The Savage Mother (excerpt) – Maupassant translation #haibun

“I had an infinite love of this landscape. It is one of those corners of the world which hold a sensual charm for the eyes. One loves such places with a physical love. And we who are seduced by such landscapes hold tender memories of certain springs, certain woods, certain ponds and certain hills: seen often and touching our hearts in the same manner as the happiest of events. Sometimes our thoughts even return to a certain corner of the forest, or a spot upon the riverbank, or an orchard scattered with flowers, seen only once, for one bright day, and planted in our hearts like images of women encountered in the street on a spring morning, fresh-faced and transparent, leaving within the soul and in the flesh an unappeased and unforgettable desire: the feeling of happiness upon happiness.”

The savage mother
defends what she holds most dear
with wild abandon 

A haibun for earthweal

When I read Sherry’s essay for earthweal ‘Fierce Love,’ I immediately thought of the story ‘Mother Sauvage‘ by Guy de Maupassant. It is a war story about a mother who takes gruesome revenge for her son’s death at the hands of the Prussian Army during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.

I’ve always been struck by this passage of the story, as it captures so accurately the fierce love for the land which certain people hold in their hearts, contrasted with the fierce love of a mother for her child. I have felt such love for the Lake District where I grew up: a fierceness of love which I now feel for my children, and for all the children of the earth.

Sherry has challenged us to:

Think of what you love most: the beloved, a child, a fur companion. Then take that fierce love out into the world; introduce us to something in the natural world that you feel fiercely passionate about. Bring your poem of fierce love back to us.

I have taken the passage from Maupassant and turned it into a haibun. The savage mother of the final senryu could stand for the human defenders of earth, like Sherry and all who stood with her to protect the old-growth forest in Clayoquot Sound in the Summer of ’93, or the earth itself, who may well turn fierce in order to defend herself from the ravages of humankind.

You can read Maupassant’s story in the original French online: La mère Sauvage.

The photograph is of an old burned-out forest lodge I came across when visiting Cerknica lake yesterday. If was scattered with litter and other human leavings. It is not the house of ‘La mère Sauvage.’

23 thoughts on “The Savage Mother (excerpt) – Maupassant translation #haibun

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  1. Ingrid… what a beautiful post. Lovely to learn more about you. Amazing to have grown up in the fabled Lake District. What a great excerpt you’ve chosen, and thoughts around it. And that photo… also beautiful 💗

  2. Wow, Ingrid, what an unusual and beautiful haibun! I love that you have taken a translation and made it your own, a modern-day savage mother. Did you translate from the French? I especially love “Sometimes our thoughts even return to a certain corner of the forest, or a spot upon the riverbank, or an orchard scattered with flowers, seen only once, for one bright day”. The senryu is perfect, especially when juxtaposed with your photograph.

    1. Thank you Kim: I did translate it. I studied Maupassant when I took a French elective at university, and his stories (especially this one) have stuck with me!

      1. The only Maupassant story I can remember , which I also read in French about 50 years ago, was the story with the furniture that left home.

      2. I don’t know if I ever read that one…also thank you for teaching me the difference between haiku and senryu – I’d better update my post 😅

  3. Wonderful, Ingrid! Your translated Maupassant and senryu fit together so well.I love the connection between love of land and motherhood.
    I read your comments above, so I know you did the translation–very impressive! I only had French in high school. We read “The Necklace.”

  4. The photo is stunning. So much history in that structure. Would love to know the story of the people who built it. I love what you say about Mother Nature’s fierce love, to protect herself. I am grateful that she has that ability because humans are not giving her much help. I just read that two MILLION logging trucks get filled in B.C. every YEAR. O.M.G. Your haibun is excellent. I love the story it is based on and you told it so well. Yes, this love of landscape is physical. I feel it in every bone for Clayoquot Sound. There are none so fierce, when it comes to protecting those she loves, as a mother. A wonderful post, Ingrid.

  5. A beautiful pairing of mothers. I love that this pulls our sense of mothering into environmental activism. A call to name what we love and defend what we hold most dear.

  6. “Happiness upon happiness”: How much more fierce could we possibly be? A wild gale of a halibun, Ingrid. Perched on the highest diving board in the heart.

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