Frederic Mistral - Poet and Leader in Provence
by Charles Alfred Downer
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Norwood Press J.S. Cushing & Co.—Berwick & Smith Norwood Mass. U.S.A.


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

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

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

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

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

NEW YORK, March, 1901.





I. Introduction. Life of Mistral 3 II. The Felibrige 24 III. The Modern Provencal, or, more accurately, The Language of the Felibres 43 IV. The Versification of the Felibres 75 V. Mistral's Dictionary of the Provencal Language. (Lou Tresor dou Felibrige) 92



I. The Four Longer Poems 99 1. Mireio 99 2. Calendau 127 3. Nerto 151 4. Lou Pouemo dou Rose 159 II. Lis Isclo d'Or 181 III. The Tragedy, La Reino Jano 212



APPENDIX. Translation of the Psalm of Penitence 253







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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tu' nfin, de quau un vent de flamo Ventoulo, emporto e fouito l'amo Garcin, o fieu ardent dou manescau d'Alen!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A third poem, Nerto, appeared in 1884, and showed the poet in a new light; his admirers now compared him to Ariosto. This same year he made a second journey to Paris, and was again the lion of the hour. The Societe de la Cigale, which had been founded in 1876, as a Paris branch of the Felibrige, and which later became the Societe des Felibres de Paris, organized banquets and festivities in his honor, and celebrated the Floral Games at Sceaux to commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of the day when Provence became united, of her own free-will, with France. Mistral was received with distinction by President Grevy and by the Count of Paris, and his numerous Parisian friends vied in bidding him welcome to the capital. His new poem was crowned by the French Academy, receiving the Prix Vitet, the presentation address being delivered by Legouve. Four years later, Lou Tresor dou Felibrige, a great dictionary of all the dialects of the langue d'oc, was completed, and in 1890 appeared his only dramatic work, La Reino Jano (Queen Joanna). In 1897 he produced his last long poem, epic in form, Lou Pouemo dou Rose (the Poem of the Rhone). At present he is engaged upon his Memoirs.

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

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

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



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

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

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

The word Felibre was furnished by Mistral, who had come upon it in an old hymn wherein occurs the expression that the Virgin met Jesus in the temple among "the seven Felibres of the law." The origin and etymology of this word have given rise to various explanations. The Greek philabros, lover of the beautiful; philebraios, lover of Hebrew, hence, among the Jews, teacher; felibris, nursling, according to Ducange; the Irish filea, bard, and ber, chief, have been proposed. Jeanroy (in Romania, XIII, p. 463) offers the etymology: Spanish feligres, filii Ecclesiae, sons of the church, parishioners. None of these is certain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Political and religious discussions are forbidden in the Felibrean meetings."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 2: Histoire du Felibrige, par G. Jourdanne, Librairie Roumanille, Avignon, 1897.]

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

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

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

[Footnote 4: In 1899, Felix Gras published a novel called The White Terror. His death occurred early in 1901.]



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

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

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

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

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

The c has come to sound like s before e and i, as in French. Ch and j represent the sounds ts and dz respectively, and g before e and i has the latter sound. There is no aspirate h. The r is generally uvular. The s between vowels is voiced. Only l, r, s, and n are pronounced as final consonants, l being extremely rare. Mistral has preserved or restored other final consonants in order to show the etymology, but they are silent except in liaison in the elevated style of reading.

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

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

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

The noun has but one form for the singular and plural. The distinction of plural and singular depends upon the article, or upon the demonstrative or possessive adjective accompanying the noun. In liaison adjectives take s as a plural sign. So that, for the ear, the Provencal and French languages are quite alike in regard to this matter. The Provencal has not even the formal distinction of the nouns in al, which in French make their plural in aux. Cheval in Provencal is chivau, and the plural is like the singular. A curious fact is the use of uni or unis, the plural of the indefinite article, as a sign of the dual number; and this is its exclusive use.

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

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

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

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

"Estre, ieu, lou marran que touti L'estrangisson! Estre, ieu, l'estrangie que touti LOU fugisson!"

"Etre, moi, le paria, que tous rebutent! Etre, moi, l'etranger que tout le monde fuit!"

(La Reino Jano, Act I, Scene III.)

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

E.g. soun-ti? sont-ils? Petrarco ignoro-ti? ero-ti? etait-il? Petrarque ignore-t-il?

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

The French indefinite statement with the pronoun on may be represented in Provencal by the third plural of the verb; on m'a demande is translated m'an demanda, or on m'a demanda.

