Online Encyclopedia

MODERN PROVENCAL LITERATURE

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 503 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
MODERN PROVENCAL LITERATURE 1—LiteratUre in the south of France never died out entirely. Indeed, we have a link which, though too much importance may easily be attached to it, yet undoubtedly connects the products of the troubadours with the Provencal poetry of the present day. The Academy of Toulouse, founded in 1324, was flourishing in the 14th century, and, after many vicissitudes, is flourishing still. [The poets crowned by this body between 1324 and 1498 stand in the same relation to the troubadours as the Meistersinger do to the Minnesdnger: academic correctness takes the place of inspiration. The institution flourished, even to the extent of establishing branches in Catalonia and Majorca; and in 1484, when its prosperity was threatened, a semi-fabulous person, Clemence Isaure, is said to have brought about a revival by instituting fresh prizes. The town of Toulouse never ceased to supply funds 'In accordance with general usage, we are. employing the tern Provencal for the whole of the south of France, save where special reservation is made. of some kind. In 1513 French poems were first admitted in the competitions, and under Louis XIV. (from 1679) these were alone held eligible. This unfair arrangement, by which some of the leading poets of northern France profited, held good till 1893, when the town very properly transferred its patronage to a new Escolo moundino,' but very soon restored its support to the older institution, on learning that Provencal poetry was again to be encouraged.] In the two centuries that followed the glorious medieval period we have a succession of works, chiefly of a didactic and edifying character, which scarcely belong to the realm of literature proper, but at least served to keep alive some kind of literary tradition. This dreary interval was relieved by a number of religious mystery plays, which, though dull to us, probably gave keen enjoyment to the people, and represent a more popular genre; the latest that have come down to us may be placed between the years 1450-1515. Not only did the literature deteriorate during this period, but dialects took the place of the uniform literary language employed by the troubadours, while the spoken tongue yielded more and more to French. In 1539 Francois I. forbade the use of Provencal in official documents—a fact that is worthy of note only as being significant in itself, not as an important factor in the decadence of Provencal letters. On the contrary, just about this time there are signs of a revival. In 1565 the Gascon, Pey de Garros, translated the Psalms into his dialect, and two years later published a volume of poems. His love for his native tongue is genuine, and his command over it considerable; he deplores its neglect, and urges others to follow his example. Auger Gaillard (c. 1530-1595) does infinitely less credit to his province: the popularity of his light pieces was probably due to their obscenity. More in the spirit of Garros is the charming trilingual Salut composed by the famous du Bartas in honour of a visit of Marguerite de Valois to Nerac (1579): three nymphs dispute as to whether she should be welcomed in Latin, French, or Gascon, and the last, of course, wins the day. Provence proper gave birth to a poet of consider-able importance in Louis Bellaud de la Bellaudiere (1532-1588), of Grasse, who, after studying at Aix, enlisted in the royal armies, and was made a prisoner at Moulins in 1572. During his captivity he wrote poems inspired by real love of liberty and of his native country (Don-Don internal, 1584 or 1585). At Aix Bellaud subsequently became the centre of a literary circle which included most of the local celebrities; all of these paid their tribute to the poet's memory in the edition of his works published by his uncle, Pierre Paul, himself the author of pieces of small value, included in the same volume (Lous Passatens, obros et rimos, &c., Marseilles, 1 595). Even when Bellaud is wholly frivolous, and intent on worldly pleasures only, his work has interest as reflecting the merry, careless life of the time. A writer very popular in Provence for the light-hearted productions of his youth was Claude Brueys (1570-1650), remarkable chiefly for comedies that deal largely with duped husbands (Jardin deys musos provensalos, not published