In Troubadour-Land - A Ramble in Provence and Languedoc
by S. Baring-Gould
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Then we are given the legend that accounts for it. Here Hercules fought against the Ligurians, when the son of Jove, having exhausted his arrows, was supplied with artillery by a discharge of stones from the sky, showered on his enemies by Jupiter.

This desert, a little Sahara in Europe, occupies 30,000 acres. "It is composed entirely of shingle," says Arthur Young, "being so uniform a mass of round stones, some to the size of a man's head, but of all sizes less, that the newly thrown up shingle of a seashore is hardly less free from soil; beneath these surface-stones is not so much a sand as a cemented rubble, with a small admixture of loam. Vegetation is rare and miserable, some of the absinthium and lavender so low and poor as scarcely to be recognised, and two or three miserable grasses, with Centaurea calycitropes and solstitialis, were the principal plants I could find." A mineralogical examination of the rolled stones presents peculiar interest. In the Little Crau, the mouth of the Durance, are found prodigious numbers of green and crystalline rocks, granite and variolite brought down from the Alps of Briancon, but nine-tenths of the pebbles of the Great Crau are white quartz brought from the great chain of the Alps, together with mica-slate and calcareous stones, and only a few of the variolites of Mont Genevre. One may say that the Great Crau is a complete mineralogical collection of all the rocks that form the chain of the Alps, whence flow the Rhone and its tributaries.

The aspect of the Crau is infinitely desolate, but it is no longer as barren as it was formerly. It is in fact, undergoing gradual but sure transformation. This is due to a gentleman of Provence, named Adam de Craponne, born in 1525 at Salon, who conceived the idea of bringing some of the waters of the Durance through the gap where some of its overspill had flowed in the diluvial epoch, by a canal, into the Great Crau, so that it might deposit its rich alluvium over this desert of stones. He spent his life and his entire fortune in carrying out his scheme, and it is due to this that year by year the barren desert shrinks, and cultivation advances. There are to-day other canals, those of Les Alpines, of Langlade, and d'Istres, besides that of Craponne that assist in fertilising the waste. Wherever the water reaches, the soil is covered with trees, with pasture-land, with fields of corn; and in another century probably the sterility of the Crau will have been completely conquered.

In its present condition, the Crau may be divided into two parts, that which is watered, and which has been converted into a garden, and that which is not as yet reached by the rich loamy waters of the Durance, and is therefore parched and desolate, overrun by herds of sheep and cattle, driven down in winter from the Alps, when a certain amount of herbage is found on the desert, which in summer is utterly dry and barren. These migrations date back to a remote epoch, for they are mentioned by Pliny.

Previous to the construction of the canal by Craponne, who began it in 1554, the desert reached to Arles; the whole of the plain south of the chain of the Alpines was either marsh lagoon, or a waste of stones, where now grow and luxuriate mulberries, olives, almond trees and vines. The canal of Craponne was carried by the originator for thirty-three miles, sending out branches at Salon, Eyguieres, and elsewhere. In winter the meadows are green as those of Devon in spring, and the fields yield heavy crops. Indeed, the Durance acts to this region in the same way as does the Nile to Egypt. "The meadows I viewed," says Young, "are among the most extraordinary spectacles the world can afford in respect to the amazing contrast between the soil in its natural and in its watered state, covered richly and luxuriantly with clover, chicory, rib-grass, and Avena elatior."

The climate of the Crau presents contrasts most extreme. In winter the thermometer falls and remains below zero for many nights in succession, and the glacial bise sweeps over the face of the desert, curdling the blood; the flocks and herds seek shelter from this blast behind the long walls of dry stones, which sometimes the violence of the wind throws down upon them.

During the summer the phenomenon of the mirage is almost continuous. The bed of air in contact with the surface of stones scorched by the blazing sun becomes rarified and dilated, so that the horizon appears to be fringed on all sides with lakes of rippling water, most deceptive and tantalising to the eye of the traveller.

The troops of wandering bulls and wild horses, flights of rose-coloured flamingoes, of partridges and wild ducks give this region a pronounced oriental physiognomy, and however painful it may be at such a time to traverse this burning plain, it affords a curious picture of the Sahara in miniature nowhere else to be seen in Europe.

The great scourge of the Crau is the north-west wind, the bise, the black boreas of the ancients, so violent as to roll over the pebbles, and to blow away the roofs of houses, and tear up trees by the roots. In fact, the Crau may be regarded as the Home of the Winds.

It is easy to explain the origin of these furious gales, bise and mistral. The low sandy regions at the mouth of the Rhone, denuded of all vegetation, and the great stony plain of the Crau, heated by the direct rays of the sun, rarify the air over the surface of the soil, and this rises, to be at once replaced by the cold air from the Alps and Cevennes; the air off the snow pours down with headlong violence to occupy the vacuum formed by the heated ascending column of air off the plain, sweeping the valley of the Rhone, and reaching its maximum of intensity between Avignon and the sea, where it meets, and is blunted in its force by the equable atmosphere that covers the surface of the Mediterranean.

The violence of the wind is consequently due to the difference of temperature between the hot air of the plain and the cold air of the mountain.

An old saying was to this effect:—

"Parlement, Mistral et Durance Sont les trois fleaux de Provence."

Parlement exists no longer, or rather is expanded into a National Assembly that is a discredit to all France, and not Provence alone; the Durance has become, thanks to Adam de Craponne, an agent of fertilisation and wealth. But the mistral (magistral, the master-wind) remains, and still scourges the delta of the Rhone. In 1845 it carried away the suspension bridge between Beaucaire and Tarascon; the passage of the Rhone is often rendered impossible for days, through its violence. It has been found necessary to plant rows of cypress on each side of the line that crosses the Crau, to break the force of the wind upon the trains. Indeed, throughout the district, the fields will, in many places, be found walled up on all sides by plantations of cypresses from thirty to fifty feet high, as screens against this terrible blast, to protect the crops from being literally blown out of the ground.

When I was a child of five years my father's carriage with post horses was crossing the Crau. It was in summer. I sat on the box with my father and looked at the postilions. Presently I saw a number of little figures of men with peaked caps running about the horses and making attempts to scramble up them. I said something about what I saw, whereupon my father stopped the carriage and put me inside with my mother. The heat of the sun on my head, he concluded, had produced these illusions. For some time I continued to see these dwarfs running among the pebbles of the Crau, jumping over tufts of grass, or careering along the road by the carriage side, making faces at me. But gradually their number decreased, and I failed finally to see any more.

One June day in the year 1884, one of my boys, then aged eight, was picking gooseberries in the fruit garden at home, when, standing between the bushes, he saw a little man of his own height, with a brown peaked cap, a red jacket, and green breeches. He had black hair and whiskers and beard. He looked angrily at the boy and said something. The child was frightened, ran indoors and told his elder brother and sister. They brought him to me, and his elder brother repeated the story, but purposely varied the description of the apparition, so as to see whether the lad held to the same account, but the child at once corrected him, and told me his story, which his brother informed me agreed exactly with what in his alarm, he had first told. The little boy was looking white, and frightened. Again a case of sun on the head.

Now for another. A lady whom I know very well indeed, and who never deviated from the truth in her life—save when she swore at the altar to honour and obey me—was walking one day, when a girl of thirteen, beside a quickset hedge; her brother was on the other side. I believe they were looking for birds' nests. All at once she saw a little man dressed entirely in green, with jacket, breeches, and high peaked hat, seated in the hedge, staring at her. She was paralysed with terror for a moment, then recovering herself, she called to her brother to come round and see the little green man. When he arrived the dwarf had disappeared.

Now these are funny stories, and are to be explained by the fact that the sun was hot on the head. But it does not strike me that the explanation is wholly satisfactory. Why should the sun on the head superinduce visions of kobolds? Is it because other people have suffered from a hot sun, and that the hot sun reproduces year after year the same phenomenon, that the fable of little men, pixies, gnomes, brownies, fairies, leprechauns is to be found everywhere? Or—is it possible that there is such a little creation only visible to man when he is subject to certain influences?

Sir Charles Isham, of Lamport, has collected a good deal of evidence of a similar nature. I do not venture to express an opinion one way or another. I can remember still, with vividness, the impression produced on me by what I saw that hot day on the Crau, when but a child of five years; but I cannot for the life of me explain it satisfactorily to myself.



Difficulty of finding one's way about in Arles—The two inns—The mistral—The charm of Arles is in the past—A dead city—Situation of Arles on a nodule of limestone—The Elysian Fields—A burial-place for the submerged neighbourhood—The Alyscamp now in process of destruction—Expropriation of ancient tombs—Avenue of tombs—Old church of S. Honore—S. Trophimus—S. Virgilius—Augustine, apostle of the English, consecrated by him—The Flying Dutchman—Tomb of AElia—Of Julia Tyranna—Her musical instruments—Monument of Calpurnia—Her probable story—Mathematical versus classic studies—Tombs of utriculares—Christian sarcophagi—Probably older than the date usually attributed to them—A French author on the wreckage of the Elysian Fields.

