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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Scaling of Ventour

By Frédéric Mistral (1830–1914)

From ‘Calendau,’ in the Atlantic Monthly: Translation of Harriet Waters Preston

SAVAGE at once and sheer, yon tower of rocks;

To tufts of lavender and roots of box

I needs must cling, and as my feet I ground

In the thin soil, the little stones would bound

With ringing cry from off the precipice,

And plunge in horror down the long abyss.

Sometimes my path along the mountain face

Would narrow to a thread; I must retrace

My steps and seek some longer, wearier way.

And if I had turned dizzy in that day,

Or storm had overtaken me, then sure

I had lain mangled at thy feet, Ventour.

But God preserved me. Rarely as I strove

With only death in view, I heard above

Some solitary skylark wing her flight

Afar, then all was still. Only by night

God visits these drear places. Cheery hum

Of insect rings there never. All is dumb.

Oft as the skeleton of some old yew,

In a deep chasm, caught my downward view,

“Thou art there!” I cried; and straightway did discover

New realms of wood towering the others over,

A deeper depth of shadows. Ah, methought

Those were enchanted solitudes I sought!

From sun to sun I clambered, clinging fast

Till all my nails were broken. At the last,

The utter last,—oh palms of God,—I caught

The soft larch murmur near me, and distraught

Embraced the foremost trunk, and forward fell;

How broken, drenched, and dead, no words can tell!

But sleep renews. I slept, and with the dawn

A fresh wind blew, and all the pain was gone,

And I rose up, both stout of limb and glad;

Bread in my sack for nine full days I had,—

A drinking-flask, a hatchet, and a knife

Wherewith to carve the story of my strife

Upon the trunks. Ah! fine that early breeze

On old Ventour, rushing through all the trees!

A symphony sublime I seemed to hear,

Where all the hills and vales gave answer clear,

Harmonious. In a stately melancholy,

From the sun’s cheerful glances hidden wholly

By the black raiment of their foliage,

The larches rose. No tempest’s utmost rage

Could shake them, but with huge limbs close entwined,

Mutely they turned their faces to the wind;

Some hoar with mold and moss, while some lay prone,

Shrouded in the dead leaves of years agone.