till 1628). There is a certain charm, too, in the comedies of Claude's disciple, Gaspard Zerbin (La Perlo deys musos et coumedies prouvensalos, 16J5); and those critics who have read the plays of Jean de Cabanes (1653-1712) and of Seguin (of Tarascon, c. 1640), still in MS., speak highly of them. The most consistently popular form of poetry in the south of France was always the noel. There has been no limit to the production of these; but very rarely does the author deserve special mention. An exception must be made in the case of Nicholas Saboly (1614-1695), who produced the best pieces of this class, both as regards beauty of language and the devotion they breathe. They have deservedly maintained their popularity to the present day. In Languedoc four poets have been cited as the best of the age—Goudelin, Michel, Sage and Bonnet. This is certainly so inthecase of Pierre Goudelin (province Goudouli, 1579-1649), of Toulouse, the most distinguished name in south French literature 1 Moundino, i.e. of Toulouse; a common designation, derived from Raymond, the familiar name of the counts of Toulouse.between the period of the troubadours and that of Jasmin. He had a good classical education, traces of which appeal- in all his poetry, his language and his manner being always admirable, even where his matter is lacking in depth. He is often called " the Malherbe of the South," but resembles that writer only in form: his poetry, taken as a whole, has far more sap. Goudelin essayed and was successful in almost every short genre (Lou Ramelet Moundi, 1617, republished with additions till 1678), the piece of his which is most generally admired being the stanzas to Henri IV., though others will prefer him in his gayer moods. He enjoyed enormous popularity (extending to Spain and Italy), but never prostituted his art to cheap effects. His influence, especially but not exclusively in Provence, has been deep and lasting. The fame of Jean Michel, of Nimes, rests on the Embarras de la foire de Beaucaire, a poem of astonishing vigour, but deficient in taste. Daniel Sage, of Montpellier (Las Foulies, 165o), was a man of loose morals, which are reflected in nearly all his works: his moments of genuine inspiration from other causes are rare. More worthy of being bracketed with Goudelin is the avocat Bonnet, author of the best among the open air plays that were annually performed at Beziers on Ascension Day: a number of these (dated 1616-1657) were subsequently collected, but none can compare with the opening one, Bonnet's Jugement de Pdris. Another very charming poet is Nicolas Fizes, of Frontignan, whose vaudeville, the Opera de Frontignan (167o), dealing with a slight love intrigue, and an idyllic poem on the fountain of Frontignan, show a real poetic gift. A number of Toulouse poets, mostly laureats of the Academy, may be termed followers of Goudelin: of these Francois Boudet deserves mention, who composed an ode, Le Trinfe del Moundi (1678), in honour of his native dialect. The classical revival that may be noted about this time is also generally ascribed to Goudelin's influence. Its most distinguished representative was Jean de Vales, of Montech, who made excellent translations from Virgil and Persius, and wrote a brilliant burlesque of the former in the manner of Scarron (Virgile deguisat, 1648; only four books published). He also composed a pastoral idyll, which, though too long and inclined to obscenity, contains much tender description. The greatest of the pastoral poets was Francois de Cortete (1571-1655), of Prades, whose comedies, Ramounet and Miramoundo (published, unfortunately with alterations, by his son in 1684), are written with such true feeling and in so pure a style that they can be read with real pleasure. A comedy of his dealing with Sancho Panza in the palace of the Duke has been edited. It is difficult to understand the enormous popularity of Daubasse (1664-1727), of Quercy, who belonged to the working classes; he was patronized by the nobility in exchange for panegyrics. Gascony produced two typical works in the 17th century: Ader's Gentilhomme gascoun (161o) and Dastros's Trinfe de la langue gascoune (1642). The former depicts a regular boasting Gascon who distinguishes himself in everything; while the latter is a plea in favour of the Gascon tongue, inspired by a genuine love of country. Gabriel Bedout (Parterre gascoun, 1642) is chiefly noted for his amorous solitari, called forth by the