Sunday, November 17, 2019

Ode to the Seine, River of Romance

From Literary Hub:
The Seine’s romantic power is rooted in her human scale. Compared with the Nile, the Amazon, or even the Hudson, she feels accessible, narrow enough to track the comings and goings on either side. Her banks are flat, her bridges densely packed and so low to the ground that you can almost touch the water. 
Then there is her grandeur. The architectural treasures that line her banks allow her to project power beyond her physical dimensions. The interplay between intimacy and power casts a spell. Painters, poets, filmmakers, photographers, historians, novelists, composers, lovers, and, these days, virtual- reality designers have fallen hopelessly in love with her. 
Monet painted from a studio boat on the Seine, Matisse and Marquet while gazing down at the river from their Paris apartments. Zola, Flaubert, and Bizet lived in houses along the Seine. Jazz great Django Reinhardt rented a place nearby. Dumas could see the river from his Château de Monte-Cristo. 
The Seine, of course, is a woman. She is called la Seine, not le Seine. Poets and songwriters refer to her as female. She takes her name and her identity from the ancient goddess Sequana, who healed ailing pilgrims at her temple at the river’s source. 
According to the French rules of geography and grammar, a river that flows into the sea, as the Seine does, should be given the masculine appellation le fleuve; many people who live and work on the Seine insist that it is feminine: la rivière, which is supposed to refer only to inland waterways. “The old word rivière is always used by the people of the water, from bargemen to bureaucrats,” wrote Francois Beaudouin, the founder of a museum on barge life in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in his book Paris/Seine. “Fleuve,” he continued, is a word that “geographers imposed on the general public in the 19th century and that goes against the femininity of Sequana.” (Read more.)

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