Thursday, 23 May 2013

A little Jaufré in the night

Rooting about in the University of Bristol's Theatre Collection recently, I happened across some issues of The Yellow Book - the short-lived (1894-1897) but notorious literary journal. I'd wondered whether I might find mention of Rostand or Bernhardt, this being the era of La Princesse Lointaine, but no. What did jump out at me was a poem by Rosamund Marriott Watson from the July 1896 issue.

'D'Outre tombe' ('Beyond the Grave') is a short lament that, well, speaks for itself, really. Here it is:
Beside my grave, if chance should ever bring you,
You, peradventure, on some dim Spring day,
What song of welcome could my blackbird sing you,
As once in May?

As once in May, when all the birds were calling,
Calling and crying through the soft Spring rain,
As once in Autumn with the dead leaves falling
In wood and lane.

I, in my grave, and you, above, remember –
And yet between us what is there to say? –
In Death’s disseverance, wider than December
Disparts from May.

I with the dead, and you among the living,
In separate camps we sojourn, unallied;
Life is unkind and Death is unforgiving,
And both divide.
No, not the greatest thing ever written, but it has Rudel stamped all the way through it. The line 'As once in May' is a pretty spot-on echo of Jaufré's 'Lanquan il jorn son lonc en mai', and the blackbird / dead leaves imagery is standard troubadour schtick. It could also pass for a monologue by the dead Rudel.

Not mention the similarity of the title to a certain book concerning Jaufré Rudel.

No doubt this is one of thousands of Provençal knock-offs from the Victorian era, but its publication in the Bible of the Decadents is kind of interesting.