I do not know a more perplexing place anywhere to find one's way in and out of than Arles. During a fortnight spent there I never could hit my inn aright once on coming from the railway station. The place is like a labyrinth; but one of those labyrinths that our forefathers delighted to construct of pleached alleys of box or lime were always to be traversed when you possessed the key. There is no key, no principle whatever upon which Arles has been built. Every public edifice seems to be dodging round the corner, like Chevy Slyme, hiding from some other public edifice with which it is on dubious terms, or not quite on social equality, and wishes to avoid the difficulties of an encounter.

Arles streets are about the worst paved in Europe. They are floored with the cobble-stones rolled down by the diluvium, and torture the feet that walk over them and rick the ankles. There are two melancholy inns in the Place du Forum, and it is hard to choose between them, probably it does not much matter. I was given a bed-chamber in one where neither the door nor the window would shut, and where there were besides two locked doors that did not fit, and as the mistral was blowing, my hours in that room were spent in a swirl of draughts. Moreover, an old party with bronchitis was in the adjoining room, also suffering from the draughts, and in despair of recovering his health in such a situation. I complained, and was given another room where the draughts were the same, but I was without my coughing and hawking neighbour. No wonder that I was charged half a franc per night for my candle. It guttered itself in no time into the tray of the candlestick, as it was blown upon from four distinct directions simultaneously.

Arles—when not in a mistral—is charming, but the charm is in the past. There one must be a laudator temporis acti, for the present is wholly wretched and bad. The fact is, Arles had a glorious past, from which it has been falling throughout the Middle Ages till it reached a point approaching extinction, and it has not as yet realised that better days are shining before it, and that there is a future to which it may look up.

So depressed did Arles become some time ago, that its only lively trade was in old coffins. It had a vast cemetery outside its walls, crammed with memorials of the dead of all ages; and as the curators of the museums of Paris, Marseilles, Avignon, Aix, &c., thirsted after sarcophagi, the mournful Arelois went to their necropolis, dug up as many as were wanted, and forwarded coffins to those who had made requisition for them.

Arles is planted upon a nodule of limestone rock that rises out of the diluvium of rolled stones. In former times it was almost the sole dry spot to be found for miles round, and as the dead of Pagan and Christian times alike seem to have objected to wet beds, their bodies were transported from all the country round to the plateau east of Arles and there entombed. This plateau was called the Elysian Fields, now Alyscamp, and is so thick with tombs that you walk over them as you follow the road that runs along the plateau. You see the grass at the side dead in one place, there is a tomb there; you see a bit of white marble cropping up in another, that is a tomb. You see a great stack of stones heaped up by the side of a railway cutting, they are all tombs. You look at the cutting itself, and see that to a certain depth it is honeycombed with tombs, some cut through, some sticking out. In every farmyard the pigs eat out of old sarcophagi. The fountains squirt into them, the bacon is cured in them. The farrier dips his hot iron into a sarcophagus. In the churches the altars are made of them. The foundations of the houses are laid in them. The very air seems to be pervaded with the dust of the dead, and this dust lies heavy on the spirits and energies of the inhabitants.

But what an age we live in! Utilitarian and disrespectful of the past! The other day a cargo of mummied cat-deities arrived at Liverpool and was sold for manure. At Arles, the Paris, Lyons and Mediterranean Railway Company has bought up the Elysian Fields to convert them into a factory for their engines. The company are excavating Les Alyscamp for this purpose, throwing about the sarcophagi, Pagan or Christian, or using them for building materials—and sawn in half they make decent quoins for a brickshed—and strewing the dust of the dead of ages under the wheels of the locomotives.

One undesecrated, unrifled headland remains above the factories, on which is a venerable but abandoned church. The company would grub that up too, but the proprietor will not sell, as he believes the tradition that an incalculable treasure is hidden somewhere among these tombs.

But the Arelois not only expropriate the tombs of their forefathers, they have given away or sold other things as well. On the Alyscamp is the venerable church of S. Honore, half ruinous, in which, underground in the crypt is the ancient baptistery that had served the first Christians when the church was young. It was furnished with a large porphyry circular vessel for immersing adults. Louis XIV. saw it, coveted it for some water-works, and got the Arelois to give it him. Among the ruins of the theatre was found a Venus of Greek workmanship and of Parian marble. They sent it away also; it is in Paris.

The old church of S. Honore is now reached by a long avenue of poplars lined with Pagan Roman tombs. The nave of the church is in ruins, but the choir is in tolerable condition, and is the most interesting portion. It consists in fact of an early Romanesque basilica with three aisles ending in three apses. The pillars separating nave from aisles, three on each side, are great drums ten feet in diameter. The later, ruinous nave contains the reputed chapel of S. Trophimus, apostle of Arles. When the fourteenth century church was added, this little chapel was left standing within, and though now crumbling, it is comparatively watertight. It has, however, undergone recasing in Renaissance times, and to understand its structure the chapel must be entered. It is then seen to have been an open porch of four semicircular arches, and may possibly have been erected over the tomb of S. Trophimus. The only ornament about it is a moulding, which may give its date.

S. Trophimus, reputed apostle of Aix, is now said to have been that Asiatic who was a companion of S. Paul mentioned in Acts xx. 4, xxi. 27-29, and 2 Tim. iv. 12, 20. But the very early diptychs of the church of Arles mention S. Dionysius as the first prelate, and the cathedral was built in 625 by S. Virgilius, and dedicated to S. Stephen. It did not take the title of S. Trophimus till the twelfth century, when the relics of this saint were brought to it from the little chapel just described. The exact date was 1152; the tradition of S. Trophimus having been one of the disciples of Christ and companion of S. Paul arose about this time. Not a trace of such a tradition appears in the Provencal poem composed by an eye-witness of the translation of the relics.

There was, no doubt, a bishop of this name at Arles, and probably early, but the first whose name is authenticated is Martianus, who followed the Novatian heresy in 254. Gregory of Tours—and his testimony is confirmed by a MS. of the fifth century—says that S. Trophimus was sent into Gaul in the consulship of Decius and Gratus, i.e., 250, and that he was the first bishop of Arles, and Gregory of Tours is the earliest and most reliable authority that we have on the beginnings of the Christian church in Gaul.

The church of S. Honore was built by S. Virgilius, Archbishop of Arles A.D. 588-618, and the baptistery dates from his time. According to the legend, whilst he was erecting the basilica, the people toiled ineffectually to move the pillars to their destined place. At last they sent word to S. Virgil that the truck was fast, and the pillars could neither be taken on nor carried back. Then Virgil hurried to the spot, and saw a little devil, like a negro boy, sitting under the truck, obstructing its progress. Virgil drove him away, whereupon the columns were easily moved. He was buried in this church, but I do not fancy his tomb is known. A strange story is told of him, how one night, as he was pacing the walls of Arles, or possibly walking in the Alyscamp, he saw a mysterious ship come sailing over the meres. In the starlight he discerned forms of sailors. The ship drew up near where he stood, and a voice called to him: "Reverend father, we know who thou art. Now we are bound for Jerusalem, and are here to ask thee to come on board with us." "No, thank you," answered Virgilius, "not till you have shown me who you are." Then he made the sign of the cross, and suddenly the ship resolved itself into a drift of fog that rolled away before the wind along the surface of the mere. This is the second version of the world-wide-known myth of the Flying Dutchman. The earliest form comes to us in the legend of S. Adrian, a martyr in Asia Minor. As his widow Basilissa was sailing over the Black Sea with his body, to bury it at Byzantium, a phantom ship passed by, which also vanished when adjured in the sacred name.

What is, to us English, of interest in connection with S. Virgil of Arles is, that it was he who consecrated Augustine for his mission to Kent, at the command of Gregory the Great. So here, probably, in this ruinous, silent old church, our apostle of the English knelt and received his commission to go and preach the Gospel to us Angles. This same Virgil also built the cathedral, and dedicated it to S. Stephen. But of his work there not a trace remains. Another bishop of Arles of some note was Regulus, who when preaching one day was so troubled by the noise made by the frogs, that he interrupted his sermon to order them to be silent, and—they obeyed.

In a side chapel of the old church of S. Honoratus is a sarcophagus that contains the skull and bones and dust of a young girl. The coffin is of lead, and this perhaps accounts for the preservation. Along with it were found the gold ear-rings and other trinkets. On the ear-rings a cross, but the inscription on the tomb hardly leads one to believe the girl was a Christian. She was aged seventeen years, eight months, and eighteen days, when she died. Her name was AElia. Here is the inscription in the lead, translated:—


Thou who can'st read these lines, read a sad mishap, and learn our plaintive lay. Many call that a sarcophagus which contains bones, But this has become the home of unhallowed bees. [1] Shame it should be so! Here lies a damsel of exceeding beauty. There's more than grief in this: a dearly loved wife has been snatched away. She lived a virgin so long as Nature willed. When she became a bride, the marriage vows were a joy to her parents. She lived seventeen years, eight months, and eighteen days. Happy the father who lived not to see such sorrow. The wound rankles in the bosom of her mother, her precious jewel, And her father, taken away in old age, still holds her clasped to his heart.

[Footnote 1: The ancients thought that bees were bred of dead bodies. See Virgil, Georgics. iv. 281-5.]

