Ladies and gentlemen, members of the French Academy,

As every year in peace time, the Breton Gorsedd is celebrating today, on this 13th of July 2008, its reunion with our brothers from Wales and Cornwall. This ceremony is the 170th anniversary of the first reception of a Breton bard by the Welsh Gorsedd, so we’ve decided to place it under the patronage of three famous French writers. Besides their works as a credit to the French language and culture, each of them in his own way, has also honoured the Breton language and culture.

The first one, Alphonse de Lamartine has composed in 1838 « The toast raised in a national banquet of Welsh and Bretons » that was read after the reception of Hersart de la Villemarqué, the first Breton bard welcome in the Welsh Gorsedd. This poem has inspired the ritual of the broken sword that we’ve celebrated with our Welsh and Cornish friends every year since 1899. Hersart de la Villemarqué is a native of this country. His family is still living in the district of Quimperlé where we are this year. His masterpiece, is a collection of traditional Breton folksongs called the Barzaz Breiz which were praised as « diamonds » by George Sand, another famous French writer. Last but not least, Auguste Brizeux, another famous French poet from Breton extraction, is still haunting the village where we are, in the footsteps of the charming Marie called forth in 1831 by him in a thoughtful poem delighting his contemporary readers all over France. By reminding this past, the Gorsedd intends filling up all its place in the history of interceltic relations and in the construction of a peaceful, humanistic and open Europe. By evoking its origins, the Gorsedd also emphasizes its brotherly links with the prominent writers of the French literature. There is no objection between the universalism called for by the French culture and the proactive existence of local cultures.

Ladies and gentlemen, members of the French Academy,

You’re supposed to have unanimously voted a month ago on a text setting aside from the Constitution the registration of the regional languages as belonging to the patrimony of the Republic. The unanimity of your stand on this issue is for all that objected to by a member of yours, the Breton Michel Mohrt, who gave his opinion in the columns of the newspaper Ouest France. With good reason ! Our fellow countryman has really drawn a lot on the treasures of the Breton language and shared them generously with the French speakers.

But please let’s look in the first lines of your text: « For more than five centuries, the French language has built up France. And our Constitution has deservedly recognized this obviousness in article 2: « The language of the Republic is French ». We definitely can’t see this obviousness alluded to by you, because five centuries ago the Republic didn’t exist, five centuries ago it was called the kingdom of France. Well! To tell the truth, your institution owes its origin to a cardinal minister of this « ancien régime », which isn’t quite republican as you know perfectly like us that the Republic doesn’t recognize nor pay wages to any religion ! So, right from the start, your text is babbling in the confusion. In 1793 on the other hand, four years only after its foundation, the Republic had translated its constitutional act – so its Constitution ! – into the languages of France, among them the Breton language. This translation was followed by another one, i.e. the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. This political choice was serenely made « without jeopardizing national identity » as you do fear in your text in a fit of hysteria and calamity ! By the way are we talking about the same Republic? Is it for you first and foremost an intangible corporate body or the resultant force of a big struggle for emancipation still to be reinforced and started again ? You’ve inspired the French Senate, I’m afraid, in order to oppose the Assembly’s vote. Like in 1922 and 1932 probably when the Senate was against women’s suffrage, so that France had to wait till 1945 for female citizens to be allowed to enter political life and to epitomize what was supposed to be a founding principle of the Republic: Equality. For your part, Ladies and gentlemen, you entered the political arena in 1998 to refuse to accept feminine forms for professional names. What a coincidence ! What a cowardice in a word to get one’s revenge on the regional languages because of inability to stem the growing influence of English !

We’ll conclude this debate with a touch of hope in the future, confident as we are that one doesn’t champion the cause of a language by disputing to another one the right to exist, for we do believe in the final advent of Liberty. Therefore we’ll quote the end of Lamartine’s poem because it’s illustrating what you are likely to have trouble sympathizing with: open-mindedness to others, in other words Fraternity !

« Out of our full goblet where the water of heaven is overflowing,

Already quenched our thirst, let’s drink to the nations !

Islands or main lands, surrounded or bordered by the waters,

Have a share of our libations under the sky !

Yes, let’s drink and, passing our goblet around,

To the new guests to the eternal banquet,

Let’s share a drink with all the peoples of the world

Out of the fraternal chalice!

Arzano, July the 13th 2008-07-23

Morgan 6th Grand Druid of Brittany