sufferings he endured from a hardhearted mistress. Louis Baron (b. 1612), living peacefully in his native village of Pouyloubrin, celebrated it with great tenderness. In the 18th century the number of authors is much larger, but the bulk of good work produced is not equally great in proportion. The priests are mainly responsible for the literary output of Languedoc. Claude Peyrot (1709-1795) one of them, celebrates his county with true rural spirit in the Printemps rouergat and Quartre sosous. But the chief of the band is the Abbe Favre (1727-1783), the prior of Celleneuve, whose Sermoun de mousse sistre, delivered by a drunken priest against intemperance, is a masterpiece. He also wrote a successful mock-heroic poem (Siege de Caderousse) travesties of Homer and Virgil, a prose novel depicting the country manners of the time (Histoire de Jean Pont pris), and two comedies, which likewise give a vivid picture of the village life he knew so well. Two genuine poets are the brothers Rigaud of Montpellier: Auguste's (1760-1835) description of a vintage is deservedly famous; and Cyrille (1750—1824) produced an equally delightful poem in the Amours de Mounpeie. Pierre Hellies of Toulouse (d. 1724) a poet of the people, whose vicious life finds an echo in his works, has a certain rude charm, at times distantly recalling Villon. In the Province Toussaint Gros (1698-1748), of Lyons, holds undisputed sway. His style and language are admirable, but unfortunately he wasted his gifts largely on trivial pieces d'occasion. Coye's (1711-1777) comedy, the Fiance pare, is bright and still popular, while Germain's description of a visit paid by the ancient gods to Marseilles (La Bourrido dei Dious, 1760) has considerable humour. In Gascony the greatest poet is Cyrien Despourrins (1698-1755), whose pastoral idylls and mournful chansons, which he himself set to music, are imbued with tenderness and charm (most of them were collected at Pau, in 1828). The Revolution produced a large body of literature, but nothing of lasting interest. However, it gave an impetus to thought in the south of France, as elsewhere; and there, as elsewhere, it called forth a spirit of independence that was all in favour of a literary revival. Scholars of the stamp of Raynouard (1761-1863), of Aix, occupied themselves with the brilliant literary traditions of the middle ages; newspapers sprang up (the Provencal Bouil-Abaisso, started by Desanat, and the bilingual Lou Tambourin et le menestrel, edited by Bellot, both in 1841); poets banded together and collected their pieces in volume form (thus, the nine troubaire who published Lou Bouquet prouvengaou in 1823). Much has been written about the precurseurs de Felibrige, and critics are sorely at variance as to the writers that most deserve this appellation. We shall not go far wrong if we include in the list Hyacinthe Morel (1756-1829), of Avignon, whose collection of poems, Lou Saboulet, has been republished by Mistral; Louis Aubanel (1758-1842), of Nimes, the successful translator of Anacreon's Odes; Auguste Tandon, the troubadour of Montpellier," who wrote Fables, conies et autres pieces en vers (1800); Fabre d'Olivet (1767-1825), the versatile litterateur who in 1803 published Le Troubadour: Poesies occitaniques, which, in order to secure their success, he gave out as the work of some medieval poet Diouloufet (1771-1840), who wrote a didactic poem, in the manner of Virgil, relating to silkworm-breeding (Leis magnans) ; Jacques Azais (1778-1856), author of satires, fables, &c.; D'Astros (178o-1863), a writer of fables in Lafontaine's manner; Castil-Blaze (1784-1857), who found time, amidst his musical pursuits, to compose Provencal poems, intended to be set to music; the Marquis de Fare-Alais (1791-1846), author of some light satirical tales (Las Castagnados). While these writers were all more or less academic, and appealed to the cultured few, four poets of the people addressed a far wider public : Verdie (1779-1820), of Bordeaux, who wrote comic and satirical pieces; Jean Reboul (1796-1864), the baker of Nimes, who never surpassed his first effort, L'Ange et l'enfant (1828);1 Victor Gelu (18o6-1885), relentless and brutal, but undeniably powerful of his kind (Fenian et Grouman ; dix chansons provengales, 1840) ; and, greatest of them all, the true and acknowledged forerunner of the felibres, Jacques Jasmin (1798-1864), the hairdresser of Agen, whose poems, both lyrical and narrative, continue to