which they take, poor things, so very seriously, and
which really matters so very little after all! The broad, long lines of
the landscape speak eloquently of the folly of that old death-struggle.
It is strange to think of those stone warriors fighting on century after
century as the seasons go by, always there and always fighting when
the sun touches them in the morning, when the white moon peers over the
jagged outline of the little mountains just behind, and finds them at
it still! Do they not even rest when there is neither sun nor moon but
only a great wide darkness over the land and the mountains are blotted
out?

It seems as if there were a waking up rather than a resting as the night
approaches.

We linger till the air is dim and mysterious, and the exquisite wreath of
leaves on the archi-vault of the triumphal arch begins to get blurred,
clean-cut and fresh though it is. But something seems to creep up out
of the earth, to swarm round out of the mountains till there might be
seen or felt a shadowy throng--inchoate presences that stream through
the arch and crowd round the foot of the unresting monument.

Barbara judiciously looks at her watch. And we rise and walk slowly back
to our hotel along the white road, silent, and perhaps rather sad.



CHAPTER XX

AN INN PARLOUR


           "O princesso di Baus! Ugueto,
           Sibilo, Blanco-Flour, Bausseto,
     Que trounavais amount sus li roucas aurin,
           Cors subre-bèu, amo galoio,
           Dounant l'amour, largant la joio
           E la lumiero, li mount-joio
     De Mount-Pavoun, de Crau li trescamp azurin

           Encaro vuei dins soun mirage
           Se representon voste oumbrage....
     Li ferigoulo meme an counserva l'óudour
           De vòsti piado; e m'es vejaire
           Que vese encaro,--galejaire,
           Gentiéu, courriòu e guerrejaire,--
     Que vese à vòsti pèd canta li troubadour."

     "O princesses des Baux! Huguette,--Sibylle, Blanchefleur,
     Baussette--vous qui là-haut pour trône aviez les rochers
     d'or,--corps exquis en beauté, âmes allègres,--donnant l'amour,
     versant la joie,--et la lumière, les monticules--de Mont-Pahon,
     les landes azurées de la Crau,

     "Dans leur mirage d'aujourd'hui--reproduisent encore votre
     image....--Les thyms eux-mêmes ont conservé l'odeur--de
     vos traces; et il me semble--que je vois encore,
     guillerets,--courtois, coureurs et guerroyeurs,--que je vois
     à vos pieds chanter les troubadours."

          MISTRAL.

After dinner--which by the way was of extraordinary excellence--we were
invited to the parlour of mine host, and felt like travellers in some
old romance on the eve of antique adventures. Nothing antique, however,
happened, except, indeed, the odd gathering of the family and the guests
of the hotel, and the talk that went circling cheerfully round the fire
in the little dull-tinted room. The dulness of colouring was the result
of long use; everything having faded into harmony and grown together
through long and affectionate association.

Besides Madame and a pretty niece who was staying with her, there were
two youths employed in the seed industry, who lived in the town and
came in every evening for their dinner. They were on terms of friendly
intimacy with the host and hostess who evidently regarded their office in
other lights than that of mere commercial enterprise. They looked upon
their guests as under their charge, and their desire was to minister to
their comfort and pleasure in every possible way. Monsieur and one of
the youths played draughts, Madame sewed and chatted, and Mademoiselle,
the niece, made herself generally agreeable. Between the two youths
was a mild rivalry for her smiles. We, as strangers, were treated with
special courtesy.

Madame and her husband did the honours of their homely _salon_ most
gracefully. The conversation turned on the Monuments of St. Remy, its
objects of interest which strangers come to see, and its excursions:
Les Baux above all, on the other side of the Alpilles.

"Une ville très ancienne, sculptée dans les rochers, toute élevée au
dessus de la vallée--mais une cité vraiment remarquable, Mesdames. Vous
devez certainment y aller."

And we decided at once to do so, arranging to have a trap to take us
across the mountains on the following morning.

Meanwhile we gathered further information about St. Remy itself. There
is _La Maison de la Reine Jeanne_, in which the family of the famous
Mistral has lived for generations. In the foundations were discovered
the bones of an elephant and various weapons, all supposed to be relics
of Hannibal's passage through the country at the foot of the Alpilles.

The famous poet, however, does not live in this historical home at
St. Remy, but at Maillane, a little village of the plain about seven
kilometres distant. The house, to which many a pious pilgrimage has been
made, is square and white and stands in a little shady garden with a
high wall and iron gate facing the village street. Thanks to the poet
and his colleagues the ancient costume still lingers at Maillane and
at St. Remy, and on Sundays the women go to church in the soft, white
fichu and picturesque head-dress that one has learnt to associate with
the women of Arles. The Provençal type is characteristic; dark eyes and
hair, olive skin, and a singularly fine carriage of the figure and head.

  [Illustration: GROVE AT ST. REMY.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

Mistral and his fellow Félibres have much to do with the survival of
art and old customs. One of this little band of modern troubadours lives
still, as we learn, in the house of his family at St. Remy, and Mistral
(as we have seen) is not far away across the plain, faithful always to
the land that he loves so deeply and labours so hard to preserve in its
ancient beauty, ancient faiths and ancient language. I had afterwards
the privilege of visiting Mistral at Maillane and M. Girard and his
wife at St. Remy, and of hearing them speak with intense enthusiasm
and affection of the Provence that is passing away. M. Girard's angry
melancholy at the erasure of all character and individuality from lands
and peoples was pathetic and impressive.

He exhibited his fine collection of ancient furniture, crockery, pewter,
and a thousand beautiful relics: among them a splendid example of the
"Crêche," that quaint Provençal institution with which the children
are made happy every Christmas. It is a modelled representation of the
coming of the Magi, but on this root idea the artists of Provence have
grafted many additions. The Virgin, beautifully sculptured and coloured,
sits in a hilly landscape and holds a sort of grand reception: Magi and
other distinguished visitors surround her, while shepherds, merchants,
publicans and sinners, varied by ornate donkey-drivers and goatherds,
are perched on hill-tops among companionable windmills about their own
size; and peasants are lavishly distributed in very green meadows in the
vicinity; all congregated to offer homage to the Madonna and the haloed
Babe. The _crêche_ is reverently veiled with a curtain on ordinary days,
and its owner drew this aside and lighted the candles to illumine the
treasured heirloom which has delighted so many generations ... and not
alone of children.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our hostess of the Hôtel de Provence was learned about the seed industry
of St. Remy, and explained how ruthlessly every bloom is nipped off and
prevented from seeding if it does not answer truly to its type. That was
how the splendid flowers were achieved: viz., by a persistent interference
with the ordinary course of nature--a fact which gives food for thought.
Besides flowers, St. Remy has some fine vegetables to boast of. I had
often noticed strange, unknown, gourd-like things, bright red or yellow,
in the shop windows. The _cornichon serpent_, "ce légume extravagant,"
as somebody calls it, is said to measure nearly two metres! But that
immoderate object we never saw.

       *       *       *       *       *

We were out betimes next morning, in the rose-garden which was glistening
with dew. The Garden of Pleasure truly, guarded by the mournful cypresses!
That seemed full of significance: the Roses of Pleasure sheltered by
those dark trees of Experience and Grief.

Burns sings that "pleasures are like poppies"; and so perhaps they are,
but there are some that are more like roses--Roses of Provence!

They are the sort of pleasures of which that strange _pot-pourri_ that we
call happiness is made. For surely there _is_ such a thing as happiness,
though the science of it is as hard to learn as any other; perhaps harder
than them all. Maybe it is necessary for us unteachable mortals to have
torn our way--bruised and bleeding--through that black line of cypresses
before we come in sight of it.

If happiness is a will-o'-the-wisp, is it so because of the eternal
nature of things, or because, as Carlyle frankly insists, men are mostly
fools? Would not every desired object assume an elusive character if as
soon as we came in touch with it, we flew off on the hunt for something
else? On this principle we must go through life unpossessed of our own
fortunes, strangers and pilgrims in our own kingdom. Barbara and I agreed
that we would not forget to gather the roses in our Provençal garden
for the illusive sake of other roses further afield.

       *       *       *       *       *

In this little mediæval pleasure city it seemed natural to speculate about
the life of the Middle Ages, and we wondered if part of the sad secret of
those times lay in that inveterate habit of the human mind to look for
the Earthly Paradise round the next corner. For then, possibly, there
was only a sage here and there who had learnt the folly of it through
long and footsore wanderings in the desert which stretches unremittingly
between the traveller and his mirage Eden. The restless barbarous manners
of the age must have made the truth harder to understand than it need
be to us who have many centuries of growing experience behind us, both
as a hereditary influence and as an object-lesson in the conduct of life.

Incessant war and struggle, with no great results, but only further
struggle, further war as the fruit of the lifelong contest: such was the
mediæval life, and no one saw its absurdity. Not a trace of the old Greek
spirit remained; not a vestige of the philosophies of the East, except
perhaps in the cloister, and even here, at its best, the religion partook
of the objective character of the general life, and placed the site of
"heaven" for the saint, as the sinner placed his happiness,--round the
next corner.

       *       *       *       *       *

In those mad, picturesque, mediæval days St. Remy used to be the country
retreat of the Counts of Provence. They here retired from the excitements
of their capital at Aix, the learned little city a few leagues to the
northeast, beyond the Alpilles. We afterwards visited Aix, and found
another larger town of plane-avenues, more dignified, more important, but
almost as silent and forgotten as St. Remy itself. One could not but wonder
what the Counts had found of country joys at St. Remy that they could not
have commanded at the old city of Sextius with its shady ways and gardens.

  [Illustration: ROMAN MONUMENTS, ST. REMY.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

But, in fact, the human mind seeks not merely a change from excitement to
repose; it demands a change of scene and a change of thought-atmosphere
for its own sake.

During the whole of our stay at St. Remy we lived in an atmosphere of
roses. We could not gather enough of them to please our host; and we
used to have great bunches in our rooms placed on the window-sill, so
that the sunlight filtered through their petals; and over them we could
see the garden of their birth and the pale mountains beyond. Our very
dreams were of roses and rose-gardens!

One evening, inspired by their loveliness, I arranged a wreath of them
in Barbara's hair, added a creamy shawl flowing to her feet, and stood
back to admire the result. It was something to be proud of! Our dull,
discreet _régime_ of ladylike nonentities had disappeared, and there
was the poetry, the unapologetic grace of the classic world.

Barbara rose to try to see herself in the minute mirror.

She gasped in dismay.

"No, no! you _dare_ to take it off! There are some more roses to come
yet." (The victim made a comic face of resignation.) "I want _profusion_."

"You _do_!" said Barbara, sitting down to laugh. "Am I to wear this
costume when we go to Les Baux to-morrow?" she asked.

"It depends on the weather."

But, alas! as soon as active opposition was withdrawn, Barbara removed
the improvised costume, took the roses out of her hair and the vision
of the ancient world faded away. When we went down to dinner we both of
us had on our sombre prison garments.

And though Barbara laughed, I knew that the world was a sadder and a
drearier place because of it!



CHAPTER XXI

LES BAUX


     "C'est le Moyen-age tragique,--l'acropole de la Provence
     féodale."

          PAUL MARIÉTON.

In all Provence, perhaps in all Europe, there is no more astonishing relic
of mediæval life than that "crater of a feudal volcano" Les Baux,[21]
a veritable eagle's nest of a city in one of the wildest and highest
points of the Alpilles. It is a morning's drive from St. Remy across
the little range to its steep southern side.

We plunge straight into their heart and begin to mount by gradual
windings through little valleys, arid and lonely. Dwarf oak, lavender and
rosemary make their only covering. But for their grey vesture one might
imagine oneself in some valley of the moon, wandering dream-bound in a
dead world. The limestone vales have something of the character of the
lunar landscape: a look of death succeeding violent and frenzied life,
which gives to the airless, riverless valleys of our satellite their
unbearable desolation. It might have been fancy, but it seemed that in
the Alpilles there was not a living thing; neither beast nor bird nor
insect.

As we ascended, the landscape grew stranger and more tragic. The walls of
rock closed in upon us, then fell back, breaking up into chasms, crags,
pinnacles. The lavender and aromatic plants no longer climbed the sides
of the defiles; they carpeted the ground and sent a sharp fragrance into
the air. The passes would widen again more liberally into battlemented
gorges from which great solitary boulders and peninsulas rose out of the
sea of lavender. Here and there this fragrant sea seemed to have splashed
up against the rock-face, for little grey bushes would cling for dear
life to some cleft or cranny far up the heights; sometimes on the very
summit. As one follows the road it seems as if the heavily overhanging
crags must come crashing down on one's head. What prevents it, I fail
to this day to understand.

  [Illustration: QUARRY IN VALLEY BELOW LES BAUX.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

The whole place gives the impression of having been fashioned in some
gloomy dream.

Every turn brings new and monstrous forms into view; the fantastic
handiwork of earth's inner fires, patient modellings of the sun and wind.
One thinks of the busy coming and going along these "footprints of the
earthquake" in troubadour days, when knights and nobles flocked to the
famous little court of the Alpilles, and the fame of the beautiful Passe
Rose (Cecilia des Baux) brought troops of admirers from the ends of the
earth--kings, princes, jongleurs, troubadours. Many a figure well known
to history--the exiled Dante among them--has passed along these gorges.
The Princes of Les Baux owned seventy-nine bourgs and had a finger in
half the intrigues of Europe; a barbaric race, probably descendants of
the ancient Ligurians, with wild mountain blood in their veins.

Further on, the valleys widen, and we see large oblong holes hollowed
out of the creamy limestone, sometimes at regular intervals, producing
an effect of arcades in the rock. Still further on we come upon majestic
Assyrian-like portals, narrowing to the top in true archaic fashion and
giving ingress to dark vestibules exciting to the fancy. They might well
have been the entry to some subterranean Aladdin's palace whose gardens
and miraculous orchards grow emeralds and diamonds as cherries grow in
Kent. It was quite surprising to find that these grandiose excavations
were the work of mere modern quarrymen still engaged in the prehistoric
industry. Fine groups of horses and big carts and labourers before the
Assyrian entrances had an effect curiously ancient and majestic. There
was a time when the men of the Stone Age cut just such galleries and
holes far up in the rocks at Les Baux and dwelt there like a flock of
jackdaws, high above the hazard of attack.

It is asserted by the learned that the city, in fact, dates from the Stone
Age, being inhabited by generation after generation of wild peoples, till
gradually the dwellings were adapted to less uncivilised needs and added
to by further sculpturing and excavation and by masonry whose material
was hewn from the surrounding limestone.

In the city is a small museum containing many Stone Age implements.

It is indeed a place of strange memories.

In one of the tombs of the principal church was discovered the perfectly
preserved body of a young woman with a mass of golden hair. The body
crumbled to dust almost immediately, but the innkeeper took possession of
the beautiful tresses, and called his inn in its honour, _à la Chevelure
d'Or_.

Poor golden hair, it has set many a poet singing and vielle twanging in
its day!

We have been wending our way steadily upward across a region that grows
wider and more sweeping in its contours. The road rounds a corner.
Suddenly we feel the wind in our faces and a blaze of light.

There is an exclamation, and then silence.

The carriage has stopped on the highest point of the pass just where
the road has been cut through the low rock, and the driver points with
his whip across a vast grey cauldron of a valley to a sort of shelving
plateau high up on the shoulder of the opposite cliffs.

"Voilà Les Baux!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The stupendous scene is spread out before us, wild and silent. The wind
from the Crau to the south continues to blow through the cut in the
rock; the sun glares down full upon the mysterious rock-city and lays
bare the desolation of the valley.

Behind us a few sounds rise from the quarries, but there is otherwise
that perfect silence of high places which seems to brood and wait,
eternally patient.

This is the spot which is said to have furnished Dante with the scenery
of his infernal regions, and the mind at once accepts the tradition, so
gloomily grand, so instinct with motionless despair is the scene.

Beyond measure extraordinary the aspect of that cluster of roofs and
walls scarcely to be distinguished from the crags and escarpments out
of which they grow--"window and vault and hall" fashioned in the living
rock. Truly, as Madame our hostess had said, "une ville remarquable"!

The eye slowly learns to recognise the masonry among the natural
architecture, to separate the fantastic limestone surfaces from broken
dwellings and fallen towers.

The city, once containing about eight thousand inhabitants, is now reduced
to about a dozen or so, and these all live at the entrance to the town
on the ascending road from the valley by which the traveller from the
mountains must approach this grim little court of mediæval princes. The
road is comparatively new, for it cuts through some of the great houses,
and high up above us as we pass, we see the columns and frieze of a fine
stone mantelpiece overhanging the road, evidently belonging to some
seigneurial dwelling. Perhaps it was here that the lady of the golden
hair passed her tumultuous life--it could scarcely have been peaceful
at that time, in that place--with that hair!

