Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.



By Frédéric Mistral (1830–1914)

  • (From Mirèio)
    Translated by Harriet W. Preston
  • Camargue is a vast delta, formed by the bifurcation of the Rhone. The island extends from Arles to the sea, and comprises 184,482.25 acres. The immensity of its horizon, the awful silence of its level plain, its strange vegetation, meres, swarms of mosquitoes, large herds of oxen and wild horses, amaze the traveller, and remind him of the pampas of South America.

  • SOON to the farm came suitor number two,

    A keeper of wild horses from Sambu,—

    Veran, by name. About his island home

    In the great prairies, where the asters bloom,

    He used to keep a hundred milk-white steeds,

    Who nipped the heads of all the lofty reeds.

    A hundred steeds! Their long manes flowing free

    As the foam-crested billows of the sea!

    Wavy and thick and all unshorn were they;

    And when the horses on their headlong way

    Plunged all together, their dishevelled hair

    Seemed the white robes of creatures of the air.

    I say it to the shame of human kind:

    Camargan steeds were never known to mind

    The cruel spur more than the coaxing hand.

    Only a few or so, I understand,

    By treachery seduced, have halter worn,

    And from their own salt prairies been borne;

    Yet the day comes when, with a vicious start,

    Their riders throwing, suddenly they part,

    And twenty leagues of land unresting scour,

    Snuffing the wind, till Vacarès once more

    They find, the salt air breathe, and joy to be

    In freedom after ten years’ slavery.

    For these wild steeds are with the sea at home:

    Have they not still the color of the foam?

    Perchance they brake from old King Neptune’s car;

    For when the sea turns dark and moans afar,

    And the ships part their cables in the bay,

    The stallions of Camargue rejoicing neigh,

    Their sweeping tails like whipcord snapping loudly;

    Or pawing the earth, all, fiercely and proudly,

    As though their flanks were stung as with a rod

    By the sharp trident of the angry god,

    Who makes the rain a deluge, and the ocean

    Stirs to its depths in uttermost commotion.