find favour with men of the highest culture and literary attainments, as with the villagers for whom they were primarily intended. While much of this literature was still in the making, an event took place which was destined to eclipse in importance any that had gone before. In 1845 Joseph Roumanille (1818-1891), a gardener's son, of Saint-Remy (Bouches-du-Rhone), became usher in a small school at Avignon, which was attended by Frederic Mistral (q.v.), a native of the same district, then fifteen years of age. The former, feeling the germs of poetry within him, had composed some pieces in French; but, finding that his old mother could not understand them, he was greatly distressed, 1 One of his chief titles to fame is that, together with Alphonse Dumas, he drew the attention of Lamartine to Mistral's Mirbio. Roumanille and Mistral showed their gratitude by republishing the best pieces of these two precurseurs, together with those of Castil-Blaze and others, in Un Liame de Rasin (1865).and determined thenceforth to write in his native dialect only. These poems revealed a new world to young Mistral, and spurred him on to the resolve that became the one purpose of his life—de remettre en lumiere et conscience de sa gloire cette noble race qu'en plein '89 Mirabeau nomme encore la nation provengale. There is no doubt that Mistral's is the more puissant personality, and that his finest work towers above that of his fellows; but in studying the Provencal renaissance, Roumanille's great claims should not be overlooked, and they have never been put forward with more force than by Mistral himself (in the preface to his Isclos d'oro). Roumanille's secular verse cannot fail to appeal to every lover of pure and sincere poetry (Li Margaritedo, 1836-1847; Li Sounjarello, 1852; Li Flour de Sauvi, 1850-1859, &c.), his noels are second only to those of Saboly, his prose works (such as Lou mege de Cucugnan, 1863) sparkling with delightful humour. He it was who in 1852 collected and published Li Prouvengalo, an anthology in which all the names yet to become famous, and most of those famous already (such as Jasmin), are represented. In 1853 he was one of the enthusiastic circle that had gathered round J. B. Gaut at Aix, and whose literary output is contained in the Roumavagi dei Troubaire and in the shortlived journal Lou gay saber (1854). At the same time the first attempt at regulating the orthography of Provencal was made by him (in the introduction to his play, La Part dou bon Dieu, 1853). And in 1854 he was one of the seven poets who, on the 21st of May, foregathered at the castle of Fontsegugne, near Avignon, and founded the Felibrige. [The etymology of this word has given rise to much speculation: the one thing certain about the word is that Mistral came across it in an old Provencal poem, which tells how the Virgin meets Jesus in the Temple, among the seven felibres of the law. The outlines of the constitution, as finally settled in 1876, are as follows: The region of the Felibrige is divided into four mantenengo (Provence, Languedoc, Aquitaine and Catalonia2). At the head of all is a consistori of fifty (called majourau), presided over by the Capoulie, who is chief of the entire Felibrige. The head of each mantenengo is called sendi (who is at the same time a majourau); and at the head of each " school" (as the sub-divisions of the mantenengo are called) is a cabiscau. The ordinary members, unlimited in number, are manteneire. Annual meetings and fetes are organized. The most widely read of the Felibrige publications is the Armana prouvengau, which has appeared annually since 1855, maintaining all the while its original scope and purpose; and though unpretentious in form, it contains much of the best work of the school 3] The other six were Mistral, Aubanel, A.Mathieu (a schoolfellow of Mistral's at Avignon), E. Garcin, A. Tavan and P. Giera (owner of the castle). Of these, Theodore Aubanel (1829-1886, of Avignon, son of a printer and following the same calling) has alone proved himself worthy to rank with Mistral and Roumanille. " Zani," the girl of his youthful and passionate love, took the veil; and this event cast a shadow over his whole life, and determined the character of all his poetry (Lou miougrano entre-duberto, 186o; Li Fiho d'Avignoun, 1883). His is, without a doubt, the deepest nature and temperament among the felibres, and his lyrics are the most poignant. He has a keen sense of physical beauty in woman, and his verse is replete with suppressed passion, but he never sinks to sensuality. His powerful love drama Lou pau dou peccat was received with enthusiasm at Montpellier in 1878, and successfully produced (some years later in Arene's version) by Antoine at his Theatre Libre—no mean criterion. It is the only play of real consequence that the school has yet produced. We need not do more than glance at the work of the fourth of the group of poets who alone, amidst the numerous writers of lyrics and other works that attain a high level of excellence. 