So Mr de la Bastide had left the heights of Cottes for the lessons of Mr Aulu-Gelle, the non-denominational teacher of the primary school in rue de l’Arize, and the Latin speak of the Dean Jan Porto Latino in order to rejoin the College of St-Couserans, then the Regional Cloister of the Dominican Friars and its classes for fine men of letters, the sons of established bourgeois citizens or of dynasties of notables, in order to here prepare some entrance examination to the Ecoles normales, superiorly reproductive of an orthodox way of thinking which, from Saint-Augustin to Saint-Thomas, via all the Saint-Glinglin of the calendar, has saintly proved itself for a long time.
Every evening, in the dormitory, Mr de la Bastide knotted a serviette to the foot of his bed for the attention of the nightwatchman so that the latter would wake him at matins and this up to the blessed day where he found himself installed as the regent of some non-denominational latinizing cité on the first counterforts of the Massif Central, places from where he could, in his turn, piously chant the litanies assimilated in the course of the long and hard years of theological apprenticeship.
In parallel action, Mr de la Bastide dedicated himself to the teaching of his father language, pompously rebaptized the “Septimanian”, as reviewed and corrected by some rugged canon in want of ecumenism, helped by acolytes thirsty of philological beatification who, from paternosters to glossaries, will finally get hold, like the Monsieur Homais of the Pharmacy, of the cross of the justiciary Saint-Louis.
All said and done, Mr de la Bastide could at last settle down in his chair of the college of Frédélas in order to here distil, before an audience a trifle surprized, his notes dealing with the density of the stones in the heart of the Kalahari or the thickness of the heel of the calabrian boot, a chair from where he rushed headlong towards the micros of the local Radio which allowed him, on occasion, to terminate a course which the bell of his big family alarm-clock, majestically installed on his desk, had momentarily interrupted in order to respect the collegiate time-table.
On the air, Mr de la Bastide sang the horse-traders of the fair ground, the conker battles outside the station, the Festival of the Abajous (bilberries) up there at the Tour Lafont in the middle of the pine-trees from where bolt the wild boars and rize fast the grouse and behind which his uncle Vicou claimed to have seen produced many, many distinguished autochthons, among them this young physician of the rue d’Arize who never forgot the perfume of its essential oils.
Mr de la Bastide sang - with the help of the mandoline if necessary - the way of the Roy and the loves of the Count relegated to the Tour du Loup, near the fountain of Madame ; he sang the subtle cabinet maker, the good learned doctor, the plasterer of the rue d’Arize and his ferrets terrors of the burrows, the russian refugee and the catalan refugee, the virgin of the sacristy and the convivial Café, the cobbler of the Faurie and his gardener neighbour, and all his condisciples, friends of his sad youth, whom he never finished eternizing on the waves of the welcoming local Studio, not at all comparable to the studio 4 C of the BBC, at the end of Regent Street, somewhere in London, there from where did not depart the famous call of Malborough of 4 June 1940.
All his life, Mr de la Bastide despized this Prince of Wales (alias the “Black Prince”) who, at the heart of the Hundred Years War, had reduced to ashes Barri-Neuf and Neighhbour-Borough, before betaking himself to Carbonne whose occitanic vanguard refurbishes, still today, the lecterns of the indulgent Rome, while superbly ignoring all those who in the course of the ages built a roman fatherland which “dies and does not surrender”.
How many times did Mr de la Bastide evoke, smiling, the miracle of Saint-Antonin (which was well worth that of the Saint-Bertrand of the Fable) in the course of which, one morning of mass in the Cathedral, one saw an army of “little grey ones” leave the chapter pews a few instants before the Service, in order to make merry on the polished benches of the nave where sat down (horror !) in Sunday best the languards of the coterie incensing the Preachi-Preacher on duty ...
Mr de la Bastide, crushing under the studs of his heavy soles myriads of “popolhas” swarming about on the gravel of the road to Larbont which goes to the cross of the Esplanèros, marched lanquan li jorn son lonc en may (when the days are long in May) and when the dog rose bush colours the tender air with its drops of blood and when the waters stream in their crystal on the sides of the lane, Mr de la Bastide marched and marched on,
like the “Old champion” of his Stories on the Radio, downhill now towards Estaniels, and having well merited, in the name of our common “maternal language”, my equal recognition.
Claude d’Esplas (Le Parcellaire)
All rights reserved
Translation : Dagmar Coward Kuschke (Tübingen)