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´╗┐Title: Jasmin: Barber, Poet, Philanthropist
Author: Smiles, Samuel, 1812-1904
Language: English
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JASMIN

Barber, Poet, Philanthropist

by Samuel Smiles, LL.D.

   "Il rasait bien, il chantait.... Si la France
    possedait dix poetes comme Jasmin, dix poetes de
    cette influence, elle n'aurait pas a craindre de
    revolutions."--Sainte-Beuve


     Preface

     CHAPTER I.  Agen--Jasmins Boyhood

     Description of Agen
     Statue of Jasmin
     His 'Souvenirs'
     Birth of Jasmin
     Poverty of the Family
     Grandfather Boe
     The Charivari
     Jasmin's Father and Mother
     His Playfellows
     Playing at Soldiers
     Agen Fairs
     The Vintage
     The Spinning Women
     School detested
     Old Boe carried to the Hospital
     Death of Boe


     CHAPTER II.  Jasmin at School

     Sister Boe
     Jasmin enters the Seminary
     His Progress
     His Naughty Trick
     Tumbles from a Ladder
     His Punishment
     Imprisoned
     The Preserves
     Expelled from the Seminary
     His Mother sells her Wedding-ring for Bread
     The Abbe Miraben
     Jasmin a Helpful Boy


     CHAPTER III.  Barber and Hair-dresser

     Jasmin Apprenticed
     Reading in his Garret
     His First Books
     Florian's Romances
     Begins to Rhyme
     The Poetic Nature
     Barbers and Poetry
     Importance of the Barber
     Jasmin first Theatrical Entertainment
     Under the Tiles
     Talent for Recitation
     Jasmin begins Business


     CHAPTER IV.  Jasmin and Mariette

     Falls in Love
     Marries Mariette Barrere
     Jasmin's Marriage Costume
     Prosperity in Business
     The 'Curl-Papers'
     Christened "Apollo"
     Mariette dislikes Rhyming
     Visit of Charles Nodier
     The Pair Reconciled
     Mariette encourages her Husband
     Jasmin at Home
     The "rivulet of silver"
     Jasmin buys his House on the Gravier
     Becomes Collector of Taxes


     CHAPTER V.  Jasmin and Gascon

     Jasmin first Efforts at Verse-making
     The People Conservative of old Dialects
     Jasmin's study of Gascon
     Langue d'Oc and Langue d'Oil
     Antiquity of Languages in Western Europe
     The Franks
     Language of Modern France
     The Gauls
     The "Franciman"
     Language of the Troubadours
     Gascon and Provencal
     Jasmin begins to write in Gascon
     Uneducated Poets
     Jasmin's 'Me cal Mouri'
     Miss Costello's translation
     The 'Charivari'
     Jasmin publishes First Volume of 'The Curl-papers' (Papillotos)


     CHAPTER VI.  Beranger--'Mes Souvenirs'--P. De Musset

     The 'Third of May'
     Statue of Henry IV
     Nerac
     Jasmin's Ode in Gascon approved
     A Corporal in the National Guard
     Letter to Beranger
     His Reply
     'Mes Souvenirs'
     Recollections of his past Life
     Nodier's Eulogy
     Lines on the Banished Poles
     Saint-Beuve on Jasmin's Poems
     Second Volume of the 'Papillotos' published
     Interview with Paul de Musset


     CHAPTER VII.  'The Blind Girl of Castel-cuille'

     A Poetical Legend
     Translated into English by Lady Georgiana Fullerton and
     Longfellow
     Description of Castel-cuille
     The Story of Marguerite
     The Bridal Procession to Saint-Amans
     Presence of Marguerite
     Her Death
     The Poem first recited at Bordeaux
     Enthusiasm excited
     Popularity of the Author
     Fetes and Banquets
     Declines to visit Paris
     Picture of Mariette
     A Wise and Sensible Wife
     Private recitation of his Poems
     A Happy Pair
     Eloquence of Jasmin


     CHAPTER VIII.  Jasmin as Philanthropist.

     Charity a Universal Duty
     Want of Poor-Law in France
     Appeals for Help in Times of Distress
     Jasmin Recitations entirely Gratuitous
     Famine in the Lot-et-Garonne
     Composition of the Poem 'Charity'
     Respect for the Law
     Collection at Tonneins
     Jasmin assailed by Deputations
     His Reception in the Neighbouring Towns
     Appearance at Bergerac
     At Gontaud
     At Damazan
     His Noble Missions


     CHAPTER IX.  Jasmin's 'Franconnette'

     Composition of the Poem
     Expostulations of M. Dumon
     Jasmin's Defence of the Gascon Dialect
     Jasmin and Dante
     'Franconnette' dedicated to Toulouse
     Outline of the Story
     Marshal Montluc
     Huguenots
     Castle of Estellac
     Marcel and Pascal
     The Buscou
     'The Syren with a Heart of Ice'
     The Sorcerer
     Franconnette accursed
     Festival on Easter Morning
     The Crown Piece
     Storm at Notre Dame
     The Villagers determine to burn Franconnette
     Her Deliverance and Marriage


     CHAPTER X.  Jasmin's at Toulouse.

     'Franconnette' Recited first at Toulouse
     Received with Acclamation
     Academy of Jeux-Floraux
     Jasmin Eloquent Declamation
     The Fetes
     Publication of 'Franconnette'
     Sainte-Beuve's Criticism
     M. de Lavergne
     Charles Nodier
     Testimonial to Jasmin
     Mademoiselle Gaze
     Death of Jasmin's Mother
     Jasmin's Acknowledgment
     Readings in the Cause of Charity
     Increasing Reputation


     CHAPTER XI.  Jasmin's visit to Paris.

     Visits Paris with his Son
     Wonders of Paris
     Countries Cousins
     Letters to Agen
     Visit to Sainte-Beuve
     Charles Nodier, Jules Janin
     Landlord of Jasmin's Hotel
     Recitation before Augustin Thierry and Members of the Academy
     Career of the Historian
     His Blindness
     His Farewell to Literature


     CHAPTER XII.  Jasmin's recitations in Paris.

     Assembly at Augustin Thierry's
     The 'Blind Girl' Recited
     The Girl's Blindness
     Interruptions of Thierry
     Ampere Observation
     Jasmin's love of Applause
     Interesting Conversation
     Fetes at Paris
     Visit to Louis Philippe and the Duchess of Orleans
     Recitals before the Royal Family
     Souvenirs of the Visit
     Banquet of Barbers and Hair-dressers
     M. Chateaubriand
     Return to Agen


     CHAPTER XIII.  Jasmin's and his English critics.

     Translation of his Poems
     The Athenoeum
     Miss Costello's Visit to Jasmin
     Her Description of the Poet
     His Recitations
     Her renewed Visit
     A Pension from the King
     Proposed Journey to England
     The Westminster Review
     Angus B. Reach's Interview with Jasmin
     His Description of the Poet
     His Charitable Collections for the Poor
     Was he Quixotic?
     His Vivid Conversation
     His Array of Gifts
     The Dialect in which he Composes


     CHAPTER XIV.  Jasmin's tours of philanthropy

     Appeals from the Poor and Distressed
     His Journeys to remote places
     Carcassone
     The Orphan Institute of Bordeaux
     'The Shepherd and the Gascon Poet'
     The Orphan's Gratitude
     Helps to found an Agricultural Colony
     Jasmin Letter
     His Numerous Engagements
     Society of Arts and Literature
     His Strength of Constitution
     At Marseilles

     At Auch
     Refusal to shave a Millionaire
     Mademoiselle Roaldes
     Jasmin Cheerful Help
     Their Tour in the South of France
     At Marseilles again
     Gratitude of Mademoiselle Roaldes
     Reboul at Nimes
     Dumas and Chateaubriand
     Letters from Madame Lafarge


     CHAPTER XV.  Jasmin's Vineyard--'Martha the Innocent'

     Agen
     Jasmin buys a little Vineyard, his 'Papilloto'
     'Ma Bigno' dedicated to Madame Veill
     Description of the Vineyard
     The Happiness it Confers
     M. Rodiere, Toulouse
     Jasmin's Slowness in Composition
     A Golden Medal struck in his Honour
     A Pension Awarded him
     Made Chevalier of the Legion of Honour
     Serenades in the Gravier
     Honour from Pope Pius IX
     'Martha the Innocent'
     Description of the Narrative
     Jasmin and Martha
     Another Visit to Toulouse
     The Banquet
     Dax, Gers, Condon
     Challenge of Peyrottes
     Jasmin's Reply
     His further Poems
     'La Semaine d'um Fil' described
     Dedicated to Lamartine
     His Reply


     CHAPTER XVI.  The Priest without a Church.

     Ruin of the Church at Vergt
     Description of Vergt
     Jasmin Appealed to for Help
     The Abbe and Poet
     Meeting at Perigueux
     Fetes and Banquets
     Montignac, Sarlat, Nontron, Bergerac
     Consecration of the Church
     Cardinal Gousset
     Jasmin's Poem
     'A Priest without a Church'
     Assailed by Deputations
     St. Vincent de paul
     A Priest and his Parishioners
     The Church of Vergt again
     Another Tour for Offerings
     Creche at Bordeaux
     Revolution of 1848
     Abbe and Poet recommence their Journeys
     Jasmin invited to become a Deputy
     Declines, and pursues his Career of Charity


     CHAPTER XVII.  The Church of Vergt again--French Academy--
                    Emperor and Empress

     Renewed Journeys Journeys for Church of Vergt
     Arcachon
     Biarritz
     A Troupe of poor Comedians Helped
     Towns in the South
     Jasmin's Bell-Tower erected
     The French Academy
     M. Villemain to Jasmin
     M. de Montyon's Prize
     M. Ancelo to Jasmin
     Visit Paris again
     Monseigneur Sibour
     Banquet by Les Deux Mondes Reviewers
     Marquise de Barthelemy, described in 'Chambers' Journal
     Description of Jasmin and the Entertainment
     Jasmin and the French Academy
     Visit to Louis Napoleon
     Intercedes for return of M. Baze
     Again Visits Paris
     Louis Napoleon Emperor, and Empress Eugenie
     The Interview
     M. Baze Restored to his Family at Agen
     The Church of Vergt Finished, with Jasmin Bells


     CHAPTER XVIII.  Jasmin enrolled Maitre-es-Jeux at toulouse
                     --crowned by Agen

     Jasmin invited to Toulouse
     Enrolled as Maitre-es-Jeux
     The Ceremony in the Salle des Illustres
     Jasmin acknowledgment
     The Crowd in the Place de Capitol
     Agen awards him a Crown of Gold
     Society of Saint Vincent de Paul
     The Committee
     Construction of the Crown
     The Public Meeting
     Address of M. Noubel, Deputy
     Jasmin's Poem, 'The Crown of My Birthplace'


     CHAPTER XIX.  Last poems--more missions of charity

     His 'New Recollections'
     Journey to Albi and Castera
     Bordeaux
     Montignac, Saint Macaire
     Saint Andre, Monsegur
     Recitation at Arcachon
     Societies of Mutual Help
     'Imitation of Christ' Testimony from Bishop of Saint Flour
     Jasmin's Self-denial
     Collects about a Million and a half of Francs for the Poor
     Expenses of his Journey of fifty Days
     His Faithful Record
     Jasmin at Rodez
     Aurillac
     Toulouse
     His last Recital at Villeneuve-sur-Lot


     CHAPTER XX.  Death of Jasmin--his character.

     Jasmin's Illness from Overwork and Fatigue
     Last Poem to Renan
     Receives the Last Sacrament
     Takes Leave of his Wife
     His Death, at Sixty-five
     His Public Funeral
     The Ceremony
     Eulogiums
     M. Noubel, Deputy; Capot and Magen
     Inauguration of Bronze Statue
     Character of Jasmin
     His Love of Truth
     His Fellow-Feeling for the Poor
     His Pride in Agen
     His Loyalty and Patience
     Charity his Heroic Programme
     His long Apostolate


     APPENDIX

     Jasmin Defence of the Gascon Dialect
     The Mason's Son
     The Poor Man's Doctor
     My Vineyard
     Franconnette


PREFACE.

My attention was first called to the works of the poet Jasmin by the
eulogistic articles which appeared in the Revue des Deux Mondes, by De
Mazade, Nodier, Villemain, and other well-known reviewers.

I afterwards read the articles by Sainte-Beuve, perhaps the finest
critic of French literature, on the life and history of Jasmin, in his
'Portraits Contemporains' as well as his admirable article on the same
subject, in the 'Causeries du Lundi.'

While Jasmin was still alive, a translation was published by the
American poet Longfellow, of 'The Blind Girl of Castel-Cuille,' perhaps
the best of Jasmin's poems. In his note to the translation, Longfellow
said that "Jasmin, the author of this beautiful poem, is to the South of
France what Burns is to the South of Scotland, the representative of the
heart of the people; one of those happy bards who are born with their
mouths full of birds (la bouco pleno d'aouvelous). He has written his
own biography in a poetic form, and the simple narrative of his poverty,
his struggles, and his triumphs, is very touching. He still lives at
Agen, on the Garonne; and long may he live there to delight his native
land with native songs."

I had some difficulty in obtaining Jasmin's poems; but at length I
received them from his native town of Agen. They consisted of four
volumes octavo, though they were still incomplete. But a new edition
has since been published, in 1889, which was heralded by an interesting
article in the Paris Figaro.

While at Royat, in 1888, I went across the country to Agen, the town in
which Jasmin was born, lived, and died. I saw the little room in which
he was born, the banks of the Garonne which sounded so sweetly in his
ears, the heights of the Hermitage where he played when a boy, the
Petite Seminaire in which he was partly educated, the coiffeur's shop
in which he carried on his business as a barber and hair-dresser,
and finally his tomb in the cemetery where he was buried with all the
honours that his towns-fellows could bestow upon him.

From Agen I went south to Toulouse, where I saw the large room in the
Museum in which Jasmin first recited his poem of 'Franconnette'; and the
hall in the Capitol, where the poet was hailed as The Troubadour, and
enrolled member of the Academy of Jeux Floraux--perhaps the crowning
event of his life.

In the Appendix to this memoir I have endeavoured to give translations
from some of Jasmin's poems. Longfellow's translation of 'The Blind Girl
of Castel-Cuille' has not been given, as it has already been published
in his poems, which are in nearly every library. In those which have
been given, I have in certain cases taken advantage of the translations
by Miss Costello Miss Preston (of Boston, U.S.), and the Reverend Mr.
Craig, D.D., for some time Rector of Kinsale, Ireland.

It is, however, very difficult to translate French poetry into English.
The languages, especially the Gascon, are very unlike French as well as
English. Hence Villemain remarks, that "every translation must virtually
be a new creation." But, such as they are, I have endeavoured to
translate the poems as literally as possible. Jasmin's poetry is rather
wordy, and requires condensation, though it is admirably suited
for recitation. When other persons recited his poems, they were not
successful; but when Jasmin recited, or rather acted them, they were
always received with enthusiasm.

There was a special feature in Jasmin's life which was altogether
unique. This was the part which he played in the South of France as a
philanthropist. Where famine or hunger made its appearance amongst the
poor people--where a creche, or orphanage, or school, or even a church,
had to be helped and supported Jasmin was usually called upon to assist
with his recitations. He travelled thousands of miles for such purposes,
during which he collected about 1,500,000 francs, and gave the whole of
this hard-earned money over to the public charities, reserving nothing
for himself except the gratitude of the poor and needy. And after his
long journeyings were over, he quietly returned to pursue his humble
occupation at Agen. Perhaps there is nothing like this in the history
of poetry or literature. For this reason, the character of the man as a
philanthropist is even more to be esteemed than his character as a poet
and a song-writer.

The author requests the indulgence of the reader with respect to the
translations of certain poems given in the Appendix. The memoir of
Jasmin must speak for itself.

London, Nov. 1891.



JASMIN.



CHAPTER I. AGEN.--JASMIN'S BOYHOOD.

Agen is an important town in the South of France, situated on the right
bank of the Garonne, about eighty miles above Bordeaux. The country to
the south of Agen contains some of the most fertile land in France.
The wide valley is covered with vineyards, orchards, fruit gardens, and
corn-fields.

The best panoramic view of Agen and the surrounding country is to be
seen from the rocky heights on the northern side of the town. A holy
hermit had once occupied a cell on the ascending cliffs; and near it the
Convent of the Hermitage has since been erected. Far underneath are seen
the red-roofed houses of the town, and beyond them the green promenade
of the Gravier.

From the summit of the cliffs the view extends to a great distance
along the wide valley of the Garonne, covered with woods, vineyards, and
greenery. The spires of village churches peep up here and there amongst
the trees; and in the far distance, on a clear day, are seen the
snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees.

Three bridges connect Agen with the country to the west of the
Garonne--the bridge for ordinary traffic, a light and elegant suspension
bridge, and a bridge of twenty-three arches which carries the lateral
canal to the other side of the river.

The town of Agen itself is not particularly attractive. The old streets
are narrow and tortuous, paved with pointed stones; but a fine broad
street--the Rue de la Republique--has recently been erected through
the heart of the old town, which greatly adds to the attractions of the
place. At one end of this street an ideal statue of the Republic has
been erected, and at the other end a life-like bronze statue of the
famous poet Jasmin.

This statue to Jasmin is the only one in the town erected to an
individual. Yet many distinguished persons have belonged to Agen and the
neighbourhood who have not been commemorated in any form. Amongst these
were Bernard Palissy, the famous potter{1}; Joseph J. Scaliger, the
great scholar and philologist; and three distinguished naturalists,
Boudon de Saint-Aman, Bory de Saint-Vincent, and the Count de Lacepede.

The bronze statue of Jasmin stands in one of the finest sites in Agen,
at one end of the Rue de la Republique, and nearly opposite the
little shop in which he carried on his humble trade of a barber and
hairdresser. It represents the poet standing, with his right arm and
hand extended, as if in the act of recitation.

How the fame of Jasmin came to be commemorated by a statue erected in
his native town by public subscription, will be found related in the
following pages. He has told the story of his early life in a bright,
natural, and touching style, in one of his best poems, entitled, "My
Recollections" (Mes Souvenirs), written in Gascon; wherein he revealed
his own character with perfect frankness, and at the same time with
exquisite sensibility.

Several of Jasmin's works have been translated into English, especially
his "Blind Girl of Castel-Cuille," by Longfellow and Lady Georgina
Fullerton. The elegant translation by Longfellow is so well known that
it is unnecessary to repeat it in the appendix to this volume. But a
few other translations of Jasmin's works have been given, to enable the
reader to form some idea of his poetical powers.

Although Jasmin's recitations of his poems were invariably received with
enthusiastic applause by his quick-spirited audiences in the South of
France, the story of his life will perhaps be found more attractive to
English readers than any rendering of his poems, however accurate, into
a language different from his own. For poetry, more than all forms
of literature, loses most by translation--especially from Gascon into
English. Villemain, one of the best of critics, says: "Toute traduction
en vers est une autre creation que l'original."

We proceed to give an account--mostly from his own Souvenirs--of the
early life and boyhood of Jasmin. The eighteenth century, old, decrepit,
and vicious, was about to come to an end, when in the corner of a little
room haunted by rats, a child, the subject of this story, was born. It
was on the morning of Shrove Tuesday, the 6th of March, 1798,--just as
the day had flung aside its black night-cap, and the morning sun was
about to shed its rays upon the earth,--that this son of a crippled
mother and a humpbacked tailor first saw the light. The child was
born in a house situated in one of the old streets of Agen--15 Rue
Fon-de-Rache--not far from the shop on the Gravier where Jasmin
afterwards carried on the trade of a barber and hairdresser.

"When a prince is born," said Jasmin in his Souvenirs, "his entrance
into the world is saluted with rounds of cannon, but when I, the son of
a poor tailor made my appearance, I was not saluted even with the sound
of a popgun." Yet Jasmin was afterwards to become a king of hearts! A
Charivari was, however, going on in front of a neighbour's door, as a
nuptial serenade on the occasion of some unsuitable marriage; when the
clamour of horns and kettles, marrow-bones and cleavers, saluted the
mother's ears, accompanied by thirty burlesque verses, the composition
of the father of the child who had just been born.

Jacques Jasmin was only one child amongst many. The parents had
considerable difficulty in providing for the wants of the family, in
food as well as clothing. Besides the father's small earnings as a
tailor of the lowest standing, the mother occasionally earned a little
money as a laundress. A grandfather, Boe, formed one of the family
group. He had been a soldier, but was now too old to serve in the ranks,
though France was waging war in Italy and Austria under her new Emperor.
Boe, however, helped to earn the family living, by begging with his
wallet from door to door.

Jasmin describes the dwelling in which this poor family lived. It was
miserably furnished. The winds blew in at every corner. There were three
ragged beds; a cupboard, containing a few bits of broken plates; a stone
bottle; two jugs of cracked earthenware; a wooden cup broken at the
edges; a rusty candlestick, used when candles were available; a small
half-black looking-glass without a frame, held against the wall by three
little nails; four broken chairs; a closet without a key; old Boe's
suspended wallet; a tailor's board, with clippings of stuff and
patched-up garments; such were the contents of the house, the family
consisting in all of nine persons.

It is well that poor children know comparatively little of their
miserable bringings-up. They have no opportunity of contrasting their
life and belongings with those of other children more richly nurtured.
The infant Jasmin slept no less soundly in his little cot stuffed with
larks' feathers than if he had been laid on a bed of down. Then he was
nourished by his mother's milk, and he grew, though somewhat lean and
angular, as fast as any king's son. He began to toddle about, and made
acquaintances with the neighbours' children.

After a few years had passed, Jasmin, being a spirited fellow, was
allowed to accompany his father at night in the concerts of rough music.
He placed a long paper cap on his head, like a French clown, and with
a horn in his hand he made as much noise, and played as many antics,
as any fool in the crowd. Though the tailor could not read, he usually
composed the verses for the Charivari; and the doggerel of the father,
mysteriously fructified, afterwards became the seed of poetry in the
son.

The performance of the Charivari was common at that time in the South
of France. When an old man proposed to marry a maiden less than half his
age, or when an elderly widow proposed to marry a man much younger
than herself, or when anything of a heterogeneous kind occurred in any
proposed union, a terrible row began. The populace assembled in the
evening of the day on which the banns had been first proclaimed, and
saluted the happy pair in their respective houses with a Charivari.
Bells, horns, pokers and tongs, marrow-bones and cleavers, or any thing
that would make a noise, was brought into requisition, and the noise
thus made, accompanied with howling recitations of the Charivari, made
the night positively hideous.

The riot went on for several evenings; and when the wedding-day arrived,
the Charivarists, with the same noise and violence, entered the church
with the marriage guests; and at night they besieged the house of the
happy pair, throwing into their windows stones, brickbats, and every
kind of missile. Such was their honeymoon!

This barbarous custom has now fallen entirely into disuse. If attempted
to be renewed, it is summarily put down by the police, though it still
exists among the Basques as a Toberac. It may also be mentioned that a
similar practice once prevailed in Devonshire described by the Rev. S.
Baring Gould in his "Red Spider." It was there known as the Hare Hunt,
or Skimmity-riding.

The tailor's Charivaris brought him in no money.

They did not increase his business; in fact, they made him many enemies.
His uncouth rhymes did not increase his mending of old clothes. However
sharp his needle might be, his children's teeth were still sharper;
and often they had little enough to eat. The maintenance of the family
mainly depended on the mother, and the wallet of grandfather Boe.

The mother, poor though she was, had a heart of gold under her serge
gown. She washed and mended indefatigably. When she had finished her
washing, the children, so soon as they could walk, accompanied her to
the willows along the banks of the Garonne, where the clothes were hung
out to dry. There they had at least the benefit of breathing fresh and
pure air. Grandfather Boe was a venerable old fellow. He amused the
children at night with his stories of military life--

 "Wept o'er his wounds, or, tales of sorrow done,
 Shouldered his crutch, and showed how fields were won."

During the day he carried his wallet from door to door in Agen, or
amongst the farmhouses in the neighbourhood; and when he came home at
eve he emptied his wallet and divided the spoil amongst the family. If
he obtained, during his day's journey, some more succulent morsel than
another, he bestowed it upon his grandson Jacques, whom he loved most
dearly.

Like all healthy boys, young Jasmin's chief delight was in the sunshine
and the open air. He also enjoyed the pleasures of fellowship and
the happiness of living. Rich and poor, old and young, share in this
glorified gladness. Jasmin had as yet known no sorrow. His companions
were poor boys like himself. They had never known any other condition.

Just as the noontide bells began to ring, Jasmin set out with a hunch of
bread in his hand--perhaps taken from his grandfather's wallet--to enjoy
the afternoon with his comrades. Without cap or shoes he sped' away. The
sun was often genial, and he never bethought him of cold. On the company
went, some twenty or thirty in number, to gather willow faggots by the
banks of the Garonne.

"Oh, how my soul leapt!" he exclaimed in his Souvenirs, "when we all set
out together at mid-day, singing. 'The Lamb whom Thou hast given me,'
a well known carol in the south. The very recollection of that pleasure
even now enchants me. 'To the Island--to the Island!' shouted the
boldest, and then we made haste to wade to the Island, each to gather
together our little bundle of fagots."

The rest of the vagrants' time was spent in play. They ascended the
cliff towards the grotto of Saint John. They shared in many a contest.
They dared each other to do things--possible and impossible. There were
climbings of rocks, and daring leaps, with many perils and escapades,
according to the nature of boys at play. At length, after becoming
tired, there was the return home an hour before nightfall. And now
the little fellows tripped along; thirty fagot bundles were carried on
thirty heads; and the thirty sang, as on setting out, the same carol,
with the same refrain.

Jasmin proceeds, in his Souvenirs, to describe with great zest and a
wonderful richness of local colour, the impromptu fetes in which he
bore a part; his raids upon the cherry and plum orchards--for the
neighbourhood of Agen is rich in plum-trees, and prunes are one of the
principal articles of commerce in the district. Playing at soldiers
was one of Jasmin's favourite amusements; and he was usually elected
Captain.

"I should need," he says, "a hundred trumpets to celebrate all my
victories." Then he describes the dancing round the bonfires, and the
fantastic ceremonies connected with the celebration of St. John's Eve.

Agen is celebrated for its fairs. In the month of June, one of the
most important fairs in the South of France is held on the extensive
promenade in front of the Gravier. There Jasmin went to pick up
any spare sous by holding horses or cattle, or running errands, or
performing any trifling commission for the farmers or graziers. When he
had filled to a slight extent his little purse, he went home at night
and emptied the whole contents into his mother's hand. His heart often
sank as she received his earnings with smiles and tears. "Poor child,"
she would say, "your help comes just in time." Thus the bitter thought
of poverty and the evidences of destitution were always near at hand.

In the autumn Jasmin went gleaning in the cornfields, for it was his
greatest pleasure to bring home some additional help for the family
needs. In September came the vintage--the gathering in and pressing of
the grapes previous to their manufacture into wine. The boy was able,
with his handy helpfulness, to add a little more money to the home
store. Winter followed, and the weather became colder. In the dearth of
firewood, Jasmin was fain to preserve his bodily heat, notwithstanding
his ragged clothes, by warming himself by the sun in some sheltered nook
so long as the day lasted; or he would play with his companions, being
still buoyed up with the joy and vigour of youth.

When the stern winter set in, Jasmin spent his evenings in the company
of spinning-women and children, principally for the sake of warmth. A
score or more of women, with their children, assembled in a large room,
lighted by a single antique lamp suspended from the ceiling. The women
had distaffs and heavy spindles, by means of which they spun a kind of
coarse pack-thread, which the children wound up, sitting on stools
at their feet. All the while some old dame would relate the old-world
ogreish stories of Blue Beard, the Sorcerer, or the Loup Garou, to
fascinate the ears and trouble the dreams of the young folks. It was
here, no doubt, that Jasmin gathered much of the traditionary lore which
he afterwards wove into his poetical ballads.

Jasmin had his moments of sadness. He was now getting a big fellow, and
his mother was anxious that he should receive some little education. He
had not yet been taught to read; he had not even learnt his A B C. The
word school frightened him. He could not bear to be shut up in a close
room--he who had been accustomed to enjoy a sort of vagabond life in the
open air. He could not give up his comrades, his playing at soldiers,
and his numerous escapades.

The mother, during the hum of her spinning-wheel, often spoke in
whispers to grandfather Boe of her desire to send the boy to school.
When Jasmin overheard their conversation, he could scarcely conceal his
tears. Old Boe determined to do what he could. He scraped together his
little savings, and handed them over to the mother. But the money could
not then be used for educating Jasmin; it was sorely needed for buying
bread. Thus the matter lay over for a time.

The old man became unable to go out of doors to solicit alms. Age and
infirmity kept him indoors. He began to feel himself a burden on the
impoverished family. He made up his mind to rid them of the incumbrance,
and desired the parents to put him into the family arm-chair and have
him carried to the hospital. Jasmin has touchingly told the incident of
his removal.

"It happened on a Monday," he says in his Souvenirs: "I was then ten
years old. I was playing in the square with my companions, girded about
with a wooden sword, and I was king; but suddenly a dreadful spectacle
disturbed my royalty. I saw an old man in an arm-chair borne along by
several persons. The bearers approached still nearer, when I recognised
my afflicted grandfather. 'O God,' said I, 'what do I see? My old
grandfather surrounded by my family.' In my grief I saw only him. I ran
up to him in tears, threw myself on his neck and kissed him.

"In returning my embrace, he wept. 'O grandfather,' said I, 'where are
you going? Why do you weep? Why are you leaving our home?' 'My child,'
said the old man, 'I am going to the hospital,{2} where all the Jasmins
die.' He again embraced me, closed his eyes, and was carried away. We
followed him for some time under the trees. I abandoned my play, and
returned home full of sorrow."

Grandfather Boe did not survive long in the hospital. He was utterly
worn out. After five days the old man quietly breathed his last. His
wallet was hung upon its usual nail in his former home, but it was never
used again. One of the bread-winners had departed, and the family were
poorer than ever.

"On that Monday," says Jasmin, "I for the first time knew and felt that
we were very poor."

All this is told with marvellous effect in the first part of the
Souvenirs, which ends with a wail and a sob.


Endnotes to Chapter I.

{1} It is stated in the Bibliographie Generale de l'Agenais, that
Palissy was born in the district of Agen, perhaps at La Chapelle Biron,
and that, being a Huguenot, he was imprisoned in the Bastille at Paris,
and died there in 1590, shortly after the massacre of St. Bartholomew.
But Palissy seems to have been born in another town, not far from La
Chapelle Biron. The Times of the 7th July, 1891, contained the following
paragraph:--

"A statue of Bernard Palissy was unveiled yesterday at
Villeneuvesur-Lot, his native town, by M. Bourgeois, Minister of
Education."

{2} L'hopital means an infirmary or almshouse for old and impoverished
people.



CHAPTER II. JASMIN AT SCHOOL.

One joyful day Jasmin's mother came home in an ecstasy of delight,
and cried, "To school, my child, to school!" "To school?" said Jasmin,
greatly amazed. "How is this? Have we grown rich?" "No, my poor boy,
but you will get your schooling for nothing. Your cousin has promised
to educate you; come, come, I am so happy!" It was Sister Boe, the
schoolmistress of Agen, who had offered to teach the boy gratuitously
the elements of reading and writing.

The news of Jacques' proposed scholarship caused no small stir at
home. The mother was almost beside herself with joy. The father too was
equally moved, and shed tears of gratitude. He believed that the boy
might yet be able to help him in writing out, under his dictation, the
Charivari impromptus which, he supposed, were his chief forte. Indeed,
the whole family regarded this great stroke of luck for Jacques in
the light of a special providence, and as the beginning of a brilliant
destiny. The mother, in order to dress him properly, rummaged the house,
and picked out the least mended suit of clothes, in which to array the
young scholar.

When properly clothed, the boy, not without fear on his own part, was
taken by his mother to school.

Behold him, then, placed under the tuition of Sister Boe! There were
some fifty other children at school, mumbling at the letters of the
alphabet, and trying to read their first easy sentences. Jasmin had a
good memory, and soon mastered the difficulties of the A B C. "'Twixt
smiles and tears," he says, "I soon learnt to read, by the help of the
pious Sister."

In six months he was able to enter the Seminary in the Rue Montesquieu
as a free scholar. He now served at Mass. Having a good ear for music,he
became a chorister, and sang the Tantum ergo. He was a diligent boy,
and so far everything prospered well with him. He even received a prize.
True, it was only an old cassock, dry as autumn heather. But, being
trimmed up by his father, it served to hide his ragged clothes beneath.

His mother was very proud of the cassock. "Thank God," she said, "thou
learnest well; and this is the reason why, each Tuesday, a white loaf
comes from the Seminary. It is always welcome, for the sake of the
hungry little ones." "Yes," he replied, "I will try my best to be
learned for your sake." But Jasmin did not long wear the cassock. He was
shortly after turned out of the Seminary, in consequence of a naughty
trick which he played upon a girl of the household.

Jasmin tells the story of his expulsion with great frankness, though
evidently ashamed of the transaction. He was passing through the inner
court one day, during the Shrove Carnival, when, looking up, he caught
sight of a petticoat. He stopped and gazed. A strange tremor crept
through his nerves. What evil spirit possessed him to approach the
owner of the petticoat? He looked up again, and recognised the sweet and
rosy-cheeked Catherine--the housemaid of the Seminary. She was perched
near the top of a slim ladder leaning against the wall, standing
upright, and feeding the feathery-footed pigeons.

A vision flashed through Jasmin's mind--"a life all velvet," as he
expressed it,--and he approached the ladder. He climbed up a few steps,
and what did he see? Two comely ankles and two pretty little feet. His
heart burned within him, and he breathed a loud sigh. The girl heard
the sigh, looked down, and huddled up the ladder, crying piteously. The
ladder was too slim to bear two. It snapped and fell, and they tumbled
down, she above and he below!

The loud screams of the girl brought all the household to the spot--the
Canons, the little Abbe, the cook, the scullion--indeed all the inmates
of the Seminary. Jasmin quaintly remarks, "A girl always likes to have
the sins known that she has caused others to commit." But in this case,
according to Jasmin's own showing, the girl was not to blame. The trick
which he played might be very innocent, but to the assembled household
it seemed very wicked. He must be punished.

First, he had a terrible wigging from the master; and next, he was
sentenced to imprisonment during the rest of the Carnival.

In default of a dungeon, they locked him in a dismal little chamber,
with some bread and water. Next day, Shrove Tuesday, while the Carnival
was afoot, Jasmin felt very angry and very hungry. "Who sleeps eats,"
says the proverb. "But," said Jasmin, "the proverb lies: I did not
sleep, and was consumed by hunger." Then he filled up the measure of his
iniquity by breaking into a cupboard!

It happened that the Convent preserves were kept in the room wherein he
was confined. Their odour attracted him, and he climbed up, by means of
a table and chair, to the closet in which they were stored. He found a
splendid pot of preserves. He opened it; and though he had no spoon,
he used his fingers and soon emptied the pot. What a delicious treat he
enjoyed enough to make him forget the pleasures of the Carnival.

Jasmin was about to replace the empty pot, when he heard the click-clack
of a door behind him. He looked round, and saw the Superior, who had
unlocked the door, and come to restore the boy to liberty. Oh, unhappy
day! When the Abbe found the prisoner stealing his precious preserves,
he became furious. "What! plundering my sweetmeats?" he cried. "Come
down, sirrah, come down! no pardon for you now." He pulled Jasmin from
his chair and table, and the empty jar fell broken at his feet. "Get
out, get out of this house, thou imp of hell!" And taking Jasmin by the
scruff of the neck, he thrust him violently out of the door and into the
street.

But worse was yet to come. When the expelled scholar reached the street,
his face and mouth were smeared with jam. He was like a blackamoor. Some
urchins who encountered him on his homeward route, surmised that his
disguise was intended as a masque for the Carnival. He ran, and they
pursued him. The mob of boys increased, and he ran the faster. At
last he reached his father's door, and rushed in, half dead with pain,
hunger, and thirst. The family were all there--father, mother, and
children.

They were surprised and astonished at his sudden entrance. After kissing
them all round, he proceeded to relate his adventures at the Seminary.
He could not tell them all, but he told enough. His narrative was
received with dead silence. But he was thirsty and hungry. He saw a pot
of kidney-bean porridge hanging over the fire, and said he would like to
allay his hunger by participating in their meal. But alas! The whole of
it had been consumed. The pot was empty, and yet the children were not
satisfied with their dinner. "Now I know," said the mother, "why
no white bread has come from the Seminary." Jasmin was now greatly
distressed. "Accursed sweetmeats," he thought. "Oh! what a wretch I am
to have caused so much misery and distress."

The children had eaten only a few vegetables; and now there was another
mouth to fill. The fire had almost expired for want of fuel. The
children had no bread that day, for the Seminary loaf had not arrived.
What were they now to do? The mother suffered cruel tortures in not
being able to give her children bread, especially on the home-coming of
her favourite scapegrace.

At last, after glancing at her left hand, she rose suddenly. She
exclaimed in a cheerful voice, "Wait patiently until my return." She
put her Sunday kerchief on her head, and departed. In a short time she
returned, to the delight of the children, with a loaf of bread under her
arm. They laughed and sang, and prepared to enjoy their feast, though it
was only of bread. The mother apparently joined in their cheerfulness,
though a sad pain gnawed at her heart. Jasmin saw his mother hide her
hand; but when it was necessary for her to cut the loaf, after making
the cross according to custom, he saw that the ring on her left hand had
disappeared. "Holy Cross," he thought, "it is true that she has sold her
wedding-ring to buy bread for her children."

This was a sad beginning of life for the poor boy. He was now another
burden on the family. Old Boe had gone, and could no longer help him
with his savoury morsels. He was so oppressed with grief, that he could
no longer play with his comrades as before. But Providence again came to
his aid. The good Abbe Miraben heard the story of his expulsion from
the Seminary. Though a boy may be tricky he cannot be perfect, and the
priest had much compassion on him. Knowing Jasmin's abilities, and
the poverty of his parents, the Abbe used his influence to obtain an
admission for him to one of the town's schools, where he was again
enabled to carry on his education.

The good Abbe was helpful to the boy in many ways. One evening, when
Jasmin was on his way to the Augustins to read and recite to the
Sisters, he was waylaid by a troop of his old playfellows. They wished
him to accompany them to the old rendezvous in the square; but he
refused, because he had a previous engagement. The boys then began to
hustle him, and proceeded to tear off his tattered clothes. He could
only bend his head before his assailants, but never said a word.

At length his good friend Miraben came up and rescued him. He drove away
the boys, and said to Jasmin, "Little one, don't breathe a word; your
mother knows nothing. They won't torment you long! Take up thy clothes,"
he said. "Come, poverty is not a crime. Courage! Thou art even rich.
Thou hast an angel on high watching over thee. Console thyself, brave
child, and nothing more will happen to vex thee."

The encouragement of the Abbe proved prophetic. No more troubles of this
kind afflicted the boy.

The aged priest looked after the well-being of himself and family. He
sent them bread from time to time, and kept the wolf from their door.
Meanwhile Jasmin did what he could to help them at home. During the
vintage time he was well employed; and also at fair times. He was a
helpful boy, and was always willing to oblige friends and neighbours.

But the time arrived when he must come to some determination as to his
future calling in life. He was averse to being a tailor, seeing the
sad results of his father's trade at home. After consultation with his
mother, he resolved on becoming a barber and hairdresser. Very little
capital was required for carrying on that trade; only razors, combs, and
scissors.

Long after, when Jasmin was a comparatively thriving man, he said: "Yes,
I have eaten the bread of charity; most of my ancestors died at the
hospital; my mother pledged her nuptial ring to buy a loaf of bread. All
this shows how much misery we had to endure, the frightful picture of
which I have placed in the light of day in my Souvenirs. But I am afraid
of wearying the public, as I do not wish to be accused of aiming too
much at contrasts. For when we are happy, perfectly happy, there is
nothing further from what I am, and what I have been, as to make me fear
for any such misconstruction on the part of my hearers."



CHAPTER III. BARBER AND HAIRDRESSER.

Jasmin was sixteen years old when he was apprenticed to a barber and
hairdresser at Agen. The barber's shop was near the Prefecture--the
ancient palace of the Bishop. It was situated at the corner of Lamoureux
Street and the alley of the Prefecture. There Jasmin learnt the art of
cutting, curling, and dressing hair, and of deftly using the comb and
the razor. The master gave him instructions in the trade, and watched
him while at work. Jasmin was willing and active, and was soon able to
curl and shave with any apprentice in Agen.

After the day's work was over, the apprentice retired to his garret
under the tiles. There he spent his evenings, and there he slept at
night. Though the garret was infested by rats, he thought nothing of
them; he had known them familiarly at home.

They did him no harm, and they even learnt to know him. His garret
became his paradise, for there he renewed his love of reading. The
solitariness of his life did him good, by throwing his mind in upon
himself, and showing the mental stuff of which he was made. All the
greatest and weightiest things have been done in solitude.

The first books he read were for the most part borrowed. Customers
who came to the shop to be shaved or have their hair dressed, took an
interest in the conversation of the bright, cheerful, dark-eyed lad, and
some of them lent him books to read. What joy possessed him when he took
refuge in his garret with a new book! Opening the book was like
opening the door of a new world. What enchantment! What mystery! What a
wonderful universe about us!

In reading a new book Jasmin forgot his impoverished boyhood, his
grandfather Boe and his death in the hospital, his expulsion from the
Seminary, and his mother's sale of her wedding-ring to buy bread for
her children. He had now left the past behind, and a new world lay
entrancingly before him. He read, and thought, and dreamed, until far on
in the morning.

The first books he read were of comparatively little importance, though
they furnished an opening into literature. 'The Children's Magazine'{1}
held him in raptures for a time. Some of his friendly customers lent him
the 'Fables of Florian,' and afterwards Florian's pastoral romance of
'Estelle'--perhaps his best work. The singer of the Gardon entirely
bewitched Jasmin. 'Estelle' allured him into the rosy-fingered regions
of bliss and happiness. Then Jasmin himself began to rhyme. Florian's
works encouraged him to write his first verses in the harmonious Gascon
patois, to which he afterwards gave such wonderful brilliancy.

In his after life Jasmin was often asked how and when he first began to
feel himself a poet. Some think that the poetical gift begins at some
fixed hour, just as one becomes a barrister, a doctor, or a professor.
But Jasmin could not give an answer.

"I have often searched into my past life," he said, "but I have never
yet found the day when I began my career of rhyming."{2}

There are certain gifts which men can never acquire by will and work, if
God has not put the seed of them into their souls at birth; and poetry
is one of those gifts.

When such a seed has been planted, its divine origin is shown by
its power of growth and expansion; and in a noble soul, apparently
insurmountable difficulties and obstacles cannot arrest its development.
The life and career of Jasmin amply illustrates this truth. Here was a
young man born in the depths of poverty. In his early life he suffered
the most cruel needs of existence. When he became a barber's apprentice,
he touched the lowest rung of the ladder of reputation; but he had at
least learned the beginnings of knowledge.

He knew how to read, and when we know the twenty-four letters of the
alphabet, we may learn almost everything that we wish to know. From that
slight beginning most men may raise themselves to the heights of
moral and intellectual worth by a persevering will and the faithful
performance of duty.

At the same time it must be confessed that it is altogether different
with poetical genius. It is not possible to tell what unforeseen and
forgotten circumstances may have given the initial impulse to a poetic
nature. It is not the result of any fortuitous impression, and still
less of any act of the will.

It is possible that Jasmin may have obtained his first insight into
poetic art during his solitary evening walks along the banks of the
Garonne, or from the nightingales singing overhead, or from his chanting
in the choir when a child. Perhaps the 'Fables of Florian' kindled the
poetic fire within him; at all events they may have acted as the first
stimulus to his art of rhyming. They opened his mind to the love
of nature, to the pleasures of country life, and the joys of social
intercourse.

There is nothing in the occupation of a barber incompatible with the
cultivation of poetry. Folez, the old German poet, was a barber, as well
as the still more celebrated Burchiello, of Florence, whose sonnets
are still admired because of the purity of their style. Our own Allan
Ramsay, author of 'The Gentle Shepherd,' spent some of his early years
in the same occupation.

In southern and Oriental life the barber plays an important part. In the
Arabian tales he is generally a shrewd, meddling, inquisitive fellow. In
Spain and Italy the barber is often the one brilliant man in his town;
his shop is the place where gossip circulates, and where many a pretty
intrigue is contrived.

Men of culture are often the friends of barbers. Buffon trusted to
his barber for all the news of Montbard. Moliere spent many long and
pleasant hours with the barber of Pezenas. Figaro, the famous barber of
Seville, was one of the most perfect prototypes of his trade. Jasmin was
of the same calling as Gil Bias, inspired with the same spirit, and full
of the same talent. He was a Frenchman of the South, of the same race as
Villon and Marot.

Even in the prim and formal society of the eighteenth century, the
barber occupied no unimportant part. He and the sculptor, of all
working men, were allowed to wear the sword--that distinctive badge
of gentility. In short, the barber was regarded as an artist. Besides,
barbers were in ancient times surgeons; they were the only persons who
could scientifically "let blood." The Barber-Surgeons of London still
represent the class. They possess a cup presented to the Guild by
Charles II., in commemoration of his escape while taking refuge in the
oak-tree at Boscobel.{3}

But to return to the adventures of Jasmin's early life. He describes
with great zest his first visit to a theatre. It was situated near at
hand, by the ancient palace of the Bishop. After his day's work was
over--his shaving, curling, and hairdressing--he went across the square,
and pressed in with the rest of the crowd. He took his seat.

"'Heavens!' said he, 'where am I?' The curtain rises! 'Oh, this is
lovely! It is a new world; how beautifully they sing; and how sweetly
and tenderly they speak!' I had eyes for nothing else: I was quite
beside myself with joy. 'It is Cinderella,' I cried aloud in my
excitement. 'Be quiet,' said my neighbour. 'Oh, sir! why quiet? Where
are we? What is this?' 'You gaping idiot,' he replied, 'this is the
Comedy!'