A few silent inhabitants watch us as we go by. A cat peers suspiciously
over a wall of which the roof has fallen in; a mongrel hunts for garbage
in a rubbish heap in a windowless mansion.

Before the _Chevelure d'Or_[22] there is a little group of men. Here
the trap is put up and we set forth on foot up the steep main street of
this "mediæval Pompeii."

The whole place is built on the shelving shoulder of the cliff; a sloping
ledge whence one might expect the town to slip down at any moment into
the cauldron-valley; just as from time to time great fragments of rock
have evidently rolled down to eternal oblivion.

The impression of universal greyness strengthens as we move upwards
through the silent streets: grey walls, grey tiles, grey paving stones and
grey escarpments above, on whose highest summit stands the rock-excavated
castle, now apparently inaccessible except to adventurous birds--or,
perhaps, the ghosts of the Princes of Les Baux who for their crimes are
unable to rest in their graves.

We clamber up and down the ruinous higher part of the town, among those
pathetic rectangles of masonry open to the sky where human life throbbed
so eagerly a little while ago; we mount some perilous-looking steps on
the cliff-side, in hopes of reaching the castle, but find ourselves
emerging in mid-air upon the edge of the plateau overlooking from an
appalling height the windy spaces of the Crau.

The mountains run sheer to the plain. It is exciting to stand on that
great altitude which commands the stony desert towards Arles and the
mouths of the Rhone. It has something of the character of the scene from
the Appian Way looking towards Ostia and the mouths of the Tiber. The
approach to Les Baux from Arles is in some respects more impressive than
the route from St. Remy, for then the whole immense height of the cliffs
is visible from the level of the plain. On one of the little heights
that rise here and there on this plain stands the windmill of Daudet,
which gives the title to his famous _Lettres de Mon Moulin_.

If we stand on the highest point of the city, the eye can run along
the line of the Alpilles. Another little wave of hills sweeps forward
on to the plain precisely as the smaller ocean waves go curling in on
the shore, followed by the foaming line of breakers. The Alpilles seem,
indeed, to be breaking on the shore of the Crau like the billows of a
great sea.

A pathway perilously near the edge of the cliff fails to help us to
approach that strange castle from which we are still separated by many
feet of sheer rock.

  [Illustration: DAUDET'S WINDMILL.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

As we stand looking across the chasm at the stronghold, its position
seems to invest it with additional mystery and a solitude almost horrible.

An evil shadow hangs about it, and yet there is but little of the building
touched by visible shades at this magnificent moment of a Provençal
day. A shadow that no sunshine can dispel surely haunts the fortress of
Les Baux. For a second, in the hot glare, fancy plays one a trick, and
there seems to be floating from the summit the blood-red banner which
the princes used to unfurl on days of combat, when the air rang with
the strange battle-cry of the house: "Au hazard Balthazar!"

They claimed descent from Balthazar, one of the Magi who visited the
new-born Christ in the manger, and a six-rayed star was the device of
the family.

Their association with Christianity was certainly not of a very intimate
kind. They were a blind, blood-stained race, believing in violence and
retaliation as the one and only means of grace in this world and troubling
themselves, till the moment of death, very little about the next. They
generally reaped as they had sown; feared, hated, and often dying deaths
as terrible as those which they had inflicted on their victims.

It is thought probable that the Princes of Les Baux were descended from
the Visigoths who settled in Arles in the fifth century. There is a vast
and ancient work by "Le Sieur de Bouche, Docteur en Theologie," printed
at Aix-en-Provence in the 17th century. In the section treating of the
Visigothic Kingdoms the author gives an account of their King Euric and
the events in Provence of the year 475.

"L'on croit communement," he says, "que c'est en ce temps que le chateau
de la Ville de Baux en Provence a esté bâty et qu'il a tiré son nom
de quelque illustre et grand Seigneur Visigoth et Prince de la Maison
Royale, laquelle était de la famille des _Batthes_...."

From the fifth to the fifteenth century the line can be traced. At the
end of that era Charles III. of France died, and then the barony of
Les Baux with the whole county of Provence, was united to the crown of
France. Louis XIII. gave it to the Grimaldi who came in state each year
from Monaco, to take up their abode here; but they finally had to give
it back to the crown.

  [Illustration: LES BAUX FROM THE ROAD TO ARLES.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

It was surprising to find the remains of a hospital on the plateau
above the city, with the niches visible for the beds of the patients; so
surprising, indeed, that one is almost tempted to set learned authority
at defiance. Perhaps, however, with all the brawls and tournaments of
those amazing times, some such place was really necessary for repairing
damaged knights.

As one looks downwards from this altitude, the city presents a strange
aspect indeed. The grey buildings are flung together among the boulders,
a tumultuous mass of human and natural handiwork. Truly

     "The wind of ruin has passed this way."

Under the castle rock are the remains of a magnificent banqueting-hall,
with caissoned vaulting like that of the Basilica of Constantine at Rome.

The Romans had been even at Les Baux, and it was they who built the
walls which still here and there cling giddily to the sheer edge of the
rock. But they had many successors. A Saracen tower stands shoulder to
shoulder with Christian churches, and everywhere are signs of the great
feudal era, with its religious enthusiasm, its din and its warfare.

Besides the Princes, who were Counts of Orange as well as Seigneurs of
this little kingdom in the sky, there were powerful families in Les Baux.

The house of the Porcelets, one of the greatest, not only of the city,
but of Provence, was nicknamed by King René, _Grandeur des Porcelets_.
The Princes he called _Inconstánce des Baux_.

Out of the stern soil blossomed many a beautiful and accomplished lady,
famed in troubadour song.

Berengaria des Baux was celebrated by the luckless Guilhelm de Cabestaing.
Ranebaude inspired the world-famous Sordel; the charms of Cecilia, the
beautiful Passe Rose, as we know, kept half the troubadours of France
busy with vielle and lute; and there were Étienette, Clairette, and a host
of others whose true history one would give much to know.

  [Illustration: WINDOW IN RUINED HOUSE OF A SEIGNEUR OF LES BAUX.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

But the scene of their lives is at once eloquent and reticent. Their
homes are stonily silent, and not even a wild bird makes its nest in
the tempting crannies of the great mantelpieces where the flames must
so often have leaped and roared.

It is the mistral that roars now on winter nights in the grass-grown
chimneys.



CHAPTER XXII

RAIMBAUT DE VACQUEIRAS AND GUILHELM DES BAUX


     "De la solitaire demeure
     Une ombre lourde d'heure en heure,
     Se détache sur le gazon,
     Et cet ombre, couchée et morte
     Est la seule chose qui sorte
     Tout le jour de cette maison."

          ALPHONSE KARR.

There is a particular stately house off the main street that suggested
itself as the house of the golden-haired lady of Les Baux. Her burial
place pointed to her having belonged to a family of importance. She was
probably the wife of some tempestuous seigneur, and her life, cut short
so early, had doubtless been one of storm and peril.

We were filled with an immense desire to know more of her, and as we
piled conjecture on conjecture, she gradually assumed a definite form
and personality, and we felt towards her a sort of baffled sympathy.

We called her Alazais, for that name had pursued us since we began to
interest ourselves in the annals of Provençal chivalry.

She was graceful, delicately fashioned, with a certain reserved strength
in the courtesy of her manner, and her eyes--Barbara and I were disposed
to part company about her eyes, one leaning to blue, the other to brown;
so we split the difference, and Alazais received large pathetic eyes of
hazel.

       *       *       *       *       *

We sit down on the parched hill-side by a heap of stones, and let the
genius of the place work its spells. And busily it begins to weave as
the afternoon light throws its glamour over the grey of rock and ruin,
while a little wind comes up from the Crau and plays across the grass.

Raimbaut de Vacqueiras--Guilhelm des Baux--the mere names of these two
strong personalities seem almost to summon them to their old haunts.
Fancy kindles with this glowing sun and this tremendous scene; the
forlorn city begins to stir and breathe, and then suddenly--some distant
sounds from below seem strangely like the clatter of horses' hoofs--a
twelfth-century cavalcade on its way to the castle!

And there are voices. They come up faintly through the sunshine, the
voices of phantom riders who are hastening up the steep incline.

If at this precise moment Guilhelm des Baux and his troubadour friend with
their followers are not where they seem to be, that is a mere incident
of Time, and what is Time? An unreality, a mode of human thought. And
so the insistent sense of the gay procession is not entirely a dream!

Certainly it is insistent! The clatter stops half way at the little
_Place_ in front of the church of St. Vincent, and there some of the
company appear to go up the hill to the fortress.

One instinctively listens. Are they exchanging parting words or jests
with one of their number who stays behind? Perhaps Alazais herself is
leaving or entering her prison of a home and the gallant troubadour has
knelt to kiss her hand. It would be all in the day's work of those times.

Possibly Raimbaut de Vacqueiras was seriously in love with her. One may
be allowed the supposition.

We half shrink from it, however, when it comes to the point, for it
would have meant so tragic a story.

If it was not one of the Princes of Les Baux who served up the heart
of her troubadour-lover, Guilhelm de Cabestaing,[23] as a dish to his
wife, it was quite in their most approved manner.

The luckless wife having, all unconscious, tasted of the dish, her lord
informed her what it was and asked her how she liked it.

"I like it so well," she replied, "that henceforth I will taste no
other," and she flung herself headlong from the castle window.

The horror of the tale lingers in the thoughts even as they turn to
other things: to the figure of the lady herself leaning over the parapet
of the little platform that hangs over the valley; to the scene in the
castle after the tournament when the gay company has gathered in the
hall, and there is singing and playing of the vielle and verse-making and
dance; to the love-songs of Raimbaut, thrilling and sweet above those of
other troubadours. He was but too fitted to attract: handsome, courtly,
quick-witted, warm-hearted, a warrior poet, a knight and a singer.

Our poor heroine had no chance! One can see her in the splendid
barbaric hall, among the throng. White was her _bliaut_, or robe, finely
embroidered in gold, and her long mantle was fastened to the shoulder
with a clasp of sardonyx.

It was not merely the beautiful dress, but the noble manner of wearing it
that counted in those strange little courts of the Middle Ages. If the
life was wild and terrible, at least it had an exquisite and gracious
side.

One can picture Raimbaut, too, as he hastens to greet Alazais; one can
see her smile of welcome, grave and gracious, half ceremonious, half
encouraging.

And then the scene grows clearer and more realistic, for we come upon
a piece of solid history.

Between Raimbaut and his famous patron, Guilhelm des Baux, many little
disagreements had disturbed of late the long friendship. Raimbaut,
accustomed to ride and fight and make verses by his friend's side, had
perhaps presumed upon the intimacy, and once he went so far as to rally
the Prince upon a recent incident that had amused the district.

His Highness had been casually ravaging the estates of his neighbour,
Count Aimar de Valence, and one day when he was on the Rhone in a small
boat, some fishermen caught him and he had to pay a large ransom to Count
Aimar, and be ridiculed into the bargain by Gui di Cavaillon, whose tenso
on the subject was taken up and sung by all Provence. For notwithstanding
the new sentiment obligatory on all noble and knightly persons, the men
and women of the twelfth century had by no means escaped from the base
clutches of the ancient _régime_ whence they sprang, and to them the
misadventure and mortification of a neighbour seemed exquisitely funny.

Even Raimbaut's sense of humour had not advanced beyond that primitive
stage.

His jests made the Prince very angry, and a quarrel arose between the
two which overthrew once and for all their affectionate relations.

Then Raimbaut knew that the end had come to this era of his life, and
that he must go forth to seek his fortunes anew.

And Alazais, in whose honour he had made such innumerable verses? He
must leave her too--love and friendship had come to naught at one blow.

How beautiful she had looked in her white robes--perhaps there
had been something in her glance that had made him forget
consequences--everything--except--what folly it was!

Quick, pen and paper! A _canson_ had darted into his head. Farewell to
joy and Alazais! Such a tribute was only expected and fitting whatever
might be his real sentiments.

Raimbaut had got well into the third stanza, and the lady's hair had
been compared to six different resplendent objects, when he was summoned
to take part in the events of the evening.

"Holy Mary!" cries the poet, "can a man not be left in peace while he
writes a _canson_ to his lady?"

He goes muttering imprecations on idle folk who cannot even pursue their
idling without the help of busy people.

Les Baux is among the places to which is attributed one of the most
famous of the Courts of Love, and to this tribunal one may imagine
the troubadour wending his way through the crowds who are parading the
streets, singing and dancing the mouresca, their ancient Saracenic dance,
drifted westward from the mountains of the Moors.

Raimbaut is greeted with reproaches for his tardy arrival. The business
of the Court is in full swing: gracious ladies and courtly knights are
judging compositions according to the rules of minstrelsy, discussing
nice points of honour and conduct, burning questions concerning the
purity and preservation of the language, the rights and duties of the
love-lorn.

"Is it better to have wisdom or to be irresistible with the ladies?" is
one of the recorded subjects.

"Who loves the more, he that is broken by his lady's coldness, or he
that is stimulated thereby to distinguish himself the more?"

"Which is harder to bear, debt or love-sickness?"[24]

The jury look in vain to Raimbaut for his usual brilliant judgments.
Alazais, we may imagine, had guessed the cause of his silence.

And she knows her own fate as she sits there, beautiful and calm; perhaps
accepting it as the will of heaven; perhaps struggling desperately
against the thought that the troubadour would go forth into the world
and quickly fill the place of love in his heart--perhaps with another
love!

"Come, Raimbaut, what is your opinion?" cries one of the young men, "You
were not wont to be so moody."

It had to be explained to him that they were discussing the pains and
penalties of love, and whether after all it did not offer too much
grief and longing and too little reward to make it worth the while of a
reasonable being; the proposition of a truly bold spirit in a mediæval
Court of Love!

Raimbaut's reply is recorded in the history of his life: "A man forges
cold iron who thinks he can make a gain without a loss."

Perhaps he looked back to the scene of his boyhood, the little town of
Vacqueiras across the mountains, and recognised how he had enlarged his
world by coming here and how he had so lost things dear to him, never
to be regained.

And now there was to be another gain--and another loss.

One seems to see him in close debate with himself as to what he should
do. From the little house at Vacqueiras he used to gaze on the grey
towers of Les Baux on the heights and dream of it as a goal beyond which
no sane hopes could wander.

Now, from the farthest point of the windy tableland above the Crau he
can see, or almost see, more than one famous city where he would be
welcome. Aix, the stately little home of learning with its hot springs
dear to the Romans, had still to wait for two centuries for its good
genius, King René, and suggested few possibilities to the troubadour.

To the south lay Arles and Marseilles. Count Barral of Marseilles would
make a merry and an easy-going patron; but there was an obstacle in that
direction.... Just a little this side of Arles, in the extreme corner of
the Camargue, he catches sight of a faint outline which he knows to be
the church of Our Lady of the Marsh, Ste. Maria de la Mar, "Les Saintes
Maries," as it is now called throughout Provence, and down on his knees
goes the warrior poet and says a prayer to the Blessed Three, begging
that they may be favourable to him in the decisive step he is about to
take, and that they will direct his choice.

And now he has to wrench himself from the present scenes and to make
his many farewells, one among them hard indeed to face.

Yet perhaps it was best he should go. There had been gruesome tragedies
at Les Baux----!

The day of departure could not be long delayed; the Prince was relentless.

Just one glimpse of a beautiful, haunting face as Raimbaut rides past
the sombre palace where the lady of his heart lives a life which a woman
of to-day would deem that of a condemned prisoner.

She stands at the open door among a lively group who have collected to
see him pass, as indeed all the people of Les Baux are waiting to bid
their beloved champion and singer God-speed.

He uncovers his head, and Alazais acknowledges his salute with the rest.
And suddenly Raimbaut's heart gives a leap, for he knows what he did not
know before! But the cavalcade goes on down the street, and he rides on
to his fate.

       *       *       *       *       *

Long, pensive shadows of the ruins are stealthily gaining upon the golden
light on the grass when we begin to descend to the lower town. The main
street, down which Raimbaut de Vacqueiras seems to have passed but a
moment ago, is horribly silent, and the city spreads its desolation
upwards to the sinister castle--where no blood-red banner is now flying.

We go on to the platform in front of the church of St. Vincent, and
stand looking over the parapet. The gloomy vale below is filled with
the mysteries of twilight.

From this point one could watch those who go and come to the city from
the side of the mountains, for they must emerge from or pass through
the Gate of the Rocks on whose threshold we ourselves had our first
sight of Les Baux that afternoon. Even as we look we can discern a small
speck against the limestone--exactly so must the figure of Raimbaut have
appeared to any eye that watched him from this balcony of rock. Did not
Alazais so watch? And did he not turn and take one last long look at the
city he was leaving? Presently, as she gazes (as we now gaze), there is
no longer a black speck against the white; the valley is empty--and a
faint breath of wind comes down it like a sigh.

And presently the sun begins to approach the edge of the cauldron, and
the taller buildings take on a tint of vivid rose colour. How that golden
hair must have flamed up into glory if its owner watched there on such
an evening!

