I have not been able to write due to various house chores. I haven’t quite finished settling down. In the past, I settled into a home in a matter of days. This time, I will have to hire professionals or spend years settling in. How humbling!
You may remember that I lost my voice on 11 December. It has now returned, but it is different. X-rays revealed emphysema. I could not believe my doctor. I have never smoked and I can breathe ‘normally,’ so no treatment is necessary.
I nearly lost my driver’s license, but for reasons other than emphysema.
However, given that my license could be taken away. I bought an apartment located close to a little market. Just in case… The little market has everything I need. I have been told I qualified for a service dog, but Belaud said no.
My cat Belaud was delighted when I discovered a painting featuring a chartreux sitting on a lady’s lap: artistic roots. French poet Joachim du Bellay had a chartreux named Belaud. When his Belaud died, he wrote an extroardinary epitaph entitled Sur la mort de Belaud. As you know, I share my home and life with a cat named Belaud. Belaud is a pure-bred French chartreux. I named my chartreux after Joachim du Bellay‘s Belaud. Du Bellay’s Sur la mort de Belaud is a long poem I would not attempt to translate.
Belaud Portrayed & Elevated
- literary roots
- artistic roots
Belaud has literary roots, but the J. Paul Getty Museum has a painting featuring a dignified lady, nose up, holding her precious chartreux. Artist Jean-Baptiste Perronneau (French, 1715 – 1783) is not as prominent a figure as Joachim du Bellay, but we owe him the portrait of a chartreux, and images are immediate. Upon analysis, we may find that a picture is complex, but in the case of Perronneau’s portrait, we know we are seeing a lady, Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange, holding her beloved cat, a chartreux.
Because of this portrait, chartreux have acquired greater stature. A cat protrayed is a thousand cats. Moreover, Jean-Baptiste Perronneau depicted a chartreux sitting in the lap of the distinguished madame Pinceloup de la Grange. I told Belaud that a portrait of a chartreux had surfaced. “Well, mother,” said Belaud, “I knew. We cats research our ancestry.” Mme Pinceloup de la Grange’s chartreux could indeed be Belaud’s ancestor. However, my Belaud does not wear a collar because he is not a threat to birds. He would love to be hired to chase away various rats, “gros rats.” In fact, one gentleman offered him a lucrative contract: “toxicity” said the gentleman, “toxicity! It will be the Black Death all over again.” The gentleman died a few weeks later.
Given their profession, chasing rats, chartreux are large and very robust cats. Fearing the cold, they wear two coats of fur. I should also mention that they enjoy sitting with their legs extended forward and that they sometimes cross their legs, as though they were dogs, or human beings. They may be referred to as blue cats, but they are grey cats. The light, however, may make their fur appear blue and even mauve.
The chartreux and their British Blue relatives have a round face, large cheeks, a permanent smile and yellow to copper eyes. I should also tell you that Chartreux are very quiet. Legend has it that their silent owners, Carthusian monks, taught them silence. Belaud purrs, but he is otherwise absolutely silent. A long time ago, I read they were brought to France by crusaders. Were Carthusians crusaders?
The Literary Belaud
- La Pléiade
- the carpe diem
- the Vernacular
Du Bellay’s epitaph on Belaud is very long, but very rich. Besides, du Bellay is a better-known figure than monsieur Perronneau. He was a member of La Pléiade, a group of stellar poets who are the fountainhead of poetry in French. Poet Pierre de Ronsard (11 September 1524 – 27 December 1585) was a prince of poets, un prince des poètes, which is not insignificant, but he is famous for a carpe diem poem. In one of his Sonnets pour Hélène, he enjoins Hélène to love him dès aujourd’hui, as of today, life being so short. There was an Hélène whose gentleman friend had died in a war. She was not in the least interested in Ronsard, but Ronsard’s poem is unforgettable.
Vivez, si m’en croyez, n’attendez à demain :
Cueillez dès aujourd’hui les roses de la vie.
Sonnets pour Hélène, 1578
Robert Herrick wrote in a similar vein:
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.
