Ridan & Du Bellay

Poetry & Music

Du Bellay is : The French Literature of the 16th century.
Don’t look for more chic, nor more classy, you won’t find.
No, no, no need to talk to me – again, are you serious? – about your Shakespeare – Joachim Du Bellay is a master of pure poetry.
Double master, because he was one of those who decided to choose French, the language of the people, against Latin, the language of the elite.
And of the language of the people, it was a question of extracting pure jewels.
What he did.

So, all right – I’m willing to admit – but with lip service and without any conviction – that he is a bit old, as an author.
Nobody in France speaks French like him anymore.
Nor, for that matter, like your Shakespeare for English.

All right, no one practices the art of the Sonnet – two quatrains, two tercets, exact cut at the caesura, time stopped twice per line and all the excessively complex metrics of this literature – either.
Nobody understands the deep meaning of these poems anymore, since you have to learn how to read them to hear – astonishment – the highlighted words that will create a new network of meaning.

It’s true, all that
& you can add that there are not so many French people who know how to identify the story behind the evocation of the “fleece” – and Odysseus, well … – who said that Odysseus was happy?

I can even agree with you on the very strange humor of Du Bellay, who tells us, without laughing, that to spend 20 years far from your family, 10 of which in the worst wanderings of the sea, is to be happy – and that Jason, after the Golden Fleece, lived full of wisdom and reason with his own family – Jason, after all, is the guy with the bloody life, his sweet wife Medea, with the slaughtered children: in short, all the peaceful joys of the ancient Greek family.

He did not care about all that Du Bellay, literally. He was lost in Rome, he was dying of boredom and despair, he dreamed of returning to his little village – and here he is writing Les Regrets.

Liré – Du Bellay’s native house – Anjou

Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage,
Ou comme cestuy-là qui conquit la toison,
Et puis est retourné, plein d’usage et raison,
Vivre entre ses parents le reste de son âge !

Quand reverrai-je, hélas, de mon petit village
Fumer la cheminée, et en quelle saison
Reverrai-je le clos de ma pauvre maison,
Qui m’est une province, et beaucoup davantage ?

Plus me plaît le séjour qu’ont bâti mes aïeux,
Que des palais Romains le front audacieux,
Plus que le marbre dur me plaît l’ardoise fine :

Plus mon Loir gaulois, que le Tibre latin,
Plus mon petit Liré, que le mont Palatin,
Et plus que l’air marin la doulceur angevine.

Joachim du Bellay, Les Regrets, sonnet XXXI, 1558.

Happy he, who like Odysseus, has returned successful from his travels,
Or like he who sought the fleece,
Then returned, wise to the world
Live amongst his family to the end of his age!

When shall I see again, alas, of my dear village,
Its chimney smoke, and in which season, ?
Will I see again that little, modest, plot of earth
That is a province to me, and far more than I draw here?

I’m drawn far more to my forefathers home,
Than to a Roman palace fine and proud,
More than hard marble I prefer fine slate:

My gaul Loir I prefer to latin Tiber,
My little Liré I prefer to Palatine,
And to sea air, soft climate Angevine.

Joachim du Bellay, Les Regrets, sonnet XXXI, 1558.

I hope that the translation restores to you a little the sweetness and the persistence of this regret, this family that he no longer has – his country, Anjou – do you know Anjou? a whole country of soft hills and yellow ochre stones, with tiny rivers winding through the high grass and these immensities of water when it is the great river which passes, coppices of small trees, water mills milling night and day, apple trees, pear trees, the Loire castles are not far away.

It is exactly this humanity, which doesn’t care to look intellectual and cultured – while being quite cultured and artistic, that has allowed another French – but contemporary – artist to give life to this poem.
This artist is called Ridan.
And here is what he composed from the text of Du Bellay

This song was an incredible success
Young people have rediscovered this old author who, they thought, was “made for old people only”.
And this is exactly the spirit of Altair: to go and find in the old what can enchant the youth.

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Featured Image : La Loire, in Anjou – France. / C. Petiteau image

I beg your indulgence – I don’t have time to read you at all anymore – but as soon as I can again, I will read you again with such pleasure.

5 Thoughts

  1. Adding another comment just to let you know how much I enjoy your posts. Whenever I read something by you, I start believing for things to be possible, I can see the music, I can hear the poems and I can imagine stories. Your posts always bring a smile to my face. More and more power to you!

    Liked by 1 person

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