  [Illustration: LES BAUX FROM THE ROAD TO ST. REMY, SHOWING PLATFORM IN
   FRONT OF CHURCH OF ST. VINCENT.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

We had visited her place of burial in the church behind us; a sad, silent
spot that might have supplied a text for many a solemn sermon.

Mouldering walls and an empty grave. But they breathed forth no
solemnities to us, or at least no gloomy ones. Rather they whispered of
the mystery and power of life and passion; of things potent, creative,
immortal.

Nor could we believe that the vivid consciousness of self and soul in
that being to whom we sent our thoughts could be less enduring than the
mere echo of her words and deeds in a universe where not a breath in
the air or a tremor of the ether can ever be truly lost.

It was impossible not to speculate further regarding the real self of
the woman as distinct from the self which reflected the world of the
twelfth century. What that world expected of her we know, and so we know
a very large part of the reality, for the emotions of most of us are
the product of this eternal outside suggestion.

But there is sometimes--perhaps always--deep down in the being, a hidden
spot that acknowledges no such dictation; and here would spring up
yearnings and criticisms, revolts and despairs, while the wife of the
feudal seigneur punctually and uncomplainingly fulfilled the demands of
her position.

Did she ever, even for a moment, see the grim reality of that position,
or was it hidden from her eyes by tradition, habit, by the little
palliatives and privileges which her power as a woman and a beautiful
woman, would win for her at this auspicious moment of new-born homage
for her sex?

It is not at all unlikely that some inkling of the strange situation
would drift across the consciousness now and again, for it is just at the
moment when a burden grows a little less overwhelming that the bearer
begins to cry out against its oppression. Before then he has no breath
with which to cry!

Personal trouble and the sting of unhappy love might have stirred
momentary feelings that would link our heroine of the golden hair with
her sisters of future generations. It is unthinkable that such feelings
were never in the hearts of women, in some form or other, in the days
of their darkest captivity.

Perhaps, as she watched the troubadour riding forth into the world, she
rebelled against her task of eternal waiting and submitting; against the
all-extensive claims made upon her as part and parcel of her husband's
estate and dignity: for her position in this respect was made clear
enough when he threateningly commended to her vigilance the duty of
safeguarding his name and the "honour" of his house on pain of punishment
such as only a mediæval seigneur could devise.

Called to account for every act and word, admonished like a child--and
often in the tone used to the hounds after a bad day's sport--not the
most secret emotion of her heart legitimately her own--body and soul
the property of her lord and his all-important family: her life was one
long reminder of the humiliating facts. Was she tired of being warder
of her own prison? Even the hounds were not that! Was she sick of this
strange stewardship of herself as the property of another? Must she
remain for ever shut away from ambitions, passions, hopes? Was she never
to know what love and loyalty as between free human souls meant? Was
she never--fool, fool that she was----?

       *       *       *       *       *

Some interruption occurred here, and Alazais ceased to soliloquise.

Barbara said that there was really no need to address as "fool, fool"
the entirely sensible-looking nun who emerged from the church of St.
Vincent, with her Mass-book in her hand.

The apparition of a creature of flesh and blood in this strange place
was almost startling, and it brought back considerations of time and
place and other delusive modes of human thought. There was dinner to
be considered--delusive but necessary as delusions are;--in short, the
hour of departure had struck.

We turned slowly, reluctantly from the parapet, thinking of Raimbaut
de Vacqueiras as he rode away to his new destiny, his wanderings from
court to court, his ardent love-affairs at Montferrat, his joys and great
sorrows, till at last wearied with misunderstandings, disappointments,
and saddened with the restless trouble of his life, he joined the Crusades
and died fighting against the Saracens.

The home of Alazais looked more shadowy and mournful than ever as we
passed it on our downward way.

     "De la solitaire demeure
     Une ombre lourde d'heure en heure,
     Se détache sur le gazon,
     Et cet ombre, couchée et morte
     Est la seule chose qui sorte
     Tout le jour de cette maison."



CHAPTER XXIII

THE SORCERESS OF THE ALPILLES


     "And midst the thyme
     They drink from golden bowl
     And circle round in goblin farandole."

          MISTRAL.

  [Illustration: AT LES BAUX.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

Music in a dead city!

We stopped abruptly. Out of the deepening stillness there grew slowly,
solemnly, the muffled, mournful trembling of an organ issuing from the
closed doors of the church on the platform. The sound swelled, ebbed,
fell into low troubled mutterings, then swelled again; never was any
strain more plaintive, solitary shadowed: all in subdued undertone, but
heart-breaking.

Surely a human soul despairing and unable to find expression!

In this wild scene it was unearthly in its intensity of mournfulness.
Looking back we saw the figure of a nun crossing the space from the house
of the Porcelets to enter the church, and as the doors opened, the sound
poured out in fuller volume, but always in that strange, tense undertone.

The city seemed to be steeped in melancholy, as if a grey mist of grief
had fallen upon it.

       *       *       *       *       *

We commenced our homeward journey on foot, making a little circuit to
visit the "Pavillon de la Reine Jeanne" in the gorge below, leaving our
vehicle to follow.

La Reine Jeanne was the famous and beautiful Queen Joan of Naples, heiress
of Provence, whose father on his death-bed counselled her to hand the
country over to the Pope, then at Avignon. He in his turn bestowed it
on the Count of Anjou, and thus Provence came to belong to that powerful
family.

The Queen is said to have often visited Les Baux, and to have held Courts
of Love and various revelries in the now weed-grown enclosure where the
Pavilion sadly stands in the corner of what was once a garden; a fine,
highly-bred little piece of architecture well fitted for its purpose.

On our way to rejoin our trap we were overtaken by two wayfarers: a
young man and woman somewhat poorly clad and carrying bundles. They were
looking about them intelligently as if interested in the scene.

The man's bundle was evidently a musical instrument, and as they came
nearer we heard snatches of song, sometimes gay, sometimes sad. The man
pointed to Les Baux as if astonished at its extraordinary aspect, and the
woman stood looking up at it curiously. Sometimes they left the road to
explore some of the clefts and rock passages, and among the bare walls
of limestone and the narrow galleries, their songs--with which they had
doubtless delighted Marseilles audiences--reverberated most fantastically.
Evidently they were strolling minstrels tramping the country, and were
now probably on their way to St. Remy, Tarascon, and Beaucaire, and on
to Avignon and the cities of Languedoc; modern troubadours following
the ancient calling in the ancient country.

But ah, if Raimbaut de Vacqueiras had seen his successors!

It was a touching little scene: the two footsore troubadours--jongleurs,
perhaps, one ought to call them--passing wondering but unconscious below
the city where once their forefathers of the craft were welcomed and
honoured guests.

       *       *       *       *       *

If the passes of the Alpilles were as desolate as a moon landscape in the
full blaze of a Provençal midday, what were they in the grey of evening?
The human spirit is not fashioned to endure the aspect of these abysmal
regions of nature.

Masses of rock rising out of unknown deeps of shadow take on the aspect
of some lawless architecture, the handiwork of an alien race: fantastic
earth-born peoples raising mad palaces half sublime, half grotesque:--

     "great plinths, majestic porticoes."

colonnades whose capitals are sculptured by the wind spirits: strange
half-finished cathedrals with pinnacles and fretwork, flocks of gargoyles
wrought by goblin sculptors.

There was one sublime insane cathedral looming crazily through the dusk,
with an encumberment of caricatures of saints and angels, grinning faces,
half defined, half suggested--it seemed like some great Temple of Evil.

From the Gorge of Hell, high up among the recesses of the hills, opens
the Witch's Grotto amidst "tortured shapes which rise up, sink down,
stretch into great entablatures and gardens in the air."

This is the dreaded domain of Tavèn, the famous sorceress of the
Alpilles. She plays an important part in Mistral's epic poem _Mireille_
(or _Mirèio_, in the original Provençal).

To this maiden and her lover Vincent, who visited her cavern which
stretches for long distances underground, Tavèn gives extraordinary
experiences. They have come to her for aid in their love affair which
Mireille's father, a wealthy farmer on the outskirts of the Crau,
violently opposes. Vincent has been treacherously wounded by his rival,
an owner of cattle on the Camargue; a brutal but wealthy suitor favoured
by the father.

The sorceress is found at the bottom of the grotto amid a "cloud of
dreams," with a sprig of broom-grass in her hand, which is called the
devil's wheat. Above her head is a raven perched on a beam, and beside
him a milk-white hen; also (for magical reasons) a sieve tied to the wall.

She leaps down a deep crevice, and her clients follow her. She directs
them to gird round their brows the leaves of the mandrake, the gruesome
plant of human contours that shrieks aloud when its roots are torn out
of the ground.

Tavèn tells them that it is the blest plant of her master-in-magic
Nostradamus. The astrologer and magician lived at St. Remy, and so was
within easy reach of his famous pupil.

Then the witch urges further descent into the depths, crying,

     "Children, all regions exquisite and bright
     Are but through woeful purgatory neared"--

a saying suggesting an idea of philosophic significance.

Indeed, the whole fantastic story seems to have more meaning in it than
is ostensibly claimed, and contains many hints of the deeper reaches of
experience.

  [Illustration: LES BAUX FROM LEVEL OF THE TOWN.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

As Tavèn and her charges penetrate further into these wilds, a blast of
wind and a "pack of elves shriek through the crypt," which is full of
wailing.

Tavèn warns her scared visitors to keep on their "charmed crowns,"
and to be undismayed by the huge apparition that they see in the dusk:
la Lavandière, "whose throne is on Ventoux," where she makes rain and
lightning.

The whole dark factory of Evil is shown to the adventurers. They are told
how, on the last three days of February and the first three of March,
the tombs all open and the tapers kindle, and

                 "the drowsy dead
     In ghastly order bend their knees to pray."

A phantom priest performs mass and the church bells ring themselves of
their own accord.

But one can hear the bells of Les Baux ringing thus on wild March days
and nights!

In the Grotto, Tavèn looses the "swarms of ill," and they rush forth
and hold a sort of Carnival, with wizards from Varigoule, in the Luberon
range, and ghouls from Fanfarigoule on the Crau.

And in the midst of this appalling Desert of Stones, where the wild
thyme makes here and there a fragrant carpet, this mad company dances
the farandole.

It was with a pleasant human sense of comfort and cheer that we found
ourselves once more driving through the streets of St. Remy. Quieter
now than ever these little streets in the dusk, so that we could almost
hear the falling of the great yellow leaves of the plane-trees, softly,
occasionally, in the avenues. Quite from the other end of the tiny town we
could catch the rumble of the homing omnibus, bringing its last freight
of passengers from the station, or more likely returning empty, to earn
its rest in the outhouse behind the hotel--happy, simple omnibus, without
a care in the world!

We were thankful to wash off the dust of the day, and with it half
our fatigue, and to hasten down to the _salle à manger_, pleasantly
tired with the long hours in the open air, the long stream of strong
impressions. And how hungry we were! Impressions seem to need a large
amount of sustenance.

I think the waiter must be accustomed to famished visitors returning
from Les Baux, for he simply flew as we appeared, dashed the menu down
on the table, murmuring, "Tout de suite, Mesdames," and was scurrying
back the next minute with two small tureens of smoking soup. Never did
soup taste so good or so comforting!

Life indeed has its contrasts! We thought of Les Baux among the abysses
of the Alpilles under the shroud of night, with a light or two from the
Chevelure d'Or and the few neighbouring houses twinkling mysteriously
on the height, and perhaps that strange music stealing into the darkness
of the valley--while out on the Crau--

"Si Mesdames désirent du vin blanc ou du vin rouge?"

Thus sharply roused, we make a random choice, (Barbara accused me of
having replied "du Crau, s'il vous plait,") and the waiter placed on
the table a bottle of good Provençal wine which tasted like distilled
sunshine, which indeed it was, just tempered with a breeze from Mont
Ventoux.

After the meal we were conducted once more to the parlour, where the
same little party was collected, all interested to hear what we thought
of Les Baux.

We expressed ourselves with warmth.

"Oui c'est belle," observed Madame, giving a hitch to her work to bring
it more under her fingers, "Voilà une petite excursion ex-cess-ive-ment
in-ter-ess-ante."

A desire to laugh became insistent, not at Madame, but at the whole
situation. But that was out of the question. Had I been allowed to cry
it would have done almost as well, but that would have created still
more consternation, so I played up to Madame and said--

"En effet, c'est une excursion la plus charmante que nous avons fait en
Provence," and happily no one seemed to see how ridiculous the observation
was.

We returned to the subject of St. Remy, of which Madame knew a good
deal--learnt, as she told us, from some esteemed and instructive American
clients.

Of Nostradamus and the troubadours and the Counts of Provence her
information was not exhaustive; though she had some anecdotes and a
personal feeling about the Good King René who has made himself loved and
remembered by his countrymen for four centuries by his goodness and the
quality that we well call charm--recognising in it an element of natural
sorcery.

St. Remy must have been a bright little city in the days of the Counts;
the scene of many gay and knightly doings.

And there were doings neither gay nor knightly in one grim old house
covered with demoniac gargoyles where Nostradamus worked through the
clear Provençal nights.

Doubtless it was in this narrow ancient street in that gloomy, haunted
house that Tavèn the witch came to learn the mysteries of the art of
magic. Perhaps it was here that the philosopher on his side learnt many
things from his pupil, as wise teachers are apt to do.

One can but wonder how far the legend was founded on fact and what actual
part the Enchantress of the Alpilles played in the life of the great
astrologer.

Barbara, who had a good healthy appetite for romance, hoped it was a
love affair--which was startling indeed!

Nostradamus in love seemed a most profane idea, and it took one some
time to recover from the suggestion. And it was almost as much a comedown
for Tavèn. It removed so much of her ghoulishness.

We consulted our hostess. Madame knitted her brows. She had heard about
"ce Monsieur là," from the instructive Americans who came to St. Remy
for a visit of three days and stayed three years--an extravagant American
sort of thing to do!

"Mais jamais avait on remarqué que Monsieur Nostradamus était amoureux
de la sorcière des Alpilles; jamais, jamais!"

  [Illustration: OLD HOUSE, ST. REMY.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

It sounded much more feasible in French and I began almost to tolerate
the preposterous theory.

"Néanmoins cela se peut," added Madame, who knew something of life and
that even magicians were human.

We were shown various relics and gifts of the American clients and
listened to many anecdotes, all testifying to a most happy and unusual
relationship, savouring of olden days, between the hosts and guests of
an inn. But as a matter of fact, the American, the most modern of all
men, is curiously apt to bring about something of old-time relationships,
something of the cordiality and freedom, the simple humanness that very
old civilisations may tend to weaken.

From talking of her clients, our hostess came to talking of their friends
among the Félibres and of Mistral's _Mireille_, the modern epic of
Provence. It breathes the very spirit of the country.

It is the Homeric character of the life that has inspired the poet; he
saw in it a grandeur that we have been taught to imagine belongs only
to the times of the ancients; probably because those times have been
shown to us through the eyes of genius. But the Provence of to-day has
also its seer who reveals its qualities of grandeur: the poet of Maillane.

After our visit to Les Baux we lost no time in reading the translation
of the cantos in _Mireille_ telling of the descent into the Witch's
Grotto. Vincent and Mireille are there introduced to the Thirteenth
Cavern, where they find domesticated on the hearth seven black cats and
two dragons quietly emitting jets of blue flame without the slightest
signs of arrogance, but simply as part of the day's work. Tavèn makes
a brew in her cauldron and heals the wound which Vincent's rival had
inflicted. Then they return to their homes, solaced for the time. But
tragedy awaits them. The father's opposition is brought to a head when
Vincent formally proposes for Mireille, and her parents are so angry and
so resolved to marry her to the wealthy cattle-owner of the Camargue,
that one dark night she runs away from her home, directing her steps to
the church of the Saintes Maries, to seek aid by her prayers. We find
her in the last canto a desolate, fragile figure crossing the Crau. She
arrives at last in the island of the Camargue, and reaches, dying, the
white church where the three holy women float down through the roof in
answer to her prayers.

"We are Baux' guardian saints," they cry, bidding her take comfort.

And they go on to tell her that she would not fear death if she knew how
small her little world appears from their high dwellings: "how ripening
hopes are washed away with tears," while hatred and cruelty breed sorrow
where love should shed peace over all the world.

However, before they understood all these things, they had, like Mireille,
to drain bitter cups to the dregs. They tell her of their hopeless
wanderings; how they were delivered over to the mercy of the waves
and landed in Provence where their task was to convert the people to
Christianity; how St. Martha was impelled to go to Tarascon to lure the
Tarasque from its wicked ways; and how she afterwards went to Avignon,
"striking the rock with her virginal discourse," and willing the waves
of faith to pour from it, whence long afterwards "Good Gregory drank,
and Holy Clement filled his cup with life."