Here is the original with conjectural restorations. Would not old Dr. Keates have whipped the Eton boy who wrote such barbarous Latin verses! But it must be remembered the Arles folk were Graeeco-Gallic, and not masters of Latin. Some of the words are run together. It runs thus—

AELIA AELIAE querelam.) Multi.sarcophagum.dicunt.quod.con(tinet ossa:) profanis:) Onefas.indignum.jacet.hic.praeclara(puella.) Hoc.plusquam.dolor.est.rapta.est.s(uavissima conjux.) viii.diesque xviii. O.felice.patrem.qui.non.vidit.tale.dolorem. fixo.pectore.volnus.dionysyadi matri. Et junctam.secum.geron.pater.tenet.ipse.puellam.

This is an exact copy. I am not responsible for the grammatical blunders, they were made clearly by the sculptor of the inscription, who did not understand what he cut.

Among the tombs extracted from the Alyscamp and now in the Museum of Arles, is another of a girl, and a very accomplished young lady she must have been; her name was Julia, and she was the daughter of Lucius Tyrannus. She died at the age of twenty; the inscription on her tomb records that in her morals and in her schooling she was a pattern to all other girls.

What is particularly interesting about this monument is that it gives illustrations of all the musical instruments she was able to play, and it affords us I believe, the earliest known example of the organ. [1] But what is even more curious is that on it is represented a guitar, very much the same as is now manufactured.

[Footnote 1: Nero on the night when he died was going to try a water-organ, when the news of the revolt of Galba and the defection of the troops reached him. I am puzzled about this organ on the tomb of Julia Tyranna. Sir George Grove, in his 'Dictionary of Music,' gives an illustration of this same organ copied from Dom. Bedos' 'L'Art du Facteur d'Orgues,' Paris, 1766. This represents two slaves crouched and blowing into the organ bellows. I could not see these figures. I made my sketch carefully, and can hardly suppose the figures have been chipped away since the monument was placed in the museum.]

The instruments she could play were the organ, the guitar, the syrinx or panpipe, and the lyre, which she struck not with her fingers, but a plectrum represented beside it. Observe, between the lyre and the banjo her little satchel of music-books, and below the syrinx a lamb and palm. This is the only sign on the monument that could in the least lead to a supposition that Julia Tyranna was Christian. The inscription bears no trace of Christianity.

Another interesting monument found there is that to Calpurnia, daughter of Caius Marius. Probably she died from the exposure and roughness of life camping out, when the barbarian hordes rolled west, and all the inhabitants of the towns were obliged to fly before them to the hills. I shall in a future chapter tell the story of Caius Marius and his great victory at Pourrieres over the Teutons, having first thrashed the Ambrons near Aix. Suffice it now to note that here is the tombstone of his poor little daughter. I must, however, state that the genuineness of this inscription has been called in question. It is also worthy of notice how that the victory of Marius and delivery from the barbarians impressed the people of the neighbourhood. In the museum the name of Marius occurs on other monuments. The name of Marius is even now a popular Christian name in Provence.

But to return to Calpurnia. The place where the Arles inhabitants fled from the Teutons was the limestone range of Les Alpines, almost an island, so surrounded was it by lagoons and marshes.

Looking at Calpurnia's monument I fell into a dream, and saw her whole story unfolded before me. Caius Marius was a rough-mannered man, of peasant origin, but he had a wife Julia, of patrician rank, and who, I have not a shadow of doubt, flourished her noble origin before him, and talked very big of her grand relations. When little missie was born: "I'll have none of your plebeian names, if you please, for my baby," said Julia; "you will please note that my family derives from the immortal gods. I shall call the child Calpurnia." [1] Madame Julia was a good wife, and she followed her rough husband everywhere. At the beginning of windy March, tidings came that the Teutons and Ambrons were on the move. In April all the women and children of Arles, Glanum, Ernaginum, and Cabelio were clustered on the heights of Les Alpines, in extemporised cabins or in some of the prehistoric habitations they found scooped out of the limestone. Down came the rains. A gale and driving out-pour then as to-day, when M. Carnot comes into Provence. The roofs of the cabins let in water, the sides of the caves ran down with moisture. Then the wind changed, the sun shone out hot, but the mistral tore over the country cold and sharp as a double-edged sword. Poor Calpurnia could not stand it. She shivered and coughed, lost appetite and spirits. Next came the tidings of the battle at Les Milles, and a couple of days later of the extermination of the enemy at Pourrieres. Now the refugees might in safety descend from their rocky refuges, and return to their homes.

[Footnote 1: See Appendix A, on this monument and the question of its genuineness; as well as for some other inscriptions in the Arles Museum.]

Then Julia went with the sick girl to Arles. Meantime Marius on the battlefield had received the ovation of his officers and soldiers, and the salutations of the delegates from the senate proclaiming him consul. But at the same time there appeared—I doubt not, though Plutarch does not say so—a slave with a note from Julia:—

"I am sorry to tell you that Calpurnia is very unwell. That horrible mistral froze her, and she has done little else than cough night and day since. I have given her snail broth, but it has not relieved her much, and she is now spitting blood. Bother these Teutons, it is all their work. I always told you that you made a mistake in letting them come into Provence, and cross the Rhone. However, you were ever pigheaded, and now it serves you right. You will lose Calpurnia, who is the apple of your eye. Now if you had listened to me, etc., etc.


But there was something further to complicate matters, and superinduce sickness in a delicate girl. To escape to the hills the good people of Arles could not follow a road, for the whole district between them and the range of Les Alpines was covered with one vast lagoon. They could not travel in boats, for the lagoon was shallow, so they went on rafts supported on inflated skins, about which I shall have something to say presently. So Calpurnia, creeping close to her mother, wrapped in her pallium, was exposed for hours on a raft at the beginning of April to the cold winds, and to the water oozing up between the joints of the raft.

The whole story works out like an equation. I fancy—but am not sure—a quadratic equation, somehow thus:—

As I, in a 19th cent. hotel, and in Jaeger underclothing: Calpurnia, on a raft and in a pre-historic cave:: a cold in the head I got: x

x X self in hotel and Jaeger costume = Calpurnia on a raft and in a cave X cold in the head.

x = pthysis.

I think this is right. I cannot be sure; and I cannot be sure, though I was educated to be a mathematician by a senior wrangler.

The facts were these. My dear father thought, and thought perhaps justly, that a classical education was but a throwing back of the current of the mind into the past, whereas a mathematical education directed it to the future, and was the sole course which would prove Pactolean. So I was cut down in my classical studies, and drawn out in those which were mathematical. Likewise I was sent the year before entering the university to a senior wrangler to ripen me. I then learned that what as a boy I was wont to call the Rule of Three was more properly termed equations, and that equations might be complicated to the highest limits of muddledom, and when so complicated were termed quadratics. After a course of equations that flattened out my head like the Camargue, I was thrust into what are called surds, a sort of wood of errors, in which one spends hours in hewing one's way to get at nothing of the slightest profit to man or beast; finally, I believe my good tutor, now a bishop, got tired of me. I was stupefied by surds; and I entered the university. Now, after thirty-seven years, I find that every ode of Horace, every chapter of Caesar, every line of Virgil I learned at school lies as a sprig of lavender in the folds of my memory—but I cannot even set and work out a common equation, or add up a sum in compound addition correctly.

I beg the pardon of the reader for this digression. I have made it because I think, should my reader be a father, this experience of mine may be of profit to him.

To return to the monuments of the Elysian Fields. A considerable number have been found here, also at Nimes, S. Gabriel, and Cavaillon, which are the memorials of utriculares. [1] There were guilds of these men. They appointed noble Romans as their patrons, and these patrons on their tombstones made mention of the fact. But what were these utriculares? They were raftsmen who carried on trade over the lagoons, sustaining their flat vessels upon distended skins. The lagoons were so shallow that no vessel of deep draught could travel over them, and all the merchandise of central Gaul for the Mediterranean—the tin from Britain for instance—and all the goods of the Mediterranean for Gaul, had to be transhipped at Arles from the river boats, unable to cross the bar, on to these barges sustained on inflated skins that conveyed them to Fos, at the mouth of the lagoons, where they were again shipped for the sea voyage. After Marius had cut a canal, matters were better. Ships could come up through the lagoons to Arles, but none at any time of deep draught, and the raftsmen, the utriculares, carried on their trade till the Middle Ages, when the mouths of the lagoons became choked, and the lagoons themselves turned into noxious morasses. Here is one of their monuments, in the museum of Arles:—

"To the manes. To Marcus Junius Messianus, of the guild of the utriculares of Arles, four times president of this corpora Junia Valeria raised this monument to him, her son, who died aged twenty-eight years, five months, and ten days."

Here is another, found near Lyons:—

"To the manes and eternal repose of Caius Victorinus ... urix, also called Quiguro, citizen of Lyons, one of the corporation of utriculares there, who lived twenty-eight years,... months and five days, without giving offence to anyone. His mother, Castorina, raised this to the memory of her sole and very dear boy."

The navigation on distended skins is now everywhere extinct except on the Euphrates. On some of the Nineveh sculptures may be seen men swimming across rivers sustained on these primitive air-vessels.

[Footnote 1: See Appendix C.]