The negative ne is often suppressed, even with the correlative que.

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

The Provencal speech is, therefore, not at all what it would have been if it had had an independent literary existence since the days of the Troubadours. The influence of the French has been overwhelming, as is naturally to be expected. A great number of idioms, that seem to be pure gallicisms, are found, in spite of the deliberate effort, referred to above, to eliminate French forms. In La Reino Jano, Act III, Scene IV, we find Ie vai de nostis os,—Il y va de nos os. Vejan, voyons, is used as a sort of interjection, as in French. The partitive article is used precisely as in French. We meet the narrative infinitive with de. In short, the French reader feels at home in the Provencal sentence; it is the same syntax and, to a great degree, the same rhetoric. Only in the vocabulary does he feel himself in a strange atmosphere.

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

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

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

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


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

-a, -ado.

-ado is the termination of the feminine of the past participle. This often becomes an abstract feminine noun, answering to the French termination -ee; armee in Mistral's language is armado. Examples of forms peculiar to Provencal are:

oulivo, an olive. ouliva, to gather olives. oulivado, olive gathering. pie, foot. piado, footprint.

-age (masc.).

This suffix is the equivalent of the French -age, and is a suffix of frequent occurrence in forming new words. Oulivage is a synonym of oulivado, mentioned above. A rather curious word is the adverb arrage, meaning at random, haphazard. It appears to represent a Latin adverb, erratice.

Mourtau, mourtalo, mortal, gives the noun mourtalage, a massacre.

-agno (fem.).

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

-aio (fem.).

This ending corresponds to the French -aille.

poulo, a hen. poulaio, a lot of hens, poultry.

-aire (masc.).

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

toumba, to fall. toumbaire, toumbarello, one who falls or one who fells. ouliva, to gather olives. oulivaire, oulivarello, olive gatherer. canta, to sing. cantaire, cantarello, singer. panie, basket. panieraire, basket maker. caligna, to court. calignaire, suitor. paternostriaire, one who is forever praying.

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

-aire = -arium.

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

-an, -ano.

This suffix is common in the Romance languages. Fihan, filial, seems to be peculiar to the Provencal.

-anci (fem.).

This is the form corresponding to the French -ance. Abundance is in Mistral's dialect aboundanci.

-ant, -anto.

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

-ard, -ardo.

Gaiard is Provencal for the French gaillard.


This represents the Latin -arius. Abouticari is Provencal for apothecary.


This is an augmentative suffix of very frequent use.

porc, hog. pourcas, great hog. serp, snake. serpatas, great serpent. casteu, fort. castelas, fortress. rouco, rock. roucas, great rock.


This is a pejorative suffix.

vido, life. vidasso, wretched life.


In French this suffix has the form -atre.

oulivastre (Fr. olivatre), olive in color.


Coustat is in French cote (side).

The suffix is often diminutive.

auc, a gander. aucat, gosling. passero, sparrow. passerat, small sparrow.

-au, -alo.

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

bourg, city. bourgau, bourgalo, civil.

-edo (fem.).

pin, pine. pinedo, pine-grove. clapo, stone. claparedo, stony plain. oulivo, olive. oulivaredo, olive-orchard.

-eire, -erello.

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

courre, to run. courreire, courerello, runner. legi, to read. legeire, legerello, reader.


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

toumbareu, kind of cart. toumbaraleja, to cart. farandolo, farandole. farandouleja, to dance the farandole. poutoun, kiss. poutouneja, to kiss. poumpoun, caress. poumpouneja, to caress. segnour, lord. segnoureja, to lord it over. mistral, wind of the Rhone valley. mistraleja, to roar like the mistral. poudro, powder. poudreja, to fire a gun. clar, bright. clareja, to brighten.

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

This is a common adjective-suffix.

souleu, sun. souleien, souleienco, sunny. mai, May. maien, maienco, relating to May. Madaleno, Magdalen. madalenen, madalenenco, like Magdalen.

-es (masc.), -esso (fem.).

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

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

This is perhaps the commonest of the diminutive suffixes.

ome, man. oumenet, little man. fiho, daughter. fiheto, dear daughter. enfan, child. enfantounet, little child. vent, wind. ventoulet, breeze. toumba, to fall. toumbaraleto, little leaps. chato, girl. chatouneto, little girl malaut, ill. malautounet, sickly.

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

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

-eu (masc.), -ello (fem.).

This suffix is often diminutive.

paurin, poor chap. paurineu paurinello, poor little fellow or girl. pin, pine. pinateu, young pine. pinatello, forest of young pines. sauvage, wild. sauvageu, sauvagello, somewhat wild.

