NINE years after the appearance of Mirèio, Frédéric Mistral published simultaneously at Avignon and at Paris, and in parallel Provencal and French, a second poem of heroic proportions, entitled Calendau. The critics, who had been quite thrown off their guard by the strangeness and the sweetness, the innocent ardor and frank garrulity of the earlier poem, were far more wary in their reception of its successor. Their verdict was unanimously and even emphatically favorable, but it was still a verdict, not a startled cry of admiration. Calendau won priceless praise, but it created comparatively no excitement, was not long talked about, and never, we believe, translated.
It is proposed to give some account of this riper and more formal production of M. Mistral’s genius, which, if it have not quite the wayward and fascinating audacity of its elder, does yet give evidence of immense vigor in its author, and of a wealth of imagination sufficiently rare; while it seems to include almost all of legendary and picturesque Provence not portrayed, or at least touched with light, in the previous work.
The reader of Calendau must begin by disabusing himself of the idea that the sensations which he received from Mirèio are to be precisely repeated. Nothing, indeed, is in the nature of things more unlikely than that we shall be twice surprised by the same person, in the same way. The curious naïveté of the former tale is abandoned, perhaps deliberately, along with the rather transparent pretense of singing for “ shepherds and farmer-folk alone.” The usual reading public is addressed in Calendau, and means not wholly unusual are employed to excite and detain our interest.
In the first place the lovers in Calendau are not children. They are young, indeed, to judge by our slow northern standards, but they are, to all intents, man and woman, and the lady at least has lived and suffered much when we see her first. Then, it is not a story of to-day; and there can be no doubt that the romantic charm of Mirèio is perpetually enhanced by the wonder that so artless and idyllic a life as the one there described can be lived anywhere at the present time. The date of Calendau’s adventures is placed a hundred years back, and very skillfully. In the dark and desperate times which preceded the outbreak of the first great revolution in France, rapine and bloodshed, flight, treachery, and siege were matters of frequent occurrence, and the wildest incidents were unhappily probable. Moreover, the shadows of even one century are sufficient to confuse the wavering line between nature and the supernatural, and thus to afford all needful latitude to an imagination which, although capable, as we know, of a most winning playfulness, does yet appear to be essentially sombre. And this introduction of a semi-supernatural element, together with the stress continually laid on the ancient literature and mediæval honors of Provence, impart to Calendau a kind of transitional character, which is far from impairing its interest. The work seems, whether the author intended it or no, almost to bridge the strange chasm between the old Provencal poetry and the new, and to give an effect of continuity to the unique and brilliant literature of Southern France. And if the fresh realism of Mirèio be not here, and we deem this a little more like ordinary books than the other, that very likeness is also of use sometimes, as affording us a distinct and accurate measure of the poet’s own undeniable originality.
He opens his poem conventionally with an allusion to his earlier effort, and in the same metre.
Of a young maiden, now essay once more —
God helping me — to tell a tale of love ;
How a poor fisherman of Cassis strove
And suffered, till he won a shining crown,
Stainless delights, and honor, and renown.
There follows an invocation to the spirit of Provence, as illustrated in the famous past, and then the opening scene of the story, which is characterized by a suppressed fervor, a kind of silent intensity of light and color and emotion, hardly to be paralleled in English verse.
Rock-built and with the blossoming heather sweet,
Two lovers watched the white caps come and go
Like lambs upon the shining sea below,
While the note only of the woodpecker
Startled the silence of the noontide clear.
The dark pines thronged beneath ; but, from the edge,
One saw the sun-touched faces of the trees
Laugh to the laughter of the southern seas.
White on the beach gleamed Cassis : far away
Sparkled Toulon, and the blue Gardiole 1 lay
Unto the maiden: " Never, in good sooth,
Did hare or pigeon eager huntsman tire
Like thee ! Have I not won at thy desire
Fortune and fame, and wrought all prodigies ?
Poor dreamer whom my dream forever flies ! ”
And he goes on to describe, in ardent fashion, the impossibilities he would yet undertake for the sure hope of winning her. The lady answers with tears in her divine eyes, owning for the first time, seemingly, that she loves him, and him alone, but. hinting at some insurmountable obstacle to their union. Her lover interrupts her with a burst of impetuous gratitude for her confession: —
We love, we are young, we are free as birds ! ” he said.
“ Look ! how the glowing Nature all around
Lies in the soft arms of the Summer bound,
Courts the endearments of the tawny queen,
And drinks the breath of her dark beauty in !
Their beating bosoms to the radiant air.
The changeful sea below us, clear as glass,
Hinders the ardent sun-rays not to pass
Into its deepest depth ; and joys no less
Of Rhone and Var, to feel the mute caress.
Have both one language, how exultantly
They tell the passionate need they have of love !
Dost tremble, sweet? I bid thy fear remove.
Life at its longest is too brief.1’ " Oh, Fate!
r’Thou must not! Cease, in God’s name, lest 1 fail
To keep my truth.”
