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happy the man who is from a country

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Complete Works

by Gustave Roud

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Under the direction of Claire Jaquier and Daniel Maggetti

Ed. Zoe, 5,056 p. in 4 volumes, 65 € the box set

Vaudois, Gustave Roud? Rooted, yes, able to say: “You are my master, O Country (…) you are the master of my joys”. His work speaks of this unexpected chance for anyone who cares about a wounded country. On each page, the thought comes to us, sweet and painful: happy the man who recognizes that he sees all light through that of his native country and its landscapes which have the secret of leading him towards silence and beauty.

There is, in what Roud writes, a unique force of presence and celebration: “There comes to me impulses, an unusual tenderness for everything around me. Worship? Greeting at least and towards the least blade of grass » (Log, July 26, 1931). There is no need to compare it to other lyricisms of the earth like that of Giono. Each of his words reaches us from a very long patience. He leaves the clarion of songs to others and is content to affirm: ” I will know how to trap worms of delicate marvels”(Leaflets).

These marvels are the hand of the reaper sharpening his scythe, the fight between light shadows and the sun, the cherries that are put in jars, the limpid song of a warbler, the mysterious life of wild beasts that cross for a moment our lives, and it is a marvelous surprise, the sudden feeling of all that escapes us and flees us, and that a little abandonment, of simple friendship perhaps, would bring us closer”(Lost campaign).

His works are dedicated to farming friends and it is all the greatness of the gestures repeated a thousand times that reaches us, the customary nobility of the work and the days: life that goes with the seasons. The heroes of these Georgics are named Olivier Cherpillod de Sarandin, René Balsiger. If Roud devotes his work to them, it is because a tragedy is in the making, the seriousness of which we have still not finished measuring: the death of the old peasant world.

A poet with open eyes

It is from one “extreme-autumn”(Requiem) that Roud talks to us about. Melancholy is the irreducible reverse of his joy. Because the poet has his eyes open, he sees what humanity is inexorably losing: “This laborer’s step so slow and so sure to beat Time to its true measure – and to triumph over it” (Lost Campaign). Who, soon, to tell us that as soon as we find this measure, we are eternal? Of course there remains “the infinite fidelity of birds “, this “kingdom of their song and their flight opened like a merciful refuge”. But for how long ? And “What can a little bird do against the old deafness of men? (Requiem).

This is perhaps where Roud is most beautiful, suggests his capital friend, Philippe Jaccottet, when the summer paradise scatters, these pages where there is only winter and mist:Never, seems to me, Roud’s voice is only more striking when it rises, muffled, even hardened, from these confines where he is most hurt.(The Interview of the Muses).

The question for Roud is that the book does not come to smooth out the movement of life, its regularities and its discontinuities: “Everything would be good if I could order in a living mosaic by dint of agreements and reciprocal reactions the fragments of age, tone, outcome so variable” (Log, May 5, 1968). The poet takes care not to artificially smooth his writing. It must collect the stammering or the cry, the daily sayings and “the sudden dictations of the unpredictable other voice” (LogAugust 1969).

This voice that believes it is possible despite everything to inhabit the world as a poet.

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