Musique : Concerto pour violon en mi mineur opus 64 (1er mouvement - allegro) - Félix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
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1901 date of the first encounter between Emile RIPERT and Frédéric MISTRAL:

« Reading Mistral was good but writing to him and visiting him was even better. First I made sure to introduce myself properly and thus decided to write to him in verses: in French and in verses, through a poem dedicated to Mireio using the very rhythm that Mistral used to, trying to master the ever so difficult seven-verses stanzas. I probably didn’t do too bad as Mistral replied to me. Replying to everybody who ever wrote to him was a habit he had developed after the chagrin he felt at the harsh lack of reply from Jasmine to whom he had sent a small “complimenting piece”, then aged fifteen. Yet his letters could differ a great deal and the one he addressed to me was of a very encouraging kind and it ended with an interesting suggestion :

“E ounour de segur farias à la Prouvenço, se patriouticamen vous adounassias de cor à l’estudi de sa lengo ; mai aco se coumando pas, es une passion coume une autro, es esta la mieuno à vint an n’i’a proun que l’on partajado(You would surely honour The Provence if you were to put your patriotic heart in the studies of its speech ; but this can’t be forced and it should be felt as any passion makes one feel : it became mine when I was twenty years old and I have since then shared it with many.)

Frédéric MISTRAL

I felt encouraged by those words and the trust this great poet was granting me along with this new unpublished stanza that he had written for me only. I therefore decided to go to Maillane and make the most of the Easter break. All what this trip ended up representing to me, the emotions it triggered within my soul, the new hopes it released, all of those I wrote down in a long poem rightly entitled «Pilgrimage to Maillane”.

I was driven by what pilgrims feel, by this frankness, this innocent belief and naive sense of admiration so common to a twenty-year-old soul. After a short journey on the Tarascon-bound train, I stopped at Graveson train station. Once there, maybe because there was no cart to Maillane, maybe because I had left out that option, maybe because I wanted to gain a little merit and get to enjoy the landscape, maybe because I didn’t want to arrive too early, I decided to finish the rest of my journey on foot. On the way I saluted the Petit Saint Jean Inn famous for its pretty waitress whose beauty had been celebrated by the keen Aubanel ; I then continued my way on the path that was still white at this time of the year, passing under the early Spring lush plane trees heading towards Maillane. It was early April, the fields were blossoming and the Easter-like weather felt mild, soft, tender and luminous.

Eglise de Maillane où Mistral fut baptisé

Emile RIPERT’s book cover - 1931
With MISTRAL on the roads of Provence

I explored the village, its squares and cafés…
I was feeling quite emotional.

I stood by the church for a moment, gathering some courage and eventually headed towards the small house where I had been told the poet lived; my heart was beating hard.

I pushed the gate open, walked around the house, heard the dogs barking and saw them rushing towards me; suddenly I saw the familiar-looking and majestic figure of the Poet standing on the threshold of his door: he looked exactly like I had imagined him in my dreams. He called for the dogs and gestured them back. I introduced myself; Mistral was willing to remember the poem and the letter I had sent him and to which he had replied.

La maison au Lézard

The memory of what we told each other during this conversation is slowly fading and yet more than forty years later, I remember this characteristic about Alphonse Daudet whom I naturally used to admire a lot and to whom I wanted to resemble a little, as a French writer from Provence.

La salle à Manger de Mistral

Frédéric MISTRAL

Alphonse Daudet had died in December 1897, hardly five years before our encounter; his memory was still fresh in the great poet’s heart who had been his friend since his youth.

Filled with emotions, he told me about his last years of his life, his illness and his sufferings.

Mistral would conclude with his wounded and blunt affection.

« I would sometimes tell him: come back to ours, to the goodness of our healing sun! He would reply :

Ah ! What would they say of that, in Paris ?

Eh !  Crebo couioun » Mistral would conclude with his wounded and blunt affection.

Alphonse DAUDET
Emile thus became Mistral’s disciple with whom he went on sharing a strong friendship from 1901 until 1914, date of Mistral’s death.

The versification
of Mistral

Spring 1907, back from Italy and as I was heading for Paris, I decided to stop at Maillane. From then on, Mistral had started to take me seriously not only because of my verses-writing but also because I had submitted him my plan to use the genesis of Félibrige and its pieces as my thesis for my Doctorate. He had of course been of tremendous support and the following year as I was awarded a professorship at the Toulon High-School I started my research work at the local and Targo library; research that would seven years later lead to the final draft of my theses about The Provencal Renaissance and The Versification of Mistral.

The Provencal Renaissance

I have received Mistral’s letters that I am religiously keeping; he gave me precious details about his early writings, showing an extraordinarily reliable memory and he would write them as neatly as his early works.

It was around the fall of 1912 that I made my last visit to Maillane; I recall the leaves turning yellow and the night falling onto the square where Mistral saw me back to my cart. The cart left noisily under the sound of horses’ hooves, the bells and the crack of the whip. The great poet waved good bye to me, a good bye that was to be a farewell indeed.

La place de Maillane

Yet for more than one whole year I kept on writing to the master who was more than willing to give me precious pieces of advice right until the end ; his last letter is dated January 1914 and his handwriting was neater than ever. Eventually in March as I was meant to give a lecture on « Mistral, A Christian Poet » to an Evangelical circle in Marseilles, I had sent the poet an invitation card. A few days later he sent me a postcard representing him at the foot of the cross that stood at the Maillane crossroad, with those simple words on it, two eight-syllable words without any rhyme.

« Sias trop brave, au Paradis vaqui que mounte sènso escalo » (you are too kind, here I am climbing to Heaven without any ladder... .)

Without any ladder indeed and to Heaven he climbed fifteen days later, on the 25th of March, day of The Annunciation of Virgin Mary. Since then I never received anything from him, but for the feeling that sometimes I sense his immortal presence and his paternal protection.



MISTRAL documentation

1870 - MISTRAL by DAUDET dans "Les lettres de mon moulin"
29th March 1909 - Letter from Frédéric MISTRAL to Emile RIPERT
9th March 1914 - Letter from Frédéric MISTRAL to Emile RIPERT
28th October 1930 - MISTRAL's fairs in ROME
24th March 1935 - Articles de presse Tribute to Frédéric MISTRAL
25th March 1939 - Quote of Emile RIPERT’s speech
8th September 1941 - Article Emile RIPERT : MISTRAL the Poet from Rhône

Inauguration of the Monument Frédiéric MISTRAL - Emile RIPERT's Speech
An anecdote from the manuscript "The Poets I have known"


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