Just at the last, when Mireille is dying under the care of the Saints,
her distracted father and Vincent, broken-hearted, arrive, but only just
in time to see her pass peacefully away into the silence.

From the windows of our rooms one can see above the trees the fantastic
summits of the Alpilles. They are clear against a "jewel-enamelled sky."

The roses are exhaling their fragrance in the dark garden just below;
now and then the omnibus horses peacefully move in their stalls, perhaps
going over again in their dreams the happy homeward journey after the
last train.

It is not yet late, but St. Remy has gone to its rest; only the stars
are awake and watching.

The sweet night air comes in quietly at the window which has been unbolted
and thrown open--not without giant efforts, for French precautions
against the dangerous element are thorough and hard to circumvent.

The whole scene--black trees, mountains, stars--shows through a mist
of oncoming sleep and has the appearance of some unearthly vision. The
whole riddle of the universe seems to be out there in the darkness; the
answer is there too, just behind the veil; only just behind----

One--two--three--four----eleven o'clock! The big church in the Market
Place strikes the hour with that particularly solemn note of a clock
striking in a sleeping town.

"Hour for rest, hour for rest," it seems to admonish the wakeful few.

Over all things Night and Peace spread wide their wings----



CHAPTER XXIV

ACROSS THE AGES


         "Pas de chantar m'es pres talens,
         Farai un vers don sui dolens,
         Non serai mais obediens
         De Peigtau ni de Lemozi.

         Ieu m'en anarai en eyssilh;
         Laissarai en guerra mon filh,
         E gran paor et en parilh;
         E faran li mal siey vozi."

       ("A desire to sing has seized me,
     And I shall sing of that which afflicts me;
         I shall no longer be obeyed
         By either Poitou or Limousin.

         I shall depart into exile;
     I shall leave my son behind me in war,
         In great fear and peril,
     At the mercy of those who wish him ill.")

          By WILLIAM IX. COUNT OF POICTIERS
            (THE "FIRST TROUBADOUR"). Born 1071.

There is a vast work on Provence by le Sieur Honoré de Bouche, Docteur
en Theologie, A.P.D.S.I., printed at Aix, by Charles David, "printer
to the King, the clergy and the town," MDCLXIV. It is bound in ancient
brown leather;--two majestic volumes which have to be propped up against
something substantial or laid upon a family dining-table in order to
be read in any sort of security. Less serious treatment, such as an
attempt to balance the tomes on the knee between the arms of a chair,
however solid, always results in a temporary eclipse of the student. The
difficulties of acquiring erudition in this case are physical as well
as intellectual. But the dangers of the road are worth braving even if
one does come off with an aching head and some few marks of conflict.

The author, as beseems a doctor in theology, begins the history of his
country from the creation of the world, and goes steadily on with a really
terrible staying power till the reign of Louis XIV., where he is forced
to stop, having arrived at his own times. The height of the volumes is
such that the reader has the sensation (and almost the necessity) of
alternately stretching and collapsing like a telescope in order to read a
page from top to bottom; and this movement seems to emphasise the sense
given by the narrative of journeying through the centuries in company
with the whole brilliant procession of Counts and Kings, rulers and high
sovereigns of Provence.

Roman governors, Pagan Emperors, Christian Emperors, Burgundian and
Visigoth Kings, Ostogoths and Franks, Merovingians, Carlovingians, Kings
of Arles and Burgundy, Kings of Arles "high sovereigns"; Emperors of
the Holy Roman Empire; Counts Proprietary and Hereditary of Arles and
Provence, Counts of Anjou of the 1st Race of the House of France, Counts
of Anjou of the 2nd Race, in the direct line of St. Louis; and finally,
from Louis XI. onwards--Kings of France: the long pageant streams by in
ordered magnificence, picturesque in setting, rich in colour and attire,
with splendid names and sad, splendid destinies.

The Sieur de Bouche heads his first book in the following full-blooded
manner:--

     PROVENCE.

     "Sous ses premiers et plus anciens maitres depuis la création
     du monde jusqu'a á ce qu'elle ait este soumise à la domination
     des Romains durant l'espace de 3,927 ans."

This is a mere preliminary, a slight introduction to the body of the work.

The next Book treats of the country under the Romans during 591 years,
from 125 B.C. to 466 A.D. This period is divided into three sections.

       I. Provence under the Republic.
      II. Provence under the Pagan Emperors.
     III. Provence under the Christian Emperors

until the arrival of the Burgundians and Visigoths.

Then comes Provence under the first barbarian kings, Burgundian and
Visigoth.

The period of the Frankish kings is again divided into Sections (and let
no one who has not tackled le Sieur Honoré think lightly of a Section!)

  [Illustration: THE CHURCH DOOR, SAINTES MARIES.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

The first Section gives 127 years of Carlovingians till 879, when we
enter upon the important era of the Kings of Arles and Burgundy, and
the beginning of Provence as an independent territory.

Here again we have three Sections:--

     Kings of Arles of the 1st Race,
     Kings of Arles of the 2nd Race,
     Kings of Arles of the 3rd Race,

the latter also being Kings of Burgundy.

Book III. treats of the "Kings of Arles (without property in Provence
or Burgundy)."

Section I.--Kings of Arles, high sovereigns, relatives, and heirs
testamentary of Rudolph the last King of Arles and Burgundy.

Section II.--Kings of Arles calling themselves high Sovereigns "en
qualité d'Empereurs estimant que ce royaume a esté uny a l'Empire."

There were 254 years of this dispensation, and among these rulers occur
the names of the Emperor Lothair II., Frederick Barbarossa, and so forth.

Then comes the division into "Fiefs of the Kingdom of Arles."

     1st Fief. The County of Arles from the Durance to the sea.

     2nd Fief. The County of Forcalquier.

     3rd Fief. The County of Venaison or of Avignon.

     4th Fief. The County of Marseilles.

     5th Fief. The Principality of Orange.

     6th Fief. "Le Dauphiné."

     7th Fief. The Duchy of Savoie.

     8th Fief. The Sovereign Principality of Meurgues (Monaco), the
         County of Grignan, the Barony of Les Baux, of Castellane, &c.

All this wide territory constituted the ancient Kingdom of Arles.

Book IV. treats of the Counts Proprietary and Hereditary from 910
until Provence is reunited to the Crown of France (1481). To these
the Sieur de Bouche devotes many of his formidable Sections. There are
long lines of Bozons and Rothbolds of the 1st Race, and of Raimonds and
Raimond Berengers Counts of Catalonia and of Barcellona and Kings of
Aragon--beings of a most strange personal appearance if one may judge
by the quaint old engravings which head each of the Sieur's Books of
Chapters. They stare out of their medallions with a grotesque expression
of royal blankness combined with a dull, obscure form of indignation
which speaks ill for the "agréments" of the post of ruler of Provence in
the later Middle Ages. The complication of names and races and titles is
almost hopeless at this period. Even our dauntless author says wearily,
"nous sortons d'un lieu fort nuageux pour entrer dans un plus tenebreux."

There are three different genealogies of the Counts of the 1st Race,
and very little seems to be known of the Counts themselves with the
exception of William I.

"It was by him and his valliance that this faithless and barbarous nation
of Saracens was driven out who for nearly 100 years occupied the famous
fortress of Fraxinet la Garde, whence they issued to make plundering
expeditions by sea and land; their fort of Fraxinet and all Provence
was entirely delivered from this impious and cruel race of robbers...."

Travellers on the Riviera may see the little village of Garde Freinet--as
the ancient hornet's nest is now called--peacefully dreaming among the
mountains of the Moors, that magnificent range whose name records for
ever the long domination of those irrepressible brigands.

The inhabitants to this day are of obvious Saracen type and the grey
hill-top villages of this region are living relics of that mysterious
race.

As acknowledgment for his great services to his country William I. was
presented by the Seigneur Grimaldi of Monaco with the lands contiguous
to the fief of St. Tropez.

So uncertain seem to be the records of the dynasties of Provence that the
author has to prove the existence of one of the Counts (Count Bertrand)
by means of a document in which he "restores, restitutes, and gives" the
Church of Notre Dame des Rats (qui est l'Eglise des Trois Maries en la
Camargue) "to the Church of Saint Etienne and Saint Trophime of Arles."

The Catalan Counts of Provence: that is the 2nd Race of Proprietary
Counts who were also Counts of Catalonia and Barcelona, give the same
difficulty to their historians, who do not agree among themselves. They
seem to have become confused by the multiplicity of the names of Raimond
Berenger and of Ildefons and Alphonse--"qu'a moins d'avoir le filet
d'Ariadne il est impossible de sortir de ce Labyrinthe."

Among these confusing Counts, Raimond Berenger I. stands out for his
great virtues; and particularly, says the theologian, "for his great
piety towards the Catholic religion and for the great pains he took for
the destruction and conversion of the Moors to the Christian faith":
"destruction and conversion" being apparently regarded as part of the
same pious process.

He is followed by a procession of Raimond Berengers and Berenger Raimonds
under whose reign were waged wars with the House of Les Baux alternating
with conventions and agreements: long documents in Latin which the Counts
of Provence and the Princes of Les Baux would meet in pomp to sign at
Arles or at Tarascon.

About this date, late in the twelfth century, was held the great Council
at Albi which condemned the Albigenses, so called from that incident.

The placing of the remains of St. Martha in a beautiful church at Tarascon
where these had been hidden from the Saracens and the Goths and Vandals,
is noted as an important event during the period.

Wars against the Vaudois and Albigenses are spoken of in the reign of
Raimond Berenger V., and it is curious to see the account of these
hideous persecutions given by a doctor of the Church. The Pope, one
would suppose, had been an angel of patience, wearied out at last by
the aggressions and crimes of a set of unmanageable criminals.

"Voyant que le douceur exasperait le mal il se resolut de venir aux
remèdes violants et extremes;" a resolution which his Holiness thoroughly
carried out.

In all these vast volumes there is not one word of the unspeakable deeds
of the Church during those awful wars.

The Counts of Provence were ardently orthodox and fought against Raimond,
Count of Toulouse, the sole friend of the Albigenses (as we have already
seen).

The troubles of this noble and tolerant race came to an end on the
accession of St. Louis by the absorption of the County of Toulouse in
the Crown of France, the brother of the king marrying the daughter of the
Count, and as they had no children, the lands of the heiress of Toulouse
(by compact) were ceded to the throne. Soon after this, Provence also
came under the government of the House of France, for the brother of St.
Louis, Charles, Count of Anjou, married Beatrice of Provence, and their
union inaugurated the reign of the first race of Angevins in Provence.

The ambition of these two brought about the fierce dramatic struggle of
Conrad and Manfred and Conradin and the Sicilian Vespers, which ended
by making Charles of Anjou and Provence also King of Naples and Sicily.

It interests lovers of Provence to know that only one Frenchman escaped
the massacre of the Sicilian Vespers, a Provençal of the great name of
Porcelet (whose sombre old house still stands intact at Les Baux) and he
was spared because of the great benevolence and nobility of his character.

One of the great events in the history of the country is the transference
of the Papal Court to Avignon. Philip le Bel successfully intrigued to
place on the Papal throne as Clement V. a Frenchman living in France: Le
Gotto, Archbishop of Bordeaux. Having quarrelled with Boniface VIII.,
Philip desired to have the management of the Papacy in his own hands.
Avignon goes back to the Stone Age, so its claims to antiquity were as
great as those of Rome herself.

     "In the air was ever a clashing of bells, mingling with the
     sound of fife and drum; the people danced for joy, danced day
     and night on the famous bridge, while the fresh air blew about
     them and the rapid river flowed beneath. Such was Avignon,
     says tradition in the days of the Popes."

But to return to the Angevin rulers of Provence. The most famous of
these were "la Reine Jeanne" (Queen of Naples and Sicily and Countess
of Provence) and the good King René: both of them beloved and admired by
the Provençals to this day: Queen Jeanne because of her wonderful beauty
and grace, and King René for his goodness, his charm, his _bonhomie_,
his genius.

There are accounts of the coming of the brilliant Queen to Avignon in
order to obtain a dispensation from the Pope to marry Louis of Taranto.
"Ravishingly beautiful, she arrived with great pomp, with a retinue on
the Rhone," met doubtless by the Cardinals in their scarlet robes, and
proceeding amongst the acclaiming people to the palace.

Froissart, in an account of a later interview, makes the Queen tell his
Holiness that her father, son of Robert the Good of the first Angevin
Counts of Provence, had advised her on his death-bed, if she had no
heirs to yield all her territory to whomsoever should be Pope. "In
truth, Holy Father, after his decease, with the consent of the nobles
of Sicily and Naples, I wedded Andrew of Hungary--he died, a young man,
at Aix-en-Provence...."

  [Illustration: LA LICE, ARLES.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

(As the Queen had had him murdered and thrown out of a window at Aversa,
her account of his death lacked completeness.) She then casually mentions
her next husband, Prince of Taranto, and in the same sentence alludes
_en passant_ to his successor, James, King of Majorca.

"Holy Father," she adds demurely, "I then married the Lord Otho of
Brunswick."

The Sieur de Bouche, always methodical, arranges Queen Jeanne's husbands
in a list according to priority (not alphabetical).

It is as difficult to arrive at the real story of this famous lady
as at that of Mary Queen of Scots. Both were renowned for beauty, but
both must have possessed a quality of charm less easy to define or they
could not have exerted so powerful a hold on the imagination of their
contemporaries. Both were accused, if not convicted, of great crimes,
and both came to a tragic end; Queen Jeanne dying in prison in her own
kingdom of Naples.

King René, the kind, merry, artistic, unpractical monarch, who is said to
have been able to do all things except govern a kingdom, is remembered
with real love by his people. There is a romance attached to his name.
His first marriage was merely one of State policy and during his wife's
lifetime he is said to have loved Jeanne de la Val, to whom he gave the
"celebrated and illustrious barony of Baux," in 1458.

On the death of the Queen Isabel, he married the lady of his heart, and
there appears good reason to believe that this love-match was a deeply
happy one, King and Queen though the lovers were.

René the Good seems to have been made of that sort of fibre that radiates
happiness as the sun radiates warmth.

During this reign the town of Orange gave birth to an institution which
seems curiously out of keeping with the spirit of the time and place,
viz., the Provençal Parliament, the creation of Count William of Orange.

It was regarded popularly as one of the scourges of the country,

     "_Parlemant, Mistral et Durance
     Sont les trois fléaux de Provence_";

and later we hear complaints against the Parliament to the Council
of the Lateran for attacks made by it on the "liberty of the Church,"
interference in the functions of the bishops, and so forth.

But this is after the death of René, and after Charles III., his nephew
and successor, had left all his territory to his cousin, Louis XI., and
Provence once more lapsed to the Crown of France.

       *       *       *       *       *

From this point French history and Provençal history become one, and
Provence has for her Counts Louis XI., Francis I., Henry II., Francis
II. ("Roy de France et d'Ecosse," as de Bouche entitles him). Then
come the religious wars in Dauphiny and Provence, the suspension of the
Parliament, the Great Plague in the time of Henry III., and the "birth
of the Ligue, which has caused so many evils in France," according to
our historian.

The Etats Généraux de Provence were held at Aix in the reign of Henry IV.

From this time to that of Louis XIV. the country is hopelessly given
over to religious troubles. Religion, or the passions that are let loose
under that name, have been the scourge of this distracted land made by
nature for happiness and peace.

Such are the bare outlines of Provençal history during the times that, in
this country of ancient lineage, present an aspect almost modern. Those
authors who have studied the drama of its farthest past treat familiarly
of ages in which the Glacial Epoch plays a quite juvenile _rôle_.

One writer (Berenger Feraud) divides the Paleolithic Age into several
epochs, one of which (Epoque Solutréen) he alludes to as a relatively
short one of 11,000 years; generally they are about 100,000 years or so.

In Provence the human story can be traced to the earliest of those
geological epochs when man could only express himself by "modulated
cries." It took centuries and centuries to acquire a rudiment of words.

From the second epoch, when the country had become colder, dates our
venerable Hearth and Home; the family living in caves (such as are still
to be seen at Les Baux, for instance), and sleeping or crouching round
the wood fires on long winter nights and days, slowly developing speech
from the increased need of exchanging sequent ideas.

Then came the awful darkness and death of the Glacial Period, changing
still further the contours of the country.

The retreat of the glacial cold ushered in the "Epoque Magdalenienne,"
when life became comparatively easy, though the climate of Provence was
still "colder than that of St. Petersburg." The Magdaleniens had arrived
at sculpturing rough figures on the rocks, and from those records it
is concluded that they were gay, jovial, and inclined to pleasantry;
the sort of person apparently who makes a dinner-party go well. Strange
dinner-parties they must have had in their wild nooks and caverns in
the mountains of Provence!