In the museum at Arles are numerous sculptured Christian sarcophagi, with groups of the Raising of Lazarus, the Multiplication of Loaves, the Striking of the Rock by Moses, the Opening of the Eyes of the Blind, &c. These are attributed to the fourth and fifth centuries. For myself I am by no means satisfied that the Christian sarcophagi of rich and beautiful sculpture are as late as the dates generally given to them. I judge by the fashion of the hair worn by the ladies. Now there is a sarcophagus at Arles with the twelve apostles on it, six on each side of Christ, and a portrait of the deceased. This is set down to be a tomb of the fifth century, and yet the lady wears her hair in precisely the fashion, and it was a peculiar one, of the Faustinas, the wives of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, A.D. 138-177. It must not be forgotten that the protection of the laws was extended to Christian sepulchres as well as Pagan till the edict of Valerian in A.D. 257, and although this was withdrawn by Gallienus in A.D. 260, yet after that edict, the cemeteries, the catacombs, were never quite secure; before that, the Christians made no concealment of their places of burial, they used the richest available decorations for them, in sculpture and in painting. Only after A.D. 257 do the ornamentations cease, or become hastily sketched and rude, and the inscriptions degenerate into scrawls. All the finest, costliest work in the Roman catacombs belongs to the first two centuries and the beginning of the third. When peace returned to the Church, art had fallen into decay, and there were not sculptors capable of performing such work as had been done before. No more convincing proof of this can be found than the two porphyry tombs of Constantia and Helena, daughter and mother of Constantine, now in the Vatican.

To what a depth of degeneracy sculpture fell may be judged by the lid of the sarcophagus of S. Hilary, Bishop of Arles, d. 449, now in the Arles museum. Beside the rude lettering, there are but a leaf and two birds on it, but they might have been scribbled by a child. It is to me inconceivable that some of the beautiful white marble sarcophagi both at Arles and at Rome, sculptured with Scriptural scenes, can belong to the period when art was as degraded as it certainly was in the time of Constantine, and I think that antiquarians have been misled in dating them.

Before taking leave of the Elysian Fields, I must quote the words of a French author upon them:—"It has been a rich quarry only too easily worked, and we will not here enter on the painful story of its spoliation. All the museums of the south of France possess tombs stolen from the Alyscamp. As to the monolithic tombs, they were abandoned to any one who cared to have them, and for many centuries have been regarded as stones quarried ready for use. The city of Arles has on several occasions had the culpable condescension of giving up the tombs of its ancestors to the princes and great men of the world. Charles IX. laded several ships with them, which sank in the Rhone at Pont S. Esprit. The Duke of Savoy, the Prince of Lorraine, the Cardinal Richelieu, and a hundred others have taken away just what they liked, and Arles to-day has hardly more to show of this vast cemetery than an avenue—but a noble one—of sarcophagi and some fragments of fine Gothic or Romanesque chapels lost in the midst of a desert." [1]

[Footnote 1: Lentheric, 'La Grece et l'Orient en Provence,' 1878.]



The Arles race a mixture of Greek and Gaulish—The colonisation by the Romans—The type of beauty in Arles—The amphitheatre—A bull-baiting—Provencal bull-baits different from Spanish bull-fights—The theatre—The ancient Greek stage—The destruction of the Arles theatre—Excavation of the orchestra—Discovery of the Venus of Arles—A sick girl—Palace of Constantine.

Before describing Arles I began with the Elysian Fields, the great cemetery of Pagan and Christian Arles, for this seems to have affected the whole town, and with the dust of ages to have smothered the life out of it.

Now let us look at the remains of ancient Arles. But first of all let me observe that the Arles race prides itself on its singular purity of descent. There was, unquestionably, a Gaulish settlement there. The Keltic name Ar-lath, the "moist habitation," tells us as much. So does the legend of Protis and Gyptis, already related. But it was speedily occupied by a large Greek contingent, and the race was formed of Greek and Gaulish blood united. In the year B.C. 46 a Roman colony was planted at Arles. Caesar, desirous of paying off his debt of gratitude to the officers and soldiers who had served him in his wars, commissioned Claudius Tiberius Nero, one of his quaestors, father and grandfather of the emperors Tiberius, Claudius, and Caligula, to conduct two colonies into Southern Gaul, one was settled at Narbonne and the other at Arles, and this was one of the first military colonies planted beyond Italy.

The office of this Tiberius was to portion out the land among the veteran soldiers, six thousand men of the Sixth Legion occupied the town and country round—such of it, at all events, as was not under water—and thenceforth the city took the name of Arelate Sextanorum. Tacitus gives us a picture of the proceedings on such occasions. After the tribunes and the centurions came a cloud of officials called agrimensores, surveyors, charged with the duty of parcelling out the soil among the new comers. Then followed a hierarchy of civil officers, religious, judicial, administrative, all under the direction of an administrator-general, who was entitled curator coloniae. From that moment the transformation of the colonial town into a little Rome was a matter of time only. The new comers constructed a capitol, a forum, temples, triumphal arches, aqueducts, markets; besides these, theatres, a circus, baths. In a very few years the aspect of Arles was completely changed. A mercantile city of Graeco-Gauls had become Latinised, bureaucratic, and nattered itself that it was like its new parent on the Tiber. It called itself Gallula Roma, Arelas.

Consequently, we find in Arles a strong current of Roman blood mingled with the Greek and Gallic, and there has been practically no other admixture. Cut off from the country round by its marshes and lagoons, it has maintained its purity of blood and its characteristic stamp of face. The Arles women are said to be, believe themselves to be, and show to everyone that they believe themselves to be, the handsomest women in France. Their type is quite distinct from that of the inhabitants of Nimes, Marseilles, Aix, and even of the peasantry outside the gates of Arles. What is the more singular is that this peculiarity of type is not noticeable among the men. Among the women it is quite unmistakable. Their straight brows and noses are sometimes Greek, but the Roman arch appears as frequently as the straight nose; they have magnificent dark eyes; black hair which is curled up over their broad straight brows, brought forward about their faces so as to form a dark misty halo round the olive-complexioned features, then tied into a horn at the top of the head, which is bound round with black satin ribbon, that flows down at the back. The face is haughty, noble, somewhat imperious. Queens these Arelaises feel themselves to be, down to the fishwives in the market-place; they walk as queens, as well as the cobble stones will permit, and bear themselves, their black mantillas cast over their arms, in a queen-like manner.

I had a fine opportunity of studying them, for I went to the first bull-fight of the season in the old Roman arena, and all Arles was there, male and female, down to the babies in arms. Between each course all the spectators promenaded under the galleries and on the terrace at the top of the amphitheatre, the women in gala dress of white lace bodices, black mantle, and dark silk skirts; and a very fine sight they were; it was worth the forty centimes I paid for admission to see these majestic women pace along and sweep the little men from their path as they careered round and round the amphitheatre, with cold, stern faces, full of pride of ancestry and conscious beauty.

I will quote the opinion on the Arles type of a very competent judge perfectly acquainted with the whole of Provence:—"It can be affirmed without contradiction that Greek beauty exists at Arles, and exists only among the women. The men are clumsy, small and vulgar, rude in form and rough in vocal intonation. The women, on the contrary, have preserved the ancestral delicacy. The face is that of a cameo, the nose is straight, the chin very Greek, the ear delicately modelled; the eyes, admirably shaped, have in them a sort of Attic grace, transmitted from their mothers, and to be handed on to the children.

"To get an idea of this characteristic type, one must not study two or three subjects, but must observe the whole population en bloc, and especially compare it with the neighbouring populations. The result of such a comparison brings out with force the grand lines constituting in the Arelaise the character of a perfectly definite and distinct race." [1]

[Footnote 1: Lentheric, op. cit.]

As I have already mentioned the amphitheatre, I will begin my account of the antiquities of Arles with that. In the Middle Ages it was turned into a fortified bourg in the heart of fortified Arles; it contained streets about as broad as a man could walk up and touch walls on both sides with arms akimbo, a crowd of houses, and two chapels or churches. Four great towers were erected at the cardinal points, and the vast galleries and arcades were a very warren of human habitations. Constructed of huge blocks of limestone, laid without cement, the amphitheatre forms an ellipse, whose axis measures four hundred and twenty feet by three hundred and ten feet. It is said to be able to contain twenty-six thousand spectators, which is just two thousand five hundred more persons than the entire population of modern Arles.

Externally it presents two stages of sixty arcades, between the arches are engaged Doric pillars in the lower storey, those above are Corinthian, but only about six of the capitals of these latter remain. There are, within, three stages of seats, those for the senators, those for the knights, and the upper range for the common people, now much mutilated, and turned into a promenade. Fortunately the accumulation of earth over which the houses were built within the arena was so great, that when that was cleared away, the marble casing of the podium was disclosed in very tolerable perfection.

When I visited the amphitheatre, Les Arenes they are called, it was to see a Course aux Taureaux. The Provencals are passionately fond of these bull-baits, which take place weekly through the summer, beginning at Easter, but it is only at Arles and Nimes that they are carried out in the ancient Roman amphitheatres.

These courses are quite distinct from the Spanish bull-fights. There is no brutality, no torturing of the beast with arrows and crackers, no goring of horses. The bull is uninjured, and, though he gets furious, clearly relishes the fight, and in some cases cannot be induced to abandon it. The old proconsular seat was draped, and occupied by the prefet and madame, and the sous-prefet. The spectators went where they liked, men paid fourpence, women threepence for admission. The arena was enclosed within a screen of strong timber boards.