"Jasmin now remained quiet; but he saw and heard with all his eyes and
ears. 'What love! what poetry!' he thought: 'it is more than a dream!
It's magic. O Cinderella, Cinderella! thou art my guardian angel!'
And from this time, from day to day, I thought of being an actor!"

Jasmin entered his garret late at night; and he slept so soundly, that
next morning his master went up to rouse him. "Where were you last
night? Answer, knave; you were not back till midnight?" "I was at the
Comedy," answered Jasmin sleepily; "it was so beautiful!" "You have been
there then, and lost your head. During the day you make such an uproar,
singing and declaiming. You, who have worn the cassock, should blush.
But I give you up; you will come to no good. Change, indeed! You will
give up the comb and razor, and become an actor! Unfortunate boy, you
must be blind. Do you want to die in the hospital?"

"This terrible word," says Jasmin, "fell like lead upon my heart, and
threw me into consternation. Cinderella was forthwith dethroned in my
foolish mind; and my master's threat completely calmed me. I went on
faithfully with my work. I curled, and plaited hair in my little room.
As the saying goes, S'il ne pleut, il bruine (If it does not rain, it
drizzles). When I suffered least, time passed all the quicker. It was
then that, dreaming and happy, I found two lives within me--one in my
daily work, another in my garret. I was like a bird; I warbled and sang.
What happiness I enjoyed in my little bed under the tiles! I listened
to the warbling of birds. Lo! the angel came, and in her sweetest voice
sang to me. Then I tried to make verses in the language of the shepherd
swain. Bright thoughts came to me; great secrets were discovered. What
hours! What lessons! What pleasures I found under the tiles!"

During the winter evenings, when night comes on quickly, Jasmin's small
savings went to the oil merchant. He trimmed his little lamp, and went
on till late, reading and rhyming. His poetical efforts, first written
in French, were to a certain extent successful. While shaving his
customers, he often recited to them his verses. They were amazed at
the boy's cleverness, and expressed their delight. He had already
a remarkable talent for recitation; and in course of time he became
eloquent. It was some time, however, before his powers became generally
known. The ladies whose hair he dressed, sometimes complained that their
curl papers were scrawled over with writing, and, when opened out, they
were found covered with verses.

The men whom he shaved spread his praises abroad. In so small a town
a reputation for verse-making soon becomes known. "You can see me," he
said to a customer, "with a comb in my hand, and a verse in my head. I
give you always a gentle hand with my razor of velvet. My mouth recites
while my hand works."

When Jasmin desired to display his oratorical powers, he went in the
evenings to the quarter of the Augustins, where the spinning-women
assembled, surrounded by their boys and girls. There he related to them
his pleasant narratives, and recited his numerous verses.

Indeed, he even began to be patronized. His master addressed him as
"Moussu,"--the master who had threatened him with ending his days in the
hospital!

Thus far, everything had gone well with him. What with shaving,
hairdressing, and rhyming, two years soon passed away. Jasmin was
now eighteen, and proposed to start business on his own account.
This required very little capital; and he had already secured many
acquaintances who offered to patronize him. M. Boyer d'Agen, who has
recently published the works of Jasmin, with a short preface and a
bibliography,{4} says that he first began business as a hairdresser in
the Cour Saint-Antoine, now the Cour Voltaire. When the author of this
memoir was at Agen in the autumn of 1888, the proprietor of the Hotel du
Petit St. Jean informed him that a little apartment had been placed
at Jasmin's disposal, separated from the Hotel by the entrance to the
courtyard, and that Jasmin had for a time carried on his business there.

But desiring to have a tenement of his own, he shortly after took a
small house alongside the Promenade du Gravier; and he removed and
carried on his trade there for about forty years. The little shop is
still in existence, with Jasmin's signboard over the entrance door:
"Jasmin, coiffeur des Jeunes Gens," with the barber's sud-dish
hanging from a pendant in front. The shop is very small, with a little
sitting-room behind, and several bedrooms above. When I entered the
shop during my visit to Agen, I found a customer sitting before a
looking-glass, wrapped in a sheet, the lower part of his face covered
with lather, and a young fellow shaving his beard.

Jasmin's little saloon was not merely a shaving and a curling shop.
Eventually it became known as the sanctuary of the Muses. It was
visited by some of the most distinguished people in France, and became
celebrated throughout Europe. But this part of the work is reserved for
future chapters.


Endnotes to Chapter III.

{1} Magasin des Enfants.

{2} Mes Nouveaux Souvenirs.

{3} In England, some barbers, and barber's sons, have eventually
occupied the highest positions. Arkwright, the founder of the cotton
manufacture, was originally a barber. Tenterden, Lord Chief Justice,
was a barber's son, intended for a chorister in Canterbury Cathedral.
Sugden, afterwards Lord Chancellor, was opposed by a noble lord while
engaged in a parliamentary contest. Replying to the allegation that he
was only the son of a country barber, Sugden said: "His Lordship has
told you that I am nothing but the son of a country barber; but he has
not told you all, for I have been a barber myself, and worked in my
father's shop,--and all I wish to say about that is, that had his
Lordship been born the son of a country barber, he would have been a
barber still!"

{4} OEUVRES COMPLETES DE JACQUES JASMIN: Preface de l'Edition,, Essai
d'orthographe gasconne d'apres les langues Romane et d'Oc, et collation
de la traduction litterale. Par Boyer d'Agen. 1889. Quatre volumes.



CHAPTER IV. JASMIN AND MARIETTE.

Jasmin was now a bright, vivid, and handsome fellow, a favourite with
men, women, and children. Of course, an attractive young man, with a
pleasant, comfortable home, could not long remain single. At length love
came to beautify his existence. "It was for her sake," he says, "that I
first tried to make verses in the sweet patois which she spoke so well;
verses in which I asked her, in rather lofty phrases, to be my guardian
angel for life."

Mariette{1} was a pretty dark-eyed girl. She was an old companion of
Jasmin's, and as they began to know each other better, the acquaintance
gradually grew into affection, and finally into mutual love. She was of
his own class of life, poor and hardworking. After the day's work was
over, they had many a pleasant walk together on the summer evenings,
along the banks of the Garonne, or up the ascending road toward the
Hermitage and the rocky heights above the town. There they pledged their
vows; like a poet, he promised to love her for ever. She believed him,
and loved him in return. The rest may be left to the imagination.

Jasmin still went on dreaming and rhyming! Mariette was a lovely subject
for his rhymes. He read his verses to her; and she could not but be
pleased with his devotion, even though recited in verse. He scribbled
his rhymes upon his curl-papers; and when he had read them to his
sweetheart, he used them to curl the hair of his fair customers. When
too much soiled by being written on both sides, he tore them up; for as
yet, he had not the slightest idea of publishing his verses.

When the minds of the young pair were finally made up, their further
courtship did not last very long. They were willing to be united.

 "Happy's the wooing that's not long a-doing."

The wedding-day at length arrived! Jasmin does not describe his bride's
dress. But he describes his own. "I might give you," he says in his
Souvenirs, "a picture of our happy nuptial day. I might tell you at
length of my newly dyed hat, my dress coat with blue facings, and my
home-spun linen shirt with calico front. But I forbear all details. My
godfather and godmother were at the wedding. You will see that the purse
did not always respond to the wishes of the heart."

It is true that Jasmin's wedding-garment was not very sumptuous, nor was
his bride's; but they did the best that they could, and looked forward
with hope. Jasmin took his wife home to the pleasant house on the
Gravier; and joy and happiness sat down with them at their own fireside.
There was no Charivari, because their marriage was suitable. Both had
been poor, and the wife was ready and willing to share the lot of
her young husband, whether in joy or sorrow. Their home was small and
cosy--very different from the rat-haunted house of his lame mother and
humpbacked father.

Customers came, but not very quickly. The barber's shop was somewhat
removed from the more populous parts of the town. But when the customers
did come, Jasmin treated them playfully and humorously. He was as lively
as any Figaro; and he became such a favourite, that when his customers
were shaved or had their hair dressed, they invariably returned, as well
as recommended others to patronize the new coiffeur.

His little shop, which was at first nearly empty, soon became fuller
and fuller of customers. People took pleasure in coming to the
hair-dresser's shop, and hearing him recite his verses. He sang, he
declaimed, while plying his razor or his scissors. But the chins and
tresses of his sitters were in no danger from his skipping about, for he
deftly used his hands as well as his head. His razor glistened lightly
over the stubbly beards, and his scissors clipped neatly over the locks
of his customers.

Except when so engaged, he went on rhyming. In a little town, gossip
flies about quickly, and even gets into the local papers.

One day Jasmin read in one of the Agen journals, "Pegasus is a beast
that often carries poets to the hospital." Were the words intended for
him? He roared with laughter. Some gossip had bewitched the editor.
Perhaps he was no poet. His rhymes would certainly never carry him to
the hospital. Jasmin's business was becoming a little more lucrative..
It is true his house was not yet fully furnished, but day by day he was
adding to the plenishing. At all events his humble home protected him
and his wife from wind and weather.

On one occasion M. Gontaud, an amiable young poet, in a chaffing way,
addressed Jasmin as "Apollo!" in former times regarded as the god of
poetry and music. The epistle appeared in a local journal. Jasmin read
it aloud to his family. Gontaud alleged in his poem that Apollo had met
Jasmin's mother on the banks of the Garonne, and fell in love with her;
and that Jasmin, because of the merits of his poetry, was their son.

Up flamed the old pair! "What, Catherine?" cried the old man, "is
it true that you have been a coquette? How! have I been only the
foster-father of thy little poet?" "No! No!" replied the enraged mother;
"he is all thine own! Console thyself, poor John; thou alone hast been
my mate. And who is this 'Pollo, the humbug who has deceived thee so?
Yes, I am lame, but when I was washing my linen, if any coxcomb had
approached me, I would have hit him on the mouth with a stroke of my
mallet!" "Mother," exclaimed the daughter, "'Pollo is only a fool, not
worth talking about; where does he live, Jacques?" Jasmin relished the
chaff, and explained that he only lived in the old mythology, and had
no part in human affairs. And thus was Apollo, the ancient god of poetry
and music, sent about his business.

Years passed on, the married pair settled down quietly, and their life
of happiness went on pleasantly. The honeymoon had long since passed.
Jasmin had married at twenty, and Mariette was a year younger.

When a couple live together for a time, they begin to detect some little
differences of opinion. It is well if they do not allow those little
differences to end in a quarrel. This is always a sad beginning of a
married life.

There was one thing about her husband that Mariette did not like. That
was his verse-making. It was all very well in courtship, but was it
worth while in business? She saw him scribbling upon curl-papers instead
of attending to his periwigs. She sometimes interrupted him while he was
writing; and on one occasion, while Jasmin was absent on business, she
went so far as to burn his pens and throw his ink into the fire!

Jasmin was a good-natured man, but he did not like this treatment. It
was not likely to end in a quiet domestic life. He expostulated, but it
was of little use. He would not give up his hobby. He went on rhyming,
and in order to write down his verses he bought new pens and a new
bottle of ink. Perhaps he felt the germs of poetic thought moving within
him. His wife resented his conduct. Why could he not attend to the
shaving and hair-dressing, which brought in money, instead of wasting
his time in scribbling verses on his curl-papers?

M. Charles Nodier, member of the French Academy, paid a visit to Agen
in 1832. Jasmin was then thirty-four years old. He had been married
fourteen years, but his name was quite unknown, save to the people
of Agen. It was well known in the town that he had a talent for
versification, for he was accustomed to recite and chaunt his verses to
his customers.

One quiet morning M. Nodier was taking a leisurely walk along the
promenade of the Gravier, when he was attracted by a loud altercation
going on between a man and a woman in the barber's shop. The woman was
declaiming with the fury of a Xantippe, while the man was answering her
with Homeric laughter. Nodier entered the shop, and found himself in the
presence of Jasmin and his wife. He politely bowed to the pair, and said
that he had taken the liberty of entering to see whether he could not
establish some domestic concord between them.

"Is that all you came for?" asked the wife, at the same time somewhat
calmed by the entrance of a stranger. Jasmin interposed--

"Yes, my dear--certainly; but---" "Your wife is right, sir," said
Nodier, thinking that the quarrel was about some debts he had incurred.

"Truly, sir," rejoined Jasmin; "if you were a lover of poetry, you would
not find it so easy to renounce it."

"Poetry?" said Nodier; "I know a little about that myself."

"What!" replied Jasmin, "so much the better. You will be able to help me
out of my difficulties."

"You must not expect any help from me, for I presume you are oppressed
with debts."

"Ha, ha!" cried Jasmin, "it isn't debts, it's verses, Sir."

"Yes, indeed," said the wife, "it's verses, always verses! Isn't it
horrible?"

"Will you let me see what you have written?" asked Nodier, turning to
Jasmin.

"By all means, sir. Here is a specimen." The verses began:

 "Femme ou demon, ange ou sylphide,
 Oh! par pitie, fuis, laisse-moi!
 Doux miel d'amour n'est que poison perfide,
 Mon coeur a trop souffert, il dort, eloigne-toi.

 "Je te l'ai dit, mon coeur sommeille;
 Laisse-le, de ses maux a peine il est gueri,
 Et j'ai peur que ta voix si douce a mon oreille
 Par un chant d'amour ne l'eveille,
 Lui, que l'amour a taut meurtri!"

This was only about a fourth part of the verses which Jasmin had
composed.{2} Nodier confessed that he was greatly pleased with them.
Turning round to the wife he said, "Madame, poetry knocks at your
door; open it. That which inspires it is usually a noble heart and a
distinguished spirit, incapable of mean actions. Let your husband make
his verses; it may bring you good luck and happiness."

Then, turning to the poet, and holding out his hand, he asked, "What is
your name, my friend?"

"Jacques Jasmin," he timidly replied. "A good name," said Nodier. "At
the same time, while you give fair play to your genius, don't give
up the manufacture of periwigs, for this is an honest trade, while
verse-making might prove only a frivolous distraction."

Nodier then took his leave, but from that time forward Jasmin and he
continued the best of friends. A few years later, when the first volume
of the Papillotos appeared, Nodier published his account of the above
interview in Le Temps. He afterwards announced in the Quotidienne the
outburst of a new poet on the banks of the Garonne--a poet full of
piquant charm, of inspired harmony--a Lamartine, a Victor Hugo, a Gascon
Beranger!

After Nodier's departure, Madame Jasmin took a more favourable view of
the versification of her husband. She no longer chided him. The shop
became more crowded with customers. Ladies came to have their hair
dressed by the poet: it was so original! He delighted them with singing
or chanting his verses. He had a sympathetic, perhaps a mesmeric voice,
which touched the souls of his hearers, and threw them into the sweetest
of dreams.

Besides attending to his shop, he was accustomed to go out in the
afternoons to dress the hair of four or five ladies. This occupied him
for about two hours, and when he found the ladies at home, he returned
with four or five francs in his purse. But often they were not at home,
and he came home francless. Eventually he gave up this part of
his trade. The receipts at the shop were more remunerative. Madame
encouraged this economical eform; she was accustomed to call it Jasmin's
coup d'etat.

The evenings passed pleasantly. Jasmin took his guitar and sang to his
wife and children; or, in the summer evenings they would walk under
the beautiful elms in front of the Gravier, where Jasmin was ready for
business at any moment. Such prudence, such iligence, could not but have
its effect. When Jasmin's first volume of the Papillotos was published,
it was received with enthusiasm.

"The songs, the curl-papers," said Jasmin, "brought in such a rivulet
of silver, that, in my poetic joy, I broke into morsels and burnt in the
fire that dreaded arm-chair in which my ancestors had been carried to
the hospital to die."

Madame Jasmin now became quite enthusiastic. Instead of breaking the
poet's pens and throwing his ink into the fire, she bought the best
pens and the best ink. She even supplied him with a comfortable desk,
on which he might write his verses. "Courage, courage!" she would say.
"Each verse that you write is another tile to the roof and a rafter to
the dwelling; therefore make verses, make verses!"

The rivulet of silver increased so rapidly, that in the course of a
short time Jasmin was enabled to buy the house in which he lived--tiles,
rafters, and all. Instead of Pegasus carrying him to the hospital, it
carried him to the office of the Notary, who enrolled him in the list of
collectors of taxes. He was now a man of substance, a man to be trusted.
The notary was also employed to convey the tenement to the prosperous
Jasmin. He ends the first part of his Souvenirs with these words:

 "When Pegasus kicks with a fling of his feet,
 He sends me to curl on my hobby horse fleet;
 I lose all my time, true, not paper nor notes,
 I write all my verse on my papillotes."{3}


Endnotes to chapter IV.

{1} In Gascon Magnounet; her pet name Marie, or in French Mariette.
Madame Jasmin called herself Marie Barrere.

{2} The remaining verses are to be found in the collected edition of
his works--the fourth volume of Las Papillotos, new edition, pp. 247-9,
entitled A une jeune Voyayeuse.

{3} Papillotes, as we have said, are curl-papers. Jasmin's words, in
Gascon, are these:

 "Quand Pegazo reguiuno, et que d'un cot de pe
 Memboyo friza mas marotos,
 Perdi moun ten, es bray, mais noun pas moun pape,
 Boti mous beis en papillotos!"



CHAPTER V. JASMIN AND GASCON.--FIRST VOLUME OF "PAPILLOTES."

Jasmin's first efforts at verse-making were necessarily imperfect. He
tried to imitate the works of others, rather than create poetical images
of his own. His verses consisted mostly of imitations of the French
poems which he had read. He was overshadowed by the works of Boileau,
Gresset, Rousseau, and especially by Beranger, who, like himself, was
the son of a tailor.

The recollections of their poetry pervaded all his earlier verses. His
efforts in classical French were by no means successful. It was only
when he had raised himself above the influence of authors who had
preceded him, that he soared into originality, and was proclaimed the
Poet of the South.

Jasmin did not at first write in Gascon. In fact, he had not yet
mastered a perfect knowledge of this dialect. Though familiarly used in
ancient times, it did not exist in any written form. It was the speech
of the common people; and though the Gascons spoke the idiom, it had
lost much of its originality. It had become mixed, more or less, with
the ordinary French language, and the old Gascon words were becoming
gradually forgotten.

Yet the common people, after all, remain the depositories of old idioms
and old traditions, as well as of the inheritances of the past. They are
the most conservative element in society. They love their old speech,
their old dress, their old manners and customs, and have an instinctive
worship of ancient memories.

Their old idioms are long preserved. Their old dialect continues the
language of the fireside, of daily toil, of daily needs, and of domestic
joys and sorrows. It hovers in the air about them, and has been sucked
in with their mothers' milk. Yet, when a primitive race such as the
Gascons mix much with the people of the adjoining departments, the local
dialect gradually dies out, and they learn to speak the language of
their neighbours.

The Gascon was disappearing as a speech, and very few of its written
elements survived. Was it possible for Jasmin to revive the dialect,
and embody it in a written language? He knew much of the patois, from
hearing it spoken at home. But now, desiring to know it more thoroughly,
he set to work and studied it. He was almost as assiduous as Sir Walter
Scott in learning obscure Lowland words, while writing the Waverley
Novels. Jasmin went into the market-places, where the peasants from the
country sold their produce; and there he picked up many new words and
expressions. He made excursions into the country round Agen, where many
of the old farmers and labourers spoke nothing but Gascon. He conversed
with illiterate people, and especially with old women at their
spinning-wheels, and eagerly listened to their ancient tales and
legends.

He thus gathered together many a golden relic, which he afterwards made
use of in his poetical works. He studied Gascon like a pioneer. He made
his own lexicon, and eventually formed a written dialect, which he wove
into poems, to the delight of the people in the South of France. For the
Gascon dialect--such is its richness and beauty--expresses many shades
of meaning which are entirely lost in the modern French.

When Jasmin first read his poems in Gascon to his townspeople at Agen,
he usually introduced his readings by describing the difficulties he
had encountered in prosecuting his enquiries. His hearers, who knew more
French than Gascon, detected in his poems many comparatively unknown
words,--not indeed of his own creation, but merely the result of his
patient and long-continued investigation of the Gascon dialect. Yet they
found the language, as written and spoken by him, full of harmony--rich,
mellifluous, and sonorous. Gascon resembles the Spanish, to which it
is strongly allied, more than the Provencal, the language of the
Troubadours, which is more allied to the Latin or Italian.

Hallam, in his 'History of the Middle Ages,' regards the sudden outburst
of Troubadour poetry as one symptom of the rapid impulse which the human
mind received in the twelfth century, contemporaneous with the improved
studies that began at the Universities. It was also encouraged by the
prosperity of Southern France, which was comparatively undisturbed by
internal warfare, and it continued until the tremendous storm that fell
upon Languedoc during the crusade against the Albigenses, which shook
off the flowers of Provencal literature.{1}

The language of the South-West of France, including the Gascon, was then
called Langue d'Oc; while that of the south-east of France, including
the Provencal, was called Langue d'Oil. M. Littre, in the Preface to his
Dictionary of the French language, says that he was induced to begin the
study of the subject by his desire to know something more of the Langue
d'Oil--the old French language.{2}

In speaking of the languages of Western Europe, M. Littre says that the
German is the oldest, beginning in the fourth century; that the French
is the next, beginning in the ninth century; and that the English is
the last, beginning in the fourteenth century. It must be remembered,
however, that Plat Deutsch preceded the German, and was spoken by the
Frisians, Angles, and Saxons, who lived by the shores of the North Sea.

The Gaelic or Celtic, and Kymriac languages, were spoken in the middle
and north-west of France; but these, except in Brittany, have been
superseded by the modern French language, which is founded mainly on
Latin, German, and Celtic, but mostly on Latin. The English language
consists mostly of Saxon, Norse, and Norman-French with a mixture of
Welsh or Ancient British. That language is, however, no test of the
genealogy of a people, is illustrated by the history of France itself.
In the fourth and fifth centuries, the Franks, a powerful German race,
from the banks of the Rhine, invaded and conquered the people north of
the Somme, and eventually gave the name of France to the entire country.
The Burgundians and Visigoths, also a German race, invaded France, and
settled themselves in the south-east. In the year 464, Childeric the
Frank took Paris.

The whole history of the occupation of France is told by Augustin
Thierry, in his 'Narratives of the Merovingian Times.' "There are
Franks," he says in his Preface, "who remained pure Germans in Gaul;
Gallo-Romans, irritated and disgusted by the barbarian rule; Franks more
or less influenced by the manners and customs of civilised life; and
'Romans more or less barbarian in mind and manners.' The contrast may
be followed in all its shades through the sixth century, and into the
middle of the seventh; later, the Germanic and Gallo-Roman stamp seemed
effaced and lost in a semi-barbarism clothed in theocratic forms."

The Franks, when they had completed the conquest of the entire country,
gave it the name of Franken-ric--the Franks' kingdom. Eventually,
Charles the Great, or Charlemagne, descended from Childeric the Frank,
was in 800 crowned Emperor of the West. Towards the end of his reign,
the Norsemen began to devastate the northern coast of Franken-ric.
Aix-la-Chapelle was Charlemagne's capital, and there he died and was
buried. At his death, the Empire was divided among his sons. The Norse
Vikingers continued their invasions; and to purchase repose, Charles the
Simple ceded to Duke Rollo a large territory in the northwest of France,
which in deference to their origin, was known by the name of Normandy.

There Norman-French was for a long time spoken. Though the Franks had
supplanted the Romans, the Roman language continued to be spoken. In 996
Paris was made the capital of France; and from that time, the language
of Paris became, with various modifications, the language of France; and
not only of France, but the Roman or Latin tongue became the foundation
of the languages of Italy, Spain, and Portugal.

Thus, Gaulish, Frankish, and Norman disappeared to give place to the
Latin-French. The Kymriac language was preserved only in Brittany, where
it still lingers. And in the south-west of France, where the population
was furthest removed from the invasions of the Gauls, Ostrogoths,
and Visigoths, the Basques continued to preserve their language,--the
Basques, who are supposed by Canon Isaac Taylor to be the direct
descendants of the Etruscans.

The descendants of the Gauls, however, constitute the mass of the people
in Central France. The Gauls, or Galatians, are supposed to have come
from the central district of Asia Minor. They were always a warlike
people. In their wanderings westward, they passed through the north
of Italy and entered France, where they settled in large numbers. Dr.
Smith, in his Dictionary of the Bible, says that "Galatai is the same
word as Keltici," which indicates that the Gauls were Kelts. It is
supposed that St. Paul wrote his Epistle to the Galatians soon after his
visit to the country of their origin. "Its abruptness and severity, and
the sadness of its tone, are caused by their sudden perversion from the
doctrine which the Apostle had taught them, and which at first they had
received so willingly. It is no fancy, if we see in this fickleness a
specimen of that 'esprit impretueux, ouvert a toutes les impressions,'
and that 'mobilite extreme,' which Thierry marks as characteristic of
the Gaulish race." At all events, the language of the Gauls disappeared
in Central France to make way for the language or the Capital--the
modern French, founded on the Latin. The Gaulish race, nevertheless,
preserved their characteristics--quickness, lightness, mobility, and
elasticity--qualities which enabled them quickly to conceive new ideas,
and at the same time to quickly abandon them. The Franks had given
the country the name it now bears--that of France. But they were long
regarded as enemies by the Central and Southern Gauls. In Gascony, the
foreigner was called Low Franciman, and was regarded with suspicion and
dislike.

"This term of Franciman," says Miss Costello, who travelled through the
country and studied the subject, "evidently belongs to a period of the
English occupation of Aquitaine, when a Frenchman was another word for
an enemy."{3} But the word has probably a more remote origin. When the
Franks, of German origin, burst into Gaul, and settled in the country
north of the Loire, and afterwards carried their conquests to the
Pyrenees, the Franks were regarded as enemies in the south of France.

"Then all the countries," says Thierry, "united by force to the empire
of the Franks, and over which in consequence of this union, the name of
France had extended itself, made unheard-of efforts to reconquer their
ancient names and places. Of all the Gallic provinces, none but the
southern ones succeeded in this great enterprise; and after the wars of
insurrection, which, under the sons of Charlemagne, succeeded the wars
of conquest, Aquitaine and Provence became distinct states. Among the
South Eastern provinces reappeared even the ancient name of Gaul, which
had for ever perished north of the Loire. The chiefs of the new Kingdom
of Aries, which extended from the Jura to the Alps, took the title of
Gaul in opposition to the Kings of France."{4}

It is probable that this was the cause of the name of "Franciman" being
regarded as an hereditary term of reproach in the Gaulish country south
of the Loire. Gascon and Provencal were the principal dialects which
remained in the South, though Littre classes them together as the
language of the Troubadours.

They were both well understood in the South; and Jasmin's recitations
were received with as much enthusiasm at Nimes, Aries, and Marseilles,
as at Toulouse, Agen, and Bordeaux.

Mezzofanti, a very Tower of Babel in dialects and languages, said of
the Provencal, that it was the only patois of the Middle Ages, with its
numerous derivations from the Greek, the Arabic, and the Latin, which
has survived the various revolutions of language. The others have been
altered and modified. They have suffered from the caprices of victory or
of fortune. Of all the dialects of the Roman tongue, this patois
alone preserves its purity and life. It still remains the sonorous and
harmonious language of the Troubadours. The patois has the suppleness
of the Italian, the sombre majesty of the Spanish, the energy and
preciseness of the Latin, with the "Molle atque facetum, le dolce
de, l'Ionic;" which still lives among the Phoceens of Marseilles. The
imagination and genius of Gascony have preserved the copious richness of
the language.

M. de Lavergne, in his notice of Jasmin's works, frankly admits the
local jealousy which existed between the Troubadours of Gascony and
Provence. There seemed, he said, to be nothing disingenuous in the
silence of the Provencals as to Jasmin's poems. They did not allow that
he borrowed from them, any more than that they borrowed from him. These
men of Southern France are born in the land of poetry. It breathes in
their native air. It echoes round them in its varied measures. Nay, the
rhymes which are its distinguishing features, pervade their daily talk.

The seeds lie dormant in their native soil, and when trodden under foot,
they burst through the ground and evolve their odour in the open air.
Gascon and Provencal alike preserve the same relation to the classic
romance--that lovely but short-lived eldest daughter of the Latin--the
language of the Troubadours.

We have said that the Gascon dialect was gradually expiring when Jasmin
undertook its revival. His success in recovering and restoring it,
and presenting it in a written form, was the result of laborious
investigation. He did not at first realize the perfect comprehension of
the idiom, but he eventually succeeded by patient perseverance, When
we read his poems, we are enabled to follow, step by step, his
lexicological progress.

At first, he clung to the measures most approved in French poetry,
especially to Alexandrines and Iambic tetrameters, and to their
irregular association in a sort of ballad metre, which in England has
been best handled by Robert Browning in his fine ballad of 'Harve;
Riel.'

Jasmin's first rhymes were written upon curl papers, and then used on
the heads of his lady customers. When the spirit of original poetry
within him awoke, his style changed. Genius brought sweet music from his
heart and mind. Imagination spiritualised his nature, lifted his soul
above the cares of ordinary life, and awakened the consciousness of his
affinity with what is pure and noble. Jasmin sang as a bird sings; at
first in weak notes, then in louder, until at length his voice filled
the skies. Near the end of his life he was styled the Saint Vincent de
Paul of poetry.

Jasmin might be classed among the Uneducated Poets. But what poet is not
uneducated at the beginning of his career? The essential education of
the poet is not taught in the schools.

The lowly man, against whom the asperities of his lot have closed the
doors of worldly academies, may nevertheless have some special vocation
for the poetic life. Academies cannot shut him out from the odour of the
violet or the song of the nightingale. He hears the lark's song filling
the heavens, as the happy bird fans the milk-white cloud with its wings.
He listens to the purling of the brook, the bleating of the lamb, the
song of the milkmaid, and the joyous cry of the reaper. Thus his mind
is daily fed with the choicest influences of nature. He cannot but
appreciate the joy, the glory, the unconscious delight of living. "The
beautiful is master of a star." This feeling of beauty is the nurse of
civilisation and true refinement. Have we not our Burns, who

 "in glory and in joy
 Followed his plough along the mountain side;"

Clare, the peasant boy; Bloomfield, the farmer's lad; Tannahill, the
weaver; Allan Ramsay, the peruke-maker; Cooper, the shoemaker; and
Critchley Prince, the factory-worker; but greater than these was
Shakespeare,--though all were of humble origin.

France too has had its uneducated poets. Though the ancient song-writers
of France were noble; Henry IV., author of Charmante Gabrielle;
Thibault, Count of Champagne; Lusignan, Count de la Marche; Raval,
Blondel, and Basselin de la Vive, whose songs were as joyous as the
juice of his grapes; yet some of the best French poets of modem times
have been of humble origin--Marmontel, Moliere, Rousseau, and Beranger.
There were also Reboul, the baker; Hibley, the working-tailor; Gonzetta,
the shoemaker; Durand, the joiner; Marchand, the lacemaker; Voileau, the
sail-maker;

Magu, the weaver; Poucy, the mason; Germiny, the cooper;{5} and finally,
Jasmin the barber and hair dresser, who was not the least of the
Uneducated Poets.

The first poem which Jasmin composed in the Gascon dialect was written
in 1822, when he was only twenty-four years old. It was entitled La
fidelitat Agenoso, which he subsequently altered to Me cal Mouri (Il me
fait mourir), or "Let me die." It is a languishing romantic poem, after
the manner of Florian, Jasmin's first master in poetry. It was printed
at Agen in a quarto form, and sold for a franc. Jasmin did not attach
his name to the poem, but only his initials.

Sainte-Beuve, in his notice of the poem, says, "It is a pretty,
sentimental romance, showing that Jasmin possessed the brightness and
sensibility of the Troubadours. As one may say, he had not yet quitted
the guitar for the flageolet; and Marot, who spoke of his flageolet,
had not, in the midst of his playful spirit, those tender accents which
contrasted so well with his previous compositions. And did not Henry
IV., in the midst of his Gascon gaieties and sallies, compose his sweet
song of Charmante Gabrielle? Jasmin indeed is the poet who is nearest
the region of Henry IV."{6} Me cal Mouri was set to music by Fourgons,
and obtained great popularity in the south. It was known by heart, and
sung everywhere; in Agen, Toulouse, and throughout Provence. It was not
until the publication of the first volume of his poems that it was known
to be the work of Jasmin.

Miss Louisa Stuart Costello, when making her pilgrimage in the South of
France, relates that, in the course of her journey," A friend repeated
to me two charming ballads picked up in Languedoc, where there is a
variety in the patois. I cannot resist giving them here, that my readers
may compare the difference of dialect. I wrote them clown, however,
merely by ear, and am not aware that they have ever been printed. The
mixture of French, Spanish, and Italian is very curious."{7}

As the words of Jasmin's romance were written down by Miss Costello from
memory, they are not quite accurate; but her translation into English
sufficiently renders the poet's meaning. The following is the first
verse of Jasmin's poem in Gascon--

 "Deja la ney encrumis la naturo,
 Tout es tranquille et tout cargo lou dol;
 Dins lou clouche la brezago murmuro,
 Et lou tuquet succedo al rossignol:
 Del mal, helas! bebi jusq'a la ligo,
 Moun co gemis sans espouer de gari;
 Plus de bounhur, ey perdut moun amigo,
 Me cal mouri! me cal mouri!"

Which Miss Costello thus translates into English:

 "Already sullen night comes sadly on,
 And nature's form is clothed with mournful weeds;
 Around the tower is heard the breeze's moan,
 And to the nightingale the bat succeeds.
 Oh! I have drained the cup of misery,
 My fainting heart has now no hope in store.
 Ah! wretched me! what have I but to die?
 For I have lost my love for evermore!"

There are four verses in the poem, but the second verse may also be
given

 "Fair, tender Phoebe, hasten on thy course,
 My woes revive while I behold thee shine,
 For of my hope thou art no more the source,
 And of my happiness no more the sign.
 Oh! I have drained the cup of misery,
 My fainting heart has now no bliss in store.
 Ah! wretched me! what have I but to die?
 Since I have lost my love for evermore!"

The whole of the poem was afterwards translated into modem French, and,
though somewhat artificial, it became as popular in the north as in the
south.

Jasmin's success in his native town, and his growing popularity,
encouraged him to proceed with the making of verses. His poems were
occasionally inserted in the local journals; but the editors did not
approve of his use of the expiring Gascon dialect. They were of opinion
that his works might be better appreciated if they appeared in modern
French. Gascon was to a large extent a foreign language, and greatly
interfered with Jasmin's national reputation as a poet.

Nevertheless he held on his way, and continued to write his verses in
Gascon. They contained many personal lyrics, tributes, dedications,
hymns for festivals, and impromptus, scarcely worthy of being collected
and printed. Jasmin said of the last description of verse: "One can only
pay a poetical debt by means of impromptus, and though they may be good
money of the heart, they are almost always bad money of the head."

Jasmin's next poem was The Charivari (Lou Charibari), also written in
Gascon. It was composed in 1825, when he was twenty-seven years old; and
dedicated to M. Duprount, the Advocate, who was himself a poetaster. The
dedication contained some fine passages of genuine beauty and graceful
versification. It was in some respects an imitation of the Lutrin of
Boileau. It was very different from the doggerel in which he had taken
part with his humpbacked father so long ago. Then he had blown the
cow-horn, now he spoke with the tongue of a trumpet. The hero of
Jasmin's Charivari was one Aduber, an old widower, who dreamt of
remarrying. It reminded one of the strains of Beranger; in other
passages of the mock-heroic poem of Boileau.

Though the poem when published was read with much interest, it was not
nearly so popular as Me cal Mouri. This last-mentioned poem, his
first published work, touched the harp of sadness; while his Charivari
displayed the playfulness of joy. Thus, at the beginning of his career,
Jasmin revealed himself as a poet in two very different styles; in one,
touching the springs of grief, and in the other exhibiting brightness
and happiness. At the end of the same year he sounded his third and
deepest note in his poem On the Death of General Foy--one of France's
truest patriots. Now his lyre was complete; it had its three strings--of
sadness, joy, and sorrow.

These three poems--Me cal Mouri, the Charivari, and the ode On the Death
of General Foy, with some other verses--were published in 1825. What was
to be the title of the volume? As Adam, the carpenter-poet of Nevers,
had entitled his volume of poetry 'Shavings,' so Jasmin decided to name
his collection 'The Curl-papers of Jasmin, Coiffeur of Agen.' The title
was a good one, and the subsequent volumes of his works were known as
La Papillotos (the Curl-papers) of Jasmin. The publication of this first
volume served to make Jasmin's name popular beyond the town in which
they had been composed and published. His friend M. Gaze said of him,
that during the year 1825 he had been marrying his razor with the swan's
quill; and that his hand of velvet in shaving was even surpassed by his
skill in verse-making.

Charles Nodier, his old friend, who had entered the barber's shop
some years before to intercede between the poet and his wife, sounded
Jasmin's praises in the Paris journals. He confessed that he had been
greatly struck with the Charivari, and boldly declared that the language
of the Troubadours, which everyone supposed to be dead, was still in
full life in France; that it not only lived, but that at that very
moment a poor barber at Agen, without any instruction beyond that given
by the fields, the woods, and the heavens, had written a serio-comic
poem which, at the risk of being thought crazy by his colleagues of the
Academy, he considered to be better composed than the Lutrin of Boileau,
and even better than one of Pope's masterpieces, the Rape of the Lock.

The first volume of the Papillotes sold very well; and the receipts
from its sale not only increased Jasmin's income, but also increased
his national reputation. Jasmin was not, however, elated by success. He
remained simple, frugal, honest, and hard-working. He was not carried
off his feet by eclat. Though many illustrious strangers, when passing
through Agen, called upon and interviewed the poetical coiffeur, he
quietly went back to his razors, his combs, and his periwigs, and
cheerfully pursued the business that he could always depend upon in his
time of need.


Endnotes to Chapter V.

{1}Hallam's 'Middle Ages,' iii. 434. 12th edit. (Murray.)

{2} His words are these: "La conception m'en fut suggeree par mes etudes
sur la vieille langue francaise ou langue d'oil. Je fus si frappe des
liens qui unissent le francais moderne au francais ancien, j'apercus
tant de cas ou les sens et des locutions du jour ne s'expliquent que par
les sens et les locutions d'autrefois, tant d'exemples ou la forme des
mots n'est pas intelligible sans les formes qui ont precede, qu'il me
sembla que la doctrine et meme l'usage de la langue restent mal assis
s'ils ne reposent sur leur base antique." (Preface, ii.)

{3} 'Bearn and the Pyrenees,' i. 348.

{4} THIERRY--'Historical Essays,' No. XXIV.

{5} Les Poetes du Peuple an xix. Siecle. Par Alphonse Viollet. Paris,
1846.

{6} Portraits contemporains, ii. 61 (ed. 1847).

{7} 'Pilgrimage to Auvergne,' ii. 210.



CHAPTER VI. MISCELLANEOUS VERSES--BERANGER--'MES SOUVENIRS'--PAUL DE
MUSSET.

During the next four years Jasmin composed no work of special
importance. He occasionally wrote poetry, but chiefly on local subjects.
In 1828 he wrote an impromptu to M. Pradel, who had improvised a Gascon
song in honour of the poet. The Gascon painter, Champmas, had compared
Jasmin to a ray of sunshine, and in 1829 the poet sent him a charming
piece of verse in return for his compliment.

In 1830 Jasmin composed The Third of May, which was translated into
French by M. Duvigneau. It appears that the Count of Dijon had presented
to the town of Nerac, near Agen, a bronze statue of Henry IV., executed
by the sculptor Raggi--of the same character as the statue erected to
the same monarch at Pau. But though Henry IV. was born at Pau, Nerac was
perhaps more identified with him, for there he had his strong castle,
though only its ruins now remain.

Nerac was at one time almost the centre of the Reformation in France.
Clement Marot, the poet of the Reformed faith, lived there; and the
house of Theodore de Beze, who emigrated to Geneva, still exists. The
Protestant faith extended to Agen and the neighbouring towns. When the
Roman Catholics obtained the upper hand, persecutions began. Vindocin,
the pastor, was burned alive at Agen. J. J. Scaliger was an eye-witness
of the burning, and he records the fact that not less than 300 victims
perished for their faith.

At a later time Nerac, which had been a prosperous town, was ruined by
the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes; for the Protestant population,
who had been the most diligent and industrious in the town and
neighbourhood, were all either "converted," hanged, sent to the galleys,
or forced to emigrate to England, Holland, or Prussia. Nevertheless, the
people of Nerac continued to be proud of their old monarch.

The bronze statue of Henry IV. was unveiled in 1829. On one side

of the marble pedestal supporting the statue were the words "Alumno, mox
patri nostro, Henrico quarto," and on the reverse side was a verse in
the Gascon dialect:

 "Brabes Gascons!
 A moun amou per bous aou dibes creyre;
 Benes! Benes! ey plaze de bous beyre!
 Approucha-bous!"

The words were assumed to be those of; Henry IV., and may be thus
translated into English:

 "Brave Gascons!
 You may well trust my love for you;
 Come! come! I leave to you my glory!
 Come near! Approach!"{1}

It is necessary to explain how the verse in Gascon came to be engraved
on the pedestal of the statue. The Society of Agriculture, Sciences,
and Arts, of Agen, offered a prize of 300 francs for the best Ode to the
memory of Henry the Great. Many poems were accordingly sent in to the
Society; and, after some consideration, it was thought that the prize
should be awarded to M. Jude Patissie. But amongst the thirty-nine poems
which had been presented for examination, it was found that two had been
written in the Gascon dialect. The committee were at first of opinion
that they could not award the prize to the author of any poem written in
the vulgar tongue. At the same time they reported that one of the poems
written in Gascon possessed such real merit, that the committee decided
by a unanimous vote that a prize should be awarded to the author of the
best poem written in the Gascon dialect. Many poems were accordingly
sent in and examined. Lou Tres de May was selected as the best; and on
the letter attached to the poem being opened, the president proclaimed
the author to be "Jasmin, Coiffeur." After the decision of the Society
at Agen, the people of Nerac desired to set their seal upon their
judgment, and they accordingly caused the above words to be engraved
on the reverse side of the pedestal supporting the statue of Henry
IV. Jasmin's poem was crowned by the Academy of Agen; and though it
contained many fine verses, it had the same merits and the same defects
as the Charivari, published a few years before.

M. Rodiere, Professor of Law at Toulouse, was of opinion that during
the four years during which Jasmin produced no work of any special
importance, he was carefully studying Gascon; for it ought to be known
that the language in which Godolin wrote his fine poems is not without
its literature. "The fact," says Rodiere, "that Jasmin used some of his
time in studying the works of Godolin is, that while in Lou Charibari
there are some French words ill-disguised in a Gascon dress, on the
other hand, from the year 1830, there are none; and the language of
Jasmin is the same as the language of Godolin, except for a few trifling
differences, due to the different dialects of Agen and Toulouse."

Besides studying Gascon, Jasmin had some military duties to perform. He
was corporal of the third company of the National Guard of Agen; and in
1830 he addressed his comrades in a series of verses. One of these was
a song entitled 'The Flag of Liberty' (Lou Drapeou de la Libertat);
another, 'The Good All-merciful God!' (Lou Boun Diou liberal); and the
third was Lou Seromen.

Two years later, in 1832, Jasmin composed The Gascons, which he
improvised at a banquet given to the non-commissioned officers of the
14th Chasseurs. Of course, the improvisation was carefully prepared;
and it was composed in French, as the non-commissioned officers did not
understand the Gascon dialect.

Jasmin extolled the valour of the French, and especially of the Gascons.
The last lines of his eulogy ran as follows:--

 "O Liberty! mother of victory,
 Thy flag always brings us success!
 Though as Gascons we sing of thy glory,
 We chastise our foes with the French!"

In the same year Jasmin addressed the poet Beranger in a pleasant
poetical letter written in classical French. Beranger replied in prose;
his answer was dated the 12th of July, 1832. He thanked Jasmin for his
fervent eulogy. While he thought that the Gascon poet's praise of his
works was exaggerated, he believed in his sincerity.

"I hasten," said Beranger, "to express my thanks for the kindness of
your address. Believe in my sincerity, as I believe in your praises.
Your exaggeration of my poetical merits makes me repeat the first words
of your address, in which you assume the title of a Gascon{2} poet. It
would please me much better if you would be a French poet, as you prove
by your epistle, which is written with taste and harmony. The sympathy
of our sentiments has inspired you to praise me in a manner which I am
far from meriting, Nevertheless, sir, I am proud of your sympathy.

"You have been born and brought up in the same condition as myself.
Like me, you appear to have triumphed over the absence of scholastic
instruction, and, like me too, you love your country. You reproach me,
sir, with the silence which I have for some time preserved. At the end
of this year I intend to publish my last volume; I will then take my
leave of the public. I am now fifty-two years old. I am tired of the
world. My little mission is fulfilled, and the public has had enough of
me. I am therefore making arrangements for retiring. Without the desire
for living longer, I have broken silence too soon. At least you must
pardon the silence of one who has never demanded anything of his
country. I care nothing about power, and have now merely the ambition of
a morsel of bread and repose.

"I ask your pardon for submitting to you these personal details. But
your epistle makes it my duty. I thank you again for the pleasure you
have given me. I do not understand the language of Languedoc, but, if
you speak this language as you write French, I dare to prophecy a true
success in the further publication of your works.--BERANGER."{3}

Notwithstanding this advice of Beranger and other critics, Jasmin
continued to write his poems in the Gascon dialect. He had very little
time to spare for the study of classical French; he was occupied
with the trade by which he earned his living, and his business was
increasing. His customers were always happy to hear him recite his
poetry while he shaved their beards or dressed their hair.

He was equally unfortunate with M. Minier of Bordeaux. Jasmin addressed
him in a Gascon letter full of bright poetry, not unlike Burns's Vision,
when he dreamt of becoming a song-writer. The only consolation that
Jasmin received from M. Minier was a poetical letter, in which the poet
was implored to retain his position and not to frequent the society of
distinguished persons.

