Jammes was born at Tournay in the department of Hautes Pyrenees on December 2, 1863, and spent most of his life in this region. He was educated at Pau and Bordeaux, and later spent a short time in a law office. Early in the nineties he wrote his first volumes, slender plaquettes with the brief title “Vers.” It is interesting that one of these was dedicated to that strange English genius, Hubert Crackanthorpe, the author of “Wreckage” and “Sentimental Studies.” This dedication, and the curious orthography (the book was set up in a provincial printery) led a reviewer in the Mercure de France into an amusing error, in that he suggested that the book had been written by an Englishman whose name, correctly spelled, should perhaps be Francis James.
Since then his life has been wholly devoted to literature and he has published a considerable number of volumes of poetry and prose which by their very titles give a clue to the spirit pervading the author’s work. Among the more important of these are: De l’Angelus de l’Aube a l’Angelus du Soir, Le Deuil des Primeveres, Pomme d’Anis ou l’Histoire d’une Jeune Fille Infirme, Clairieres dans le Ciel, a number of series of Georgiques Chretienne, etc.
The present volume consists of a translation of Le Roman du Lievre, one of the most delightful of Francis Jammes’ earlier books. In it he tells of Rabbit’s joys and fears, of his life on this earth, of the pilgrimage to paradise with St. Francis and his animal companions, and of his death. This book was published in 1903, and has run through many editions in France. A number of characteristic short tales and impressions of Jammes’ same creative period have been added.
To turn a work so delicate and full of elusiveness as Jammes’ from one language into another is not an easy task, but it has been a labor of love. The translator hopes that she has accomplished this without too great a loss to the spirit of the original.
ROMANCE OF THE RABBIT
Amid the thyme and dew of Jean de la Fontaine Rabbit heard the hunt and clambered up the path of soft clay. He was afraid of his shadow, and the heather fled behind his swift course. Blue steeples rose from valley to valley as he descended and mounted again. His bounds curved the grass where hung the drops of dew, and he became brother to the larks in this swift flight. He flew over the county roads, and hesitated at a sign-board before he followed the country-road, which led from the blinding sunlight and the noise of the cross-roads and then lost itself in the dark, silent moss.
That day he had almost run into the twelfth milestone between Castetis and Balansun, because his eyes in which fear dwells are set on the side of his head. Abruptly he stopped. His cleft upper lip trembled imperceptibly, and disclosed his long incisor teeth. Then his stubble-colored legs which were his traveling boots with their worn and broken claws extended. And he bounded over the hedge, rolled up like a ball, with his ears flat on his back.