And after murmuring something of dishonor to an ancient and unstained name, she breaks off with a passionate prayer that the sombre woods and mountain solitudes about her may continue to shelter her, as they have hitherto, from the wrath of her enemies, and the seductions of her own heart. There follows a picture of the two lovers, without which the reader can hardly form a clear idea of their personality.
Oh, beauteous was her head! and well-bedecked
By its dense coronal of shining hair,
Whereof the twin-coils were as broom-boughs fair
With yellow flower, aud from her eye sincere
Storms might have tied, and left the heavens clear.
And shy, at times, the lofty glances were
Of the proud orbs, whose woudrous hue recalled
The steadfast splendors of the emerald.
And desert sunshine faint reflected shone
In the warm tint her peach-like cheeks upon.
By the white linen robe her limbs that folded.
While, at her knees, her rapt love listening,
As in the blue he heard au angel sing,
Leaned on his elbow with up-gazing eyes,
And he, — he too was made in splendid wise :
(A score of years or barely more, had he),
And large eyes sad with love, and black as night;
The down upon Ills lip was soft and light
As on vine branches —
He renews his suit in the most fervid and persuasive terms, and, when he is again tenderly repulsed, grows keenly reproachful and hints at toils and sufferings undergone for her sake, which he scorns to dwell upon in detail. Is she a woman, he demands at length, or is she Esterello, the fairy who is said to haunt that mountain region, teasing men with her loveliness, luring them to her pursuit, but always eluding them in the end? And she replies, in sad jest, that she is Esterello, and can never reward, however she may return, any mortal love. Then she invites him to a grotto hard by, where the stalactites weep perpetual pearls.
“ Is ESsterello’s palace ! Look, I pray,
At these fair hangings ! God himself,” said she,
“ Wrought all this foliage of white jewelry
The rainfall feeds. Wilt try my leaf couch here?
My only seat, — but heights are ever drear.
The raging heats of summer enter not,
But all is cool.” He took the leafy seat,
She dropped upon her knees beside his feet,
And the strange light that flooded all the place
Clothed them, as in one garment, with its rays.
In this becoming attitude the lady tells her true story. She was, by birth, a princess of Baux, the last representative of one of the most ancient and illustrious houses in Provence. In her impoverished orphanhood, for only the Castle of Aiglun had descended to her out of all the vast possessions of her family, she had had many suitors, and had fixed her choice upon the least worthy. He was a stranger of brilliant and commanding, but always sinister, appearance, whom, when benighted in a great storm, she had received into her castle, who had described himself to her as Count Severan, an adventurer of high birth with a large secret following, by the help of which he intended one day to avenge upon a corrupt government the wrongs of their beautiful province, and who had completely subjugated the fancy of the young girl. Their bans were hastily published, and the night of their wedding-feast arrived, but, as the bridegroom presented the guests, one after another, by highsounding but wholly unfamiliar names, the bride noted with terror that they had more the air of come (that is, the overseers of gangs of galley slaves) than of gentlemen. A scene of furious revelry ensued, but while the bridegroom was in the midst of a pompous oration, there forced his way into the brilliant hall an unbidden guest,
For in the open doorway rose a ghost.
An old, most miserable, coarse-clad man,
Down whose gaunt cheeks the grimmy sweat-drops ran,
The threshold crossed of that high banquet-hall,
And stood, a loathly shape, before us all.
Leaped from his eyes as he the steps would stay
Of the strange comer, but it might not be.
Forward he came silently, solemnly,
As when God takes a beggar’s shape sometimes
The rich man to confound amid his crimes.
And scanned him long with lean arms tightly crossed.
Till on the breast of each expectant one,
Great terror fell as with a weight of stone.
An icy wind blew from the night, and flared
The festal lamps, and at last some one dared
” Ho for a famine, this curst land to clear
Of beggar vermin ! or in four more days
We are devoured ! ” " What dost thou in this place,
And with this bridal pair, old fool?” they cried.
The insulted stranger not a word replied.
His bloodshot eyes, and heavy, shambling gait:
“ Were it not better, thou ill-omened bird,
To hide thy glum face in thy hole ? ” He heard
And still unmurmuring each affront he took.
Yet on the host bent one beseeching look.
Are not worth minding ! They must have their joke
But do thou glean about the board ! Make haste,
And snatch a joint or carcass where thou mayst;
Look ! Are thy jaws not equal to a chine
Of pork ? Or wilt toss off a cup of wine? ”
The wan intruder ; ” you ’ll not tempt me so,
For I want no man’s leavings. I am here
To seek my son.” ” His son ? 'T is mighty queer!
Why, pray, should this old snakeskin vender’s son
Be haunting the fine lady of Aiglun? ”
Of them which stung, and I could illy brook.
But still they plied him : " Tell us which he is,
This son of thine, and tell the truth in this,
Or from the gargoyle of the highest tower
Of old Aiglun thou 'lt dangle in an hour! ”
Spurned like the sweeping of the floor aside !
