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Rioupéroux -- James Elroy Flecker

       
(Poem #944) Rioupéroux
 High and solemn mountains guard Rioupéroux
 --Small untidy village where the river drives a mill --
 Frail as wood anemones, white and frail were you,
 And drooping a little, like the slender daffodil.

 O I will go to France again, and tramp the valley through,
 And I will change these gentle clothes for clog and corduroy,
 And work with the mill-hands of black Rioupéroux,
 And walk with you, and talk with you, like any other boy.
-- James Elroy Flecker
Flecker's poetry is consistently delightful, and today's poem is no
exception - the "small untidy village" of Rioupéroux is brought to life with
the same magical touch which first drew me to poems like "The Gates of
Damascus" and "The Golden Road to Samarkand".

Here, despite it's exotic sounding[1] name, Rioupéroux represents a more
down-to-earth retreat, almost the antithesis, with its 'rough' images of
"clog and corduroy" and "tramp the valley", of the evocative dreams of
distant and long-ago Samarkand and Damascus. More to the point, the
roughness in the second verse stands in antithesis to the delicate imagery
in the first, an inversion that does not (despite a superficial tendency to
do so) descend into bathos, but rather combines the two images into a
coherent whole, so that the memory of the 'slender daffodil' superposes
itself upon the girl the narrator wishes to walk with and talk with "like
any other boy". The last line does not shatter the magic of the first verse;
rather, it leaves it intact to gently colour a more immediate present.

Not unexpectedly, Flecker demonstrates once again a superb feel for the
sound and structure of his verse. The poem has a wonderfully musical quality
(somewhat reminiscent of Masefield's "Cargoes") that enhances both the
slightly dreamlike atmosphere of the first verse and the more purposeful
rhythm of the second, and, indeed, serves in some measure to unify them.

[1] at least to my ears - possibly not to those of Flecker's contemporaries

Links:

 A biography of Flecker:
   http://collegiateway.org/csc/flecker.html

 For another interesting treatment of rural France, compare Belloc's
   "October": Poem #226

 Masefield's "Cargoes": Poem #74

 Flecker's poems on Minstrels:
   Poem #509, "The Golden Road to Samarkand"
   Poem #518, "The Gates of Damascus"
   Poem #685, "The Old Ships"

-martin

25 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Ruth said...

Dear Minstrels,I really enjoy Fleckers' poetry,and the Golden Journey to Samarkand has been one of my favourites for years.
I read a novel,"Dreaming of Samarkand" by D.M.Thomas(no relation to me),in which the author portrayed the relationship between Flecker,and T.E. Lawrence(of Arabia),set in the Middle East when Flecker was in the Diplomatic Service,and Lawrence doing some surveying,and spying,with his assistance,prior to WW1.
There were very strong suggestions that their relationship would have been homosexual,but Fleckers' overtures were rejected by Lawrence.
As I say,all this in a work of fiction,but if the present poem is read with homosexual love in mind,and the "you" of the last line is male,it seems to me to be all the more poignant.
Keep up the god work,yours sincerely,David Thomas

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