| Emile RIPERT and the poets of the Félibrige
The most picturesque of all the Provençal poets that I have known – and he has in fact often tempted painters and sculptors from Henry to Elisabeth de Groux – was the popular singer of Paradou, Charloun Rieu.
Party of Alès, but fixed in Montpellier, Albert Arnavielle, says the Arabi, because of his tanned complexion, his fiery eyes and his ardor, the Saint of Felibrige, Catholic and fiery royalist.
One day when we returned from Maillane around 1926 we were talking about the close centenary of Mistral, as he was beginning to think of himself as old and tired: « No matter, he said, I will have me carried on a stretcher ». This is what he did, or almost, but in 1927, at Sainte-Estelle, which was celebrated that year in Montpellier. Too tired to attend the banquet from the start, he was carried to dessert and was given the floor. With a shadow of voice, ghost on the edge of his grave, he sang the stanzas of Coupo Santo and when he came to say
« Mai se toumbon li Félibres, toumbara noste nacioun »
he made a gesture of denial with his hand, in front of this hypothesis which revolted his faith…. We all had tears in our eyes. This is the last time we saw him and for Mistral’s centenary, if he attended it was from the Paradis de Sainte-Estelle.
Continuing my journey through Languedoc I saw near Carcassonne, a teacher in his village of Raissac-sur-Lagny, Prosper Estieu, with black hair, apostolic beard, bronze voice, impeccable worker of Parnassian sonnets and lyrical odes, in which passed the Albigensian inspiration, inherited from his master Auguste Forès. On the slopes of the Black Mountain, that haunt of faidits, he looked like a last Cathar forgotten by the Crusade. I went to see him in 1916 when I was attached to the sub-stewardship of Carcassonne for a few months; I had been brought to him by the local Châtelain who was called by a sort of predestination Léon Cathary, a great bibliophile and generous patron, who ruined himself in this game and went to Paris to die, becoming a book seller rue d’Assas for the love of books. Estieu, whose school was next door, was a regular at the château, one day I brought him to examine the manuscript, which I was then going to have printed of my thesis on the Provençal Renaissance. I saw him several times in Toulouse, at the Escolo Occitane festivals, or at the Académie des Jeux floraux, and the last time, in an unforgettable way in 1938 at the foot of the hill for him sacred to Montségur, where too tired and too old, he was then seventy-nine years old, he had not been able to ride with the Félibres, but he watched with his clairvoyant eyes, full of ecstasy, while he told us the beautiful sonnet that he had written to greet the Félibrige at Montségur. The next year he passed away after a slow agony. His disciple and friend, from Castelnaudary, Abbot Joseph Salvat, took up his fine tradition, while mitigating his albigeneism, which would have been excessive for a priest.
Philadelphe de Gerde
In the same Albigensian sentiment which has curiously animated so many Félibres from Languedoc or the Pyrenees, we cannot forget the great muse of Bigorre, Philadelphe de Gerde. I saw her for the first time in Montpellier, for the Sainte Estelle in 1910, at the same time as Prosper Estieu,. But more sensational still Philadelphe de Gerde with his black capulet of Bigourdane, and saying his harsh verses in a harsh and caressing voice all together; very moved by this beautiful spectacle, I sent him a poem in terza rima shortly after. I saw her again in Toulouse, too, still as beautiful and still as ardent in claiming the rights of the language. Standing on the Pyrenean horizon, she really had the look of a prophetess, weeping with black sails of the bastardized race of Oc.
Curious figures of women faithful to the old ideal of this race let us register here the melancholy and dreamy profile of Farfantello (Henriette Dibon) of Avignon at the same time, the face with the hooked nose of Marcelle Drutel, ardent Marseillaise, the thin and delicate face, with big eyes always astonished, from Noune Judlin who lives in Garrom, on the banks of the Var, Chatelaine and peasant, to the song of streams and nightingales, I lived a few beautiful hours of poetry and friendship in his poetic castle, in the middle of the sweetest nature.
