May. 30th, 2016

zirconium: the word "SANGUINE" engraved in stone (sanguine)
The subject line is from Edmund Keeley's translation of René Guy Cadou's "Poème d'amour à Hélène" (Love Poem to Helen).

On the morning of 30 May 2009, I walked around Marseille for a little while before catching my bus. I hope to spend a longer while there someday, less encumbered with luggage and better versed in modern as well as classic writing about the city:

Marseille parking meter


The Marseillais themselves [are] today as varied and original as Fisher described them in "A Considerable Town." They stroll, or rather, strut, in colorful African fabrics, or navy blue woolen fishermen's sweaters; in haute couture purchased from the fantastic boutiques along the Rue Paradis; or in skateboard garb. Fisher claimed that her classic university-learned French deteriorated while in Marseille, for she spent many happy hours talking with its inhabitants--Italians, Tunisians, Greeks--who spoke anything but Parisian French.

-- Mary Lou Longworth's 1998 essay on MFK Fisher and Marseille


Marseille market


The mistral is a violent wind that swoops southward from the center of France and along the Rhône valley. It torments the Mediterranean coast, particularly the stretch between Toulon and Marseille. It shakes windows, it tears laundry from clotheslines, it tears clay tiles from roofs. The people of Marseille like to say the mistral even causes temporary insanity.

--Jeffrey Mercer, When the Guillotine Fell


The bus took me to Aix-en-Provence:

IMG_1555

Aix-en-Provence


Thou fair Marseilles, who openest on the sea
Thy haughty eyes and gazest languidly...
...and in this hour
Art proud once more; but other storms may lower.
Forget not, then, amid thy revelries,
Whose tears they are that bathe thine olive-trees!

-- Frédéric Mistral, Miréio


...Oh, that won't do for an ending. Here's Amy Wilentz in a 2011 blog post:


In one fishwife's basket there was a score or more of lovely striped rainbow fish that I was pining for; she was charging a lot.

"Awful," said my friend Grégoire Alessi, leaning in over my shoulder to see what caught my eye. "Don't even think about it."

"But they’re beautiful," I protested.

"Yah, yah," he said, giving a shrug, possibly the most common gesture in Marseille. "They may look good, but they taste terrible. They get caught by accident, I guess. I wouldn't even put one in soup." He pointed to a bunch of ugly, flattish brown fish. "Those are the good ones," he said.

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