Occitan poetry  980-2006

by Joan-Frederic Brun


 Joan Bodon (Jean Boudou) (1920-1975)

Medieval poetry: the kingdom of love
XVI-XVIII century: tasty baroque antiliteratures
XIX th century: toward a renaissance
XIX th century (1854-1914):  spreading and sclerosis of the Provençal miracle
XX th century (1920-1965): the anguish of no future
XX th century (1965-1981): "un país que vòl viure" (a country that just wants to live)
XX th century (1981-2000): postoccitanisme
XXI th century: just a living literature among many other ones? 


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Born in Crespin (Aveyron), died in Algeria where he was a teacher. Born in a family of peasants who spoke Occitan almost exclusively. 

Assuredly the most popular Occitan writer of the XXth century. His direct and powerful style totally renewed prose in our language. His narratives take the reader to another place, to a strange world illuminated by the magic rhythm of spoken Occitan. And to the land of the oldest legends, which is also the secret kingdom of our dreams, suddenly quite close to extinction in the whirlpool of angst of the XXth century. 

Also, his poetry, very far from any fashion, burns mysteriously like a gloomy fire. It is all contained in a small but amazing book entitled "Sus la mar de las galèras" ("On the sea of galleys") that appeared after his death (1975) 


"Sus la mar de las galèras" (1975)

"On the sea of  galleys" 





Dins l’òrt d’Eden es tota causa bona.
Quand l’alen de Dieu s’enaira sens bruch,
L’arbre, de la flor volonta la fruch.

Dins mon còr la sèrp coma la virona.

L’aiga d’una font bèlament s’escampa.
Lo riu que la pren dona quatre rius,
Las pèiras e l’aur dins los sables vius.

Plega de la carn lo pes que m’entampa.

L’òme sol dins l’òrt cèrca sa companha,
A trobat un nom per cada bestial,
Encara degun coneis pas lo mal...

Sul pas de la mòrt la dolor me ganha.

Bolegui pas mai lo braç ni la camba,
Mon uèlh se dobrís emblausit de lum,
Vei lo querubim per delà lo fum.

Per qual se brandís l’espasa de flamba ?


In the Garden of Eden is every good. When God's breath silently rises, the tree wills the fruit from the flower.

In my heart the snake, like the drill.

Superb, water of a spring spouts out. The river that takes it gives out four rivers, Stones and gold in the living sands.

Toil of the flesh, the load that keeps me bound.

Man alone in the garden seeks his mate. He has now found a name for each beast. Nobody yet knows evil.

On the edge of death, pain invades me.

Arm or leg I can't move anymore, my eye opens to a dazzle of light, It sees the cherub beyond the fog.

For whom does he hold the sword of flame?



Perqué Tolosa la nuèch ?
Un sisclal que s’esperlonga...
La femna gròssa del pièch
Dins una carrièira longa.

Traversarai la Canal :
La Clamença que m’espèra...
Mas trobarai pas l'ostal
Ni la cambra d’un còp èra.

Qual me parlarà d’amor ?
Tant de caisses que se bèrcan...
Las cotilhas de color
E totas las mans que cèrcan.

De Montmorency lo Duc...
De Ramon lo darrièr Comte...
Mas passarai per caluc :
Degun compren lo meu conte.

Perqué Tolosa la nuèch ?
Lo grifol e mai 1’esponga,
La femna gròssa del pièch
Sus una cadièira longa.



Why Toulouse at night? A shriek that drags on. A big-breasted woman in a long street. 

I'll cross the Canal: there Clamença awaits me. But I won't find the house, nor the room from before. 

Who will talk to me about love? So many teeth are chipped. Cotillions of color and so many hands that seek. 

Duke of Montmorency, the last Count Raymond... But they'll all think I'm insane, for nobody understands my story. 

Why Toulouse at night? The fountain and also the sponge, the big-breasted woman In a rocking chair.



Una alba falsa se trigòssa suls puèges.
Qual sap se l'aucèl cridarà lo matin ?
Començaràn lèu los saquejals dels lièches,
Tot sol un rector va cantar son latin...

La filha blanca que de 1’alba se plora,
Vei-la, mon amic, a la broa del camin.
Mas perqué sul seu còr aquel picon d’amora ?
Lo sang a techat sus la flor d’albespin.

Davala del cèl aquela alba novèla,
La carn se blasís jos la tela de lin.
Un ciri de mòrt crèma dins la capèla :
Lauseta que mòu sas alas... A la fin...




A false dawn creeps upon the hills. Who knows if the bird will sing the morning in? The beds will soon be unmade. Alone a priest goes to sing his Latin. 

The pale girl who cries because of dawn, see her, my friend, on the edge of the path. Why on her heart this spine of mulberry bush? Blood has stained the hawthorn flower. 

This new dawn descends from the sky, as flesh fades under the linen. A candle of death burns in the chapel: like a lark moving its wings... At the end...


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