Perhaps the finest work which Jasmin composed at this period of his life
was that which he entitled Mous Soubenis, or 'My Recollections.' In none
of his poems did he display more of the characteristic qualities of his
mind, his candour, his pathos, and his humour, than in these verses.
He used the rustic dialect, from which he never afterwards departed. He
showed that the Gascon was not yet a dead language; and he lifted it to
the level of the most serious themes. His verses have all the greater
charm because of their artless gaiety, their delicate taste, and the
sweetness of their cadence.

Jasmin began to compose his 'Recollections' in 1830, but the two first
cantos were not completed until two years later. The third canto was
added in 1835, when the poem was published in the first volume of his
'Curl-Papers' (Papillotes). These recollections, in fact, constitute
Jasmin's autobiography, and we are indebted to them for the description
we have already given of the poet's early life.

Many years later Jasmin wrote his Mous noubels Soubenis--'My New
Recollections'; but in that work he returned to the trials and the
enjoyments of his youth, and described few of the events of his later
life. "What a pity," says M. Rodiere, "that Jasmin did not continue to
write his impressions until the end of his life! What trouble he would
have saved his biographers! For how can one speak when Jasmin ceases to
sing?"

It is unnecessary to return to the autobiography and repeat the
confessions of Jasmin's youth. His joys and sorrows are all described
there--his birth in the poverty-stricken dwelling in the Rue Fon de
Rache, his love for his parents, his sports with his playfellows on the
banks of the Garonne, his blowing the horn in his father's Charivaris,
his enjoyment of the tit-bits which old Boe brought home from his
begging-tours, the decay of the old man, and his conveyance to the
hospital, "where all the Jasmins die;" then his education at the
Academy, his toying with the house-maid, his stealing the preserves, his
expulsion from the seminary, and the sale of his mother's wedding-ring
to buy bread for her family.

While composing the first two cantos of the Souvenirs he seemed half
ashamed of the homeliness of the tale he had undertaken to relate.
Should he soften and brighten it? Should he dress it up with false
lights and colours? For there are times when falsehood in silk and
gold are acceptable, and the naked new-born truth is unwelcome. But he
repudiated the thought, and added:--

 "Myself, nor less, nor more, I'll draw for you,
 And if not bright, the likeness shall be true."

The third canto of the poem was composed at intervals. It took him two
more years to finish it. It commences with his apprenticeship to
the barber; describes his first visit to the theatre, his reading of
Florian's romances and poems, his solitary meditations, and the birth
and growth of his imagination. Then he falls in love, and a new era
opens in his life. He writes verses and sings them. He opens a barber's
shop of his own, marries, and brings his young bride home. "Two angels,"
he says, "took up their abode with me." His newly-wedded wife was one,
and the other was his rustic Muse--the angel of homely pastoral poetry:

 "Who, fluttering softly from on high,
 Raised on his wing and bore me far,
 Where fields of balmiest ether are;
 There, in the shepherd lassie's speech
 I sang a song, or shaped a rhyme;
 There learned I stronger love than I can teach.
 Oh, mystic lessons!  Happy time!
 And fond farewells I said, when at the close of day,
 Silent she led my spirit back whence it was borne away!"

He then speaks of the happiness of his wedded life; he shaves and sings
most joyfully. A little rivulet of silver passes into the barber's shop,
and, in a fit of poetic ardour, he breaks into pieces and burns the
wretched arm-chair in which his ancestors were borne to the hospital to
die. His wife no longer troubles him with her doubts as to his verses
interfering with his business. She supplies him with pen, paper, ink,
and a comfortable desk; and, in course of time, he buys the house in
which he lives, and becomes a man of importance in Agen. He ends the
third canto with a sort of hurrah--

 "Thus, reader, have I told my tale in cantos three:
 Though still I sing, I hazard no great risk;
 For should Pegasus rear and fling me, it is clear,
 However ruffled all my fancies fair,
 I waste my time, 'tis true; though verses I may lose,
 The paper still will serve for curling hair."{4}

Robert Nicoll, the Scotch poet, said of his works: "I have written my
heart in my poems; and rude, unfinished, and hasty as they are, it can
be read there." Jasmin might have used the same words. "With all my
faults," he said, "I desired to write the truth, and I have described it
as I saw it."

In his 'Recollections' he showed without reserve his whole heart.
Jasmin dedicated his 'Recollections,' when finished, to M. Florimond
de Saint-Amand, one of the first gentlemen who recognised his poetical
talents. This was unquestionably the first poem in which Jasmin
exhibited the true bent of his genius. He avoided entirely the French
models which he had before endeavoured to imitate; and he now gave
full flight to the artless gaiety and humour of his Gascon muse. It
is unfortunate that the poem cannot be translated into English. It was
translated into French; but even in that kindred language it lost
much of its beauty and pathos. The more exquisite the poetry that is
contained in one language, the more difficulty there is in translating
it into another.

M. Charles Nodier said of Lou Tres de May that it contains poetic
thoughts conveyed in exquisite words; but it is impossible to render it
into any language but its own. In the case of the Charivari he shrinks
from attempting to translate it. There is one passage containing a
superb description of the rising of the sun in winter; but two of the
lines quite puzzled him. In Gascon they are

 "Quand l'Auroro, fourrado en raoubo de sati,
 Desparrouillo, san brut, las portos del mati.'

Some of the words translated into French might seem vulgar, though in
Gascon they are beautiful. In English they might be rendered:

 "When Aurora, enfurred in her robe of satin,
 Unbars, without noise, the doors of the morning."

"Dream if you like," says Nodier, "of the Aurora of winter, and tell me
if Homer could have better robed it in words. The Aurora of Jasmin is
quite his own; 'unbars the doors of the morning'; it is done without
noise, like a goddess, patient and silent, who announces herself to
mortals only by her brightness of light. It is this finished felicity
of expression which distinguishes great writers. The vulgar cannot
accomplish it."

Again Nodier says of the 'Recollections': "They are an ingenuous marvel
of gaiety, sensibility, and passion! I use," he says, "this expression
of enthusiasm; and I regret that I cannot be more lavish in my praises.
There is almost nothing in modem literature, and scarcely anything
in ancient, which has moved me more profoundly than the Souvenirs of
Jasmin.

"Happy and lovely children of Guienne and Languedoc, read and re-read the
Souvenirs of Jasmin; they will give you painful recollections of public
schools, and perhaps give you hope of better things to come. You will
learn by heart what you will never forget. You will know from this
poetry all that you ought to treasure."

Jasmin added several other poems to his collection before his second
volume appeared in 1835. Amongst these were his lines on the Polish
nation--Aux debris de la Nation Polonaise, and Les Oiseaux Voyageurs, ou
Les Polonais en France--both written in Gascon. Saint-beuve thinks the
latter one of Jasmin's best works. "It is full of pathos," he says, "and
rises to the sublime through its very simplicity. It is indeed difficult
to exaggerate the poetic instinct and the unaffected artlessness of this
amiable bard. "At the same time," he said, "Jasmin still wanted the
fire of passion to reach the noblest poetic work. Yet he had the art
of style. If Agen was renowned as 'the eye of Guienne,' Jasmin was
certainly the greatest poet who had ever written in the pure patois of
Agen."

Sainte-Beuve also said of Jasmin that he was "invariably sober." And
Jasmin said of himself, "I have learned that in moments of heat
and emotion we are all eloquent and laconic, alike in speech and
action--unconscious poets in fact; and I have also learned that it is
possible for a muse to become all this willingly, and by dint of patient
toil."

Another of his supplementary poems consisted of a dialogue between
Ramoun, a soldier of the Old Guard, and Mathiou, a peasant. It is of a
political cast, and Jasmin did not shine in politics. He was, however,
always a patriot, whether under the Empire, the Monarchy, or the
Republic. He loved France above all things, while he entertained the
warmest affection for his native province. If Jasmin had published his
volume in classical French he might have been lost amidst a crowd of
rhymers; but as he published the work in his native dialect, he became
forthwith distinguished in his neighbourhood, and was ever after known
as the Gascon poet.

Nor did he long remain unknown beyond the district in which he lived.
When his second volume appeared in 1835, with a preface by M. Baze, an
advocate of the Royal Court of Agen, it created considerable excitement,
not only at Bordeaux and Toulouse, but also at Paris, the centre of the
literature, science, and fine arts of France. There, men of the highest
distinction welcomed the work with enthusiasm.

M. Baze, in his preface, was very eulogistic. "We have the pleasure," he
said, "of seeing united in one collection the sweet Romanic tongue which
the South of France has adopted, like the privileged children of
her lovely sky and voluptuous climate; and her lyrical songs, whose
masculine vigour and energetic sentiments have more than once excited
patriotic transports and awakened popular enthusiasm. For Jasmin is
above all a poet of the people. He is not ashamed of his origin. He was
born in the midst of them, and though a poet, still belongs to them. For
genius is of all stations and ranks of life. He is but a hairdresser
at Agen, and more than that, he wishes to remain so. His ambition is to
unite the razor to the poet's pen."

At Paris the work was welcomed with applause, first by his poetic
sponsor, Charles Nodier, in the Temps, where he congratulated Jasmin on
using the Gascon patois, though still under the ban of literature. "It
is a veritable Saint Bartholomew of innocent and beautiful idioms, which
can scarcely be employed even in the hours of recreation." He pronounced
Jasmin to be a Gascon Beranger, and quoted several of his lines from
the Charivari, but apologised for their translation into French, fearing
that they might lose much of their rustic artlessness and soft harmony.

What was a still greater honour, Jasmin was reviewed by the first critic
of France--Sainte-Beuve in the leading critical journal, the Revue des
deux Mondes. The article was afterwards republished in his Contemporary
Portraits.{5} He there gives a general account of his poems; compares
him with the English and Scotch poets of the working class; and
contrasts him with Reboul, the baker of Nimes, who writes in classical
French, after the manner of the 'Meditations of Lamartine.' He proceeds
to give a brief account of Jasmin's life, taken from the Souvenirs,
which he regards as a beautiful work, written with much artlessness and
simplicity.

Various other reviews of Jasmin's poems appeared, in Agen, Bordeaux,
Toulouse, and Paris, by men of literary mark--by Leonce de Lavergne, and
De Mazude in the Revue des deux Mondes--by Charles Labitte, M. Ducuing,
and M. de Pontmartin. The latter classed Jasmin with Theocritus, Horace,
and La Fontaine, and paid him the singular tribute, "that he had made
Goodness as attractive as other French writers had made Badness." Such
criticisms as these made Jasmin popular, not only in his own district,
but throughout France.

We cannot withhold the interesting statement of Paul de Musset as to
his interview with Jasmin in 1836, after the publication of his second
volume of poems. Paul de Musset was the author of several novels, as
well as of Lui et Elle, apropos of his brother's connection with George
Sand. Paul de Musset thus describes his visit to the poet at Agen.{6}

"Let no one return northward by the direct road from Toulouse. Nothing
can be more dreary than the Lot, the Limousin, and the interminable
Dordogne; but make for Bordeaux by the plains of Gascony, and do not
forget the steamboat from Marmande. You will then find yourself on the
Garonne, in the midst of a beautiful country, where the air is vigorous
and healthy. The roads are bordered with vines, arranged in arches,
lovely to the eyes of travellers. The poets, who delight in making the
union of the vine with the trees which support it an emblem of marriage,
can verify their comparisons only in Gascony or Italy. It is usually
pear trees that are used to support them....

"Thanks to M. Charles Nodier, who had discovered a man of modest talent
buried in this province, I knew a little of the verses of the Gascon
poet Jasmin. Early one morning, at about seven, the diligence stopped in
the middle of a Place, where I read this inscription over a shop-door,
'Jasmin, Coiffeur des jeunes gens.' We were at Agen. I descended,
swallowed my cup of coffee as fast as I could, and entered the shop of
the most lettered of peruke-makers. On a table was a mass of pamphlets
and some of the journals of the South.

"'Monsieur Jasmin?' said I on entering. 'Here I am, sir, at your
service,' replied a handsome brown-haired fellow, with a cheerful
expression, who seemed to me about thirty years of age.

"'Will you shave me?' I asked. 'Willingly, sir,' he replied, I sat down
and we entered into conversation. 'I have read your verses, sir,' said
I, while he was covering my chin with lather.

"'Monsieur then comprehends the patois?' 'A little,' I said; 'one of
my friends has explained to me the difficult passages. But tell
me, Monsieur Jasmin, why is it that you, who appear to know French
perfectly, write in a language that is not spoken in any chief town or
capital.'

"'Ah, sir, how could a poor rhymer like me appear amongst the great
celebrities of Paris? I have sold eighteen hundred copies of my little
pieces of poetry (in pamphlet form), and certainly all who speak Gascon
know them well. Remember that there are at least six millions of people
in Languedoc.'

"My mouth was covered with soap-suds, and I could not answer him for
some time. Then I said, 'But a hundred thousand persons at most know how
to read, and twenty thousand of them can scarcely be able to enjoy your
works.'

"'Well, sir, I am content with that amount. Perhaps you have at Paris
more than one writer who possesses his twenty thousand readers. My
little reputation would soon carry me astray if I ventured to address
all Europe. The voice that appears sonorous in a little place is not
heard in the midst of a vast plain. And then, my readers are confined
within a radius of forty leagues, and the result is of real advantage to
an author.'

"'Ah! And why do you not abandon your razor?' I enquired of this
singular poet. 'What would you have?' he said. 'The Muses are most
capricious; to-day they give gold, to-morrow they refuse bread. The
razor secures me soup, and perhaps a bottle of Bordeaux. Besides, my
salon is a little literary circle, where all the young people of the
town assemble. When I come from one of the academies of which I am a
member, I find myself among the tools which I can manage better than
my pen; and most of the members of the circle usually pass through my
hands.'

"It is a fact that M. Jasmin shaves more skilfully than any other poet.
After a long conversation with this simple-minded man, I experienced
a certain confusion in depositing upon his table the amount of fifty
centimes which I owed him on this occasion, more for his talent than
for his razor; and I remounted the diligence more than charmed with the
modesty of his character and demeanour."



Endnotes for Chapter VI.

{1} M. Duvigneau thus translated the words into French: he begins his
verses by announcing the birth of Henry IV.:--

 "A son aspect, mille cris d'allegresse
 Ebranlent le palais et montent jusqu'au ciel:
 Le voila beau comme dans sa jeunesse,
 Alors qu'il recevait le baiser maternel.
 A ce peuple charme qui des yeux le devore
 Le bon Roi semble dire encore:
 'Braves Gascons, accourez tous;
 A mon amour pour vous vous devez croire;
 Je met a vous revoir mon bonheur et ma gloire,
 Venez, venez, approchez-vous!'"

{2} Gascon or Gasconade is often used as implying boasting or
gasconading.

{3} This letter was written before Jasmin had decided to publish the
second volume of his Papillotes, which appeared in 1835.

{4} The following are the lines in Gascon:--

 "Atai boudroy dan bous fini ma triplo paouzo;
 Mais anfin, ey cantat, n'hazardi pas gran caouzo:
 Quand Pegazo reguinno, et que d'un cot de pe
 M'emboyo friza mas marotos,
 Perdi moun ten, es bray, mais noun pas moun pape;
 Boti mous bers en papillotos!"

{5} 'Portraits Contemporains,' ii. 50. Par C. A. Sainte-Beuve, Membre de
l'Academie Francaise. 1847.

{6} 'Perpignan, l'Ariege et le poete Jasmin' (Journal politique et
litteraire de Lot-et-Garonne).



CHAPTER VII. 'THE BLIND GIRL OF CASTEL-CUILLE.'

Jasmin was now thirty-six years old. He was virtually in the prime of
life. He had been dreaming, he had been thinking, for many years, of
composing some poems of a higher order than his Souvenirs. He desired
to embody in his work some romantic tales in verse, founded upon local
legends, noble in conception, elaborated with care, and impressive by
the dignity of simple natural passion.

In these new lyrical poems his intention was to aim high, and he
succeeded to a marvellous extent. He was enabled to show the depth and
strength of his dramatic powers, his fidelity in the description of
romantic and picturesque incidents, his shrewdness in reading character
and his skill in representing it, all of which he did in perfect
innocence of all established canons in the composition of dramatic
poetry.

The first of Jasmin's poetical legends was 'The Blind Girl of
Castel-Cuille' (L'Abuglo). It was translated into English, a few years
after its appearance, by Lady Georgiana Fullerton, daughter of the
British ambassador at Paris,{1} and afterwards by Henry Wadsworth
Longfellow, the American poet. Longfellow follows the rhythm of the
original, and on the whole his translation of the poem is more correct,
so that his version is to be preferred. He begins his version with these
words--

 "Only the Lowland tongue of Scotland might
 Rehearse this little tragedy aright;
 Let me attempt it with an English quill,
 And take, O reader, for the deed the will."

At the end of his translation Longfellow adds:--"Jasmin, the author
of this beautiful poem, is to the South of France what Burns is to the
South of Scotland, the representative of the heart of the people,--one
of those happy bards who are born with their mouths full of birds (la
bouco pleno d'auuvelous). He has written his own biography in a poetic
form, and the simple narrative of his poverty, his struggles, and his
triumphs, is very touching. He still lives at Agen, on the Garonne, and
long may he live there to delight his native land with native songs!" It
is unnecessary to quote the poem, which is so well-known by the numerous
readers of Longfellow's poems, but a compressed narrative of the story
may be given.

The legend is founded on a popular tradition. Castel-Cuille stands upon
a bluff rock in the pretty valley of Saint-Amans, about a league from
Agen. The castle was of considerable importance many centuries ago,
while the English occupied Guienne; but it is now in ruins, though the
village near it still exists. In a cottage, at the foot of the rock,
lived the girl Marguerite, a soldier's daughter, with her brother
Paul. The girl had been betrothed to her lover Baptiste; but during his
absence she was attacked by virulent small-pox and lost her eyesight.
Though her beauty had disappeared, her love remained. She waited
long for her beloved Baptiste, but he never returned. He forsook his
betrothed Marguerite, and plighted his troth to the fairer and richer
Angele. It was, after all, only the old story.

Marguerite heard at night the song of their espousals on the eve of
the marriage. She was in despair, but suppressed her grief. Wednesday
morning arrived, the eve of St. Joseph. The bridal procession passed
along the village towards the church of Saint-Amans, singing the bridal
song. The fair and fertile valley was bedecked with the blossoms of
the apple, the plum, and the almond, which whitened the country round.
Nothing could have seemed more propitious. Then came the chorus, which
was no invention of the poet, but a refrain always sung at rustic
weddings, in accordance with the custom of strewing the bridal path with
flowers:

 "The paths with buds and blossoms strew,
 A lovely bride approaches nigh;
 For all should bloom and spring anew,
 A lovely bride is passing by!"{2}

Under the blue sky and brilliant sunshine, the joyous young people
frisked along. The picture of youth, gaiety, and beauty, is full of
truth and nature. The bride herself takes part in the frolic. With
roguish eyes she escapes and cries: "Those who catch me will be married
this year!" And then they descend the hill towards the church of
Saint-Amans. Baptiste, the bridegroom, is out of spirits and mute. He
takes no part in the sports of the bridal party. He remembers with grief
the blind girl he has abandoned.

In the cottage under the cliff Marguerite meditates a tragedy. She
dresses herself, and resolves to attend the wedding at Saint-Amans with
her little brother. While dressing, she slips a knife into her bosom,
and then they start for the church. The bridal party soon arrived, and
Marguerite heard their entrance.

The ceremony proceeded. Mass was said. The wedding-ring was blessed;
and as Baptiste placed it on the bride's finger, he said the accustomed
words. In a moment a voice cried: "It is he! It is he;" and Marguerite
rushed through the bridal party towards him with a knife in her hand to
stab herself; but before she could reach the bridegroom she fell down
dead--broken-hearted! The crime which she had intended to commit
against herself was thus prevented.

In the evening, in place of a bridal song, the De Profundis was chanted,
and now each one seemed to say:--

 "The roads shall mourn, and, veiled in gloom,
 So fair a corpse shall leave its home!
 Should mourn and weep, ah, well-away,
 So fair a corpse shall pass to-day!"{3}

This poem was finished in August 1835; and on the 26th of the same month
it was publicly recited by Jasmin at Bordeaux, at the request of the
Academy of that city.

There was great beauty, tenderness, and pathos in the poem. It was
perfectly simple and natural. The poem might form the subject of a drama
or a musical cantata. The lamentations of Marguerite on her blindness
remind one of Milton's heart-rending words on the same subject:

 "For others, day and joy and light,
 For me, all darkness, always night."{4}

Sainte-Beuve, in criticising Jasmin's poems, says that "It was in 1835
that his talent raised itself to the eminence of writing one of his
purest compositions--natural, touching and disinterested--his Blind Girl
of Castel-Cuille, in which he makes us assist in a fete, amidst the joys
of the villagers; and at the grief of a young girl, a fiancee whom a
severe attack of smallpox had deprived of her eyesight, and whom her
betrothed lover had abandoned to marry another.

"The grief of the poor abandoned girl, her changes of colour, her
attitude, her conversation, her projects--the whole surrounded by the
freshness of spring and the laughing brightness of the season--exhibits
a character of nature and of truth which very few poets have been able
to attain. One is quite surprised, on reading this simple picture, to be
involuntarily carried back to the most expressive poems of the ancient
Greeks--to Theocritus for example--for the Marguerite of Jasmin may be
compared with the Simetha of the Greek poet. This is true poetry, rich
from the same sources, and gilded with the same imagery. In his new
compositions Jasmin has followed his own bias; this man, who had few
books, but meditated deeply in his heart and his love of nature; and he
followed the way of true art with secret and persevering labour in what
appeared to him the most eloquent, easy, and happy manner...

"His language," Sainte-Beuve continues, "is always the most natural,
faithful, transparent, truthful, eloquent, and sober; never forget this
last characteristic. He is never more happy than when he finds that
he can borrow from an artizan or labourer one of those words which are
worth ten of others. It is thus that his genius has refined during the
years preceding the time in which he produced his greatest works. It is
thus that he has become the poet of the people, writing in the popular
patois, and for public solemnities, which remind one of those of the
Middle Ages and of Greece; thus he finds himself to be, in short, more
than any of our contemporaries, of the School of Horace, of Theocritus,
or of Gray, and all the brilliant geniuses who have endeavoured by study
to bring each of their works to perfection."{5}

The Blind Girl was the most remarkable work that Jasmin had up to this
time composed. There is no country where an author is so popular, when
he is once known, as in France. When Jasmin's poem was published he
became, by universal consent, the Poet Laureate of the South. Yet some
of the local journals of Bordeaux made light of his appearance in that
city for the purpose of reciting his as yet unknown poem. "That a barber
and hairdresser of Agen," they said, "speaking and writing in a vulgar
tongue, should attempt to amuse or enlighten the intelligent people of
Bordeaux, seemed to them beneath contempt."

But Jasmin soon showed them that genius is of no rank or condition
of life; and their views shortly underwent a sudden change. His very
appearance in the city was a triumph. Crowds resorted to the large
hall, in which he was to recite his new poem of the Blind Girl of
Castel-Cuille. The prefect, the mayor, the members of the Academy, and
the most cultivated people of the city were present, and received him
with applause.

There might have been some misgivings as to the success of the poem,
but from the moment that he appeared on the platform and began his
recitation, every doubt disappeared. He read the poem with marvellous
eloquence; while his artistic figure, his mobile countenance, his
dark-brown eyebrows, which he raised or lowered at will, his expressive
gesticulation, and his passionate acting, added greatly to the effect of
his recital, and soon won every heart. When he came to the refrain,

 "The paths with buds and blossoms strew,"

he no longer declaimed, but sang after the manner of the peasants in
their popular chaunt. His eyes became suffused with tears, and those who
listened to the patois, even though they only imperfectly understood it,
partook of the impression, and wept also.

He was alike tender and impressive throughout the piece, especially at
the death of the blind girl; and when he had ended, a storm of applause
burst from the audience. There was a clapping of hands and a thunderous
stamping of feet that shook the building almost to its foundations.

It was a remarkable spectacle, that a humble working man, comparatively
uneducated, should have evoked the tumultuous applause of a brilliant
assembly of intelligent ladies and gentlemen. It was indeed something
extraordinary. Some said that he declaimed like Talma or Rachel, nor
was there any note of dissonance in his reception. The enthusiasm was
general and unanimous amongst the magistrates, clergy, scientific men,
artists, physicians, ship-owners, men of business, and working
people. They all joined in the applause when Jasmin had concluded his
recitation.

From this time forward Jasmin was one of the most popular men at
Bordeaux. He was entertained at a series of fetes. He was invited
to soirees by the prefect, by the archbishop, by the various social
circles, as well as by the workmen's associations. They vied with each
other for the honour of entertaining him. He went from matinees
to soirees, and in ten days he appeared at thirty-four different
entertainments.

At length he became thoroughly tired and exhausted by this enormous
fete-ing. He longed to be away and at home with his wife and
children. He took leave of his friends and admirers with emotion,
and, notwithstanding the praises and acclamations he had received at
Bordeaux, he quietly turned to pursue his humble occupation at Agen.

It was one of the most remarkable things about Jasmin, that he was
never carried off his feet by the brilliant ovations he received. Though
enough to turn any poor fellow's head, he remained simple and natural to
the last. As we say in this country, he could "carry corn" We have said
that "Gascon" is often used in connection with boasting or gasconading.
But the term was in no way applicable to Jasmin. He left the echo of
praises behind him, and returned to Agen to enjoy the comforts of his
fireside.

He was not, however, without tempters to wean him from his home and his
ordinary pursuits. In 1836, the year after his triumphal reception at
Bordeaux, some of his friends urged him to go to Paris--the centre of
light and leading--in order to "make his fortune."

But no! he had never contemplated the idea of leaving his native town.
A rich wine merchant of Toulouse was one of his tempters. He advised
Jasmin to go to the great metropolis, where genius alone was recognised.
Jasmin answered him in a charming letter, setting forth the reasons
which determined him to remain at home, principally because his tastes
were modest and his desires were homely.

"You too," he said, "without regard to troubling my days and my nights,
have written to ask me to carry my guitar and my dressing-comb to the
great city of kings, because there, you say, my poetical humour and my
well-known verses will bring torrents of crowns to my purse. Oh, you
may well boast to me of this shower of gold and its clinking stream. You
only make me cry: 'Honour is but smoke, glory is but glory, and money is
only money!' I ask you, in no craven spirit, is money the only thing for
a man to seek who feels in his heart the least spark of poetry? In my
town, where everyone works, leave me as I am. Every summer, happier than
a king, I lay up my small provision for the winter, and then I sing like
a goldfinch under the shade of a poplar or an ash-tree, only too happy
to grow grey in the land which gave me birth. One hears in summer the
pleasant zigo, ziou, ziou, of the nimble grasshopper, or the young
sparrow pluming his wings to make himself ready for flight, he knows
not whither; but the wise man acts not so. I remain here in my home.
Everything suits me--earth, sky, air--all that is necessary for my
comfort. To sing of joyous poverty one must be joyful and poor. I am
satisfied with my rye-bread, and the cool water from my fountain."

Jasmin remained faithful to these rules of conduct during his life.
Though he afterwards made a visit to Paris, it was only for a short
time; but his native town of Agen, his home on the Gravier, his shop,
his wife and his children, continued to be his little paradise. His
muse soared over him like a guardian angel, giving him songs for his
happiness and consolation for his sorrows. He was, above all things,
happy in his wife. She cheered him, strengthened him, and consoled him.
He thus portrayed her in one of his poems:

 "Her eyes like sparkling stars of heavenly blue;
  Her cheeks so sweet, so round, and rosy;
  Her hair so bright, and brown, and curly;
  Her mouth so like a ripened cherry;
  Her teeth more brilliant than the snow."

Jasmin was attached to his wife, not only by her beauty, but by her good
sense. She counselled and advised him in everything. He gave himself up
to her wise advice, and never had occasion to regret it. It was with her
modest marriage-portion that he was enabled to establish himself as a
master hairdresser.

When he opened his shop, he set over the entrance door this sign: "L'Art
embellit La Nature: Jasmin, Coiffeur des Jeunes Gens." As his family
grew, in order to increase his income, he added the words, "Coiffeur des
Dames." This proved to be a happy addition to his business. Most of the
ladies of Agen strove for the honour of having their hair dressed by the
poetical barber. While dressing their hair he delighted them with his
songs. He had a sympathetic voice, which touched their souls and threw
them into the sweetest of dreams.

Though Jasmin was always disposed to rhyme a little, his wise wife
never allowed him to forget his regular daily work. At the same time she
understood that his delicate nature could not be entirely absorbed by
the labours of an ordinary workman. She was no longer jealous of
his solitary communions with his muse; and after his usual hours of
occupation, she left him, or sat by him, to enable him to pursue his
dear reveries in quiet.

Mariette, or Marie, as she was usually called, was a thoroughly good
partner for Jasmin. Though not by any means a highly educated woman, she
felt the elevating effects of poetry even on herself. She influenced her
husband's mind through her practical wisdom and good sense, while he in
his turn influenced hers by elevating her soul and intellect.

Jasmin, while he was labouring over some song or verse, found it
necessary to recite it to some one near him, but mostly to his wife. He
wandered with her along the banks of the Garonne, and while he recited,
she listened with bated breath. She could even venture to correct him;
for she knew, better than he did, the ordinary Gascon dialect. She often
found for him the true word for the picture which he desired to present
to his reader. Though Jasmin was always thankful for her help, he did
not abandon his own words without some little contention. He had worked
out the subject in his mind, and any new word, or mode of description,
might interrupt the beauty of the verses.

When he at length recognised the justice of her criticism, he would say,
"Marie, you are right; and I will again think over the subject, and make
it fit more completely into the Gascon idiom." In certain cases passages
were suppressed; in others they were considerably altered.

When Jasmin, after much labour and correction, had finished his poem, he
would call about him his intimate friends, and recite the poem to them.
He had no objection to the most thorough criticism, by his wife as well
as by his friends. When the poem was long and elaborate, the auditors
sometimes began to yawn. Then the wife stepped in and said: "Jasmin, you
must stop; leave the remainder of the poem for another day." Thus the
recital ceased for the time.

The people of Agen entertained a lively sympathy for their poet. Even
those who might to a certain extent depreciate his talent, did every
justice to the nobility of his character. Perhaps some might envy the
position of a man who had risen from the ranks and secured the esteem of
men of fortune and even of the leaders of literary opinion. Jasmin, like
every person envied or perhaps detracted, had his hours of depression.
But the strong soul of his wife in these hours came to his relief, and
assuaged the spirit of the man and the poet.

Jasmin was at one time on the point of abandoning verse-making. Yet he
was encouraged to proceed by the demands which were made for his
songs and verses. Indeed, no fete was considered complete without the
recitations of Jasmin. It was no doubt very flattering; yet fame has its
drawbacks. His invitations were usually unceremonious.

Jasmin was no doubt recognised as a poet, and an excellent reciter; yet
he was a person who handled the razor and the curling-tongs. When he was
invited to a local party, it was merely that he might recite his verses
gratuitously. He did not belong to their social circle, and his wife
was not included. What sympathy could she have with these distinguished
personages? At length Jasmin declined to go where his wife could not be
invited. He preferred to stay at home with his family; and all further
invitations of this sort were refused.

Besides, his friend Nodier had warned him that a poet of his stamp ought
not to appear too often at the feasts of the lazy; that his time was too
precious for that; that a poet ought, above all, not to occupy himself
with politics, for, by so doing, he ran the risk of injuring his talent.

Some of his local critics, not having comprehended the inner life
of Jasmin, compared his wife to the gardener of Boileau and the
maid-servant of Moliere. But the comparison did not at all apply. Jasmin
had no gardener nor any old servant or housekeeper. Jasmin and Marie
were quite different. They lived the same lives, and were all in all
to each other. They were both of the people; and though she was without
culture, and had not shared in the society of the educated, she took
every interest in the sentiments and the prosperity of her admirable
husband.

One might ask, How did Jasmin acquire his eloquence of declamation--his
power of attracting and moving assemblies of people in all ranks of
life? It was the result, no doubt, partly of the gifts with which the
Creator had endowed him, and partly also of patience and persevering
study. He had a fine voice, and he managed it with such art that it
became like a perfectly tuned instrument in the hands of a musician.

His voice was powerful and pathetic by turns, and he possessed great
sweetness of intonation,--combined with sympathetic feeling and special
felicity of emphasis. And feeling is the vitalising principle of poetry.
Jasmin occasionally varied his readings by singing or chaunting the
songs which occurred in certain parts of his poems. This, together with
his eloquence, gave such immense vital power to the recitations of the
Agenaise bard.

And we shall find, from the next chapter, that Jasmin used his pathetic
eloquence for very noble,--one might almost say, for divine purposes.


Endnotes for Chapter VII.

{1} The translation appeared in 'Bentley's Miscellany' for March 1840.
It was published for a charitable purpose. Mrs. Craven, in her 'Life
of Lady Georgiana Fullerton,' says: "It was put in at once, and its two
hundred and seventy lines brought to the author twelve guineas on the
day on which it appeared. Lady Fullerton was surprised and delighted.
All her long years of success, different indeed in degree, never effaced
the memory of the joy."

{2} The refrain, in the original Gascon, is as follows:

  "Las carreros diouyon flouri,
  Tan belo nobio bay sourti;
  Diouyon flouri, diouyon graua,
  Tan belo nobio bay passa!"

{3} In Gascon:

 "Las carreros diouyon gemi,
  Tan belo morto bay sourti!
  Diouyon gemi, diouyon ploura,
  Tan belo morto bay passa!"

{4} in Gascon:

  "Jour per aoutres, toutjour! et per jou, malhurouzo,
  Toutjour ney, toutjour ney!
  Que fay negre len d'el! Oh! que moun amo es tristo!"

{5} Sainte-Beuve: 'Causeries du Lundi,' iv. 240-1 (edit. 1852); and
'Portraits Contemporains,' ii. 61 (edit, 1847).



CHAPTER VIII. JASMIN AS PHILANTHROPIST.

It is now necessary to consider Jasmin in an altogether different
character--that of a benefactor of his species. Self-sacrifice and
devotion to others, forgetting self while spending and being spent
for the good of one's fellow creatures, exhibit man in his noblest
characteristics. But who would have expected such virtues to be
illustrated by a man like Jasmin, sprung from the humblest condition of
life?

Charity may be regarded as a universal duty, which it is in every
person's power to practise. Every kind of help given to another, on
proper motives, is an act of charity; and there is scarcely any man in
such a straitened condition as that he may not, on certain occasions,
assist his neighbour. The widow that gives her mite to the treasury, the
poor man that brings to the thirsty a cup of cold water, perform their
acts of charity, though they may be of comparatively little moment.
Wordsworth, in a poetic gem, described the virtue of charity:

 "...  Man is dear to man; the poorest poor
  Long for some moments in a weary life
  When they can know and feel that they have been,
  Themselves, the fathers and the dealers out
  Of some small blessings, have been kind to such
  As needed kindness, for the single cause
  That we have all of us one human heart."

This maxim of Wordsworth's truly describes the life and deeds of Jasmin.
It may be said that he was first incited to exert himself on behalf of
charity to his neighbours, by the absence of any Poor Law in France such
as we have in England. In the cases of drought, when the crops did not
ripen; or in the phylloxera blights, when the grapes were ruined; or
in the occasional disastrous floods, when the whole of the agricultural
produce was swept away; the small farmers and labourers were reduced to
great distress. The French peasant is usually very thrifty; but where
accumulated savings were not available for relief, the result, in many
cases, was widespread starvation.

Jasmin felt that, while himself living in the midst of blessings,
he owed a duty, on such occasions, to the extreme necessities of his
neighbours. The afflicted could not appeal to the administrators of
local taxes; all that they could do was to appeal to the feelings of the
benevolent, and rely upon local charity. He believed that the extremely
poor should excite our liberality, the miserable our pity, the sick our
assistance, the ignorant our instruction, and the fallen our helping
hand.

It was under such circumstances that Jasmin consented to recite his
poems for the relief of the afflicted poor. His fame had increased from
year to year. His songs were sung, and his poems were read, all over
the South of France. When it was known that he was willing to recite
his poems for charitable purposes he was immediately assailed with
invitations from far and near.

When bread fell short in winter-time, and the poor were famished; when
an hospital for the needy was starving for want of funds; when a creche
or infants' asylum had to be founded; when a school, or an orphanage,
had to be built or renovated, and money began to fail, an appeal was at
once made to Jasmin's charitable feelings.

It was not then usual for men like Jasmin to recite their poems in
public. Those who possessed his works might recite them for their own
pleasure. But no one could declaim them better than he could, and his
personal presence was therefore indispensable.

It is true, that about the same time Mr. Dickens and Mr. Thackeray were
giving readings from their works in England and America. Both readers
were equally popular; but while they made a considerable addition to
their fortunes,{1} Jasmin realised nothing for himself; all that was
collected at his recitations was given to the poor.

Of course, Jasmin was received with enthusiasm in those towns and cities
which he visited for charitable purposes. When it was known that he was
about to give one of his poetical recitals, the artisan left his shop,
the blacksmith his smithy, the servant her household work; and the
mother often shut up her house and went with her children to listen to
the marvelous poet. Young girls spread flowers before his pathway; and
lovely women tore flowers from their dresses to crown their beloved
minstrel with their offerings.

Since his appearance at Bordeaux, in 1835, when he recited his Blind
Girl for a charitable purpose, he had been invited to many meetings in
the neighbourhood of Agen, wherever any worthy institution had to be
erected or assisted. He continued to write occasional verses, though not
of any moment, for he was still dreaming of another masterpiece.

All further thoughts of poetical composition were, however, dispelled,
by the threatened famine in the Lot-et-Garonne. In the winter of 1837
bread became very dear in the South of France. The poor people were
suffering greatly, and the usual appeal was made to Jasmin to come
to their help. A concert was advertised to be given at Tonneins, a
considerable town to the north-west of Agen, when the local musicians
were to give their services, and Jasmin was to recite a poem.

For this purpose he composed his 'Charity' (La Caritat). It was
addressed to the ladies and musicians who assisted at the entertainment.
Charity is a short lyrical effusion, not so much a finished poem as the
utterings of a tender heart. Though of some merit, it looks pale beside
The Blind Girl. But his choice of the subject proved a forecast of the
noble uses which Jasmin was afterwards enabled to make of his poetical
talents.

Man, he said in his verses, is truly great, chiefly through his charity.
The compassionate man, doing his works of benevolence, though in secret,
in a measure resembles the Divine Author of his being. The following is
the introductory passage of the poem:--

 "As we behold at sea great ships of voyagers
  Glide o'er the waves to billows white with spray,
  And to another world the hardy travellers convey;
  Just as bold savants travel through the sky
  To illustrate the world which they espy,
  Men without ceasing cry, 'How great is man!'
  But no! Great God! How infinitely little he!
  Has he a genius?  'Tis nothing without goodness!
  Without some grace, no grandeur do we rate.
  It is the tender-hearted who show charity in kindness.
  Unseen of men, he hides his gift from sight,
  He does all that he owes in silent good,
  Like the poor widow's mite;
  Yet both are great,
  Great above all--great as the Grace of God."

This is, of course, a very feeble attempt to render the words of Jasmin.
He was most pathetic when he recounted the sorrows of the poor. While
doing so, he avoided exciting their lower instincts. He disavowed all
envy of the goods of others. He maintained respect for the law, while
at the same time he exhorted the rich to have regard for their poorer
brethren. "It is the glory of the people," he said at a meeting of
workmen, "to protect themselves from evil, and to preserve throughout
their purity of character."

This was the spirit in which Jasmin laboured. He wrote some other poems
in a similar strain--'The Rich and Poor,' 'The Poor Man's Doctor,' 'The
Rich Benefactor' (Lou Boun Riche); but Jasmin's own Charity contained
the germ of them all. He put his own soul into his poems. At Tonneins,
the emotion he excited by his reading of Charity was very great, and the
subscriptions for the afflicted poor were correspondingly large.

The municipality never forgot the occasion; and whenever they became
embarrassed by the poverty of the people, they invariably appealed to
Jasmin, and always with the same success. On one occasion the Mayor
wrote to him: "We are still under the charm of your verses; and I
address you in the name of the poor people of Tonneins, to thank you
most gratefully for the charitable act you have done for their benefit.
The evening you appeared here, sir, will long survive in our memory. It
excited everywhere the most lively gratitude. The poor enjoyed a day of
happiness, and the rich enjoyed a day of pleasure, for nothing can be
more blessed than Charity!"

Jasmin, in replying to this letter, said: "Christ's words were, 'Ye have
the poor always with you'; in pronouncing this fact, he called the world
to deeds of charity, and instituted this admirable joint responsibility
(solidarite), in virtue of which each man should fulfil the duty of
helping his poorer neighbours. It is this responsibility which, when the
cry of hunger or suffering is heard, is most instrumental in bringing
all generous souls to the front, in order to create and multiply the
resources of the poor."

Jasmin's success at Tonneins led to numerous invitations of a like
character. "Come over and help us," was the general cry during that
winter of famine. The barber's shop was invaded by numerous deputations;
and the postman was constantly delivering letters of invitation at
his door. He was no longer master of his time, and had considerable
difficulty in attending to his own proper business. Sometimes his
leisure hours were appropriated six months beforehand; and he was often
peremptorily called upon to proceed with his philanthropic work.

When he could find time enough to spare from his business, he would
consent to give another recitation. When the distance was not great he
walked, partly for exercise, and partly to save money. There were few
railways in those days, and hiring a conveyance was an expensive affair.
Besides, his desire always was, to hand over, if possible, the whole of
the receipts to the charitable institutions for whose benefit he gave
his recitations.

The wayfaring poet, on his approach to the town in which he was to
appear, was usually met by crowds of people. They received him with joy
and acclamation. The magistrates presented him with a congratulatory
address. Deputations from neighbouring towns were present at the
celebration. At the entrance to the town Jasmin often passed under a
triumphal arch, with "Welcome, Jasmin! our native poet!" inscribed upon
it. He was conveyed, headed by the local band, to the hall where he was
to give his recitation.

Jasmin's appearance at Bergerac was a great event. Bergerac is a town of
considerable importance, containing about fourteen thousand inhabitants,
situated on the right or north bank of the river Dordogne. But during
that terrible winter the poor people of Bergerac were in great distress,
and Jasmin was summoned to their help. The place was at too great a
distance from Agen for him to walk thither, and accordingly he was
obliged to take a conveyance. He was as usual met by a multitude of
people, who escorted him into the town.

The magistrates could not find a place sufficiently large to give
accommodation to the large number of persons who desired to hear him.
At length they found a large building which had been used as a barn; and
there they raised a platform for the poet. The place was at once filled,
and those who could not get admission crowded about the entrance. Some
of the people raised ladders against the walls of the building, and
clambered in at the windows. Groups of auditors were seen at every place
where they could find a footing. Unfortunately the weather was rainy,
and a crowd of women filled the surrounding meadow, sheltered by their
umbrellas.

More than five hundred persons had not been able to find admission, and
it was therefore necessary for Jasmin to give several more readings
to satisfy the general enthusiasm. All the receipts were given over by
Jasmin for the benefit of the poor, and the poet hurried home at once to
his shaving and hair-dressing.

On another occasion, at Gontaud, the weather was more satisfactory. The
day was fine and sunny, and the ground was covered with flowers. About
the time that Jasmin was expected, an open carriage, festooned with
flowers, and drawn by four horses, was sent to the gate of the town,
escorted by the municipal council, to wait for the poet. When he arrived
on foot for the place was at no great distance from Agen twelve young
girls, clothed in white, offered him a bouquet of flowers, and presented
him with an address. He then entered the carriage and proceeded to the
place where he was to give his recitation. All went well and happily,
and a large offering was collected and distributed amongst the poor.

Then at Damazan, where he gave another reading for the same purpose,
after he had entered the carriage which was to convey him to the place
of entertainment, a number of girls preceded the carriage in which the
poet sat, and scattered flowers in his way, singing a refrain of the
country adapted to the occasion. It resembled the refrain sung before
the bride in The Blind Girl of Castel-Cuille:

 "The paths with flowers bestrew,
  So great a poet comes this way;
  For all should flower and bloom anew,
  So great a poet comes to-day."{2}

These are only specimens of the way in which Jasmin was received during
his missions of philanthropy. He went from north to south, from east to
west, by river and by road, sleeping where he could, but always happy
and cheerful, doing his noble work with a full and joyous heart.
He chirruped and sang from time to time as if his mouth was full of
nightingales. And he was never without enthusiastic multitudes to listen
to his recitals, and to share their means with the poor and afflicted.
We might fill this little story with a detailed account of his
journeyings; but a summary account is all that is at present necessary.
We shall afterwards return to the subject.


Endnotes to Chapter VIII.

{1} Mr. George Dolby, in his work 'Charles Dickens as I knew him,'
tells "the story of the famous 'reading tours,' the most brilliantly
successful enterprises that were ever undertaken." Chappell and Co. paid
him 1500 sterling for thirty readings in London and the provinces, by
which they realised 5000 sterling. Arthur Smith and Mr. Headland were
his next managers, and finally Mr. George Dolby. The latter says that
Mr. Dickens computed the money he netted under the Smith and Headland
management at about 12,000 sterling; and under Dolby's management "he
cleared nearly 33,000 sterling."

{2} In Gascon: "Las carreros diouyon fleuri,
  Tan gran poete bay sourti;
  Diouyon fleuri, diouyon graua,
  Tan gran poete bay passa."



CHAPTER IX. JASMIN'S 'FRANCONNETTE.'

Jasmin published no further poems for three or four years. His time was
taken up with his trade and his philanthropic missions. Besides, he
did not compose with rapidity; he elaborated his poems by degrees; he
arranged the plot of his story, and then he clothed it with poetical
words and images. While he walked and journeyed from place to place, he
was dreaming and thinking of his next dramatic poem--his Franconnette,
which many of his critics regard as his masterpiece.

Like most of his previous poems, Jasmin wrote Franconnette in the Gascon
dialect. Some of his intimate friends continued to expostulate with
him for using this almost dead and virtually illiterate patois. Why not
write in classical French? M. Dumon, his colleague at the Academy
of Agen, again urged him to employ the national language, which all
intelligent readers could understand.

