CINQ MARS - V6
CINQ MARS - V6
ALFRED DE VIGNY
'Blow blow thou winter wind;
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude.
Thy tooth is not so keen
Because thou art not seen
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing heigh-ho! unto the green holly.
Most friendship is feigning; most loving mere folly.'
Amid that long and superb chain of the Pyrenees which forms the embattled
isthmus of the peninsula in the centre of those blue pyramids covered
in gradation with snow forests and downs there opens a narrow defile
a path cut in the dried-up bed of a perpendicular torrent; it circulates
among rocks glides under bridges of frozen snow twines along the edges
of inundated precipices to scale the adjacent mountains of Urdoz and
Oleron and at last rising over their unequal ridges turns their
nebulous peak into a new country which has also its mountains and its
depths and quitting France descends into Spain. Never has the hoof of
the mule left its trace in these windings; man himself can with
difficulty stand upright there even with the hempen boots which can not
slip and the hook of the pikestaff to force into the crevices of the
In the fine summer months the 'pastour' in his brown cape and his black
long-bearded ram lead hither flocks whose flowing wool sweeps the turf.
Nothing is heard in these rugged places but the sound of the large bells
which the sheep carry and whose irregular tinklings produce unexpected
harmonies casual gamuts which astonish the traveller and delight the
savage and silent shepherd. But when the long month of September comes
a shroud of snow spreads itself from the peak of the mountains down to
their base respecting only this deeply excavated path a few gorges open
by torrents and some rocks of granite which stretch out their
fantastical forms like the bones of a buried world.
It is then that light troops of chamois make their appearance with their
twisted horns extending over their backs spring from rock to rock as if
driven before the wind and take possession of their aerial desert.
Flights of ravens and crows incessantly wheel round and round in the
gulfs and natural wells which they transform into dark dovecots while
the brown bear followed by her shaggy family who sport and tumble
around her in the snow slowly descends from their retreat invaded by the
frost. But these are neither the most savage nor the most cruel
inhabitants that winter brings into these mountains; the daring smuggler
raises for himself a dwelling of wood on the very boundary of nature and
of politics. There unknown treaties secret exchanges are made between
the two Navarres amid fogs and winds.
It was in this narrow path on the frontiers of France that about two
months after the scenes we have witnessed in Paris two travellers
coming from Spain stopped at midnight fatigued and dismayed. They
heard musket-shots in the mountain.
"The scoundrels! how they have pursued us!" said one of them. "I can
go no farther; but for you I should have been taken."
"And you will be taken still as well as that infernal paper if you lose
your time in words; there is another volley on the rock of Saint Pierre-
de-L'Aigle. Up there they suppose we have gone in the direction of the
Limacon; but below they will see the contrary. Descend; it is
doubtless a patrol hunting smugglers. Descend."
"But how? I can not see."
"Never mind descend. Take my arm."
"Hold me; my boots slip" said the first traveller stamping on the edge
of the rock to make sure of the solidity of the ground before trusting
himself upon it.
"Go on; go on!" said the other pushing him. "There's one of the
rascals passing over our heads."
And in fact the shadow of a man armed with a long gun was reflected
on the snow. The two adventurers stood motionless. The man passed on.
They continued their descent.
"They will take us" said the one who was supporting the other. "They
have turned us. Give me your confounded parchment. I wear the dress of
a smuggler and I can pass for one seeking an asylum among them; but you
would have no resource with your laced dress."
"You are right" said his companion; and resting his foot against the
edge of the rock and reclining on the slope he gave him a roll of
A gun was fired and a ball buried itself hissing in the snow at their
"Marked!" said the first. "Roll down. If you are not dead when you get
to the bottom take the road you see before you. On the left of the
hollow is Santa Maria. But turn to the right; cross Oleron; and you are
on the road to Pau and are saved. Go; roll down."
As he spoke he pushed his comrade and without condescending to look
after him and himself neither ascending nor descending followed the
flank of the mountain horizontally hanging on by rocks branches and
even by plants with the strength and energy of a wild-cat and soon
found himself on firm ground before a small wooden hut through which a