QUESTIONS ON LIFE
THE TOMBS OF ADAM AND EVE

 

Who has ever heard of a valley lost somewhere in Armorica *? It remains as unknown today as ever. Only five farms surround it- Linglay, Rozviliou, Goaremon, le Bourgneuf and Kerbernès. For us who were born there, Rozviliou, the beautiful manor, was the centre of this valley. From the little windows upstairs, you could see the wood all around you, in front, and to the right and left. Like an expanse of brass before you, the leaves of the trees in the wood could be seen, in their lightly coloured shades of green here and yellow there. Down below, among the trees, there was a stream that flowed from the waterfall through the fields of Linglay. Just down from our house, we could cross it on a line of big stones which could well have dated from prehistoric times, but which children always love to jump over. Further along, the stream curved, making the valley slightly wider, as it climbed the great Kerbernès hill from the mill. Up there there were menhirs*, but the biggest of them all was up in the wood where, long ago, it stretched higher than the trees. It was the time when, walking towards the famous St. Servais rock, I saw gold glitter in the sand on the path. But big people, I still remember well, explained to me that it was not gold, saying "all that glitters is not gold". And yet, if you had seen the Guellec sand, with its little golden stones However I still had the menhirs.

The war had ended two years previous, and Rene Le Boulc'h had taken over my grandfather's little farm. In the summer, when we used to come on holidays, naturally we learned from René the secret behind things which Aunt Aliette had told us about so knowledgeably. I was very interested in the menhirs, so I decided to speak to René about them. One day I said to him: "René, is it true that the menhirs go walking during Easter night, and during that time you can find treasure?"

Of course it was true! It was recounted in a great many stories, even in Landerneau and Vannes, and I had read it in a book, but it was a miser who had found the treasure. He had spent so much time looking at and touching the pieces of gold that the menhir had silently taken back up its place, and the miser was no more.

"What I would like to know, is if you René already went, or if you will go one day, and maybe you could bring me with you".

"Oh Hervé, I believed it for a long time, but it's not true. I'll tell you what really happens. You know that two years ago when I was freed from Germany where I was a prisoner, a Holy Saturday night, I went with Job Prigent who came back with me from Germany. He lives in Loquitou, near Locarn, on the Follezou river. So that evening, we went together, not far from Rozviliou, down from Bourgneuf, just in the wood of St. Yves' Chapel, and there you could see well the twin menhirs as they are called. We had had some crêpes and cider, for as well know, Holy Saturday is no longer Lent. We said the Rosary together because, Hervé, in this kind of thing, you don't know if the devil himself isn't walking beside the menhirs. We don't know everything either. But in any case, that is not at all what happened."

"After the Rosary, the night was damp and Job had brought some lambic, which is a kind of whiskey. Job told me how it warmed him up. It warmed him up so much that I drank some too. So afterwards we surely fell asleep".

"So Hervé, when it all happened it was midnight, and that Hervé I never told a soul, Prigent neither, but I will always remember it, it was so beautiful. But I'll have to tell you so as not to be misled by the menhirs".

"There was some mist which came up from the river, but it was not very dense. The light shone on the Kerbernès hill where the twin menhirs stood. It seemed as if they were moving in the light which was gradually being lost in the mist".

"Suddenly I said to Job 'can you seen the menhirs?' but Job was unable to answer and I had stopped speaking".

"The menhirs were no longer there. Hervé, as true as you see that lime tree here in front of you, there was a man and woman who moved in the light as they lifted their arms. Then they began to sing, the woman in a very high-pitched voice and the man in a very low-pitched voice, like the Russians, or the harmonium at Dualt when it works, when old Fr. Herviou accompanies the Creed, but more beautiful again. It's impossible to say that Hervé. And the woman sang, she sang higher and higher, with a clear, emotive voice, expressing a joy which augmented with the notes I would hardly know how to say in Breton what she said but it's even more difficult in French". The following are the words as René told me in that summer of 1947:

"Oh joy of my life, joy forever
Joy for my children throughout all the millennia,
Joy in heaven and on earth,
Adam, what joy it is for me that my grandson be our Redeemer,
Yes, here he is, the son of our sons and daughters, the son of Mary,
Son of man and Son of God, here he is at last, my Saviour who brings us out of our graves."

René said that Job and himself had not been able to withstand the experience, well that is not the correct word, that they had been overwhelmed, rooted to the spot by the song which rose from octave to octave. They had lost consciousness, sleeping but not really asleep, and they had woken up later on in the dampness of the night. The light had disappeared, the twin menhirs had taken back up their places in their old memorial, two stone tombs standing looking to the sky where Adam and Eve had gone back up.

Years and years later, maybe half a century later, this story came back to mind. It had been buried in a corner of my mind, where things are not awoken until there is a sign of extraordinary joy or sadness. It was at the Sylvanès Abbey when the liturgical musician Fr. André Gouze and his choir sang the Salve Regina of the monks at Aubrac for us. It was an old Salve sung with heroic voices which gravely rose towards the Cistercian vaults. There, like in the Kerrangle valley, like René Le Boulc'h, I suddenly heard Adam and Eve sing the joy of the Resurrection. I went back to the valley of the menhirs. I saw the hill which rises towards the immense forest where the Hercynien mountains end.

René is no longer there. At the little farm in Rozviliou, the old holly which he no longer trims, now spreads its shadow over the house. But when I look at the twin menhirs, I see. And I say these words which have stayed in my mind since my childhood: "Adam! Eve! He has raised you from the dead!"

Hervé Catta, November 1995

 

* Armorica: an ancient name for Brittany (a region in North West France)

*Menhir: a single standing stone, often carved, dating from the Middle Bronze Age in the British Isles and from the late Neolithic Age in Western Europe (from Breton men stone + hir long). (Collins English Dictionary: HarperCollins Publishers; Glasgow 1994)