Gradually from these mysterious days we emerge upon centuries less
absolutely hidden from our curiosity: the time of the invasion of the
Ligurians, Iberians, Celts, and other races, from about the fifteenth
century B.C. to 600 B.C. This brings us almost back to the light of day,
with the rather startling consciousness that the ancient Ligurians, who
represented to the imagination the beginning of all things Provençal,
suddenly appear as modern innovations.

A long stretch of time had still to pass, filled with a hundred
half-fabulous events, before the Roman Conquest brought the country
within the domain of actual history.

       *       *       *       *       *

And during all those ages what language was being used and developed by
the multitudes of races that passed like phantoms across the country,
phantoms to our imagination, yet each race, each individual, driven to
wild and eager deeds and desires by the strange life-force, the "will
to live," that sets the whole extraordinary pageant of things in motion?

From the "modulated cries" of the men who lived in holes in the earth--not
yet in the comparatively elegant cave-dwellings--to the exquisite
language of the troubadours, what has been the course of its growth? No
one knows. The only real guide that remains is the language itself, a
confusing phonographic record of the whole troublous existence of the
country of its birth.

The nearer a language is to its origin the more it is complicated.
Ingenious and subtle grammatical forms prove an ancient tongue.[25]

The natural progress is from synthesis to decomposition; and this
decomposing force is nothing more nor less than the natural laziness of
the human being, one of the most tremendous forces of the universe!

"All dialects originate from this germ of decomposition, in opposition
to the antique synthetic principle of the language," says M. Fauriel.

Thence progress can be studied by following backwards a language to its
source, that is to its more complex form. But for long stretches of time
no specimens of written language existed. Most of the popular songs and
stories were transmitted orally, and so there is only a document here
and there to reveal the slow development.

The influence of Rome as a civiliser was so enormous that it acted as
a break on the new movement which was destined in time to create the
world we call modern. That new world which the Barbarians were to bring
into being was postponed in the making by the very excellence of the
institutions that it gradually superseded.

This slowness of pace affected the language. It took six centuries to
transmute the Latin into the Romance tongues, a process as tremendous
in its way as the formation during geological eons of the limestone and
the chalk.

Two great movements had taken place in the speech of Gaul and Spain;
first the imposition of the Latin tongue on the conquered provinces and
then the reversal of the process till the Latin was again corrupted back
into dialects. In the return journey the Latin remained as a foundation
and in it were left many words belonging to the ancient language of the
country, so that non-Latin words in Romance may date from either before
or after the introduction of the classic tongue.

It was not until the fourth century that it showed signs of giving way.
It broke up gradually into modern French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese,
Roumanian Provençal. The tribes of the Acquitani gave the character to
the dialects of the South-west, where, according to many writers, their
speech still survives in the Basque language.

It would be a long story, that of the great Romance tongues from the
earlier waverings of the Latin in the fourth century, to the eleventh
century, when the first troubadour, Guillem de Poictiers, delighted the
knights and ladies of Limousin and half France with his songs.

The _langue d'oc_ was by that time ready to his hand, or so it would
seem, for it is a remarkable fact that there is scarcely any difference
between the language of this pioneer troubadour and that of his latest
successors in the thirteenth century, whose voices were so soon to be
drowned in the din and horror of the Albigensian wars.

Two hundred years of dance and song! Something at least saved from the
gloom and folly of the human story!

During the six hundred years from the fourth to the eleventh century
modern Europe, its religion, its institutions, its language, its destiny
were in process of formation. And a rude process it was.

  [Illustration: A PROVENÇAL FARM.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

During these centuries, "deluged with blood," the language must have been
in a state of fusion. We know that, for the earlier epochs at least, no
one could write his name except a cleric, and agreements were all signed
with a cross. There was no general social movement, only incessant changes
in the balance of power between kings and nobles. Brutal, unreasoning,
material in the real sense of the word, despite their reputation as ages
of faith, these centuries were destitute of progressive elements, and
there was little or nothing to cause the speech to refine or develop.
Literature and Latin died together. The Gallic tongue left traces in
the speech of the South and there are several Provençal words in Irish
and Welsh and in the language of the districts of the Vaudois showing
their common Celtic origin, if one may judge from the first words of
the Lord's Prayer:--

     _Vaudois._

     "Our narme ata air neambh
       Beanish atanim."

     _Irish._

     "Ar nathair ata ar neamb
       Naemhthar hamin."

Strange to say, the Franks left scarcely any trace in the speech of the
country. Wide as were the conquests of this people, with Charlemagne
for Emperor in later days, their victory did not extend to the language.

Latin, as we have seen, flagged in the fourth century, and was finally
extinguished about the middle of the ninth century.

This breaking up of the speech of the Romans into Romance forms a curious
analogue to the breaking up of the Roman architecture into Romanesque.
This latter change took place after the formation of independent States
had superseded the old centralising Imperial idea.

Architecture, in its turn, developed different local styles, all deriving
their character from the Roman and all called by the general name of
Romanesque.

The chief peculiarity of Provençal Romanesque is in the pointed vaultings
of the churches as distinguished from the familiar round arch of the
Roman work.

The date of the introduction of the pointed arch into Gaul is a vexed
question, but it is certain that it arrived earlier in Provence than in
the North of France. It was found easier to build, and it "exerted less
thrust on the side walls."[26]

But it was used in Provence for utilitarian reasons only, and it curiously
happened that the South abandoned the pointed arch just when the North
began to adopt it for decoration. The South preferred the round arch
for this purpose, and as the architects grew more skilful they were
able to cope with its difficulties, and thus--contrary to the usual
rule--the pointed form in Provence denotes greater antiquity than the
round vaulting. In the North, of course, it is exactly the reverse.

Byzantine influence was introduced into the South by the trade channel
through France with the Levant, of which Perigueux in Acquitaine was
a centre, and here the Venetian traders built a church on the plan of
St. Mark's at Venice. This church of Perigueux was taken as a model by
local architects who introduced the Byzantine dome and the aisleless
nave; this latter being also a Byzantine feature, which may be seen in
some of the churches of Toulouse for instance. Byzantine, or possibly
merely late Roman influence is shown in the polygonal form of the apses
and cupolas, "in the flat arches employed to decorate the walls, in the
mouldings with small projections and numerous members; in the flat and
delicate ornament; and in the sharp and toothed carving of the foliage."

Another feature of Provençal work is the strikingly Roman character,
produced, it is supposed, by the great number of fine Roman buildings in
the country. These architectural models, according to the authoritative
opinion of Ross and McGibbon, while stimulating the growth of the art
of the South, probably prevented it from developing on original lines
by "impressing on it the stamp of the classic trabeated style," that
is the construction founded on that of the archaic buildings formed of
wooden beams.

This process of architectural development, while analogous to that of
the language, is naturally much simpler and much easier to follow. The
history of the speech of this great continent is wearisomely obscure
and complex.

Gaston Paris[27] writes as follows:--"There were in Gaul at the
Merovingian epoch, without mentioning the Basque and Breton corners,
three languages: (1) grammatical Latin, become a dead language; (2) the
vulgar Latin or Romance spoken by all the indigenous population; (3)
the German represented by the Frank, the Burgundian, and the Gothic."

But the Germans in Gaul, mixing with the ancient Gallo-Roman families,
ended by speaking Romance, all distinctions between the two races
disappearing. The writings of Gregory of Tours throw light upon this
transitional period, the _lingua rustica_ having by that time encroached
upon the would-be grammatical Latin.

"... There were profound alterations suffered by the speech of the people
in the vowels and consonants during the Merovingian epoch," and during
that same epoch new principles of rhythm which permitted of versification
in the Romance tongue were being slowly and laboriously adapted to these
alterations of sound.[28] From this the author concludes that there
existed a "poetic activity," though we have no detailed remains to prove
it. We know only that at the spring festivals (survivals of antiquity)
there were popular songs and dances. Those who recited and sang were
called _joculares_--and caused much scandal to the Christian moralists!

The lighter German songs of love and wine have left no obvious trace,
but the elements of their epics are embedded in the French _epopée_
which Gaston Paris thinks owes to them its existence. He speaks of it
as the outcome of the national spirit--which had arisen after the Franks
had given a sort of unity to the country--and of the more individualist
inspiration of the German epics. Thus the popular language must have
been under a smelting or moulding process, passing through the poetic
crucible for many a year of which we have no record.

There are but few milestones on this ancient road, but if all were
carefully examined in order of time, it is probable that the gaps might
be bridged over by the eye of learning and the line of development made
plain.

An anecdote of the tenth century, given by M. Fauriel, illustrates the
condition of the language of that date.

A Gaul who had been present at several of the miracles of St. Martin,
being asked by some Acquitanians to give an account of them, is diffident,
and says he is illiterate.

"Speak as you please," said one of the Acquitanians, "speak Celtic or
Gothic if you prefer it, provided only you speak of St. Martin."

It was at this time that the language of Acquitaine which has lingered
in the valleys of the Pyrenees began to be called Basque. The rest of
the country was speaking the Romance, with its 3,000 "barbarian words."
Among these are some Acquitanian, a few of which are below:--

BASQUE WORDS IN PROVENÇALE.

     _Aonar_      to aid
     Rabbi        river
     Grazal       vase
     Nec          gloomy
     Gaissar      to injure
     _Asko_       much
     Biz          black
     Enoc         sadness
     Gais        evil, misfortune

Unlike the languages of the so-called Sanscrit type (to which
belong Greek, Latin, Celtic, and even Slavonian), the Basque--as is
well-known--cannot be traced back to any common origin: this mysterious
aboriginal tongue of the Acquitani is an orphan and an alien without
kith or kin, unless indeed the adventurous writer who claims for it an
Etruscan origin be in the right.

Acquitaine took a large part in the wars with the invading Arabs of
Spain, and their Duke Eudes, after many victories, was finally defeated
by the famous Abderrahman and the county was left at the mercy of the
conquerors until Charles Martel at length expelled them.

It was in these wars that Charlemagne made his famous and disastrous
expedition to Ronçevalles which inspired the poetic imagination of the
day.

The many wars of these times of transition and the long struggles of the
Gallo-Romans and Acquitanians against the Franks formed subjects for the
popular poetry which was slowly working towards the literary outburst
of the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

  [Illustration: COW-BOYS OF THE CAMARGUE.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

The people of Acquitaine seem to have been leaders in the revolt against
the Frankish dominion; their country had been left by Charlemagne as
an independent kingdom, but on his death they at once went to war with
the Franks and led the way to the dismemberment of the Carlovingian
Empire. There is an ancient poem whose name and hero is Walter of
Acquitaine--related to the Nibelingen and Scandinavian sagas--which seems
to represent the national and anti-Frankish spirit of the Acquitanians
and of all the Gallo-Roman epoch.

It was in Limousin, as we have seen, that all these movements of popular
literature finally arrived at a sort of culmination, and we find ourselves
suddenly in a brilliant world of gaiety and song.

Count Ebles III. of Ventadour was then composing his verses of "alacrity
and joy," and the Châteaux of Limousin were enthusiastically cultivating
the new poetry; and a little later William IX. of Poictiers, the "first
troubadour," was born, the gay, courteous teller of stories and singer
of songs, of whom the already quoted saying was abroad that "he went
about the world to impose on the ladies."

He had the audacity to refuse to join the Crusade, perhaps because he
was a "free-thinker"--a rare being indeed in those days--denying the
existence of God.

But when Jerusalem fell and the Christians were forming a kingdom there,
he went out with a multitude of knights to join them, though apparently
with a heavy heart.

On the eve of departure he composed a lyric to his native land.

     "Adieu, now diversions and sports!
     Adieu now furred robes of vair and of grey,
     Adieu ye fine vestments of silk,
     I shall depart into exile...."[29]

And so, in this confused struggling fashion, during the course of
centuries, the _langue d'oc_ came to be the language of chivalry and
romantic love: the language in which are written the laws of courtesy and
of honour that we reverence to this day. The transition from the rudeness
which was fitted to express the few ideas of early mediæval life to the
fineness and polished charm of the troubadour poetry remains always more
or less of a mystery; but however it came about, it is certain that when
the troubadours and the chivalrous knights were born into the world by
the "grace of God," the beautiful characteristic tongue which had been
forged for their use by the beating of the ages of events was waiting
and worthy to carry the thought and the emotion of an awakening people.



CHAPTER XXV

THE SONG OF THE RHONE


          "Salut, empèri dóu soulèu, que bordo
          Coume un orle d'argènt lou Rose bléuge!
            Empèri dóu soulas, de l'alegrìo!
            Empèri fantasti de la Prouvènço
          Qu'emé toun noum soulet fas gau au mounde!"

     ("Hail, Empire of the sun, which the dazzling Rhone borders
     like a silver hem! Empire of happiness and gaiety, fantastic
     Empire of Provence, thou who with thy name alone charmest the
     world!")

          MISTRAL, _The Poem of the Rhone_ (_Canto Second_--xviii.).

With the spirit of the country, the whole crew and company of the
_Caburle_--Maître Apian's barge in Mistral's poem--seems to be imbued.
Even the little maiden Anglore--in love with a water-sprite--even she
has caught something of the large _abandon_ of the great stream.

Warned that the Prince--whom she believes to be the Drac--will fascinate
and then desert her, she cries: "Eh! bien qu'il me fascine. Si mon destin
est tel, moi, je me laisserai choir a la pipée, comme au gouffre béant
tombe la feuille."

The whole poem is steeped in the movement and sunshine of the river:
the charm of the life on its banks, especially in times now past; the
plying of the barges up and down, laden with merchandise, the towns and
ancient castles that they pass, the gay spirit of the passengers along
this buoyant thoroughfare, "l'ornière du monde" as Maître Apian calls
it, the owner of the "most famous equipage of the whole river"--seven
barges and forty horses for towing. In the finest of them, the _Caburle_,
he sets forth from the neighbourhood of Lyons to descend the river to
Beaucaire for the great fair, his other barges following, with cargo
and with food for the horses.

     "Que sus la dougo, au retour de Prouvenço.
     Gaiardamen remountavon la rigo."

     (Qui sur la berge, au retour de Provence,
     Gaillardement remontaient la convoi.)

And so the little flotilla goes on its way down the current, the _Caburle_
leading, with the image of St. Nicholas at its prow, and at the poop,
placed high on the rudder, the mariner's cross, painted red and carved
(one winter when the waters had been caught in the grip of the frost) by
Maître Apian himself. And the instruments of the Passion: nails, lance,
hammer, and all associated with it directly or indirectly, are piously
represented.

               "En cargo pèr la fiero de Bèu-Caire,
               l'a cènt batèu que vuei soun de partènço."

     (With cargo for the fair of Beaucaire, there are a hundred
     barges starting to-day.)

And there is a friendly rivalry between them, for the first boat to arrive
at the meadow of Beaucaire receives, as a welcome from the citizens, a
fine sheep. Alas! as we know, the days of the fair of Beaucaire are over!

"Despachatiéu, en aio, fourro-bourro."

"In haste, agitated, pell-mell," the mariners bestir themselves, and
the merry, busy procession moves down stream. Maître Apian lifts his cap.

     "Au noum de Dieu e de la Santo Viergo,
     Au Rose."

"To the Rhone!" he cries, and all who are with him uncover their heads,
and make the sign of the cross, dipping their fingers in the wave--for
the river is blessed every year, with a fine procession at the Pont St.
Esprit, and so it is holy water.

A most singular and very "mixed" company the _Caburle_ carries with her
down the river during twelve long cantos: among them, curiously enough,
William of Orange, son of the King of Holland, who had been sent to
Provence for his health. Besides him there are three Venetian ladies who
keep their companions lively with songs and jests. And this little blond
prince--whom the doctors think the mistral is likely to benefit--has
come to seek the flower of the Rhone of which he has heard so much--

     "Flour de pantai, de gentun, de belésso,
     que, pèr tout païs ounte s'atrovo,
     L'ome i'es gai e la dona i'es bello."

     ("Fleur de beauté, fleur de grace et de rêve
     Par tout pays ou on la trouve,
     L'homme est joyeux, la femme belle.")

Then they all tell him that it is the flowering rush that nourishes itself
in the water--which "l'Anglore" loves to gather. And the little blond
prince pricks up his ears and wants to know who or what is l'Anglore.
And thereby hangs a tale.

"La voilà, la voilà," they all cry on the barges.

Her hand on her hip, Anglore, with a branch of the flower of the Rhone in
her hand, stands on the bank waiting and smiling. Since her infancy she
has come to watch these boats arriving, the great flat boats that they
call _sisselands_ on the river. Well known to all the sailors, she would
exchange greetings and friendly badinage with them as they passed. And
the men would throw apples and pears into her apron as she held it out
to catch them. She was a familiar figure along the water-side, and bore
the nickname of Anglore, the lizard, because she was always basking in
the sun on the banks. But she was not idle. Assiduously she sifted with
her little sieve the grains of gold that the Ardèche brought down after
the rains. Her father was a pilot at the Pont St. Esprit to guide the
boats past the "spurs of the treacherous buttresses." And the sailors,
having passed the Trois Donzelles and the Îles Margeries, would say
joyously--

     "Allons, ... nous allons bientôt voir
     Au Malatra papilloner l'Anglore."

