June 16, 2023
Dear Frenchly Readers,
It was Alexander Pope, the 17th and 18th century English poet, who wrote, “Hope springs eternal.” That still-famous line appeared in the first epistle of his poem, “An Essay on Man,” which the French poet and philosopher known as Voltaire called “the most beautiful, the most useful, the most sublime didactic poem ever written in any language.”
Here is the stanza where the famous line appears:
Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar;
Wait the great teacher, Death, and God adore!
What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,
But gives that Hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blest;
The soul uneasy, and confin’d at home,
Rests and expatiates, in a life to come.
I love the idea of a soul expatiating—in other words, to use the second definition (not the first, which means “to speak or write in great detail”), the soul wanders off course, and moves freely through the world. That makes me think back to the amazing series of paintings, “Poem of the Soul,” by Louis Janmot, which I saw in April at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon and wrote about, here.
Lately, I have been thinking about the idea of hope springing eternal as I meander through my garden this mid-June, inspecting peony blossoms, places where plants were last year but have now vanished, the drying stalks of old bulbs, long since bloomed, the overgrowing raspberries, covered now with incipient berries, pale and round, like young breasts.
And what’s been interesting to me is that, in French, there are two words for hope, not just one. There is espoir and there is also espérance. As my friend Nils put it to me last April over dinner at his neighborhood “cantine,” Café Clos Jouve: L’espoir, is something that you want and might get, something you can hope for with some earthly possibility of it happening; l’espérance, on the other hand, is something you wish for, but it may only be fulfilled by the larger forces of the universe, or, even, fate. Think of this famous line from the Prayer of St. Francis in its original French: “Là où il y a le désespoir, que je mette l’espérance.” Where there is doubt (in God), I will bring hope (for something larger and more powerful than myself…like faith).
I love that the French language has two words and that to an English ear these might seem to mean exactly the same thing. But to a French person speaking or writing, they will not use these two words interchangeably. These fine subtleties are what make learning the French language such a joy and, always, an education in etymology and cultural difference.
In the garden, it occurs to me, I must foster a mixture of both espérance and espoir: both a love for the inexplicably wonderful and powerful natural world, and also some earthly hope that my hard work will be rewarded with beauty.
À cuisiner, regarder et lire çe weekend:
First up, we have a new Bouffe by Kate Christensen today! Test drive her two recipes for summer treats made with lemon curd this Father’s Day! Though lemon curd was originally English, dating back to the 1800s as an alternative for jam on scones for afternoon tea, the French also adopted it, because it was just that good, calling it “lemon cream.” Also, if you add the right herbs and je ne sais quoi, it becomes French-ish in a matter of seconds. As always, Kate finds a recipe, tweaks it and then adds some French flair.
If you don’t yet have a Father’s Day gift, consider the book Art Hiding in Paris, which Cat has just written about and included an interview with the author; it looks terrific and very fun. In it, you will find unusual and exciting art you might not find in the Fodor’s. It’s a treasure hunt, one you can do with kids or intrepid friends.
I am in pre-book-publication-insanity for my new novel, Pete and Alice in Maine, on top of kids-out-of-school-insanity and just regular June insanity—a garden that needs tending, summer clothes that need mending, and lots of hopes and dreams for the summer to take good care of. I am trying to hold it all and do my best. Yesterday, I did a live interview on Instagram, which, after some technical snafus, I did from my phone (not my original plan), so I was sort of peering down into the camera the entire time…a lovely, flattering angle. But, some good news, and keep your eyes peeled for this, if you are in the NYC area, French Morning, Frenchly, agnès b. and HarperCollins are all getting together to throw a book launch party for me at the agnès b. Gallery Store on Howard St. in SoHo. Mark your calendars for July 11th if you’re in the New York City area from 6-8 PM. Come meet me and the Frenchly team!
Dan and I watched Living last night with Bill Nighy. It’s a beautiful and slow meditation on how a life can add up to less than one hoped was possible once upon a time. Sometimes, the only thing left in the end, after you’ve done all you can do, is espérance.
Have a good weekend!
****NOTE: agnès b. water bottle winners: A ball got dropped. I am sorry. Your water bottles are coming. I promise.
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Caitlin Shetterly is the Editor-in-Chief of Frenchly. She is also the author of 4 books: Fault Lines, Made for You and Me, Modified, and the upcoming novel, Pete and Alice in Maine, which will be published on July 4th, 2023 by Harper. She is a native daughter and she lives with her two sons and husband in an old house on the coast of Maine.