Sometimes it is not.

toumba, to fall. toumbareu, -ello, likely to fall. canta, to sing. cantareu, -ello, songful. crese, to believe. cresereu, -ello, inclined to belief.


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

bourgau, civil. abourgali, to civilize.

-ie (fem.).

Carestie, dearness, stands in contrast to the Italian carestia.

priva, to train, to tame. privadie, sweet food given in training animals.

-ie (masc.), -iero (fem.).

This is the equivalent of the French -ier.

oulivie, olive tree. bouchie, butcher. pinatie, } a dwelling pinatiero,} among pines.

-ieu (masc.), -ivo (fem.).

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

ablatieu, ablative. vieu, vivo, lively.

-ige (m.).

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

gounfle, swollen. gounflige, swelling. Felibre. Felibrige. paure, poor. paurige, poverty.

-iho (fem.).

This suffix makes collective nouns.

pastre, shepherd. pastriho, company of shepherds. paure, poor. pauriho, the poor.

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

This is usually diminutive or pejorative.

paurin, poor wretch.

-ioun (fem.).

This corresponds to the French -ion.

nacioun, nation. abdicacioun, abdication. erme, desert. asserma, to dry up. assermacioun, thirst, dryness.

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

Crida, to cry. cridadisso, cries of woe. chapla, to slay. chapladis, slaughter. coula, to flow. couladis or couladisso, flowing. abareja, to throw pell-mell. abarejadis, confusion. toumba, to fall. toumbadis, -isso, tottering (adj.).

This suffix is added to the past participle stem.

-isoun (fem.).

This suffix forms nouns from verbs in -i.

abalauvi, to make dizzy, to confound. abalauvisoun, vertigo.

-men (masc.).

This corresponds to the French -ment; bastimen = batiment, ship.

abouli, to abolish. aboulimen, abolition. toumba, to fall. toumbamen, fall.

-men (adverb).

urous, urouso, happy. urousamen, happily.

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

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

A diminutive suffix.

vilo, town. viloto, little town.

Sometimes the stem no longer exists separately.

mignot, mignoto, darling. pichot, pichoto, little boy, little girl.

-oto (fem.).

passa, to pass. passaroto, passing to and fro.

-ou (masc.).

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

jouga, to play. jougadou, player. abla, to brag (cf. Fr. habler). abladou, braggart. abausi, to abuse, to exaggerate. abausidou, braggart. courre, to run. courredou, corridor. lava, to wash. lavadou, lavatory. espande, to expand. espandidou, expanse, panorama. escourre, to flow out. escourredou, passage, hollow. toumba, to fall. toumbadou, water-fall. abeura, to water. abeuradou, drinking-trough. passa, to sift. passadou, sieve. mounda, to winnow. moundadou, sieve.


This is an adjective suffix.

iver, winter. ivernouge, wintry.

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

A diminutive suffix.

enfan, child. enfantoun, enfantouno, little child. pauriho, the poor. paurihoun, poor wretch.

-ounge (masc.).

A suffix forming nouns from adjectives.

viei, old. vieiounge, old age.

-our (fem.).

This is like the above.

viei, old. vieiour, old age.

-ous, -ouso.

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

urous (Fr. heureux), happy. pouderous (It. and Sp. poderoso), powerful. aboundous, abundant. pin, pine. pinous, covered with pines. escalabra, to climb. escalabrous, precipitous.

-ta (fem.).

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

moundaneta, worldliness. soucieta, society. paureta, poverty.

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

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

astre, star. malastru, ill-starred. sabe, to know. saberu, learned.

The feminine form often becomes a noun.

escourre, to run out. escourregudo, excursion.

-un (masc.).

This is a very common noun-suffix.

clar, bright. clarun, brightness. rat, rat. ratun, lot of rats, smell of rats. paure, poor. paurun, poverty. dansa, to dance. dansun, love of dancing. plagne, to pity. plagnun, complaining. viei, old. vieiun, old age.

-uro (fem.).

toumba, to fall. toumbaduro, a fall. escourre, to flow away. escourreduro, what flows away. bagna, to wet. bagnaduro, dew.

