Wild horses on the Camargue

I have just had a lovely 4 days with my Mum and Dad who popped over from Cornwall for a few days. We have spent the days walking the city, visiting nearby fairytale towns and cycling to the beach. It is a 28km round journey from where we live to the nearest beach and it’s a lovely ride. We cycle along the river and then at one point, we cycle past flat, low lying wetlands. There you can see flamingos and hundreds of these beautiful horses.

I promised my folks flamingos and horses when we set off on our ride, but it was not meant to be. The flamingos were miles away, white dots on the horizon and the horses were not in sight. A few in a nearby stable but that did not count!

My Mum told me about a poem she studied at school. She had been reminded of it when she had seen a photo I had taken on another cycle ride. One that I had done on a grey day and along the way, passed hundreds of these beautiful white horses grazing. The poem was by a poet called Roy Campbell and he was born in the same town in South Africa as I was.

We learned that the Camargue is actually not that far away from Montpellier at all, and these white horses are what this part of France has in abundance. There is a certain un-tamed wildness about them that is beautifully captured in the poem.

Horses on the Camarque – Roy Campbell

In the grey wastes of dread,
The haunt of shattered gulls where nothing moves
But in a shroud of silence like the dead,
I heard a sudden harmony of hooves,
And, turning, saw afar
A hundred snowy horses unconfined,
The silver runaways of Neptune’s car
Racing, spray-curled, like waves before the wind.
Sons of the Mistral, fleet
As him with whose strong gusts they love to flee,
Who shod the flying thunders on their feet
And plumed them with the snortings of the sea;
Theirs is no earthly breed
Who only haunts the verges of the earth
And only on the sea’s salt herbage feed
Surely the great white breakers gave them birth.
For when for years a slave,
A horse of the Camargue, in alien lands,
Should catch some far-off fragrance of the wave
Carried far inland from this native sands,
Many have told the tale
Of how in fury, foaming at the rein,
He hurls his rider; and with lifted tail,
With coal-red eyes and catarcating mane,
Heading his course for home,
Though sixty foreign leagues before him sweep,
Will never rest until he breathes the foam
And hears the native thunder of the deep.
And when the great gusts rise
And lash their anger on these arid coasts,
When the scared gulls career with mournful cries
And whirl across the waste like driven ghosts;
When hail and fire converge,
The only souls to which they strike no pain
Are the white crested fillies of the surge
And the white horses of the windy plain.
Then in their strength and pride
The stallions of the wilderness rejoice;
They feel their Master’s trident in their side,
And high and shrill they answer to his voice.
With white tails smoking free,
Long streaming manes, and arching necks, they show
Their kinship to their sisters of the sea
And forward hurl their thunderbolts of snow.
Still out of hardship bred,
Spirits of power and beauty and delight
Have ever on such frugal pasture fed
And loved to course with tempests through the night.