The poets of the Félibrige
How many Félibrige poets should I not still have to quote in order to make a complete census of those I have known, in the Pyrenees Bernard Sarrieu, normalien professor of philosophy, who had written a Pyrenean poem of 30,000 lines and still carried the same in Félibréennes ceremonies, a priest’s frock coat in civilian clothes and an enormous umbrella, ill awake dreamer, lost in contemporary life, Raymond Lizop, professor of history, but just as far from reality, living with the Romans or the counts of Saint Vertrand de Cominges, whose history he had written, or the Albigensian faidits which he also celebrated with a voice as tanned as that of Prosper Estieu: Antonin Perbosc, Albigensian poet, again, but poet of birds, and of his profession teacher and librarian in Montauban Michel Camélat, with his little Basque beret, lively Ariègeois, with the great talent of popular evocations, Simon Palaiy de Pau, with the great
beard, with thoughtful and gentle eyes, poet of the house, and then to return to Provence François Jouve, baker from Carpentras, kneading the flour and the Provençal language with the same softness, poet in action, in Avignon the old Bénézet, Bruneau, with the Mistralian fly, with the large felt-tip pen and holding on until his eighty years in the Félibrige festivals, walking, on all the paths, his big beard, his lame leg and his faith which was not, in Toulon , poet of speech and action, Pierre Reynier, teacher with beautiful eyes, Antoine Esclangon with his huge hat and his permanent optimism. In Marseille the hot and earthy Jorgi Reboul, host of Calen, robust boy who sings in the tradition of Victor Gelu, in Sanary Doctor Clément, in Nice Louis Gennaud, discreet author of Nice songs and Francis Gag, host of the dialect theater of Barba Martin, in Cailar and then in Aigues Vives Sully André Peyre, trilingual poet, French, Provencal, English, subtle, melancholy, of Protestant inspiration, a little apart from Félibrige and his charming and lively wife, escrivette, delicate poet too.
Toulouse lawyer, who took in poetry the name of Brousse from the name of a mill, I believe he owned, is a very small man, with a round face, eyes a little flush, with a sonorous voice, who, well planted on his short legs, knows how to stand up to anyone, Artist, art critic, president of Toulouse Toulouse he stood up to his full height (it is enough to speak high to be tall) against the foolish wreckers and he managed to keep many memories of a venerable past. Poet of the Oc language and the French language, he sang the Roland horn and the Moulin sur la Colline, the past and the present of his pink city. I got to know him in 1911 when the Académie des Jeux Floraux welcomed me. I often found him at his meetings and better still at banquets of poets and intimate meals, to which he always arrived late, having the habit of shifting his day a few hours on that of others, getting up at 11 a.m. and going to bed at 3 a.m.
In 1908, after noticing my articles in our young magazine le feu, he wrote to me asking me to collaborate on the magazine he had been running for several years successfully, L’Ame Latine. As its name indicated, this review extolled humanism, the Félibrige, the union of Latin races dear to Mistral; it was enough to win my full support for it: I answered Praviel in warm terms and the following year I had the joy of meeting him under the most favorable auspices, on the days which marked the fiftieth anniversary in Arles. by Mirèio.
