Saturday, April 22, 2006

Poetry Break: "Mistral"

Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night, June 1889

The mistral is a chilly, northwesterly wind that blows mainly in the winter and spring in the Gulf of Lion, originating in air cooled above France's central plateau and the Pyrenees. The cooled air descends from its heights as a katabatic wind, entering the Garonne Valley and moving southeast, increasing in velocity by funnel effect as the valley narrows. Accelerated in this way, it bursts into the Gulf of Lion as a cold wind.

There's a belief that the incessant blowing of this frigid wind drives people insane, or so I was once told by a woman named La Porte in a letter from the South of France. She claimed that it drove Vincent van Gogh mad, and it's true that Van Gogh did call it the "merciless mistral" when he was staying in Arles in 1888.

About 100 years later, in Europe and thinking of Van Gogh, I wrote this lyric:


Wind of evil from the mountains,
Wind from darkness of the hills,
Toss the stars in glowing fountains
Struck like sparks from grinding wheels.

Drive a man to dread the morrow --
Whisper nothing in his ear;
Wrap his soul in shrouds of sorrow --
Hold him in unyielding fear.

Wind of evil from the mountains,
Wind of darkness from the hills,
Toss the stars in glowing fountains
Struck like sparks from grinding wheels.
I'll claim copyright for 1988, in memory of Van Gogh, though I'm not entirely sure about the date. Have a starry, starry night.


At 8:03 AM, Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

I go with the more popular belief that Van Gogh was poisoned by his lead paints, which would naturally lead to the insanity and other symptoms (such as the blurred vision).

At 8:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Or maybe it was from drinking strong absinth with real wormwood, a poison reputed to drive the drinker mad.

Wilfred Arnold, an American biochemist, argued in an article in a 1989 edition of Scientific American that Van Gogh's insanity was caused by thujone, a compound in wormwood, so he labeled Van Gogh's case as acute intermittent porphyria.

I think that Van Gogh was likely crazy for other reasons.

But what do I know...

Jeffery Hodges

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