Now shall ye hear the raven croak ! ” quoth he,
And rose up in his rags right awfully.
“ Hold ! ” cried the Count, " out with him from the hall ! ”
Stony his face, and pallid as the wall.
Two tears that I can yet see glistening,
Hot, bitter tears in aged eyes and weak,
Rose and rolled down the beggar’s furrowed cheek.
Heart-rending memory ! Pale as death we grew,
While he took up his broken tale anew.
Yet comes he to the feast, though bidden not.
Oh, ay, and woe is me ! I fain once more
Would see my son — he drives me from his door.
' Fall on him ! Hunt him ! ’ says he in his ire ;
Thou haughty bridegroom, I am still thy sire.”
The beggar then turns upon the horrified bride, and denounces his unnatural child to her as a base-born churl, a common robber, a murderer. None dares dispute, or seeks to detain him as he turns to leave the hall, save the lady herself, who, in her first revulsion of feeling, springs forward, calling the old man father, and praying him to stay. He puts her aside with a pitying prophecy, and she swoons away. Awaking late in the night, she finds herself in her own chamber with only her old nurse mourning over her. The castle is still. She collects her thoughts, realizes the ruin that has befallen her life, thanks God that she is, at least, the wife of Severan only in name, and resolves to fly, leaving her ancestral home in the possession of the banditti below. After long wanderings and many privations, she had made herself a kind of hermitage on this Mount Gibal, at the southern extremity of Provence, where she had ever since lived a mysterious and ascetic life, accounted a supernatural being by the peasantry who caught occasional glimpses of her. Here Calendau, the brave young fisherman from Cassis on the beach below, had long since found, and loved, and sought to woo her, although himself regarding her with a kind of superstitious awe. Hence, after the fantastic fashion of the ladies of old, she had sent him forth to deeds of high emprise, which he had achieved one after another, returning to lay his trophies at her feet, and only now, after many such adventures, to learn that his lady returned his love and to hear her tragic story.
Awakes, Calendau rose, fist clenched, a gleam
Of fury in his eyes. " No longer fear
Thy bandit lord, but think that I am here,
Adore, and will release thee ! He or I,
I swear it by the fires of hell, shall die.’’
Than ever he. Go not! Stain not with gore
Our sinless love ! ” " Nay, but his life must end ! ”
“ Am I not then thy sister, thy sweet friend ?
Oh, leave me not! ” He answered sullenly,
“ I have one only word: The wretch shall die, —
Thou knowest full well whether I love or no.’’
“ I will no murderer’s love ! All undefiled
The hand I take must be.” He said, and smiled.
“ Princess, fear not ! This hand hath ne’er a stain,
And white for thy dear sake it shall remain.
But as one brave another challengeth,
I will appease my wrath ! Alone, breast bare
I will go down into the tiger’s lair,—
God grant my foot slip not! — and once within
Will smite amid his band this new Mandrin.3
Swift as the swamp-fire’s gleam, the lightning’s flash,
Forth of the grot, then paused. She, at his side,
“Thou goest to thy death ! ” in anguish cried,
“ Cannot love stay thee ? Art thou mad to brave
Twenty fierce outlaws in their highland cave ? ”
I would not strike my sail ! Behold,’ he said,
“ Love is my strength, — what better following ? ”
Adown the mount he plunged with valiant spring,
Flung back his vest as the bold Gascons do,
And turned him to far lands and conflicts new.
The third canto opens with a rapid account of Calendau’s journey across Provence. It is a series of pictures, each brilliant, distinct, and harmonious in coloring, a lovely panoramic view. M. Mistral had shown himself a master of this kind of painting in those cantos of Miréio which describe the muster of the farm laborers, and the flight of the heroine across La Crau and Camargue. We cull a stanza here and there.
Fluttered the birds about the sumac-trees.
How lucid was the air of that sweet day !
How fair upon the slopes the shadows lay !
The ranged and pillared rocks seemed to upbear
Levels of green land, like some altar-stair.
His heavy head, the rock-born aloes flung
Its flowery rays abroad like God’s own lustre.
Deep in the dells, full many a coral cluster
The barberry ripened. The pomegranate red
Reared like an Indian cock its crested head.
As Calendau drew near his lady’s ancestral home, he asked of all he met the way to the Castle of Aiglun.
O, merry pitch-man, thy sweet resin boiling,
How far from this to old Aiglun? ” he cried,
“ Climb, gallant, climb ! ” the laborers replied ;
“ Then down the deepest chasm, if so be
The horrid heights no terror have for thee.’’
The frowning precipice well-nigh made fail
Even his high heart. There the unwilling day
On snake and lizard flings one noontide ray,
Then hides behind the clilf. The gorge along
Tumbles in foam the angry Esteron.
