Academic journal article Arthuriana

Pour Un Tombeau De Merlin: Du Barde Celte À la Poésie Moderne

Academic journal article Arthuriana

Pour Un Tombeau De Merlin: Du Barde Celte À la Poésie Moderne

Article excerpt

YVES VADÉ, Pour un tombeau de Merlin: Du barde celte à la poésie moderne. Paris: José Corti, 2008. Pp. 304. isbn: 2714309666. [euro] 22.00.

Yves Vadé has chosen to resurrect the Renaissance tradition of the 'tombeau,' a literary homage to a late figure-in this case, somewhat paradoxically, Merlin, whose survival is in fact averred by Vadé's detailed and clever analysis. The study, informed by mythological and anthropological readings of the Merlin corpus, guides the reader from the 'birth' of the eponym character to his most recent reincarnations in modern French poetry. Lautréamont's Maldoror appears as an echo of Merlin, as does, of course, Apollinaire's 'Enchanteur pourrissant,' but Breton, and also, more surprisingly, Michaux do belong to the Merlinian constellation, the signs of which Vadé discovers and interprets with great subtlety in a wide range of texts.

For medievalists, the first two chapters ('Naissance d'un personage' and 'Des hommes sauvages et des oiseaux') are both the most interesting and the most convincing. Vadé's analyses takes into account all the textual traces pertaining to Merlin, or his Welsh homologue Myrddin. He underlines the connection between Merlin and the old metamorphic god, Proteus, both being gifted with exceptional oracular abilities. He addresses the sensitive issue of Merlin's duality, as a Wild Man and as a prince, or-later-as a 'Devil's son.' Vadé is also very attentive to the information provided by the names and linguistic roots that contribute to the formation of the Merlin myth: while he does not bring in any new insight to the puzzling change from 'Myrddin' to 'Merlin,' he elaborates upon the traditional identification between Merlin, the seer, and the merlin, a small falcon used for hunting.

It is through this metaphoric association that Vadé introduces his somewhat provocative idea of a splitting of the poetic field in two families: the sons of Merlin, as it were, and those of Orpheus. …

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