In our passionate conversations Praviel then showed me the way to the Academy of Floral Games, which he had just entered when he was still very young. He wanted to rejuvenate the spirit, the methods, raise the level of his competitions. He urged me to submit my most recent poems to his judgment. I allowed myself to be persuaded and from 1910 to 1911 I was thus filled with so many flowers, that in 1911 the Academy gave me letters of Masters and that in 1912 as a young master of floral games I praised Clémence Isaure, in the hall of illustrious, at the Capitole of Toulouse. My friendship with Praviel grew naturally during these trips to Toulouse; he received me there magnificently and made me receive there by his friends J. Rozès de Brousse, Joseph Anglade, professor of Romance languages at the Faculty of Letters, historian of troubadours and joyful living, François Tresserre, worldly and sentimental poet, elegant , benevolent, Catalan, descended from Cerdagne, to become in Toulouse lawyer, scholar, maintainer of the Floral Games. Lunches and dinners as could then be done in Toulouse, teas, meetings of poets, receptions at the hotel in Assézat, nothing was refused to me during these beautiful days of poetic intoxication. I left, intoxicated with so many flowers and incense, and over the following years I never ceased to correspond with Armand Praviel. He was himself then in all the splendor of his 36th year, noble and handsome, draped in his black cape, his blond hair blowing in the wind, the keen and mischievous eye, the high verb, saying the verses better than the professionals of diction and occasionally playing tragedy. He looked like François Coppée. ; he had, moreover, the gaiety, the good-naturedness; in everything he did, wrote or said, he was
above all a poet, and later I suffered for him to see that he was known above all in the general public as the author of historical Romans, as a literary critic, we forgot that he had written very beautiful verses in the Evening Tragedy and the Song of the Seasons.
On his return from the war he courageously returned to work, to the romantic genre, to legal enigmas, to historical narratives, which were becoming fashionable: an excellent orator, and admirable speaker, he also gave lectures, made tours in France; literary critic, he read all the books that were addressed to him, spoke about them to readers of the Express du Midi, the Correspondant, maintained an abundant correspondence, often went to Paris, was present at a hundred literary ceremonies, in short stood up to everything , with an astonishing capacity for work, an iron will, always mathematical and clear, never letting his admirable writing deteriorate, even in the least ungrateful moments, thinking of everything, organizing the demonstrations in the smallest detail for which he was in charge, animating the Floral Games with his verve, choosing the best candidates, crowning the best competitors, fair, loyal, courageous, true hero of intellectual work, professional conscience, regional patriotism.
It was always a comfort to see him, either in Toulouse, where he had to lift his hat along the streets at all times to salute, or on a conference tour where he was always enthusiastic, cheerful, eloquent, or in Paris , where he was known to everyone in the literary world, very close in particular to his compatriot Marcel Prévost, who loved him very much and opened wide the review of France and its editions to him.
THE SOCIETY OF FRENCH POETS
« Among the groups where I have known the most lyre carriers, there is naturally the Society of French Poets; I cannot think of citing all of its members whom I have known either in its banquets or in its salons, which were held on Tuesdays at the Painting Salons, in a room of the Grand Palais des Champs Elysées, on the left as you go up the grand staircase. The place was nice; we arrived there by crossing the temple of statues which occupied the ground floor of the huge building in the dim light which fell from the windows. Drapes, intended to dampen outside noise, closed off access to the room, which had an oriental and mysterious air. There on an improvised stage the martyrs of rhyme, as old Victor Gelu used to say, and their interpreters said their verses to a rather disparate and somewhat ghostly audience where old ladies and very young girls abounded, candid audience, accustomed to these kinds of spiritual joys. Very little elegance – the poets are not rich – a few hairy heads, bald skulls, rare adolescents, a public in short which seemed to come from a very old province, where poetry was still honored in the heart of this Paris which no longer believed in it.
There I knew the various presidents of the company, André Foulon de Vaulx, poet of high race, melancholy, secret, silent, Sébastien-Charles Leconte, lean, tall and thin, the keen eye under the eyeglass, flawless Parnassian , great honest man, with rare and discreet speech, André Dumas, not very elegant too, although southern, but from the Cévennes, from the south of the stones, as Daudet said, and moreover Protestant, with the big square head, with good eyes honest and upright, Ernest Prévost, thin and tormented with the appearance of a Don Quixote of poetry, with absolute devotion to all that was this sacred cause to which he had dedicated his life as a literary monk; the moderator of all these meetings was the secretary general, Edmond Teulet, a somewhat Montmartrois songwriter, who with his frock coat and his monocle announced in an impeccable tone that we were going to hear verses from our « good comrade »