Presently, however, the defile widened, giving to view an open space where Calendau came suddenly upon the self-styled count himself, surrounded by some thirty or forty of his followers, both men and women. The outlaws were reposing after the fatigues of the chase, and taking their noonday lunch upon the sunlit turf. The intruder is of course ordered to stand and deliver, but his beauty attracts the women, and his boldness the men. The count himself sees in the audacious stranger a possible recruit, and the end of it all is that he is invited to share their repast on condition that he will tell his story, and declare his business there. Calendau asked no better. His tale, he says, is one of love, and of many labors wrought in the hope of rendering himself worthy of his lady’s distinguished favor. Some say that lady is a fairy, Esterello by name, and it is certain that she lives alone in a wild solitude, that her beauty is more than human, and her thoughts and visions too high for earth. At all events he will call her Esterello.
The next six cantos are occupied chiefly with Calendau’s recital of his own exploits. After each feat performed he seeks his lady in her retreat, but finds her for a time ever harder and harder to win. The strenuous and often rude action of the hero’s narrative is beautifully broken and relieved by the moonlight quiet and mystery of these scenes upon the mountain. Other themes are also introduced, which both lighten the monotony of grotesque or stern adventure, and assist in preserving the continuity of the main story: the irrepressible comments of Calendau’s listeners; the wonder, and sometimes incredulity of the men; the sentimental admiration of the women; and, on the part of Severan himself, the secret suspicion, early aroused and constantly strengthened, that Calendau’s austere and angelic lady-love is none other than his own fugitive bride, of whom he had never been able to obtain a trace. He chooses, however, to allow the young enthusiast to finish his tale, both that he may become possessed of the fullest possible information, and also that he may have time to mature some perfectly effectual plan of vengeance on the two.
Calendau begins by telling them that his own birth was humble. He come of honest and thrifty fisherfolk from Cassis, on the Mediterranean coast, and he cannot help lingering lovingly over some of the details of his simple early life.
The Cassis men under the evening light!
And in the cool, when they put out to sea,
Hundreds of fishing craft go silently
And lightly forth, like a great flock of plover,
And spread abroad the heaving billows over.
Watching, with what a long and serious gaze,
For the last glimmer of the swelling sail.
And if the sea but freshen, they turn pale,
For well they know how treacherous he is,
That cruel deep — for all his flatteries.
Of rude assault from the great equinox,
And bits of foundered craft bestrew the shores,
Then can we naught but close our cottage doors,
And young and old about the warm fireside
Wait the returniug of the summer-tide.
Blew loud, and mother mended the rent sails
With homespun thread; ay, and we youngsters too
Were set to drive the needle through and through
The gaping nets, and tie the meshes all
There where they hung suspended on the wall.
My father sat, with aye some antique book
Laid reverently open on his knee.
And 'Listen, and forget the rain,’quoth he.
Blew back his mark, and read some tale divine
Of old Provencal days, by the fire-shine.”
But Calendau asks pardon for dwelling on these scenes of childhood. Manhood had begun for him when he met his lady in the forest. He had first thought to win her with gold, and had undertaken to make himself rich by the difficult and dangerous tunny-fishing of the Mediterranean coast, in which immense fortunes are sometimes made. The fifth canto of the poem La Madrago describes this exciting sport. The sketch is one of great power, and has a kind of restless brilliancy. Many local legends and wild superstitions of the coast are introduced, yet it is intensely real. We give the passage which describes Calendau’s crowning success: —
The whole unnumbered shoal into the net
Came pouring. Ah, but then I was elate!
Drunk with my joy, thought I had conquered fate;
' Now, love,’ I said, 'thou shalt have gems and gems;
I’ll spoil the goldsmiths for thy diadems !'
He fires, unites, fulfills with joy, gives birth,
Calls from the dead the living by the score,
And kindles war, and doth sweet peace restore.
Lord of the land, lord of the deep is he,
Piercing the very monsters of the sea
Now in one silver phalanx press they on ;
Anon they petulantly part and spring
And plunge and toss, their armor glittering
Steel-blue upon their crystal field of fight,
Or rosy underneath the growing light.
What fire! With the strong rush of amorous desire
Spots of intense vermilion went and came
On some, like sparkles of a restless flame,
A royal scarf, a livery of gold,
A wedding robe, fading as love grew cold.
And the last line, that seemed invincible,
Brake with the pressure, and our boats leaped high.
' Huzza ! the prey is caged ! ’ we wildly cry ;
' Courage, my lads, and don't forget the oil!
The fish we have, — let not the dressing spoil !
Our oars we planted sturdily but still,
And the gay cohort, late alive with light,
Owned, with a swift despair, its prisoned plight,
And where it leaped with amorous content,
Quivered and plunged in fury impotent.
We are not gathering figs ! ’ 4 And all laid hold
With tug and strain to land the living prize,
Fruit of the treacherous sea. In ecstasies
Of rage our victims on each other flew,
Dashing the fishers o’er with bitter dew.
Who, when the tocsin clangs from tower and steeple
Peril to freedom and the land we cherish,
Insensate turn like those foredoomed to perish,
Brother on brother laying reckless hand,
Till comes a foreign lord to still the land.