Five wild bulls from the Camargue were advertised to be baited. One, a strong black fellow, Nero, was clearly a favourite—his name was announced in very large letters. Every bull is given a rosette of coloured ribbons, fastened between his horns, and the sport consists in plucking away this rosette, and bearing it in safety beyond the barricades. Should a rosette fall to the ground, it does not count. A prize is given to whoever recovers a rosette. The blood-red rosette of Nero entitled the snatcher of it to one hundred francs. Another characteristic feature of the Provencal courses is that there are no professional toreadors. Any man or boy who likes enters the lists against the bull. Usually there are from a dozen to a score and a half in the arena, all endeavouring to pluck the bunch of ribbons from the brow of the enraged bull.

From practice, and acquaintance with the habits of bulls, the young men become very skilful, and fatal accidents are rare. The amateur runs up alongside of the bull, swings himself round in front of it, and makes his snatch. The bull at once goes at him, and he takes to his heels. When he is flying a second invariably runs across his path at right angles, and the bull can never resist the temptation of turning upon this second. If he also is hard pressed, a third crosses between him and the bull, and again diverts the angry beast. In one case a man's foot slipped as he was flying, and he fell. Then the bull was on him before another could intervene, but the brute rolled over the prostrate man, who got up, shook himself, and cleared the barricade.

One very nimble young fellow in a grey shirt had attracted general attention by his dexterity. He was resolved to have Nero's rosette. He managed to wrench it from between the bull's horns, but not completely to disengage it. The bull drove after him so close that it was impossible for another man to run between, the grey shirt reached the barrier and swung over, but the horns caught his nether garment and rent it, fortunately without really injuring the man, who, however, was not able to enter the arena again that day.

When a course has been run the doors are opened, and one or two young bulls are sent into the arena; they run round, and the bull who has been baited adjoins them, and they all run out together. Nero, however, would not go. He was fagged, but his blood was up. Five bulls were sent in to lure him away, but he was resolved to gore his man before he left. His rosette he had dangling on his brow, uncaptured.

Then the keepers entered with a species of halbert, with half-moon shaped steels at the head, and one small spike in the midst. With this they caught the horns of Nero, and he was forced to retreat before the men, for if he resisted the spike entered his head and hurt him. Thus finally, by sheer force, he was driven, snorting, pawing the ground, and with arched tail from off the place of contest.

The sport is good. It is not cruel. It draws out the courage, provokes dexterity and nimbleness, and takes the place in Provence that cricket does in England and golf in Scotland.

The Romans loved the brutal and demoralising games of the amphitheatre. Wherever they went they erected these huge places for entertaining themselves with the spectacle of suffering. There never was an amphitheatre at Marseilles, for Marseilles was Greek and not Roman, and to the Greek such spectacles were abhorrent.

At Arles there are the equally interesting remains of a theatre. The stage is fairly perfect, with its customary scenery of Corinthian pillars grouped so as to form two doors for entrance and exit between them. The pillars of this permanent scene are not all in place. Two are standing, and the bases of others remain. At the proscenium may be noticed the grooves into which the beams fitted for the wooden small stage that stood forward in front of the curtain.

The ancient Greek theatre was composed, like that of our days, of a hemicycle for the spectators, and a rectangular portion that formed the place for dramatic performance. The pit was a semicircle, and was not fitted with seats, but constituted the orchestra. This orchestra among the Greeks formed an inferior stage, and, as its name implies, was reserved for the ballet. It was not till Roman times that specially privileged spectators were admitted into it, but it never had the musicians installed in it. These latter were placed in front of the stage, much where is our modern proscenium. The actors performed, as nowadays, on the boarded anterior portion, which was called the pulpitum. Finally, to facilitate communication between the stage and the orchestra, a pair of flights of steps descended laterally from the proscenium. In the centre of the pit or orchestra was usually placed an altar to Bacchus, around which the choirs executed their evolutions; and against this little altar sat the prompter, hidden by it, whilst some flute-players stood beside the altar, in flowing robes, acting as ballet masters, and giving the measure with the shrill notes of their pipes.

The Greek tragedy, therefore, had a double action, one on the stage proper and the other below, and all was graceful and refined. The purest taste, the most elevated sentiments, were the characteristics of the Greek drama, and the most beautiful and stirring effects were produced by means of the utmost simplicity. Thus, when the Tragedy of the Persae of AEschylus was being performed, the depth of the stage opened, to show in the distance the blue sea on which a recent victory had taken place, with the rocky isle of Salamis bathed in the tints of the Eastern setting sun. A thrill of the most lively emotion ran instantly through the whole crowd of spectators. But with the Romans the theatre lost its dignity, and was degraded to low buffoonery, indecencies the most repulsive, and to gaudy spectacles. So bad was the moral result produced by the theatre, that the first Christian bishops who were able to do so, stirred their adherents to the destruction of this breeding-place of moral pestilence. The MS. chronicles of the church of Arles have preserved the name of the man who destroyed the theatre. He was a deacon, Cyril; acting under a strong moral impulse, filled with righteous indignation at the obscenities perpetrated on the boards, he roused the Christian populace of Arles to attack and wreck the theatre and expel the actors. The mob burst in—tore the marble from the proscenium, smashed the statues of admirable Greek sculpture, overthrew the altar and ground it to powder, upset the columns, and reduced it to a state of ruin very little better than that in which it is at present. Heads of statues were knocked off, bas-reliefs broken in half, cornices, capitals, were thrown into the pit and choked it to the level of the stage.

In 1651 the pick was set to work to clear out this orchestra, and almost the first stroke revealed one of the most admirable works of Greek sculpture that has descended to us, the Venus of Arles, an imitation or reproduction of the celebrated Venus of Praxiteles, now, unhappily, lost. This statue lay before the columns of the proscenium and had been saved from destruction by the ruins that had buried it. Head and body are almost intact, only the arms were gone.

The goddess is half naked, like the Venus of Milo. The bust is slightly turned. Head and coiffure are of the noblest and purest execution.

It was evening when I visited the theatre, a balmy spring evening, where shelter could be obtained from a cold wind. The pink Judas trees were in full flower. The syringas scented the air. The golden sunlight filled the theatre with light and warmth. But two persons were present, except myself. Seated on one of the white marble steps for the audience, was an Arles mother with a royal face, in the quaintly beautiful costume the women of all classes still affect, and she had spread her mantle over the shoulders of a girl of fourteen, sick, with face of the purest alabaster, and of features as fine as were ever traced for Venus Anadyomene, with large, solemn, dreamy eyes, watching a robin that was perched on the proscenium and was twittering.

The pity, love, and sorrow of that mother's heart were not to be read in her calm disciplined countenance, but I could see the emotions flow in short wavelets from her heart, through the arm that encircled the sick girl, into the hand that rhythmically contracted and expanded on the sharp little shoulder, rocking the child in the warm sun, against her own heart, and with her dark eyes looking into the future, in which she would have no more the child at her side to sway. In that theatre!—the ebbing tide of a white and limpid life taking its last sunning, where the crowds had laughed and roared their applause at sights and songs of unspeakable foulness.

In the museum may be seen some of the treasures from the theatre, a head of Augustus, a so-called Livia, a bust of the young Marcellus, bas-reliefs, dancing women, a few inscriptions, and the seal of a Roman dentist, which I suppose he lost there one day when watching a play, and which has recently been found there.

It is worth the visitor's while to walk by the broad muddy Rhone, and observe the clumsy picturesque vessels moored there, or gliding down the turgid stream. So clumsy is the construction that some are provided with two rudders, one being found insufficient to direct the course of these tubs.

At Arles, near the river, is a palace of Constantine the Great, now turned into cottages and sheds, and in a very ruinous condition, but sufficient of it is preserved to show what a falling off in architecture had ensued through the anarchy of rising and sinking emperors, and the destruction of the great families of the Patriciate. Employment for architects and sculptors was gone in times of proscription and military revolts, and apparently all at once the arts that had reached the utmost perfection fell into a condition of the most abject degradation.



Sunday in France—Improved observance—The cathedral of Arles—West front—Interior—Tool-marks—A sermon on peace—The cloisters—Old Sacristan and his garden—Number of desecrated churches in Arles—Notre Dame de la Majeur—S. Caesaire—The isles near Arles—Cordes—Montmajeur—A gipsy camp—The ruins—Tower—The chapel of S. Croix.

I spent the first Sunday after Easter at Arles. It was a bright and joyous spring day. I went to the cathedral at nine o'clock and found a good congregation there, listening to a sermon on the obligation of observing the Sunday. It was dull, and I left. But I may here observe what a great change has taken place in France of late years relative to this observance. I can remember when I was a boy how that every shop was open, and business went on much as on other days. But the Church has made great efforts to obtain a due recognition of the Lord's Day, and all who consider themselves to be good Catholics now shut their shops, and others, who find that there is now very little trade going on upon Sunday, shut their shops also because it is of no use having them open. It is only the polemical infidels who continue to keep their factories in full work and their places of merchandise open to invite purchasers.

Some few years ago I was talking with a Frenchman in Rome, a commercial man, about the phylloxera that was devastating the vines, and ruining the peasantry, and I asked him what was being done to correct the evil. "Bah!" said he. "Everything has been tried. Mon ami. We don't observe the Sunday. Voila le vrai phylloxera."

