with Gill Storey
Holiday times in France and England are not so different.
In England, many poems were written about the pleasure of going “Maying” – going out into the country to gather may blossom with your girlfriends, and meeting young men and bringing them home.
Dancing around the maypole was an important part of the celebrations, and continues today.
Here in the Mediterranean south of Europe, celebrations start sooner, as the may trees or hawthorns are already bursting into bloom in April.
The beauty of the hedgerows and of single trees, is to be seen everywhere at present.
As in England, it is a time for falling in love and making new relationships, for seeking a new home and for building nests.
Bel Aubépin Verdissant (Hawthorn bursting into flower)
|Bel aubépin verdissant,||Lovely hawthorn bursting into leaf|
|Le coucou a chanté :||Flowering|
|Le long de ce beau rivage,||Along this fine stream bank|
|Tu es vêtu jusqu’au bas||You are clad to the end|
|Des longs bras||Of your long arms|
|D’une lambruche sauvage,||With a wild vine,|
|Deux camps drillant de fourmis||Two teeming troupes of ants|
|Se sont mis||Have made a|
|En garnison sous ta souche;||Barracks under your stem|
|Et dans ton tronc mi-mangé||And in your half-eaten trunk,|
|Les avettes ont leur couche,||Have arranged their lair,|
|Le gentil rossignolet||The noble nightingale|
|Avecques sa bien-aimée,||With his beloved,|
|Pour ses amours alléger||To enable his amours|
|Vient loger||Comes to live|
|Tous les ans en ta ramée.||Each year in your branches.|
|Sur ta cime il fait son nid,||Under your shade he builds his nest|
|Bien garni||Well furnished|
|Ou ses petits écloront,||With wool and fine silk,|
|Qui seront||Where his little ones will hatch,|
|De mes mains la douce proie.||The gentle prey of my hands.|
|Or vis, gentil aubépin,||Now live, gentle may tree,|
|Vis sans fin,||Live for ever|
|Vis sans jamais tonnerre,||Live without ever thunder|
|Ou la cognée, ou les vents,||Or the axe, or the winds|
|Ou le temps||Or the weather|
|Te puissent ruer par terre||Making you fall to the ground|
This poem was written in 1556 by Pierre de Ronsard the first really great poet in modern French.
He was the leader of the group, La Pléiade, to which Joachim du Bellay (see last month) also belonged.
They adapted from the Italian poets of the 15th century and developed theories of poetry, from Aristotle’s Poetics, which led to the theorizing of English 16th and 17th century poets.
Ronsard develops the idea of the hawthorn tree sheltering the ants and the nest-building nightingales, and asks that it may continue to do so, undamaged by lightning, the axe or the winds and weather.
He uses a series of clearly defined pictures to convey the notions of beauty, shelter and permanence.
There are not many hawthorn trees in flower in the Agly valley, but the road running from Padern through Cucugnan and Bugarach to Quillan, where the topography is quite different, is giving a splendid display of may blossom at the present.