For some with tridents, some with lances keen
Fell on the prey. And some were skilled to fling
A wingèd dart held by a slender string.
The wounded wretches ’neath the wave withdrew,
Trailing red lines along the mirror blue.
Silver was there, turquoise and gold uncounted,
Rubies and emeralds million-rayed. The men
Flung them thereon like eager children when
They stay their mother’s footsteps to explore
Her apron bursting with its summer store
The wealth thus suddenly acquired Calendau spends with ostentatious profusion. He appoints a fête at Cassis, to be celebrated with public games, boat-racing, and trials of strength, and promises largess to the crowd. He then buys the costliest trinkets, fit only for a queen’s casket, and proceeds to offer them to his Esterello, by whom they are refused with a sort of gentle disdain. She reminds him that she has no fur-
ther use for jewelry, and that the fieldflowers are, for her, a far more appropriate garniture, and she reproves his shallow confidence and youthful vanity. Still further mortification awaits him at the Cassis fête, to which the next canto is devoted, and where he had anticipated a public ovation ; but where certain comrades, who are jealous of his prosperity, overcome him by treachery in the games, and poison the minds of his townsfolk against him. Wounded and sore, both in body and mind, he repairs again to his fair recluse, and this time she is kinder.
Heart hot with sense of wrong and limbs a-weary,
And oh, the rest I found there, and the balm !
Coolness as of clear water, and a calm
Celestial. ' Oh entreat me pityingly,
My strange white Fay,’ I said; ' uo gems have I
Thick set with thorns is all I offer now ;'
And so I dropped under the shady trees,
And told her of my hard-won victories, —
All barren, — and my shame ; and she, grave-eyed,
Looked up and listened from the grass beside.”
Then she tells him a thrilling story, or rather chants him a ballad, out of that legendary lore of Provence with which her memory is stored, and on which, in her solitude, her imagination is ever brooding. We give it entire:—
By the swift Rhône water,
A hundred thousand on either side,
Christian and Saracen fought till the tide
Ran red with the slaughter.
Of direful war !
The Count of Orange on that black morn
By seven great kings was overborne,
And fled afar,
Of his nephew slain.
Now are the kings upon his trail ;
He slays as he flies ; like fiery hail
His sword-strokes rain.
No shelter there !
A Moorish hive is the home of the dead,
And hard he spurs his goodly steed
In his despair.
Flies Count Guillaume ;
By sun and by moon he ever sees
The coming cloud of his enemies;
Thus gains his home,
A mighty cry,
Calling his haughty wife by name,
“Guibour, Guibour, my gentle dame,
Open ! ’T is I!
Ta’en is the city
By thirty thousand Saracen,
Lo, they are hunting me to my den;
Guibour, have pity !”
I will not open my gates to thee;
For, save the women and babes,” said she,
“ Whom I shelter here,
Alone am I.
My brave Guillaume and his barons all
Are fighting the Moor by the Aliscamp wall,
And scorn to fly ! ”
And those men of mine
(God rest their souls!), they are dead,” he cried,
“ Or rowing with slaves on the salt sea-tide.
I have seen the shine
I have heard one shriek
Go up from all the arenas where
The nuns disfigure their bodies fair
Lest the Marran wreak
Will fall to-day !
Sweetheart, I faint; oh let me in
Before the savage Mograbin
Fall on his prey ! ”
“ Thou base deceiver !
Thou art perchance thyself a Moor
Who whinest thus outside my door,
My Guillaume, never !
And fired by — thee !
Guillaume to see his comrades die,
Or borne to sore captivity,
And then to flee !
Where others fly !
The heathen spoiler’s doom is sure,
The virgin’s honor aye secure,
When he is by ! ”
Between his teeth,
While tears of love and tears of shame
Under his burning eyelids came,
And hard drew breath
Right deep, and so
A storm, a demon, did descend
To roar and smite, to rout and rend
The Moorish foe.
The heathen slain
Upon the tender grass fall thick
Until the flying remnant seek
Their ships again.
And when once more
He turned him homeward from the fight,
Upon the drawbridge long in sight
Stood brave Guibour.
My Lord! ” she cried,
And might no further welcome speak,
, But loosed his helm, and kissed his cheek,
With tears of pride.
The docile Calendau goes on his way inspired and heartened. His next feat is to scale Ventour, the most precipitous peak in Provence, hitherto considered inaccessible, and he signalizes his achievement by felliug a grove of larches on the very crest of the mountain. The difficult ascent is very graphically described: —
To tufts of lavender and roots of box
I needs must cling, and as my feet I ground
In the thin soil, the littie stoues would bound
With ringing cry from off the precipice,
And plunge in horror down the long abyss.
Would narrow to a thread ; I must retrace
My steps and seek some longer, wearier way.
And if I had turned dizzy in that day,
Or storm had overtaken me, then sure
I had lain mangled at thy feet, Ventour.
With only death in view, I heard above
Some solitary sky-lark wing her flight
Afar, then all was still. Only by night
God visits these drear places. Cheery hum
Of insect rings there never. All is dumb.