Now this observation of his was only worth so much, that it showed how that the clergy had been going hammer and tongs at the consciences of their sheep, till they had impressed a conviction on them that if they neglected the commandment of God relative to the observance of one day in seven, He would chastise them till they realised that they had erred, acknowledged their error, and endeavoured to rectify it.

The cathedral of Arles is a very interesting church indeed. Externally the west front is rich in the bold rude style of the twelfth century, and consists of a deeply-recessed semicircular arch resting on a horizontal sculptured frieze which forms the lintel of the door, and is continued on each side upon pillars that rest on the backs of lions and have apostles and saints standing between them. The interior of the church is very solemn and striking. It has been cleaned, but judiciously, without sand-papering away the tool-marks on the ancient stone. Has the reader never been puzzled to note the difference between old work and new, even when the new is a reproduction of the old? In the new there is an absence of something, but what we cannot tell. This something is very probably nothing more than the old tool-marks. The ancient workers left on the stone the tale of every stroke they dealt, and to ages on ages these marks tell us: here was a strong arm employed, here was dealt a vigorous blow; here Symon the hewer was tickled with a comical story that mason Peter told and he laughed, and the blow he dealt ran jagged with his laughter. These strokes were done in the morning, when the workers were fresh; those at even, when their arms were weary. But nowadays the stone is all gone over with a metal toothcomb, and scraped till not a tool-mark remains, and wood is glass-papered till every particle of sharpness and character is taken out of the work.

The aisles of the cathedral of Arles are but five feet wide, the arches are round, the windows Romanesque; the church is barrel-vaulted, nothing could be plainer, and yet somehow that old church is full of poetry and charm. I went to High Mass at eleven. It was all very homely, quiet and reverent. Another congregation was gathered; a Gregorian simple service sung, which the congregation knew and joined in heartily. Then up into the pulpit got a canon, and gave out his text, from the Gospel, S. John xx., end of verse nineteen. My heart stood still. Why—you shall hear.

Just twenty-two years ago, I was in Switzerland on Whit Sunday, and went to the little village church. The cure gave out these same words as his text, and preached a very good sermon on Peace, though perhaps not very appropriate to the day. Peace, he said, was an excellent thing, whether (1) in a country; (2) in a household; (3) in the conscience. There we had the three heads; on these he dilated. First we had a picture of the miseries of war in a country, and the converse picture of prosperity in peace. Then, secondly, we had a description of domestic discomfort, where husband and wife were at loggerheads, and—naturally, a charming family piece where both were in unity. Then came, thirdly, the special topic of his discourse, peace in the conscience, and how it was to be obtained and secured.

I bottled up that sermon in my memory and have preached it since, myself, once or twice.

One day, some fifteen years ago, I was at Eichstaedt in Bavaria, on a Saturday. The church of S. Michael there is reserved for the episcopal seminary; I wanted to see the interior and found it locked, but discovering a side door into the cloisters open, I, and my wife who was with me, entered. The church was empty, save that a sacristan with a feather brush was dusting the side altars, but to my surprise I heard a sermon being preached, and caught a glimpse of a priest in the pulpit haranguing and gesticulating to an empty church.

The sacristan, who saw us enter, went into convulsions of laughter. I did not understand the situation, and walked slowly down the aisle looking at the pictures, and listening to the discourse. I was very much surprised to hear the subject of Peace being chopped into three portions: peace in the country, peace in the family, peace in the conscience. It was my old friend the sermon on Peace again. Presently, my wife and I, having finished with the pictures in the north aisle, crossed the nave of the church to look at those in the south aisle, when, suddenly the preacher was aware of a strange gentleman and lady acting as his audience. His voice faltered, he broke down, searched for his MS., could not find his place, fell into complete confusion, turned tail, and bolted down the stairs and out of the church. He was a recently ordained seminarist rehearsing his first sermon.

Two years later I was in Brussels. A new dean had been appointed to S. Gudule, and was to preach his first sermon. I went there with a friend. He gave out his text. I pricked up my ears. Then he addressed himself to his subject, Peace; and showed how it naturally divided itself into three heads, peace in a country, peace in a household, peace in the conscience. It was my old friend again.

Now when I heard this text given out by a canon at Arles, I thought with a shock: Bless me! we shall have those three heads once more! But I was mistaken. The old man gave us a simple, crystal-pure discourse of ten minutes on the peace that passeth man's understanding.

Now I do not mean to hint that the Swiss, the German, and the Belgian preachers all used literally the same discourse; but I suppose that in the seminaries there are supplied certain skeleton discourses for the whole year, and these skeletons are dressed up sometimes in homely fustian, sometimes in rhetorical tinsel: yet they never remain other than dressed-up skeletons.

There is very little of colour in the cathedral of Arles—only nine great pieces of Flemish tapestry, green and soft pale yellow, that are suspended in the aisles. All the rest is of unadorned limestone blocks, unadorned save for the chipping marks of the old masons seven hundred years ago.

On the south side of the church is a delightfully rich cloister, the arcade resting on double columns whose capitals are richly sculptured with sacred subjects, incidents from the Old and New Testament. In the cloister is a well, fed, I believe, originally by the old Roman aqueduct that supplied the town with pure water from the hills, but which was suffered in the Middle Ages to fall into complete ruin. This aqueduct was older than the amphitheatre, for it ran in a cut channel through the rock beneath it. One evening that I was in the cloister the aged sacristan was engaged drawing from this well and watering a little garden of flowers he had made in the sunny sheltered nook within the cloister, against the south wall.

It was a pretty little subject; the old man in his long black coat, with silvery hair, stooping over his anemones and tulips, tying up the white narcissus that a swirl of the mistral had broken; with the quaint sculptured capitals of the pillars above, and the deep shadows between the pillars before him; in the junctions of the old blocks above the arcade were wild gillyflowers blooming, and under the tiles were swallows busy over their mud nests. And as the old man tied up the bruised narcissus, in a cracked voice he sang to himself one of the vesper psalms, and I caught the verse:

"Haec requies mea in saeculum saeculi: hic habitabo quoniam elegi eam." ("This shall be my rest for ever, here will I dwell, for I have a delight therein.")

Arles was at one time a city of churches, but the hurricane of the Revolution swept over her, and now she has left but four. On the walls, is a very early Romanesque church, tottering to ruins, because the Society for the Promotion of Athletic Sports, to whom it has been surrendered up for tumbling, climbing, wrestling, are impecunious and cannot keep it watertight. Hard by is another church, still earlier, a temple adapted to Christian worship, now half swept away, half devoted to a cabaret. The church of the Cordeliers is turned into a school, and the octagonal tower rises out of the roof of the dormitory. The beautiful fourteenth-century church of the Dominicans is a stable for the horses of the omnibuses that ply between the train and the town. S. Martin is desecrated, so is S. Isidore. The earliest church in Arles is Notre Dame de la Majeur, near the Arenes, but it does not look its age. It was in that church that the Council assembled in 475 on the doctrine of Grace, when the Gallican prelates were by no means disposed to admit S. Augustine's predestinarian teaching. Outside the church in the open space are traces of walls that are level with the earth; and if I am not mistaken, they are the foundations of an early basilica, with apse to the west. The church was rebuilt in the Middle Ages, and made to orientate, and was thrown further east than the earlier church. That is my impression, but nothing can be determined without pick and spade.

In the church of S. Antonine is a metal font, made to resemble the laver of Solomon, resting on the backs of oxen.

The old Grand Priory has a charming Renaissance front to the river, and some late rich flamboyant work in a street at the back. It is now turned into a gallery of indifferent pictures. The Church of S. Caesaire is modernised, and has, alas! nothing of interest remaining in it, only its historic memories to hallow it.

S. Caesarius, son of a count of Chalons, born in 470, had been educated at Lerins, but thence he was drawn in 501, to succeed the first fathers of that holy isle, Honoratus and Hilary, upon the archiepiscopal throne of Arles. He was engaged in erecting a great monastery for women outside the walls, when the Ostrogoths and the Franks met in a furious conflict beneath them. His monastery was reduced to a ruin. A priest, a relative of Caesarius, had the meanness to let himself down the walls at night, escape to Theodoric the Ostrogoth king, and denounce him as engaged in secret communication with Clovis, king of the Franks. As soon as Arles was taken, Caesarius was led under custody to Theodoric, but was speedily set at liberty by that great-minded prince. Another and similar charge was made against him later, and Caesarius was forced to travel to Ravenna to exculpate himself. On his return to Arles he set to work to rebuild his monastery, not this time without the walls. He made his own sister, Caesaria, the abbess, and she governed it for thirty years, and gathered about her a community of two hundred nuns. This brave Christian woman caused to be prepared, and ranged symmetrically round the church, stone coffins for herself and for each of the sisters. They sang day and night the praises of God in the presence of the new tombs that awaited them. When each sister was dead, she was placed in one of these stone coffins and carried off to the Elysian Fields, and most likely some of them are among those there strewn about or being now broken up. It was into this church that Caesarius himself, feeling his end approach, had himself conveyed, that with feeble uplifted hands he might bestow his final blessing on that band of faithful women who were labouring to bring a higher ideal of womanhood before the Arles folk, corrupted by the vices of the decayed civilisation of Rome.

