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
  • 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,

    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;

    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

    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,

    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:

    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

    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,

    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;

    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,

    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,

    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

    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.

    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

    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,

    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

    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:

    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,

    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!

    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,

    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,

    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.

    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

    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.