Le Naufrage des Portugais sur les côtes de Saint-Jean-de-Luz et d'Arcachon (1627)

Textes présentés par Patrick Lizé et Jean-Yves Blot. Edition publiée en 2000 avec l'appui de la Commission Nationale Portugaise pour les Découvertes. Ce livre de 285 pages comprend des textes originaux et une postface de Jean-Yves Blot (pp.175-228) qui reprend sous forme de récit annoté le contexte historique, psychologique, littéraire et marin de cette gigantesque aventure de mer, voyage terminal et collectif vers les brisants de la côte basque.

Do you read French? – The sunken fleet of 1627

book presentation by Jean-Yves Blot

This is the story of a two thousand men death. And a night, a long long night of January, somewhere in southern France. Huge ships, tired bodies. Everybody has fought the three-weeks storm to the outer limit of physical resistance, sails are torn, ships are worn, souls ready to fly. It is four in the morning and a young man is ready to go, too. Voices from everywhere on board are wobbling in the dark.

The story is told to us thirty years later from a Brazilian fortress where the young man from two lines above is an old prisoner now, waiting for the end of some unspeakable exile, his enemies in the European capital have made his life a steep series of miseries, he is there, sitting with his pen, paper, and the heat of Brazil all around his body, deep into his pride.

But his mind is somewhere else, to the North-East, all the way across the Atlantic, back to his first longest night, deep into nightmare, onto the huge wounded galleon and his chief standing in front of him. And an unknown coast ahead, close into the wind, far into the night. From within the hot walls of his Brazilian jail, awoken by the Basque breeze of his memories, the old prisoner is free again, ready to fly, back to the cold January night, thirty years before, a few cables off Saint-Jean-de-Luz, at the coast of France.

Young people of to day enjoy riding Saint-Jean-de-Luz's waves in the day-light but the Brazilian flyer who wrote this story met with those same waves and their foaming ancestors in the middle of the night, they were singing then a death song no surfer would like to hear that dark. 

2000 people will go, lost sailors, worn women, torn children, broken slaves, frozen gunners, swollen aristocrats.

This is when the Brazilian prisoner is back, he is nineteen years old again, his thin shoes back on the slippery darkwood deck, ready to follow his chief to the end, the squadron leader, a sailor, a soldier, a gentleman, a scientist who played music, a literary man who knows more than a ship by heart and many stars by name. The 19 year-old-man follows the worn hero to his heeled stern cabin where the Great man wants to get dressed for the Voyage. 

The Captain opens a drawer, looking for his best cloths. But instead, he unearths from the wet darkness of the mahogany drawer a single piece of paper, a poem. And the young man, who is not afraid anymore, listens to his Leader read the piece and comment some words of it to him, away from the storm. The galleon is gone, the wind astounded, sea is flat, the young man is listening to Lope de Vega, a Spanish poet, a baroque priest living then in Madrid with a pretty, blind woman, his mad wife. The academic lesson last for a few seconds, a minute or two maybe. The Brazilian prisoner, back to thirty years later, remembers every word, and writes them down to the last one.

He will survive, as will, for two years more, the Leader, dressed in vain for his gone glory.

But all their companions from the mid-January Basque morning will move ahead except a handful of survivors like themselves.

Everything had been very fast, a few minutes maybe before the huge galleon was slashed to death by the sea, three waves said the young man.

In full day-light.

Hundreds of human beings are rushed to the foaming water of January and huge masses of sharp broken wood charred onto them.

Bodies crushed in a terminal dance.

Local sailors, brave Basque whalers back from the New Foundland summer season, row in their sturdy boats to fish a few souls from the bubbling assassins.

This is one out of six Portuguese vessels into the waves of France.

Two thousand people are gone.

It is late, it is hot in Brazil, Francisco Manuel de Melo has just finished his Epanaphora Tragica, and looks at the year calendar.

It is 1657. His book will be published in Portugal in 1660.


Can you read French ?

Give it a flight.

Jean-Yves Blot, 2001

Le Naufrage des Portugais sur les côtes de Saint-Jean-de-Luz et d'Arcachon (1627). ISBN 2-906462-60-8

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