Occitan poetry  980-2006

by Joan-Frederic Brun



(Henriette Dibon 1902-1989)


Ligo la garbo di plesi,
o moun cor, di plesi de l’ouro,
que l’asard treno e que desflouro
lou tèms sèns regret ni desi !


(Bind the sheaf of pleasures, oh! my heart, of pleasures of the hour, that chance braids and that unflower time with neither regret nor desire!)


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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Teacher, then secretary and archivist in the Palais du Roure at Avignon, she decided to become a Provençal poet while discovering in 1922 (she was just 22 years old) Camargue, the mystic core of Provence whose priests were the the legendary poets and horseriders Folco de Baroncelli  and Joseph d’Arbaud. She spent her whole life seeking the impossible and perfect love, wanting to become the Countess of Die of some mysterious Prince of Orange. And converting all this trouble into burning poetry. Reinié Jouveau wrote about her: Farfantello is really the poet of the fury of living (”furour de viéure”).

 The famous Provençal critic and poet Sully-Andre Peyre, who used to be pitiless, outspokenness accomodated the first works of Farfantello with freshness. The mirages, he whrote in “Marsyas”, have received much more success than they did not deserve. However this success is explained and justified for one very reason. There exists in Provence and Languedoc in a little area where reigns a strange mystic, that of the bull; Camargue is its Holy Land and Baroncelli its last priest. Farfantello used to be (and remains for ever) one of the vestals of this worship. A vestal who is also sometimes a bacchante.

 Nonetheless, whatever criticisms, people from Camargue really loved Li mirage and most of its poems became truly popular among them: Amarèu, la cabano, lou calèu, because they recognized themselves in those verses. And the magic country of bulls and horses will never forget the name of Farfantello…

And at least Sully-Andre Peyre wrote a beautiful introduction poem to one of the best Farfantello's books: Lou Radèu. He admitted this "poet of the fury of living" was really a great voice of Provençal literature...


Farfantello (Henriette Dibon 1902-1989) and the marquis Folco de Baroncelli-Javon (1869-1943). While the latter saved and renewed the Camarguese traditions of bulls and horses, the former, also a great poet, defined the rules of Camarguese elegance: here she appears dressed as a genuine"Arlatenco". Her name still remains as the ultimate reference for female Provençal vestimentary tradition


Fuguerias, mot vivènt, noste bèl eiretage, fuguerias la cresènço au bèu, l'autiero flour aluminant d'espèr lou prefa d'un autre age, fuguerias la vido e l'amour !
Sias enfin devengu lou libre que si pajo faran un brut d'abiho au mitan
de l'ivèr lou mai fre : sias lou libre ount nosto amo que rajo faran un brut d'abiho au mitan de l'ivèr
Lou libre ounte uno man à soun tour impaciènto de vous culi coume
un vòu d'alo se plegant, entre li prim fuiet vous prendra, fernissènto,
pèr vous semoundre en d'àutri man.


You've been, living words, our beautiful heritage, you've been the belief in the beautiful, the proud flower illuminating with hope the task of another age, you were life and love. 

You then became the book whose pages will buzz like bees in the middle of the coldest winter: you are the book where our springing soul will have made shine its hope! The book where some hand in its impatient turn to gather you like a flight of wings being folded up, between the thin layers will take to you, quivering, to entrust to you to other hands.


Counèisse ti niue founso ount la plano jalado
bramo d'ourrour sout lou vènt larg,
e sabe la douçour de pantaia, bressado
pèr la voues fèro de la mar...



I know your deep nights where the frozen plain sreams of horror under the northern wind,
and I know the sweetness of dreaming, rocked
by the wild voice of the sea...



Vène, t'esperarai sus la plaço di Santo
un vèspre à jour fali,
un sèr que lou soulèu, sus lis aigo dansanto,
jitara si rai d'or pali.

Vène: te menarai dins la capello oumbrouso,
nous clinaren davans l'autar.
A geinoun pregaren li Santo pouderouso,
li gràndi Santo de la Mar.

Te prendrai pèr la man: Vène dins la grand plano,
mounto sus moun chivau.
S'enanaren toui dous au mitan dis engano,
proche di manado de brau.

Abas veiren mounta li bano de la luno
darrié li pin negras,
e sentiren passa, ras de la terro bruno,
lou vòu dis aucelas.

E se vos dins li saladello
long-tèms, long-tèms barrularen...
Lou cant triste e doulènt dis erso blanquinello
long-tèms, long-tèms l'escoutaren...

Estacant moun chivau en quauco tamarisso
se vos, davalaren.
Regardaren fali, davans l'areno lisso
dis aigo lou cresten.

Parlaren pas d'amour: leissaren nòstis amo
espelido coume de flour.
De la niue sentiren la bèuta, la calamo,
la pouësìo e la douçour.