2 One of the most pleasing features of the movement is the spirit of fraternity maintained by the felibres with the poets and literary men of northern France, Spain, Italy, Rumania, Germany and other countries. 1In common with so many other productions of the Felibrige, this Almanac is published by the firm J. Roumanille, Libraire-Editour, Avignon. appear to us to have so far secured permanent fame by the magni- direction of the pro-consul C. Sextius Calvinus, conquered the territories between the Alps, the sea and the Rhone (with the province of Narbonne on the right bank of this river). These lands formed the Provincia romana, and the name was retained by Provence. The town of Aix (Aquae Sextiae) was founded to form the capital of this conquered land. In consequence of the conquest of Gaul by Caesar (5o B.c.) and the administrative reforms introduced by Augustus, the territory of the former Provincia was divided into the new provinces of Narbonensis II., of the Maritime Alps and of Viennois, but it still remained an important centre of Roman learning and civilization. Marseilles, which for some time had a prosperous Greek school, and also Aix now became of secondary importance, and Arles was made the chief town of the province, becoming after the capture of Treves by the barbarians (A.D. 418) the capital of Gaul. Christianity spread fairly early into Provence, although the legend that this country was evangelized by Mary Magdalene and some of the apostles cannot be traced farther back than the 12th century. Trophimus established a church at Arles in the 3rd century, and during the two centuries which followed bishoprics were founded in all the cities of Provence. At the beginning of the 5th century, Provence was attacked by the Visigoths. In 425 the Visigothic king Theodoric I. was defeated by Aetius under the walls of Arles, but the part taken by the Goths in the election of the emperor Avitus did not put a stop to their attacks (450). In 48o Arles was captured by Euric I., and the southern part of Provence, i.e. the country south of the Durance, thus came definitely under Visigothic rule. The more northern cities, such as Orange, Apt, Trois-Chateaux, &c., were again joined to the kingdom of Burgundy. Towards 510 Visigothic Provence was ceded to Theodoric, king of the Italian Ostrogoths, by Alaric II. as a mark of his gratitude for the support given to him during the war against the Franks. In addition to this, about 523, the Ostrogoths took advantage of the wars between the Franks and the Burgundians to extend their lands in the north as far as Gap and Embrun. Vitiges, king of the Ostrogoths, ceded Provence to the kings of the Franks about 537, when it was divided in a peculiar manner: the northern cities and those on the coast (Arles, Marseilles, Toulon, Antibes, Nice) were given back to Burgundy, whilst a narrow strip of territory with Avignon, Apt, Cavaillon, Riez, &c., extending from the west to the east as far as the Alps, was added to the kingdom of Austrasia, and from that time followed the fortunes of Auvergne, which, as is known, was generally dependent on Austrasia. Provence was united under one ruler during the reigns of Clotaire II. and Dagobert I., but at the death of the latter in 639 was divided again, only to be reunited under the successors of Dagobert II. (679). At this period the name of Provence was restricted to the southern cities, which had passed from the Gothic to the Frankish rule; it did not regain its original signification and denote the country extending as far as Lyonnais till the end of the 8th and the beginning of the 9th centuries. At the beginning of the 8th century, some Arabs from Spain, who had crossed the Pyrenees and settled down in Septimania, attacked Provence, in 735 took the town of Arles and in 737 captured Avignon, thus becoming masters of one part of the country. Charles Martel who had already made two expeditions against them, in 736 and 737, with the help of the Lombards of Italy, succeeded in 739 in expelling them, and brought the country definitely under Frankish rule. Austrasian counts were given authority in the cities, and under Charlemagne and Louis the Pious the history of Provence became incorporated with that of the rest of the empire. At the time of the partition of Verdun (843) Provence fell to the share of the emperor Lothair I., who joined it to the duchy of Lyons in 855 to form a kingdom for his youngest son, Charles. On the death of the latter in 863 his inheritance was divided between his two brothers, when Lothair II., king of Lorraine, received the northern part, Lyonnais and Viennois, and to the other, the emperor Louis II., king of Italy, was given Provence. At his death in 875 Provence passed into the hands of Charles the Bald, and he entrusted tude of their achievement. Felix Gras (1844–1891) settled at Avignon in his youth. His rustic epic, Li Carbounie (1876) is full of elemental passion and abounds in fine descriptions of scenery, but it lacks proportion. The heroic geste of Toloza (1882), in which Simon de Montfort's invasion of the south is depicted with unbounded vigour and intensity, shows a great advance in art. Li Roumancero provencal (1887) is a collection of poems instinct with Provencal lore, and in Li Papalino (1891) we have some charming prose tales that bring to life again the Avignon of the popes. Finally, the poet gave us three tales dealing with the period of the Revolution (Li Rouge dou miejour, &c.); their realism and literary art called forth general admiration.' A few lines must suffice for some of the general aspects of the movement. It goes without saying that all is not perfect harmony; but, on the whole, the differences are differences of detail only, not of principle. While Mistral and many of the best felibres employ the dialect of the Bouches-du-Rhone, others, who have since seceded as the Felibrige latin (headed by Roque-Ferrier), prefer to use the dialect of Montpellier, owing to its central position. A third class favour the dialect of Limousin, as having been the literary vehicle of the troubadours; but their claim is of the slenderest, for the felibres are in no sense of the word the direct successors of the troubadours. Nearly all the leaders of the Felibrige are Legitimists and Catholics, their faith being the simple faith of the people, undisturbed by philosophic doubts. There are exceptions, however, chief among them the Protestant Gras, whose Toloza clearly reflects his sympathy with the Albigenses. Yet this did not stand in the way of his election as Capoulie—a proof, if proof were needed, that literary merit outweighs all other considerations in this artistic body of men. Finally, it may be noted that the felibres have often been accused of lack of patriotism towards northern France, of schemes of decentralization, and other heresies; but none of these charges holds good. The spirit of the movement, as represented by its leaders, has never been expressed with greater terseness, force and truth than in the three verses set by Felix Gras at the head of his Carbounie: " I love my village more than thy village; I love my Provence more than thy province; I love France more than all." AuT11oRITIES.–Las Joyas del gay saber, edited by Noulet (vol. iv. of Gatien-Arnoult's Monumens de la litterature roman, &c., Toulouse, 1849); Noulet, .Essai sur l'histoire litteraire des patois du midi de la France aux .X VI' et X VII' siecles (Paris, 1859) and . . . au X VIII' siecle (Paris, 1877) ; Gaut, " Etude sur la litterature et la poesie provencales " (Memoires de l'academie des sciences, lac., d'Aix, tome ix. pp. 247-344, Aix, 1867) ; Mary-Lafon, Histoire litteraire du midi de la France (Paris, 1882) ; Restori, Letteratura provenzale, pp. 200-214 (Milano, 1891); Marieton's articles on Provencal and Felibrige in the Grande encyclopedie; Donnadieu, Les Precurseurs des felibres 1800–1855 ; (Paris, 1888) ; Jourdanne, Histoire du Felibrige, 1854–z896 (Avignon, 1897) ; Hennion, Les Fleurs felibresques (Paris, 1883); Portal, La letteratura provenzale moderna (Palermo, 1893) ; Koschwitz, Ueber die provenzalischen Feliber and ihre Vorganger (Berlin, 1894); Marieton, La Terre provencale (Paris, 1894). (H. 0.)
End of Article: MODERN PROVENCAL LITERATURE
[back]
MODERN HUMAN ANATOMY
[next]
MODERN STAGE

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.