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“SUFFICE IT TO SAY these curious verses were part of the meagre collections of one François Charles Fernand d’Artin, retired school teacher…” So begins the Foreward of the charming French book Mots d’Heures: Gouses, Rames.
L. d’A. V. R. describes a “pitiful little packet” that included an excellent recipe for turbot in saffron (which found welcome in his kitchen archives) and a thin sheaf of fragmentary poems (which became the object of intriguing study and speculation).
He continues, “The cryptic phrasing, the disconnected thoughts, the mysterious allusions to places and people suggest at first an affinity to the prophetic quatrains of Nostradamus. On the other hand, violent epigrams were a popular form of insult in those centuries when wit was sharp but life was cheap.”
A Hint to Their Study. L. d’A. V. R. advises, “The most fascinating quality of these verses is found upon reading them aloud in the sonorous, measured classic style made famous by the Comédie Française at the turn of the century….” He also provides annotations suggesting “some Gothic cultural link midway between François Rabelais on the one hand and James Joyce on the other.”
Un Petit d’Un Petit. Recite in sonorous, measured French: Un Petit d’un petit1/ S’étonne aux Halles.2/ Un Petit d’un petit/ Ah! degrés te fallent.3/ Indolent qui ne sort cesse,4/ Indolent qui ne se mène5/ Qu’importe un petit d’un petit/ Tout Gai de Reguennes.6
In English: A child of a child/ Is surprised at the market./ A child of a child/ Oh! degrees you needed!/ Lazy is he who never goes out,/ Lazy is he who is not led./ Who cares about a child of a child/ Like Guy of Reguennes.
Annotations. 1 The inevitable result of a child marriage. 2 The subject of this empigrammatic poem is obviously from the provinces, since a native Parisian would take this famous old market for granted. 3 Since this personage bears no titles, we are led to believe that the poet writes of one of those unfortunate idiot-children that in olden days existed as a living skeleton in their family’s closet. I am inclined to believe, however, that this is a fine piece of misdirection and that the poet is actually writing of some famous political prisoner, or the illegitimate offspring of some noble house. The Man in the Iron Mask, perhaps? 4, 5 Another misdirection. Obviously it was not laziness that prevented this person’s going out and taking himself places. 6 He is obviously prevented from fulfilling his destiny, since he is compared to Gai de Reguennes. This was a young squire (to one of his uncles, a Gaillard of Normandy) who died at the tender age of twelve of a surfeit of Saracen arrows before the walls of Acre in 1191.
Other poems include Pis-terre Pis-terre, Pomme qui n’y Terre and Lit-elle Mess, Moffette.
Once you’ve given it your best essai, visit Wikipedia. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022