And there, sure enough, she was, with her red handkerchief on her head,
busy at work. And they would cry, "Ohé, has she not made her fortune,
l'Anglore?"

And Anglore replies, "Aïe! pauvrette, ils n'en jettent pas tant d'or
dans l'Ardèche, ces gueux de Cévennols! Mais vous passez bien vite."

"Le Rhône est fier (high) there is no stopping, belle jeunesse! But when
we go up stream on our return, and the horses pull at the ropes, then
we will bring you some dates."

"Bon voyage aux marins," she cries farewell.

"Adieu, Mignonne!"

And one of the crew, Jean Roche, throws her several kisses as the barge
moves away. He has a tender interest in the maiden, who however has no
heart to give him, for she has been fascinated by a most singular lover,
the Drac, or Spirit of the Rhone who lives under the green waters and
entices unwary maidens down and down to his shimmering home beneath the
flood.

     "Oh! lis atiramen de l'aigo blouso
     Quand lou sang nòu espilo dins li veno!"

     ("Oh! l'attraction du liquide élément
     Quand jaillit dans les veines le sang neuf!")

  [Illustration: ANGLORE ON THE RIVER BANK.
   _Scene from Mistral's Poem of the Rhone._
   _By E. M. Synge._]

It seems to intoxicate the children of the riverside.

     "L'aigo que ris e cascaio ajouguido
     Entre li coudelet...."

     ("de l'eau qui rit et gazouille enjouée
     parmi les galets....")

The mother of Anglore tells her children of the dangers of the river; of
"the blues" of the calm water where it is of profound depth. It is here
that the Drac loves to disport himself: a fishlike creature, svelte as
a lamprey, twisting himself joyously in the whirl of the waters, with
greenish hair which floats on the waves like seaweed. Anglore hears the
story of the young woman of Beaucaire beating her linen on the river
banks, when she suddenly sees the Drac in the water, and he makes a sign
of invitation to his palace of crystal where he promises to show her all
his riches, the wreckage of shipping for many a year. And the maiden,
unable to resist the strange fascination, is drawn under the waves in a
sort of dream; and for seven long years she lives with the Drac in his
fresh green grotto filled with watery light.

And Anglore, on one hot, still night, goes down to the banks in the
moonlight. In the profound silence she hears the murmur of the river.
The glowworms are throwing their strange glamour on the grass and the
nightingales are answering one another in the woods; and then suddenly
the girl seems to lose her head, and flinging off her few garments,
plunges into the stream.

It is a half fearful pleasure as she moves through its cool freshness.
If a fish ricochets over the surface in pursuit of a fly, if a little
whirlpool makes a tiny sound of in-sucking as it twirls in the rush, if a
bat cries, her heart gives a sick beat. But it is joy to be thus clothed
by the sumptuous mantle of the torrent; "to be mingled, confounded with
the great Rhone." Suddenly, in the moonlight, deep down, stretched upon
the moss--the Drac! His eyes fix her, fascinate; and fearful, stupefied,
she has to go towards the sorcerer who murmurs words of mysterious love.
And then, all at once, Anglore, feeling his cold arms round her, springs
up and sees gliding through the water a vague shadow, serpentine and
white, and floating on the surface a flowering reed!

A narrow escape! But the quaint part of the story is yet to come. When
the barge of Maître Apian makes its return journey the crew throws the
rope ashore and Anglore knots it round an old stake. Then Jean Roche
takes Anglore in his arms and lifts her on board, and every one crowds
round to welcome her.

"Eh bèn, que dis Angloro?" they cry.

"Dise tout bèn de vous," she replies politely.

Then Jean Roche says, "Santo que canto! If thou wert not more sensible
than I, Anglore, dost thou know what we would do?"

"Pancaro, digo" (Pas encore, dis).

"Well, to-morrow evening we would go together to see the plays at
Beaucaire, the two of us, arm in arm, on the meadow we would go and see
the gypsies who tell fortunes; we would stroll round to all the booths,
and I would buy you a beautiful ring."

"Of glass?" asks Anglore.

"No, of gold. And at the end of the fair I would bring you back as my
wife at Saint Maurice."

But Anglore laughs and puts him off, and finally tells him that he has
been forestalled by one who would drown him in the depths of the Rhone
if he caught him fishing in his "lone."[30]

So poor Jean Roche relapses into dismal silence. Presently the Prince
of Orange, radiant, and carrying a branch of the flower of the Rhone,
issues from his tent on the barge where he has been sleeping, humming,
still half asleep, the Venetian song of the three lively ladies--

     "Sur mon bateau qui file
     Viens, je t'enlève au frais:
     Car, prince de Hollande,
     Je n'ai peur de personne."

And Anglore suddenly turns very pale and nearly faints.

"C'est lui! c'est lui!" she cries wildly; and it turns out that she takes
the prince for the Drac! And he, with his mind turning on the object of
his search, says that he recognises her. "O fleur du Rhone epanouie sur
l'eau."

     "Drac, je te reconnais! car sous la lone
     Je t'ai vu dans la main le bouquet que tu tiens.
     A ta barbette d'or, à ta peau blanche,
     A tes yeux glauques, ensorceleurs, perçants,
     Je vois bien qui tu es."

Rather embarrassing for Monsieur le Prince! However he is quite equal
to the occasion. He presents her with the flower, and then--suddenly he
trembles! It is scarcely necessary to add (we are in Provence) that the
next canto is occupied with the loves of Anglore and the blond prince.

These go simply and smoothly on board the barge, where the mariners show
the most astonishing tact and never seem to get in the way. When the
Prince asks Anglore what she would say if he told her he was really the
son of the King of Holland, she replies, "My Drac, I should simply say
that you can transfigure yourself into any form that may be agreeable
to you, and if you have taken that of the Prince of Orange it is for
some freak or mad fancy. Oh! my Drac, of what use is it to try to hide
yourself?"

What was there to be done (the poem demands) but instantly to embrace
"la folatre"? It is hard to say, adds the poet, "which is the more
intoxicated, more under the spell of enchantment."

And so, in their great happiness they float down stream.

     "radieux et ivres de votre luminière du Rhone."

Fields, vineyards, olive-groves, castles, cities, drift by as in a
beautiful dream.

All the while the hot Provençal sun is beating on the barge, and the
sorceress river is flowing and flowing: the whole scene a symbol of the
country and its magic. After one has swept down and toiled up the Rhone
in the _Caburle_, one knows a little more of what it all means, this
fief of the sun and wind, this Land of the Passionate River!



CHAPTER XXVI

THE CAMARGUE


     "Not a growing thing
     Save stunted tamarisk.

            *       *       *       *       *

     Salt-wort, sea poppy"

Sometimes a lonely sea-mew breaks the monotony of the sky, or, some
huge-winged bird, the "stalking hermit of the lagoon," casts a flitting
shadow.

                         "One vast desert ...
     The sole confine some distant glare of sea."

In summer there are no flowers in this forsaken region, only the white
inflorescence of salt crystals--frozen tears of generations of vanished
peoples one might fancy them. And, as if in mockery, a mirage, born
of those bitter tears, hovers on the horizon as the hot sun breeds an
invisible vapour from which arise distant cities and a labyrinth of
smooth lagoons that shimmer alluringly across the white solitude.

Such is the Camargue. The description, however, applies in strictness to
the summer season. In winter the salt with which the ground is saturated
is not visible; there is only a moist oozy-looking soil, growing reeds
and stunted bushes.

  [Illustration: PORCH OF CHURCH OF ST. GILLES IN THE CAMARGUE.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

Mistral's heroine, _Mirèio_, who dies in the Camargue at the Church of
Les Saintes Maries, falls down exhausted before she arrives there, by
the shores of the great lake of the Camargue and is awakened by the
stinging of the dangerous gnats which infest the whole region in the
hot season, and perhaps account for the malaria which lies in wait for
the careless traveller.

The driver of the carriage in which we traversed this river-encircled
district, told us that in summer the water in these branches of the Rhone
fell so low that the fish died in immense quantities, and this attracted
great swarms of flies whose sting became very perilous in consequence
of their gruesome banquet.

This deserted region is a near neighbour of the Crau, separated only
by the river at the southern end from the Field of Pebbles; yet in all
the Camargue, as the natives say, you cannot find a stone to throw at
a dog--a mode of expression betraying the sentiment of the country as
regards our four-footed friends and brothers.

Our journey was from Aigues Mortes to Les Saintes Maries, a drive across
the Camargue of about 36 kilometres--36 kilometres of strange, silent,
mournful country, well-nigh desert, for the salt in the soil prevents
cultivation and all growth is stunted and wild and of little use except
here and there for grazing purposes. From time immemorial it has been
the home of herds of black cattle, "wild cattle" they are generally
called, and in all the poems and accounts of the district, one finds
highly-coloured descriptions of the driving of these ferocious creatures
to pasture and of the exciting barbaric ceremony of branding them in the
spring. They are always spoken of as being extremely formidable, and their
appearance in great hordes, fierce and untamed, their dashing owners in
pursuit on splendid steeds, is described with charming picturesqueness.

Our driver kept a keen look-out for these creatures as we made our way
across the plain. At last, just as we were in despair of seeing them, he
pointed out their hoof-marks where they come down to the water to drink.
It was a thrilling moment, and we scanned the distance with eagerness,
listening for the thunder of galloping feet. Suddenly the driver pulled
up and gave an exclamation.

"Les Voilà!"

Alas! a disillusion, the first we had met with in Provence.

A little way off, in quite domestic tranquillity, were some twenty or
thirty amiable, decorous-looking black beasts who had presumably never
"thundered" or dreamt of it in all their well-spent lives. Day after day,
from byre to pasture and from pasture to byre, at no time even in their
giddiest calfdom had they given their guardian--who was now superintending
their repast--a moment's uneasiness! Fiery, untamed cattle, at any rate
in the winter season, are not to be seen on the Camargue.

The red flamingoes, too, are really pink, and very pale at that; but
it is beautiful to see them flying in great flocks over the lake of the
Vaccares, and settling to feed or to exchange ideas on some wild islet on
whose low shores beat white-capped fussy little waves which the smallest
mistral quickly raises on its shallow water.

We visited this lake from Arles on another occasion, for the Camargue is
too big to see all at one time. Even as it was, our day was crowded--to
Aigues Mortes in the morning across the plain, visiting Les Saintes
Maries, and back to Arles in the evening.

  [Illustration: AIGUES MORTES, LOOKING ALONG THE WALLS.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

After Carcassonne one felt there was nothing more to experience in the
shape of a mediæval city. Yet Aigues Mortes--the city of St. Louis, the
City of the Marsh, with its wonderful ramparts and square towers, all
unchanged since the days of the Crusaders--brought before the eye of the
imagination yet another aspect of the fascination of the Middle Ages.
The walls are said to be built on the models of the fortified towns of
Syria and to be almost a repetition of those of Ascalon. Here, as in
many mediæval cities, were originally wooden balconies overhanging the
base of the walls, the battlements being in fact a wall with ingress at
intervals to the balcony. Later was substituted for the wooden balcony
projecting galleries of stone on corbels, and these stone galleries or
machicolations are comparatively recent.

To this scene belongs, among other historical events, the splendid
procession of St. Louis and his followers as they embarked from this
city of his founding for the first crusade.

The place is called Aigues Mortes from the dead branches of the river,[31]
and its situation in this low-lying ground near the sea, with the whole
Camargue lying flat and mournful before it, bears out the suggestion of
the strange melancholy name.

Ancient writers of romance are fond of talking about the "frowning walls"
of a city. On looking back at Aigues Mortes as one recedes from it across
the Camargue one admits their justification. The dark high ramparts,
with their stern-looking square towers--unlike the round extinguisher
towers of Carcassonne--do most undeniably "frown."[32]

The city with its great gateway seems not to belong to our present life at
all, in spite of its hotels and shops and the people in the market-place.
It is as if a fragment of the tenth or eleventh century had been dropped
by some accident when the Scroll of Time was being rolled up!

The illusion is almost painfully perfect, producing that curious
bewilderment with which we provincial mortals (by no means yet citizens
of the universe) are assailed when forced to realise--as well as
intellectually to accept--the fact of a state of existence absolutely
alien to our own experience.

Another delightful expedition in the Camargue is to the Church of St.
Gilles on the outskirts of this extraordinary desert through which the
main line runs at this point; and many of the trains stop at the little
station only a short distance westward from Arles. By a singular chance
the curé happened to be in the train on his way to Nimes, to read a
paper about the many vexed archæological questions regarding this famous
and exquisite church, this "ne plus ultra of Byzantine art," as Mèrimée
calls it; and he was much delighted to talk about the building of which
he is immensely proud.

Such a Church for beauty and interest had never before existed! These
were the sentiments of the good curé, a rosy-cheeked, comfortable,
courteous old antiquary. It certainly merits his enthusiasm.

The three great richly sculptured arches of the façade are magnificent
of their kind. It seems as if all the saints and angels of Christendom
had alighted in a swarm upon these sumptuous portals. They cluster on
frieze and cornice, on arch and bracket and niche, in multitudes, the
whole work perfectly balanced and finely executed, and resulting in
an effect of romantic richness combined with the pious simplicity of
sentiment which is characteristic of all Southern Romanesque churches.
The crypt is especially magnificent.

  [Illustration: THE CHURCH OF LES SAINTES MARIES SEEN FROM THE CAMARGUE.
   _By Joseph Pennell._]

But the church of which one hears the most in Provence is "Les Saintes
Maries," or "Santa Maria de la Mar," as it was sometimes called in the
twelfth century. It is another of the fortified churches of the littoral,
a sister to Maguelonne and still more famous. At one end of our long day's
journey stood Aigues Mortes, at the other Les Saintes Maries. The little
white speck above the level of the plain on the far horizon, which can
be discerned when about ten miles from Aigues Mortes, grows bigger and
bigger, till at last the strange, rude, characteristic outline of the
lonely church by the sea fascinates and holds the eye till one reaches
it after the 36 kilometres of desert.

The shrine of the three holy women is visited every year by hundreds of
pilgrims, and many a sick person is cured by the power of the relics,
say the curé and the Catholic Church--by the not less astonishing potency
of the "unconscious mind" assert the more advanced of the modern schools
of mental science.

The curé said that he had seen several hundred cures. Many paralytics
and those who had been bitten by mad dogs came on this pilgrimage, and
he had known only two cases of failure. The bones of Mary, mother of
Jacob, and of her daughter, Mary Salomé, with those of their servant
Sara, are all preserved in a richly painted reliquary, which is let down
among the people from its shrine above the tribune. This is the moment
of salvation, and hundreds of arms are stretched imploringly towards
it, and hundreds of voices are raised in supplication; and judging by
the many well-authenticated accounts some mysterious healing power is
actually set in motion.

Anything more forlorn than the little village that has grown up around
the church is difficult to imagine. There is not a soul stirring, and
scarcely a sound is to be heard indicating human life. The Camargue
stretches to westward. The sea beats on the sandy beach a little way
beyond the village square. One hears the waves quietly running in upon
the shore. In the middle of the square stands an ancient carved stone
cross. The people of the place have the reputation of being rude and
almost savage, and their ignorance is said to be incredible.

  [Illustration: CROSS IN VILLAGE SQUARE AT LES SAINTES MARIES.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

The exterior of Les Saintes Maries is rude, warlike, even sterner in
aspect than Maguelonne, and it stands bare and solitary on this desert
spot with not a tree or a green thing near it; only the spectral, thinly
clad, unearthly looking trees of the Camargue dimly in sight here and
there in the grey distance.

The door of the church was open, and we entered. Again, as in Maguelonne,
great arches and apses, sombre, religious, primitive, the candles and
artificial flowers with which the altars were decked for Christmas
standing out pathetically against the gloom.

In one of the side chapels the curé was busy painting the background of
a _crèche_. He was occupied with the Star in the East when we arrived,
and was so absorbed that he did not hear our footsteps. When we came
nearer he turned and descended from the ladder on which he had mounted,
explaining that he had been appointed to the cure only a few months
and found to his dismay that the benighted inhabitants had never in all
their lives had a _crèche_ at Christmas! So he was busying himself to
redeem them from this state of spiritual darkness. The palm-trees and
_la sainte vierge_ were expected to-morrow from Nimes. _Le Christ_ had
already arrived.

The curé went forward to give a touch to the manger as he spoke.

"Vous voyez les vaches--qu'elles sont jolies!" He stood back to
contemplate them. The boy who had conducted us to the church remained
gazing in dumb admiration, and though he was peremptorily sent on a
message by the curé, he returned almost at once to gaze anew, which
brought down on him an impatient reproof.

