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Extracts from the manuscript “My electoral campaign”
concerning Arles’s first election campaign in 1932.

General excerpts from the manuscript:

The electoral exercise ground, one of the most beautiful to be designed by the administration of France, is bordered by the Rhône, the Durance and the sea. It is the case of singing once again with the Toulouse troubadour Pierre Vidal, who had retained a nostalgic memory of his stay in Provence and in particular in Les Baux, where he had loved the beautiful Azalaïs.

Provence des Baux now has only a symbolic existence but it has the advantage of being immortal and unchanging: It is Provence itself.

Only, while Pierre Vidal can steal a kiss while she slept at the beautiful Azalaïs des Baux, it is more difficult to surprise this electoral Provence asleep, which never sleeps than with one eye. Regardless, she remains very beautiful and that is the main thing.

Extracts from the manuscript on the reasons for his electoral campaign:

Deputy for Arles! …Oh ! Hey! that would not be bad for a poet from Provence, and not only deputy of Arles, but also, but above all deputy of Maillane, Graveson, Saint-Rémy, Baux, Provence mistralienne, of the very heart of Provence ! and thanks to this mandate to finally be able to speak in parliament, in Paris, in the name of this Provence …

So, little by little, this dream is taking shape in my eyes! Near me, the books, which are always there on a table within easy reach, to draw information or advice, the works of
Master who must always be consulted. I’ll ask them to say an answer.

  • I open the Olivades, this compendium of Mistral wisdom, where the poet, after a long life of work, has gathered the oil of experience, which keeps the flame of the poetic lamp alive. “The page opens on its own to the leaves often read”, I read: The mayor Prouvenço that batu the aubado – the mayor Prouvenço that tin lou chapeù a panca crebado la peù doù rampeù (the mother Provence who beat the Aubade, the mother Provence who holds the hat, has not yet torn the skin of the recall.) This is certainly a good omen and an excellent commitment!
  • I open Nerto, this poem, where Mistral evoked the Provence of the Popes of Avignon and the Lion of Arles… I work “Nerto” and I read “Our Provence really needs a gentle hand to hasten its healing … Our Provence today as then and which indeed needs pious hands to raise it from its national downfall! …
  • I open Calendal, the poem of Provençal heroism, where often all the fanfares of the rebirth of a race, the sublime call of a popular Roland who does not want to despair …. The book opens to pages where the Calendal’s father unfolds in style towards the history of Provence….
  • I open Mireille, Bible du Midi where the poet evokes the fight of Ourias and Vincent in the Crau… Ourias who insulted Mireille, that is to say Provence and Vincent who defends her against her insultor….
  • Finally I open the Golden Islands, this collection of verses where enthusiasm, indignation, love and melancholy mix their attractions in the same light, and I find under my fingers the immortal sirventès of the countess that it is a question of freeing Provence, prisoner of the centralizing policy …

Extracts from the manuscript on the course of his electoral campaign:

Don’t talk about Mistral anymore! alarmed friends tell me.

But then why should I be a candidate and what if I have to put my poet’s flag and my Mistralian flag in my pocket! ….. ”

Here finally appears – it is on May 1 – the decree which opens the electoral period … So on the way and without delay! I have only one month to give about 40 electoral meetings and at the same time continue my visits to village notabilities. It is true that the two exercises can be carried out simultaneously, the meetings taking place in the evening and all the days remain good for visits… ”

It is a good idea to start with the centers where you are sure to find sympathy. My electoral field – it is the case to say it – it is above all the Provence Mistralienne. I want my first day of meetings to take me to Maillane and the surrounding area of Maillane. So I decided to give a meeting on Sunday April 3 in St Pierre de Mezoargues at 10 am, in Boulbon at 11 am, in St Etienne du Grès at 4.1 / 2 am, in Maillane at 6 am. This first day will be very busy.

That’s why, on Sunday April 3, at 9:30 am, I leave Tarascon, in a taxi that takes me to St Pierre de Mazoargues. The excellent Mr. Martel is by my side, carrying alone a bundle of leaflets which he takes care of distributing at the entrance and exit of the meetings. The road from Tarascon to St Pierre de Mezoargues first runs along the Rhône and passes through the village of Valabrègues.

Valabrègues! this is the country of Vincent, the lover of Mireille. I will not have a meeting there because Valabrègues is in the Gard. Yes, and yet on the left bank of the Rhône! But that’s how long ago
this charming village was on the right bank of the river, which changed course, and was thus part of Languedoc. Being from Languedoc, he was part of Gard during the Revolution, he stayed there… So that this morning its inhabitants do not interest me at all and the only characters of Valabrègues who have for me some reality, it is Vincent, the little basket maker is his father, master Ambroise, his sister the blonde Vincenette, and, to evoke them, I recite aloud the beginning of Mirèio:

“De-long dou Rose, between lou pibo E li sauseto de la ribo In a pauro oustaloun per l’aigo rousiga A demouravo basket, Emé soun funny…. ”

Here ! but the car slows down! … Is the road congested or stony? Not ! But I see in the rearview mirror that hangs in front of him, the driver’s face wrinkling and smiling with pleasure; He slows down the better to listen to me! We feel that this is the first time that it has happened to him to hear a man, who is going to hold an electoral meeting, say Provençal verses instead of speaking electoral cuisine! … This is also because this driver is not the first comer: he is “Laurent, lou luchaire” wrestler from Beaucaire, famous throughout the country, and we can see on his chest and his biceps that his reputation should not have been spoofed.

