Friday, 10 November 2017

Métivier Day

I'd like to organise a party to celebrate the life and works of George Métivier. He has apparently been called the 'Guernsey Burns'. I say apparently because I've never really heard anybody call him anything whatsoever. As far as I'm aware, most people have never heard of George Métivier.

This lack of interest in him and his poetry is part of my motivation to organise a party in his honour. Aside from that, I'm looking for an excuse to organise a little shindig (mulled cider and beanjar anyone?). Still, I reckon I can list reasons why I think he - out of millions of people from the past - deserves a special get-together.

(For my sake, imagine the following statements are all prefaced with in my opinion):
His poetry is excellent. He is a local treasure. He could be a national hero for Guernsey. His portrait(s) should be emblazoned across any Visit Guernsey promotional material. We should try to recreate some of the ways of thinking and ways of behaving enshrined in his body of work (that said, I haven't even bought myself a lobster pot yet - I've a long way to go before I'm ready to whistle Norman folktunes while knitting my own Guernsey during breaks from vraic-gathering).

Burns Night is a Scottish tradition with more than two hundred years worth of observance. On 25th January each year, people across the planet host and attend suppers that glorify Scottish food, drink, music and poetry.

Métivier was born on 29th January. That sounds like a good date on which to glorify Guernsey food, drink, music and poetry. (Picture me on Monday 29th January 2018 with my bit gâche, my kazoo primed for a solo performance of Sarnia Cherie (the dog the only audience member) - I'll be happy, and if anyone wants to join me then v'la qui vaout).

I haven't really given any proper evidence regarding Georgie Boy's right to glorification. In order to rectify that, here are some pub-ready Métivier facts for sprinkling into casual banter:

  • his beard was prodigious
  • he translated The Gospel According to Matthew into Guernsey-French
  • his work blends the classical and the everyday 
  • a lot of the oral history and folklore he recorded would otherwise be lost
  • he studied medicine in England and Scotland
  • but gave it up to focus on literature
  • he was close friends with local painter and poet Denys Corbet 
  • and maintained correspondence with Jersey poet Robert Pipon Marett
  • Victor Hugo was the one to name him 'the Guernsey Burns'

The most oft-quoted piece of his work Métivier verse is as follows:

Veis-tu l’s écllaers, os-tu l’tounère?
Lé vent érage et la née a tché!
Les douits saont g’laïs, la gnièt est nère -
Ah, s’tu m’ôimes ouvre l’hus - ch’est mé!

     Do you see the lightning, do you hear the thunder?
     The wind is raging and the snow has fallen!
     The douits are frozen, the night is dark -
     Ah, if you love me open the door - it’s me!  

I would just like to point out that that piece of poetry mentions douits. Could you find me a more locally-referential 19th century lyric? Well, there's plenty more where that came from. The excellent Toad and the Donkey anthology is a really good place to start and the Priaulx Library has loads more to boot.

l'homme Métrosexuel, right? grrr

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