I found myself quite moved by this plaque for Nerval that stands in a quiet courtyard in Senlis, alongside an old well. It has the first verse of “El Desdichado” (”Je suis le ténébreux - le veuf - l’inconsolé”) inscribed.
(#1) The 256’ (78m) spire (built in the 13th century) of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Senlis (built between 1153-1191) rises high above the city and can be seen across the plain of Valois. (#2) The bell tower of L'église Saint Pierre (#3) The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Senlis.
“In my mind’s eye I saw a castle from the days of Henry IV with its pointed, slate covered roofs, its reddish façade notched by yellow quoins, it’s great green lawn framed by elms and limes…Young girls were doing a round dance on the lawn, singing old melodies handed down to them by their mothers; their French, naturally so pure, left no doubt as to the location: that ancient land of Valois where, for more than a thousand years, the heart of France has beaten…”
Gérard de Nerval, “Angelique”
Nerval spent some of his childhood in this “ancient land of Valois,” what is now the province of L’Oise, in Picardie, about 40 km north of Paris, and it continued to be extremely important in his writing and his psychic universe.
The town of Senlis in Oise is still pretty much as Nerval describes - a beautiful, quiet medieval town full of ruins & Gothic architecture. Basically everything a Romantic would want: