February 26, 2010

Adrien Rouquette and his nook

Adrien Rouquette was born on February 26, 1813 in New Orleans, where his childhood was spent alongside the Choctaw tribe of Native Americans. Their influence on his life was significant; as he said, it made him prefer a life in the woods. His parents tried to send him north to dilute their influence but Rouquette made it a point to spend his summers in their company.

Rouquette earned his degree in Paris before returning to New Orleans. His first major work, Les Savanes (with the subtitle "American Poems"), was published in France in 1842. He became a priest and was assigned to the St. Louis Cathedral in his hometown — a role he held for fourteen years while writing poetry and editing Le Propagateur Catholique, a Catholic newspaper published in French. In 1859, he suddenly announced his plan to split from his church and devote himself to "spiritually directing" the remaining Choctaws.

Returning to the life in the woods he enjoyed in his youth, Rouquette began dressing like the Choctaws, who gave him the name Chata Ima or Chahta Ima ("one of us"). His poetry reflects much of his interest in the natural world and his spiritual side, as in "The Nook":

The nook! oh, lovely spot of land
Where I have built my cell;
Where with my muse, my only friend
In peacefulness I dwell.

The nook! oh, verdant seat of bliss,
My shelter from the blast;
Midst deserts, smiling oasis
Where I may rest at last.

The nook! Oh, home of birds and flowers
Where I may sing and pray,
Where I may dream, in shady bowers
So happy night and day!

The nook! Oh, sacred deep retreat,
Where crowds may ne'er intrude;
Where men with God and angels meet
In peaceful solitude.

Oh Paradise, where I have flown
Oh woody, lovely spot,
Where I may live and die alone,
Forgetful and forgot!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.