Parlaren pas d'amour: nòstis amo seriouso
bèn miés se coumprendran.
Nosto amista gardiano es la mai pouderouso,
resten ami, poulit gardian.

Pièi, quand dindara l'ouro i campano di rèire
se toucaren la man.
Coume dous vièis ami se diren: - Au revèire!
enjusco à l'endeman.

Tout dourmira dins la grand plano silenciouso.
Après agué leissa, sus ti det, un moumen,
ma man caudo e febrouso,
fugirai dins la niue sus moun blanc camarguen.

26 de janvié de 1923


In the twilight. 

Come! I'll wait you on the place of Saint Mary, one day in the evening, at fallen night.                         One evening when the sun, above dancing water,             will throw its faded gold rays. 


Come! I'll take out you in the obscure vault, we'll incline ourselves in front of the furnace bridge. With knees we will request powerful Saintes, the Great powerful saints of the Sea. 


I'ill catch you by the hand: Come in the large plain, ride my horse. We'll go away together in the middle of the salicornes, beside herds of bulls.


Down there we'll see rising the horns of the moon beyond black pines, and we'll feel passing close of the brown soil the flight of great birds. 

And if you want, in the saladelles, we'll long, long wander ... And we'll long listen to the sad and painful song of immaculate waves... 


Tying my horse to some tamarisk, if you want, we'll get down. We'll look the falling tops of the waves in front of the smooth beach. 


We'll not speak of love: we'll let our souls bloomed like flowers. We'll feel night's beauty and stillness, poetry and sweetness. 


We'll not speak of love: our serious souls will quite better understand each other. Our friendship of  Camarguese horseriders is more powerful, let's remain friends, beautiful herdsman. 


Then, when the hour will ring out at the ancestors' bell, we'll shake our hands like two old friends and we'll tell to each other: goodbye! 


All will be asleep in the wide silent plain. After I'd let on your fingers, for a while, my warm and feverish hand, I'll flee in the nigh on my white Carmarguese horse. 



La fiho fièro que s’enanavo à chivau
coume s’aquéu païs tout entié èro à-n-elo,
la fiho de vint an esperdudo de gau,
que de flamen, de biòu, d’ego e de saladello,
de palun e de segounau
jamai se n’en poudié leva la fam, la fiho
que souvènt galoupavo entre mar e mountiho
à-n-en perdre lou sèn,
la fiho fièro, ounte se tèn?

La fiho fièro que sabié lou camina
di manado que s’enrevènon dóu Queila dins la fango e la fre,
dins lis aigo enneblado
dóu Lengadò,
la fiho que sabié li ferrado e li jo
e li triage, e lou vanc fòu dis abrivado,
la fiho fièro, ounte es anado?


La fiho fièro que clinavo soun riban
,sus la caisso pintado ount dormon li Marío
que seguissié sa barco i matin flamejant
gjgg un round de Caraco e de fèrri, la fiho
de tant de jour estrambordant, ounte a passa?


La fiho fiero emé lou tèms qu'a debana
de soulèu en soulèu e d’estello en estello,
i’a long-tèms que saup bèn qu’acò’s feni per elo
e que revendra pas.


Mai i'aura d’àutri fiho encavalado e fèro     pèr abriva, bandi, e tria, e marca,
d’àutri fiho que voudran faire tout co qu'èro
l'encantamen d’aquéu païs e sa fierta.


D’àutri fiho vendran dins l’amaro planuro
ama ço qu'amavian, faire ço qu’avèn fa,
e belèu qu'au rebat dóu tèms ount s’amaduro
touto causo, belèu qu’a ma voues mens seguro
A ma voues que s’aliuencho uno voues respoundra


[Lou radèu]

The haughty girl

The haughty girl that wandered riding her horse
as if all this country was hers,
the twenty year old girl overcome with bliss
who was never fed up of flamingos, bulls, mares, saladelles,
marsh and segonaus , the girl who so often gallopped between the sea and the dunes
until she went crazy, the haughty girl, what did she become?

The haughty girl who knew the tracks
of herds coming back from the Cailar
through muds and cold, foggy marshes of Languedoc,
the girl who knew the ferrades and the plays,
and sortings, and dangerous rush of abrivades,
The haughty girl, where's she gone ?


The haughty girl who was leaning forward her velvet ribbon
upon the painted reliquary of Saint Mary,
and who followed their boat in resplendent mornings
in a circle of Gipsies and three-pronged forks, the girl
of so many enthusiastic days, where's she gone ?


The haughty girl, with the time that has fled,
from sun to sun, from star to star,
knows that for a long time, all that's finished for her
and will not return.


But there will be other girls, wildly riding , for "abrivar",
and "bandir", and to sort, and mark bulls,
other girls who'll want to do what
was the enchantment of this country and its pride.


Other girls will come in our bitter plain to love what we loved, to do what we did,
and perhaps in the light of time that matures all thing, perhaps a voice will answer to my
vanishing voice, to my voice that's moving away .


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