With you I am at peace! I said to him, if I am attacked, you can always defend me!

But no danger of being attacked! There are only good people around here! The first I see are the citizens gathered at the town hall of St Pierre de Mazoargues where I arrive as ten o’clock strikes.

Meziargues-Medios campos- middle of the fields – no doubt to oppose the changing banks of the river. Here we are on stable ground, in front of about thirty voters. It is a very small town, and much more of a hamlet than a village. This first interview – a trial run – will be quite familiar. No one when I have finished presenting my case raises a serious or slight objection. I can safely reach Boulbon

The meeting was not well publicized there by the press, but there is an excellent “trompetaïre” which goes straight out of mass to call back voters. They are the ones who suit me after all since I have to act as a clerical candidate!

Besides, I have seen quite a few young people in the cafe, who drink and laugh and don’t seem to want to disturb themselves; their conviction is made … The hall of the town hall is full when I take the
word. Here again perfect calm and no contradiction. It’s easy to talk about old Provence and its traditions in this conservative country, where we still do on June 1, to bless the wine, the procession of bottles, the procession “di fiholo” to the Romanesque chapel , which is above the village and at the foot of the old ruined castle.

My turn to try a good bottle. I draw from it the necessary strength for the afternoon meeting which brings me to St Etienne du Grès, Grès to speak like the locals, who willingly suppress St Etienne to leave only the Grès, evocative of the stony hillsides where a vine grows which gives a dry and light wine.

St Etienne du Grès is part of the municipality of Tarascon and suffers morally from this servitude! I am advised to promise the municipal emancipation of this sympathetic agglomeration, I will certainly not fail when the competitors have already made this promise. Let us give this satisfaction to the pride of St Etienne, who does not want to submit to the yoke of Tarascon!

The people of Grès are hot-headed! At first they like dancing, and on Sundays they seem much busier dancing than listening to political speakers. A country ball, bowls games
seem to be a tough competition for me. Yet the school hall is still full. But now, my speech finished, a strong man with a powerful voice asks to speak. It was Citizen Manse, municipal councilor of Tarascon, who traveled ten kilometers to meet me in a closed field. In fact, he is at home, since St Etienne du Grès is part of the town of Tarascon! In a Tarasque voice he sings the funeral eulogy of Aristide Briand, apostle of peace, whom the moderates killed by refusing him the presidency of the Republic.

Boufre! We are quite right in the small socialist newspapers to call Mr. Manse the Danton of Tarascon! He has the build, the powerful body, the brutal mask and the daring! Boldness! always daring! Briand was, if we are to believe it, a victim not of his cigarettes, nor of his age, but of the people who strangled him at Versailles. I have only the resource of replying: “You have little esteem for Citizen Briand, if you believe that he may have died of this disappointment! let’s see a man like him! … ”

This retort, which we cannot know if it is serious or ironic, calms the spirits and I can withdraw, without having been expelled by the Danton of Tarascon, in the middle of the applause, covered by the cries of: “And the school secular? 

And I am now very happy to be heading for Maillane where the Mistralian people are waiting for me at the Café du Progrès.

This is the Café des Rouges, where political meetings are held, but in my honor the whites will come this time and so I will have everyone on hand. In fact the room is overcrowded when I am there
entered, and I fell into the open arms of the Félibres de Maillane. What joy to speak there, what a memory for my life as Félibre, what a delicious contrast with my memories of thirty years ago, my first emotions as a young poet, as a pilgrim from Maillane.

I naturally begin by recalling them and by saluting in particular the memory of Mistral and the village of Maillane, the heart of Mistralian Provence, and then I speak French to present my electoral program.

By the way, it might be the moment, on the evening of this first day of meeting, to let you know the main lines of this electoral speech, which I walked for a month, through forty villages, with some variations according to the countries, but which in broad outline has naturally always remained the same; and as it would be tedious for my readers to follow me through forty meetings, most of which went off without incident, I am going to simplify matters, comment on this speech between the lines and at the same time indicate the objections that it may have meet here and there the restrictions he may have come up against in such and such a circumstance, the aftershocks that he gave me. …

How can I retain some bitterness or some unfortunate memory of an electoral struggle which took place in this marvelous arena where from the Alpilles to the sea, and from the Durance to the Rhône, villages with pink roofs and scorched in the sun are scattered? , solid farmhouses framed by hackberry and cypress trees.

Here the socialist, radical or royalist troops clash in landscapes so happy and so noble that they too participate in this nobility, in this harmony.


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