1555 Lyon Bonhomme

Bordeaux, Poitiers, au son de la campane
A grande classe ira iusques à l’Angon,
Contre Gauloys sera leur tramontane,
Quand monstres hideux naistra pres de Orgon.

Bordeaux, Poitiers, at the sound of the metal drum
A campaign army moves all around the Canyon d’Angon,
A campaign army their javelin spears balanced,
Against the Gauls will be their mountain-ranging,
When a hideous monster will emanate close to the Cascades d’ Orgon.

Line 1. A company marching on the straight road from Bordeaux through Poitiers collects numbers and heads North East to Haut Savoie. OF ‘campane’ = a cloche (the percussion instrument) or a company

Line 2, OF ‘grande classe’ = an army on campaign. OF ‘ira (jusque)’ = a point of balance on the arm of a scale/the coming and going either side of it. Angon = le Canyon d’Angon (a modern centre of canyoning near Annecy, it has a Cascade d’Angon) or else a deadly barbed javelin.

Line 3, OF ‘tramontane’ means around the mountains or else it is the navigator’s Pole Star

Line 4 seems to be a time-marker only as Orgon is les Cascades d’Orgon, a canyon waterfall in South-Central France which doesn’t link up with the other places named except as the right-angle at the bottom of a loose isosceles triangle.

Orgon and Angon are gorges, Orgon being not that very far from Montpellier in the South whilst Angon is up near Mont Blanc, the hinterland of where the French-Swiss tunnel starts today: Chamonix, Annecy, the Haute Savoie. Of the numerous canyons Angon is particularly beautiful. The travelled Nostredame often seems to select the sights that a tourist should see, perhaps with a nod to centres of wine goodness.

The hideous monster is obviously more than a physical freak. The Iron Age’s  La Tène culture was evident all over Middle Europe (even at Old Glastonbury and all across to Hungary and Slovakia) having been the older Hallstatt culture torqued into change by the strength of Greco-Etruscan influences. (Is it possible that Latine Rome has copied something of La Tène in Europe and not just the other way around?)

Roman conquest of the La Tène culture – including the Aquitani, the Gaulois and the Helvettii – started with Julius Caesar in 58BC on the pretext of assisting Rome’s Gaulois allies against the Helvetii (Western Swiss) who were migrating at the time. The prosperous Mediterranean area also sought assistance fromRometo defend against Ligurians atMarseilles. As he moved further against the culture he enlisted some tribes to fight with him against others for a while and this way Julius Caesar provoked the slaying of up to one million tribespeople and made slaves out of another million. During the ‘Gallic Wars’ three hundred tribes were subjugated and hundreds of small cities left deserted and ruined. All ofBourges’ forty thousand inhabitants were eliminated. Of the mountain ‘pagi’ only twenty percent stayed alive as free men. The peoples of the La Tène culture later became Roman citizens. The Franks to the immediate North were to be the source of the Merovingian kings. Sounds as if murderous JC and his peculiar ability to turn one tribe loose against another tribe was the hideous freak of nature.

The most critical of his battles had Julius Caesar and his lieutenant Marc Anthony besieging a strongly resisting tribe lined-up behind an ‘investment’ ground fortification. It is trumpeted as JC’s finest martial hour. The actual location has never been clear but the present contender – drawn from written descriptions – is up in the Jura with frozen mountain slopes but much milder valleys, the scene of visual delights and cascading waterfalls a little like Nostredame suggests here in the Haut Savoie, really.

                                                Nigel Raymond Offord © 2012