Thursday, January 21, 2021

Paul Verlaine's "Charleroi", thoughts of the Monongahela Valley and my Grandmother

     My father was from Donora, PA, a town in Pennsylvania's Monongahela Valley built around a steel mill and named for its owners. A few miles to the south around the same time a group of Belgian from the Walloon region established a town named after a place in Belgium, which was also industrial.

     Around that same time my grandmother, Sadonie Schollaert, came with her family and siblings from Belgium to settle closer to Pittsburgh, While the surname was Flemish/Dutch, the family was French-speaking. 

     She was the last of my grandparents to die. I never remembered hearing her speak French, although my mother was certified to teach the language. But I do remember the smell of baking white bread and the Belgian waffle cookies long before they were sold in convenience stores from coast-to-coast! 

     Verlaine's poem brought back memories of when the Mon Valley hummed with energy and industry. While I have been to Brussels, I have yet to visit Charleroi (the original) or Gille, where my grandmother was born I add a few pictures of an early schoolbook

she used and some family information..

Audio for the poem: 

The poem en françaiis:

English translation:

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