“Celebration of the Alexandrian”, on France Culture: delightful twelve-foot walk

Delight of non-working days and magic of the radio: delve into the depths of France Culture and come across this “Experience” of 2020 – the documentary and sound writing box of Aurélie Charon

“Celebration of the Alexandrian”, on France Culture: delightful twelve-foot walk

Delight of non-working days and magic of the radio: delve into the depths of France Culture and come across this “Experience” of 2020 – the documentary and sound writing box of Aurélie Charon.

So an hour of listening devoted to this twelve-foot verse called “Alexandrine”. Open your ears wide, it’s really delightful. As much because it is very pleasant to hear Corneille say (“Always love, always suffer, always die”) and even more so because it is more than amusing to note how the Alexandrine is common use: from the RATP's "Be careful when getting off the train" to the injunctions, in full confinement, of Olivier Véran, then Minister of Health.

In short, in a nutshell, Olivier Chaumelle offers us a unique and instructive walk through the French language.

Twelve harmonious

Because why is Alexandrine essential? No doubt this twelve, so perfect, gives it this place of choice. “Many elements of our existence still go by twelves, in our decimal universe. Twelve is a harmonious number, divisible by two, three, four, six, it is thus recalled. Remember, there was 12 pence in 1 shilling, eggs and snails are still sold in packs of twelve, we buy cutlery and crockery in lots of twelve pieces. »

And it is thus, and although often without realizing it, that we all speak in Alexandrians. Even the football commentators (RMC archive): “The ball is out, the ball is lost. » Even (and many) members of the government: “The anxiety of losing a loved one, the anxiety of confinement”; “Stay at home, all travel is prohibited.”

Is it its easy-to-the-ears swing, with its two-times-six rhythm, that makes it so popular? Without doubt, as the literature professors Jean-Michel Gouvard, Jean-Marc Hovasse and Henri Scepi, the historian of poetic forms Alain Chevrier and Julia de Gasquet, actress and lecturer at the Institute of Theater Studies, remind us here. from Sorbonne-Nouvelle.

From the civil code to Emmanuel Macron

But we should not forget what Léo Ferré (1916-1993) said: “Writers who use their fingers to find out if they have their foot count are not poets: they are typists. » Without counting before him Mallarmé (1842-1898) and his thirteen-shot weapon: “A roll of the dice will never abolish chance. » The poet will thus abolish the great verse of the 17th century out of “weariness of the national cadence”.

But before this bit of historic Mallarmean humor, the professors will have given us the impression – and fortunately – of Ronsard and others. From the civil code, largely written in Alexandrines. From Victor Hugo, obviously: “I threw noble verse to the black dogs of prose” (in Les Contemplations). It was with the death of the great man that there was a shift and that Alexandrian ended.

Unless Rimbaud and certain rappers from the 1980s give the twelve feet a second wind. A breath that Emmanuel Marcon will try to revive in the midst of the Covid-19 epidemic with this cult tirade: “I share with you what we don’t know. » But it is enough: let us listen instead, and make this admission: we could have listened even longer.