"Under the reign of our Henry IV.," said M. Dumon, "the Langue d'Oil
became, with modifications, the language of the French, while the Langue
d'Oc remained merely a patois. Do not therefore sing in the dialect of
the past, but in the language of the present, like Beranger, Lamartine,
and Victor Hugo.

"What," asked M. Dumon, "will be the fate of your original poetry? It
will live, no doubt, like the dialect in which it is written; but
is this, the Gascon patois, likely to live? Will it be spoken by our
posterity as long as it has been spoken by our ancestors? I hope not;
at least I wish it may be less spoken. Yet I love its artless and
picturesque expressions, its lively recollections of customs and manners
which have long ceased to exist, like those old ruins which still
embellish our landscape. But the tendency which is gradually effacing
the vestiges of our old language and customs is but the tendency of
civilisation itself.

"When Rome fell under the blows of the barbarians, she was entirely
conquered; her laws were subjected at the same time as her armies. The
conquest dismembered her idiom as well as her empire.... The last
trace of national unity disappeared in this country after the Roman
occupation. It had been Gaul, but now it became France. The force of
centralisation which has civilised Europe, covering this immense
chaos, has brought to light, after more than a hundred years, this most
magnificent creation the French monarchy and the French language. Let
us lament, if you will, that the poetical imagination and the
characteristic language of our ancestors have not left a more profound
impression. But the sentence is pronounced; even our Henry IV. could not
change it. Under his reign the Langue d'Oil became for ever the French
language, and the Langue d'Oc remained but a patois.

"Popular poet as you are, you sing to posterity in the language of the
past. This language, which you recite so well, you have restored and
perhaps even created; yet you do not feel that it is the national
language; this powerful instrument of a new era, which invades and
besieges yours on all sides like the last fortress of an obsolete
civilisation."

Jasmin was cut to the quick by this severe letter of his friend, and he
lost not a moment in publishing a defence of the language condemned to
death by his opponent. He even displayed the force and harmony of
the language which had been denounced by M. Dumon as a patois. He
endeavoured to express himself in the most characteristic and poetical
style, as evidence of the vitality of his native Gascon. He compared it
to a widowed mother who dies, and also to a mother who does not die,
but continues young, lovely, and alert, even to the last. Dumon had
published his protest on the 28th of August, 1837, and a few days later,
on the 2nd of September, Jasmin replied in the following poem:--

 "There's not a deeper grief to man
  Than when his mother, faint with years,
  Decrepit, old, and weak and wan,
  Beyond the leech's art appears;

  When by her couch her son may stay,
  And press her hand, and watch her eyes,
  And feel, though she revives to-day,
  Perchance his hope to-morrow dies.

  It is not thus, believe me, sir,
  With this enchantress--she will call
  Our second mother: Frenchmen err,
  Who, cent'ries since, proclaimed her fall!
  Our mother-tongue--all melody--
  While music lives can never die.

  Yes! she still lives, her words still ring;
  Her children yet her carols sing;
  And thousand years may roll away
  Before her magic notes decay.

  The people love their ancient songs, and will
  While yet a people, love and keep them still:
  These lays are as their mother; they recall
  Fond thoughts of mother, sister, friends, and all
  The many little things that please the heart,
  The dreams, the hopes, from which we cannot part.
  These songs are as sweet waters, where we find
  Health in the sparkling wave that nerves the mind.
  In ev'ry home, at ev'ry cottage door,
  By ev'ry fireside, when our toil is o'er,
  These songs are round us--near our cradles sigh,
  And to the grave attend us when we die.

  Oh, think, cold critics! 'twill be late and long,
  Ere time shall sweep away this flood of song!
  There are who bid this music sound no more,
  And you can hear them, nor defend--deplore!
  You, who were born where its first daisies grew,
  Have fed upon its honey, sipp'd its dew,

  Slept in its arms, and wakened to its kiss,
  Danced to its sounds, and warbled to its tone--
  You can forsake it in an hour like this!
  Yes, weary of its age, renounce--disown--
  And blame one minstrel who is true--alone!"{1}

This is but a paraphrase of Jasmin's poem, which, as we have already
said, cannot be verbally translated into any other language. Even the
last editor of Jasmin's poems--Boyer d'Agen--does not translate them
into French poetry, but into French prose. Much of the aroma of poetry
evaporates in converting poetical thoughts from one language into
another.

Jasmin, in one part of his poem, compares the ancient patois to one of
the grand old elms in the Promenade de Gravier, which, having in a storm
had some of its branches torn away, was ordered by the local authorities
to be rooted up. The labourers worked away, but their pick-axes became
unhafted. They could not up-root the tree; they grew tired and forsook
the work. When the summer came, glorious verdure again clothed the
remaining boughs; the birds sang sweetly in the branches, and the
neighbours rejoiced that its roots had been so numerous and the tree had
been so firmly planted.

Jasmin's description of his mother-tongue is most touching. Seasons
pass away, and, as they roll on, their echoes sound in our ears; but the
loved tongue shall not and must not die. The mother-tongue recalls our
own dear mother, sisters, friends, and crowds of bygone associations,
which press into our minds while sitting by the evening fire. This
tongue is the language of our toils and labours; she comes to us at our
birth, she lingers at our tomb.

"No, no--I cannot desert my mother-tongue!" said Jasmin. "It preserves
the folk-lore of the district; it is the language of the poor, of the
labourer, the shepherd, the farmer and grape-gatherers, of boys and
girls, of brides and bridegrooms. The people," he said to M. Dumon,
"love to hear my songs in their native dialect. You have enough poetry
in classical French; leave me to please my compatriots in the dialect
which they love. I cannot give up this harmonious language, our second
mother, even though it has been condemned for three hundred years. Why!
she still lives, her voice still sounds; like her, the seasons pass, the
bells ring out their peals, and though a hundred thousand years may roll
away, they will still be sounding and ringing!"

Jasmin has been compared to Dante. But there is this immense difference
between them. Dante was virtually the creator of the Italian language,
which was in its infancy when he wrote his 'Divine Comedy' some six
hundred years ago, while Jasmin was merely reviving a gradually-expiring
dialect. Drouilhet de Sigalas has said that Dante lived at the sunrise
of his language, while Jasmin lived at its sunset. Indeed, Gascon was
not a written language, and Jasmin had to collect his lexicon, grammar,
and speech mostly from the peasants who lived in the neighbourhood of
Agen. Dante virtually created the Italian language, while Jasmin merely
resuscitated for a time the Gascon dialect.

Jasmin was not deterred by the expostulations of Dumon, but again wrote
his new epic of Franconnette in Gascon. It took him a long time to
clothe his poetical thoughts in words. Nearly five years had elapsed
since he recited The Blind Girl of Castel-Cuille to the citizens of
Bordeaux; since then he had written a few poetical themes, but he was
mainly thinking and dreaming, and at times writing down his new epic
Franconnette. It was completed in 1840, when he dedicated the poem to
the city of Toulouse.

The story embodied in the poem was founded on an ancient tradition. The
time at which it occurred was towards the end of the sixteenth century,
when France was torn to pieces by the civil war between the Huguenots
and the Catholics. Agen was then a centre of Protestantism. It was
taken and retaken by both parties again and again. The Huguenot captain,
Truelle, occupied the town in April 1562; but Blaize de Montluc, "a
fierce Catholic," as he is termed by M. Paul Joanne, assailed the town
with a strong force and recaptured it. On entering the place, Montluc
found that the inhabitants had fled with the garrison, and "the terrible
chief was greatly disappointed at not finding any person in Agen to
slaughter."{2} Montluc struck with a heavy hand the Protestants of the
South. In the name of the God of Mercy he hewed the Huguenots to pieces,
and, after spreading desolation through the South, he retired to his
fortress at Estellac, knelt before the altar, took the communion, and
was welcomed by his party as one of the greatest friends of the Church.

The civil war went on for ten years, until in August 1572 the massacre
of Saint Bartholomew took place. After that event the word "Huguenot"
was abolished, or was only mentioned with terror. Montluc's castle
of Estellac, situated near the pretty village of Estanquet, near
Roquefort--famous for its cheese--still exists; his cabinet is
preserved, and his tomb and statue are to be seen in the adjoining
garden. The principal scenes of the following story are supposed to have
occurred at Estanquet, a few miles to the south of Agen.

Franconnette, like The Blind Girl of Castel-Cuille, is a story of
rivalry in love; but, though more full of adventure, it ends more
happily. Franconnette was a village beauty. Her brilliant eyes, her rosy
complexion, her cherry lips, her lithe and handsome figure, brought all
the young fellows of the neighbourhood to her feet. Her father was a
banished Huguenot, but beauty of person sets differences of belief at
defiance.

The village lads praised her and tried to win her affections; but, like
beauties in general, surrounded by admirers, she was a bit of a flirt.

At length two rivals appeared--one Marcel, a soldier under Montluc,
favoured by Franconnette's grandmother, and Pascal, the village
blacksmith, favoured by the girl herself. One Sunday afternoon a number
of young men and maidens assembled at the foot of Montluc's castle
of Estellac on the votive festival of St. Jacques at Roquefort.
Franconnette was there, as well as Marcel and Pascal, her special
admirers. Dancing began to the music of the fife; but Pascal, the
handsomest of the young men, seemed to avoid the village beauty.
Franconnette was indignant at his neglect, but was anxious to secure
his attention and devotion. She danced away, sliding, whirling, and
pirouetting. What would not the admiring youths have given to impress
two kisses on her lovely cheek!{3}

In these village dances, it is the custom for the young men to kiss
their partners, if they can tire them out; but in some cases, when the
girl is strong; and an accomplished dancer, she declines to be
tired until she wishes to cease dancing. First one youth danced with
Franconnette, then another; but she tired them all. Then came Marcel,
the soldier, wearing his sabre, with a cockade in his cap--a tall and
stately fellow, determined to win the reward. But he too, after much
whirling and dancing, was at last tired out: he was about to fall with
dizziness, and then gave in. On goes the dance; Franconnette waits for
another partner; Pascal springs to her side, and takes her round the
waist. Before they had made a dozen steps, the girl smiles and stops,
and turns her blushing cheeks to receive her partner's willing kisses.

Marcel started up in a rage, and drawing himself to his full height, he
strode to Pascal. "Peasant!" he said, "thou hast supplied my place too
quickly," and then dealt him a thundering blow between the eyes. Pascal
was not felled; he raised his arm, and his fist descended on Marcel's
head like a bolt. The soldier attempted to draw his sabre. When Pascal
saw this, he closed with Marcel, grasped him in his arms, and dashed him
to the ground, crushed and senseless.

Marcel was about to rise to renew the duel, when suddenly Montluc, who
happened to be passing with the Baron of Roquefort, stepped forward and
sternly ordered the combatants to separate. This terrible encounter put
an end to the fete. The girls fled like frightened doves. The young
men escorted Pascal to his home preceded by the fifers. Marcel was not
discouraged. On recovering his speech, he stammered out, grinding his
teeth: "They shall pay clearly for this jesting; Franconnette shall have
no other husband than myself."

Many months passed. The harvest was gathered in. There were no more
out-door fetes or dances. The villagers of Estanquet assembled round
their firesides. Christmas arrived with it games and carol-singing. Then
came the Feast of Lovers, called the Buscou,{4} on the last day of the
year, where, in a large chamber, some hundred distaffs were turning, and
boys and girls, with nimble fingers, were winding thread of the finest
flax. Franconnette was there, and appointed queen of the games. After
the winding was over, the songs and dances began to the music of a
tambourin. The queen, admired by all, sang and danced like the rest.

Pascal was not there; his mother was poor, and she endeavoured to
persuade him to remain at home and work. After a short struggle
with himself, Pascal yielded. He turned aside to his forge in silent
dejection; and soon the anvil was ringing and the sparks were flying,
while away down in the village the busking went merrily on. "If the
prettiest were always the most sensible," says Jasmin, "how much my
Franconnette might have accomplished;" but instead of this, she flitted
from place to place, idle and gay, jesting, singing, dancing, and, as
usual, bewitching all.

Then Thomas, Pascal's friend, asked leave to sing a few verses; and,
fixing his keen eyes upon the coquette, he began in tones of lute-like
sweetness the following song, entitled 'The Syren with a Heart of Ice.'
We have translated it, as nearly as possible, from the Gascon dialect.

 "Faribolo pastouro,
 Sereno al co de glas,
 Oh! digo, digo couro
 Entendren tinda l'houro
 Oun t'amistouzaras.
 Toutjour fariboulejes,
 Et quand parpailloulejes
 La foulo que mestrejes,
 Sur toun cami set met

 Et te siet.
 Mais res d'acos, maynado,
 Al bounhur pot mena;
 Qu'es acos d'estre aymado,
 Quand on sat pas ayma?"

 "Wayward shepherd maid,
 Syren with heart of ice,
 Oh! tell us, tell us! when
 We listen for the hour
 When thou shalt feel
 Ever so free and gay,
 And when you flutter o'er
 The number you subdue,
 Upon thy path they fall
 At thy feet.
 But nothing comes of this, young maid,
 To happiness it never leads;
 What is it to be loved like this
 If you ne'er can love again?"

Such poetry however defies translation. The more exquisite the mastery
of a writer over his own language, the more difficult it is to reproduce
it in another. But the spirit of the song is in Miss Costello's
translation,{5} as given in Franconnette at the close of this volume.

When reciting Franconnette, Jasmin usually sang The Syren to music of
his own composition. We accordingly annex his music.

All were transported with admiration at the beautiful song. When Thomas
had finished, loud shouts were raised for the name of the poet. "Who had
composed this beautiful lay?" "It is Pascal," replied Thomas. "Bravo,
Pascal! Long live Pascal!" was the cry of the young people. Franconnette
was unwontedly touched by the song. "But where is Pascal?" she said. "If
he loves, why does he not appear?" "Oh," said Laurent, another of his
rivals, in a jealous and piqued tone, "he is too poor, he is obliged
to stay at home, his father is so infirm that he lives upon alms!" "You
lie," cried Thomas. "Pascal is unfortunate; he has been six months ill
from the wounds he received in defence of Franconnette, and now his
family is dependent upon him; but he has industry and courage, and will
soon recover from his misfortunes."

Franconnette remained quiet, concealing her emotions. Then the games
began. They played at Cache Couteau or Hunt the Slipper. Dancing came
next; Franconnette was challenged by Laurent, and after many rounds the
girl was tired, and Laurent claimed the kisses that she had forfeited.
Franconnette flew away like a bird; Laurent ran after her, caught
her, and was claiming the customary forfeit, when, struggling to free
herself, Laurent slipped upon the floor, fell heavily, and broke his
arm.

Franconnette was again unfortunate. Ill-luck seems to have pursued
the girl. The games came to an end, and the young people were about to
disperse when, at this unlucky moment, the door was burst open and
a sombre apparition appeared. It was the Black Forest sorcerer, the
supposed warlock of the neighbourhood.

"Unthinking creatures," he said, "I have come from my gloomy rocks up
yonder to open your eyes. You all adore this Franconnette. Behold, she
is accursed! While in her cradle her father, the Huguenot, sold her to
the devil. He has punished Pascal and Laurent for the light embrace she
gave them. He warned in time and avoid her. The demon alone has a claim
to her."

The sorcerer ended; sparks of fire surrounded him, and after turning
four times round in a circle he suddenly disappeared! Franconnette's
friends at once held aloof from her. They called out to her, "Begone!"
All in a maze the girl shuddered and sickened; she became senseless, and
fell down on the floor in a swoon. The young people fled, leaving her
helpless. And thus ended the second fete which began so gaily.

The grossest superstition then prevailed in France, as everywhere.
Witches and warlocks were thoroughly believed in, far more so than
belief in God and His Son. The news spread abroad that the girl was
accursed and sold to the Evil One, and she was avoided by everybody. She
felt herself doomed. At length she reached her grandmother's house,
but she could not work, she could scarcely stand. The once radiant
Franconnette could neither play nor sing; she could only weep.

Thus ended two cantos of the poem. The third opens with a lovely picture
of a cottage by a leafy brookside in the hamlet of Estanquet. The
spring brought out the singing-birds to pair and build their nests. They
listened, but could no longer hear the music which, in former years, had
been almost sweeter than their own. The nightingales, more curious
than the rest, flew into the maid's garden; they saw her straw hat on
a bench, a rake and watering-pot among the neglected jonquils, and the
rose branches running riot. Peering yet further and peeping into the
cottage door, the curious birds discovered an old woman asleep in her
arm-chair, and a pale, quiet girl beside her, dropping tears upon her
lily hands. "Yes, yes, it is. Franconnette," says the poet. "You
will have guessed that already. A poor girl, weeping in solitude, the
daughter of a Huguenot, banned by the Church and sold to the devil!
Could anything be more frightful?"

Nevertheless her grandmother said to her, "My child, it is not true; the
sorcerer's charge is false. He of good cheer, you are more lovely than
ever." One gleam of hope had come to Franconnette; she hears that Pascal
has defended her everywhere, and boldly declared her to be the victim
of a brutal plot. She now realised how great was his goodness, and her
proud spirit was softened even to tears. The grandmother put in a good
word for Marcel, but the girl turned aside. Then the old woman said,
"To-morrow is Easter Day; go to Mass, pray as you never prayed before,
and take the blessed bread, proving that you are numbered with His
children for ever."

The girl consented, and went to the Church of Saint Peter on Easter
morning. She knelt, with her chaplet of beads, among the rest, imploring
Heaven's mercy. But she knelt alone in the midst of a wide circle. All
the communicants avoided her. The churchwarden, Marcel's uncle, in
his long-tailed coat, with a pompous step, passed her entirely by, and
refused her the heavenly meal. Pascal was there and came to her help.
He went forward to the churchwarden and took from the silver plate the
crown piece{6} of the holy element covered with flowers, and took and
presented two pieces of the holy bread to Franconnette--one for herself,
the other for her grandmother.

From that moment she begins to live a new life, and to understand the
magic of love. She carries home the blessed bread to the ancient
dame, and retires to her chamber to give herself up, with the utmost
gratefulness, to the rapturous delight of loving. "Ah," says Jasmin in
his poem, "the sorrowing heart aye loveth best!"

Yet still she remembers the fatal doom of the sorcerer that she is sold
for a price to the demon. All seem to believe the hideous tale, and no
one takes her part save Pascal and her grandmother. She kneels before
her little shrine and prays to the Holy Virgin for help and succour.

At the next fete day she repaired to the church of Notre Dame de bon
Encontre,{7} where the inhabitants of half a dozen of the neighbouring
villages had assembled, with priests and crucifixes, garlands and
tapers, banners and angels. The latter, girls about to be confirmed,
walked in procession and sang the Angelus at the appropriate hours. The
report had spread abroad that Franconnette would entreat the Blessed
Virgin to save her from the demon. The strangers were more kind to her
than her immediate neighbours, and from many a pitying heart the prayer
went up that a miracle might be wrought in favour of the beautiful
maiden. She felt their sympathy, and it gave her confidence. The
special suppliants passed up to the altar one by one--Anxious mothers,
disappointed lovers, orphans and children. They kneel, they ask for
blessings, they present their candles for the old priest to bless, and
then they retire.

Now came the turn of Franconnette. Pascal was in sight and prayed for
her success. She went forward in a happy frame of mind, with her taper
and a bouquet of flowers. She knelt before the priest. He took the
sacred image and presented it to her; but scarcely had it touched the
lips of the orphan when a terrible peal of thunder rent the heavens, and
a bolt of lightning struck the spire of the church, extinguishing her
taper as well as the altar lights. This was a most unlucky coincidence
for the terrified girl; and, cowering like a lost soul, she crept out of
the church. The people were in consternation. "It was all true, she was
now sold to the devil! Put her to death, that is the only way of ending
our misfortunes!"

The truth is that the storm of thunder and lightning prevailed
throughout the neighbourhood. It is a common thing in southern climes.
The storm which broke out at Notre Dame destroyed the belfry; the church
of Roquefort was demolished by a bolt of lightning, the spire of Saint
Pierre was ruined. The storm was followed by a tempest of hail and rain.
Agen was engulfed by the waters; her bridge was destroyed,{8} and many
of the neighbouring vineyards were devastated. And all this ruin was
laid at the door of poor Franconnette!

The neighbours--her worst enemies--determined to burn the daughter of
the Huguenot out of her cottage. The grandmother first heard the cries
of the villagers: "Fire them, let them both burn together." Franconnette
rushed to the door and pleaded for mercy. "Go back," cried the crowd,
"you must both roast together." They set fire to the rick outside and
then proceeded to fire the thatch of the cottage. "Hold, hold!" cried
a stern voice, and Pascal rushed in amongst them. "Cowards! would you
murder two defenceless women? Tigers that you are, would you fire and
burn them in their dwelling?"

Marcel too appeared; he had not yet given up the hope of winning
Franconnette's love. He now joined Pascal in defending her and the
old dame, and being a soldier of Montluc, he was a powerful man in the
neighbourhood. The girl was again asked to choose between the two. At
last, after refusing any marriage under present circumstances, she clung
to Pascal. "I would have died alone," she said, "but since you will have
it so, I resist no longer. It is our fate; we will die together." Pascal
was willing to die with her, and turning to Marcel he said: "I have been
more fortunate than you, but you are a brave man and you will forgive
me. I have no friend, but will you act as a squire and see me to my
grave?" After struggling with his feelings, Marcel at last said: "Since
it is her wish, I will be your friend."

A fortnight later, the marriage between the unhappy lovers took place.
Every one foreboded disaster. The wedding procession went down the green
hill towards the church of Notre Dame. There was no singing, no dancing,
no merriment, as was usual on such occasions. The rustics shuddered at
heart over the doom of Pascal. The soldier Marcel marched at the head of
the wedding-party. At the church an old woman appeared, Pascal's mother.
She flung her arms about him and adjured him to fly from his false
bride, for his marriage would doom him to death. She even fell at the
feet of her son and said that he should pass over her body rather than
be married. Pascal turned to Marcel and said: "Love overpowers me! If I
die, will you take care of my mother?"

Then the gallant soldier dispelled the gloom which had overshadowed the
union of the loving pair. "I can do no more," he said; "your mother
has conquered me. Franconnette is good, and pure, and true. I loved the
maid, Pascal, and would have shed my blood for her, but she loved you
instead of me.

"Know that she is not sold to the Evil One. In my despair I hired the
sorcerer to frighten you with his mischievous tale, and chance did the
rest. When we both demanded her, she confessed her love for you. It was
more than I could bear, and I resolved that we should both die.

"But your mother has disarmed me; she reminds me of my own. Live,
Pascal, for your wife and your mother! You need have no more fear of me.
It is better that I should die the death of a soldier than with a crime
upon my conscience."

Thus saying, he vanished from the crowd, who burst into cheers. The
happy lovers fell into each other's arms. "And now," said Jasmin, in
concluding his poem, "I must lay aside my pencil. I had colours for
sorrow; I have none for such happiness as theirs!"


Endnotes to Chapter IX.

{1} The whole of Jasmin's answer to M. Dumon will be found in the
Appendix at the end of this volume.

{2}'Gascogne et Languedoc,' par Paul Joanne, p. 95 (edit. 1883).

{3} The dance still exists in the neighbourhood of Agen. When there a
few years ago, I was drawn by the sound of a fife and a drum to the spot
where a dance of this sort was going on. It was beyond the suspension
bridge over the Garonne, a little to the south of Agen. A number of men
and women of the working-class were assembled on the grassy sward,
and were dancing, whirling, and pirouetting to their hearts' content.
Sometimes the girls bounded from the circle, were followed by their
sweethearts, and kissed. It reminded one of the dance so vigorously
depicted by Jasmin in Franconnette.

{4} Miss Harriet Preston, of Boston, U.S., published part of a
translation of Franconnette in the 'Atlantic Monthly' for February,
1876, and adds the following note: "The buscou, or busking, was a kind
of bee, at which the young people assembled, bringing the thread of
their late spinning, which was divided into skeins of the proper size
by a broad and thin plate of steel or whalebone called a busc. The same
thing, under precisely the same name, figured in the toilets of our
grandmothers, and hence, probably, the Scotch use of the verb to busk,
or attire."

{5} Miss Louisa Stuart Costello in 'Bearn and the Pyrenees.'

{6} A custom which then existed in certain parts of France. It was taken
by the French emigrants to Canada, where it existed not long ago. The
crown of the sacramental bread used to be reserved for the family of the
seigneur or other communicants of distinction.

{7} A church in the suburbs of Agen, celebrated for its legends and
miracles, to which numerous pilgrimages are made in the month of May.

{8} A long time ago the inhabitants of the town of Agen communicated
with the other side of the Garonne by means of little boats. The first
wooden bridge was commenced when Aquitaine was governed by the English,
in the reign of Richard Coeur-de-lion, at the end of the twelfth
century. The bridge was destroyed and repaired many times, and one
of the piles on which the bridge was built is still to be seen. It is
attributed to Napoleon I. that he caused the first bridge of stone to
be erected, for the purpose of facilitating the passage of his troops to
Spain. The work was, however, abandoned during his reign, and it was
not until the Restoration that the bridge was completed. Since that time
other bridges, especially the suspension bridge, have been erected, to
enable the inhabitants of the towns on the Garonne to communicate freely
with each other.



CHAPTER X. JASMIN AT TOULOUSE.

It had hitherto been the custom of Jasmin to dedicate his poems to one
of his friends; but in the case of Franconnette he dedicated the poem to
the city of Toulouse. His object in making the dedication was to express
his gratitude for the banquet given to him in 1836 by the leading men
of the city, at which the President had given the toast of "Jasmin, the
adopted son of Toulouse."

Toulouse was the most wealthy and prosperous city in the South of
France. Among its citizens were many men of literature, art, and
science. Jasmin was at first disposed to dedicate Franconnette to the
city of Bordeaux, where he had been so graciously received and feted
on the recitation of his Blind Girl of Castel-Cuille; but he eventually
decided to dedicate the new poem to the city of Toulouse, where he had
already achieved a considerable reputation.

Jasmin was received with every honour by the city which had adopted
him. It was his intention to read the poem at Toulouse before its
publication. If there was one of the towns or cities in which his
language was understood--one which promised by the strength and depth of
its roots to defy all the chances of the future--that city was Toulouse,
the capital of the Langue d'Oc.

The place in which he first recited the poem was the Great Hall of the
Museum. When the present author saw it about two years ago, the ground
floor was full of antique tombs, statues, and monuments of the past;
while the hall above it was crowded with pictures and works of art,
ancient and modern.

About fifteen hundred persons assembled to listen to Jasmin in the Great
Hall. "It is impossible," said the local journal,{1} "to describe the
transport with which he was received." The vast gallery was filled with
one of the most brilliant assemblies that had ever met in Toulouse.
Jasmin occupied the centre of the platform. At his right and left
hand were seated the Mayor, the members of the Municipal Council, the
Military Chiefs, the members of the Academy of Jeux-Floraux,{2} and
many distinguished persons in science, literature, and learning. A large
space had been reserved for the accommodation of ladies, who appeared in
their light summer dresses, coloured like the rainbow; and behind them
stood an immense number of the citizens of Toulouse.

Jasmin had no sooner begun to recite his poem than it was clear that he
had full command of his audience. Impressed by his eloquence and powers
of declamation, they were riveted to their seats, dazzled and moved by
turns, as the crowd of beautiful thoughts passed through their minds.
The audience were so much absorbed by the poet's recitation that not a
whisper was heard. He evoked by the tones and tremor of his voice their
sighs, their tears, their indignation. He was by turns gay, melancholy,
artless, tender, arch, courteous, and declamatory. As the drama
proceeded, the audience recognised the beauty of the plot and the poet's
knowledge of the human heart. He touched with grace all the cords of his
lyre. His poetry evidently came direct from his heart: it was as rare as
it was delicious.

The success of the recitation was complete, and when Jasmin resumed his
seat he received the most enthusiastic applause. As the whole of the
receipts were, as usual, handed over by Jasminto the local charities,
the assembly decided by acclamation that a subscription should be raised
to present to the poet, who had been adopted by the city, some testimony
of their admiration for his talent, and for his having first recited to
them and dedicated to Toulouse his fine poem of Franconnette.

Jasmin handed over to the municipality the manuscript of his poem in a
volume beautifully bound. The Mayor, in eloquent language, accepted the
work, and acknowledged the fervent thanks of the citizens of Toulouse.

As at Bordeaux, Jasmin was feted and entertained by the most
distinguished people of the city. At one of the numerous banquets at
which he was present, he replied to the speech of the chairman by an
impromptu in honour of those who had so splendidly entertained him. But,
as he had already said: "Impromptus may be good money of the heart, but
they are often the worst money of the head."{3}

On the day following the entertainment, Jasmin was invited to a "grand
banquet" given by the coiffeurs of Toulouse, where they presented him
with "a crown of immortelles and jasmines," and to them also he recited
another of his impromptus.{4}

Franconnette was shortly after published, and the poem was received with
almost as much applause by the public as it had been by the citizens
of Toulouse. Sainte-beuve, the prince of French critics, said of the
work:--

"In all his compositions Jasmin has a natural, touching idea; it is a
history, either of his invention, or taken from some local tradition.
With his facility as an improvisatore, aided by the patois in which he
writes,... when he puts his dramatis personae into action, he endeavours
to depict their thoughts, all their simple yet lively conversation, and
to clothe them in words the most artless, simple, and transparent,
and in a language true, eloquent, and sober: never forget this latter
characteristic of Jasmin's works."{5}

M. de Lavergne says of Franconnette, that, of all Jasmin's work, it is
the one in which he aimed at being most entirely popular, and that it
is at the same time the most noble and the most chastened. He might
also have added the most chivalrous. "There is something essentially
knightly," says Miss Preston, "in Pascal's cast of character, and it
is singular that at the supreme crisis of his fate he assumes, as if
unconsciously, the very phraseology of chivalry.

"Some squire (donzel) should follow me to death. It is altogether
natural and becoming in the high-minded smith."

M. Charles Nodier--Jasmin's old friend--was equally complimentary in his
praises of Franconnette. When a copy of the poem was sent to him, with
an accompanying letter, Nodier replied:--

"I have received with lively gratitude, my dear and illustrious friend,
your beautiful verses, and your charming and affectionate letter. I have
read them with great pleasure and profound admiration. A Although ill in
bed, I have devoured Franconnette and the other poems. I observe, with
a certain pride, that you have followed my advice, and that you think
in that fine language which you recite so admirably, in place of
translating the patois into French, which deprives it of its fullness
and fairness. I thank you a thousand times for your very flattering
epistle. I am too happy to expostulate with you seriously as to the
gracious things you have said to me; my name will pass to posterity in
the works of my friends; the glory of having been loved by you goes for
a great deal."

The time at length arrived for the presentation of the testimonial of
Toulouse to Jasmin. It consisted of a branch of laurel in gold. The
artist who fashioned it was charged to put his best work into the golden
laurel, so that it might be a chef d'oeuvre worthy of the city which
conferred it, and of being treasured in the museum of their adopted
poet. The work was indeed admirably executed. The stem was rough, as
in nature, though the leaves were beautifully polished. It had a ribbon
delicately ornamented, with the words "Toulouse a Jasmin."

When the work was finished and placed in its case, the Mayor desired to
send it to Jasmin by a trusty messenger. He selected Mademoiselle Gasc,
assisted by her father, advocate and member of the municipal council, to
present the tribute to Jasmin. It ought to have been a fete day for the
people of Agen, when their illustrious townsman, though a barber, was
about to receive so cordial an appreciation of his poetical genius from
the learned city of Toulouse. It ought also to have been a fete day for
Jasmin himself.

But alas! an unhappy coincidence occurred which saddened the day that
ought to have been a day of triumph for the poet. His mother was dying.
When Mademoiselle Gasc, accompanied by her father, the Mayor of Agen,
and other friends of Jasmin, entered the shop, they were informed
that he was by the bedside of his mother, who was at death's door. The
physician, who was consulted as to her state, said that there might only
be sufficient time for Jasmin to receive the deputation.

He accordingly came out for a few moments from his mother's bed-side. M.
Gasc explained the object of the visit, and read to

Jasmin the gracious letter of the Mayor of Toulouse, concluding as
follows:--

"I thank you, in the name of the city of Toulouse, for the fine poem
which you have dedicated to us. This branch of laurel will remind you
of the youthful and beautiful Muse which has inspired you with such
charming verses."

The Mayor of Agen here introduced Mademoiselle Gasc, who, in her turn,
said:--

"And I also, sir, am most happy and proud of the mission which has been
entrusted to me."

Then she presented him with the casket which contained the golden
laurel. Jasmin responded in the lines entitled 'Yesterday and To-day,'
from which the following words may be quoted:--

"Yesterday! Thanks, Toulouse, for our old language and for my poetry.
Your beautiful golden branch ennobles both. And you who offer it to me,
gracious messenger--queen of song and queen of hearts--tell your city of
my perfect happiness, and that I never anticipated such an honour even
in my most golden dreams.

"To-day! Fascinated by the laurel which Toulouse has sent me, and which
fills my heart with joy, I cannot forget, my dear young lady, the sorrow
which overwhelms me--the fatal illness of my mother--which makes me fear
that the most joyful day of my life will also be the most sorrowful."

Jasmin's alarms were justified. His prayers were of no avail. His mother
died with her hand in his shortly after the deputation had departed. Her
husband had preceded her to the tomb a few years before. He always had
a firm presentiment that he should be carried in the arm-chair to the
hospital, "where all the Jasmins die." But Jasmin did his best to save
his father from that indignity. He had already broken the arm-chair, and
the old tailor died peacefully in the arms of his son.

Some four months after the recitation of Franconnette at Toulouse,
Jasmin resumed his readings in the cause of charity. In October 1840 he
visited Oleron, and was received with the usual enthusiasm; and on his
return to Pau, he passed the obelisk erected to Despourrins, the Burns
of the Pyrenees. At Pau he recited his Franconnette to an immense
audience amidst frenzies of applause. It was alleged that the people
of the Pyrenean country were prosaic and indifferent to art. But M.
Dugenne, in the 'Memorial des Pyrenees,' said that it only wanted such
a bewitching poet as Jasmin--with his vibrating and magical voice--to
rouse them and set their minds on fire.

Another writer, M. Alfred Danger, paid him a still more delicate
compliment.

"His poetry," he said, "is not merely the poetry of illusions; it is
alive, and inspires every heart. His admirable delicacy! His profound
tact in every verse! What aristocratic poet could better express in
a higher degree the politeness of the heart, the truest of all
politeness."{6}

Jasmin did not seem to be at all elated by these eulogiums. When he
had finished his recitations, he returned to Agen, sometimes on foot,
sometimes in the diligence, and quietly resumed his daily work.
His success as a poet never induced him to resign his more humble
occupation. Although he received some returns from the sale of his
poems, he felt himself more independent by relying upon the income
derived from his own business.

His increasing reputation never engendered in him, as is too often
the case with self-taught geniuses who suddenly rise into fame, a
supercilious contempt for the ordinary transactions of life. "After
all," he said, "contentment is better than riches."


Endnotes to Chapter X.

{1} Journal de Toulouse, 4th July, 1840.

{2} The Society of the Jeux-Floraux derives its origin from the ancient
Troubadours. It claims to be the oldest society of the kind in Europe.
It is said to have been founded in the fourteenth century by Clemence
Isaure, a Toulousian lady, to commemorate the "Gay Science." A meeting
of the society is held every year, when prizes are distributed to
the authors of the best compositions in prose and verse. It somewhat
resembles the annual meeting of the Eisteddfod, held for awarding prizes
to the bards and composers of Wales.

{3} The following was his impromptu to the savants of Toulouse, 4th
July, 1840:--

 "Oh, bon Dieu! que de gloire!  Oh, bon Dieu! que d'honneurs!
 Messieurs, ce jour pour ma Muse est bien doux;
 Mais maintenant, d'etre quitte j'ai perdu l'esperance:
     Car je viens, plus fier que jamais,
     Vous payer ma reconnaissance,
     Et je m'endette que plus!"

{4} This is the impromptu, given on the 5th July, 1840:

 "Toulouse m'a donne un beau bouquet d'honneur;
 Votre festin, amis, en est une belle fleur;
 Aussi, clans les plaisirs de cette longue fete,
     Quand je veux remercier de cela,
 Je poursuis mon esprit pour ne pas etre en reste
 Ici, l'esprit me nait et tombe de mon coeur!"

{5} 'Causeries du Lundi,' iv. 240 (edit. 1852).

{6} "La politesse du coeur," a French expression which can scarcely be
translated into English; just as "gentleman" has no precise equivalent
in French.



CHAPTER XI. JASMIN'S VISIT TO PARIS.

Jasmin had been so often advised to visit Paris and test his powers
there, that at length he determined to proceed to the capital of France.
It is true, he had been eulogized in the criticisms of Sainte-Beuve,
Leonce de Lavergne, Charles Nodier, and Charles de Mazade; but he
desired to make the personal acquaintance of some of these illustrious
persons, as well as to see his son, who was then settled in Paris. It
was therefore in some respects a visit of paternal affection as well as
literary reputation. He set out for Paris in the month of May 1842.

Jasmin was a boy in his heart and feelings, then as always. Indeed, he
never ceased to be a boy--in his manners, his gaiety, his artlessness,
and his enjoyment of new pleasures.

What a succession of wonders to him was Paris--its streets, its
boulevards, its Tuileries, its Louvre, its Arc de Triomphe--reminding
him of the Revolution and the wars of the first Napoleon.

Accompanied by his son Edouard, he spent about a week in visiting the
most striking memorials of the capital. They visited together the Place
de la Concorde, the Hotel de Ville, Notre Dame, the Madeleine, the
Champs Elysees, and most of the other sights. At the Colonne Vendome,
Jasmin raised his head, looked up, and stood erect, proud of the glories
of France. He saw all these things for the first time, but they had long
been associated with his recollections of the past.

There are "country cousins" in Paris as well as in London. They are
known by their dress, their manners, their amazement at all they see.
When Jasmin stood before the Vendome Column, he extended his hand as if
he were about to recite one of his poems. "Oh, my son," he exclaimed,
"such glories as these are truly magnificent!" The son, who was
familiar with the glories, was rather disposed to laugh. He desired, for
decorum's sake, to repress his father's exclamations. He saw the people
standing about to hear his father's words. "Come," said the young man,
"let us go to the Madeleine, and see that famous church." "Ah, Edouard,"
said Jasmin, "I can see well enough that you are not a poet; not you
indeed!"

During his visit, Jasmin wrote regularly to his wife and friends at
Agen, giving them his impressions of Paris. His letters were full of
his usual simplicity, brightness, boyishness, and enthusiasm. "What
wonderful things I have already seen," he said in one of his letters,
"and how many more have I to see to-morrow and the following days. M.
Dumon, Minister of Public Works" (Jasmin's compatriot and associate at
the Academy of Agen), "has given me letters of admission to Versailles,
Saint-Cloud, Meudon in fact, to all the public places that I have for so
long a time been burning to see and admire."

After a week's tramping about, and seeing the most attractive sights of
the capital, Jasmin bethought him of his literary friends and critics.
The first person he called upon was Sainte-Beuve, at the Mazarin
Library, of which he was director. "He received me like a brother," said
Jasmin, "and embraced me. He said the most flattering things about
my Franconnette, and considered it an improvement upon L'Aveugle.
'Continue,' he said, 'my good friend' and you will take a place in the
brightest poetry of our epoch.' In showing me over the shelves in the
Library containing the works of the old poets, which are still read and
admired, he said, 'Like them, you will never die.'"

Jasmin next called upon Charles Nodier and Jules Janin. Nodier was
delighted to see his old friend, and after a long conversation, Jasmin
said that "he left him with tears in his eyes." Janin complimented him
upon his works, especially upon his masterly use of the Gascon language.
"Go on," he said, "and write your poetry in the patois which always
appears to me so delicious. You possess the talent necessary for the
purpose; it is so genuine and rare."

The Parisian journals mentioned Jasmin's appearance in the capital; the
most distinguished critics had highly approved of his works; and before
long he became the hero of the day. The modest hotel in which he stayed
during his visit, was crowded with visitors. Peers, ministers, deputies,
journalists, members of the French Academy, came to salute the author of
the 'Papillotos.'

The proprietor of the hotel began to think that he was entertaining some
prince in disguise--that he must have come from some foreign court
to negotiate secretly some lofty questions of state. But when he was
entertained at a banquet by the barbers and hair-dressers of Paris,
the opinions of "mine host" underwent a sudden alteration. He informed
Jasmin's son that he could scarcely believe that ministers of state
would bother themselves with a country peruke-maker! The son laughed; he
told the maitre d'hotel that his bill would be paid, and that was all he
need to care for.

Jasmin was not, however, without his detractors. Even in his own
country, many who had laughed heartily and wept bitterly while listening
to his voice, feared lest they might have given vent to their emotions
against the legitimate rules of poetry. Some of the Parisian critics
were of opinion that he was immensely overrated. They attributed the
success of the Gascon poet to the liveliness of the southerners, who
were excited by the merest trifles; and they suspected that Jasmin,
instead of being a poet, was but a clever gasconader, differing only
from the rest of his class by speaking in verse instead of prose.

Now that Jasmin was in the capital, his real friends, who knew his
poetical powers, desired him to put an end to these prejudices by
reciting before a competent tribunal some of his most admired verses. He
would have had no difficulty in obtaining a reception at the Tuileries.
He had already received several kind favours from the Duke and Duchess
of Orleans while visiting Agen. The Duke had presented him with a ring
set in brilliants, and the Duchess had given him a gold pin in the shape
of a flower, with a fine pearl surrounded by diamonds, in memory of
their visit. It was this circumstance which induced him to compose his
poem 'La Bago et L'Esplingo' (La Bague et L'Epingle) which he dedicated
to the Duchess of Orleans.

But Jasmin aimed higher than the Royal family. His principal desire
was to attend the French Academy; but as the Academy did not permit
strangers to address their meetings, Jasmin was under the necessity of
adopting another method. The Salons were open.

M. Leonce de Lavergne said to him: "You are now classed among our French
poets; give us a recitation in Gascon." Jasmin explained that he
could not give his reading before the members of the Academy. "That
difficulty," said his friend, "can soon be got over: I will arrange for
a meeting at the salon of one of our most distinguished members."

It was accordingly arranged that Jasmin should give a reading at the
house of M. Augustin Thierry, one of the greatest of living historians.
The elite of Parisian society were present on the occasion, including
Ampere, Nizard, Burnouf, Ballanche, Villemain, and many distinguished
personages of literary celebrity.

A word as to Jasmin's distinguished entertainer, M. Augustin Thierry. He
had written the 'History of the Conquest of England by the Normans'--an
original work of great value, though since overshadowed by the more
minute 'History of the Norman Conquest,' by Professor Freeman. Yet
Thierry's work is still of great interest, displaying gifts of the
highest and rarest kind in felicitous combination. It shows the careful
plodding of the antiquary, the keen vision of the man of the world,
the passionate fervour of the politician, the calm dignity of the
philosophic thinker, and the grandeur of the epic poet. Thierry
succeeded in exhuming the dry bones of history, clothing them for us
anew, and presenting almost visibly the "age and body of the times" long
since passed away.

Thierry had also written his 'Narratives of the Merovingian Times,' and
revived almost a lost epoch in the early history of France. In
writing out these and other works--the results of immense labour and
research--he partly lost his eyesight. He travelled into Switzerland and
the South of France in the company of M. Fauriel. He could read no
more, and towards the end of the year the remains of his sight entirely
disappeared. He had now to read with the eyes of others, and to dictate
instead of writing. In his works he was assisted by the friendship of M.
Armand Carrel, and the affection and judgment of his loving young wife.

He proceeded with courage, and was able to complete the fundamental
basis of the two Frankish dynasties. He was about to follow his
investigations into the history of the Goths, Huns, and Vandals, and
other races which had taken part in the dismemberment of the empire.
"However extended these labours," he says,{1} "my complete blindness
could not have prevented my going through them; I was resigned as much
as a courageous man can be: I had made a friendship with darkness.
But other trials came: acute sufferings and the decline of my health
announced a nervous disease of the most serious kind. I was obliged to
confess myself conquered, and to save, if it was still time, the last
remains of my health."

The last words of Thierry's Autobiographical Preface are most touching.
"If, as I delight in thinking, the interest of science is counted in the
number of great national interests, I have given my country all that the
soldier mutilated on the field of battle gives her. Whatever may be the
fate of my labours, this example I hope will not be lost. I would wish
it to serve to combat the species of moral weakness which is the disease
of the present generation; to bring back into the straight road of life
some of those enervated souls that complain of wanting faith, that know
not what to do, and seek everywhere, without finding it, an object of
worship and admiration. Why say, with so much bitterness, that in
this world, constituted as it is, there is no air for all lungs, no
employment for all minds? Is there not opportunity for calm and serious
study? and is not that a refuge, a hope, a field within the reach of
all of us? With it, evil days are passed over without their weight being
felt; every one can make his own destiny; every one can employ his
life nobly. This is what I have done, and would do again if I had to
recommence my career: I would choose that which has brought me to
where I am. Blind, and suffering without hope, and almost without
intermission, I may give this testimony, which from me will not appear
suspicious; there is something in this world better than sensual
enjoyments, better than fortune, better than health itself: it is
devotion to science."


Endnotes for Chapter XI.

{1} Autobiographical Preface to the 'Narratives of the Merovingian
Times.'



CHAPTER XII. JASMIN'S RECITATIONS IN PARIS.

It was a solemn and anxious moment for Jasmin when he appeared before
this select party of the most distinguished literary men in Paris: he
was no doubt placed at a considerable disadvantage, for his judges did
not even know his language. He had frequently recited to audiences who
did not know Gascon; and on such occasions he used, before commencing
his recitation, to give in French a short sketch of his poem, with, an
explanation of some of the more difficult Gascon words. This was all;
his mimic talent did the rest. His gestures were noble and well-marked.
His eyes were flashing, but they became languishing when he represented
tender sentiments. Then his utterance changed entirely, often suddenly,
following the expressions of grief and joy. There were now smiles, now
tears in his voice.

