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- A LITTLE TOUR IN FRANCE - 40/42 -


should have blown up everything else. A few days later, the waters went down it Lyons; but the de- mocracy has not gone down.

I remember vividly the remainder of that evening which I spent at Macon, - remember it with a chatter- ing of the teeth. I know not what had got into the place; the temperature, for the last day of October, was eccentric and incredible. These epithets may also be applied to the hotel itself, - an extraordinary structure, all facade, which exposes an uncovered rear to the gaze of nature. There is a demonstrative, voluble landlady, who is of course part of the facade; but everything behind her is a trap for the winds, with chambers, corridors, staircases, all exhibited to the sky, as if the outer wall of the house had been lifted off. It would have been delightful for Florida, but it didn't do for Burgundy, even on the eve of November 1st, so that I suffered absurdly from the rigor of a season that had not yet begun. There was something in the air; I felt it the next day, even on the sunny quay of the Saone, where in spite of a fine southerly exposure I extracted little warmth from the reflection that Alphonse de Lamartine had often trod- den the flags. Macon struck me, somehow, as suffer- ing from a chronic numbness, and there was nothing exceptionally cheerful in the remarkable extension of the river. It was no longer a river, - it had become a lake; and from my window, in the painted face of the inn, I saw that the opposite bank had been moved back, as it were, indefinitely. Unfortunately, the various objects with which it was furnished had not been moved as well, the consequence of which was an extraordinary confusion in the relations of thing. There were always poplars to be seen, but the poplar had become an aquatic plant. Such phenomena, however, at Macon attract but little attention, as the Saone, at certain seasons of the year, is nothing if not expansive. The people are as used to it as they ap- peared to be to the bronze statue of Lamartine, which is the principal monument of the _place_, and which, re- presenting the poet in a frogged overcoat and top- boots, improvising in a high wind, struck me as even less casual in its attitude than monumental sculpture usually succeeds in being. It is true that in its pre- sent position I thought better of this work of art, which is from the hand of M. Falquiere, than when I had seen it through the factitious medium of the Salon of 1876. I walked up the hill where the older part of Macon lies, in search of the natal house of the _amant d'Elvire_, the Petrarch whose Vaucluse was the bosom of the public. The Guide-Joanne quotes from "Les Confidences" a description of the birthplace of the poet, whose treatment of the locality is indeed poetical. It tallies strangely little with the reality, either as re- gards position or other features; and it may be said to be, not an aid, but a direct obstacle, to a discovery of the house. A very humble edifice, in a small back street, is designated by a municipal tablet, set into its face, as the scene of Lamartine's advent into the world. He himself speaks of a vast and lofty structure, at the angle of a _place_, adorned with iron clamps, with a _porte haute et large_ and many other peculiarities. The house with the tablet has two meagre stories above the basement, and (at present, at least) an air of ex- treme shabbiness; the _place_, moreover, never can have been vast. Lamartine was accused of writing history incorrectly, and apparently he started wrong at first: it had never become clear to him where he was born. Or is the tablet wrong? If the house is small, the tablet is very big.

XXXVIII.

