Erwan Berthou

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Erwan Berthou, after a photograph by Émile Hamonic

Erwan Berthou (September 4, 1861 – January 30, 1933) was a French and Breton language poet, writer and neo-Druidic bard. His name is also spelled Erwan Bertou and Yves Berthou. He also used the bardic pseudonyms Kaledvoulc'h, Alc'Houeder Treger and Erwanig.

He was born in Pleubian, Côtes-d'Armor. He studied at the small seminary of Tréguier, then at the college of Lannion.[1] He worked as an engineer in Le Havre, later moving in 1892 to Rochefort. On 12 June 1892, he married Elisa Mézeray.

He joined the Navy for five years. During his service he visited the Caribbean, Africa and China. Berthou returned to Le Havre in 1896. He then began contributing to the journals L'Hermine and Revue des provinces de l'Ouest. In 1897, he published a magazine La Trêve de Dieu (The Truce of God), but it folded after a year. He continued to work as an engineer, especially in construction of settlements in 1898 in Paris.

In the following year was one of twenty-two Bretons who went to Cardiff to establish links with Welsh neo-Druidism, being received at the Gorsedd. He also joined the Union Régionaliste Bretonne, helping to create the Breton nationalist movement. He participated in all stages of the creation of the Gorsedd of Brittany, of which he was Archdruid from 1903 to 1933, using the bardic name Kaledvoulc'h. He occasionally participated in Emile Masson's journal Brug. Much of his writing is imbued with pantheist ideas.

In 1906 Berthou and Jean Le Fustec published Eur to gir of rear Varzed, Triades des druides de Bretagne,[2] a translation into Breton of the 46 theological Triads of the neo-Bards, according to a text first published by Iolo Morganwg with his own Lyric Poems, then in the Barddas of J. William ab Ithel (1862). The collection, in fact a forgery by Morganwg, was claimed to have been a translation of works by Llywelyn Siôn detailing the history of the Welsh bardic system from its ancient origins to the present day. Based on these ideas Berthou also published Sous le chêne des druides (Under the Druids' Oak), which described a mystical history of human spiritual and cultural evolution culminating in the achievement of "pure whiteness".

In 1918, he returned to live in Pleubian, to take over his parents' farm. He found it difficult to keep it solvent, and was reduced to great poverty a result of the inflation after the war. His last years were severely impoverished, leading to his wife's mental breakdown. Members of the Breton national movement organised financial assistance for him.

Writings[edit]

  • Cœur breton, premières poésies, 1892
  • La Lande fleurie, 1894
  • Les Fontaines miraculeuses, 1896
  • Âmes simples, dramatic poem, 1896
  • La Semaine des Quatre Jeudis, ballads, 1898
  • Le Pays qui Parle, poem, 1903.
  • Dre an dellen hag ar c'horn-boud. (By the harp and by the horn of war). Saint-Brieuc/ Paris René Prud'homme & Moriz an Dault 1904
  • Triades des Bardes de l’île de Bretagne, 1906
  • Istor Breiz, 1910.
  • Kevrin Barzed Breiz, treatise of Breton language versification, 1912.
  • Les Vessies pour des Lanternes, tract, 1913.
  • Lemenik, skouer ar Varzed, 1914.
  • Ivin ha Lore, gwerziou, 1914.
  • Dernière Gerbe, poems, 1914.
  • Avalou Stoup, rimadellou, 1914.
  • Hostaliri Surat, 1914.
  • Daouzek Abostol, 1928.
  • Sous le chêne des druides P. Heugel Editeur 1931
  • En Bro-Dreger a-dreuz parkoù (1910-1911), republished
  • Lemenik: skouer ar varzhed. - Lesneven : "Hor yezh", 2001

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Anthologie de la littérature bretonne au XXème siècle. 1, 1900-1918, Morlaix : "Skol vreiz", 2002
  2. ^ Triadon, Eur gir d’ar Varzed, Triades des duides de Bretagne, Paris, Bib. de l'Occident, 1906), édition bilingue, Iann Ar Fustec et Yves Berthou.