It was remarkable that Jasmin should first recite before the blind
historian The Blind Girl of Castel-Cuille. It may be that he thought it
his finest poem, within the compass of time allotted to him, and that it
might best please his audience. When he began to speak in Gascon he was
heard with interest. A laugh was, indeed, raised by a portion of his
youthful hearers, but Jasmin flashed his penetrating eye upon them; and
there was no more laughter. When he reached the tenderest part he gave
way to his emotion, and wept. Tears are as contagious as smiles; and
even the academicians, who may not have wept with Rachel, wept with
Jasmin. It was the echo of sorrow to sorrow; the words which blind
despair had evoked from the blind Margaret.

All eyes were turned to Thierry as Jasmin described the girl's
blindness. The poet omitted some of the more painful lines, which
might have occasioned sorrow to his kind entertainer. These lines, for
instance, in Gascon:

 "Jour per aoutres, toutjour! et per jou, malhurouzo,
 Toutjour ney! toutjour ney!
 Que fay negre len d'el!  Oh! que moun amo es tristo!
 Oh! que souffri, moun Diou!  Couro ben doun, Batisto!"

or, as translated by Longfellow:

 "Day for the others ever, but for me
 For ever night! for ever night!
 When he is gone, 'tis dark! my soul is sad!
 I suffer! O my God! come, make me glad."

When Jasmin omitted this verse, Thierry, who had listened with rapt
attention, interrupted him. "Poet," he said, "you have omitted a
passage; read the poem as you have written it." Jasmin paused, and then
added the omitted passage. "Can it be?" said the historian: "surely
you, who can describe so vividly the agony of those who cannot see, must
yourself have suffered blindness!" The words of Jasmin might have been
spoken by Thierry himself, who in his hours of sadness often said, "I
see nothing but darkness today."

At the end of his recital Jasmin was much applauded. Ampere, who had
followed him closely in the French translation of his poem, said:
"If Jasmin had never written verse, it would be worth going a hundred
leagues to listen to his prose." What charmed his auditors most was his
frankness. He would even ask them to listen to what he thought his best
verses. "This passage," he would say, "is very fine." Then he read it
afresh, and was applauded. He liked to be cheered. "Applaud! applaud!"
he said at the end of his reading, "the clapping of your hands will be
heard at Agen."

After the recitation an interesting conversation took place. Jasmin
was asked how it was that he first began to write poetry; for every one
likes to know the beginnings of self-culture. He thereupon entered
into a brief history of his life; how he had been born poor; how his
grandfather had died at the hospital; and how he had been brought up
by charity. He described his limited education and his admission to the
barber's shop; his reading of Florian; his determination to do something
of a similar kind; his first efforts, his progress, and eventually his
success. He said that his object was to rely upon nature and truth, and
to invest the whole with imagination and sensibility--that delicate
touch which vibrated through all the poems he had written. His auditors
were riveted by his sparkling and brilliant conversation.

This seance at M. Thierry's completed the triumph of Jasmin at Paris.
The doors of the most renowned salons were thrown open to him. The most
brilliant society in the capital listened to him and feted him. Madame
de Remusat sent him a present of a golden pen, with the words: "I admire
your beautiful poetry; I never forget you; accept this little gift as
a token of my sincere admiration." Lamartine described Jasmin, perhaps
with some exaggeration, as the truest and most original of modern poets.

Much of Jasmin's work was no doubt the result of intuition, for "the
poet is born, not made." He was not so much the poet of art as of
instinct. Yet M. Charles de Mazede said of him: "Left to himself,
without study, he carried art to perfection." His defect of literary
education perhaps helped him, by leaving him to his own natural
instincts. He himself said, with respect to the perusal of books: "I
constantly read Lafontaine, Victor Hugo, Lamartine and Beranger." It is
thus probable that he may have been influenced to a considerable extent
by his study of the works of others.

Before Jasmin left Paris he had the honour of being invited to visit the
royal family at the palace of Neuilly, a favourite residence of Louis
Philippe. The invitation was made through General de Rumigny, who came
to see the poet at his hotel for the purpose. Jasmin had already made
the acquaintance of the Duke and Duchess of Orleans, while at Agen a few
years before. His visit to Neuilly was made on the 24th of May, 1842. He
was graciously received by the royal family. The Duchess of Orleans
took her seat beside him. She read the verse in Gascon which had been
engraved on the pedestal of the statue at Nerac, erected to the
memory of Henry IV. The poet was surprised as well as charmed by her
condescension. "What, Madame," he exclaimed, "you speak the patois?"
"El jou tabe" (and I also), said Louis Philippe, who came and joined the
Princess and the poet. Never was Jasmin more pleased than when he heard
the words of the King at such a moment.

Jasmin was placed quite at his ease by this gracious reception. The King
and the Duchess united in desiring him to recite some of his poetry.
He at once complied with their request, and recited his Caritat
and L'Abuglo ('The Blind Girl'). After this the party engaged in
conversation. Jasmin, by no means a courtier, spoke of the past, of
Henry IV., and especially of Napoleon--"L'Ampereur," as he described
him. Jasmin had, in the first volume of his 'Papillotos,' written some
satirical pieces on the court and ministers of Louis Philippe. His
friends wished him to omit these pieces from the new edition of his
works, which was about to be published; but he would not consent to do
so. "I must give my works," he said, "just as they were composed; their
suppression would be a negation of myself, and an act of adulation
unworthy of any true-minded man." Accordingly they remained in the
'Papillotos.'

Before he left the royal party, the Duchess of Orleans presented Jasmin
with a golden pin, ornamented with pearls and diamonds; and the
King afterwards sent him, as a souvenir of his visit to the Court, a
beautiful gold watch, ornamented with diamonds. Notwithstanding the
pleasure of this visit, Jasmin, as with a prophetic eye, saw the marks
of sorrow upon the countenance of the King, who was already experiencing
the emptiness of human glory. Scarcely had Jasmin left the palace when
he wrote to his friend Madame de Virens, at Agen: "On that noble face
I could see, beneath the smile, the expression of sadness; so that from
to-day I can no longer say: 'Happy as a King.'"

Another entertainment, quite in contrast with his visit to the King, was
the banquet which Jasmin received from the barbers and hair-dressers of
Paris. He there recited the verses which he had written in their honour.
M. Boisjoslin{1} says that half the barbers of Paris are Iberiens. For
the last three centuries, in all the legends and anecdotes, the barber
is always a Gascon. The actor, the singer, often came from Provence, but
much oftener from Gascony: that is the country of la parole.

During Jasmin's month at Paris he had been unable to visit many of
the leading literary men; but he was especially anxious to see M.
Chateaubriand, the father of modern French literature. Jasmin was
fortunate in finding Chateaubriand at home, at 112 Rue du Bac. He
received Jasmin with cordiality. "I know you intimately already," said
the author of the 'Genius of Christianity;' "my friends Ampere and
Fauriel have often spoken of you. They understand you, they love and
admire you. They acknowledge your great talent,' though they have long
since bade their adieu to poetry; you know poets are very wayward," he
added, with a sly smile. "You have a happy privilege, my dear sir:
when our age turns prosy, you have but to take your lyre, in the sweet
country of the south, and resuscitate the glory of the Troubadours. They
tell me, that in one of your recent journeys you evoked enthusiastic
applause, and entered many towns carpeted with flowers. Ah, mon Dieu, we
can never do that with our prose!"

"Ah, dear sir," said Jasmin, "you have achieved much more glory than I.
Without mentioning the profound respect with which all France regards
you, posterity and the world will glorify you."

"Glory, indeed," replied Chateaubriand, with a sad smile. "What is that
but a flower that fades and dies; but speak to me of your sweet south;
it is beautiful. I think of it, as of Italy; indeed it sometimes seems
to me better than that glorious country!"

Notwithstanding his triumphant career at Paris, Jasmin often thought
of Agen, and of his friends and relations at home. "Oh, my wife, my
children, my guitar, my workshop, my papillotos, my pleasant Gravier, my
dear good friends, with what pleasure I shall again see you." That was
his frequent remark in his letters to Agen. He was not buoyed up by the
praises he had received. He remained, as usual, perfectly simple in his
thoughts, ways, and habits; and when the month had elapsed, he returned
joyfully to his daily work at Agen.

Jasmin afterwards described the recollections of his visit in his
'Voyage to Paris' (Moun Bouyatage a Paris). It was a happy piece of
poetry; full of recollections of the towns and departments through which
he journeyed, and finally of his arrival in Paris. Then the wonders of
the capital, the crowds in the streets, the soldiers, the palaces, the
statues and columns, the Tuileries where the Emperor had lived.

 "I pass, and repass, not a soul I know,
 Not one Agenais in this hurrying crowd;
 No one salutes or shakes me by the hand."

And yet, he says, what a grand world it is! how tasteful! how
fashionable! There seem to be no poor. They are all ladies and
gentlemen. Each day is a Sabbath; and under the trees the children
play about the fountains. So different from Agen! He then speaks of
his interview with Louis Philippe and the royal family, his recital
of L'Abuglo before "great ladies, great writers, lords, ministers, and
great savants;" and he concludes his poem with the words: "Paris makes
me proud, but Agen makes me happy."

The poem is full of the impressions of his mind at the time--simple,
clear, naive. It is not a connected narrative, nor a description of what
he saw, but it was full of admiration of Paris, the centre of France,
and, as Frenchmen think, of civilisation. It is the simple wonder of the
country cousin who sees Paris for the first time--the city that had so
long been associated with his recollections of the past. And perhaps he
seized its more striking points more vividly than any regular denizen of
the capital.


Endnotes for Chapter XII.

{1} 'Les Peuples de la France: Ethnographie Nationale.' (Didier.)



CHAPTER XIII. JASMIN AND HIS ENGLISH CRITICS.

Jasmin's visit to Paris in 1842 made his works more extensively known,
both at home and abroad. His name was frequently mentioned in the
Parisian journals, and Frenchmen north of the Loire began to pride
themselves on their Gascon poet. His Blind Girl had been translated into
English, Spanish, and Italian. The principal English literary journal,
the Athenaeum, called attention to his works a few months after his
appearance in Paris.{1} The editor introduced the subject in the
following words:

"On the banks of the Garonne, in the picturesque and ancient town of
Agen, there exists at this moment a man of genius of the first order--a
rustic Beranger, a Victor Hugo, a Lamartine--a poet full of fire,
originality, and feeling--an actor superior to any now in France,
excepting Rachel, whom he resembles both in his powers of declamation
and his fortunes. He is not unknown--he is no mute inglorious Milton;
for the first poets, statesmen, and men of letters in France have been
to visit him. His parlour chimney-piece, behind his barber's shop, is
covered with offerings to his genius from royalty and rank. His smiling,
dark-eyed wife, exhibits to the curious the tokens of her husband's
acknowledged merit; and gold and jewels shine in the eyes of the
astonished stranger, who, having heard his name, is led to stroll
carelessly into the shop, attracted by a gorgeous blue cloth hung
outside, on which he may have read the words, Jasmin, Coiffeur."

After mentioning the golden laurels, and the gifts awarded to him by
those who acknowledged his genius, the editor proceeds to mention
his poems in the Gascon dialect--his Souvenirs his Blind Girl and his
Franconnette--and then refers to his personal appearance. "Jasmin is
handsome in person, with eyes full of intelligence, of good features,
a mobility of expression absolutely electrifying, a manly figure and an
agreeable address; but his voice is harmony itself, and its changes have
an effect seldom experienced on or off the stage. The melody attributed
to Mrs. Jordan seems to approach it nearest. Had he been an actor
instead of a poet, he would have 'won all hearts his way'... On the
whole, considering the spirit, taste, pathos, and power of this poet,
who writes in a patois hitherto confined to the lower class of people
in a remote district--considering the effect that his verses have made
among educated persons, both French and foreign, it is impossible not
to look upon him as one of the remarkable characters of his age, and to
award him, as the city of Clemence Isaure has done, the Golden Laurel,
as the first of the revived Troubadours, destined perhaps to rescue his
country from the reproach of having buried her poetry in the graves of
Alain Chartier and Charles of Orleans, four centuries ago."

It is probable that this article in the Athenaeum was written by Miss
Louisa Stuart Costello, who had had an interview with the poet, in his
house at Agen, some years before. While making her tour through Auvergne
and Languedoc in 1840,{2} she states that she picked up three charming
ballads, and was not aware that they had ever been printed. She wrote
them down merely by ear, and afterwards translated Me cal Mouri into
English (see page 57). The ballad was very popular, and was set to
music. She did not then know the name of the composer, but when she
ascertained that the poet was "one Jasmin of Agen," she resolved to go
out of her way and call upon him, when on her journey to the Pyrenees
about two years later.{3} She had already heard much about him before
she arrived, as he was regarded in Gascony as "the greatest poet in
modern times." She had no difficulty in finding his shop at the entrance
to the Promenade du Gravier, with the lines in large gold letters,
"Jasmin, Coiffeur"

Miss Costello entered, and was welcomed by a smiling dark-eyed woman,
who informed her that her husband was busy at that moment dressing a
customer's hair, but begged that she would walk into his parlour at the
back of the shop. Madame Jasmin took advantage of her husband's absence
to exhibit the memorials which he had received for his gratuitous
services on behalf of the public. There was the golden laurel from the
city of Toulouse; the golden cup from the citizens of Auch, the gold
watch with chain and seals from "Le Roi" Louis Philippe, the ring
presented by the Duke of Orleans, the pearl pin from the Duchess, the
fine service of linen presented by the citizens of Pau, with other
offerings from persons of distinction.

At last Jasmin himself appeared, having dressed his customer's hair.
Miss Costello describes his manner as well-bred and lively, and his
language as free and unembarrassed. He said, however, that he was ill,
and too hoarse to read. He spoke in a broad Gascon accent, very
rapidly and even eloquently. He told the story of his difficulties and
successes; how his grandfather had been a beggar, and all his family
very poor, but that now he was as rich as he desired to be. His son,
he said, was placed in a good position at Nantes, and he exhibited his
picture with pride. Miss Costello told him that she had seen his name
mentioned in an English Review. Jasmin said the review had been sent
to him by Lord Durham, who had paid him a visit; and then Miss Costello
spoke of Me cal Mouri, as the first poem of his that she had seen. "Oh,"
said he, "that little song is not my best composition: it was merely my
first."

His heart was now touched. He immediately forgot his hoarseness, and
proceeded to read some passages from his poems. "If I were only well,"
said he, "and you would give me the pleasure of your company for some
time, I would kill you with weeping: I would make you die with distress
for my poor Margarido, my pretty Franconnette." He then took up two
copies of his Las Papillotos, handed one to Miss Costello, where the
translation was given in French, and read from the other in Gascon.

"He began," says the lady, "in a rich soft voice, and as we advanced we
found ourselves carried away by the spell of his enthusiasm. His
eyes swam in tears; he became pale and red; he trembled; he recovered
himself; his face was now joyous, now exulting, gay, jocose; in fact, he
was twenty actors in one; he rang the changes from Rachel to Bouffe;
and he finished by relieving us of our tears, and overwhelming us with
astonishment. He would have been a treasure on the stage; for he is
still, though his youth is past, remarkably good-looking and striking;
with black, sparkling eyes of intense expression; a fine ruddy
complexion; a countenance of wondrous mobility; a good figure, and
action full of fire and grace: he has handsome hands, which he uses with
infinite effect; and on the whole he is the best actor of the kind I
ever saw. I could now quite understand what a Troubadour or jongleur he
might be; and I look upon Jasmin as a revived specimen of that extinct
race."

Miss Costello proceeded on her journey to Bearn and the Pyrenees, and on
her return northwards she again renewed her acquaintance with Jasmin
and his dark-eyed wife. "I did not expect," she says, "that I should be
recognised; but the moment I entered the little shop I was hailed as an
old friend. 'Ah' cried Jasmin, 'enfin la voila encore!' I could not but
be flattered by this recollection, but soon found that it was less on
my own account that I was thus welcomed, than because circumstances had
occurred to the poet that I might perhaps explain. He produced several
French newspapers, in which he pointed out to me an article headed
'Jasmin a Londres,' being a translation of certain notices of
himself which had appeared in a leading English literary journal the
Athenaeum.... I enjoyed his surprise, while I informed him that I knew
who was the reviewer and translator; and explained the reason for the
verses giving pleasure in an English dress, to the superior simplicity
of the English language over modern French, for which he had a great
contempt, as unfitted for lyrical composition.{4} He inquired of me
respecting Burns, to whom he had been likened, and begged me to tell him
something about Moore.

"He had a thousand things to tell me; in particular, that he had only
the day before received a letter from the Duchess of Orleans, informing
him that she had ordered a medal of her late husband to be struck, the
first of which should be sent to him. He also announced the agreeable
news of the King having granted him a pension of a thousand francs. He
smiled and wept by turns as he told all this; and declared that, much as
he was elated at the possession of a sum which made him a rich man for
life (though it was only equal to 42 sterling), the kindness of the
Duchess gratified him still more.

"He then made us sit down while he read us two new poems; both charming,
and full of grace and naivete; and one very affecting, being an address
to the King, alluding, to the death of his son.

"As he read, his wife stood by, and fearing that we did not comprehend
the language, she made a remark to that effect, to which he answered
impatiently, 'Nonsense! don't you see they are in tears?' This was
unanswerable; we were allowed to hear the poem to the end, and I
certainly never listened to anything more feelingly and energetically
delivered.

"We had much conversation, for he was anxious to detain us; and in the
course of it, he told me that he had been by some accused of vanity.
'Oh!' he exclaimed, 'what would you have? I am a child of nature, and
cannot conceal my feelings; the only difference between me and a man of
refinement is, that he knows how to conceal his vanity and exaltation at
success, while I let everybody see my emotions.'

"His wife drew me aside, and asked my opinion as to how much money
it would cost to pay Jasmin's expenses, if he undertook a journey to
England. 'However,' she added, 'I dare say he need be at no charge, for
of course your Queen has read that article in his favour, and knows
his merit. She probably will send for him, pay all the expenses of his
journey, and give him great fetes in London!" Miss Costello, knowing the
difficulty of obtaining Royal recognition of literary merit in England,
unless it appears in forma pauperis, advised the barber-poet to wait
till he was sent for--a very good advice, for then it would be never!
She concludes her recollections with this remark: "I left the happy
pair, promising to let them know the effect that the translation of
Jasmin's poetry produced in the Royal mind. Indeed, their earnest
simplicity was really entertaining."

A contributor to the Westminster Review{5} also gave a very favourable
notice of Jasmin and his poetry, which, he said, was less known in
England than it deserved to be; nor was it well known in France since
he wrote in a patois. Yet he had been well received by some of the most
illustrious men in the capital, where unaided genius, to be successful,
must be genius indeed; and there the Gascon bard had acquired for
himself a fame of which any man might well be proud.

The reviewer said that the Gascon patois was peculiarly expressive
and heart-touching, and in the South it was held in universal honour.
Jasmin, he continued, is what Burns was to the Scottish peasantry; only
he received his honours in his lifetime. The comparison with Burns,
however, was not appropriate. Burns had more pith, vigour, variety,
and passion, than Jasmin who was more of a descriptive writer. In some
respects Jasmin resembled Allan Ramsay, a barber and periwig-maker, like
himself, whose Gentle Shepherd met with as great a success as Jasmin's
Franconnette. Jasmin, however, was the greater poet of the two.

The reviewer in the Westminster, who had seen Jasmin at Agen, goes on
to speak of the honours he had received in the South and at Paris--his
recitations in the little room behind his shop--his personal
appearance, his hearty and simple manners--and yet his disdain of
the mock modesty it would be affectation to assume. The reviewer thus
concludes: "From the first prepossessing, he gains upon you every
moment; and when he is fairly launched into the recital of one of his
poems, his rich voice does full justice to the harmonious Gascon. The
animation and feeling he displays becomes contagious. Your admiration
kindles, and you become involved in his ardour. You forget the little
room in which he recites; you altogether forget the barber, and rise
with him into a superior world, an experience in a way you will never
forget, the power exercised by a true poet when pouring forth his living
thoughts in his own verses....

"Such is Jasmin--lively in imagination, warm in temperament, humorous,
playful, easily made happy, easily softened, enthusiastically fond of
his province, of its heroes, of its scenery, of its language, and of
its manners. He is every inch a Gascon, except that he has none of
that consequential self-importance, or of the love of boasting and
exaggeration, which, falsely or not, is said to characterise his
countrymen.

"Born of the people, and following a humble trade, he is proud of both
circumstances; his poems are full of allusions to his calling; and
without ever uttering a word in disparagment of other classes, he
everywhere sings the praises of his own. He stands by his order. It is
from it he draws his poetry; it is there he finds his romance.

"And this is his great charm, as it is his chief distinction. He invests
virtue, however lowly, with the dignity that belongs to it. He rewards
merit, however obscure, with its due honour. Whatever is true or
beautiful or good, finds from him an immediate sympathy. The true is
never rejected by him because it is commonplace; nor the beautiful
because it is everyday; nor the good because it is not also great. He
calls nothing unclean but vice and crime, He sees meanness in nothing
but in the sham, the affectation, and the spangles of outward show.

"But while it is in exalting lowly excellence that Jasmin takes especial
delight, he is not blind, as some are, to excellence in high places. All
he seeks is the sterling and the real. He recognises the sparkle of the
diamond as well as that of the dewdrop. But he will not look upon paste.

"He is thus pre-eminently the poet of nature; not, be it understood, of
inanimate nature only, but of nature also, as it exists in our thoughts,
and words, and acts of nature as it is to be found living and moving in
humanity. But we cannot paint him so well as he paints himself. We well
remember how, in his little shop at Agen, he described to us what he
believed to be characteristic of his poetry; and we find in a letter
from him to M. Leonce de Lavergne the substance of what he then said to
us:

"'I believe,' he said, 'that I have portrayed a part of the noble
sentiments which men and women may experience here below. I believe
that I have emancipated myself more than anyone has ever done from
every school, and I have placed myself in more direct communication with
nature. My poetry comes from my heart. I have taken my pictures from
around me in the most humble conditions of men; and I have done for my
native language all that I could.'"

A few years later Mr. Angus B. Reach, a well-known author, and a
contributor to Punch in its earlier days, was appointed a commissioner
by the Morning Chronicle to visit, for industrial purposes, the
districts in the South of France. His reports appeared in the Chronicle;
but in 1852, Mr. Reach published a fuller account of his journeys in a
volume entitled 'Claret and Olives, from the Garonne to the Rhone.'{6}
In passing through the South of France, Mr. Reach stopped at Agen.
"One of my objects," he says, "was to pay a literary visit to a very
remarkable man--Jasmin, the peasant-poet of Provence and Languedoc--the
'Last of the Troubadours,' as, with more truth than is generally to be
found in ad captandum designations, he terms himself, and is termed by
the wide circle of his admirers; for Jasmin's songs and rural epics are
written in the patois of the people, and that patois is the still almost
unaltered Langue d'Oc--the tongue of the chivalric minstrelsy of yore.

"But Jasmin is a Troubadour in another sense than that of merely
availing himself of the tongue of the menestrels. He publishes,
certainly, conforming so far to the usages of our degenerate modern
times; but his great triumphs are his popular recitations of his poems.
Standing bravely up before an expectant assembly of perhaps a couple
of thousand persons--the hot-blooded and quick-brained children of the
South--the modern Troubadour plunges over head and ears into his
lays, evoking both himself and his applauding audiences into fits of
enthusiasm and excitement, which, whatever may be the excellence of the
poetry, an Englishman finds it difficult to conceive or account for.

"The raptures of the New Yorkers and Bostonians with Jenny Lind are
weak and cold compared with the ovations which Jasmin has received. At
a recitation given shortly before my visit to Auch, the ladies present
actually tore the flowers and feathers out of their bonnets, wove them
into extempore garlands, and flung them in showers upon the panting
minstrel; while the editors of the local papers next morning assured
him, in floods of flattering epigrams, that humble as he was now, future
ages would acknowledge the 'divinity' of a Jasmin!

"There is a feature, however, about these recitations which is still more
extraordinary than the uncontrollable fits of popular enthusiasm which
they produce. His last entertainment before I saw him was given in one
of the Pyrenean cities, and produced 2,000 francs. Every sous of this
went to the public charities; Jasmin will not accept a stiver of
money so earned. With a species of perhaps overstrained, but certainly
exalted, chivalric feeling, he declines to appear before an audience to
exhibit for money the gifts with which nature has endowed him.

"After, perhaps, a brilliant tour through the South of France,
delighting vast audiences in every city, and flinging many thousands of
francs into every poor-box which he passes, the poet contentedly returns
to his humble occupation, and to the little shop where he earns his
daily bread by his daily toil as a barber and hair-dresser. It will
be generally admitted that the man capable of self-denial of so truly
heroic a nature as this, is no ordinary poetaster.

"One would be puzzled to find a similar instance of perfect and absolute
disinterestedness in the roll of minstrels, from Homer downwards; and,
to tell the truth, there does seem a spice of Quixotism mingled with
and tinging the pure fervour of the enthusiast. Certain it is, that
the Troubadours of yore, upon whose model Jasmin professes to found his
poetry, were by no means so scrupulous. 'Largesse' was a very prominent
word in their vocabulary; and it really seems difficult to assign any
satisfactory reason for a man refusing to live upon the exercise of the
finer gifts of his intellect, and throwing himself for his bread upon
the daily performance of mere mechanical drudgery.

"Jasmin, as may be imagined, is well known in Agen. I was speedily
directed to his abode, near the open Place of the town, and within
earshot of the rush of the Garonne; and in a few moments I found
myself pausing before the lintel of the modest shop inscribed Jasmin,
Perruquier, Coiffeur des jeunes Gens. A little brass basin dangled above
the threshold; and looking through the glass I saw the master of the
establishment shaving a fat-faced neighbour. Now I had come to see and
pay my compliments to a poet, and there did appear to me to be something
strangely awkward and irresistibly ludicrous in having to address,
to some extent, in a literary and complimentary vein, an individual
actually engaged in so excessively prosaic and unelevated a species of
performance.

"I retreated, uncertain what to do, and waited outside until the shop
was clear. Three words explained the nature of my visit, and Jasmin
received me with a species of warm courtesy, which was very peculiar and
very charming; dashing at once, with the most clattering volubility and
fiery speed of tongue, into a sort of rhapsodical discourse upon poetry
in general, and the patois of it, spoken in Languedoc, Provence, and
Gascony in particular.

"Jasmin is a well-built and strongly limbed man of about fifty, with
a large, massive head, and a broad pile of forehead, overhanging two
piercingly bright black-eyes, and features which would be heavy, were
they allowed a moment's repose from the continual play of the facial
muscles, sending a never-ending series of varying expressions across
the dark, swarthy visage. Two sentences of his conversation were quite
sufficient to stamp his individuality.

"The first thing which struck me was the utter absence of all the
mock-modesty, and the pretended self-underrating, conventionally assumed
by persons expecting to be complimented upon their sayings or doings.
Jasmin seemed thoroughly to despise all such flimsy hypocrisy. 'God only
made four Frenchmen poets,' he burst out with, 'and their names are,
Corneille, Lafontaine, Beranger, and Jasmin!'

"Talking with the most impassioned vehemence, and the most redundant
energy of gesture, he went on to declaim against the influences of
civilisation upon language and manners as being fatal to all real
poetry. If the true inspiration yet existed upon earth, it burned in the
hearts and brains of men far removed from cities, salons, and the clash
and din of social influences. Your only true poets were the unlettered
peasants, who poured forth their hearts in song, not because they wished
to make poetry, but because they were joyous and true.

"Colleges, academies, schools of learning, schools of literature, and
all such institutions, Jasmin denounced as the curse and the bane of
true poetry. They had spoiled, he said, the very French language. You
could no more write poetry in French now than you could in arithmetical
figures. The language had been licked and kneaded, and tricked out, and
plumed, and dandified, and scented, and minced, and ruled square, and
chipped--(I am trying to give an idea of the strange flood of epithets
he used)--and pranked out, and polished, and muscadined--until, for
all honest purposes of true high poetry, it was mere unavailable and
contemptible jargon.

"It might do for cheating agents de change on the Bourse--for squabbling
politicians in the Chambers--for mincing dandies in the salons--for the
sarcasm of Scribe-ish comedies, or the coarse drolleries of Palais Royal
farces, but for poetry the French language was extinct. All modern
poets who used it were faiseurs de phrase--thinking about words and not
feelings. 'No, no,' my Troubadour continued, 'to write poetry, you must
get the language of a rural people--a language talked among fields,
and trees, and by rivers and mountains--a language never minced or
disfigured by academies and dictionary-makers, and journalists; you
must have a language like that which your own Burns, whom I read of in
Chateaubriand, used; or like the brave, old, mellow tongue--unchanged
for centuries--stuffed with the strangest, quaintest, richest, raciest
idioms and odd solemn words, full of shifting meanings and associations,
at once pathetic and familiar, homely and graceful--the language which
I write in, and which has never yet been defiled by calculating men of
science or jack-a-dandy litterateurs.'" The above sentences may be
taken as a specimen of the ideas with which Jasmin seemed to be actually
overflowing from every pore in his body--so rapid, vehement, and loud
was his enunciation of them. Warming more and more as he went on, he
began to sketch the outlines of his favourite pieces. Every now and
then plunging into recitation, jumping from French into patois, and
from patois into French, and sometimes spluttering them out, mixed up
pell-mell together. Hardly pausing to take breath, he rushed about the
shop as he discoursed, lugging out, from old chests and drawers, piles
of old newspapers and reviews, pointing out a passage here in which the
estimate of the writer pleased him, a passage there which showed how
perfectly the critic had mistaken the scope of his poetic philosophy,
and exclaiming, with the most perfect naivete, how mortifying it was
for men of original and profound genius to be misconceived and
misrepresented by pigmy whipper-snapper scamps of journalists.

"There was one review of his works, published in a London 'Recueil,' as
he called it, to which Jasmin referred with great pleasure. A portion of
it had been translated, he said, in the preface to a French edition of
his works; and he had most of the highly complimentary phrases by
heart. The English critic, he said, wrote in the Tintinum, and he looked
dubiously at me when I confessed that I had never heard of the organ in
question.

"'Pourtant,' he said, 'je vous le ferai voir,' and I soon perceived that
Jasmin's Tintinum was no other than the Athenaeum!

"In the little back drawing-room behind the shop, to which the poet
speedily introduced me, his sister {it must have been his wife}, a meek,
smiling woman, whose eyes never left him, following as he moved with a
beautiful expression of love and pride in his glory, received me
with simple cordiality. The walls were covered with testimonials,
presentations, and trophies, awarded by critics and distinguished
persons, literary and political, to the modern Troubadour. Not a few of
these are of a nature to make any man most legitimately proud. Jasmin
possesses gold and silver vases, laurel branches, snuff-boxes, medals
of honour, and a whole museum of similar gifts, inscribed with such
characteristic and laconiclegends as 'Au Poete, Les Jeunes filles de
Toulouse reconnaissantes!' &c.

"The number of garlands of immortelles, wreaths of ivy-jasmin (punning
upon the name), laurel, and so forth, utterly astonished me. Jasmin
preserved a perfect shrubbery of such tokens; and each symbol had,
of course, its pleasant associative remembrance. One was given by the
ladies of such a town; another was the gift of the prefect's wife of
such a department. A handsome full-length portrait had been presented
to the poet by the municipal authorities of Agen; and a letter from M.
Lamartine, framed, above the chimney-piece, avowed the writer's belief
that the Troubadour of the Garonne was the Homer of the modern world.
M. Jasmin wears the ribbon of the Legion of Honour, and has several
valuable presents which were made to him by the late ex-king and
different members of the Orleans family.

"I have been somewhat minute in giving an account of my interview with
M. Jasmin, because he is really the popular poet--the peasant poet of
the South of France--the Burns of Limousin, Provence, and Languedoc. His
songs are in the mouths of all who sing in the fields and by the cottage
firesides. Their subjects are always rural, naive, and full of rustic
pathos and rustic drollery. To use his words to me, he sings what the
hearts of the people say, and he can no more help it than can the birds
in the trees. Translations into French of his main poems have appeared;
and compositions more full of natural and thoroughly unsophisticated
pathos and humour it would be difficult to find.

"Jasmin writes from a teeming brain and a beaming heart; and there is a
warmth and a glow, and a strong, happy, triumphant march of song about
his poems, which carry you away in the perusal as they carried away the
author in the writing. I speak, of course, from the French translations,
and I can well conceive that they give but a comparatively faint
transcript of the pith and power of the original. The patois in which
these poems are written is the common peasant language of the South-west
of France. It varies in some slight degree in different districts, but
not more than the broad Scotch of Forfarshire differs from that of
Ayrshire. As for the dialect itself, it seems in the main to be a
species of cross between old French and Spanish--holding, however, I am
assured, rather to the latter tongue than to the former, and
constituting a bold, copious, and vigorous speech, very rich in its
colouring, full of quaint words and expressive phrases, and especially
strong in all that relates to the language of the passions and
affections.

"I hardly know how long my interview with Jasmin might have lasted, for
he seemed by no means likely to tire of talking, and his talk was too
good and too curious not to be listened to with interest; but the
sister {or wife} who had left us for a moment, coming back with the
intelligence that there was quite a gathering of customers in the shop,
I hastily took my leave, the poet squeezing my hand like a vice,
and immediately thereafter dashing into all that appertains to
curling-irons, scissors, razors, and lather, with just as much apparent
energy and enthusiasm as he had flung into his rhapsodical discourse on
poetry and language!"

It is scarcely necessary to apologise for the length of this extract,
because no author that we know of--not even any French author--has given
so vivid a description of the man as he lived, moved, and talked, as
Mr. Reach; and we believe the reader will thank us for quoting from an
almost entirely forgotten book, the above graphic description of the
Gascon Poet.


Endnotes for Chapter XIII.

{1} The Athenaeum, 5th November, 1842. 'The Curl-papers of Jasmin, the
Barber of Agen.' ('Las Papillotos de Jasmin, Coiffeur.')

{2} 'A Pilgrimage to Auvergne, from Picardy to Velay.' 1842.

{3} 'Bearn and the Pyrenees.' 1844.

{4} "There are no poets in France now", he said to Miss Costello. "There
cannot be. The language does not admit of it. Where is the fire, the
spirit, the expression, the tenderness, the force, of the Gascon? French
is but the ladder to reach the first floor of the Gascon; how can you
get up to a height except by means of a ladder?"

{5} Westminster Review for October, 1849.

{6} Published by David Bogue, Fleet Street. 1852. Mr. Reach was very
particular about the pronunciation of his name. Being a native of
Inverness, the last vowel was guttural. One day, dining with Douglas
Jerrold, who insisted on addressing him as Mr. Reek or Reech, "No," said
the other; "my name is neither Reek nor Reech,but Reach," "Very well,"
said Jerrold, "Mr. Reach will you have a Peach?"



CHAPTER XIV. JASMIN'S TOURS OF PHILANTHROPY.

The poet had no sooner returned from his visit to Paris than he was
besieged with appeals to proceed to the relief of the poor in the South
of France. Indeed, for more than thirty years he devoted a considerable
part of his time to works of charity and benevolence. He visited
successively cities and towns so far remote from each other, as Bayonne
and Marseilles, Bagneres and Lyons. He placed his talents at the
service of the public from motives of sheer benevolence, for the large
collections which were made at his recitations were not of the slightest
personal advantage to himself.

The first place he visited on this occasion was Carcassonne, south-east
of Toulouse,--a town of considerable importance, and containing a large
number of poor people. M. Dugue, prefect of the Aude, wrote to Jasmin:
"The crying needs of this winter have called forth a desire to help
the poor; but the means are sadly wanting. Our thoughts are necessarily
directed to you. Will you come and help us?" Jasmin at once complied. He
was entertained by the prefect.

After several successful recitations, a considerable sum of money was
collected for the relief of the poor of Carcassonne. To perpetuate the
recollection of Jasmin's noble work, and to popularise the genius of
the poet, the Prefect of the Aude arranged that Jasmin's poems should
be distributed amongst all the schools of his department, and for this
purpose a portion of the surplus funds was placed at the disposal of the
Council-general.

Bordeaux next appealed to the poet. He had a strong love for Bordeaux.
It was the place where he had first recited his Blind Girl, where he had
first attracted public attention, and where he was always admired and
always feted. The Orphan Institution of the city was in difficulties;
its funds were quite exhausted; and who should be invited to come to
their help but their old friend Jasmin? He was again enthusiastically
received. The Franklin Rooms were crowded, and money flowed quickly into
the orphans' treasury. Among the poems he recited was the following:--

THE SHEPHERD AND THE GASCON POET.{1}

Aux Bordelais, au jour de ma grande Seance au Casino.

 In a far land, I know not where,
 Ere viol's sigh; or organ's swell,
 Had made the sons of song aware
 That music! is a potent spell:
 A shepherd to a city came,
 Play'd on his pipe, and rose to fame.
 He sang of fields, and at each close,
 Applause from ready hands arose.

 The simple swain was hail'd and crown'd,
 In mansions where the great reside,
 And cheering smiles and praise he found,
 And in his heart rose honest pride.
 All seem'd with joy and rapture gleaming,
 He trembled lest he was but dreaming.

 But, modest still, his soul was moved;
 Yet of his hamlet was his thought--
 Of friends at home, and her he loved,
 When back his laurel branch he brought.
 And pleasure beaming in his eyes,
 Enjoyed their welcome and surprise.
 'Twas thus with me when Bordeaux deigned
 To listen to my rustic song:
 Whose music praise and honour gain'd
 More than to rural strains belong.

 Delighted, charm'd, I scarcely knew
 Whence sprung this life so fresh and new,
 And to my heart I whispered low,
 When to my fields returned again,
 "Is not the Gascon Poet now
 As happy as the shepherd swain?"

 The minstrel never can forget,
 The spot where first success he met;
 But he, the shepherd who, of yore,
 Has charm'd so many a list'ing ear,
 Came back, and was beloved no more.
 He found all changed and cold and drear
 A skilful hand had touch'd the flute;
 His pipe and he were scorn'd--were mute.

 But I, once more I dared appear,
 And found old friends so true and dear.
 The mem'ry of my ancient lays
 Lived in their hearts, awoke their praise.
 Oh! they did more.  I was their guest;
 Again was welcomed and caress't,
 And, twined with their melodious tongue,
 Again my rustic carol rung;
 And my old language proudly found
 Her words had list'ners pressing round.
 Thus, though condemn'd the shepherd's skill,
 The Gascon Poet triumph'd still.

At the end of the recital a pretty little orphan girl came forward and
presented Jasmin with a laurel adorned with a ruby, with these words in
golden letters,

"To Jasmin, with the orphans' gratitude." Jasmin finally descended from
the rostrum and mixed with the audience, who pressed round him and
embraced him. The result was the collection of more than a thousand
francs for the orphans' fund.

No matter what the institution was, or where it was situated, if it
was in difficulties, and Jasmin was appealed to, provided it commended
itself to his judgment, he went far and near to give his help. A priest
at a remote place in Perigord had for some time endeavoured to found an
agricultural colony for the benefit of the labourers, and at last wrote
to Jasmin for assistance. The work had been patronised by most of the
wealthy people of the province; but the colony did not prosper. There
remained no one to help them but the noble barber of Agen. Without
appealing any more to the rich for further aid, the priest applied to
Jasmin through a mutual friend, one of the promoters of the undertaking,
who explained to him the nature of the enterprise. The following was
Jasmin's answer:--

"MY DEAR SIR,--I have already heard of the Pious Work of the curate of
Vedey, and shall be most happy to give him my services for one or two
evenings, though I regret that I must necessarily defer my visit until
after the month of February next. In May I have promised to go twice
to the help of the Albigenses, in aid of their hospital and the poor
of Alba. I start to-morrow for Cahors, to help in a work equally
benevolent, begun long ago. I am engaged for the month of August for
Foix and Bagneres de Luchon, in behalf of a church and an agricultural
society. All my spare time, you will observe, is occupied; and though I
may be tired out by my journeys, I will endeavour to rally my forces and
do all that I can for you. Tell the curate of Vedey, therefore, that as
his labour has been of long continuance, my Muse will be happy to help
his philanthropic work during one or two evenings at Perigueux, in the
month of March next.

"Yours faithfully,

"J. JASMIN."

In due time Jasmin fulfilled his promise, and a considerable sum was
collected in aid of the agricultural colony, which, to his great
joy, was eventually established and prospered. On another and a very
different occasion the Society of Arts and Literature appealed to him.
Their object was to establish a fund for the assistance of the poorer
members of their craft--something like the Royal Literary Fund of
London. The letter addressed to him was signed by Baron Taylor,
Ingres, Ambroise Thomas, Auber, Meyerbeer, Adolphe Adam, Jules Simon,
Zimmermann, Halevy, and others. It seemed extraordinary that men of such
distinction in art and literature should appeal to a man of such humble
condition, living at so remote a place as Agen.

"We ask your help," they said, "for our work, which has only been begun,
and is waiting for assistance. We desire to have the encouragement and
powerful support of men of heart and intelligence. Do not be surprised,
sir, that we address this demand to you. We have not yet appealed to
the part of France in which you live; but we repose our hopes in your
admirable talent, inspired as it is with Christian charity, which has
already given birth to many benefactions, for the help of churches,
schools, and charitable institutions, and has spread amongst your
compatriots the idea of relieving the poor and necessitous." Incited
by these illustrious men, Jasmin at once took the field, and by his
exertions did much towards the foundation of the proposed institution.

The strength of his constitution seemed to be inexhaustible. On
one occasion he went as far as Marseilles. He worked, he walked, he
travelled, he recited almost without end. Though he sometimes complained
of being over-tired, he rallied, and went on as before. At Marseilles,
for instance, he got up early in the morning, and at 8 A.M. he was
present at a private council in a school. At 11 he presided at a meeting
of the Society of Saint Francis Xavier, where he recited several of
his poems before two thousand persons. At 2 o'clock he was present at
a banquet given in his honour. In the evening he had another triumphant
reception. In the morning he spoke of country, religion, and work to the
humbler classes, and in the evening he spoke of love and charity to
a crowded audience of distinguished ladies. He was entertained at
Marseilles like a prince, rather than like a poet.

He sometimes gave as many as three hundred recitations of this sort in
a year; visiting nearly every town from Bordeaux to Marseilles for all
kinds of charitable institutions. Of course his travels were enlivened
by many adventures, and some people were unwilling to allow him to
forget that he was a barber. When at Auch, a town several miles to the
south of Agen, he resided with the mayor. The time for the meeting
had nearly arrived; but the mayor was still busy with his toilet. The
prefect of Gers was also waiting. Fearing the impatience of his guests,
the mayor opened the door of his chamber to apologise, showing his face
covered with lather.

"Just a moment," he said; "I am just finishing my shaving."

"Oh," said Jasmin, "why did you not perform your toilet sooner? But now
let me help you." Jasmin at once doffed his coat, gave the finishing
touch to his razor, and shaved the mayor in a twinkling, with what
he called his "hand of velvet." In a few minutes after, Jasmin was
receiving tumultuous applause for his splendid recitations.

Thus, as time was pressing, it was a pleasure to Jasmin to make himself
useful to his friend the mayor. But on another occasion he treated
a rich snob in the way he deserved. Jasmin had been reciting for the
benefit of the poor. At the conclusion of the meeting, the young people
of the town improvised a procession of flambeaux and triumphantly
escorted him to his hotel.

Early next morning, while Jasmin was still asleep, he was awakened by
some one knocking at his chamber door. He rose, opened it, and found
himself in presence of one of the most opulent persons of the town.
There are vulgar people everywhere, and this person had more wealth than
courtesy. Like Jasmin, he was a man of the people; but he had neither
the grace nor the politeness of the Gascon barber. He was but a parvenu,
and his riches had only produced an accumulation of snobbishness. He
pushed into the room, installed himself without invitation in a chair,
and, without further ceremony, proceeded:--

"My dear Jasmin," he said, "I am a banker--a millionaire, as you know; I
wish you to shave me with your own hand. Please set to work at once, for
I am pressed for time. You can ask what you like for your trouble."

"Pardon me, sir," said Jasmin, with some pride, "I only shave for pay at
home."

"What do you say?"

"It is true, sir; I only shave for pay at home."

"Come, come--you are jesting! I cannot be put off. Make your charge as
much as you like--but shave me."

"Again I say, sir, it is impossible."

"How impossible? It seems to me that it is your trade!"

"It is so; but at this moment I am not disposed to exercise it."

The banker again pleaded; Jasmin was firm; and the millionaire went away
unshaved!

During one of his recitations at Toulouse, he was introduced to Mdlle.
Roaldes, a young and beautiful lady, with whose father, a thriving
stockbroker, he stayed while in that city. His house was magnificent
and splendidly furnished. Many persons of influence were invited to meet
Jasmin, and, while there, he was entertained with much hospitality. But,
as often happens with stockbrokers, M. Roaldes star fell; he suffered
many losses, and at length became poor and almost destitute.

One day, while Jasmin was sharpening his razors in his shop in Agen, who
should appear but Mdlle. Therese Roaldes, sad and dejected. It was
the same young lady who had charmed him, not only by her intellectual
converse, but by her admirable musical ability. She had sung brilliantly
at the entertainment given at her father's house, and now she came
to lay her case before the Agenaise barber! She told her whole story,
ending with the present destitution of her father--formerly the rich
stockbroker.

"What can we do now?" asked Jasmin; "something must be done at once."

Mdlle. Roaldes judged rightly of the generous heart of Jasmin. He was
instantly ready and willing to help her. They might not restore her
father's fortunes, but they might rescue him from the poverty and
humiliations in which his sudden reverse of fortune had involved him.
The young lady had only her voice and her harp, but Jasmin had his
"Curl-papers." Mdlle. Roaldes was beautiful; could her beauty have
influenced Jasmin? For beauty has a wonderful power in the world.
But goodness is far better, and it was that and her filial love which
principally influenced Jasmin in now offering her his assistance.