The foregoing reflections occur, in a cruder form, as it were, in my note-book, where I find this remark appended to them: "Don't take leave of Lamartine on that contemptuous note; it will be easy to think of something more sympathetic!" Those friends of mine, mentioned a little while since, who accuse me of always tipping back the balance, could not desire a paragraph more characteristic; but I wish to give no further evi- dence of such infirmities, and will therefore hurry away from the subject, - hurry away in the train which, very early on a crisp, bright morning, conveyed. me, by way of an excursion, to the ancient city of Bourg-en-Bresse. Shining in early light, the Saone was spread, like a smooth, white tablecloth, over a considerable part of the flat country that I traversed. There is no provision made in this image for the long, transparent screens of thin-twigged trees which rose at intervals out of the watery plain; but as, under the circumstances, there seemed to be no provision for them in fact, I will let my metaphor go for what it is worth. My journey was (as I remember it) of about an hour and a half; but I passed no object of interest, as the phrase is, whatever. The phrase hardly applies even to Bourg itself, which is simply a town _quelconque_, as M. Zola would say. Small, peaceful, rustic, it stands in the midst of the great dairy-feeding plains of Bresse, of which fat county, sometime property of the house of Savoy, it was the modest capital. The blue masses of the Jura give it a creditable horizon, but the only nearer feature it can point to is its famous sepulchral church. This edifice lies at a fortunate distance from the town, which, though inoffensive, is of too common a stamp to consort with such a treasure. All I ever knew of the church of Brou I had gathered, years ago, from Matthew Arnold's beautiful poem, which bears its name. I remember thinking, in those years, that it was impossible verses could be more touching than these; and as I stood before the object of my pilgrimage, in the gay French light (though the place was so dull), I recalled the spot where I had first read them, and where I read them again and yet again, wondering whether it would ever be my fortune to visit the church of Brou. The spot in question was an armchair in a window which looked out on some cows in a field; and whenever I glanced at the cows it came over me - I scarcely know why - that I should probably never behold the structure reared by the Duchess Margaret. Some of our visions never come to pass; but we must be just, - others do. "So sleep, forever sleep, O princely pair!" I remembered that line of Matthew Arnold's, and the stanza about the Duchess Margaret coming to watch the builders on her palfry white. Then there came to me something in regard to the moon shining on winter nights through the cold clere-story. The tone of the place at that hour was not at all lunar; it was cold and bright, but with the chill of an autumn morning; yet this, even with the fact of the unexpected remoteness of the church from the Jura added to it, did not prevent me from feeling that I looked at a monument in the pro- duction of which - or at least in the effect of which on the tourist mind of to-day - Matthew Arnold had been much concerned. By a pardonable license he has placed it a few miles nearer to the forests of the Jura than it stands at present. It is very true that, though the mountains in the sixteenth century can hardly have been in a different position, the plain which separates the church from them may have been bedecked with woods. The visitor to-day cannot help wondering why the beautiful building, with its splendid works of art, is dropped down in that particular spot, which looks so accidental and arbitrary. But there are reasons for most things, and there were reasons why the church of Brou should be at Brou, which is a vague little suburb of a vague little town.

The responsibility rests, at any rate, upon the Duchess Margaret, - Margaret of Austria, daughter of the Emperor Maximilian and his wife Mary of Bur- gundy, daughter of Charles the Bold. This lady has a high name in history, having been regent of the Netherlands in behalf of her nephew, the Emperor Charles V., of whose early education she had had the care. She married in 1501 Philibert the Handsome, Duke of Savoy, to whom the province of Bresse be- longed, and who died two years later. She had been betrothed, is a child, to Charles VIII. of France, and was kept for some time at the French court, - that of her prospective father-in-law, Louis XI.; but she was eventually repudiated, in order that her _fiance_ might marry Anne of Brittany, - an alliance so magnificently political that we almost condone the offence to a sensitive princess. Margaret did not want for hus- bands, however, inasmuch as before her marriage to Philibert she had been united to John of Castile, son of Ferdinand V., King of Aragon, - an episode ter- minated, by the death of the Spanish prince, within a year. She was twenty-two years regent of the Nether- lands, and died at fifty-one, in 1530. She might have been, had she chosen, the wife, of Henry VII. of Eng- land. She was one of the signers of the League of Cambray, against the Venetian republic, and was a most politic, accomplished, and judicious princess. She undertook to build the church of Brou as a mau- soleum, for her second husband and herself, in fulfil- ment of a vow made by Margaret of Bourbon, mother of Philibert, who died before she could redeem her pledge, and who bequeathed the duty to her son. He died shortly afterwards, and his widow assumed the pious task. According to Murray, she intrusted the erection of the church to "Maistre Loys von Berghem," and the sculpture to "Maistre Conrad." The author of a superstitious but carefully prepared little Notice, which I bought at Bourg, calls the architect and sculptor (at once) Jehan de Paris, author (sic) of the tomb of Francis II. of Brittany, to which we gave some attention at Nantes, and which the writer of my pamphlet ascribes only subordinately to Michel Colomb. The church, which is not of great size, is in the last and most flamboyant phase of Gothic, and in admirable preservation; the west front, before which a quaint old sun-dial is laid out on the ground, - a circle of num- bers marked in stone, like those on a clock face, let into the earth, - is covered with delicate ornament.


A LITTLE TOUR IN FRANCE - 40/42

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