Monday, April 20, 2009

Only the Birds Live There Now...

It was by chance, yes, truly by chance, in the summer of 1963, that we came into a part of Haute-Provence in the south of France which was, and still is, rather deserted, and which seems cut off from the world [...] silence eveywhere ... and the mystery of the most fundamental and unembellished architectural forms, certainly, but more still the stirring of a shadow on words engraved in stone, or the distant sound of cattle-bells. We wanted to live here, and we went everywhere in search of a house, and then a few days later, at the end of a road that wasn't on the map, that didn't even seem to fit in with what we knew at the time about the general structure of the places around there, there was a tremendous storm, rain that suddenly became a deluge and into which we had nevertheless to throw ourselves: and in the midst of the black mass of water, long walls suddenly appeared, with low, vaulted doors, that disappeared on all sides beneath the heavy downpour. We went in. It was almost night inside, and we visited a labyrinth of rooms without understanding what they were […] We wandered there amid the clamoring of birds we had disturbed and the sounds of the wind against the tiles that were coming apart […] There was more of the real here than anywhere else, more immanence in the light on the angle of the walls or in the water from new storms, but there were also a thousand forms of impossibility and so there was also more dreaming. And the year came when we had to shut the place up, give it back to the silence of before. Only the birds live there now; they come in and out of one or two broken windows with loud cries. Except for the shadows that memory delegates through dreams to the places it loves.


~ Text: Yves Bonnefoy on Valsaintes (a house he thought of as a borderland)

1 comment:

Woolgathersome said...

“There is no doubt that the house at Valsaintes had such a powerful attraction for me because, being at one and the same time a church and a granary – a monastery and a place where sheep and goats still made their home – it seemed to suggest a fusion of those things that speak of the divine and forms of daily existence, a fusion adding resonance and intensity to the surrounding countryside, which, in those days, was still completely given over to the spell of the eternal. But when, in a certain place, immanence and transcendence are able to become the same sound of cattle-bells, the same colored sandstone, when the moss seems a kind of unknown writing … “

Yves Bonnefoy, in an interview within his collection of poems In the Shadow’s Light, University of Chicago Press, 1991

Poem by Y.B. also from In the Shadow’s Light