Page:A book of the Pyrenees.djvu/79

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55
S. JEAN-PIED-DE-PORT

by the Garcias, kings of Navarre, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. S. Jean, from the Treaty of the Pyrenees to the Revolution, during three reigns, was the capital of French Navarre. There are several old houses in the town, some of the Renaissance Period, and owing to their being built of red sandstone have a warm and pleasant aspect. The citadel was constructed by Deville in 1668, but was remodelled by Vauban, as were also the ramparts of the town.

The first book in Basque that was printed and published was by Bernard d'Echepare, curé of S. Jean-Pied-de-Port, in 1545. It consists of two parts. The first contains Christian doctrine, moral sentences, and passages from Scripture, good for edification. But strangely united with this, under the same cover and with continuous numeration of pages, is a collection of the priest's erotic poems.

 Si . . . turpiter atrum
Desinat in piscem mulier fermosa supeme,
Spectatum admissi risum teneatis, amici?

He frankly admits that he had had his love adventures. "I would not go to heaven, not I," he tells us, "unless I were sure of meeting women there."

He gives us a picture of female charms too highly coloured to bear reproduction. He throws in episodes from his own experience. In one of his escapades he got into such a scrape that he was incarcerated by order of the king of Navarre. "Il est à regretter," says Michel, "qu'il se soit borné a nous parler de sa détention, sans en indiquer ni la cause, ni le lieu, ni l'époque."

S. Jean-Pied-de-Port should be visited at the time of its patronal fête, 15 to 18 August, where day and night are given up to concerts, games, masquerades, and allegorical dances performed by the peasants of la Haute Soule.