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Mireille, my loves, those words that Mistral’s grandmother used to say, when she wanted to grace someone of her daughters, those words that her mother repeated when she saw some pretty little girl from Maillane pass by, here is that starting this book j I want to say them again, too, as I have been doing for twenty-five years.

Mireille, my loves, she’s no longer a little peasant girl from Maillane, she’s no longer a mysterious and legendary character, she’s an immortal creature, who has all the precision of life, but who has none the inevitable fragility and imperfection.

It is to define this creature of dream and of reality, this incarnation of a race, this visible soul of a country, that I would now like to apply my conscious mind, but when, instinctively, I was dazzled before the book that brought me this revelation, I felt a plenitude that I would now try in vain to share with my reader. Regardless, one must have the courage to carry out such operations, however difficult they may be, and not be afraid of touching what one trembles, however, to desecrate.

This book that decided my life, this is how it appeared to me: In Marseille ….

… From La Ciotat, where I spent my holidays, I was taken to Marseille to see this fair and it was the opportunity to visit one of my grandfathers, who lived not far from there, in a street that s ‘called and is still called the rue des Beaux-Arts and that its name intended for some beautiful poetic encounter. …

Adolphe RIPERT
My grandfather had once been a notary in his small town of Cadenet, on the banks of the Durance, home of the Arcole drum that Mistral sang. There, he had, from his childhood, spoken the tasty Provençal of Leberon with softened diphthongs and without being a very militant felibre, he had practiced the Provencal language well enough to translate the Divine Comedy, the Imitation of Jesus Christ into its dialect. and Longfellow’s Evangeline.

Such were, at that time, the poetic distractions of a village notary and he was not alone of his kind, since my maternal grandfather put in French verse the political struggles of his small town of La Ciotat, where he also practiced the profession of notary.

So, initiated into Félibrige, a lover of the old language, my paternal grandfather had a naturally Provençal library in his Marseille apartment and, as a seven-year-old child, I was browsing the titles, I stood still in front of this mysterious name MIRÈIO.

It was written, this name, in handwritten letters and capitals, on a label that was once white, and now yellowish, framed with blue lines, and the corners of which were cut in octagonal shapes, label apparently intended for business files, label notarial, which was thus diverted, for poetic use of its normal employment. It was glued to a gray cover, obviously made to replace the genuine cover of the book that had given way from being handled too often. I have kept this book, which I have since inherited, in this form which I have been keen to respect. MIRÈIO! the pensive child, whom I try to revive after forty years soon
passed, looked at those mysterious letters. What did they mean? They seemed so venerable to him that he never dared take the book and open it. He watched it from afar, fascinated by this word, among so many other titles, in the midst of which it seemed to blaze in a strange way. He looked at him, bewitched, as if his life had to depend on it and his intellectual life, indeed, was already virtually suspended by this magical title.

Extract Chapter One – Discovery of Mireille
Emile Ripert 1930

As I send this book to print, I am rereading these pages where I would have liked to express everything I love about this poem, but great literary admiration is like great feelings of love: everything that we can say is insufficient to give them their true form and, even more, it seems that they have diminished to exteriorize themselves.

… / …
What words should we therefore use to be appropriate for our feeling towards this quasi-divine work?

… / …
About Mireille’s fiftieth birthday, I had written, on one of her copies, these lines in which I tried to evoke the poem at the time of its creation:

