Moncrieff: 146-160; Clark: 102-112
by Dennis Abrams
“The day after the evening when Albertine had told me that she might perhaps that she might not, be going to see the Verdurins, I awoke early, and while I was still half asleep, my joy informed me that it was a spring day interpolated in the middle of the winter.” The music of the street vendors. “It is one of the enchantments of the old aristocratic quarters that they are at the same time plebeian.” Boris Godunov and Pelleas. “Winkles,winkles, a ha’porth of winkles!” “Dogs clipped, cats doctored, tails and ears docked.” “And similarly, as the motifs, even at this early hour, were beginning to interweave with one another, a costermonger pushing her little hand-cart employed in her litany the Gregorian division: ‘Tender and green, Artichokes tender and sweet,Ar…tichokes.’ although she had probably never heard of the antiphonary, or of the seven tones that symbolise, four the arts of the quadrivium and three those of the trivium.” Francoise brings in the Figaro, Marcel’s article still has not been published. Albertine agrees that she won’t go to the Verudrins and, instead, will go to the Trocadero as Marcel had requested. Albertine, after making sure from Francoise that Marcel is awake, goes into his room. Jousting with words from Esther. Marcel and Albertine exchange lying speeches. The possibility of a riding accident. A digression on different kinds of sleep; paralysis and loss of memory upon awakening.
Loved the description of the city awakening, and of the music of the vendors. Snail vendors? Knife sharpeners? Vendors reminding Marcel of Moussorgsky? Of Maeterlinck transposed into music by Debussy? A goatherd? I wish I had been there.
On the other hand, the digression on sleep, I must confess, was one of those digressions that I was getting anxious for it to end.
From The Proust Project, Renaud Machart’s essay on the sounds of the street, “From the Trumpet of the Chair Mender, to the Flute of the Goatherd.”:
“Upon waking up in his Paris apartment on a winter morning uncannily touched by spring weather, Marcel is suddenly enchanted by the loud, shrill cries emanating from the street hawkers below his bedroom window. Thus begins the highly musical segment ‘Cris de Paris’ in The Captive.
The French word cri can mean, in English, anything from shriek, cry, squeak, or scream, to slogan. The Dictionnaire de l’Academie francaise, published in 1694, notes that it ‘still signifies the manner in which vendors go about peddling, in city streets, household necessities, such as fruits, herbs, etc.,’ adding, under the subheading ‘Cris de Paris,’ that ‘more than a hundred types of cries can be heard all over Paris.’ The once eminent nineteenth-century literary historian Victor Fournel devoted an entire, colorful chapter to the cris de Paris in his What One Sees in the Streets of Paris (1867) evoking
‘[the] raucous, silvery, shrill notes…of a…symphony so monotonous in its variety, so varied in its monotony, that it rises incessantly from every street of the great capital. Lend an ear and at first you’ll hear only the disagreeable rumble of carriages on paving stones; but soon you will notice, beside this, the loud, discordant chant of a thousand Parisian cries…One would need an entire volume to capture…the natural and spontaneous technique behind the cris of so many little trades, each with its own dramatic inflections, its street-wise cat calls and vivid expressions — from the classical, staccato recitative of the cardboard seller, to the melancholy alluring fanfare of the clothes merchant; from the impassioned exclamations of the roaming fishwife enraptured by the beauty of her fresh mackerels, to the resounding melody of the oyster dealer ‘four sous the dozen.’
It is very likely that Fournel’s description of the cris de Paris was the source for the shrill ‘musical score’ that reaches Marcel’s bedroom upstairs. Just like Fournel, Proust will distinguish in some of these street cries a ‘classical recitative’ and he too will hear in the lilting modulation of the snail vendor’s cry (“Who’ll buy my snails, fine, fresh snails?”) the echo of the famous monologue from Armide (by Quinault and Lully, which Proust mistakenly attributes to Rammeau). Fournel’s mackerels (“Here are mackerels, fresh, new mackerels, Ladies, and a good looking mackerel this one is”) indeed find their way into Proust’s text, just as his oysters will morph into Proust’s snails that sell for ‘six sous the dozen.’
The change of register in Proust’s text will startle every music lover. One can hear, almost read on the printed page, a polyphony reminiscent of those humorous Renaissance medleys called quodlibets and fricasees, where musical fragments lifted from both their learned and popular contexts were woven together. Indeed, on reading these singing pages from The Captive one is reminded of the long musical tradition of “Cris de Paris,” which had been set in polyphonic form ever since the thirteenth century. The best-known example is the polyphonic song “Les Cris de Paris” by Clement Janequin, a model for numerous textual and musical imitations, both in France and abroad. English equivalents can be found in ‘The Cries of London’ by Orlando Gibbons and by Thomas Weekles.
Like Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, who hears ‘a thousand twangling instruments…hum about [his] ears,’ Proust overhears the surrounding polyphony of cries with a distorting ear that transforms and softens every cri into memories of canticles, plainchant, and such beloved operas as Lully’s Armide and Mussorgski’s Boris Godunov. At one poitn, Marcel, with his strange, deranged ear, thinks he’s overhearing Debussy’s Pelleas, when instead he should have recognized the parler popu, the rough trade language used by Maurice Ravel in his setting of Jules Renard’s Histories naturelles of1906, which was an ironic rebuttal to the highly crafted, seemingly ‘natural’ prosody of Debussy’s Pelleas.
It is striking that the tradition of polyphonic song in general and that of the ‘Cris de Paris’ in particular has always retained an unmistakably domestic character. It was the sort of music meant to be played and sung in closed, intimate settings, most notably in a room around a table where the singers were also its sole listeners. Intimate music played in an intimate space, destined for the intimate few — musica reservata. Closet music.
So perhaps it is no accident that Proust transformed his sealed bedroom not only into a place where he could transmute his entire life into a work of literature but where he could turn that very same room into an echo chamber, a place where resonant fragments picked up here and there lie at the source of the twentieth century’s most resonant work of fiction.”
Moncrieff: “Hence it was with the utmost sincerity…” through “that she should have a companion there in the shape of Andree.” Pages 160-174; Kindle locations 2104-13/2292-98
Clark: “So it was with complete sincerity…” through “…the company of Andree.” Pages 112-121; Kindle locations 2357-66/2524-31