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This article is taken from PN Review 43, Volume 11 Number 5, May - June 1985.

Memories of Valois (translated by Michael March and Jaroslaw Anders) Zbigniew Herbert

Adieu Paris: Nous cherchons l'amour,
le bonheur, l'innocence: Nous ne serons
jamais assez loin de toi.

I do not know why Poles, a naturally mobile nation encouraged by history to excessive dislocation, embrace Paris in a trance. The city is unquestionably beautiful; but the true France has moved beyond its gates.

After the customary excursions to Chartres and Versailles, it is proper to visit the charming lesser-known towns and villages scattered within a hundred kilometres - M. Hulot's auto can reach them in an hour and a half. The chain of the most gracious Gothic cathedrals: Morienval or St Loup-du-Naud for those who want Romanesque without travelling to Burgundy or Provence; the ruins of Les Andelys; the palaces of Compiègne, Fontainebleau, Rambouillet; and the forests, the wonderful forests where one can still hear the call of history.

North of Paris - Valois - old France. The heritage of Clovis, King of the Franks. Once the country's most valuable domain. Twice ruled by the king's brothers; twice by princes of Valois. The land 'where the heart of France has been beating for more than a thousand years'.


Chantilly is situated among forests near the Nonette, a river named like a girl from a fairy-tale. An opulent town with a palace, upper-class residences and a famous race-course. I am here for the third time. This time to visit Sassetta, for whom one must traverse the length ...

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