As for du Bellay’s poetry, it is eminently quotable. Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage is perfection, but Du Bellay’s place and fame in literature rest mainly on his Défense et illustration de la langue française, 1549, considered the Pléiade’s manifesto. The Renaissance was a moment of effervescence. Greek scholars and artists had fled the Byzantine Empire when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire under Mehmed the Conqueror, on 30 May 1453. Hence, Du Bellay’s reference to Ulysses /Odysseus.
Italy was the first refuge of Greek scholars. As for painters, Christians, they fled to Russia, carrying icons. Constantinople had been a Holy See for Eastern Christianity. We know about the Great East/West Schism, 1054. The Vatican is Western Christianity’s Holy See. The Eastern Church would have several Holy Sees, called Synods.
The arrival in Italy of Greek scholars may have led scholars to look to Antiquity and learn Greek. The Renaissance, however, saw the emergence of the vernacular, the mother tongue.
Du Bellay promoted the vernacular, French in his case. He was inspired by Italian author Sperone Speroni’s Dialogo delle lingue, 1542. Speroni was a friend and supporter of Venetian-language playwright Angelo Beolco (el Ruzante). However, the greater supporter of the vernacular was Pietro Bembo (20 May 1470 – either 11 January or 18 January). Bembo championed the use of Italian by poet Petrarch (20 July 1304 – 18/19 July 1374). Predecessors were Dante Alighieri (c. 1265 – 1321), the author of the Divine Comedy, written in the vernacular, and Giovanni Boccaccio (16 June 1313 – 21 December 1375), the author of the Decameron, written in the Florentine language.
La Querelle du chartreux et du “bleu” britannique
- le chartreux
- le Bleu britannique
- le chat de France
Charles de Gaulle
Yvonne de Gaulle in a London kitchen (Getty Images)
Chartreux are often compared to British blue cats. There is a resemblance, but the two breeds differ. The snout of British Blues does not point forward as much as the snout of chartreux. Consequently, British Blues have rounder faces and larger jowls. Belaud’s face is round, but his jowls are not as prominent as the jowls of his British cousins.
I was able to gather precious information about Chartreux and British Blues. My very bilingual Scottish friend, Francis, was hired to go between English-speaking Winston Churchill and Charles De Gaulle, who spoke French, as D-Day was planned. How did Francis survive being a go-between to such men? De Gaulle would not always agree with Churchill and he communicated with the Free French Forces, Forces françaises libres which he led beginning on 28 June 1940. L’appel du 18 juin (1940), a radio broadcast, the BBC, gave hope to the French. France had defenders: the United States and the British Empire. Churchill was at times livid, said Francis, discreetly. We have learned since that De Gaulle told the Forces françaises libres that Paul Verlaine’s Chanson d’automne would be used in the planning of D-Day. Verlaine is un prince des poètes, but Chanson d’automne was a code.
Obviously, sharing the code was dangerous, but I wonder whether Francis had a role to play in the Querelle des Chartreux et des Bleus britanniques. He would not have told me. But truth me told, a querelle des chats took place in the thick of a devastating war. The British wanted to mix the Chartreux with the British Blue and De Gaulle would not allow the national cat of France simply to vanish. Later, Yvonne, De Gaulle’s wife, gave her husband a chartreux which le général called Gris [grey]-Gris. Gris-Gris probably had an aristocratic name, but le général called him Gris-Gris. Gris-Gris followed De Gaulle from room to room.
Charles Baudelaire by Étienne Carjat
Writers Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, and Charles Baudelaire also adopted a chartreux. Belaud’s mother was a Sidonie de… I cannot remember the rest of her name, but his father was Tennessee. The cat she called la dernière chatte (the last cat), was no doubt a chartreux.
This post is a shameful coq-à-l’âne (jumping from one subject to another). The coq-à-l’âne had a terrible reputation, but now that marginalia is all the rage, I’m saved. However, I will close proudly as Belaud is all over this post, un fil conducteur, a link, carrying weight.
A Happy Valentine’s Day ❤
(See Posts on Love Celebrated)
A Belaud, identical (Google)
© Micheline Walker
14 February 2019