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.
 
Camargue
Camargue
Frédéric Mistral (1830–1914)
 
        
(From Mirèio)
Translated by Harriet W. Preston
  Petite Camargue, also called Sóuvage, is bounded on the east by the Petit Rhone, which separates it from Grande Camargue, on the south by the Mediterranean, and on the west and north by the Rhone Mort and the Aigue Morte Canal. It is the principal resort of the wild black oxen.

ALSO that summer came to Lotus Place
One from Petite Camargue, called Ourrias.
Breaker and brander of wild cattle he;
And black and furious all the cattle be
Over those briny pastures wild who run,        5
Maddened by flood and fog and scalding sun.
 
Alone this Ourrias had them all in charge
Summer and winter, where they roamed at large.
And so, among the cattle born and grown,
Their build, their cruel heart, became his own;        10
His the wild eye, dark color, dogged look.
How often, throwing off his coat, he took
 
His cudgel,—savage weaner!—never blenching,
And first the young calves from the udders wrenching,
Upon the wrathful mother fell so madly        15
That cudgel after cudgel brake he gladly,
Till she, by his brute fury masteréd,
Wild-eyed and lowing to the pine-copse fled!
 
Oft in the branding at Camargue had he
Oxen and heifers, two-year-olds and three,        20
Seized by the horns and stretched upon the ground.
His forehead bare the scar of an old wound
Fiery and forked like lightning. It was said
That once the green plain with his blood was red.
 
On a great branding-day befell this thing:        25
To aid the mighty herd in mustering,
Li Santo, Agui Morto, Albaron,
And Faraman a hundred horsemen strong
Had sent into the desert. And the herd
Roused from its briny lairs, and, forward spurred        30
 
By tridents of the branders close behind,
Fell on the land like a destroying wind.
Heifers and bulls in headlong gallop borne
Plunged, crushing centaury and salicorne;
And at the branding-booth at last they mustered,        35
Just where a crowd three hundred strong had clustered.
 
A moment, as if scared, the beasts were still.
Then, when the cruel spur once more they feel,
They start afresh, into a run they break,
And thrice the circuit of the arena make;        40
As marterns fly a dog, or hawks afar
By eagles in the Luberon hunted are.
 
Then Ourrias—what ne’er was done before—
Leaped from his horse beside the circus-door
Amid the crowd. The cattle start again,        45
All saving five young bulls, and scour the plain;
But these, with flaming eyes and horns defying
Heaven itself, are through the arena flying.
 
And he pursues them. As a mighty wind
Drives on the clouds, he goads them from behind,        50
And presently outstrips them in the race;
Then thumps them with the cruel goad he sways,
Dances before them as infuriate,
And lets them feel his own fists’ heavy weight.
 
The people clap and shout, while Ourrias        55
White with Olympic dust encountered has
One bull, and seized him by the horns at length;
And now ’t is head to muzzle, strength for strength.
The monster strains his prisoned horns to free
Until he bleeds, and bellows horribly.        60
 
But vain his fury, useless all his trouble!
The neatherd had the art to turn and double
And force the huge head with his shoulder round,
And shove it roughly back, till on the ground
Christian and beast together rolled, and made        65
A formless heap like some huge barricade.
 
The tamarisks are shaken by the cry
Of “Brave Ourrias! That ’s done valiantly!”
While five stout youths the bull pin to the sward;
And Ourrias, his triumph to record,        70
Seizes the red-hot iron with eager hand,
The vanquished monster on the hip to brand.
 
Then come a troop of girls on milk-white ponies,—
Arlesians,—flushed and panting every one is,
As o’er the arena at full gallop borne        75
They offer him a noble drinking-horn
Brimful of wine; then turn and disappear,
Each followed by her faithful cavalier.
 
The hero heeds them not. His mind is set
On the four monsters to be branded yet:        80
The mower toils the harder for the grass
He sees unmown. And so this Ourrias
Fought the more savagely as his foes warmed,
And conquered in the end,—but not unharmed.
 
White-spotted, and with horns magnificent,        85
The fourth beast grazed the green in all content.
“Now, man, enough!” in vain the neatherds shouted;
Couched is the trident and the caution flouted;
With perspiration streaming, bosom bare,
Ourrias the spotted bull charged then and there!        90
 
He meets his enemy, a blow delivers
Full in the face; but ah! the trident shivers.
The beast becomes a demon with the wound:
The brander grasps his horns, is whirled around,—
They start together, and are borne amain,        95
Crushing the salicornes along the plain.
 
The mounted herdsmen, on their long goads leaning,
Regard the mortal fray; for each is meaning
Dire vengeance now. The man the brute would crush;
The brute bears off the man with furious rush,        100
The while with heavy, frothy tongue he clears
The blood that to his hanging lip adheres.
 
The brute prevailed. The man fell dazed, and lay
Like a vile rakeful in the monster’s way.
“Sham dead!” went up a cry of agony.        105
Vain words! The beast his victim lifted high
On cruel horns and savage head inclined,
And flung him six and forty feet behind!
 
Once more a deafening outcry filled the place
And shook the tamarisks. But Ourrias        110
Fell prone to earth, and ever after wore he
The ugly scar that marred his brow so sorely.
Now, mounted on his mare, he paces slow
With goad erect to seek Mirèio.
 
 
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