The two made their first appearance at Agen. They gave their performance
in the theatre, which was crowded, The name of Mdlle. Roaldes excited
the greatest sympathy, for the misfortunes of her father were well known
in the South. For this beautiful girl to descend from her brilliant home
in Toulouse to the boards of a theatre at Agen, was a sad blow, but her
courage bore her up, and she excited the sympathetic applause of the
audience. In the midst of the general enthusiasm, Jasmin addressed the
charming lady in some lines which he had prepared for the occasion.
Holding in his hand a bouquet of flowers, he said--

     "Oh well they bloom for you! Mothers and daughters,
     Throw flowers to her, though moistened with your tears.

     These flowers receive them, for
     They bear the incense of our hearts.

     Daughter of heaven, oh, sing! your name shines bright,
     The earth applauds, and God will bless you ever."

At the conclusion of his poem, Jasmin threw his wreath of flowers to
the young lady, and in an instant she was covered with flowers by
the audience. Mdlle. Roaldes was deeply moved. She had faced a public
audience for the first time; she had been received with applause, and
from that moment she felt confidence in her performances as well as in
her labour of love.

The poet, with the singer and harpist, made a tour in the southern
provinces, and the two muses, poetry and music, went from town to town,
enlivening and enlightening the way. Every heart praised the poet for
giving his services to his young and beautiful friend. They applauded
also the lovely woman who made her harp-chords vibrate with her
minstrel's music. The pair went to Montauban, Albi, Toulouse, and Nimes;
they were welcomed at Avignon, the city of Petrarch and the Popes.
Marseilles forgot for a time her harbour and her ships, and listened
with rapture to the musician and the poet.

At Marseilles Jasmin felt himself quite at home. In the intervals
between the concerts and recitals, he made many new friends, as well as
visited many old ones. His gay and genial humour, his lively sallies,
his brilliant recitals, brought him friends from every circle. M. Merv,
in a political effusion, welcomed the Gascon poet. He was invited to
a fete of l'Athenee-Ouvier (the Workman's Athenaeum); after several
speeches, Jasmin rose and responded:

"I am proud," he said, "of finding myself among the members of this
society, and of being welcomed by men who are doubly my brethren--by the
labour of the hands and by the labour of the head. You have moved me and
astonished me, and I have incurred to l'Athenee-Ouvier a poetical debt
which my muse can only repay with the most tender recollections."

Many pleasant letters passed between Jasmin and Mdlle. de Roaldes. The
lady entertained the liveliest gratitude to the poet, who had helped her
so nobly in her misfortunes. On the morning after her first successful
appearance at Agen, she addressed to him a letter full of praise and
thankfulness. She ended it thus: "Most amiable poet, I adore your heart,
and I do homage to your genius." In a future letter she confessed that
the rays of the sun were not less welcome than the rays of his genius,
and that her music would have been comparatively worthless but for his
poetry.

Towards the end of their joint entertainment she again wrote to him:
"You have become, my dear poet, my shower of gold, my heaven-sent manna,
while you continue your devotion to my personal interests.... As a poet,
I give you all the glory; as a friend, I owe you the affection of my
filial heart, the hopes of a better time, and the consolation of my
future days... Let it be remembered that this good deed on your part
is due to your heart and will. May it protect you during your life, and
make you blest in the life which is to come!"

While at Nimes, the two poet-artisans met--Reboul the baker and Jasmin
the barber. Reboul, who attended the music-recitation, went up to Jasmin
and cordially embraced him, amidst the enthusiastic cheers of three
thousand people. Jasmin afterwards visited Reboul at his bakery, where
they had a pleasant interview with respect to the patois of Provence and
Gascony. At the same time it must be observed that Reboul did not write
in patois, but in classical French.

Reboul had published a volume of poems which attracted the notice and
praise of Lamartine and Alexandre Dumas. Perhaps the finest poem in the
volume is entitled The Angel and Child. Reboul had lost his wife and
child; he sorrowed greatly at their death, and this poem was the result.
The idea is simple and beautiful. An angel, noticing a lovely child in
its cradle, and deeming it too pure for earth, bears its spirit away to
Heaven. The poem has been admirably translated by Longfellow.

Dumas, in 'Pictures of Travel in the South of France,' relates an
interview with the baker-poet of Nimes.

"What made you a poet?" asked Dumas.

"It was sorrow," replied Reboul--"the loss of a beloved wife and child.
I was in great grief; I sought solitude, and, finding no one who could
understand me, poured forth my grief to the Almighty."

"Yes," said Dumas, "I now comprehend your feelings. It is thus that
true poets become illustrious. How many men of talent only want a great
misfortune to become men of genius! You have told me in a word the
secret of your life; I know it now as well as you do." And yet Jasmin,
the contemporary of Reboul, had written all his poetry without a sorrow,
and amidst praise and joyfulness.

Chateaubriand, when in the South of France, called upon Reboul. The
baker met him at the door.

"Are you M. Reboul?" inquired the author of 'The Martyrs.'

"Which, sir--the baker or the poet?"

"The poet, of course."

"Then the poet cannot be seen until mid-day. At present the baker is
working at the oven."

Chateaubriand accordingly retired, but returned at the time appointed,
and had a long and interesting conversation with Reboul.

While at Montpellier Jasmin received two letters from Madame Lafarge,
then in prison. The circumstances connected with her case were much
discussed in the journals of the time. She had married at seventeen a M.
Lafarge, and found after her marriage that he had deceived her as to his
property. Ill-feeling arose between the unhappy pair, and eventually she
was tried for poisoning her husband. She was condemned with extenuating
circumstances, and imprisoned at Montpellier in 1839. She declared that
she was innocent of the crime imputed to her, and Jasmin's faith in the
virtue of womanhood led him to believe her. Her letters to Jasmin were
touching.

"Many pens," she said, "have celebrated your genius; let mine touch your
heart! Oh, yes, sir, you are good, noble, and generous! I preserve every
word of yours as a dear consolation; I guard each of your promises as a
holy hope. Voltaire has saved Calas. Sing for me, sir, and I will bless
your memory to the day of my death. I am innocent!... For eight long
years I have suffered; and I am still suffering from the stain upon my
honour. I grieve for a sight of the sun, but I still love life. Sing for
me."

She again wrote to Jasmin, endeavouring to excite his interest by her
appreciation of his poems.

"The spirit of your work," she said, "vibrates through me in every form.
What a pearl of eulogy is Maltro! What a great work is L'Abuglo! In the
first of these poems you reach the sublime of love without touching a
single chord of passion. What purity, and at the same time what ease and
tenderness! It is not only the fever of the heart; it is life itself,
its religion, its virtue. This poor innuocento does not live to love;
she loves to live.... Her love diffuses itself like a perfume--like the
scent of a flower.... In writing Maltro your muse becomes virgin and
Christian; and to dictate L'Abuglo is a crown of flowers, violets
mingled with roses, like Tibullus, Anacreon, and Horace."

And again: "Poet, be happy; sing in the language of your mother, of your
infancy, of your loves, your sorrows. The Gascon songs, revived by you,
can never be forgotten. Poet, be happy! The language which you love,
France will learn to admire and read, and your brother-poets will learn
to imitate you.... Spirit speaks to spirit; genius speaks to the heart.
Sing, poet, sing! Envy jeers in vain; your Muse is French; better
still, it is Christian, and the laurel at the end of your course has two
crowns--one for the forehead of the poet and the other for the heart of
the man. Grand actions bring glory; good deeds bring happiness."

Although Jasmin wrote an interesting letter to Madame Lafarge, he did
not venture to sing or recite for her relief from prison. She died
before him, in 1852.


Endnotes for Chapter XIV.

{1} We adopt the translation of Miss Costello.



CHAPTER XV. JASMIN'S VINEYARD--'MARTHA THE INNOCENT.'

Agen, with its narrow and crooked streets, is not altogether a pleasant
town, excepting, perhaps, the beautiful promenade of the Gravier, where
Jasmin lived. Yet the neighbourhood of Agen is exceedingly picturesque,
especially the wooded crags of the Hermitage and the pretty villas near
the convent of the Carmelites. From these lofty sites a splendid view
of the neighbouring country is to be seen along the windings of the
Garonne, and far off, towards the south, to the snowy peaks of the
Pyrenees.

Down beneath the Hermitage and the crags a road winds up the valley
towards Verona, once the home of the famous Scaligers.{1} Near this
place Jasmin bought a little vineyard, and established his Tivoli.
In this pretty spot his muse found pure air, liberty, and privacy.
He called the place--like his volume of poems--his "Papillote," his
"Curlpaper." Here, for nearly thirty years, he spent some of his
pleasantest hours, in exercise, in reflection, and in composition.
In commemoration of his occupation of the site, he composed his Ma
Bigno--'My Vineyard'--one of the most simple and graceful of his poems.

Jasmin dedicated Ma Bigno to Madame Louis Veill, of Paris. He told
her of his purchase of Papillote, a piece of ground which he had long
desired to have, and which he had now been able to buy with the money
gained by the sale of his poems.

He proceeds to describe the place:

"In this tiny little vineyard," he says, "my only chamber is a grotto.
Nine cherry trees: such is my wood! I have six rows of vines, between
which I walk and meditate. The peaches are mine; the hazel nuts are
mine! I have two elms, and two fountains. I am indeed rich! You may
laugh, perhaps, at my happiness. But I wish you to know that I love the
earth and the sky. It is a living picture, sparkling in the sunshine.
Come," he said, "and pluck my peaches from the branches; put them
between your lovely teeth, whiter than the snow. Press them: from
the skin to the almond they melt in the mouth--it is honey!" He next
describes what he sees and hears from his grotto: the beautiful flowers,
the fruit glowing in the sun, the luscious peaches, the notes of the
woodlark, the zug-zug of the nightingale, the superb beauty of the
heavens. "They all sing love, and love is always new."

He compares Paris, with its grand ladies and its grand opera, with his
vineyard and his nightingales. "Paris," he says, "has fine flowers and
lawns, but she is too much of the grande dame. She is unhappy, sleepy.
Here, a thousand hamlets laugh by the river's side. Our skies laugh;
everything is happy; everything lives. From the month of May, when our
joyous summer arrives, for six months the heavens resound with music. A
thousand nightingales sing all the night through.... Your grand opera is
silent, while our concert is in its fullest strain."

The poem ends with a confession on the part of the poet of sundry
pilferings committed by himself in the same place when a boy--of
apple-trees broken, hedges forced, and vine-ladders scaled, winding up
with the words:

"Madame, you see I turn towards the past without a blush; will you?
What I have robbed I return, and return with usury. I have no door to my
vineyard; only two thorns bar its threshold. When, through a hole I see
the noses of marauders, instead of arming myself with a cane, I turn and
go away, so that they may come back. He who robbed when he was young,
may in his old age allow himself to be robbed too." A most amicable
sentiment, sure to be popular amongst the rising generation of Agen.

Ma Bigno is written in graceful and felicitous verse. We have
endeavoured to give a translation in the appendix; but the rendering of
such a work into English is extremely difficult. The soul will be found
wanting; for much of the elegance of the poem consists in the choice of
the words. M. de Mazade, editor of the Revue des Deux Mondes, said of
Ma Bigno that it was one of Jasmin's best works, and that the style and
sentiments were equally satisfactory to the poetical mind and taste.

M. Rodiere, of Toulouse, in his brief memoir of Jasmin,{2} says that
"it might be thought that so great a work as Franconnette would have
exhausted the poet. When the aloe flowers, it rests for nearly a hundred
years before it blooms again. But Jasmin had an inexhaustible well of
poetry in his soul. Never in fact was he more prolific than in the two
years which followed the publication of Franconnette. Poetry seemed to
flow from him like a fountain, and it came in various forms. His poems
have no rules and little rhythm, except those which the genius of
the poet chooses to give them; but there is always the most beautiful
poetry, perfectly evident by its divine light and its inspired accents."

Jasmin, however, did not compose with the rapidity described by his
reviewer. He could not throw off a poem at one or many sittings;
though he could write an impromptu with ready facility. When he had
an elaborate work in hand, such as The Blind Girl of Castel-Cuille,
Franconnette, or Martha the Innocent, he meditated long over it, and
elaborated it with conscientious care. He arranged the plan in his mind,
and waited for the best words and expressions in which to elaborate
his stanzas, so as most clearly to explain his true meaning. Thus
Franconnette cost him two years' labour. Although he wrote of peasants
in peasants' language, he took care to avoid everything gross or
vulgar. Not even the most classical poet could have displayed inborn
politeness--la politesse du coeur--in a higher degree. At the same time,
while he expressed passion in many forms, it was always with delicacy,
truth, and beauty.

Notwithstanding his constant philanthropic journeys, he beguiled his
time with the germs of some forthcoming poem, ready to be elaborated on
his return to Agen and his vineyard.

His second volume of poems was published in 1842, and in a few months it
reached its third edition. About 20,000 copies of his poems had by this
time been issued. The sale of these made him comparatively easy in his
circumstances; and it was mainly by their profits that he was enabled to
buy his little vineyard near Verona.

It may also be mentioned that Jasmin received a further increase of his
means from the Government of Louis Philippe. Many of his friends in the
South of France were of opinion that his philanthropic labours should
be publicly recognised. While Jasmin had made numerous gifts to the poor
from the collections made at his recitations; while he had helped to
build schools, orphanages, asylums, and even churches, it was thought
that some recompense should be awarded to him by the State for his
self-sacrificing labours.

In 1843 the Duchess of Orleans had a golden medal struck in his honour;
and M. Dumon, when presenting it to Jasmin, announced that the Minister
of Instruction had inscribed his name amongst the men of letters whose
works the Government was desirous of encouraging; and that consequently
a pension had been awarded to him of 1,000 francs per annum. This
welcome news was shortly after confirmed by the Minister of Instruction
himself. "I am happy," said M. Villemain, "to bear witness to the merit
of your writings, and the originality of your poetry, as well as to the
loyalty of your sentiments."

The minister was not, however, satisfied with conferring this favour.
It was ordered that Jasmin should be made a Chevalier of the Legion of
Honour, at the same time that Balzac, Frederick Soulie, and Alfred
de Musset, were advanced to the same role of honour. The minister, in
conveying the insignia to Jasmin, said:

"Your actions are equal to your works; you build churches; you succour
indigence; you are a powerful benefactor; and your muse is the sister of
Charity."

These unexpected honours made no difference in the poet's daily life.
He shaved and curled hair as before. He lived in the same humble shop
on the Gravier. He was not in the least puffed up. His additional
income merely enabled him to defray his expenses while on his charitable
journeys on behalf of his poorer neighbours. He had no desire to be
rich; and he was now more than comfortable in his position of life.

When the news arrived at Agen that Jasmin had been made a Chevalier of
the Legion of Honour, his salon was crowded with sympathetic admirers.
In the evening, a serenade was performed before his door on the Gravier
by the Philharmonic Society of Agen. Indeed, the whole town was filled
with joy at the acknowledged celebrity of their poet. A few years later
Pope Pius IX. conferred upon Jasmin the honour of Chevalier of the Order
of St. Gregory the Great. The insignia of the Order was handed to the
poet by Monseigneur de Vezins, Bishop of Agen, in Sept. 1850. Who could
have thought that the barber-poet would have been so honoured by his
King, and by the Head of his Church?

Jasmin's next important poem, after the production of Franconnette was
Martha the Innocent.--{In Gascon, Maltro l'Innoucento; French, Marthe la
Folle}. It is like The Blind Girl, a touching story of disappointment in
love. Martha was an orphan living at Laffitte, on the banks of the Lot.
She was betrothed to a young fellow, but the conscription forbade their
union. The conscript was sent to the wars of the first Napoleon, which
were then raging. The orphan sold her little cottage in the hope of
buying him off, or providing him with a substitute. But it was all in
vain. He was compelled to follow his regiment. She was a good and pious
girl, beloved by all. She was also beautiful,--tall, fair, and handsome,
with eyes of blue--"the blue of heaven," according to Jasmin:

 "With grace so fine, and air so sweet,
 She was a lady amongst peasants."

The war came to an end for a time. The soldier was discharged, and
returned home.

Martha went out to meet him; but alas! like many other fickle men,
he had met and married another. It was his wife who accompanied him
homewards. Martha could not bear the terrible calamity of her blighted
love. She became crazy--almost an idiot.

She ran away from her home at Laffitte, and wandered about the country.
Jasmin, when a boy, had often seen the crazy woman wandering about the
streets of Agen with a basket on her arm, begging for bread. Even in
her rags she had the remains of beauty. The children ran after her, and
cried, "Martha, a soldier!" then she ran off, and concealed herself.

Like other children of his age Jasmin teased her; and now, after more
than thirty years, he proposed to atone for his childish folly by
converting her sad story into a still sadder poem. Martha the Innocent
is a charming poem, full of grace, harmony, and beauty. Jasmin often
recited it, and drew tears from many eyes. In the introduction he
related his own part in her history. "It all came back upon him," he
said," and now he recited the story of this martyr of love."{3}

After the completion of Martha, new triumphs awaited Jasmin in the South
of France. In 1846 he again went to Toulouse on a labour of love. He
recited his new poem in the Room of the Illustrious at the Capitol. A
brilliant assembly was present. Flowers perfumed the air. The entire
audience rose and applauded the poet. The ladies smiled and wept by
turns. Jasmin seemed to possess an electric influence. His clear,
harmonious, and flexible voice, gave emphasis by its rich sympathetic
tones to the artistic elements of his story.

The man who thus evoked such rapture from his audience was not arrayed
in gorgeous costume. He was a little dark-eyed man of the working class,
clothed in a quiet suit of black.

At the close of the recitation, the assembly, ravished with his
performance, threw him a wreath of flowers and laurels--more modest,
though not less precious than the golden branch which they had
previously conferred upon him. Jasmin thanked them most heartily for
their welcome. "My Muse," he said, "with its glorious branch of gold,
little dreamt of gleaning anything more from Toulouse; but Toulouse has
again invited me to this day's festival, and I feel more happy than a
king, because my poem is enthroned in the midst of the Capitol. Your
hands have applauded me throughout, and you have concluded by throwing
this crown of flowers at my feet."

It was then resolved to invite Jasmin to a banquet. Forty ladies, the
cream of Toulousian society, organised the proceedings, and the banquet
was given at the palace of M. de Narbonne. At the end of the proceedings
a young lady stepped forward, and placed upon the poet's head a crown of
immortelles and violets joined together by a ribbon with golden threads,
on which was inscribed in letters of gold, "Your thoughts are immortal!"
Was not this enough to turn any poor poet's head? The ladies clapped
their hands. What could Jasmin say? "It is enough," he said "to make
angels jealous!" The dinner ended with a toast to the author of Martha,
who still wore the crown upon his brow.

It is impossible to describe the enthusiasm with which the poet was
received all through the South. At Dax, the ladies, for want of crowns
of laurels to cover him, tore the flowers and feathers from their
bonnets, and threw them at his feet. In another town the ladies rose
and invaded the platform where Jasmin stood; they plucked from his
button-hole the ribbon of the Legion of Honour, and divided it amongst
them, as a precious relic of their glorious poet.

He was received at Gers and Condon with equal enthusiasm. At Condon he
charmed his audience with his recitations for about five hours. Frenzies
of applause greeted him. He was invited to a banquet, where he received
the usual praises. When the banquet was over, and Jasmin escaped, he was
met in the street by crowds of people, who wished to grasp him by the
hand. He recited to them in the open air his poem of charity. They
compared Jasmin to O'Connell; but the barber of Agen, by the power which
he exercised for the good of the people, proved himself more than equal
to the greatest of agitators.

Sainte-Beuve quotes with keen enjoyment{4} the bantering letter which
Jasmin sent to Peyrottes, a Provencal poet, who challenged him to a
poetical combat. It was while he was making one of his charitable
tours through Languedoc, that Jasmin received the following letter (24
December, 1847):--

"SIR,--I dare, in my temerity, which may look like hardihood, to propose
to you a challenge. Will you have the goodness to accept it? In the
Middle Ages, the Troubadours did not disdain such a challenge as that
which, in my audacity, I now propose to you.

"I will place myself at your disposal at Montpellier on any day and at
any hour that may be most convenient to you. We shall name four persons
of literary standing to give us three subjects with which we are to deal
for twenty-four hours. We shall be shut up together. Sentries will stand
at the door. Only our provisions shall pass through.

"A son of Herault, I will support the honour and the glory of my
country! And as in such circumstances, a good object is indispensable,
the three subjects given must be printed and sold for the benefit of the
Creche of Montpellier." Peyrotte ended his letter with a postscript,
in which he said that he would circulate his challenge among the most
eminent persons in Montpellier.

Jasmin answered this letter as follows:--

"SIR,--I did not receive your poetical challenge until the day before
yesterday, on the point of my departure for home; but I must tell you
that, though I have received it, I cannot accept it.

"Do you really propose to my muse, which aims at free air and liberty,
to shut myself up in a close room, guarded by sentinels, who could only
allow provisions to enter, and there to treat of three given subjects in
twenty-four hours! Three subjects in twenty-four hours! You frighten me,
sir, for the peril in which you place my muse.

"I must inform you, in all humility, that I often cannot compose more
than two or three lines a day. My five poems, L'Aveugle, Mes Souvenirs,
Franconnette, Martha the Innocent, and Les Deux Jumeaux, have cost me
ten years' work, and they only contain in all but 2,400 verses!... I
cannot write poetry by command. I cannot be a prisoner while I compose.
Therefore I decline to enter the lists with you.

"The courser who drags his chariot with difficulty, albeit he may
arrive at the goal, cannot contend with the fiery locomotive of the
iron railway. The art which produces verses one by one, depends upon
inspiration, not upon manufacture. Therefore my muse declares itself
vanquished in advance; and I authorise you to publish my refusal of your
challenge."

In a postscript, Jasmin added: "Now that you have made the acquaintance
of my Muse, I will, in a few words, introduce you to the man. I love
glory, but the success of others never troubles my sleep at night!"

"When one finds," says Sainte-Beuve, "this theory of work pushed to such
a degree by Jasmin, with whom the spark of inspiration seems always so
prompt and natural, what a sad return we have of the poetical wealth
dissipated by the poets of our day." Sainte-Beuve summed up his praise
of the Gascon poet by insisting that he was invariably sober in his
tone.

"I have learned," said Jasmin of himself, "that in moments of heat
and emotion we may be eloquent or laconic, alike in speech and
action--unconscious poets, in fact; but I have also learned that it is
possible for a poet to become all this voluntarily by dint of patient
toil and conscientious labour!"

Jasmin was not the man to rest upon his laurels. Shortly after his visit
to Paris in 1842, he began to compose his Martha the Innocent, which
we have already briefly described. Two years later he composed Les Deux
Freres Jumeaux--a story of paternal and motherly affection. This was
followed by his Ma Bigno ('My Vineyard'), and La Semaine d'un Fils ('The
Week's Work of a Son'), which a foot-note tells us is historical, the
event having recently occurred in the neighbourhood of Agen.

A short description may be given of this affecting story. The poem is
divided into three parts. In the first, a young boy and his sister, Abel
and Jeanne, are described as kneeling before a cross in the moonlight,
praying to the Virgin to cure their father. "Mother of God, Virgin
compassionate, send down thine Angel and cure our sick father. Our
mother will then be happy, and we, Blessed Virgin, will love and praise
thee for ever."

The Virgin hears their prayer, and the father is cured. A woman opens
the door of a neighbouring house and exclaims joyously, "Poor little
ones, death has departed. The poison of the fever is counteracted, and
your father's life is saved. Come, little lambs, and pray to God with
me." They all three kneel and pray by the side of the good father
Hilaire, formerly a brave soldier, but now a mason's labourer. This ends
the first part.

The second begins with a description of morning. The sun shines through
the glass of the casement mended with paper, yet the morning rays are
bright and glorious. Little Abel glides into his father's room. He is
told that he must go to the house of his preceptor to-day, for he must
learn to read and write. Abel is "more pretty than strong;" he is to
be an homme de lettres, as his little arms would fail him if he were to
handle the rough stones of his father's trade. Father and son embraced
each other.

For a few days all goes well, but on the fourth, a Sunday, a command
comes from the master mason that if Hilaire does not return to his work
to-morrow, his place shall be given to another. This news spreads dismay
and consternation among them all. Hilaire declares that he is cured,
tries to rise from his bed, but falls prostrate through weakness. It
will take a week yet to re-establish his health.

The soul of little Abel is stirred. He dries his tears and assumes the
air of a man; he feels some strength in his little arms. He goes out,
and proceeds to the house of the master mason. When he returns, he is no
longer sorrowful: "honey was in his mouth, and his eyes were smiling." He
said, "My father, rest yourself: gain strength and courage; you have the
whole week before you. Then you may labour. Some one who loves you will
do your work, and you shall still keep your place." Thus ends the second
part.

The third begins: "Behold our little Abel, who no longer toils at the
school-desk, but in the workshop. In the evenings he becomes again a
petit monsieur; and, the better to deceive his father, speaks of books,
papers, and writings, and with a wink replies to the inquiring look of
his mother (et d'un clin d'oeil repond aux clins des yeux de sa mere).
Four days pass thus. On the fifth, Friday, Hilaire, now cured, leaves
his house at mid-day. But fatal Friday, God has made thee for sorrow!"

The father goes to the place where the masons are at work. Though the
hour for luncheon has not arrived, yet no one is seen on the platforms
above; and O bon Dieu! what a crowd of people is seen at the foot of
the building! Master, workmen, neighbours--all are there, in haste and
tumult. A workman has fallen from the scaffold. It is poor little Abel.
Hilaire pressed forward to see his beloved boy lie bleeding on the
ground! Abel is dying, but before he expires, he whispers, "Master, I
have not been able to finish the work, but for my poor mother's sake do
not dismiss my father because there is one day short!" The boy died, and
was carried home by his sorrowful parent. The place was preserved for
Hilaire, and his wages were even doubled. But it was too late. One
morning death closed his eyelids; and the good father went to take
another place in the tomb by the side of his son.

Jasmin dedicated this poem to Lamartine, who answered his dedication as
follows:--

"Paris, 28th April, 1849.

"My dear brother,--I am proud to read my name in the language which you
have made classic; more proud still of the beautiful verses in which
you embalm the recollection of our three months of struggle with
the demagogues against our true republic. Poets entertain living
presentiments of posterity. I accept your omen. Your poem has made
us weep. You are the only epic writer of our time, the sensible and
pathetic Homer of the people (proletaires).

"Others sing, but you feel. I have seen your son, who has three times
sheltered me with his bayonet--in March and April. He appears to me
worthy of your name.--LAMARTINE."

Besides the above poems, Jasmin composed Le Pretre sans Eglise (The
Priest without a Church), which forms the subject of the next chapter.
These poems, with other songs and impromptus, were published in 1851,
forming the third volume of his Papillotos.

After Jasmin had completed his masterpieces, he again devoted himself to
the cause of charity. Before, he had merely walked; now he soared aloft.
What he accomplished will be ascertained in the following pages.


Endnotes for Chapter XV.

{1} The elder Scaliger had been banished from Verona, settled near Agen,
and gave the villa its name. The tomb of the Scaliger family in Verona
is one of the finest mausoleums ever erected.

{2} Journal de Toulouse, 4th July, 1840.

{3} In the preface to the poem, which was published in 1845, the editor
observes:--"This little drama begins in 1798, at Laffitte, a pretty
market-town on the banks of the Lot, near Clairac, and ends in 1802.
When Martha became an idiot, she ran away from the town to which she
belonged, and went to Agen. When seen in the streets of that town she
became an object of commiseration to many, but the children pursued
her, calling out, 'Martha, a soldier!' Sometimes she disappeared for two
weeks at a time, and the people would then observe, 'Martha has hidden
herself; she must now be very hungry!' More than once Jasmin, in his
childhood, pursued Martha with the usual cry of 'A soldier.' He little
thought that at a future time he should make some compensation for his
sarcasms, by writing the touching poem of Martha the Innocent; but this
merely revealed the goodness of his heart and his exquisite sensibility.
Martha died at Agen in 1834."

{4} 'Causeries du Lundi,' iv. 241, edit. 1852.



CHAPTER XVI. THE PRIEST WITHOUT A CHURCH.

The Abbe Masson, priest of Vergt in Perigord, found the church in which
he officiated so decayed and crumbling, that he was obliged to close
it. It had long been in a ruinous condition. The walls were cracked,
and pieces of plaster and even brick fell down upon the heads of the
congregation; and for their sake as well as for his own, the Abbe Masson
was obliged to discontinue the services. At length he resolved to pull
down the ruined building, and erect another church in its place.

Vergt is not a town of any considerable importance. It contains the
ruins of a fortress built by the English while this part of France was
in their possession. At a later period a bloody battle was fought in the
neighbourhood between the Catholics and the Huguenots. Indeed, the whole
of the South of France was for a long period disturbed by the civil
war which raged between these sections of Christians. Though both Roman
Catholics and Protestants still exist at Vergt, they now live together
in peace and harmony.

Vergt is the chief town of the Canton, and contains about 1800
inhabitants. It is a small but picturesque town, the buildings being
half concealed by foliage and chestnut trees. Not far off, by the river
Candou, the scenery reminds one of the wooded valley at Bolton Priory in
Yorkshire.

Though the Abbe Masson was a man of power and vigour, he found it very
difficult to obtain funds from the inhabitants of the town for
the purpose of rebuilding his church. There were no Ecclesiastical
Commissioners to whom he could appeal, and the people of the
neighbourhood were too limited in their circumstances to help him to any
large extent.

However, he said to himself, "Heaven helps those who help themselves;"
or rather, according to the Southern proverb, Qui trabaillo, Thion li
baillo--"Who is diligent, God helps." The priest began his work with
much zeal. He collected what he could in Vergt and the neighbourhood,
and set the builders to work. He hoped that Providence would help him in
collecting the rest of the building fund.

But the rebuilding of a church is a formidable affair; and perhaps
the priest, not being a man of business, did not count the cost of
the undertaking. He may have "counted his chickens before they were
hatched." Before long the priest's funds again ran short. He had begun
the rebuilding in 1840; the work went on for about a year; but in 1841
the builders had to stop their operations, as the Abbe Masson's funds
were entirely exhausted.

What was he to do now? He suddenly remembered the barber of Agen, who
was always willing to give his friendly help. He had established
Mdlle. Roaldes as a musician a few years before; he had helped to build
schools, orphanages, asylums, and such like. But he had never helped to
build a church. Would he now help him to rebuild the church of Vergt?

The Abbe did not know Jasmin personally, but he went over to Agen, and
through a relative, made his acquaintance. Thus the Abbe and the poet
came together. After the priest had made an explanation of his position,
and of his difficulties in obtaining money for the rebuilding of the
church of Vergt, Jasmin at once complied with the request that he would
come over and help him. They arranged for a circuit of visits throughout
the district--the priest with his address, and Jasmin with his poems.

Jasmin set out for Vergt in January 1843. He was received at the border
of the Canton by a numerous and brilliant escort of cavalry, which
accompanied him to the presbytery. He remained there for two days,
conferring with the Abbe. Then the two set out together for Perigueux,
the chief city of the province, accompanied on their departure by the
members of the Municipal Council and the leading men of the town.

The first meeting was held in the theatre of Perigueux, which was
crowded from floor to ceiling, and many remained outside who could not
obtain admission. The Mayor and Municipal Councillors were present to
welcome and introduce the poet. On this occasion, Jasmin recited for
the first time, "The Ruined Church" (in Gascon: La Gleyzo Descapelado)
composed in one of his happiest moments. Jasmin compared himself to
Amphion, the sweet singer of Greece, who by his musical powers, enabled
a city to be built; and now the poet invoked the citizens of Perigueux
to enable the Abbe Masson to rebuild his church. His poem was received
with enthusiasm, and almost with tears of joy at the pleading of Jasmin.
There was a shower of silver and gold. The priest was overjoyed at the
popularity of his colleague, and also at his purse, which was filled
with offerings.

While at Perigueux the poet and the priest enjoyed the hospitality of M.
August Dupont, to whom Jasmin, in thanks, dedicated a piece of poetry.
Other entertainments followed--matinees and soirees. Jasmin recited some
of his poems before the professors and students at the college, and at
other places of public instruction. Then came banquets--aristocratic and
popular--and, as usual, a banquet of the hair-dressers. There was quite
an ovation in the city while he remained there.

But other calls awaited Jasmin. He received deputations from many of the
towns in the department soliciting his appearance, and the recitation of
his poems. He had to portion out his time with care, and to arrange the
programme of his visits. When the two pilgrims started on their journey,
they were frequently interrupted by crowds of people, who would not
allow Jasmin to pass without reciting some of his poetry. Jasmin
and Masson travelled by the post-office car--the cheapest of all
conveyances--but at Montignac they were stopped by a crowd of people,
and Jasmin had to undergo the same process. Free and hearty, he was
always willing to comply with their requests. That day the postman
arrived at his destination three hours after his appointed time.

It was in the month of February, when darkness comes on so quickly, that
Jasmin informed the magistrates of Sarlat, whither he was bound, that he
would be there by five o'clock. But they waited, and waited for him
and the priest at the entrance to the town, attended by the clergy, the
sub-prefect, the town councillors, and a crowd of people. It was a cold
and dreary night. Still no Jasmin! They waited for three long hours. At
last Jasmin appeared on the post-office car. "There he comes at last!"
was the general cry. His arrival was greeted with enthusiastic cheers.
It was now quite dark. The poet and the priest entered Sarlat in
triumph, amidst the glare of torches and the joyful shouts of the
multitude. Then came the priest's address, Jasmin's recitations, and the
final collection of offerings.

It is unnecessary to repeat the scenes, however impressive, which
occurred during the journey of the poet and the priest. There was the
same amount of enthusiasm at Nontron, Bergerac, and the other towns
which they visited. At Nontron, M. A. de Calvimont, the sub-prefect,
welcomed Jasmin with the following lines:

 "To Jasmin, our grand poet,
 The painter of humanity;
 For him, elect of heaven, life is a fete
 Ending in immortality."

Jasmin replied to this with some impromptu lines, 'To Poetry,' dedicated
to the sub-prefect. At Bergerac he wrote his Adieu to Perigord, in which
he conveyed his thanks to the inhabitants of the department for the
kindness with which they had received him and his companion. This, their
first journey through Perigord, was brought to a close at the end of
February, 1843.

The result of this brilliant journey was very successful. The purse of
the Abbe was now sufficiently well filled to enable him to proceed
with the rebuilding of the church of Vergt; and the work was so well
advanced, that by the 23rd of the following month of July it was ready
for consecration. A solemn ceremony then took place. Six bishops,
including an archbishop, and three hundred priests were present, with
more than fifteen thousand people of all ranks and conditions of life.
Never had such a ceremony been seen before--at least in so small a town.

The Cardinal Gousset, Archbishop of Rheims, after consecrating
the church, turned to Jasmin, and said: "Poet, we cannot avoid the
recognition of your self-sacrificing labours in the rebuilding of this
church; and we shall be happy if you will consent to say a few words
before we part."

"Monseigneur," replied Jasmin, "can you believe that my muse has
laboured for fifteen days and fifteen nights, that I should interrupt
this day of the fete? Vergt keeps fete to-day for religion, but not for
poetry, though it welcomes and loves it. The church has six pontiffs;
the poet is only a subdeacon; but if I must sing my hymn officially, it
must be elsewhere."

The Archbishop--a man of intelligence who understood the feelings of
poets--promised, at the collation which followed the consecration, to
give Jasmin the opportunity of reciting the verses which he had composed
for the occasion. The poem was entitled 'A Priest without a Church'
(in Gascon: Lou Preste sans Glegzo) dedicated to M. Masson, the Cure of
Vergt. In his verses the poet described the influence of a noble church
upon the imagination as well as the religion of the people. But he said
nothing of his own labours in collecting the necessary funds for the
rebuilding of the church. The recitation of the poem was received with
enthusiasm.

Monseigneur Bertaud, who preached in the afternoon on the "Infinity
of God," touchingly referred to the poems of Jasmin, and developed the
subject so happily referred to by the poet.

"Such examples as his," he said, "such delicate and generous sentiments
mingled together, elevate poetry and show its noble origin, so that we
cannot listen to him without the gravest emotion."{1}

It was a great day for Vergt, and also a great day for the poet. The
consecration of the church amidst so large an assemblage of clergy and
people occasioned great excitement in the South. It was noised abroad in
the public journals, and even in the foreign press. Jasmin's fame became
greater than ever; and his barber's shop at Agen became, as it were, a
shrine, where pilgrims, passing through the district, stopped to visit
him and praise his almost divine efforts to help the cause of religion
and civilisation.

The local enthusiasm was not, however, without its drawbacks. The
success of the curate of Vergt occasioned a good deal of jealousy. Why
should he be patronised by Jasmin, and have his purse filled by his
recitations, when there were so many other churches to be built and
repaired, so many hospitals and schools to found and maintain, so many
orphanages to assist, so many poor to relieve, so many good works to be
done? Why should not Jasmin, who could coin money with words which cost
him nothing, come to the help of the needy and afflicted in the various
districts throughout the South?

Thus Jasmin was constantly assailed by deputations. He must leave his
razors and his curling-tongs, and go here, there, and everywhere to
raise money by his recitations.

The members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul were, as usual, full
of many charitable designs. There had been a fire, a flood, an epidemic,
a severe winter, a failure of crops, which had thrown hundreds of
families into poverty and misery; and Jasmin must come immediately to
their succour. "Come, Jasmin! Come quick, quick!" He was always willing
to give his assistance; but it was a terrible strain upon his mental as
well as his physical powers.

In all seasons, at all hours, in cold, in heat, in wind, in rain, he
hastened to give his recitations--sometimes of more than two hours'
duration, and often twice or thrice in the same day. He hastened, for
fear lest the poor should receive their food and firing too late.

What a picture! Had Jasmin lived in the time of St. Vincent de Paul,
the saint would have embraced him a thousand times, and rejoiced to
see himself in one way surpassed; for in pleading for the poor, he also
helped the rich by celebrating the great deeds of their ancestors, as
he did at Beziers, Riquet, Albi, Lafeyrouse, and other places. The
spectacle which he presented was so extraordinary, that all France was
struck with admiration at the qualities of this noble barber of Agen.

On one occasion Jasmin was requested by a curate to come to his help and
reconcile him with his parishioners. Jasmin succeeded in performing the
miracle. It happened that in 1846 the curate of Saint-Leger, near
Penne, in the Tarn, had caused a ball-room to be closed. This gave great
offence to the young people, who desired the ball-room to be opened,
that they might have their fill of dancing. They left his church,
and declared that they would have nothing further to do with him. To
reconcile the malcontents, the curate promised to let them hear Jasmin.
accordingly, one Sunday afternoon the inhabitants of four parishes
assembled in a beautiful wood to listen to Jasmin. He recited his
Charity and some other of his serious poems. When he had finished,
the young people of Saint-Leger embraced first the poet, and then the
curate. The reconciliation was complete.

To return to the church at Vergt. Jasmin was a poet, not an architect.
The Abbe Masson knew nothing about stone or mortar. He was merely
anxious to have his church rebuilt and consecrated as soon as possible.
That had been done in 1843. But in the course of a few years it was
found that the church had been very badly built. The lime was bad, and
the carpentry was bad. The consequence was, that the main walls of
the church bulged out, and the shoddy building had to be supported by
outside abutments. In course of time it became clear that the work, for
the most part, had to be done over again.

In 1847 the Abbe again appealed to Jasmin. This new task was more
difficult than the first, for it was necessary to appeal to a larger
circle of contributors; not confining themselves to Perigord only, but
taking a wider range throughout the South of France. The priest made
the necessary arrangements for the joint tour. They would first take
the northern districts--Angouleme, Limoges, Tulle, and Brives--and then
proceed towards the south.

The pair started at the beginning of May, and began their usual
recitations and addresses, such as had been given during the first
journey in Perigord. They were received with the usual enthusiasm.
Prefects, bishops, and municipal bodies, vied with each other in
receiving and entertaining them. At Angouleme, the queen of southern
cities, Jasmin was presented with a crown of immortelles and a
snuff-box, on which was engraved: "Esteem--Love--Admiration! To Jasmin,
the most sublime of poets! From the youth of Angouleme, who have had the
happiness of seeing and hearing him!"

The poet and priest travelled by night as well as by day in order to
economise time. After their tour in the northern towns and cities, they
returned to Vergt for rest. They entered the town under a triumphal
arch, and were escorted by a numerous cavalcade. Before they retired to
the priest's house, the leading men of the commune, in the name of
the citizens, complimented Jasmin for his cordial help towards the
rebuilding of the church.

After two days of needful rest Jasmin set out for Bordeaux, the city
whose inhabitants had first encouraged him by their applause, and for
which he continued to entertain a cordial feeling to the last days of
his life. His mission on this occasion was to assist in the inauguration
of a creche, founded and supported by the charitable contributions
of the friends of poor children. It is not necessary to mention the
enthusiasm with which he was received.

The further progress of the poet and the priest, in search of
contributions for rebuilding the church, was rudely interrupted by the
Revolution which broke out at Paris in 1848. His Majesty Louis Philippe
abdicated the throne of France on the 24th of February, rather than
come into armed collision with his subjects; and, two days after, the
Republic was officially proclaimed at the Hotel de Ville. Louis Philippe
and his family took refuge in England--the usual retreat of persecuted
Frenchmen; and nine months later, Louis Napoleon Buonaparte, who had
also been a refugee in England, returned to France, and on the 20th of
December was proclaimed President of the French Republic.

Jasmin and Masson accordingly suspended their tour. No one would listen
to poetical recitations in the midst of political revolutions. Freedom
and tranquillity were necessary for the contemplation of ideas very
different from local and national squabbles. The poet and priest
accordingly bade adieu to each other; and it was not until two years
later that they were able to recommence their united journeys through
the South of France. The proclamation of the Republic, and the forth
coming elections, brought many new men to the front. Even poets made
their appearance. Lamartine, who had been a deputy, was a leader in
the Revolution, and for a time was minister for foreign affairs. Victor
Hugo, a still greater poet, took a special interest in the politics
of the time, though he was fined and imprisoned for condemning capital
punishment. Even Reboul, the poet-baker of Nimes, deserted his muse and
his kneading trough to solicit the suffrages of his fellow-citizens.
Jasmin was wiser. He was more popular in his neighbourhood than Reboul,
though he cared little about politics. He would neither be a deputy,
nor a municipal councillor, nor an agent for elections. He preferred
to influence his country by spreading the seeds of domestic and social
virtues; and he was satisfied with his position in Agen as poet and
hair-dresser.

Nevertheless a deputation of his townsmen waited upon Jasmin to request
him to allow his name to appear as a candidate for their suffrages.
The delegates did not find him at his shop. He was at his vineyard; and
there the deputation found him tranquilly seated under a cherry-tree
shelling peas! He listened to them with his usual courtesy, and when one
of the committee pressed him for an answer, and wished to know if he
was not a good Republican, he said, "Really, I care nothing for the
Republic. I am one of those who would have saved the constitutional
monarchy by enabling it to carry out further reforms.... But,"
he continued, "look to the past; was it not a loss to destroy the
constitutional monarchy? But now we must march forward, that we may all
be united again under the same flag. The welfare of France should reign
in all our thoughts and evoke our most ardent sympathy. Choose among our
citizens a strong and wise man... If the Republic is to live in France,
it must be great, strong, and good for all classes of the people.
Maintaining the predominance of the law will be its security; and in
preserving law it will strengthen our liberties.'"

In conclusion, Jasmin cordially thanked his fellow-citizens for the
honour they proposed to confer upon him, although he could not
accept it. The affairs of the State, he said, were in a very confused
condition, and he could not pretend to unravel them. He then took leave
of the deputation, and quietly proceeded to complete his task--the
shelling of his peas!


Endnotes for Chapter XVI.

{1} The whole of the interview between the Archbishop of Rheims and
Jasmin is given by Sainte-Beuve in 'Causeries du Lundi,' iv. 250.



CHAPTER XVII. THE CHURCH OF VERGT AGAIN--FRENCH ACADEMY--EMPEROR AND
EMPRESS.

When the political turmoils in France had for a time subsided, Jasmin
and the Abbe Masson recommenced their journeys in the South for the
collection of funds for the church at Vergt. They had already made
two pilgrimages--the first through Perigord, the second to Angouleme,
Limoges, Tulle, and Brives. The third was begun early in 1850, and
included the department of the Landes, the higher and lower Pyrenees,
and other districts in the South of France.

At Bagneres de Bigorre and at Bagneres de Luchon the receipts were
divided between the church at Vergt and that at Luchon. The public
hospitals and the benevolent societies frequently shared in the
receipts. There seemed to be no limits to the poet's zeal in labouring
for those who were in want of funds. Independent of his recitations for
the benefit of the church at Vergt, he often turned aside to one place
or another where the poor were in the greatest need of assistance.

On one occasion he went to Arcachon. He started early in the morning by
the steamer from Agen to Bordeaux, intending to proceed by railway (a
five hours' journey) from Bordeaux to Arcachon. But the steamers on
the Garonne were then very irregular, and Jasmin did not reach Bordeaux
until six hours later than the appointed time. In the meanwhile a
large assembly had met in the largest room in Arcachon. They waited and
waited; but no Jasmin! The Abbe Masson became embarrassed; but at length
he gave his address, and the receipts were 800 francs. The meeting
dispersed very much disappointed, because no Jasmin had appeared, and
they missed his recitations. At midnight the cure returned to Bordeaux
and there he found Jasmin, just arrived from Agen by the boat, which had
been six hours late. He was in great dismay; but he afterwards made up
for the disappointment by reciting to the people of Arcachon.

The same thing happened at Biarritz. A large assembly had met, and
everything was ready for Jasmin. But there was no Jasmin! The omnibus
from Bayonne did not bring him. It turned out, that at the moment of
setting out he was seized with a sudden loss of voice. As in the case of
Arcachon, the cure had to do without him. The result of his address was
a collection of 700 francs.

