Sep 17 2012

September in Normandy

Published by at 1:30 pm under Autumn

From What Never Dies (1909), by Jules-Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly.

It was the middle of September, the most beautiful season of the year in Normandy. The rich green grass was gone, but the oak trees blushed beneath a blushing sky. The hawthorn no longer bloomed in the pathways where the wind detaches and scatters them from the hedge, filling with white, thick and odorous dust the ruts left by the carts in the days of winter; but the brambles disappeared beneath the weight of the blackberries that weighed them down. The clear gold of the wild cabbage was no longer seen waving in the distance on the plain, contrasting with the purple-violet tint of the flowering clover, like shorn velvet; everywhere was the hue of ploughed land. The straight or leaning apple trees of the orchards have lost their pink and white draperies, but the vermillion masses of fruit, which for us folk of the West are our oranges and grapes, gleamed brilliantly through the branches, and fell at the foot of their trunks as if tossed out from a horn of abundance. The buckwheat, the black bread of the poor, which blooms so white, had not yet been cut; but the work will be done in a few days, and with their sheaves, bound up and piled on the ground at equal distances, they will form a camp of small carmine tents.

When evening comes on (the orange-hued Norman evenings), clouds, superb in form and colour, form above this land of such exuberant aspect, and in the presence of their magic display, the calm purity of the most beautiful sky of spring-time is not regretted. The joyous chant of the harvest girls and mowers, returning to the farms to supper, is no longer heard, only the melancholy barking of a dog, teased by an echo, following the footsteps of some belated sportsman. Such an autumn makes up for the snows that are to follow; and viewing it, an Italian might perhaps understand, no doubt, that one could see Naples and not die.

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