National Geographic : 1918 Dec
522 THE NATIONAL GE( extreme ends of France are four small groups whose mother-tongue is another language-the 200,000 Flemings near the Straits of Dover; the 200,000 Basques in the far southwest; the 250,-' ooo Catalans in the eastern Pyrenees; and 1,ooo,ooo Bretons in Brittany-all equally pa triotic children of France. The Bretons are Celts. Their rugged pen insula was formerly called Armorica. The in flux of Britons from Greater Britain, escap ing from the Angles and Saxons, more than doubled the inhabitants and bestowed the pres ent name. The area of the peninsula is less than 1o,ooo square miles; yet in no other re gion of equal size upon the globe are speakers of a Celtic language in the majority, and here they are constantly decreasing. Some recent ethnologists, basing their con clusion on skulls found in the country, question whether the Bretons are Celts at all. Until more convincing arguments to the contrary are presented, one is justified in reckoning the Bretons as worthy members of the Celtic race. They are simple and untutored, conservative, religious, fearless, independent, and picturesque. The Langue d'Oui and Langue d'Oc, noted upon the map, do not signify merely local mediaeval differences in the manner of saying yes in French. Both are legacies-one from the Merovingian Frankish kingdom, which reached no farther south than the Loire, and the other from the Visi-Gothic kingdom, which spanned the Pyrenees along the eastern coast of Spain, and, above all, from Provence, the Roman Provincia. The two coincide with the physical and temperamental distinctions which characterize northern and southern France. To the ethnic composition of the latter not only Celts, Latins, and Teutons have contrib uted, but prehistoric Ligurians, Phoenician and Greek colonists, and Moors and Saracens from Spain. The dialect hence developed, flowing, exuberant, tempestuous, became the fit instru ment of the troubadour and of early romance. But that other dialect, which began in a little island of the Seine, where once all of Paris was included, was becoming the real French. Were all histories of France de stroyed, the whole story would survive in the successive phases of the Langue d'Oui. In 1519 Francis I decreed that Parisian French, already the popular speech, should be the offi cial language of the land. Exact, concise, capable of every shade, of polite inflection, it speedily took its place as the organ of di plomacy and of international relations. It has been said that "the French language made the French nation." More truly, each made the other, and they struggled to maturity side by side. The language is the Frenchman put into speech-clear, sociable, attractive, sym pathetic. So, four hundred years ago, the most cosmopolitan of travelers, Marco Polo, desiring in his Genoese prison to secure the attention of the world, decided that French was the fit language in which to write the story of his wanderings. Mention anywhere the French today. One )GRAPHIC MAGAZINE will not think of their literature or science, un surpassed, or of their immense achievements in every field of thought and industry-of Pas teur, Lavoisier, Cuvier, Bichat, Voltaire, Rous seau, Rosa Bonheur, Moliere, Racine, Cor neille, Victor Hugo, Balzac, Ampere. Instead, a picture will rise before the mind, pitifully inadequate and incomplete, of the men and women of France during these last intermi nable years. A glory rests upon them, tran scending all the glory of their past. A great poet, not a Frenchman, once wrote: "France is the soldier of God." For more than fourteen centuries she has seemed to act, to fight, to conquer for the world. On her soil, and very largely by her sons, were fought the decisive battles of Chalons (451), which broke the power of the Huns; of Tours (732), which overwhelmed the Moslems; of Valmy (1792), which began "a new era in the world's his tory"; and of the Marne (1914 and 1918), which crushed a foe more relentless and more frightful than Moslem or Hun. Humanity is debtor to the French until the end of time. THE BASQUES The Basques are an interesting people who live on both sides of the central Pyrenees in France and Spain and on the southeast shore of the Bay of Biscay. They number not far from 700,000, of whom more than 100,000 have emigrated to America, mostly to Argentina and Chile, and, unfortunately, few to the United States. They name themselves Eskualdanak, posses sors of the Eskuara, their native tongue. This language, utterly apart from the other lan guages of Europe, is a puzzle to philologists. Some think its grammar suggests the Magyar and Finnic. Others consider it a modern form of the otherwise extinct Iberian. They use the Latin alphabet and can speak either French or Spanish. Their origin is lost in obscurity. Devoted children of the Roman Church, they, nevertheless, allow their clergy no influence in political or municipal affairs. Priests and law yers, as supposedly inclined to despotism, are not eligible to their junta. Conservative, proud, and self-respecting, they are tenacious of their rights and deferential to women. The common saying, "Every Basque a noble," is justified by the character of the people. Of splendid physique, they are tireless workmen, expert seamen, brave and capable soldiers. From Bilbao, their industrial center, we derive bilbo, Old English for sword. Bayonne, an other Basque city, gives us the bayonet. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, and Saint Francis Xavier, the illustrious mis sionary, were Basques. The latter, however, with bluish gray eyes, fair hair and beard, hardly five feet tall, did not in physical appear ance resemble his darker, stalwart countrymen. Marshal Foch, Generalissimo of the Allied forces, is a more typical Basque.