The Abbe Masson was a liberal-minded man. When Jasmin urged him to help
others more needy than himself, he was always ready to comply with his
request. When at Narbonne, in the department of Aude, a poor troupe of
comedians found themselves in difficulties. It was winter-time, and the
weather was very cold. The public could not bear their canvas-covered
shed, and deserted the entertainment. Meanwhile the artistes were
famished. Knowing the generosity of Jasmin, they asked him to recite at
one of their representations. He complied with their request; the place
was crowded; and Jasmin's recitations were received with the usual
enthusiasm. It had been arranged that half the proceeds should go to
the church at Vergt, and the other half to the comedians. But when the
entire troupe presented themselves to the Abbe and offered him the
full half, he said: "No! no! keep it all. You want it more than I do.
Besides, I can always fall back upon my dear poet!"

A fourth pilgrimage of the priest and poet was afterwards made to the
towns of Rodez, Villefranche-d'aveyron, Cahors, Figeac, Gourdon, and
Sarlat; and the proceeds of these excursions, added to a subvention
of 5,000 francs from the Government, enabled the church of Vergt to
be completed. In 1852 the steeple was built, and appropriately named
"Jasmin's Bell-tower" (Clocher Jasmin). But it was still without bells,
for which a subsequent pilgrimage was made by Jasmin and Masson.

To return to the honours paid to Jasmin for his works of benevolence
and charity. What was worth more to him than the numerous golden laurels
which had been bestowed upon him, was his recognition by the highest
and noblest of institutions, the Academy of France. Although one of
the objects of its members was to preserve the French language in its
highest purity they were found ready to crown a poet who wrote his poems
in the patois of the South.

There were, however, several adverse criticisms on the proposed decision
of the Academy; though poetry may be written in every tongue, and is
quite independent of the language or patois in which it is conveyed.
Indeed; several members of the Academy--such as MM. Thiers, De Remusat,
Viennet, and Flourens--came from the meridional districts of France,
and thoroughly understood the language of Jasmin. They saw in him two
men--the poet, and the benefactor of humanity.

This consideration completely overruled the criticisms of the minority.
Jasmin had once before appeared at M. Thierry's before the best men
of the Academy; and now the whole of the Academy, notwithstanding his
patois, approached and honoured the man of good deeds.

Jasmin owed to M. Villemain one of the most brilliant panegyrics which
he had ever received. The Academy desired to award a special prize in
accordance with the testamentary bequest of M. de Montyon{1}--his last
debt to art and morality; a talent that employs itself in doing good
under a form the most brilliant and popular. This talent, he continued,
is that of the true poet; and Jasmin, during his pure and modest life,
has employed his art for the benefit of morality with a noble, helpful
influence, while nothing detracted from the dignity of his name.

Like the Scottish poet Burns, Jasmin had by his dialect and his poetical
talents enriched the literature of his country. Jasmin, the hair-dresser
of Agen, the poet of the South, who drew crowds to hear the sound of
his voice--who even embellished the festivals of the rich, but who
still more assisted in the pleasures of the poor--who spent his time
in endowing charitable establishments--who helped to build churches,
schools, and orphanages--Jasmin, the glory of his Commune as well as of
the South of France, deserved to be adopted by all France and publicly
acknowledged by the Academy.

Tacitus has said that renown is not always deserved, it chooses its
due time--Non semper errat fama, aliquando eligit ("Fame is not always
mistaken; she sometimes chooses the right"). We have proof of it to-day.
The enthusiastic approbation of the great provinces of France for a
popular poet cannot be a surprise. They single out the last, and I may
add, the greatest poet of the Troubadours!

M. Villemain proceeded to comment upon the poetical works of
Jasmin--especially his Blind Girl of Castel-Cuille, his Franconnette,
and the noble works he had done for the poor and the suffering; his
self-sacrificing labours for the building of schools, orphanages, and
churches. "Everywhere," he said, "his elevated and generous soul has
laboured for the benefit of the world about him; and now he would, by
the aid of the Academy, embellish his coronet with a privileged donation
to the poet and philanthropist." He concluded by saying that the
especial prize for literary morality and virtuous actions would be
awarded to him, and that a gold medal would be struck in his honour with
the inscription: "Au Jasmin, Poete moral et populaire!"

M. Ancelo communicated to Jasmin the decision of the Academy. "I have
great pleasure," he said, "in transmitting to you the genuine sympathy,
the sincere admiration, and the unanimous esteem, which your name and
your works have evoked at this meeting of the Academy. The legitimate
applause which you everywhere receive in your beautiful country finds
its echo on this side of the Loire; and if the spontaneous adoption of
you by the French Academy adds nothing to your glory, it will at least
serve to enhance our own."

The prize unanimously awarded to Jasmin on the 19th of August, 1852, was
3000 francs, which was made up to 5000 by the number of copies of the
"Papillotos" purchased by the Academy for distribution amongst the
members. Jasmin devoted part of the money to repairing his little
house on the Gravier: and the rest was ready for his future charitable
missions.

On receiving the intimation of the prizes awarded to him, he made
another journey to Paris to pay his respects to his devoted friends of
the Academy. He was received with welcome by the most eminent persons
in the metropolis. He was feted as usual. At the salon of the Marquis
de Barthelemy he met the Duc de Levis, the Duc des Cars, MM. Berryer,
de Salvandy, de Vatismenil, Hyde de Neuville, and other distinguished
noblemen and gentlemen. Monsigneur Sibour, Archbishop of Paris, was
desirous of seeing and hearing this remarkable poet of the South.
The Archbishop invited him to his palace for the purpose of hearing a
recitation of his poems; and there he met the Pope's Nuncio, several
bishops, and the principal members of the Parisian clergy. After the
recitation, the Archbishop presented Jasmin with a golden branch with
this device: "To Jasmin! the greatest of the Troubadours, past, present,
or to come."

The chief authors of Paris, the journalists, and the artists, had a
special meeting in honour of Jasmin. A banquet was organised by the
journalists of the Deux Mondes, at the instance of Meissonier, Lireux,
Lalandelle, C. Reynaud, L. Pichat, and others. M. Jules Janin presided,
and complimented Jasmin in the name of the Parisian press. The people
of Agen, resident in Paris, also gave him a banquet, at which Jasmin
recited a poem composed for the occasion.

One of his evenings was spent at the house of Madame la Marquise
de Barthelemy. An interesting account of the soiree is given by a
correspondent of Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, who was present on
the occasion.{2} The salons of Madame la Marquise were filled to
overflowing. Many of the old nobility of France were present.

"It was a St. Germain's night," as she herself expressed it.
High-sounding names were there--much intellect and beauty; all were
assembled to do honour to the coiffeur from the banks of the Garonne.
France honours intellect, no matter to what class of society it belongs:
it is an affectionate kind of social democracy. Indeed, among many
virtues in French society, none is so delightful, none so cheering,
none so mutually improving, and none more Christian, than the kindly
intercourse, almost the equality, of all ranks of society, and the
comparatively small importance attached to wealth or condition, wherever
there is intellect and power.

At half-past nine. Jasmin made his appearance--a short, stout,
dark-haired man, with large bright eyes, and a mobile animated face, his
button-hole decorated with the red ribbon of the Legion of Honour. He
made his way through the richly attired ladies sparkling with jewels, to
a small table at the upper end of the salon, whereon were books, his
own "Curl-papers," two candles, a carafe of fresh water, and a vase of
flowers.

The ladies arranged themselves in a series of brilliant semicircles
before him. The men blocked up the doorway, peering over each other's
shoulders. Jasmin waved his hand like the leader of an orchestra, and
a general silence sealed all the fresh noisy lips. One haughty little
brunette, not long emancipated from her convent, giggled audibly; but
Jasmin's eye transfixed her, and the poor child sat thereafter rebuked
and dumb. The hero of the evening again waved his hands, tossed back his
hair, struck an attitude, and began his poem. The first he recited was
"The Priest without a Church" (Le Preste sans gleyzo). He pleaded for
the church as if it were about to be built. He clasped his hands, looked
up to heaven, and tears were in his eyes. Some sought for the silver
and gold in their purses; but no collection was made, as the church had
already been built, and was free of debt.

After an interval, he recited La Semaine d'un Fils; and he recited
it very beautifully. There were some men who wept; and many women who
exclaimed, "Charmant! Tout-a-fait charmant!" but who did not weep.
Jasmin next recited Ma Bigno, which has been already described. The
contributor to Chambers's Journal proceeds: "It was all very amusing to
a proud, stiff, reserved Britisher like myself, to see how grey-headed
men with stars and ribbons could cry at Jasmin's reading; and how
Jasmin, himself a man, could sob and wipe his eyes, and weep so
violently, and display such excessive emotion. This surpassed my
understanding--probably clouded by the chill atmosphere of the fogs,
in which every Frenchman believes we live.... After the recitations had
concluded, Jasmin's social ovation began. Ladies surrounded him, and
men admired him. A ring was presented, and a pretty speech spoken by a
pretty mouth, accompanied the presentation; and the man of the people
was flattered out of all proportion by the brave, haughty old noblesse.

"To do Jasmin justice, although naturally enough spoiled by the absurd
amount of adulation he has met with, he has not been made cold-hearted
or worldly. He is vain, but true and loyal to his class. He does not
seek to disguise or belie his profession. In fact, he always dwells upon
his past more or less, and never misses an opportunity of reminding his
audience that he is but a plebeian, after all.

"He wears a white apron, and shaves and frizzes hair to this day, when
at Agen; and though a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, member of
Academies and Institutes without number, feted, praised, flattered
beyond anything we can imagine in England, crowned by the king and the
then heir to the throne with gilt and silver crowns, decked with flowers
and oak-leaves, and all conceivable species of coronets, he does not ape
the gentleman, but clips, curls, and chatters as simply as heretofore,
and as professionally. There is no little merit in this steady
attachment to his native place, and no little good sense in this
adherence to his old profession... It is far manlier and nobler than
that weak form of vanity shown in a slavish imitation of the great, and
a cowardly shame of one's native condition.

"Without going so far as his eulogistic admirers in the press, yet we
honour in him a true poet, and a true man, brave, affectionate, mobile,
loving, whose very faults are all amiable, and whose vanity takes the
form of nature. And if we of the cold North can scarcely comprehend the
childish passionateness and emotional unreserve of the more sensitive
South, at least we can profoundly respect the good common to us all
the good which lies underneath that many-coloured robe of manners which
changes with every hamlet; the good which speaks from heart to heart,
and quickens the pulses of the blood; the good which binds us all as
brothers, and makes but one family of universal man; and this good we
lovingly recognise in Jasmin; and while rallying him for his foibles,
respectfully love him for his virtues, and tender him a hand of sympathy
and admiration as a fine; poet, a good citizen, and a true-hearted man."

Before leaving Paris it was necessary for Jasmin to acknowledge his
gratitude to the French Academy. The members had done him much honour
by the gold medal and the handsome donation they had awarded him. On the
24th of August, 1852, he addressed the Forty of the Academy in a poem
which he entitled 'Langue Francaise, Langue Gasconne,' or, as he styled
it in Gascon, 'Lengo Gascouno, Lengo Francezo.' In this poem, which was
decorated with the most fragrant flowers of poetry with which he could
clothe his words, Jasmin endeavoured to disclose the characteristics of
the two languages. At the beginning, he said:

"O my birth-place, what a concert delights my ear! Nightingales, sing
aloud; bees, hum together; Garonne, make music on your pure and laughing
stream; the elms of Gravier, tower above me; not for glory, but for
gladness."{3}

After the recitation of the poem, M. Laurentie said that it abounded
in patriotic sentiments and fine appreciation, to say nothing of the
charming style of the falling strophes, at intervals, in their sonorous
and lyrical refrain. M. Villemain added his acclamation. "In truth,"
said he, "once more our Academy is indebted to Jasmin!" The poet, though
delighted by these ovations, declared that it was he who was indebted
to the members of the Academy, not they to him. M. de Salvandy reassured
him: "Do not trouble yourself, Jasmin; you have accomplished everything
we could have wished; you have given us ten for one, and still we are
your debtors."

After Jasmin had paid his compliments to the French Academy, he was
about to set out for Agen--being fatigued and almost broken down by his
numerous entertainments in Paris--when he was invited by General Fleury
to visit the President of the French Republic at Saint-Cloud. This
interview did not please him so much as the gracious reception which he
had received in the same palace some years before from Louis Philippe
and the Duchess of Orleans; yet Jasmin was a man who respected the
law, and as France had elected Louis Napoleon as President, he was not
unwilling to render him his homage.

Jasmin had already seen the President when passing through Agen a few
years before, on his visit to Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Toulon; but they
had no personal interview. M. Edmond Texier, however, visited Jasmin,
and asked him whether he had not composed a hymn for the fete of the
day. No! he had composed nothing; yet he had voted for Louis Napoleon,
believing him to be the saviour of France. "But," said M. Texier,
"if the Prince appeals to you, you will eulogise him in a poem?"
"Certainly," replied Jasmin, "and this is what I would say: 'Sir, in the
name of our country, restore to us our noble friend M. Baze. He was your
adversary, but he is now conquered, disarmed, and most unhappy. Restore
him to his mother, now eighty years old; to his weeping family; and
to all his household, who deplore his absence; restore him also to our
townsmen, who love and honour him, and bear no hostility towards the
President, His recall will be an admirable political act, and will give
our country more happiness that the highest act of benevolence.'"

This conversation between Jasmin and Texier immediately appeared in the
columns of the Siecle, accompanied with a stirring sympathetic article
by the editor. It may be mentioned that M. Baze was one of Jasmin's
best friends. He had introduced the poet to the public, and written
the charming preface to the first volume of the 'Papillotos,' issued in
1835. M. Baze was an advocate of the Royal Court of Agen--a man of fine
character, and a true patriot. He was Mayor of Agen, commander of the
National Guard, and afterwards member of the Legislative Assembly and
the Senate. But he was opposed to Prince Louis Napoleon, and was one of
the authors of the motion entitled de Questeurs. He was arrested on the
night of the 2nd December, 1851, imprisoned for a month in the Mazas,
and then expelled from the territory of France. During his exile he
practised at Liege as an advocate.

Jasmin again went to Paris in May 1853, and this time on his mission
of mercy. The editor of the Siecle announced his arrival. He was again
feted, and the salons rejoiced in his recitations. After a few days he
was invited to Saint-Cloud. Louis Napoleon was now Emperor of France,
and the Empress Eugenie sat by his side. The appearance of Jasmin was
welcomed, and he was soon made thoroughly at ease by the Emperor's
interesting conversation. A company had been assembled, and Jasmin was
requested to recite some of his poems. As usual, he evoked smiles and
tears by turns. When the audience were in one of their fits of weeping,
and Jasmin had finished his declamation, the Emperor exclaimed, "Why;
poet, this is a genuine display of handkerchiefs"--(Mais, poete, c'est
un veritable scene de mouchoirs).

Jasmin seized this moment for revealing to the Emperor the desire which
he had long entertained, for recalling from exile his dear friend M.
Baze. He had prepared a charming piece of verse addressed to the Empress
Eugenie, requesting his return to France through the grand door of
honour. "Restore him to us," he said; "Agen cries aloud. The young
Empress, as good as beautiful, beloved of Heaven, will pray with her
sympathetic soul, and save two children and an unhappy mother--she, who
will be soon blessed as a happy mother herself."{4} Jasmin concluded
his poem with the following words in Gascon: Esperi! Lou angels nou se
troumpon jamay.'

The result of this appeal to the Empress was that Jasmin's prayer was
immediately granted by the Emperor. M. Baze returned to France at once,
without any conditions whatever. The parents of the quondam exile wrote
to Jasmin thanking him most cordially for his exertions in their favour.
Four days after the soiree at Saint-Cloud, the Prefect of the
Indre-et-Loire, head of the Baze family, wrote to Jasmin, saying: "Your
muse is accustomed to triumphs; but this one ought to rejoice your
heart, and should yield you more honour than all the others. For my
part, I feel myself under the necessity of thanking you cordially for
your beautiful and noble action; and in saying so, I interpret the
sentiments of the whole family." Madame Baze addressed the Emperor in a
letter of grateful thanks, which she wrote at the dictation of Jasmin.
The Siecle also gave an account of Jasmin's interview with the Emperor
and Empress at Saint-Cloud, and the whole proceeding redounded to the
honour of the Gascon poet.

Jasmin had been made Chevalier of the Legion of Honour at the same time
as Balzac, Frederick Soulie, and Alfred de Musset. The minister bore
witness to the worth of Jasmin, notwithstanding the rusticity of his
idiom; and he was classed amongst the men who did honour to French
literature. He was considered great, not only in his poems, but in his
benevolent works: "You build churches; you help indigence; you possess
the talent of a powerful benefactor; and your muse is the sister of
charity."

When the news of the honours conferred upon Jasmin reached Agen, the
people were most sympathetic in their demonstrations. The shop of the
barber-poet was crowded with visitors, and when he himself reached the
town he was received with the greatest enthusiasm. The Philharmonic
Society again treated him to a serenade, and the whole town was full of
joy at the honour done to their beloved poet.

To return to the church of Vergt, which was not yet entirely finished.
A bell-tower had been erected, but what was a bell-tower without bells?
There was a little tinkling affair which could scarcely be heard in
the church, still less in the neighbourhood. With his constant trust in
Providence, the Abbe did not hesitate to buy a clock and order two large
bells. The expense of both amounted to 7000 francs. How was this to be
paid? His funds were entirely exhausted. The priest first applied to the
inhabitants of Vergt, but they could not raise half the necessary funds.
There was Jasmin! He was the only person that could enable the Abbe to
defray his debt.

Accordingly, another appeal was made to the public outside of Vergt. The
poet and the priest set out on their fifth and last pilgrimage; and
this time they went as far as Lyons--a city which Jasmin had never seen
before. There he found himself face to face with an immense audience,
who knew next to nothing of his Gascon patois. He was afraid of his
success; but unwilling to retreat, he resolved, he said, "to create
a squadron in reserve"; that is, after reciting some of the old
inspirations of his youth, to give them his Helene or 'Love and Poetry,'
in modern classical French. The result, we need scarcely say, was
eminently successful, and the Abbe; was doubly grateful in having added
so many more thousand francs to his purse.

During this journey another priest, the Abbe Cabanel, united his forces
with those of Jasmin and Masson. This Abbe was curate of Port de
Sainte-Foi-la-Grande. He had endeavoured to erect in his parish a public
school under the charge of religious teachers. He now proposed to
partake of the profits of the recitations for the purpose of helping on
his project; and Jasmin and Masson willingly complied with his request.
They accordingly appeared at the town of Sainte-Foi, and the result was
another excellent collection.

After visiting other towns, sufficient subscriptions were collected
to enable the Abbe to pay off his debts. The clock and bells were
christened by Monseigneur de Sangalerie, who had himself been a curate
of the parish of Vergt; and the bells were inscribed with the name of
JASMIN, the chief founder and rebuilder of the church. The bells were
the last addition to Jasmin's bell-tower, but the final result was
reached long after the beginning of the rebuilding of the church.


Endnotes for Chapter XVII.

{1} The Baron de Montyon bequeathed a large sum to the Academie
Francaise, the Academie des Sciences, and the Faculte de Medecine,
for the purpose of being awarded in prizes to men of invention and
discovery, or for any literary work likely to be useful to society,
and to rewarding acts of virtue among the poor. Jasmin was certainly
entitled to a share in this benevolent fund.

{2} Chambers' Edinburgh Journal, July, 1853

{3} The following are the Gascon words of this part of the poem:

 "O moun bres, d'un councer festejo moun aoureillo!
 Rouseignol, canto fort! brounzino fort, Abeillo!
 Garono, fay souna toun flot rizen et pur;
 Des ourmes del Grabe floureji la cabeillo,
 Non de glorio...  mais de bounhur!"

{4} The editor of Vol. IV. of Jasmins Poems (1863) gives this note: "In
this circumstance, Jasmin has realised the foresight which the ancients
afforded to their poets, of predicting, two years in advance, the birth
of the Prince Imperial."



CHAPTER XVIII. JASMIN ENROLLED MAITRE-ES-JEUX AT TOULOUSE--CROWNED BY
AGEN.

Shortly after the return of Jasmin from Paris, where he had the honour
of an interview with the Emperor and Empress, as well as with the
members of the French Academy, he was invited to Toulouse for the
purpose of being enrolled as Maitre-es-jeux in the Academy of Jeux
Floreaux.

Toulouse is known as the city of Literary Fetes, and the reception of
Jasmin as Maitre-es-Jeux will long exist as a permanent record in
her annals. The Academy of Jeux Floreaux had no prize of 5000 frs. to
bestow, nor any crowns, nor any golden laurels. She hides her poverty
under her flowers, and although she would willingly have given all her
flowers to Jasmin, yet her rules prevented her. She called Jasmin to
her bosom, and gave him the heartiest of welcomes. But the honour was
there--the honour of being invited to join a brotherhood of illustrious
men.

The title of Maitre-es-jeux is a rare distinction, awarded only to the
highest celebrities. The ceremony of installing Jasmin took place on the
6th of February, 1854. The great Salle des Illustres was crowded long
before he made his appearance, while the Place de Capitol was filled
with a vast number of his admirers. The archbishop, the prefect, the
mayor, the magistrates, and the principal citizens of Toulouse were
present, with the most beautiful women in the city. Many of the southern
bishops were present, having desired to enjoy the pleasure of assisting
at the ceremony.

After an address of congratulation, Jasmin was enrolled amongst the
members, and presented with his diploma of Maitre-es-jeux. Though it was
only a piece of parchment, he considered it the rarest of distinctions.
It connected the poet, through five centuries, with the last of the
Troubadours, whose language he had so splendidly revived. Jasmin
valued his bit of parchment more highly than all the other gifts he had
received. In answer to his enrolment, he said:

"I have now enough! I want no more! All things smile upon me. My muse
went proudly from the forty of Toulouse to the forty of Paris. She is
more than proud to-day, she is completely happy; for she sees my name,
which Isaure blessed, come from the forty of Paris to the forty of
Toulouse,"

After his enrolment, the poet-barber left the salon. A large crowd
had assembled in the court, under the peristyle, in the Place of the
Capitol. Every head was uncovered as he passed through their ranks, and
those who accompanied him to his lodging, called out, "Vive Jasmin! Vive
Jasmin!" Never had such a scene been witnessed before.

Although Jasmin had declared to the Academy of Jeux Floreaux that he
wanted nothing more than the diploma they had given him, yet another
triumph was waiting him. The citizens of Agen capped all the previous
honours of the poet. They awarded him a crown of gold, which must have
been the greatest recompense of all. They had known him during almost
his entire life--the son of a humpbacked tailor and a crippled
mother, of poor but honest people, whose means had been helped by the
grandfather, Boe, who begged from door to door, the old man who closed
his eyes in the hospital, "where all the Jasmins die!"

They had known him by his boyish tricks, his expulsion from the Academy,
his setting up as a barber, his happy marriage, and his laborious
progress, until the "shower of silver" came running into his shop.
"Pau de labouro, pau de salouro," No work, no bread. Though born in the
lowest condition of life, he had, by the help of his wife, and by his
own energy and perseverance, raised himself to the highest position as
a man of character. Before he reached the age of thirty {1} he began to
show evidences of his genius as a poet.

But still more important were his works of charity, which endeared him
to the people through the South of France. It was right and reasonable
that his fellow-citizens should desire to take part in the honours
conferred upon their beloved poet. He had already experienced their
profound sympathy during his self-sacrificing work, but they now wished
to testify their public admiration, and to proclaim the fact by some
offering of intrinsic value.

The Society of Saint-Vincent de Paul--whom he had so often helped in
their charitable labours--first started the idea. They knew what Jasmin
had done to found schools, orphanages, and creches. Indeed, this was
their own mission, and no one had laboured so willingly as he had done
to help them in their noble work. The idea, thus started by the society,
immediately attracted public attention, and was received with universal
approval.

A committee was formed, consisting of De Bouy, mayor; H. Noubel, deputy;
Aunac, banker; Canon Deyche, arch-priest of the cathedral; Dufort,
imperial councillor; Guizot, receiver-general; Labat, advocate-general;
Maysonnade, president of the conference of Saint-Vincent de Paul;
Couturier, the engineer, and other gentlemen. A subscription was at once
opened and more than four thousand persons answered the appeal.

When the subscriptions were collected, they were found so great in
amount, that the committee resolved to present Jasmin with a crown of
gold. Five hundred years before, Petrarch had been crowned at Rome in
the name of Italy, and now Jasmin was to be crowned at Agen, in the name
of Meridional France. To crown a man, who, during his lifetime had
been engaged in the trade of barber and hair-dresser, seemed something
extraordinary and unique. To the cold-blooded people of the North there
might appear something theatrical in such a demonstration, but it was
quite in keeping with the warm-hearted children of the South.

The construction of the crown was entrusted to MM. Fannieres of Paris,
the best workers of gold in France. They put their best art and skill
into the crown. It consisted of two branches of laurel in dead gold,
large and knotted behind, like the crowns of the Caesars and the poets,
with a ruby, artistically arranged, containing the simple device: La
Ville d'Agen, a Jasmin! The pendants of the laurel, in dead silver, were
mixed with the foliage. The style of the work was severe and pure, and
the effect of the chef d'oeuvre was admirable.

The public meeting, at which the golden crown was presented to Jasmin,
was held on the 27th of November, 1856, in the large hall of the Great
Seminary. Gilt banners were hung round the walls, containing the titles
of Jasmin's principal poems, while the platform was splendidly decorated
with emblems and festoons of flowers. Although the great hall was of
large dimensions, it could not contain half the number of people who
desired to be present on this grand occasion.

An immense crowd assembled in the streets adjoining the seminary.

Jasmin, on his arrival, was received with a triple salvo of applause
from the crowd without, and next from the assembly within. On the
platform were the members of the subscription committee, the prefect,
the Bishop of Agen, the chiefs of the local government, the general
in command of the district, and a large number of officers and
ecclesiastics.

Jasmin, when taking his place on the platform saluted the audience with
one of his brilliant impromptus, and proceeded to recite some of his
favourite poems: Charity; The Doctor of the Poor; Town and Country;
and, The Week's Work of a Son. Then M. Noubel, in his double capacity
of deputy for the department, and member of the subscription committee,
addressed Jasmin in the following words:

"Poet, I appear here in the name of the people of Agen, to offer you the
testimony of their admiration and profound sympathy. I ask you to accept
this crown! It is given you by a loving and hearty friend, in the
name of your native town of Agen, which your poetry has charmed, which
rejoices in your present success, and is proud of the glory of your
genius. Agen welcomed the first germs of your talent; she has seen it
growing, and increasing your fame; she has entered with you into
the palaces of kings; she has associated herself with your triumphs
throughout; now the hour of recognising your merits has arrived, and she
honours herself in crowning you.

"But it is not merely the Poet whom we recognise to-day; you have a much
greater claim to our homage. In an age in which egoism and the eager
thirst for riches prevails, you have, in the noble work which you have
performed, displayed the virtues of benevolence and self-sacrifice. You
yourself have put them into practice. Ardent in the work of charity, you
have gone wherever misery and poverty had to be relieved, and all that
you yourself have received was merely the blessings of the unfortunate.
Each of your days has been celebrated for its good works, and your whole
life has been a hymn to benevolence and charity.

"Accept, then, Jasmin, this crown! Great poet, good citizen, you have
nobly earned it! Give it an honoured place in that glorious museum of
yours, which the towns and cities of the South have enriched by their
gifts. May it remain there in testimony of your poetical triumphs, and
attest the welcome recognition of your merits by your fellow-citizens.

"For myself, I cannot but be proud of the mission which has been
entrusted to me. I only owe it, I know, to the position of deputy in
which you have placed me by popular election. I am proud, nevertheless,
of having the honour of crowning you, and I shall ever regard this event
as the most glorious recollection of my life."

After this address, during which M. Noubel was greatly moved, he
took the crown of gold and placed it on the head of the poet. It is
impossible to describe the enthusiasm of the meeting at this supreme
moment. The people were almost beside themselves. Their exclamations of
sympathy and applause were almost frantic. Jasmin wept with happiness.
After the emotion hard subsided, with his eyes full of tears, he recited
his piece of poetry entitled: The Crown of my Birthplace.{2}

In this poem, Jasmin took occasion to recite the state of poverty in
which he was born, yet with the star of poetry in his breast; his dear
mother, and her anxieties about his education and up-bringing; his
growth; his first efforts in poetical composition, and his final
triumph; and at last his crown of gold conferred upon him by the people
of Agen--the crown of his birthplace.

 "I feel that if my birthplace crowns me,
 In place of singing. . .  I should weep!"

After Jasmin had recited his touching poem, he affectionately took leave
of his friends, and the assembly dispersed.


Endnotes to Chapter XVIII.

{1} There is a Gascon proverb which says:

 "Qu'a vingt ans nouns po,
 Qu'a trent ans noun sa,
 Qu'a cranto noun er,
 Qu'a cincanto se paouso pa,
 Sabe pa que pot esper."

"Who at twenty does nothing; Who at thirty knows nothing;
 Who at forty has nothing;
 Who at fifty changes nothing:
 For him there is no hope."

{2} Perhaps this might be better rendered "The Crown of my Infancy;" in
Gascon, "La Courouno del Bres."



CHAPTER XIX. LAST POEMS--MORE MISSIONS OF CHARITY.

This was the last occasion on which Jasmin publicly appeared before his
fellow-townsmen; and it could not perhaps have been more fitting and
appropriate. He still went on composing poetry; amongst other pieces,
La Vierge, dedicated to the Bishop of Algiers, who acknowledged it in a
complimentary letter. In his sixty-second year, when his hair had become
white, he composed some New Recollections (Mous Noubels Soubenis), in
which he again recalled the memories of his youth. In his new Souvenirs
he only gives a few fresh stories relating to the period of his infancy
and youth. Indeed they scarcely go beyond the period covered by his
original Souvenirs.

In the midst of his various honours at Paris, Toulouse, and Agen, he did
not forget his true mission, the help and relief of the afflicted. He
went to Albi, and gave a recitation which produced 2000 francs. The
whole of this sum went to the poor. There was nothing for himself
but applause, and showers of flowers thrown at his feet by the ladies
present.

It was considered quite unprecedented that so large a sum should have
been collected in so poor a district. The mayor however was prepared for
the event. After a touching address to the poet, he presented him with
a ring of honour, with the arms of the town, and the inscribed words:
"Albi a Jasmin."

He went for the same purpose, to Castera in the Gers, a decayed town,
to recite his poems, in the words of the cure, for "our poor church." He
was received as usual with great enthusiasm; and a present of silver
was given to him with the inscribed words: "A Jasmin, l'Eglise du Castera
reconnaissante!" Jasmin answered, by reciting an impromptu he had
composed for the occasion.

At Bordeaux, one of his favourite cities, he was received with more
than the usual enthusiasm. There he made a collection in aid of the
Conference of Saint-vincent de Paul. In the midst of the seance, he
appeared almost inspired, and recited "La Charite dans Bordeaux"--the
grand piece of the evening. The assembly rose en masse, and cheered the
poet with frantic applause. The ladies threw an avalanche of bouquets at
the hero of the fete.

After quiet had been restored, the Society of Saint-vincent de Paul
cordially thanked Jasmin through the mouth of their President; and
presented him with a magnificent golden circlet, with this inscription:
"La Caritat dins Bourdeau!"

Among his other recitations towards the close of his life, for the
purpose of collecting money for the relief of the poor, were those at
Montignac in Perigord; at Saint-Macaire; at Saint-Andre de Cubzac, and
at Monsegur. Most of these were remote villages far apart from each
other. He had disappointed his friends at Arcachon several years before,
when he failed to make his appearance with the Abbe Masson, during their
tour on behalf of the church of Vergt, owing to the unpunctuality of the
steamboat; but he promised to visit them at some future period.

He now redeemed his promise. The poor were in need, and he went to their
help. A large audience had assembled to listen to his recitations, and
a considerable sum of money was collected. The audience overwhelmed
him with praises and the Mayor of Teste the head department of the
district--after thanking Jasmin for his admirable assistance, presented
him with a gold medal, on which was inscribed: "Fete de Charite
d'Arcachon: A Jasmin." These laurels and medals had become so numerous,
that Jasmin had almost become tired of such tributes to his benevolence.

He went to Bareges again, where Monseigneur the Bishop of Tarbes had
appealed to him for help in the erection of an hospital. From that town
he proceeded to Saint-Emilion and Castel-Naudary, to aid the Society
of Mutual Help in these two towns. In fact, he was never weary of
well-doing. "This calamitous winter," he wrote in January, 1854,
"requires all my devotion. I will obey my conscience and give myself
to the help of the famished and suffering, even to the extinction of my
personal health."

And so it was to the end. When his friends offered him public
entertainments, he would say, "No, no! give the money to the poor!" What
gave Jasmin as much pleasure as any of the laurels and crowns conferred
upon him, was a beautifully bound copy of the 'Imitation of Christ,'
with the following inscription: "A testimony from the Bishop of
Saint-Flour, in acknowledgment of the services which the great poet has
rendered to the poor of his diocese."

No poet had so many opportunities of making money, and of enriching
himself by the contributions of the rich as well as the poor. But such
an idea never entered his mind. He would have regarded it as a sacrilege
to evoke the enthusiasm of the people, and make money; for his own
benefit, or to speculate upon the triumphs of his muse. Gold earned in
this way, he said, would have burnt his fingers. He worked solely for
the benefit of those who could not help themselves. His poetry was to
him like a sweet rose that delighted the soul and produced the fruits of
charity.

His conduct has been called Quixotic. Would that there were more

Quixotes in the world! After his readings, which sometimes produced from
two to three thousand francs, the whole of the proceeds were handed
over to those for whose benefit they had been given, after deducting,
of course, the expenses of travelling, of which he kept a most accurate
account.

It is estimated that the amount of money collected by Jasmin during his
recitations for philanthropic objects amounted to at least 1,500,000
francs (equal to 62,500 sterling). Besides, there were the labour of
his journeys, and the amount of his correspondence, which were almost
heroic. M. Rabain{1} states that from 1825 to 1860, the number of
letters received by Jasmin was more than twelve thousand.

Mr. Dickens, in giving the readings from his works in Great Britain,
netted over 35,000 sterling, besides what he received for his readings
in America. This, of course, led quite reasonably to the enhancing of
his fortune. But all that Jasmin received from his readings was given
away--some say "thrown away"--to the poor and the needy. It is not
necessary to comment on such facts; one can only mention and admire
them.

The editor of Le Pays says: "The journeys of Jasmin in the South were
like a triumphal march. No prince ever received more brilliant ovations.
Flowers were strewn in his way; the bells rang out on his appearance;
the houses were illuminated; the Mayors addressed him in words of
praise; the magistrates, the clergy followed him in procession. Bestowed
upon a man, and a poet, such honours might seem exaggerated; but Jasmin,
under the circumstances, represented more than poetry: he represented
Charity. Each of his verses transformed him into an alms-giver; and from
the harvest of gold which he reaped from the people, he preserved for
himself only the flowers. His epics were for the unfortunate. This was
very noble; and the people of Agen should be proud of their poet."{2}

The account which Jasmin records of his expenses during a journey of
fifty days, in which he collected more than 20,000 francs, is very
remarkable. It is given in the fourth volume of 'Les Papillotes,'
published in 1863, the year before his death, and is entitled, "Note
of my expenses of the journey, which I have deducted from the receipts
during my circuit of fifty days."

On certain occasions nothing whatever was charged, but a carriage
was probably placed at his disposal, or the ticket for a railway or a
diligence may have been paid for by his friends. On many occasions he
walked the distance between the several places, and thus saved the cost
of his conveyance. But every item of expense was set forth in his "Note"
with the most scrupulous exactness.

Here is the translation of Jasmin's record for his journeys during
these fifty days:--"... At Foix, from M. de Groussou, President of
the Communion of Bienfaisance, 33 fr., 50 c. At Pamiers, nil. At
Saint-Girons, from the President of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul,
16 fr. At Lavaur, from M. the Mayor, 22 fr. At Saint-Sulpice, nil. At
Toulouse, where I gave five special seances, of which the two first, to
Saint-Vincent de Paul and the Prefecture, produced more than 1600 fr.,
nil. My muse was sufficiently accounted for; it was during my reception
as Maitre-es-jeux. At Rodez, from the President of the Conference of
Saint-Vincent de Paul, 29 fr. 50c. At Saint-Geniez, nil. At Saint-Flour,
from M. Simon, vicar-general, 22 fr. 50 c. At Murat, nil. At Mauriac,
nil. At Aurillac, from M. Geneste, mayor, for my return to Agen, 24 fr.
Total, 147 fr. 50 centimes."

Thus, more than 20,000 francs were collected for the poor, Jasmin having
deducted 147 fr. 50 c. for the cost of his journeys from place to place.
It must also be remembered that he travelled mostly in winter, when the
ground was covered with snow. In February, 1854, M. Migneret, Prefect
of Haute-garonne, addressed a letter to Jasmin, which is worthy of
preservation. "It is pleasant," he said, "after having enjoyed at night
the charms of your poetry, to begin the next day by taking account of
the misfortunes they relieve. I owe you this double honour, and I thank
you with the greatest gratitude.... As to our admiration of your talent,
it yields to our esteem for your noble heart; the poet cannot be jealous
of the good citizen."{3}

Notwithstanding the rigour of the season, and the snow and wind, the
like of which had not been known for more than twenty years, Jasmin was
welcomed by an immense audience at Rodez. The recitation was given
in the large hall of the Palais de Justice, and never had so large a
collection been made. The young people of the town wished to give Jasmin
a banquet, but he declined, as he had to hurry on to another place for
a similar purpose. He left them, however, one of his poems prepared for
the occasion.

He arrived at Saint-Flour exhausted by fatigue. His voice began to
fail, partly through the rigours of the climate, yet he continued to
persevere. The bishop entertained him in his palace, and introduced him
personally to the audience before which he was to give his recitations.
Over the entrance-door was written the inscription, "A Jasmin, le Poete
des Pauvres, Saint-fleur reconnaissante!" Before Jasmin began to recite
he was serenaded by the audience. The collection was greater than had
ever been known. It was here that the bishop presented Jasmin with that
famous manual, 'The Imitation of Christ,' already referred to.

It was the same at Murat, Mauriac, and Aurillac. The recitation at
Aurillac was given in the theatre, and the receipts were 1200 francs.
Here also he was serenaded. He departed from Aurillac covered with the
poor people's blessings and gratitude.

At Toulouse he gave another entertainment, at the instance of the
Conference of Saint-Francois Xavier. There were about 3000 persons
present, mostly of the working classes. The seance was prolonged
almost to midnight. The audience, most of whom had to rise early in
the morning, forgot their sleep, and wished the poet to prolong his
recitations!

Although the poor machine of Jasmin's body was often in need of rest,
he still went about doing good. He never ceased ministering to the
poor until he was altogether unable to go to their help. Even in the
distressing cold, rain, and wind of winter--and it was in winter more
than in summer that he travelled, for it was then that the poor were
most distressed--he entirely disregarded his own comfort, and sometimes
travelled at much peril; yet he went north and south, by highways and
byways, by rivers and railways, in any and every direction, provided his
services could be of use.

He sacrificed himself always, and was perfectly regardless of self.
He was overwhelmed with honours and praises. He became weary of
triumphs--of laurels, flowers, and medals--he sometimes became weary of
his life; yet he never could refuse any pressing solicitation made to
him for a new recital of his poems.

His trials, especially in winter time, were often most distressing. He
would recite before a crowded audience, in a heated room, and afterwards
face the icy air without, often without any covering for his throat and
neck. Hence his repeated bronchial attacks, the loss of his voice, and
other serious affections of his lungs.

The last meeting which Jasmin attended on behalf of the poor was at
the end of January 1864, only three months before his death. It was
at Villeneuve-sur-Lot, a town several miles north of Agen. He did not
desire to put the people to the expense of a conveyance, and therefore
he decided to walk. He was already prematurely old and stooping.

The disease which ended his life had already made considerable progress.
He should have been in bed; nevertheless, as the poor needed his help,
the brave old man determined to proceed to Villeneuve. He was helped
along the road by some of his friends; and at last, wearied and panting,
he arrived at his destination.

The meeting was held in the theatre, which was crowded to suffocation.

No sooner had Jasmin reached the platform, amidst the usual triumphant
cheering, than, after taking a short rest, he sprang to his feet and
began the recitation of his poems. Never had his voice seemed more
spirited and entrancing. He delighted his audience, while he pleaded
most eloquently for the relief of the poor.

"I see him now," wrote one of his friends, "from behind the side-scenes
of the theatre, perspiring profusely, wet to the skin, with a carafe of
water to allay the ardent thirst occasioned by three hours of splendid
declamation."

In his then critical state, the three hours' declamation was enough to
kill him. At all events, it was his last recitation. It was the song of
the dying swan. In the midst of his triumphs, he laid down his life for
the poor; like the soldier who dies with the sound of victory in his
ears.


Endnotes to Chapter XIX.

{1} 'Jasmin, sa Vie et ses OEuvres.' Paris, 1867.

{2} Le Pays, 14th February, 1854.

{3} 'Las Papillotos de Jasmin,' iv. 56.



CHAPTER XX. DEATH OF JASMIN--HIS CHARACTER.

After his final recitation at Villeneuve, Jasmin, sick, ill, and utterly
exhausted, reached Agen with difficulty. He could scarcely stand. It was
not often that travelling had so affected him; but nature now cried out
and rebelled. His wife was, of course, greatly alarmed. He was at once
carefully put to bed, and there he lay for fifteen days.

When he was at length able to rise, he was placed in his easy chair,
but he was still weak, wearied, and exhausted. Mariette believed that he
would yet recover his strength; but the disease under which he laboured
had taken a strong hold of him, and Jasmin felt that he was gradually
approaching the close of his life.

About this time Renan's 'Life of Jesus' was published. Jasmin was
inexpressibly shocked by the appearance of the book, for it seemed to
him to strike at the foundations of Christianity, and to be entirely
opposed to the teachings of the Church. He immediately began to compose
a poem, entitled The Poet of the People to M. Renan,{1} in which he
vindicated the Catholic faith, and denounced the poisonous mischief
contained in the new attack upon Christianity. The poem was full of
poetic feeling, with many pathetic touches illustrative of the life and
trials of man while here below.

The composition of this poem occupied him for some time. Although broken
by grief and pain, he made every haste to correct the proofs, feeling
that it would probably be the last work that he should give to the
world. And it was his last. It was finished and printed on the 24th of
August, 1864. He sent several copies to his more intimate friends with a
dedication; and then he took finally to his bed, never to rise again.
"I am happy," he said, "to have terminated my career by an act of faith,
and to have consecrated my last work to the name of Jesus Christ." He
felt that it was his passport to eternity.

Jasmin's life was fast drawing to a close. He knew that he must soon
die; yet never a word of fear escaped his lips; nor was his serenity
of mind disturbed. He made his preparations for departure with as much
tranquillity and happiness, as on the days when he was about to start on
one of his philanthropic missions.

He desired that M. Saint-Hilaire, the vicar of the parish, should be
sent for. The priest was at once by the bedside of his dying friend.
Jasmin made his replies to him in a clear and calm voice. His wife, his
son, his grand-children, were present when he received the Viaticum--the
last sacrament of the church. After the ceremony he turned to his wife
and family, and said: "In my last communion I have prayed to God that He
may keep you all in the most affectionate peace and union, and that He
may ever reign in the hearts of those whom I love so much and am
about to leave behind me." Then speaking to his wife, he said, "Now
Mariette,--now I can die peacefully."

He continued to live until the following morning. He conversed
occasionally with his wife, his son, and a few attached friends.

He talked, though with difficulty, of the future of the family, for whom
he had made provision. At last, lifting himself up by the aid of his
son, he looked towards his wife. The brightness of love glowed in his
eyes; but in a moment he fell back senseless upon the pillow, and his
spirit quietly passed away.

Jasmin departed this life on the 5th of October, 1864, at the age of
sixty-five. He was not an old man; but the brightest jewels soonest wear
their setting. When laid in his coffin, the poem to Renan, his last act
of faith, was placed on his breast, with his hands crossed over it.

The grief felt at his death was wide and universal. In the South of
France he was lamented as a personal friend; and he was followed to the
grave by an immense number of his townspeople.

The municipal administration took charge of the funeral. At ten o'clock
in the morning of the 8th October the procession started from Jasmin's
house on the Promenade du Gravier. On the coffin were placed the Crown
of Gold presented to him by his fellow-townsmen, the cross of Chevalier
of the Legion of Honour, and that of Saint-Gregory the Great. A company
of five men, and a detachment of troops commanded by an officer, formed
the line.

The following gentlemen held the cords of the funeral pall:--

M. Feart, Prefect of the Lot-et-Garonne; M. Henri Noubel, Deputy and
Mayor of Agen; General Ressayre, Commander of the Military Division; M.
Bouet, President of the Imperial Court; M. de Laffore, engineer; and M.
Magen, Secretary of the Society of Agriculture, Sciences, and Arts.
A second funeral pall was held by six coiffeurs of the corporation to
which Jasmin had belonged. Behind the hearse were the Brothers of the
Christian Doctrine, the Sisters of Saint-Vincent de Paul, and the Little
Sisters of the Poor.

The mourners were headed by the poet's son and the other members of
his family. The cortege was very numerous, including the elite of
the population. Among them were the Procureur-General, the
Procureur-imperial, the Engineer-in-chief of the Department, the
Director of Taxes, many Councillors-General, all the members of the
Society of Agriculture, many officers of the army, many ecclesiastics
as well as ministers of the reformed worship. Indeed, representatives of
nearly the whole population were present.

The procession first entered the church of Saint Hilaire, where the
clergy of the four parishes had assembled. High mass was performed by
the full choir. The Miserere of Beethoven was given, and some exquisite
pieces from Mozart. Deep emotion was produced by the introduction, in
the midst of this beautiful music, of some popular airs from the romance
of Franconnette and Me Cal Mouri, Jasmin's first work. The entire
ceremony was touching, and moved many to tears.