As already said, Arles was formerly surrounded by water, river on one side, meres on the other. Out of the lagoons, however, rose islets of limestone rock; of these there are two, Cordes and Montmajeur, but there were also formerly a number of smaller tofts standing above the water, but not always rocky, forming an archipelago, and were covered with the cottages of fishermen and utriculares, and farmers who cultivated vines and olives on the slopes above the reach of the water. Such were Castelet, Mont d'Argent, Pierre-Feu, and Trebonsitte. Nowadays we can go by road to all these spots, formerly they could be reached only by boat or raft. The isle of Cordes is about five miles from Arles, it was evidently at one period fortified, and is believed to have formed for some time the camp of the Saracen invaders who scourged and swept Provence with sword and flame. In the rocks of Cordes is a very curious cave, called the Trou des Fees, formed exactly in the shape of a sword, with lateral galleries to answer to the cross-piece at the hilt. It was undoubtedly a prehistoric habitation, probably enlarged by the Saracens and used by them as a storehouse for their spoils. It is entered through an oval antechamber which resembles the hilt of the sword; and which most likely was the original prehistoric dwelling. But the largest of the islands was Montmajeur, that now rises abruptly from the plain, crowned with ruins. I walked to it in driving rain and mistral. As I approached, I saw a gipsy woman bringing water in a pail to the camp, but the wind literally scooped the water out of the pail as with a spoon, and when she reached her destination very little remained. I stopped and had a little chat with the gipsies. They had tried to set up their tent, but it had been blown down over their heads, and had been rolled along with them in it, as they said, like a bag of potatoes. They were now squatted in the lee of a wall, an old ruined wall, and were endeavouring to boil a kettle, but the flames were carried by the wind in horizontal flashes, and would not touch the bottom of the vessel. They wanted me to have a cup of coffee with them when I returned from seeing the ruins, and I promised to do so, but, on my return, I found that rain and wind had blown and soused out their little fire, and they had not been able to get the water to boil, so were drinking it lukewarm. Good-natured, merry folk, they laughed over their troubles as though it were a sovereign joke, and yet they were drenched to the skin.

Montmajeur was a great Benedictine abbey, with a glorious church founded in the sixth century, that was rebuilt in the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, over a large and interesting crypt, and with cloisters at the side like those of Arles, but by no means as rich. Beneath the abbey are the chapel and the reputed cell of S. Trophimus, who probably never lived there—a charming specimen of early Romanesque. Part of this chapel is scooped and sculptured out of the living rock. But what is one of the grandest portions of the abbey is the machicolated tower that commands the plain for miles to the sea, a noble specimen of a donjon, and in excellent preservation. The abbey buildings adjoining the church were erected about fifty years before the Revolution, when the monastery was in the plenitude of its wealth. They form the wreckage of a palace for princes rather than of an abbey for the sons of S. Benedict, who I am quite sure would have been one of the first, had it been possible for him to be there, to lay his hand to destroy it, along with the mob of Arles' republicans, as utterly out of accord with the spirit of his rule. Indeed, on looking up at these sumptuous halls and stately galleries, one cannot but feel that the time was past in which the monastic orders, wealthy and luxurious and idle, could be endured. The church is no longer in use, and is ruinous.

Below the rock is a spit of land that stood anciently dry above the meres, and on that is a very singular old church dedicated to the Holy Cross, round which has been discovered a minor Alyscamp, a place of sepulture utilised from the earliest times. Sainte Croix is now regarded as a national monument, and is preserved carefully. It consists of a central square tower, from which project four equal semicircular apses, that to the west having a porch attached. It was consecrated in 1019. It is lighted by three little windows, only one to the east and two to the S. and S.E. Internally it is entirely deficient in sculpture, and was probably decorated with paintings. This was a funeral chapel in the midst of the cemetery, and was never used as a church. "The monks brought their dead hither," says Viollet le Duc, "processionally; the body was placed in the porch; the brethren remained outside. When Mass was said, the body was blessed, and it was conveyed through the chapel and out at the little S. door, to lay it in the grave. The only windows which lighted this chapel looked into the walled cemetery. At night, a lamp burned in the centre of this monument, and, in conformity with the use of the first centuries of the Middle Ages, these three little windows let the gleam of the lamp fall upon the graves. During the office for the dead a brother tolled the bell hung in the turret, by means of a hole reserved for the purpose in the centre of the dome." A similar but earlier mortuary chapel is at Planes, in Roussillon.



The chain of the Alpines—The promontory of Les Baux—The railway from Arles to Salon—First sight of Les Baux—The churches of S. Victor, S. Claude, and S. Andrew—The lords of Les Baux claimed descent from one of the Magi—The fair maid with golden locks—The chapel of the White Penitents—The deimo—History of the House of Les Baux—The barony passes to the Grimaldi.—The ladies of Les Baux and the troubadours—Fouquet—William de Cabestaing—The morality of the loves of the troubadours—The Porcelets—Story of a siege—Les Baux a place of refuge for the citizens of Arles—Glanum Liviae—Its Roman remains—In the train—Jaeger garments.

From east to west runs the chain of Les Alpines, for just twenty miles, separating the Durance from the plain of the Great Crau. It is of limestone, and rises to the height of about eight hundred or a thousand feet, but is remarkable from the abruptness with which it springs out of the plain, and the fantastic shapes assumed by its crest.

This chain dies into the plain to the west at S. Gabriel, and its extreme limits to the east are the crags of Orgon, which rise sheer above the Durance, and the Mont du Defends farther to the south. To the north is the broad flat valley of the Durance stretching away to Tarascon, to the south the vast desert of the Crau reaching to the sea.

About twelve miles from S. Gabriel, the chain of the Alpines thrusts forth an arm to the south that rises sheer from the plain some five hundred feet, and forms a plateau at the top encrusted with white crags, two thousand seven hundred feet long, by six hundred feet wide. It is detached from the main chain by a dip, and on every other side stands up in precipices. This is Les Baux, the name in Provencal signifies cliffs.

There is a little railway from Arles to Salon, by which one travels at a snail's pace to the station of Paradou, whence a walk of five miles takes one into a crater-like valley surrounded by bald white limestone crags, and there, towering overhead, are the walls and towers of Les Baux, in a position apparently inaccessible. This valley struck me as very much like one of the Lunar craters, as I had seen it through the Northumberland telescope, just as white, ghastly and barren. In the bottom were, indeed, a few patches of green field and a cluster of poplars, but the sides of the crater were almost wholly devoid of vegetation; and the white stone where quarried, and it was quarried extensively, glistened like sugar, with a greenish white lustre. In coming from Arles I had travelled third class, in a compartment on top of the second and first class carriages; for on these little lines the carriages are of two storeys; the upper storey commands the best view; and in the compartment with me was an intelligent postman. We got into conversation about Les Baux. He told me that he had lived there, and had found there a considerable number of flint and bronze weapons. He was now stationed at Tarascon, and he invited me to pay him a visit, when he would show me the weapons he had found on these hills. He also strongly urged me not to return by the same route, but to strike across the chain, reach S. Remy, see the Roman remains there, catch the evening train, and so return to Arles by Tarascon.

And now for Les Baux, which is certainly one of the most astounding places I have ever seen.

Let the reader conceive of a rocky plateau standing up on abrupt precipices above the plain, with its top not altogether level, but inclined to the west, and the eastern side fringed with white crags. Let him imagine a little town clustered on the slope to the west, clinging to the inclined surface to prevent itself from slipping over the edge and shooting down the precipice. Then let him imagine the white limestone fringe that rises to the east some ninety feet above the town, adapted to serve the purpose of a castle, natural cliffs sculptured and perforated to form window and door, and vault and hall, and where living rock did not avail, masonry added, and the whole thrown into ruin. This is what he sees looking up from the valley. Then let him climb the steep ascent, anciently the only way by which the town and castle could be approached, and his amazement will grow with every step he takes. After having passed under a gateway well defended, he will find himself in the street of a Mediaeval Pompeii: houses—not cottages, but the mansions of nobles—all, or nearly all, in ruins and uninhabited, some with architectural pretensions; a church, still in use, dedicated to S. Vincent; another still larger, S. Claude, half sculptured out of the living rock, half of masonry, beautifully vaulted, with no glass in the windows, and the doors fallen in; a chapel of S. Anne, without a roof, and some trees growing out of the floor. Another church, the second parish church of Les Baux, S. Andrew, crumbled to its foundations. Further up the ascent, bedded in the ruins of the castle, a beautiful Gothic chapel with delicate ribbed vaulting of the thirteenth century, also in ruins. On one portion of the platform to the south the remains of a great hospital, with the recesses for the beds of the patients round it. A cemetery enclosed within walls; guard rooms, halls, a mighty dove-cot hewn out of the rock; galleries and the windows of banqueting halls cut in the rock; high up, unapproachable, as the masonry has been blown up and thrown down that formed the western side of the castle. And to the north, where was the only approach to the castle by the neck of land, a curved ridge of limestone rock was hewn into a wall of defence. Now a road has been engineered along this col, and the rock wall has been cut through; not only so, but it has been carried through a nobleman's mansion, and the sculptured fireplaces overhang the carriage road.