"Va t'en, va t'en; qu'est-ce que tu fais la avec ta bouche grand-ouverte;
sauve toi donc!"

And poor Jules had to shut his mouth and tear himself away from the
alluring scene.

  [Illustration: LES SAINTES MARIES.
   _By E. M. Synge._]

We visited the tomb of Sara and saw the sacred reliquary containing the
bones of the saints, which were saved from peril at the time of the great
Revolution by the faithful curé of that day, who took out the precious
relics from the chests, leaving in their place some ordinary bones and
hiding the real ones, which were afterwards replaced with great pomp
when the danger was over.

The roof is formed of stone slabs, the same as that of Maguelonne, and
the view from it is as extensive but far more solitary.

"La mer indéfinie, l'éternelle limite blanche à l'horizon, et la lande,
toujours, aux salicornes basses et aux tamaris clairsemés. C'est une
heure exquise de mélancholie, de pieux idéal ... l'immense arène jaune
bordeé par la mer bleu et l'horizon de sable; les lagunes nageés dans
une brume lumineuse d'ou rien ne surgit que vers le nord-est, le pic
Saint Loup, comme une fantôme."

       *       *       *       *       *

We left this lonely church with the twilight falling upon it, and the
evening silence. In the village square little whirls of loose sand were
coming up from the beach with the gusts of wind, harbingers of a coming
mistral, and one could hear always in the strange quiet, the beat and
retreat of the waves.



CHAPTER XXVII

"ARTISTS IN HAPPINESS"


     "Baseness rusts, wears out and seals up young-heartedness."

          RAIMBAUT D'AURENGA.

It is doubtful if there is a country in Europe where the spirit of the
past is so strong as it is in Provence.

One needs not to dive down for it below the surface; it lives before
one's eyes everywhere, every day. That strange cheer and blitheness
that seems to belong to the centuries gone by has not yet been beaten
down by the care and heaviness of modern life. The mere act of living is
still joyful, the zest and charm of simple things still survives among
the people. They live without hurry, yet they work to good purpose; far
more quickly and efficiently than in England.

They seem to work hard, yet without toil; no doubt because they know
also how to play.

This has all to be said with reservations, however, for the modern spirit
is stealing into the country; it is like the little edge of the earth's
shadow when the moon begins to be eclipsed. But the old is still dominant
and will not easily be destroyed.

It is not merely the world of yesterday, of the Middle Ages that lingers,
but--as we have seen--the world of the ancients. That is half the secret
of the country.

It is this element that underlies and mingles so quaintly with the
picturesque side of religious mediævalism. No wonder men and women have
passionately tried to recover the charm of that old, fresh, lost world.
Perhaps that is why the Renaissance is so endlessly fascinating. It was
a wild, brilliant, vain attempt to find happiness and the real goal of
human life.

Men may indeed be turned from their natural quest by some harsh faith
or blinding habit, but the hunger of the heart never leaves them.

One is constrained to believe in the possibility of a fresh Renaissance
that will bring us further on our way towards the gates of Paradise,
for have we not learnt since that earlier attempt, that happiness must
be built on happiness, not on sacrifice and burnt offerings? This at
least is certain: human cruelty leads to human woe. The misery and the
cruelty below the glitter of a brilliant civilisation gnaws like some
evil creature at its heart.

_There_ was the flaw in that splendid claim on life made by the men and
women of the Renaissance. Each age brings its contributions and commits
its errors. But it is stupid to go on committing the old errors over
and over again.

Maulde de la Clavière describes the attitude of the women during all these
times of movement, which is very curious, very subtle, and very modern.
"Properly to understand their spiritual condition," he says, "we should
have to do as they did: solve the problem of feminism in the feminine
way; be women, and more than women--arch-women. It was the conviction of
all the sons of the Renaissance," he goes on, "that sentiment has higher
lights than reason, and that certain intuitions of the heart unfold to
us, as in bygone days to Socrates, horizons hitherto beyond our ken--a
foretaste of the divine.... And now the new generations were no longer
willing to regard earthly happiness as an illusion, ... and flattered
themselves on finding a means of building life upon liberty.... People
wished to live henceforth under a calm and radiant sky; they talked of
taking the gifts of God as they found them, idealising everything. From
that time it belongs truly to women to govern the higher world, the
realm of sentiment.... So many noble things lack the sap of life! They
will give that sap, that vitality, that soul. The sap of love brings
grapes from thorns. And thereby the transformation of the world is to
be achieved."

In short, women were to take life into their hands and turn it into a
fine art. They were to become priestesses in the Temple of the World, and
the object of worship was to be the Beautiful. They were to become the
creators of no less a thing than happiness. Our author quotes Ruskin's
saying about a woman that "the violets should not droop when she passes,
but burst into flower."

     "Love is the sum of genius," the writer further quotes from
     Schiller, _apropos_ of this astonishing outbreak of romantic
     thought. "The formula," he says, "is this: to live, that is,
     to love life, to attain a mastery of life, without allowing
     it to crush or dominate us.... In those days they sincerely
     studied to love life; they loved it, rejecting all negations
     and obstructions, all that overwhelms and paralyses...."

To treat existence--as some tried to treat it in the sixteenth century
in Italy--from the point of view of the artist, must at least bring rich
fruits--though it depends perilously upon the artist!

It was to the newly liberated women of the chivalrous age that all
instinctively turned for the realisation of the universal longing. It
was for them to add some treasure to the world that they had so lately
entered. And more was done than perhaps we shall ever realise to make
life liveable and human by the women of the troubadour days and their
successors of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Unhappily they lived too near to barbaric times, with the blood of
mediæval savages still running in their veins, to be able to understand
one essential ingredient in the magic philtre that they sought so eagerly.

They could not follow the counsel of their historian, who says "the woman
must steep her hands in beauty, fill her eyes with love, and then look
at things courageously and truthfully."[33] They followed and worshipped
Beauty, but they terribly sinned against Love.

"The first duty of woman," the author says, "is to exhibit in themselves
every lovable quality."

"Oh! is that all?" asked Barbara, with genial sarcasm.

"They overlaid life," he adds, "with that varnish of wonderful singular
sweetness which has never been wholly rubbed off."

Barbara listened in silence, whilst I read on.

"Love, and go straight on your way--that is the new formula--a very
effective one, since it converts dogmas into sentiments." Again this
definition: "The kingdom of God--that is a state in which every one's
actions would be prompted by love."

"It sounds nice," said Barbara, with a sceptical note in her voice.

"All the possible definitions of beauty apply also to life; life and
beauty are one and the same thing."

Barbara demurred at this.

But, after all, the somewhat grim-looking family which she adduced as
refutation were really not exactly alive in any serious sense of the
word. Truly living people are _always_ in some way beautiful. I left
her pondering this risky statement while I prudently hastened on.

Our gallant author seemed to see things after a fashion of his own. One
might, of course, summarily dismiss it as sentimentalism, but that would
be meaningless, for our whole life is founded on sentiment of one kind
and another. It is monstrous without it.

"He seems to think sentiment very important; more so than most men do,"
said Barbara, whose male relatives were mostly of a solid order.

A proverb, he points out, says that "one does not die of love: perhaps
not; but what we know with absolute certainty, what stares us everywhere
in the face in letters of fire and blood, is that one dies of the absence
of love."

And it is always to women he looks for the founding of the gentler
dispensation. He really does seem to appreciate us! He declares that we
are one and all, without exception, "artists in happiness!"

"Oh! then he has never met Aunt Rebecca," said Barbara conclusively.

       *       *       *       *       *

Only a few more days in Provence were now before us, and we had worked
our way across country to the main line at Arles for the homeward journey.

It was a pleasure to find ourselves again in that strange flat country
of the Crau and the Camargue, with the grey city on its hill above the
Rhone.

We were wearied with the mad, sad doings of men and turned to the natural
features of the surrounding country for rest and relief. And they did
not fail us as far as interest was concerned. Only they, too, had their
dramas and their tragedies. Those strange solitudes had a wild and
stirring past; while the vast lagoons at the Rhone's mouth have a long
story all to themselves.

Whole volumes have been written about their formation and the geological
romance of this brilliant coast. Once, as we have seen, the Mediterranean
washed the cliffs at Beaucaire and Nimes, and swept up to the base of
the Alpilles. The country, in truth, seems to have retained something
of the sea-song in its wide reminiscent spaces.

There were deluges and avalanches, and all sorts of exciting events
of mountain and river; the Rhone and the Durance playing the principal
parts in this melodrama of the elements. Those impulsive heroes carried
off vast masses of stone and rubble from the mountains and covered the
low-lying land with the "wreckage of the Alps."

Then the secondary characters trooped along: the Herault, the Ley, and
other streams, and they helped to heap up great bars at the river's
mouth, so that the monster could not find his way to the sea without
much uneasy wandering; and always as he wandered, murmuring angrily,
more and more mud and stones were deposited to heighten the bars. And so
with the passing of the centuries the great lagoons were formed so big
and blue that the unwary traveller nearing Arles may almost mistake them
for the Mediterranean. When at last the sea is found, there is another
flinging down of Alpine spoils, for the difference in the weight and
in the temperature of the salt and the river waters at their meeting,
causes the river to drop what it carries rapidly--perhaps in joy at this
final home-coming to the brightest of all seas.

Louis XIV., it appears, built miles and miles of dykes, and Adam de
Craponne accomplished wonders of engineering work, and has become one of
the heroes of Provençal history; but still the waters now and again come
down in floods and do terrible damage. Indeed engineers are beginning
to think that the system of dykes is a mistaken one, for by confining
the river within narrow limits, the force is enormously concentrated and
presses on the dykes, while there is always a tendency to raise the bed
by the deposits.

Consequently the danger is constantly increased by the very means they
have taken to avert it.

"C'est comme une grande passion. Le Rhone a toujours été audessus des
forces de l'homme."

So must have thought the poor woman and her husband, guardians of the
shattered bridge of St. Bénézet at Avignon, for they told us that the
flood had risen to the second storey of their house. And this happened,
and was bound to happen at intervals, when the ice broke up in the
mountains. The Government might raise the dykes at vast expense till it
was tired; the river rose too. Better let it spread quietly over the land
and enrich it. But now the system was begun it could not be abandoned.
Very dangerous it would seem, a big river--or a big passion! And if ever
there was a big passion that river is possessed by it!

No dream too lovely, no joy too perfect to be within the scope of human
destiny while the spirit is held by the incantation of those waters.

All things are possible! That is the song of the Rhone.

It knows so much, this child of the mountains, born to all the secrets
of solitary places, and laden now with the sad, strange lore of its
journeyings by city and strand, by quiet lands where the plough traces
glistening furrows in the slant morning light, and the vines throw their
arms to the sun with all the grace and all the enchantment that made
men drunk in the old days when not one of them was afraid to be happy.

The race lived in communion with the things of the soil and the heavens,
so that their religion was an ecstatic sense of life and beauty; "that
tingling in the veins sympathetic with the yearning life of the earth,
which apparently in all times and places prompted some mode of wild
dancing."

Of the Bacchanalia we still have the fury and the terror, hidden in dark
places, poisoning existence, but the splendour and the grace, the sweet
freshness of those wild festivals are banished from the earth. How much
of beauty they have given to the world only an artist or a poet here
and there understands.

"It is from this fantastic scene," says one of the fraternity, "that
the beautiful wind-touched draperies, the rhythm, the heads suddenly
thrown back, of many a Pompeian wall-painting and sarcophagus frieze are
originally derived." And the same eye sees in the figure of Dionysus
the "mystical and fiery spirit of the earth--the aroma of the green
world is retained in the fair human body." "Sweet upon the mountains" is
the presence of the far-wandering god "who embodies all the voluptuous
abundance of Asia, its beating sun, its fair-towered cities."

To see the sun shining through the classic vine-leaves in a southern
land, is to begin to understand the emotions of the people who gave birth
to the myth of Dionysus; and we may "think we see the green festoons of
the vine dropping quickly from foot-place to foot-place down the broken
hill-side in the spring."

Some mirage of the ancient world comes to us with the picture. And
laughter--laughter, which was "an essential element of the earlier worship
of Dionysus," seems to be shaking the tendrils in some half literal,
half symbolical fashion. The living curves, the little merry whirls and
spirals are full of it.

The vine and the graver ivy crowned the white brow of Dionysus, plants
dear to the Hamadryads, "spinning or weaving with airiest fingers, the
foliage of the trees, the petals of the flowers, the skins of the fruits,
the long thin stalks on which the poplar leaves are set so lightly that
Homer compares them, in their constant motion, to the maids who sit
spinning in the house of Alcinous."

And by road and river are great growths of reeds, the plant of Dionysus
and the merry satyrs who make their pipes from the hollow stems.

It was surely this beautiful province of a beautiful land that inspired
the first conscious determined effort towards the art of living that
has been made by man since an evil fate had plunged him into the awful
martyrdom of the Middle Ages. The spirit that came into being at that
auspicious hour lingers like a presence. It is not due merely to bright
sky and clear air. There are skies as blue and air as clear in lands
where the very stones breathe forth tragedy. The Campagna of Rome is a
case in point, nor is the siren country about the Bay of Naples untouched
by this under-shadow.

Even here indeed, in Provence itself, the deep wound in the heart of
Life inflicted by mediæval superstition has never quite ceased to bleed,
and the country seems at moments to sadden and grow chill in the face
of the sun; but this is the tribute paid to the spiritual Cæsar of the
new Empire, and does not spring from the ancient genius of the country.

That genius presses upon the imagination, as if some hidden intelligence
were playing the part of generous host, and sending forth the parting
guest laden with gifts and valedictions.

These invisible hosts have no regard for any timid dread of enthusiasm
and faith. They boldly whisper of a new Creed and Cult, a Temple of
Happiness to be set up even in our own indignant land!

They are quite unabashed at the audacity of the proposition; at doubts
and limitations they laugh.

But the leave-taking traveller knows that he is under a spell, and asks
himself if these dreams of powers and destinies will live under grey
skies, grey creeds and customs.

Here it is easy to believe in exquisite audacities.

"Here a thousand hamlets laugh by the river-side, our skies laugh;
everything is happy, everything lives," as the poet Jasmin sings of his
native land.

At once inspiring and restful! This perfect balance is possible. Supremely
good things may be in contrast but not in contradiction. So at least
one believes in Provence.

The parting guest thinks wistfully of that delicious journey down stream,
of the happy company in the _Caburle_, in Mistral's Poem of the Rhone;
the old barge drifting with the current through the very heart of the
country of Romance. Every city and hamlet, every bridge and ruin, the
scene of a thousand stories....

He remembers with what an outburst the poet sings of the towers of
Avignon, as the barge comes in sight of the city, flame-tinted with the
setting sun:--

                               "e pinto
     De resplendour reialo e purpurenco
     Es Avignoun e lou Palais di Papo!
     Avignoun! Avignoun sus sa grand Roco!
     Avignoun, la galoio campaniero...."

                               ("et pient
     De splendeur royale, de pourpre splendide
     C'est--Avignon et le Palais des Papes,
     Avignon sur sa Roque géante!
     Avignon la sonneuse de la joie.")

Always that word! Joie, joie! One meets it in story, in song, in the
voices of the people. Provence must certainly have been its birthplace--or
its sanctuary.

Driven from every other land, when the Goddess of Sorrow came to usurp
the temples of the ancient gods, reviled, feared, stricken to the heart,
the beautiful fugitive at last found shelter in the land of Love and
Chivalry.



THE END.