It’s as beautiful a book as the three summer months;
A wonderful fig tree on its pages tilts
Its fruits heavy with sun, love and goodness.
It’s a book as beautiful as the hill tonight;
This is a book where the Rhône and the sea wind
Their great murmur and their salty smell are mixed …
Simple to ingenuous, candid, they don’t seem
Than wanting to go to poor homes,
And here the world is listening to their clear song.
Fine verses, we owe you our best tears …
Ah! when you were born it was one morning
Where the silver bells rang the sweet hours.
First thrilling days of a glorious fate …
How high is the sky over the Alpilles!
How these black cypresses draw the distance!
In the high harvests the cries of beautiful girls
Pierce the blue coat that wraps the Summer
Luminous metal from their hot needles.
The scattered villages float in the clarity;
The day flows like a beautiful diaphanous river;
Night is ecstasy and majesty …
From the early morning the bell of Maillane
Call to pray that of Saint-Rémy;
Already each cicada occupies its plane tree.
The poet, when everything seems still asleep,
Is standing, and pushing its rustic shutters,
See the young sun come in like a friend.
The equal course resumes domestic work;
We hear mules going to the watering hole;
Grandeur, simplicity, calm of ancient customs.
. The poet received letters last night;
Auband said: “My dear, are we in Lent?
And Roumanille said: “I long to see you”.
The poet smiles, thinking of those he loves;
But the fiery work is there, calling and waiting for it:
All this sky, it has to become a poem.
In the warm silence of the room we hear
A wasp sometimes vibrate, and, dark wasp,
Leaving a dazzling wake on paper,
The feather made with light, with shadow
With the simple names of familiar countries,
With the long herds whose road is crowded,
With the clear bells ringing on necklaces
Horses going to village festivals
With the sound of the waters under the hackberry trees,
With the fires of Saint-Jean, the teams
Carrying their golden sheaves where the gold of the setting sun rains,
With the sea in the distance dying on the beaches,
With the laughter of a fifteen year old child,
The fiery feather makes, and the sun gilds it,
A book that will make young people cry …
However the large farmhouse has become sonorous …
It was noon, it was evening, but, full of God,
The poet, here is the night, is still working.
Now the first star in the blue air
Adds the golden point that closes the day like a sentence;
The pensive reapers are gradually returning.
Already for the meal the deep hearth is set ablaze;
And the poet, tired of having toiled so hard,
Descends, grave and joyful, his heart drowned in ecstasy.
He talks, simple and gentle like an older brother,
With these simple people who work the land:
“Today like you,” he said, “I have harvested.
They remain banned, suspecting a mystery;
Then the laughter and the songs resume their momentum;
Fresh gaiety of the evening after the austere day …
The little farmer put down the white bread
On the stone table where a dish of broad beans is smoking;
Little by little the stars show their quivering fire,
And as the day shines towards distant strikes,
And that already invited by the first crickets
All think of sleep without remorse and without dreams,
The poet dazzled by invisible rays,
Suddenly sees without a staff, without a guide, without an escort,
Blind, but covered in sparkling rags,
A tall old man standing on the threshold of the door …

This was the commentary and the development of this youthful prayer that at twenty I stammered in the church of Maillane, the first day I went to see Mistral:

At the time when you die in the evening that is melting away
A whole people emerge from the deep past
With the warm golden noise that makes
Easter in bloom the wasp and the bee,
O Sainte Mireille!

That’s why the sons of those whose hearts
Wanted to relive the hour when you die,
Have come, along the flowering paths,
Bring you worms in the basket,
O Sainte Mireille!

For you were for us, poor weary people,
The nurse with very small steps,
Who, the evil over, approaches, and, very low,
Said the words of hope, soft in the ear,
O Sainte Mireille!

The patient listens, approves and smiles;
He would like to walk, he feels healed,
And here he is running to the gray olive trees,
To the rediscovered fields, to the old trellis,
O Sainte Mireille!

Good sister darling, where will we take them,
Words that would be sweet enough to you?
Provence has nothing better than you
In her bright garden that sunny April,
O Sainte Mireille!

She has her waves to see,
She has her Rhône, where, fresh, to see herself:
But you were still the most beautiful mirror
Which she could look at, Mireille,
O Sainte Mireille!

Many other poets have tried, like me, to express their admiration for the immortal work: here is the sonnet that was written some time before his death by the young Provencal poet, Emile Turle, a native of Barjols and who died in Fat after his war wounds:

I wouldn’t miss living alone
If I had the Gospel and Virgil with me;
One sings the laburnum and the fruits of the earth,
The other, the fruits of the sky and the beautiful fragile lily.

If I had only one book, I might like one
If he carried prayer and romance with him;
But I named Mireille, and it is no longer a mystery:
Mireille is both Virgil and the Gospel.

Those who know Mireille need only Mireille;
You will no longer be able to live as usual
If the songs of Mistral sang in your ear;

Something is within you from unknown gardens …
And you just welcomed the verb that sums up
The yardstick of Virgil and the heart of Jesus.

Extract Chapter VI – The humble gift of a poet
Emile Ripert 1930


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