In a deep chasm, caught my downward view,
' Thou art there ! ’ I cried ; and straightway did discover
New realms of wood towering the others over,
A deeper depth of shadows. Ah, methought
Those were enchanted solitudes I Sought!
Till all my nails were broken. At the last,
The utter last, — oh palms Of God — I caught
The soft larch-murmur near me, aud distraught,
Embraced the foremost trunk, and forward fell,
How broken, drenched, and dead, no words can tell!
A fresh wind blew, and all the pain was gone,
And I rose up both stout of limb and glad;
Bread in my sack for nine full days I had,
A drinking-flask, a hatchet, and a knife
Wherewith to carve the story of my strife
On old Ventour, rushing through all the trees!
A symphony sublime I seemed to hear,
Where all the hills and vales gave answer clear,
Harmonious. In a stately melancholy
From the sun’s cheerful glances hidden wholly
The larches rose. No tempest’s utmost rage
Could shake them, but with huge limbs close entwined,
Mutely they turned their faces to the wind ;
Some hoar with mold and moss, while some lay prone
Shrouded in the dead leaves of years agone.
' O kingly trees ! ‘ I cried ; ' O hermits old !
All hail, and pardon ! And thou too, Ventour,
Loug steeled the tempest’s torment to endure,
Wilt thou not howl in all thy caves to-day,
Because thy stately crown is rent away ? ’
Mightily swings the ax, and rent and scared
Are the millenial slumbers of the place.
Mightily cleaves the iron relentless ways
Along the wood, and every resinous scale
Weeps drops of gold, but these shall not avail
Springs, as the great trunk parts, from root to peak;
From bough to bough quivers a dying groan,
As falls the monarch headlong from his throne,
And thunders down the vale, spreading about
Tumult and din as of a water-spout.”
Not content with the havoc thus wrought in the forest solitudes, and the consternation excited in the valley below, and heedless even of the blandishments of a certain lady of Maltbrun, who desires to regale and refresh him in her highland castle after his exploit, Calendau next assails what is called the Honey-comb Rock, a series of clefts and fissures where the mountain bees have been for ages depositing their honey undisturbed; and barely escapes with his life from the consequences of this last piece of bravado. But when he approaches Esterello once more, bearing a larch bough and a slice of honey-comb as his trophies, he finds her rather amused, than overawed, by his latest achievement. She cannot help praising his prowess, and half relenting to his fantastic fidelity, but she declares her fervent and somewhat mystical belief, that the solitudes of nature are sacred, and that he who wantonly invades and violates them deserves a severe punishment. She reminds him once more that her beloved heroes of old fought to redress human wrong, and mitigate human suffering, and tries to awaken him to a higher ideal of life and love. Count Severan can hardly restrain himself at this stage of the story.
A man and knight indeed thou comest my way,
Then,’ — with a sudden smile,— ' then I will tell
Whether I found thy honey sweet!' Ah well,
Bright seemed the word, and kind, and the day bright,
And the birds sang, and the stream leapt in light.
Burst forth. ' Thy tale is growing tedious, man.
' Pardon, my gracious lord ! ’ Calendau cried,
' And deign a little longer to abide ;
'T were base to cheat your honor of the rest,
Seeing my story’s end will be its best!' ”
In the eighth canto, Calendau signalizes his devotion to a loftier ambition, by interposing between two hostile bands of freemasons, whom he finds one day engaged in a fierce and sanguinary fight, and finally, by common consent of the parties, arbitrating and restoring peace among them. The theme hardly seems a very poetic one, but it is treated with the dignity which never forsakes Mistral, — a deal of strange and sombre history, or rather mythology, is introduced, and the rival claims and bizarre pretensions of the children of Hiram and Solomon are detailed with a certain weird pomp. Again Severan interrupts Calendau’s narrative fiercely and scornfully, and with a wrathful sideglance at the listeners who hang upon his lips.
Their master, king, — whate’er they call it, — pope,”
Hissed Severan. " Nay,” was the tranquil word,
“ Nor pope, nor king, nor general; but, my lord,
Provence and Aquitaine, do not forget,
Will one day give me a name nobler yet, —
The huntresses ’gan clamor, all as one ;
“ Nor look that look that freezes all our blood! ”
For now, with lifted eyes the hero stood,
And sweet and misty was their gaze afar,
Like his who sees a vision or a star.