Index


     A

     _Abbaye de la Jeunesse_, 123

     Abderrahman, 371

     Acquitaine, 118, 370, 371

         "       Eudes, Duke of, 371

         "       Duke of, 146

         "       Walter of, 371

     Agatha (Agde), 88, 90

     Aigues Mortes, 86, 87, 88, 92, 390, 392

     Aimar de Valence, Count, 326

     Aix, 302, 329, 361

     Albi, 256

       "   Council of, 356

     Albigensian Wars, 119, 231, 245, 253, 258, 259, 356, 365

     Alpilles, the, 25, 58, 72, 193, 286, 290, 309, 311, 315, 339, 408

           "        Sorceress of (Tavèn), 340, 344

     Anjou, Count of, 338, 357

     Ardouin-Dumazet, 41, 193, 194

     Arles, 91, 92, 114, 161-170, 200, 275, 314, 329

        "   Aliscamps, 165

        "   Museum, 167, 168

        "   St. Honorat, Church of, 166

        "   St. Trophine, Church of, 163, 164, 168

     Arqua, 75

     Ascalon, 392

     Asse, River, 83

     Aubanel, Théodore, 113

     "Aucassin and Nicolette," 206, 233-239

     Aude, River, 84, 248

     Augustus, Emperor, 21, 275

     Aurelian Way, 90, 114

     Avignon, 20, 31-48, 56, 58, 74, 75, 113, 192, 201, 347, 357, 358, 412

         "    Cathedral, 33

         "    Palace of the Popes, 31, 34, 36, 76-80

         "    Rocher du Dom, 33, 41

         "           "       Hunchback of, 181-183

         "    St. Benézet, Bridge of, 41, 409

         "    St. Clara, Church of, 70, 72

     Azalais de Rocca Martina, 246, 255-258


     B

     Balthazar, 316

     Barbentane, 60

     ", Tours de, 193

     Baring-Gould, 151, 260, 272

     Barral, Count, 246, 255, 257, 329

     Basque, 370

     Baux, Les, 78, 193, 309, 312-320, 327, 338, 343, 362

       "   Princes of, 311, 316

       "   St. Vincent, Church of, 330

     Beaucaire, 195, 200, 201, 206, 231-239, 243, 245, 375, 408

         "      Castle of, 194, 233

         "      Visigoth Tower, 235

     Bebrykes, the, 87

     Benedict XIII. (Pierre de Luna), 78

     Berengaria des Baux, 125, 318

     Bernard of the Three Ways, 266

     Bernart de Ventadour, 120, 186

     Bertrand de Born, 120

     Béziers, 90, 134, 248

        "     Viscount of, _v._ Raimon of Toulouse,

     Bouillabaisse, 173

     Brescon, 88, 90


     C

     Cabaret, 256

     Cadenet, 120

     Camargue, the, 84, 86, 271, 329, 387-393

     Carcassonne, 248, 249, 250, 251, 256, 392

         "        Siege of, 252-254, 258

         "        Cathedral of, 259

     Cardinal Pierre, 255

     Carthagena, 90

     Celts, the, 89

     Champagne, Countess of, 156

     Charlemagne, 103, 104, 367, 371

     Charles IV., Emperor, 74

        "    V., 78

        "    III., of France, 316

        "    Martel, 371

     Chateauneuf, 52

     Chivalry, 23, 27, 99, 100, 102, 145-148

        "      Origin of, 107-110

     Clairette, 319

     Clement V. (le Gotto), 358

        "    VI., 39, 73

     Clovis, 203

     Colonna, House of, 74

     Conrad, 357

     Conradin, 357

     Courthéson, 134

     Courts of Love, 72, 151, 154, 156, 157, 327, 338

     Crau, the, 21, 25, 271, 272, 277, 314, 389

     Crusades, the. 109, 233


     D

     Dante, 311

     Daudet, 314

     De Craponne, Adam, 409

     De Foix, Comte, 254

     De Noves, family of, 72

     De Sades, family of, 72

     Des Essars, Castle of, 64

     Die or Dia, Countess of, 25, 120, 121

     St. Dominic, 245

     Domitian Way, 90

     Drac, the, 378, 380

     Dragignan, 134

     Dumas, Alexandre, 79, 173

     Durance, River, 24, 83, 84, 408


     E

     Elorn, valley of, 23

     Esterelles, the, legend of, 176, 177

     Etienette, 319

     St. Eutropius, 165


     F

     Fabius Maximus, 89

     Fanette, 72

     Fanfarigoule, 271

     _Farandole_, the, 174

     Fauriel, 97, 104, 124, 125, 364, 370

     Félibres, the, 22, 52, 113, 114, 346

         "     Queen of, 114

     Flora, feast of, 175

     Folquet of Marseilles, 246, 248

     Forum Dimitti, 88

     Francis I. and II., 361

     Franks, the, 103, 367

     Froissart, 37, 148, 358


     G

     Gard, River, 217, 218

       "   Pont du, 212, 214, 216, 218

     Garde Freinet, 355

     Giotto, 77, 79

     Girard, 300

     Greeks, the, 276, 277

     Gregory of Tours, 103, 369

     Grignan, Castle of, 20

         "    Madame de, 21

     Grimaldi, 316, 355

     Gui di Cavaillon, 326

     Guilhelm de Cabestaing, 120, 125, 126, 318, 325

     Guilhelm des Baux, 134, 324, 326

     Guilhelm de Poitiers (William IX.), 23, 105, 365, 372


     H

     Hannibal, 114, 298

     Henry II. and IV., 361

     Heraclea, 92

     Hérault, River, 84, 90, 408

     Hercules, 25, 87, 203, 275

     "Hospice des Mal-Mariés," 123

     Hueffer, 121, 187

     Hugo, Victor, 192

     Hundred Years' War, 38, 39

     Huns, the, 103


     I

     Iberians, the, 88

     Illiberis, 87

     Incourdoules, the, 177

           "       Golden Goat of, 177-181

     Innocent III., 245

     Isabel, Queen, 360


     J

     Joyeuse Garde, Château de, 23

     Jeanne, Queen of Naples, 338, 358, 360

        "    de la Val, 360


     L

     Lamartine, 24

     Languedoc, 38, 118, 245, 246, 276

     _Langue d'Oc_, 175, 365, 372

     Lenthéric, 92, 114

     Le Puy, 134

     _Lettres de mon Moulin_, 314

     Ley, River, 408

     Ligurians, the, 87, 88, 89, 275, 276, 277, 311

     Limoges, 175

     Limousin, 105, 371

     Loba de Pegnautier, 258

     Louis of Taranto, 358

       "   IX. (Saint), 233, 292

       "   XI., 361

       "   XIII., 316

       "   XIV., 361, 409

     Luberon Mts., 58

     Lyons, Gulf of, 84


     M

     Maguelonne, 88, 91, 263-268

          "      St. Peter, Church of, 263, 264, 268, 397, 399

     Maillane, 21, 22, 298

     Majour, Mont, 91

     Manfred, 357

     Man in the Iron Mask, the, 46

     Marco Polo, 90

     Marius, 286, 287, 292

     Marseilles, 87, 89, 90, 275

     St. Martha, 165, 195-197, 203, 347, 356

     Martigues, 139, 141

     Marthieu, Anselm, 52

     Maulde de la Clavière, 154, 404

     Mercoeur, Alazais, 126-129

         "     Ozil de, 127

     Merimée, Prosper, 393

     Miramas, 277

     _Mireille_ or _Morèio_, 340-342, 316, 347, 387

     Mistral, 20, 21, 24, 62, 84, 113, 298, 300, 340, 346, 375, 387, 412

     Montferrat, 257, 334

     Montpellier, 75, 263

     Muret, 258


     N

     Narbonne, 87, 88, 89

     Nimes, 114, 212, 214, 218, 268, 408

       "    Temple of the Nymphs, 268

       "    Tour Magne, 214

     Nostradamus, 340, 344, 345


     O

     Olba, 87

     Olbe, River, 84

     Orange, 114, 134, 138, 165, 361

        "    William of, 361


     P

     Palavas, 263

     Parma, 75

     Passe Rose, (Cecilia des Baux), 311, 319

     Pater, Walter, 234

     Pedro, King of Arragon, 248

     Peirol, 186

     Petrarch, 52

         "     and Laura, 69-76

     Philip of Valois, 37

       "    le Bel, 59, 358

       "    le Hardi, 92

     Phœnicians, the, 88, 90, 196

     "Pierre de Provence et la belle Maguelonne," 266

     Pons de Chapteuil, 120, 126-129

     Porcelet, 318, 357

     Port Vendre, 87

     "Princesse Lointaine," 119

     Provence, architecture of, 367-368

         "     Counts of, 288, 302

         "     History of, 352-363

         "     Language of, 363-367, 369-372

     Pyrene, 87

     Pyrenees, the, 24, 87, 251


     R

     Raimbaut d'Orange, 120, 121

     Raimond Berenger I., 356

        "       "     V., 356

     Ranebaude, 318

     Renard, Chateau, 193

     René, King, 194, 197, 203, 318, 329, 344, 360, 361

       "   Castle of, 204, 206, 358, 361

     Rhone, River, 20, 24, 41, 83, 84, 90, 194, 204, 206, 314, 389, 408,
          409

       "    Poem of, 375-383, 412

     Richard Cœur de Lion, 257

     Rienzi, 56, 74

       "     Tower of, 56, 79

     Rocamadour, 134

     Romanin, Castle of, 72, 78

     Romans, the, 89, 102, 162, 214, 276, 286, 292, 329

     Roncevalles, 371

     Rostand, 119

     Roumanille, 113

     Rousillon, 87, 88

        "       Count of, 125

     Rowbotham, 108

     Rudel, 119


     S

     St. Gilles, 88, 92

          "      Church of, 393

     Saintes Maries, les, Church of, 329, 347, 387, 389, 393-399

     St. Martin-en-Crau, 274, 277, 281, 282

     St. Remy, 114, 275, 286, 288, 290, 300, 301, 302, 314, 340, 343, 344

         "     _Croix de Vertu, la_, 292

         "     _Maison de la Reine Jeanne_, 298

     Salon, 134

     Salyans, the, 275

     Saracens, the, 89, 102, 263, 355

         "     dances of, 174

     St. Saturnin, 165

     Sermonda, 126

     Sevigné, Madame de, 20, 65, 288

     Sicilian Vespers, the, 357

     Sieur de Bouche, le, 316, 351

     Simon de Montfort, 231, 233, 243, 246, 248, 252, 253, 254, 258, 259

     Smith, Justin, 126, 127, 148

     Sordares, the, 88

     Sordel, 318

     Sorgue, River, 74

        "    Vale of, 52, 78

     Strabo, 200


     T

     Tarascon, 165, 193-207, 231, 275

         "     Montagnette de, 91, 193

         "     St. Martha, Church of, 199, 204

     Tarasque, the, 165, 195-198, 201, 202, 203, 347

     Tech, River, 84

     Toulouse, 103, 165, 246, 255, 368

         "     Raimon V., Count of, 255

         "        "   VI., Count of, 231, 233, 243, 246, 248, 249, 253,
              254, 357

     Tour Fenestrella, la, 59

     St. Trophimus, 165

     Troubadours, the, 26, 27, 105, 113, 116, 118-122, 124, 176, 185,
          186, 234, 246, 319, 339


     U

     Ugo del Baux, 256

     Uzés, 58-60


     V

     Vaccares, the, Lake of, 390

     Vacqueiras, 52, 328

         "       Raimbaut de, 52, 134, 324-334

     Valmasque, 274

     Vandals, the, 103

     Varigoule, 274

     Vaucluse, 52, 74

     Vaudois, the, 356, 365, 366

     Ventadour, 105, 134

          "     Eblos III., Count of, 105, 371

     Ventoux, Mont, 22, 34, 77, 192, 271

     Vidal, Pierre, 120, 255-258

     Vidourle, River, 84

     Villeneuve-les-Avignon, 37, 39, 41, 42

          "     St. André, Castle of, 42, 44, 46, 47

          "     Tower of Philip le Bel, 41

     St. Virgilius, 166, 167

     Visigoths, the, 89, 103, 235, 316

          "     Ataulphe, King of, 103

          "     Euric, King of, 103, 316

          "     Theoderick II., King of, 103

          "     Womba, King of, 266

     Volscians, the, 88



UNWIN BROTHERS, LIMITED, THE GRESHAM PRESS, WOKING AND LONDON.



FOOTNOTES


     [1] Pronounce as in the English word _crow_.

     [2] Translation by Duncan Craig, author of _Miejour_.

     [3] It is difficult to find any but contradictory evidence
     about the frescoes of the Papal Palace, but most writers
     ascribe them to Giotto or Giottino, or their school.

     [4] "Memoires pour l'histoire naturelle de la province de
     Languedoc."--ASTUC.

     [5] Some of these originally Celtic names appear to have been
     Romanised. My chief authorities for these details are Lenthérie
     and Paul Mariéton.

     [6] In this author I have found the clearest short account of
     this period, and have taken the main facts in the following
     few paragraphs from his much-quoted volume.

     [7] It is a curious fact, and somewhat difficult for the
     Western mind to realise, that just at this darkest moment
     of European history--or at any rate during the three later
     centuries of the period--the woman of Japan "held a higher
     social and intellectual rank than she then did in any other
     part of the world."

     In an interesting work on "Feudal and Modern Japan," by Arthur
     May Knapp, occur the following arresting passages:--

     "Aston also, in speaking of the fact that the author of this
     classic" (the "Jôsa Nikki") "professes to write as a woman,
     calls attention to the extraordinarily preponderant influence
     of woman in the field of ancient Japanese literature. It has
     long been recognised that woman occupies a much higher place
     in Japan than in any other Oriental country, but it is none
     the less surprising, especially in view of the supposed lack
     of intelligence among the sex in Japan to-day, to be told that
     by far the larger number of works of the best age of Japanese
     literature were of feminine authorship."

     The writer quotes from the transactions of the Asiatic Society
     of Japan to the same effect: "that a very large proportion of
     the best writings of the best age of Japanese literature was
     the work of women."

     This golden age in Japan was from the eighth to the eleventh
     century. During that time the men were chiefly engaged in
     pedantic studies in Chinese, while the women were developing
     a native and living literature. And during that time and for
     centuries before, the women of the West had not so much as
     arrived at the possession of human rights worthy the name!

     [8] See "History of Provençal Poetry," Fauriel, Rowbotham,
     Hueffer, etc.

     [9] "When Aurora enshrined in her robe of satin, unbars without
     noise, the doors of the morning."--JASMIN.

     [10] B.C. 46.

     [11] Gallienus made this edict of withdrawal A.D. 260.

     [12] Mentioned by M. Fauriel in his work on Provençal Poetry.

     [13] The story is given very fully by Duncan Craig in his book
     _Miejour_ from which these verses and details are taken.

     [14] This translation is taken from a small volume, entitled
     "Some Poets of the People in Foreign Lands," by J. W. Crombie
     (Elliot Stock).

     [15] The translation of this and the following songs is given
     by Hueffer in his book on the troubadours.

     [16] "It rains my father."
          "Ah! well, if it rains, it is good weather for the sowing."

     [17] Mistral's poetical version of the story occurs in his
     "Nerto" as follows:--

               "Quand bastiguè lou Pont dóu Gard,
               Lou prefachié dóu mau regard
               S'èro reserva pèr soun comte
               La proumiero amo, dis lou conte,
               Que passarié sus lis arcas.
               Pèr se tira dóu marrit cas,
               Lou tour es devengu célèbre,
               Jé bandiguèron uno lèbre.
               Lou Diable, que tenié d'à ment,
               Mando lis arpo vitamen;
               Mai pensas-vous un pau sa tufo,
               Entre counèisse qu'es la trufo!
               De la maliço que n'aguè,
               Sus la muraio l'empeguè.
               Contro lou pont se vèi encaro.

               Lorsqu'il bâtit le Pont du Gard,
               L'entrepreneur au mauvais oeil
               S'était réservé pour salaire
               La première âme, dit le conte,
               Qui passerait sur les grands arcs.
               Pour se tirer du vilain cas,
               Le tour est devenu célèbre,
               On lâcha devers lui un lièvre.
               Le Diable, qui était aux aguets,
               Lance les griffes aussitôt;
               Mais figurez-vous sa grimace,
               Dès qu'il se reconnaît la dupe!
               De la colère qu'il en eut,
               Il le plaqua sur la muraille.
               Contre le pont on peut le voir encore."

     [18] The Crau is pronounced as the English word "crow."

     [19] Lenthéric also mentions an analogous story in the Book
     of Joshua (x. 7, 8, 9): "The Lord caused stones to fall from
     the sky on the enemies of Israel." Moreover, it appears that
     Joshua's camp was called Galgal (Hebrew, _rolled stone_), and
     a few miles from Betheron has been found a "Crau" like that
     of Provence.

     [20] Presumably the rhyme has reference to "Le guet de Saint
     Victor," a cavalcade that has taken place at Marseilles from
     time immemorial, just after sunset, on the eve of the _fête_,
     or procession itself; the latter a ceremony of imposing
     magnificence.

     [21] _Baux_ means _cliffs_ in Provençal.

     [22] The name of the inn has unfortunately been changed since
     the days of the discovery of the golden hair.

     [23] The story has already been sketched in Chapter VII.

     [24] See Justin Smith's _Troubadours at Home_.

     [25] See "History of Provençal Poets," M. Fauriel.

     [26] Ross and McGibbon.

     [27] Of the Académie Française and Professor of the College
     de France.

     [28] Gaston Paris.

     [29] Other verses of his on this occasion are quoted at head
     of chapter.

     [30] An ancient bed of river, now deserted by main streams.

     [31] When the Rhone makes new mouths it deserts its old course,
     leaving stagnant canals which are called Aigues Mortes.

     [32] See illustrations, pp. 86 and 391.

     [33] Maulde de la Clavière, "Women of the Renaissance."



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
  been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Inconsistent or incorrect accents and spelling in passages in French,
  Italian, and Provençal have been left unchanged.

  On page 42, "ferrurues de portes" should possibly be "ferrures de
  portes".

  On page 68, the Sonnet number should possibly be CCL.

  On page 370, "Basque Words in Provençale" should possibly be "Basque
  Words in Provençal".

  The index entry for "Béziers, Viscount of" is missing page numbers.





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