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

Onomatopoetic words, like zounzoun, vounvoun, dindanti, are common.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 5: The edition of Mireio published by Lemerre in 1886 contains an Avis sur la prononciation provencale wherein numerous errors are to be noted. Here the statement is made that all the letters are pronounced; that ch is pronounced ts, as in the Spanish word muchacho. The fact about the pronunciation of the ch is that it varies in different places, having at Maillane the sound ts, at Avignon, for instance, the sound in the English chin. It is stated further on that ferramento, capello, febre, are pronounced exactly like the Italian words ferramento, capello, febbre. The truth is that they are each pronounced somewhat differently from the Italian words. Provencal knows nothing of double consonants in pronunciation, and the vowels are not precisely alike in each pair of words.

Later this sentence occurs: "Dans les triphthongues, comme biais, piei, vuei, niue, la voix doit dominer sur la voyelle intermediaire, tout en faisant sentir les autres." Only the first two of these four words contain a triphthong. Vuei is a descending diphthong, the ue representing the French eu. Niue offers the same two vowel sounds inverted, with the stress on the second.

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



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

"O tems di viei d'antico bounoumio, Que lis oustau avien ges de sarraio E que li gent, a Coundrieu coume au nostre, Se gatihavon, au caleu per rire!"

(Canto I.)

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

"Au casteu de Tarascoun, i'a 'no reino, i'a 'no fado Au casteu de Tarascoun I'a 'no fado que s'escound.

"Aqueu que ie durbira la presoun ounte es clavado Aqueu que ie durbira Beleu elo l'amara."[6]

We may note here instances of the special features of Provencal versification mentioned above. The i in i'a, the equivalent of the French il y a, is really a consonant. This i occurs again in the fourth of the lines quoted, so that there is no hiatus between que and ie. In like manner the u of beleu, in the last line, stands with the sound of the English w between this and elo. The e of ounte is elided. It will be observed that there is a caesura between the seventh and eighth syllables of the long line, and that the verse has a marked rhythmic beat, with decided trochaic movement,—

/u/u/u/ /u/u/u/u

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

"Per ouliva tant d'aubre!—Hou, tout aco se fai!"

(Mireio, Canto I.)

In one of the divisions of Lou Tambour d'Arcolo (The Drummer of Arcole), the poet uses ten-syllable verse with the caesura after the sixth syllable, an exceedingly unusual caesura, imitated from the poem Girard de Roussillon.

"Ah! lou pichot tambour devengue flori! Davans touto l'arma do en plen souleu, Per estela soun front d'un rai de glori," etc.

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

The stanza used by Mistral throughout Mireio and Calendau is his own invention. Here is the first stanza of the second canto of Mireio:—

"Cantas, cantas, magnanarello, Que la culido es cantarello! Galant soun li magnan e s'endormon di tres: Lis amourie soun plen de fiho Que lou beu tems escarrabiho, Coume un vou de bloundis abiho Que raubon sa melico i roumanin dou gres."

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

Mireio contains one ballad and two lyrics in a measure differing from that of the rest of the poem. The ballad of the Bailiff Suffren has the swing and movement a sea ballad should possess. The stanza is of six lines, of ten syllables each, with the caesura after the fifth syllable, the rhymes being abb, aba.

"Lou Baile Sufren que sus mar coumando."

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

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

Let us look at some of the more striking of these verse forms. The second of Li Cansoun, Lou Bastimen, offers the following form:—

"Lou bastimen ven de Maiorco Eme d'arange un cargamen: An courouna de verdi torco L'aubre-mestre don bastimen: Urousamen Ven de Maiorco Lou bastimen."[7]

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

An excellent example of accentual verse set to an already existing melody is seen in Li Bon Prouvencau. The air is:—

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

We quote the first stanza:—

"Boufo, au siecle mounte sian Uno auro superbo Que vou faire ren qu'un tian De touti lis erbo: Nautri, li bon Prouvencau Aparan lou viei casau Ounte fan l'aleto Nosti dindouleto."[8]

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

The stanza of La Tourre de Barbentano is as follows:—

"L'Evesque d'Avignoun, Mounsen Grimau, A fa basti 'no tourre a Barbentano Qu' enrabio vent de mar e tremountano E fai despoutenta l'Esprit dou mau. Assegurado Sus lou roucas Forto e carrado Escounjurado Porto au souleu soun front bouscas: Mememen i fenestro, dins lou cas Que vouguesse lou Diable intra di vitro, A fa Mounsen Grimau grava sa mitro."[9]

Here is a stanza of Lou Renegat:—

"Jan de Gounfaroun, pres per de coursari, Dins li Janissari Set an a servi: Fau, enco di Turc, ave la coudeno Facho a la cadeno Emai au rouvi."[10]

The stanza employed in La Cadeno de Moustie is remarkable in having only one masculine and one feminine rhyme in its seven lines:—

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