Such, briefly, is the general aspect of Les Baux. Now we will enter into details. We will begin with the only parish church still in use. This church consists of nave and side aisles, with lateral chapels. The floor of the church is honeycombed with graves scooped out of the rock. In one of these before the high altar, a few years ago, when the slab that covered it was raised, the body of a man in rich garments was disclosed holding a book in his hand, that seemed to have escaped the ravages of time. However, on the first touch, it fell to dust. In another sepulchre was found the body of a young lady. Singularly enough, her hair, which was of a golden straw colour, was uninjured, though the rest of her body crumbled to dust in the air. The innkeeper of the little place managed to possess himself of it, and at once dubbed his tavern "A la Chevelure d'Or." He was wont to exhibit the mass of golden locks to the visitor for a consideration. Recently the tavern has changed hands, and the old innkeeper has carried off with him the golden locks. Consequently, the inn has changed its name, and is now the Hotel Monaco.

In front of the church is a small platform that overhangs the precipice. On it is the ruined chapel of the White Penitents, erected in 1659. Over the door may be read with difficulty the inscription in Latin, "At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow." Hard by is a cistern, semicircular, dug out of the living rock; this goes by the name of the deimo—that is to say, the place of tithe. Into this cistern the farmers of the manor were bound to pour the tenth of all the wine they made, as the due of the Lord of Les Baux.

The ruined church of S. Claude has in the bosses of the vaulting the arms of the Princes of Les Baux, and of other noble families who lived in the little town and were feudatories of the princes, as well as of some of the guilds which had chapels in this church. The arms of the princes represented a star, for these princes claimed descent from Balthazar, one of the Magi who came from the East to bring gifts to the infant Saviour.

The tomb of Raymond des Baux, grand chamberlain of Queen Jeanne of Naples, at Casaluccio, bears the inscription, "To the illustrious family of the Baux, which is held to derive its origin from the ancient kings of Armenia, to whom, under the guidance of a star, the Saviour of the world manifested Himself."

The Barony of Les Baux consisted of seventy-nine towns or bourgs, which formed the territory called La Baussenique. It was confiscated by Louis III., Duke of Anjou, and Count of Provence in 1414, after having been governed by one family from Pons des Baux, the first who appears in history, and who died in 970. The last male representative died in 1374, and his sister and heiress, Alice, married Conrad, Count of Freiburg, who died in 1414. She bequeathed the principality to her kinsman, William, Duke of Andria, but on account of his attachment to the opposed party, Louis III. seized on Les Baux. In 1642, Louis XIII. erected it into a marquisate, and gave it to Honore Grimaldi, Prince of Monaco, and it remained in the possession of the House of Monaco till the revolution of 1789.

The princes of Baux were podestas of Milan, consul-podestas of Arles, where they had a castle, were seneschals of Piedmont, grand justiciaries of the kingdom of Naples, princes of Orange, and viscounts of Marseilles. They bore also the titles of counts of Provence, kings of Arles and Vienne, princes of Achaia, counts of Cephalonia, and finally assumed that of emperors of Constantinople.

The castle was thrice besieged, twice destroyed, and again rebuilt; it lasted over eleven centuries. The most complete restoration of the castle and of the town-walls took place in 1444 by Louis III. of Provence; but when it passed to the Crown of France in 1630, by order of Cardinal Richelieu, it was destroyed. The strength of the position was such that he feared it.

In the old days, when the Princes and Princesses des Baux held court in this eagle's nest, it was a great resort of the troubadours, who came to it from all quarters. Fouquet, the Provencal poet, celebrated in his verses Adelasia, wife of Berald, Prince of Baux. He was filled with a romantic love for this exalted lady, and on her death, in a fit of sorrow, became monk of Citeaux. Afterwards he became abbot of Thoronet, bishop of Marseilles, and finally archbishop of Toulouse.

He was born between 1160 and 1170, and was the son of a merchant of Venice who had retired from business and settled at Marseilles. When Richard Coeur de Lion was on his way to Syria, he made some stay at Marseilles before going on to Genoa, where he was to embark, and there Fouquet insinuated himself into his good graces. He was married, but his wife was sorely neglected, and all his devotion was paid to the lady Adelasia des Baux.

Provencal traditions diverge as to the result of his suit. According to one account, he could "jamais trouver merci, ni obtenir aucun bien en droit d'amour," from the object of his passion, and, in disgust, he turned to make love to Laura de S. Jorlan, sister of Berald des Baux. But the other account is that he made love to both ladies at once, and that Adelasia cast him off because she found that his fickle heart was turning to the fresher charms of Laura. Anyhow, he made his rejection by Adelasia the subject of poetical laments, and prosecuted with vigour his siege of the heart and virtue of his patron's sister. And then he pursued with the same ardour the conquest of Eudoxia, wife of William, Count of Montpellier.

As already said, after the death of Adelasia, he assumed the cowl. As Bishop of Toulouse, he exercised the ferocity of a wolf in his dealings with the Albigenses. "There is no act of treachery or cruelty throughout the war," says Dean Milman, "in which the Bishop of Toulouse was not the most forward, sanguinary, and unscrupulous." The historian of his life, in the 'Histoire Litteraire de la France,' says of him: "After having given half his life to gallantry, he gave up, without restraint, the remainder of his life to the cause of tyranny, murder, and spoliation, and unhappily he profited by it.... Loving women passionately, a ferocious apostle of the Inquisition, he did not give up the composition of verses which bore the impress of his successive passions."

Another troubadour, William de Cabestaing, sang the praises of Berengaria des Baux. Afterwards he lost his heart to Sermonda, wife of Raymond de Roussillon, who, not seeing the fun of this romantic spooning of his wife, waylaid and slew him, then plucked out his heart and had it served up at table in the evening. After his wife had partaken of the dish he informed her that what she had tasted was the heart of her admirer. She, full of horror, threw herself from a window of the castle and was dashed to pieces. This outrage was the occasion of civil war. The relatives of the lady and of William de Cabestaing persuaded Alphonso I., King of Aragon, to ravage the territories of the Count of Roussillon and to destroy his castle.

Again, another troubadour, Sordel, sang the praises of Rambaude des Baux, but in such enigmatical fashion that his verses may be read as a satire upon her charms.

The princely family, moreover, had among its members two troubadours, Berard des Baux in the twelfth century, and in the next Rambaud des Baux, who in 1236 distinguished himself by his songs in honour of Marie de Chateauvert and of the Countess of Argeuil.

In 1244 the troubadours vied with each other in lauding Cecilia des Baux, who was called Passe-Rose, on account of her beauty. Other ladies of the same family sung by the poets were Clairette in 1270 and 1275 by Pierre d'Auvergne, and Etiennette de Ganteaume—who shone in the Court of Love in 1332 at Romanil, and Baussette, daughter of Hugh des Baux in 1323, sung by Roger of Arles. So the family must have been one that in its alliances and daughters was distinguished by its beauty, or else paid liberally for flattery.

Vernon Lee, in her Euphorion, passes a severe sentence on the romantic affection professed by the minstrels of the Middle Ages for noble ladies. She says it was rank adultery and nothing short. I do not think so. There may have been cases, there no doubt were instances of criminal passion, but in nine cases out of ten these troubadours sang for their bread and butter. They lauded the seigneurs to the skies for their gestes of valour, and their ladies for their transcendent beauty; they laid on their colours with a trowel, and were paid for so doing. That some of them burnt their fingers in playing with fire one cannot doubt, but I hardly think that they set to work in their trifling with the intent of provoking blisters. The husbands of the much-lauded ladies were hardly likely to suffer this sort of fun to proceed beyond romancing. There was always a chance of a minstrel who went too far with his heart into the flames, getting it roasted on a spit and served up a la William de Cabestaing.

Besides, a good many of these much-besung ladies were no young brides, but mature and withering matrons. A troubadour attached himself to a lady as he attached himself to a seigneur, and, as a client of both, fawned on and flattered both. I cannot refer to Petrarch, for I believe his Laura was not a married woman, and the Platonism of his affection is more than questionable. He was not an acknowledged troubadour, but an exile, whom the haughty family of Sade would not suffer Laura to marry. But there is the case of Dante and Beatrice, and of Wolfram of Eschenbach, one of the noblest and purest of singers, who idealised his lady Elizabeth, wife of the Baron of Hartenstein, and with him most undoubtedly the devotion was without tincture of grossness. 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.

Why, that unfortunate William de Cabestaing, whose heart was offered to his mistress, sang of her as cold to his suit:—

"Since Adam gathered from the tree The apple, cause of all our woe, Christ ne'er inspired so fair a she. A graceful form, not high nor low, A model of just symmetry, A skin whose purity and glow The rarest amethyst surpass; So fair is she for whom I sigh. But vain are all my sighs, alas! She heeds me not, nor deigns reply."

The Courts of Love held by ladies of high rank were originally courts in which the rules of minstrelsy were laid down, they pronounced on the qualifications of a candidate, they polished and cherished the Langue d'oc in its purity, dictated the subjects upon which the troubadours were to compose their lays, judged their pretensions, settled their controversies, recompensed their merits, and punished by disgrace or exclusion those who violated the laws. In the twelfth century these Courts of Ladies drew up Provencal grammars, in which the rules of the dialect were laid down. One of these is the "Donatus provincialis," another was composed by Raimond Vidal. But these Courts of Love went further. They laid down rules for love; they allowed married women to receive the homage of lovers, and even nicely directed all the symptoms they were to exhibit of reciprocation. But it is quite possible that this was all solemn fooling, and meant no harm.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse