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WALLOON LITERATIIRE

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 287 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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WALLOON LITERATIIRE.—In medieval times various local documents in prose and verse were written by inhabitants of Liege and its diocese in a dialect of French which contained many Walloon words and phrases. It is supposed that as early as the 12th century the idiom of the people may have been used in songs which are now lost, unless echoes of them are preserved in the curious Noels, partly in French, partly in patois, which were orally collected by M. Doutrepont and published in 1888. Several Flemish works in old French, containing Walloon expressions, and in particular the so-called Poeme moral of the 13th century, have been claimed as precursors of a local literature, but they are really to be considered as composed in French with a certain admixture of Liegeois phrases. The earliest existing specimen of pure Walloon literature is the Ode in praise of Liege, dated 162o, and attributed to Mathias Navaeus; this was first printed in 18J7 in the transactions of the Societe Liegeoise. Except a few very flat popular songs, there is nothing more until the end of the 17th century, when we find Lis Aiwes di Tongue (The Waters of Tongres), an amusing lyrical satire on the pretensions of that town to be considered a Roman spa. Fifty years later the opening of a popular theatre at Liege led to the creation of a class of farces, written in Walloon; of these Li Voege di Chaudfontaine (The Journey to Chaudfontaine) (1757), by Jean Noel Hamal, has considerable humour and vigour in its rhymed dialogue. Other successful comedies were Li Fiesse di Hoiite s'i plou, Li Ligeois egagi, and, above all, Lis Hypocondes, the liveliest specimen of old Walloon literature which has survived. This diverting farce describes the adventures of a party of mock-invalids, who pursue a series of intrigues at a spa. This class of dramatic literature closed with Li Malignant in 1789. In these early songs and plays the Walloon humour is displayed with great crudity; anything like sentiment or elevated feeling is unknown. The Revolution of 1789 inspired numerous Liegeois patriots with popular songs; of these pasqueyes, as they are styled, Albin Body collected more than 250, but they are almost entirely devoid of literary merit. Under their new government, Liege and Namur allowed the national patois to withdraw into thebackground, and it was not until the middle of the 19th century that Walloon literature began seriously to be cultivated. Its only expression, for a long time, was in lyrical poetry in the form of satires and the humorous songs, called pasqueeyes and crdmignons. The earliest of the modern Walloon writers was Charles Nicolas Simonon (1774-1847), who celebrated in Li Copa;ey.the ancient clock-tower of the cathedral of St Lambert, an object of reverence to the inhabitants of Liege. His poems were collected in 1845. Henri Joseph Forir (1784-1862) was the first president of the Societe Liegeoise, and one of the protagonists of Walloon literature. He published a valuable dictionary of the patois. The Cure C. E. E. Du Vivier de Streel (1799-1863) was the author of Li Pantalon trawe (The Torn Trowsers), a pasqueeye which still enjoys an enormous popularity among the Walloon population. The first Walloon writer of high merit, however, was Nicolas Defrecheux (1825-1874), who is the most distinguished poet whom the patois has hitherto produced. His Leyiz-m' plorer (Let me cry), when it appeared in 1854, made a wide sensation, and was the earliest expression of what is serious and tender in the Walloon nature. His Chansons wallonnes appeared in 186o. Defrecheux stands almost alone among the Walloon poets as an artist and not merely an improvisatore. His poetical works were posthumously collected in 1877. For many years, in spite of the efforts of such scholars as MM. Alphonse Le Roy and H. Gaidoz, a taste for Walloon literature remained strictly circumscribed, and was limited to a small circle of enthusiasts in Liege and Namur. In 1872 a literary club was formed, entitled the Caveau Liegeois, and this gave a very great stimulus to the cultivation of the Walloon letters. The national drama, which had been entirely neglected for more than a century, once more was called into existence through the exertions of the theatrical club, called Les Wallons. The comedies of A. M. J. Delchef (b. 1835) were acted with success, and led the way for the most important patois dramatist that Liege has produced, Edouard Remouchamps (b. 1836), who is the author of Tdti l'Perriqui (1884), perhaps the most entertaining farce in Walloon, and certainly the most popular. Remouchamps was for thirty years a prolific writer of short pieces fer the stage, sentimental and farcical. After the success of this play, according to an enthusiastic chronicler, " the writers of Wallonia became legion." Their style, however, was not greatly varied, and they have mainly confined themselves to songs, satirical lampoons and farces. The founder of the Societe Liegeoise was J. F. E. Bailleux (1817-186o), to whom the revival of an interest in early Walloon literature is mainly due; in con-junction with J. V. F. J. Dehin (1809-1871) he published a translation of Lafontaine into patois. Among writers of the younger generation, special credit must be given to Henri Simon (b. 1856), for his humoristic tales and sketches; to Julien Delaite (b. 1868), for his amusing lyrics; and to Zephir Henin (b. 1866), for his prose, prose being much rarer than verse in Walloon. It would be possible to add very largely to this list, but the most notable names have been mentioned. A certain monotonous fluency is the fault of Walloon literature, which repeats its effects too constantly, and is confined within too narrow limits. A few writers, among whom Isidore Dory (b. 1833) is prominent, have endeavoured to enlarge the scope of the patois writers, but their suggestions have met with little response. When the Walloon writer desires to impart serious information or deep feeling, he resorts to the use of French. The pasqueeye, which is the characteristic form of Walloon verse, is a kind of semi-comic and extremely familiar lyric, humorous and extravagant, a survival of the influence of Beranger on taste three-quarters of a century ago; the facility with which these songs are composed is betrayed by the enormous number of them which exist in Liege and Namur. The difficulties of Walloon literature are increased by the unfixed character of its phonetic and often extravagant orthography.
End of Article: WALLOON LITERATIIRE
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