And now Calendau goes on to relate how he addressed himself to the most perilous and unselfish of all his undertakings, — the achievement of which brings the reader to the commencement of the story. There was a certain brigand named Marco Mau, the pest and terror of all southern Provence, much as Severan himself was of the north. No hearth or home or sanctuary, or life of man or chastity of woman, was safe from the violent assaults of this ruffian and his armed band; and him Calendau, at the head of a small picked company, tracked, defied, besieged in his stronghold, and finally slew. Of course he won the enthusiastic gratitude of his townspeople and countrymen in general, and they became eager to make amends for all the petty jealousies of the past, and whatever injustice they had previously done him. In the great city of Aix he was received like a prince, and rare civic honors were bestowed upon him. And when he enters the lists at the Fête-Dieu and is proclaimed victor in one after another of the strange, antique games which characterize that festival, the enthusiasm of the people mounts to the highest pitch, and Calendau himself is filled with a sacred joy and gratitude, as unlike as possible to the vain exultation of his earlier days. He knows that his present honors and popularity have been well won by hard and beneficent service, and he thinks his Esterello must approve him at the last. We are now at the crisis of the story, and the interest deepens rapidly.
Is it not supper-time ? ” once more brake in
Count Severan. “Come, hurry to the end !
For whither, boaster, does thy prowess tend?
Thou hast not won her yet! So much I know, —
And others will yet reap where thou didst sow ! ”
Cried the young fisher in tones louder far
Than e’en the bandit’s, and more awesome still ;
“ But I have won her! Laugh or weep, who will !
My plume is flying free, and I can guide
Full well the stormy clouds whereou I ride!
As once again I climbed her balmy height.
' To-day they named me Chief of Youth,’I said.
Flamed in her cheeks two roses of deep red,
And her throat swelled, and in her glorious eyes
I saw the lucent, loving tears arise.
Whether it be you nectar’s wondrous power, I know not, — but my doubts, my fears are dead.
The flowers bloom, look you, wheresoe’er I tread,
And wheresoe’er I turn my blessed vision,
The land is all one scene of peace Elysian, —
And I can hear the concords manifold
In Nature’s varying voices. And I know
Why the winds cry aloud or whisper low,
Why strives the angry sea, and by what token,
Weary and sad, retires with pride all broken.
'Now is my soul, Calendau, wholly thine,
Only my body must I keep mine own ;
But thee I love, my knight, and thee alone!
’T were sweet, — and why stay I my steps like this,
Nor rush with open arms to utmost bliss ?
' And yet invincible, constraineth me,—
I am an outlaw’s wife.’ ” " Ho ! not so fast! ”
The huntsmen jeered. " The rocket bursts at last ! ”
But the poor women trembled where they sate
Yearning o’er him who thus had sealed his fate.
Leapt up, “And that same impious bond,” he cried,
“ By the good grace of God, I break to-day !
Yet if I fall let not my slayer say
I am abased ; for what I have, I ween
Is bliss enough — an ocean deep, serene,
And break his horns against our mighty love.
Fair as the day my lady’s body is,
And yet the whitest pearl of rich Ganges
A boar may swallow. She I dare call mine
Is but the angel whom that pearl doth shrine.
Is but a madness. It is long gone hence.
I love my sister’s soul, and enter there,
And come and go, and all I see is fair.
Oh, never painter lived who could retrace
Even in symbol that angelic grace !
Ye are the paradise true souls inherit!
Ye are indeed the purifying fires
Wherein love loseth all its low desires.
O oneness wonderful! Accord complete,
Tender and piercing, sad because so sweet !
But the twin thought of us, the inseparate flames
Of divine essence, by the self-same road
Shall journey to the Infinite of God !
The one adored, the one who doth adore,
Giving and taking blessing evermore.”
Who goes forth full of hope the rude fields o’er,
And sows broadcast, on all the stony plain
And hard, his sacred and life-giving grain.
Large drops his forehead beaded, but his smile
With faith was radiant and content the while.
Born of that zeal divine, unwonted steal
Through all their frames, and hearkened eagerly
As the mule pricks his ears when he sees fly
The sparks from off the anvil. But the view
Of that clear river of love, forever new,
Made but for heaven, that smiles at Death’s control,
Stirred to its utmost spite one felon heart;
And scowling Severan, where he sat apart,
While hate burned like a blister at his breast,
Brooded revenge with feverish unrest,
Muzzled like ravening dogs, until his spleen
Took shape. " Calendau hath won all things now,
The aureole is growing round his brow ; ”
So his thought ran. " Of heaven he is sure,
And there of honor bright and favor pure.
Now, though the lightning lay its fiery rod
Upon him, and his frame be ground to dust,
He is not dispossessed of that fair trust.
He hath her soul, and what to him is death ?
Ha! ha! I 'll break the sword and leave the sheath !
More deadly than all pain, that soul of his
I will make one corruption ! Ay, the germ
Of yonder tree of life shall feed the worm !
And were thy baser passions tighter reined
Than now, proud youth, thy doom were still ordained.”
Blandly a signal gave, and all of those
About set forth together for Aigluu,
Climbing the tortuous torrent-side. The sun
Set suddenly behind the mountain-wall,
And swift and sombre ’gan the night to fall.
As a maid, risen from her couch of sleep,
Her lattice opes, the coolness to inhale.
The crickets chirred incessant in the vale,
And where the onion-fields lay black in shade,
The courtil-mole trilled forth her long roulade.
