Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > France
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X.  1876–79.
 
La Crau
La Crau
Frédéric Mistral (1830–1914)
 
        
(From Mirèio)
Translated by Harriet W. Preston
  La Crau is a vast stony plain, bounded on the north by the Alpines (Lower Alps), on the east by the meres of Martigue, west by the Rhone, and south by the sea. It is the Arabia Petræa of France.

                AND now she passes
Curlews in flocks asleep amid the grasses
Under the oaks, who, roused from slumber soft,
Arise in haste, and wing their flight aloft
Over the sad and barren plain; and all        5
Together “Cour’li! cour’li! cour’li!” call,
 
Until the Dawn, with her dew-glittering tresses,
From mountain-top to level slow progresses,
Sweetly saluted by the tufted lark,
Soaring and singing o’er the caverns dark        10
In the great hills, whose pinnacles each one
Appear to sway before the rising sun.
 
Then was revealed La Crau, the bare, the waste,
The rough with stones, the ancient, and the vast,
Whose proud old giants, if the tale be true,        15
Once dreamed, poor fools, the Almighty to subdue
With but a ladder and their shoulders brave;
But He them ’whelmed in a destroying wave.
 
Already had the rebels dispossest
The Mount of Victory of his tall crest,        20
Lifted with lever from its place; and sure
They would have heaped it high upon Ventour,
As they had piled the rugged escarpment
They from the Alpine range had earlier rent.
 
But God his hand extended o’er the plain:        25
The northwest wind, thunder, and hurricane
He loosed; and these arose like eagles three
From mountain clefts and caverns and the sea,
Wrapped in thick fog, with fury terrible,
And on the marble pile together fell.        30
 
Then were the rude Colossi overthrown;
And a dense covering of pudding-stone
Spread o’er La Crau, the desolate, the vast,
The mute, the bare to every stormy blast;
Who wears the hideous garment to this day.        35
Meanwhile Mirèio farther speeds away
 
From the home-lands, while the sun’s ardent glare
Makes visible all round the shimmering air;
And shrill cicalas, grilling in the grass,
Beat madly evermore their tiny brass.        40
Nor tree for shade was there, nor any beast:
The many flocks that in the winter feast
 
On the short, savory grasses of the moor,
Had climbed the Alps, where airs are cool and pure,
And pastures fadeless. Yet the maid doth fly        45
Under the pouring fire of a June sky,—
Fly, fly, like lightning. Lizards large and gray
Peep from their holes, and to each other say:
 
“She must be mad who thus the shingle clears,
Under a heat that sets the junipers        50
A-dancing on the hills; on Crau, the sands.”
The praying mantes lift beseeching hands,
“Return, return, O pilgrim!” murmuring,
“For God hath opened many a crystal spring;
 
“And shady trees hath planted, so the rose        55
To save upon your cheeks. Why, then, expose
Your brow to the unpitying summer heat?”
Vainly as well the butterflies entreat.
For her the wings of love, the wind of faith,
Bear on together, as the tempest’s breath        60
 
White gulls astray over the briny plains
Of Agui-Morto. Utter sadness reigns
In scattered sheep-cots of their tenants left,
And overrun with salicorne. Bereft
In the hot desert, seemed the maid to wake,        65
And see nor spring nor pool her thirst to slake.
 
 
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