Of some belated quail fell mournfully,
Or a young partridge in the vale astray
Whimpered afar. And cooler grew alway
The air, until the deepened shades of night
Were cloven by the bat’s precipitous flight.
The eleventh canto, The Orgie, is devoted to the fulfillment of Severan’s sinister design, and it reveals a wholly new aspect of M. Mistral’s versatile genius. The inconceivable luxury of the bandit’s castle, the costly profusion of the garden feast, the music, the tempered light, the heavy odors, and the artfully intensified beauty of the women, whom Calendau seemed hardly to have heeded before, are all described in diction infinitely voluptuous, and with an effect of sensuous splendor and enchantment hardly attainable in a northern tongue. The revelry, restrained at first to a certain languorous measure, grows faster, while from time to time the lurid scene is relieved by glimpses of the summer night scenery, with what effeet those will readily understand who remember the peaceful light of sunset sky and sea around the fierce duel of the rivals in Mirèio.
Hiding the moon at times. The restless spark
Of myriad fire-flies, like an emerald shower,
Quivered in all the air. And hour by hour
Warmer the night turned, and heat lightnings parted
From the far heights, and through the ether darted.
Sounded distinctly all the waterfalls
And tinkling fountains ; and anon there came
Dashes of cooling spray to cheeks aflame.
For a cascade that plunged adown the hill,
By art compelled, with many a silver rill
Then hurrying to a verge with one gay leap,
Dispersed in diamond rain, it passed from view.
Only the grass below right verdant grew,
And loveliest flowers, jasmine and the tuberose,
Freighted the dark with sweets,— how sweet to those
Shook their keen odors from the great ash-trees.
At last the host: " And are ye satisfied
With feasting? Ho then for a dance ! ” he cried.
“ Young, rosy limbs in play I hold a sight
Aye worth the rapture of a gallant knight.”
There followed one of those intoxicating and lascivious dances, indigenous in the neighborhood of Marseilles, and parent of the Carmagnole and more modern abominations. In the midst of it Calendau finally shakes off his gathering stupor and challenges Severan to instant and mortal combat. A scene of frightful confusion ensues, but the struggle is, of course, a brief one ; Calendau is overpowered by numbers, bound and flung into a dungeon, and his torture exquisitely enhanced by the assurance that Severan and his troop, following the clue furnished by Calendau’s story, will set forth that very night to capture and bring back, alive or dead, the lost lady of Aiglun. From this dungeon be is released at early daybreak, by Fortuneto, the youngest, fairest, and tenderest of the unhappy slaves whose allurements he had resisted the night before, and he flies to the defense of his lady. He is only just in season. The “cornice-like ledge” where we saw them first forms a kind of natural fortress, and there the young lover, informed with the valor of ten, holds the troop at bay for one long twenty-four hours, and at last disables so many that they retreat, but only to set fire to the woods that girdle the mountain. A terrible night ensues, during which the two can do no more than wait for death together; but when the first rays of dawn are struggling with the lurid flames and stifling smoke, the bells are suddenly heard to ring in Cassis and all along the shore. The rumor has spread that Calendau, the darling and benefactor of the coast, is in uttermost peril, and the whole population turns out to fight the flames. The strange battle is made sufficiently thrilling and dubious, although the reader foreknown its end. Severan is killed by the fall of a burning trunk, and —
Engage the roaring fires in sturdy fight,
Felling a pathway to the mountain-crest,
Just as the sun leaps up to flood the east
With radiance ; and the child of yonder wave
And the white fairy of the highland cave,
She with the torrent of her bright hair borne
Downward, like jujube flowers, stand forth together,
The glory of the blue bejeweled weather
Flung like an arch triumphal o'er the twain.
Hand in hand on the height they hear again
Two thousand voices in one pæan blending
“ Hail to Calendau ! who hath brought renown
And praise of men to our poor fishing-town !
Who hath won Esterello ! Plant the may
For him who is our consul from to-day ! ”
Forth of their citadel the rescued pair,
The tried, the true, the blest beyond desire;
While the sun, which is God’s own realm of fire,
Goes up his dazzling way with blessing rife,
Calling new lovers and new loves to life.
So happily ends the poem. The brief abstract here given conveys a very inadequate idea of the abundance of incident, the range of tone, and the immense variety of action by which it is characterized. Where nearly every page is strikingly picturesque, selection becomes a difficult task.
Harriet W. Preston.
- La Gantuelo. A mountain chain bordering on the sea between Cassis and Marseilles.↩
- The salt obtained from the salt-mines of Berre, a Small village near Aix, is considered the finest in France.↩
- Mandrin, a famous brigand chief, was born in
1715, at Sainte-Etienne-de-Geoire, in Dauphiny, and
broken on the wheel at Valence, in 1755.↩
- Eico n'es pas de figo bourjassoto. A popular proverb signifying, It is no trivial matter. The bourjassoto is a species of black fig.↩
- The Aliscamp, that is, Elysii Campi — an ancient cemetery near Arles, supposed to have been consecrated by Christ in person.↩