After the service had been finished, the procession moved off to the
cemetery--passing through the principal streets of the town, which were
lined by crowds of mournful spectators. Large numbers of people had also
assembled at the cemetery. After the final prayer, M. Noubel, Deputy and
Mayor of Agen, took the opportunity of pronouncing a eulogium over the
grave of the deceased. His speech was most sympathetic and touching. We
can only give a few extracts from his address:

"Dear and great poet," he said, "at the moment when we commit to the
earth thy mortal remains, I wish, in the name of this town of Agen,
where thou wert born and which thou hast truly loved, to address to thee
a last, a supreme adieu. Alas! What would'st thou have said to me some
years ago, when I placed upon thy forehead the crown--decreed by the
love and admiration of thy compatriots--that I should so soon have been
called upon to fulfil a duty that now rends my heart. The bright genius
of thy countenance, the brilliant vigour in thine eyes, which time,
it seemed, would never tarnish, indicated the fertile source of thy
beautiful verses and noble aspirations!

"And yet thy days had been numbered, and you yourself seemed to have
cherished this presentiment; but, faithful to thy double mission of poet
and apostle of benevolence, thou redoubled thy efforts to enrich with
new epics thy sheaf of poetry, and by thy bountiful gifts and charity to
allay the sorrows of the poor. Indefatigable worker! Thou hast dispensed
most unselfishly thy genius and thy powers! Death alone has been able to
compel thee to repose!

"But now our friend is departed for ever! That poetical fire, that
brilliant and vivid intelligence, that ardent heart, have now ceased
to strive for the good of all; for this great and generous soul has
ascended to Him who gave it birth. It has returned to the Giver of Good,
accompanied by our sorrows and our tears. It has ascended to heaven
with the benedictions of all the distressed and unfortunate whom he
has succoured. It is our hope and consolation that he may find the
recompense assured for those who have usefully and boldly fulfilled
their duty here below.

"This duty, O poet, thou hast well fulfilled. Those faculties, which God
had so largely bestowed upon thee, have never been employed save for the
service of just and holy causes. Child of the people, thou hast shown us
how mind and heart enlarge with work; that the sufferings and privations
of thy youth enabled thee to retain thy love of the poor and thy pity
for the distressed. Thy muse, sincerely Christian, was never used to
inflame the passions, but always to instruct, to soothe, and to console.
Thy last song, the Song of the Swan, was an eloquent and impassioned
protest of the Christian, attacked in his fervent belief and his faith.

"God has doubtless marked the term of thy mission; and thy death was
not a matter of surprise. Thou hast come and gone, without fear; and
religion, thy supreme consoler, has calmed the sufferings of thy later
hours, as it had cradled thee in thy earlier years.

"Thy body will disappear, but thy spirit, Jasmin, will never be far from
us. Inspire us with thy innocent gaiety and brotherly love. The town
of Agen is never ungrateful; she counts thee amongst the most pure and
illustrious of her citizens. She will consecrate thy memory in the way
most dignified to thee and to herself.

"The inhabitants of towns without number, where thou hast exercised
thy apostolate of charity, will associate themselves with this work of
affection and remembrance. But the most imperishable monument is that
which thou hast thyself founded with thine own head and hands, and which
will live in our hearts--the creations of thy genius and the memory of
thy philanthropy."

After the Mayor of Agen had taken leave of the mortal remains of the
poet, M. Capot, President of the Society of Agriculture, Sciences,
and Arts, gave another eloquent address. He was followed by M. Magen,
Secretary to the same society. The troops fired a salute over the grave,
and took leave of the poet's remains with military honours. The immense
crowd of mourners then slowly departed from the cemetery.

Another public meeting took place on the 12th of May, 1870, on the
inauguration of the bronze statue of Jasmin in the Place Saint
Antoine, now called the Place Jasmin. The statue was erected by public
subscription, and executed by the celebrated M. Vital Dubray. It stands
nearly opposite the house where Jasmin lived and carried on his trade.
Many of his old friends came from a considerable distance to be present
at the inauguration of the statue. The Abbe Masson of Vergt was there,
whose church Jasmin had helped to re-build. M. l'Abbe Donis, curate of
Saint-Louis at Bordeaux, whom he had often helped with his recitations;
the able philologist Azais; the young and illustrious Provencal poet
Mistral; and many representatives of the Parisian and Southern press,
were present on the occasion. The widow and son of the poet, surrounded
by their family, were on the platform. When the statue was unveiled,
a salvo of artillery was fired; then the choir of the Brothers of the
Communal Christian School saluted the "glorious resurrection of Jasmin"
with their magnificent music, which was followed by enthusiastic cheers.

M. Henri Noubel, Deputy and Mayor of Agen, made an eloquent speech on
the unveiling of the statue. He had already pronounced his eulogium of
Jasmin at the burial of the poet, but he was still full of the subject,
and brought to mind many charming recollections of the sweetness of
disposition and energetic labours of Jasmin on behalf of the poor and
afflicted. He again expressed his heartfelt regret for the departure of
the poet.

M. Noubel was followed by M. l'Abbe Donis, of Bordeaux, who achieved a
great success by his eulogy of the life of Jasmin, whom he entitled "The
Saint-vincent de Paul of poetry."

He was followed by the Abbe Capot, in the name of the clergy, and by M.
Magen, in the name of the Society of Agriculture, Sciences, and Arts.
They were followed by MM. Azais and Pozzi, who recited some choice
pieces of poetry in the Gascon patois. M. Mistral came last--the
celebrated singer of "Mireio"--who, with his faltering voice, recited
a beautiful piece of poetry composed for the occasion, which was
enthusiastically applauded.

The day was wound up with a banquet in honour of M. Dubray, the artist
who had executed the bronze statue. The Place Jasmin was brilliantly
illuminated during the evening, where an immense crowd assembled to view
the statue of the poet, whose face and attitude appeared in splendid
relief amidst a blaze of light.

It is unnecessary further to describe the character of Jasmin. It is
sufficiently shown by his life and labours--his genius and philanthropy.
In the recollections of his infancy and boyhood, he truthfully describes
the pleasures and sorrows of his youth--his love for his mother, his
affection for his grandfather, who died in the hospital, "where all the
Jasmins die." He did not even conceal the little tricks played by him in
the Academy, from which he was expelled, nor the various troubles of his
apprenticeship.

This was one of the virtues of Jasmin--his love of truth. He never
pretended to be other than what he was. He was even proud of being a
barber, with his "hand of velvet." He was pleased to be entertained by
the coiffeurs of Agen, Paris, Bordeaux, and Toulouse. He was a man of
the people, and believed in the dignity of labour. At the same time, but
for his perseverance and force of character, he never could have raised
himself to the honour and power of the true poet.

He was born poor, and the feeling of inherited poverty adhered to him
through life, and inspired him with profound love for the poor and the
afflicted of his class. He was always ready to help them, whether they
lived near to him or far from him. He was, in truth, "The Saint-Vincent
de Paul of poetry." His statue, said M. Noubel, pointing up to it,
represented the glorification of genius and virtue, the conquest of
ignorance and misery.

M. Deydou said at Bordeaux, when delivering an address upon the genius
of Jasmin--his Eminence Cardinal Donnet presiding--that poetry, when
devoted to the cause of charity, according to the poet himself, was "the
glory of the earth and the perfume of heaven."

Jasmin loved his dear town of Agen, and was proud of it. After his visit
to the metropolis, he said, "If Paris makes me proud, Agen makes
me happy." "This town," he said, on another occasion, "has been my
birthplace; soon it shall be my grave." He loved his country too, and
above all he loved his native language. It was his mother-tongue; and
though he was often expostulated with for using it, he never forsook the
Gascon. It was the language of the home, of the fireside, of the fields,
of the workshop, of the people amongst whom he lived, and he resolved
ever to cherish and elevate the Gascon dialect.

"Popular and purely natural poetry," said Montaigne in the 16th century,
"has a simplicity and gracefulness which surpass the beauty of poetry
according to art." Jasmin united the naive artlessness of poetry with
the perfection of art. He retained the simplicity of youth throughout
his career, and his domestic life was the sanctuary of all the virtues.

In his poems he vividly described filial love, conjugal tenderness,
and paternal affection, because no one felt these graces of life more
fervently than himself. He was like the Italian painter, who never went
beyond his home for a beautiful model.

Victor Hugo says that a great man is like the sun--most beautiful when
he touches the earth, at his rising and at his setting. Jasmin's rising
was in the depths of honest poverty, but his setting was glorious. God
crowned his fine life by a special act of favour; for the last song of
the poet was his "act of faith"--his address to Renan.

Jasmin was loyal, single-minded, self-reliant, patient, temperate, and
utterly unselfish. He made all manner of sacrifices during his efforts
in the cause of charity. Nothing was allowed to stand in the way of his
missions on behalf of the poor. In his journey of fifty days in 1854,
he went from Orthez--the country of Gaston Phoebus--to the mountains of
Auvergne, in spite of the rigours of the weather. During that journey he
collected 20,000 francs. In all, as we have said, he collected, during
his life-time, more than a million and a half of francs, all of which he
devoted to the cause of philanthropy.

Two words were engraved on the pedestal of his statue, Poetry and
Charity! Charity was the object and purpose of his heroic programme.
Yet, in his poetry he always exhibited his tender-hearted gaiety. Even
when he weeps, you see the ray of sunlight in his tears. Though simple
as a child in ordinary life, he displayed in his writings the pathos and
satire of the ancient Troubadours, with no small part of the shrewdness
and wit attributed to persons of his calling.

Although esteemed and praised by all ranks and classes of people--by
king, emperor, princes, and princesses; by cardinals and bishops;
by generals, magistrates, literary men, and politicians--though the
working people almost worshipped him, and village girls strewed flowers
along his pathway--though the artisan quitted his workshop, and the
working woman her washing-tub, to listen to his marvellous recitations,
yet Jasmin never lost his head or was carried away by the enthusiastic
cheers which accompanied his efforts, but remained simple and unaffected
to the last.

Another characteristic of him was, that he never forsook his friends,
however poor. His happiest moments were those in which he encountered
a companion of his early youth. Many still survived who had accompanied
him while making up his bundle of fagots on the islands of the Garonne.
He was delighted to shake hands with them, and to help, when necessary,
these playmates of his boyhood.

He would also meet with pleasure the working women of his acquaintance,
those who had related to him the stories of Loup Garou and the
traditions of the neighbourhood, and encouraged the boy from his
earliest youth. Then, at a later period of his life, nothing could have
been more worthy of him than his affection for his old benefactor, M.
Baze, and his pleading with Napoleon III., through the Empress, for his
return to France "through the great gate of honour!"

Had Jasmin a fault? Yes, he had many, for no one exists within the
limits of perfection. But he had one in especial, which he himself
confessed. He was vain and loved applause, nor did he conceal his love.

When at Toulouse, he said to some of his friends, "I love to be
applauded: it is my whim; and I think it would be difficult for a poet
to free himself from the excitement of applause." When at Paris, he
said, "Applaud! applaud! The cheers you raise will be heard at Agen."
Who would not overlook a fault, if fault it be, which is confessed in so
naive a manner?

When complimented about reviving the traditions of the Troubadours,
Jasmin replied, "The Troubadours, indeed! Why, I am a better poet than
any of the Troubadours! Not one of them could have composed a long poem
of sustained interest, like my Franconnette."

Any fault or weakness which Jasmin exhibited was effaced by the good
wishes and prayers of thousands of the poor and afflicted whom he had
relieved by his charity and benevolence. The reality of his life
almost touches the ideal.  Indeed, it was a long apostolate.

Cardinal Donnet, Archbishop of Bordeaux, said of him, that "he was
gifted with a rich nature, a loyal and unreserved character, and
a genius as fertile as the soil of his native country. The lyre of
Jasmin," he said, "had three chords, which summed up the harmonies of
heaven and earth--the true, the useful, and the beautiful."

Did not the members of the French Academy--the highest literary
institution in the world--strike a gold medal in his honour, with the
inscription, "La medaille du poete moral et populaire"? M. Sainte-Beuve,
the most distinguished of French critics, used a much stronger
expression. He said, "If France had ten poets like Jasmin--ten poets
of the same power and influence--she need no longer have any fear of
revolutions."

Genius is as nothing in the sight of God; but "whosoever shall give
a cup of water to drink in the name of Christ, because they belong
to Christ, shall not lose his reward." M. Tron, Deputy and Mayor of
Bagnere-du-luchon, enlarged upon this text in his eulogy of Jasmin.

"He was a man," he said, "as rich in his heart as in his genius. He
carried out that life of 'going about doing good' which Christ rehearsed
for our instruction. He fed the hungry, clothed the naked, succoured
the distressed, and consoled and sympathised with the afflicted. Few men
have accomplished more than he has done. His existence was unique, not
only in the history of poets, but of philanthropists."

A life so full of good could only end with a Christian death. He
departed with a lively faith and serene piety, crowning by a peaceful
death one of the strangest and most diversified careers in the
nineteenth century. "Poetry and Charity," inscribed on the pedestal of
his statue in Agen, fairly sums up his noble life and character.


Endnotes for Chapter XX.

{1} 'Lou Poeto del Puple a Moussu Renan.'



APPENDIX.

JASMIN'S DEFENCE OF THE GASCON DIALECT.

To M. SYLVAIN DUMON, Deputy-Minister, who has condemned to death our
native language.

     There's not a deeper grief to man
     Than when our mother, faint with years,
     Decrepit, old, and weak, and wan,
     Beyond the leech's art appears;
     When by her couch her son may stay,
     And press her hand, and watch her eyes,
     And feel, though she survives to-day,
     Perchance his hope to-morrow dies.

     It is not thus, believe me, Sir,
     With this enchantress, we will call
     Our second mother. Frenchmen err,
     Who cent'ries since proclaimed her fall!
     Our mother tongue, all melody,
     While music lives, shall never die.

     Yes! still she lives, her words still ring,
     Her children yet her carols sing;
     And thousand years may roll away
     Before her magic notes decay.

     The people love their ancient songs, and will
     While yet a people, love and keep them still.
     These lays are like their mother--they recall
     Fond thoughts of brother, sister, friends, and all
     The many little things that please the heart--
     Those dreams and hopes, from which we cannot part;
     These songs are as sweet waters, where we find
     Health in the sparkling wave that nerves the mind.
     In every home, at every cottage door,
     By every fireside, when our toil is o'er,
     These songs are round us, near our cradles sigh,
     And to the grave attend us when we die.

     Oh! think, cold critic! 'twill be late and long
     Ere time shall sweep away this flood of song!
     There are who bid this music sound no more,
     And you can hear them, nor defend--deplore!
     You, who were born where the first daisies grew,
     Have 'fed upon its honey, sipp'd its dew,
     Slept in its arms, and wakened to its kiss,
     Danced to its sounds, and warbled to its tone--
     You can forsake it in an hour like this!
     Weary of age, you may renounce, disown,
     And blame one minstrel who is true--alone!

     For me, truth to my eyes made all things plain;
     At Paris, the great fount, I did not find
     The waters pure, and to my stream again
     I come, with saddened and with sobered mind;
     And now the spell is broken, and I rate
     The little country far above the great.

     For you, who seem her sorrows to deplore,
     You, seated high in power, the first among,
     Beware! nor make her cause of grief the more;
     Believe her mis'ry, nor condemn her tongue.
     Methinks you injure where you seek to heal,
     If you deprive her of that only weal.

     We love, alas! to sing in our distress;
     For so the bitterness of woe seems less;
     But if we may not in our language mourn,
     What will the polish'd give us in return?
     Fine sentences, but all for us unmeet--
     Words full of grace, even such as courtiers greet:
     A deck'd out miss, too delicate and nice
     To walk in fields; too tender and precise
     To sing the chorus of the poor, or come
     When Labour lays him down fatigued at home.

     To cover rags with gilded robes were vain--
     The rents of poverty would show too plain.

     How would this dainty dame, with haughty brow,
     Shrink at a load, and shudder at a plough!
     Sulky, and piqued, and silent would she stand
     As the tired peasant urged his team along:
     No word of kind encouragement at hand,
     For flocks no welcome, and for herds no song!

     Yet we will learn, and you shall teach--
     Our people shall have double speech:
     One to be homely, one polite,
     As you have robes for different wear;
     But this is all:--'tis just and right,
     And more our children will not bear,
     Lest flocks of buzzards flit along,
     Where nightingales once poured their song.

     There may be some who, vain and proud,
     May ape the manners of the crowd,
     Lisp French, and maim it at each word,
     And jest and gibe to all afford;
     But we, as in long ages past,
     Will still be poets to the last!{1}

     Hark! and list the bridal song,
     As they lead the bride along:
     "Hear, gentle bride! your mother's sighs,
     And you would hence away!
     Weep, weep, for tears become those eyes."
     ----"I cannot weep--to-day."

     Hark! the farmer in the mead
     Bids the shepherd swain take heed:
     "Come, your lambs together fold,
     Haste, my sons! your toil is o'er:
     For the setting sun has told
     That the ox should work no more."

     Hark! the cooper in the shade
     Sings to the sound his hammer made:
     "Strike, comrades, strike! prepare the cask.
     'Tis lusty May that fills the flask:
     Strike, comrades! summer suns that shine
     Fill the cellars full of wine."

     Verse is, with us, a charm divine,
     Our people, loving verse, will still,
     Unknowing of their art, entwine
     Garlands of poesy at will.
     Their simple language suits them best:
     Then let them keep it and be blest.

     Let the wise critics build a wall
     Between the nurse's cherished voice,
     And the fond ear her words enthral,
     And say their idol is her choice.
     Yes!--let our fingers feel the rule,
     The angry chiding of the school;
     True to our nurse, in good or ill,
     We are not French, but Gascon still.

     'Tis said that age new feeling brings,
     Our youth returns as we grow old;
     And that we love again the things
     Which in our memory had grown cold.
     If this be true, the time will come
     When to our ancient tongue, once more,
     You will return, as to a home,
     And thank us that we kept the store.

     Remember thou the tale they tell
     Of Lacuee and Lacepede,{2}
     When age crept on, who loved to dwell
     On words that once their music made;
     And, in the midst of grandeur, hung,
     Delighted, on their parent tongue.

     This will you do: and it may be,
     When weary of the world's deceit,
     Some summer-day we yet may see
     Your coming in our meadows sweet;
     Where, midst the flowers, the finch's lay
     Shall welcome you with music gay;
     While you shall bid our antique tongue
     Some word devise, or air supply,
     Like those that charm'd your youth so long,
     And lent a spell to memory.

     Bethink you how we stray'd alone
     Beneath those elms in Agen grown,
     That each an arch above us throws,
     Like giants, hand-in-hand, in rows.
     A storm once struck a fav'rite tree,
     It trembled, shook, and bent its boughs,--
     The vista is no longer free:
     Our governor no pause allows;
     "Bring hither hatchet, axe, and spade,
     The tree must straight be prostrate laid!"

     But vainly strength and art were tried,
     The stately tree all force defied;
     Well might the elm resist and foil their might,
     For though his branches were decay'd to sight,
     As many as his leaves the roots spread round,
     And in the firm set earth they slept profound.

     Since then, more full, more green, more gay,
     The crests amid the breezes play:
     And birds of every note and hue
     Come trooping to his shade in Spring;
     Each summer they their lays renew,
     And while the years endure they sing.

     And thus it is, believe me, sir,
     With this enchantress--she we call
     Our second mother; Frenchmen err
     Who, cent'ries since, proclaimed her fall.

     No! she still lives, her words still ring,
     Her children yet her carols sing;
     And thousand years may roll away
     Before her magic notes decay.

     September 2nd, 1837.


Endnotes to JASMIN'S DEFENCE OF THE GASCON DIALECT.

{1} Jasmin here quotes several patois songs, well known in the country.

{2} Both Gascons.



THE MASON'S SON.{1}

{LA SEMMANO D'UN FIL.}

     Riches, n'oubliez pas un seul petit moment
     Que des pauvres la grande couvee
     Se reveille toujours le sourire a la bouche
     Quand elle s'endort sans avoir faire!

     (Riche et Pauvre.)

     The swallows fly about, although the air is cold,
     Our once fair sun has shed his brightest gold.
     The fields decay
     On All-saints day.
     Ground's hard afoot,
     The birds are mute;
     The tree-tops shed their chill'd and yellow leaves,
     They dying fall, and whirl about in sheaves.

     One night, when leaving late a neighb'ring town,
     Although the heavens were clear,
     Two children paced along, with many a moan--
     Brother and sister dear;
     And when they reached the wayside cross
     Upon their knees they fell, quite close.

     Abel and Jane, by the moon's light,
     Were long time silent quite;
     As they before the altar bend,
     With one accord their voices sweet ascend.

     "Mother of God, Virgin compassionate!
     Oh! send thy angel to abate
     The sickness of our father dear,
     That mother may no longer fear--
     And for us both! Oh! Blessed Mother,
     We love thee, more and more, we two together!"

     The Virgin doubtless heard their prayer,
     For, when they reached the cottage near,
     The door before them opened wide,
     And the dear mother, ere she turned aside,
     Cried out: "My children brave,
     The fever's gone--your father's life is safe!
     Now come, my little lambs, and thank God for His grace."

     In their small cot, forthwith the three,
     To God in prayer did bend the knee,
     Mother and children in their gladness weeping,
     While on a sorry bed a man lay sleeping--
     It was the father, good Hilaire!
     Not long ago, a soldier brave,
     But now--a working mason's slave.

     II.

     The dawn next day was clear and bright,
     The glint of morning sunlight
     Gleamed through the windows taper,
     Although they only were patched up with paper.

     When Abel noiseless entered, with his foot-fall slight,
     He slipped along to the bedside;
     He oped the little curtain, without stirring of the rings;
     His father woke and smiled, with joy that pleasure brings.

     "Abel," he said, "I longed for thee; now listen thou to me:
     We're very poor indeed--I've nothing save my weekly fee;
     But Heaven has helped our lives to save--by curing me.
     Dear boy, already thou art fifteen years--
     You know to read, to write--then have no fears;
     Thou art alone, thou'rt sad, but dream no more,
     Thou ought'st to work, for now thou hast the power!
     I know thy pain and sorrow, and thy deep alarms;
     More good than strong--how could thy little arms
     Ply hard the hammer on the stony blocks?
     But our hard master, though he likes good looks,
     May find thee quite a youth;
     He says that thou hast spirit; and he means for thy behoof.
     Then do what gives thee pleasure,
     Without vain-glory, Abel; and spend thy precious leisure
     In writing or in working--each is a labour worthy,
     Either with pen or hammer--they are the tools most lofty;
     Labour in mind or body, they do fatigue us ever--
     But then, Abel my son, I hope that never
     One blush upon you e'er will gather
     To shame the honour of your father."

     Abel's blue eyes were bright with bliss and joy--
     Father rejoiced--four times embraced the boy;
     Mother and daughter mixed their tears and kisses,
     Then Abel saw the master, to his happiness,
     And afterwards four days did pass,
     All full of joyfulness.
     But pleasure with the poor is always unenduring.

     A brutal order had been given on Sunday morning
     That if, next day, the father did not show his face,
     Another workman, in that case,
     Would be employed to take his place!
     A shot of cannon filled with grape
     Could not have caused such grief,
     As this most cruel order gives
     To these four poor unfortunates.

     "I'm cured!" Hilaire cried; "let me rise and dress;"
     He tried--fell back; and then he must confess
     He could not labour for another week!
     Oh, wretched plight--
     For him, his work was life!
     Should he keep sick, 'twas death!
     All four sat mute; sudden a my of hope
     Beamed in the soul of Abel.
     He brushed the tear-drops from his een,
     Assumed a manly mien,

     Strength rushed into his little arms,
     On his bright face the blushes came;
     He rose at once, and went to reason
     With that cruel master mason.

     Abel returned, with spirits bright,
     No longer trembling with affright;
     At once he gaily cries,
     With laughing mouth and laughing eyes:--

     "My father! take your rest; have faith and courage;
     Take all the week, then thou shalt work apace;
     Some one, who loves thee well, will take thy place,
     Then thou may'st go again and show thy face."

     III.

     Saved by a friend, indeed! He yet had friends in store!
     Oh! how I wish that in this life so lonely....
     But, all will be explained at work on Monday;
     There are good friends as yet--perhaps there's many more.

     It was indeed our Abel took his father's place.
     At office first he showed his face;
     Then to the work-yard: thus his father he beguiled.
     Spite of his slender mien, he worked and always smiled.
     He was as deft as workmen twain; he dressed
     The stones, and in the mortar then he pressed
     The heavy blocks; the workmen found him cheerful.
     Mounting the ladder like a bird:
     He skipped across the rafters fearful.
     He smiled as he ascended, smiled as he descended--
     The very masons trembled at his hardiness:
     But he was working for his father--in his gladness,
     His life was full of happiness;
     His brave companions loved the boy
     Who filled their little life with joy.
     They saw the sweat run down his brow,
     And clapped their hands, though weary he was now.

     What bliss of Abel, when the day's work's o'er,
     And the bright stars were shining:
     Unto the office he must go,
     And don his better clothing--
     Thus his poor father to deceive, who thought he went a-clerking.
     He took his paper home and wrote, 'midst talk with Jane so shyly,
     And with a twinkling eye he answered mother's looks so slyly.

     Three days thus passed, and the sick man arose,
     Life now appeared to him a sweet repose.
     On Thursday, tempting was the road;
     At midday, Friday, he must walk abroad.

     But, fatal Friday--God has made for sorrow.

     The father, warmed up by the sun's bright ray,
     Hied to the work-yard, smiling by the way;
     He wished to thank the friend who worked for him,
     But saw him not--his eyes were dim--
     Yet he was near; and looking up, he saw no people working,
     No dinner-bell had struck, no workmen sure were lurking.
     Oh, God! what's happened at the building yard?
     A crowd collected--master, mason--as on guard.
     "What's this?" the old man cried. "Alas! some man has fallen!"
     Perhaps it was his friend!  His soul with grief was burning.
     He ran. Before him thronged the press of men,
     They tried to thrust him back again;
     But no; Hilaire pressed through the crowd of working men.
     Oh, wretched father--man unfortunate;
     The friend who saved thee was thy child--sad fate!
     Now he has fallen from the ladder's head,
     And lies a bleeding mass, now nearly dead!

     Now Hilaire uttered a most fearful cry;
     The child had given his life, now he might die.
     Alas! the bleeding youth
     Was in his death-throes, he could scarcely breathe;
     "Master," he said, "I've not fulfilled my task,
     But, in the name of my poor mother dear,
     For the day lost, take father on at last."

     The father heard, o'erwhelmed he was with fear,
     Abel now saw him, felt that he was near,
     Inclined his head upon his breast, and praying--
     Hand held in hand, he smiled on him while dying.

     For Hilary, his place was well preserved,
     His wages might perhaps be doubled.

     Too late! too late! one saddened morn
     The sorrow of his life was gone;
     And the good father, with his pallid face,
     Went now to take another place
     Within the tomb, beside his much loved son.


Endnotes to THE MASON'S SON.

{1} Jasmin says, "the subject of this poem is historical, and recently
took place in our neighbourhood."



THE POOR MAN'S DOCTOR.

{LOU MEDICI DES PAURES.}

Dedicated to M. CANY, Physician of Toulouse.

With the permission of the Rev. Dr. J. Duncan Craig, of Glenagary,
Kingston, Dublin, I adopt, with some alterations, his free translation
of Jasmin's poem.

  Sweet comes this April morning, its faint perfumes exhaling;
  Brilliant shines the sun, so crisp, so bright, so freshening;
  Pearl-like gleam and sparkle the dew-drops on the rose,
  While grey and gnarled olives droop like giants in repose.

  Soundeth low, solemnly, the mid-day bell in th' air,
  Glideth on sadly a maiden sick with care;
  Her head is bent, and sobbing words she sheds with many a tear,
  But 'tween the chapel and the windmill another doth appear.

  She laughs and plucks the lovely flowers with many a joyous
  bound,
  The other, pale and spiritless, looks upward from the ground;
  "Where goest thou, sweet Marianne, this lovely April day?"
  "Beneath the elms of Agen--there lies my destined way.

  "I go to seek this very day the Doctor of the Poor.{1}
  Did'st thou not hear how skilfully he did my mother cure?
  Behold this silver in my hand, these violets so sweet,
  The guerdon of his loving care--I'll lay them at his feet.

  "Now, dost thou not remember, my darling Marianne,
  How in our lonely hut the typhus fever ran?
  And we were poor, without a friend, or e'en our daily bread,
  And sadly then, and sorrowful, dear mother bowed her head.

  "One day, the sun was shining low in lurid western sky,
  All, all, our little wealth was gone, and mother yearned to die,
  When sudden, at the open door, a shadow crossed the way,
  And cheerfully a manly voice did words of comfort say:

  "'Take courage, friends, your ills I know, your life I hope to
  save.'
  'Too late!' dear mother cried; 'too late!  My home is in the
  grave;

  Our things are pledged, our med'cine gone, e'en bread we cannot
  buy.'
  The doctor shudder'd, then grew pale, but sadly still drew nigh.

  "No curtains had we on our bed: I marked his pallid face;
  Five silver crowns now forth he drew with melancholy grace--

  'Poor woman, take these worthless coins, suppress your bitter
  grief!
  Don't blush; repay them when you can--these drops will give
  relief.'

  "He left the hut, and went away; soon sleep's refreshing calm
  Relieved the patient he had helped--a wonder-working balm;
  The world now seemed to smile again, like springtide flowers so
  gay,
  While mother, brothers, and myself, incessant worked away.

  "Thus, like the swallows which return with spring unto our shore,
  The doctor brought rejoicing back unto our vine-wreathed door;
  And we are happy, Isabel, and money too we've made;
  But why dost weep, when I can laugh?" the gentle maiden said.

  "Alas! alas! dear Marianne, I weep and mourn to-day,
  From your house to our cottage-home the fever made its way;
  My father lies with ghastly face, and many a raving cry--
  Oh, would that Durand too might come, before the sick man die!"

  "Dear Isabel, haste on, haste on--we'll seek his house this hour!
  Come, let us run, and hasten on with all our utmost power.
  He'll leave the richest palace for the poor man's humble roof--
  He's far from rich, except in love, of that we've had full
  proof!"

  The good God bless the noble heart that careth for the poor;
  Then forth the panting children speed to seek the sick man's
  cure;
  And as beneath our giant elms they pass with rapid tread,
  They scarcely dare to look around, or lift their weary head.
  The town at last is reached, by the Pont-Long they enter,
  Close by the Hue des Jacobins, near Durand's house they venture.
  Around the portals of the door there throngs a mournful crowd;
  They see the Cross, they hear the priests the Requiem chaunt
  aloud.

  The girls were troubled in their souls, their minds were rent
    with grief;
  One above all, young Marianne, was trembling like a leaf:
  Another death--oh, cruel thought! then of her father dying,
  She quickly ran to Durand's door, and asked a neighbour, crying:

  "Where's the good doctor, sir, I pray?  I seek him for my
  father!"
  He soft replied, "The gracious God into His fold doth gather
  The best of poor folks' doctors now, to his eternal rest;
  They bear the body forth, 'tis true: his spirit's with the
  blest."

  Bright on his corpse the candles shine around his narrow bier,
  Escorted by the crowds of poor with many a bitter tear;
  No more, alas! can he the sad and anguished-laden cure--
  Oh, wail!  For Durand is no more--the Doctor of the Poor!


Endnotes to THE POOR MAN'S DOCTOR.

{1} In the last edition of Jasmin's poems (4 vols. 8vo, edited by Buyer
d'Agen) it is stated (p. 40, 1st vol.) that "M. Durand, physician, was
one of those rare men whom Providence seems to have provided to assuage
the lot of the poorest classes. His career was full of noble acts of
devotion towards the sick whom he was called upon to cure. He died at
the early age of thirty-five, of a stroke of apoplexy. His remains
were accompanied to the grave by nearly all the poor of Agen and the
neighbourhood."



MY VINEYARD.{1}

{MA BIGNO.}

To MADAME LOUIS VEILL, Paris.

     Dear lady, it is true, that last month I have signed
     A little scrap of parchment; now myself I find
     The master of a piece of ground
     Within the smallest bound--
     Not, as you heard, a spacious English garden
     Covered with flowers and trees, to shrine your bard in--
     But of a tiny little vineyard,
     Which I have christened "Papilhoto"!
     Where, for a chamber, I have but a grotto.
     The vine-stocks hang about their boughs,
     At other end a screen of hedgerows,
     So small they do not half unroll;
     A hundred would not make a mile,
     Six sheets would cover the whole pile.

     Well! as it is, of this I've dreamt for twenty years--
     You laugh, Madame, at my great happiness,
     Perhaps you'll laugh still more, when it appears,
     That when I bought the place, I must confess
     There were no fruits,
     Though rich in roots;
     Nine cherry trees--behold my wood!
     Ten rows of vines--my promenade!
     A few peach trees; the hazels too;
     Of elms and fountains there are two.
     How rich I am!  My muse is grateful very;
     Oh! might I paint? while I the pencil try,
     Our country loves the Heavens so bright and cheery.

     Here, verdure starts up as we scratch the ground,
     Who owns it, strips it into pieces round;
     Beneath our sun there's nought but gayest sound.
     You tell me, true, that in your Paris hot-house,
     You ripen two months sooner 'neath your glass, of course.
     What is your fruit? Mostly of water clear,
     The heat may redden what your tendrils bear.
     But, lady dear, you cannot live on fruits alone while here!
     Now slip away your glossy glove
     And pluck that ripened peach above,
     Then place it in your pearly mouth
     And suck it--how it 'lays your drouth--
     Melts in your lips like honey of the South!

     Dear Madame, in the North you have great sights--
     Of churches, castles, theatres of greatest heights;
     Your works of art are greater far than here.
     But come and see, quite near
     The banks of the Garonne, on a sweet summer's day,
     All works of God! and then you'll say
     No place more beautiful and gay!
     You see the rocks in all their velvet greenery;
     The plains are always gold; and mossy very,
     The valleys, where we breathe the healthy air,
     And where we walk on beds of flowers most fair!

     The country round your Paris has its flowers and greensward,
     But 'tis too grand a dame for me, it is too dull and sad.
     Here, thousand houses smile along the river's stream;
     Our sky is bright, it laughs aloud from morn to e'en.
     Since month of May, when brightest weather bounds
     For six months, music through the air resounds--
     A thousand nightingales the shepherd's ears delight:
     All sing of Love--Love which is new and bright.
     Your Opera, surprised, would silent hearken,
     When day for night has drawn aside its curtain,
     Under our heavens, which very soon comes glowing.
     Listen, good God! our concert is beginning!
     What notes! what raptures?  Listen, shepherd-swains,
     One chaunt is for the hill-side, the other's for the plains.

     "Those lofty mountains
     Far up above,
     I cannot see
     All that I love;
     Move lower, mountains,
     Plains, up-move,
     That I may see
     All that I love."{2}

     And thousand voices sound through Heaven's alcove,
     Coming across the skies so blue,
     Making the angels smile above--
     The earth embalms the songsters true;
     The nightingales, from tree to flower,
     Sing louder, fuller, stronger.
     'Tis all so sweet, though no one beats the measure,
     To hear it all while concerts last--such pleasure!
     Indeed my vineyard's but a seat of honour,
     For, from my hillock, shadowed by my bower,
     I look upon the fields of Agen, the valley of Verone.{3}
     How happy am I 'mongst my vines!  Such pleasures there are none.

     For here I am the poet-dresser, working for the wines.
     I only think of propping up my arbours and my vines;
     Upon the road I pick the little stones--
     And take them to my vineyard to set them up in cones,
     And thus I make a little house with but a sheltered door--
     As each friend, in his turn, now helps to make the store.
     And then there comes the vintage--the ground is firm and fast,
     With all my friends, with wallets or with baskets cast,
     We then proceed to gather up the fertile grapes at last.

     Oh! my young vine,
     The sun's bright shine
     Hath ripened thee
     All--all for me!
     No drizzling showers
     Have spoilt the hours.
     My muse can't borrow;
     My friends, to-morrow
     Cannot me lend;
     But thee, young friend,
     Grapes nicely drest,
     With figs the finest
     And raisins gather
     Bind them together!
     Th' abundant season
     Will still us bring
     A glorious harvesting;
     Close up thy hands with bravery
     Upon the luscious grapery!

     Now all push forth their tendrils; though not past remedy,
     At th' hour when I am here, my faithful memory
     Comes crowding back; my oldest friends
     Now make me young again--for pleasure binds
     Me to their hearts and minds.
     But now the curtained night comes on again.

     I see, the meadows sweet around,
     My little island, midst the varying ground,
     Where I have often laughed, and sometimes I have groaned.

     I see far off the leafy woodland,
     Or near the fountain, where I've; often dreamed;
     Long time ago there was a famous man{4}
     Who gave its fame to Agen.
     I who but write these verses slight
     Midst thoughts of memory bright.

     But I will tell you all--in front, to left, to right,
     More than a hedgerow thick that I have brought the light,
     More than an apple-tree that I have trimmed,
     More than an old vine-stalk that I have thinned
     To ripen lovely Muscat.
     Madame, you see that I look back upon my past,
     Without a blush at last;
     What would you?  That I gave my vineyard back--
     And that with usury?  Alack!
     And yet unto my garden I've no door--
     Two thorns are all my fence--no more!
     When the marauders come, and through a hole I see their nose,
     Instead of taking up a stick to give them blows,
     I turn aside; perhaps they never may return, the horde!
     He who young robs, when older lets himself be robbed!


Endnotes to MY VINEYARD.

{1} Jasmin purchased a little piece of ground, which he dedicated to his
"Curl-papers" (Papilhoto), on the road to Scaliger's villa, and addressed
the above lines to his lady-admirer in Paris, Madame Louis veill.

{2} From a popular song by Gaston Phebus.

{3} Referring to Verona, the villa of Scaliger, the great scholar.

{4} Scaliger.



FRANCONNETTE.

FIRST PART.

   Blaise de Montluc--Festival at Roquefort--The Prettiest
   Maiden--The Soldier and the Shepherds--Kissing and Panting--
   Courage of Pascal--Fury of Marcel--Terrible Contest.

   'Twas at the time when Blaise the murderous
   Struck heavy blows by force of arms.
   He hewed the Protestants to pieces,
   And, in the name of God the Merciful,
   Flooded the earth with sorrow, blood, and tears.

   Alas! 'twas pitiful--far worse beyond the hills,
   Where flashing gun and culverin were heard;
   There the unhappy bore their heavy cross,
   And suffered, more than elsewhere, agonising pain,
   Were killed and strangled, tumbled into wells;
   'Tween Penne and Fumel the saddened earth was gorged.
   Men, women, children, murdered everywhere,
   The hangman even stopped for breath;
   While Blaise, with heart of steel, dismounted at the gate
   Of his strong castle wall,
   With triple bridge and triple fosse;
   Then kneeling, made his pious prayers,
   Taking the Holy Sacrament,
   His hands yet dripping with fraternal blood!{1}

   Now every shepherd, every shepherd lass,
   At the word Huguenot shuddered with affright,
   Even 'midst their laughing courtship.
   And yet it came to pass
   That in a hamlet, 'neath a castled height,
   One Sunday, when a troop of sweethearts danced
   Upon the day of Roquefort fete,
   And to a fife the praises sang
   Of Saint James and the August weather--
   That bounteous month which year by year,
   Through dew-fall of the evening bright,
   And heat of Autumn noons doth bring
   Both grapes and figs to ripening.

   It was the finest fete that eyes had ever seen
   Under the shadow of the leafy parasol,
   Where aye the country-folk convene.
   O'erflowing were the spaces all,
   From cliff, from dale, from every home
   Of Montagnac and Sainte-Colombe,
   Still they do come,
   Too many far to number;
   More, ever more, while flames the sunshine o'er,
   There's room for all, their coming will not cumber,
   The fields shall be their chamber, and the little hillocks green
   The couches of their slumber.

   What pleasure! what delight! the sun now fills the air;
   The sweetest thing in life
   Is the music of the fife
   And the dancing of the fair.
   You see their baskets emptying
   Of waffles all home-made.
   They quaff the nectar sparkling
   Of freshest lemonade.
   What crowds at Punchinello,
   While the showman beats his cymbal!
   Crowds everywhere!
   But who is this appears below?
   Ah! 'tis the beauteous village queen!
   Yes, 'tis she; 'tis Franconnette!
   A fairer girl was never seen.

   In the town as in the prairie,
   You must know that every country
   Has its chosen pearl of love.
   Ah, well! This was the one--
   They named her in the Canton,
   The prettiest, sweetest dove.

   But now, you must not fancy, gentlemen,
   That she was sad and sighing,
   Her features pale as any lily,
   That she had dying eyes, half-shut and blue,
   And slender figure clothed with languishing,
   Like to a weeping willow by a limpid lake.
   Not so, my masters. Franconnette
   Had two keen flashing eyes, like two live stars;
   Her laughing cheeks were round, where on a lover might
   Gather in handfuls roses bright;
   Brown locks and curly decked her head;
   Her lips were as the cherry red,
   Whiter than snow her teeth; her feet
   How softly moulded, small and fleet;
   How light her limbs!  Ah, well-a-day!
   And of the whole at once I say,
   She was the very beau-ideal
   Of beauty in a woman's form, most fair and real.

   Such loveliness, in every race,
   May sudden start to light.
   She fired the youths with ready love,
   Each maiden with despair.
   Poor youths, indeed!  Oh! how they wished
   To fall beneath her feet!
   They all admired her, and adored,
   Just as the priest adores the cross--
   'Twas as if there shone a star of light
   The young girl's brow across!

   Yet, something vexing in her soul began to hover;
   The finest flower had failed her in this day of honour.
   Pascal, whom all the world esteemed,
   Pascal, the handsomest, whose voice with music beamed,
   He shunned the maid, cast ne'er a loving glance;
   Despised!  She felt hate growing in her heart,
   And in her pretty vengeance
   She seized the moment for a brilliant dart
   Of her bright eyes to chain him.
   What would you have?  A girl so greatly envied,
   She might become a flirt conceited;
   Already had she seemed all this,
   Self-glorious she was, I fear,
   Coquetting rarely comes amiss,
   Though she might never love, with many lovers near!
   Grandmother often said to her, "Child, child!" with gentle frown,
   "A meadow's not a parlour, and the country's not a town,
   And thou knowest well that we have promised thee lang syne
   To the soldier-lad, Marcel, who is lover true of thine.
   So curb thy flights, thou giddy one,
   The maid who covets all, in the end mayhap hath none."
   "Nay, nay," replied the tricksy fay,
   With swift caress, and laughter gay,
   "There is another saw well-known,
   Time enough, my grannie dear, to love some later day!
   'She who hath only me, hath 'none.'"

   Now, such a flighty course, you may divine,
   Made hosts of melancholy swains,
   Who sighed and suffered jealous pains,
   Yet never sang reproachful strains,
   Like learned lovers when they pine,
   Who, as they go to die, their woes write carefully
   On willow or on poplar tree.
   Good lack! thou could'st not shape a letter,
   And the silly souls, though love-sick, to death did not incline,
   Thinking to live and suffer on were better!
   But tools were handled clumsily,
   And vine-sprays blew abroad at will,
   And trees were pruned exceeding ill,
   And many a furrow drawn awry.

   Methinks you know her now, this fair and foolish girl;
   Watch while she treads one measure, then see her dip and twirl!
   Young Etienne holds her hand by chance,
   'Tis the first rigadoon they dance;
   With parted lips, right thirstily
   Each rustic tracks them as they fly,
   And the damsel sly
   Feels every eye,
   And lighter moves for each adoring glance.
   Holy cross! what a sight! when the madcap rears aright
   Her shining lizard's head! her Spanish foot falls light,
   Her wasp-like figure sways
   And swims and whirls and springs again.
   The wind with corner of her 'kerchief plays.
   Those lovely cheeks where on the youths now gaze,
   They hunger to salute with kisses twain!

   And someone shall; for here the custom is,
   Who tires his partner out, salutes her with a kiss;
   The girls grow weary everywhere,
   Wherefore already Jean and Paul,
   Louis, Guillaume, and strong Pierre,
   Have breathless yielded up their place
   Without the coveted embrace.

   Another takes his place, Marcel the wight,
   The soldier of Montluc, prodigious in his height,
   Arrayed in uniform, bearing his sword,
   A cockade in his cap, the emblem of his lord,
   Straight as an I, though bold yet not well-bred,
   His heart was soft, but thickish was his head.
   He blustered much and boasted more and more,
   Frolicked and vapoured as he took the floor
   Indeed he was a very horrid bore.
   Marcel, most mad for Franconnette, tortured the other girls,
   Made her most jealous, yet she had no chance,
   The swelled-out coxcomb called on her to dance.
   But Franconnette was loth, and she must let him see it;
   He felt most madly jealous, yet was maladroit,
   He boasted that he was beloved; perhaps he did believe it quite--

   The other day, in such a place,
   She shrank from his embrace!

   The crowd now watched the dancing pair,
   And marked the tricksy witching fair;
   They rush, they whirl!  But what's amiss?
   The bouncing soldier lad, I wis,
   Can never snatch disputed kiss!
   The dancing maid at first smiles at her self-styled lover,
   "Makes eyes" at him, but ne'er a word does utter;
   She only leaped the faster!
   Marcel, piqued to the quick, longed to subdue this creature,
   He wished to show before the crowd what love he bore her;
   One open kiss were sweeter far
   Than twenty in a corner!
   But, no! his legs began to fail, his head was in a trance,
   He reeled, he almost fell, he could no longer dance;
   Now he would give cockade, sabre, and silver lace,
   Would it were gold indeed, for her embrace!

   Yet while the pair were still afoot, the girl looked very gay--
   Resolved never to give way!
   While headstrong Marcel, breathless, spent, and hot in face,
   He reeled and all but fell; then to the next gave place!
   Forth darted Pascal in the soldier's stead,
   They make two steps, then change, and Franconnette,
   Weary at last, with laughing grace,
   Her foot stayed and upraised her face!
   Tarried Pascal that kiss to set?
   Not he, be sure! and all the crowd
   His vict'ry hailed with plaudits loud.
   The clapping of their palms like battle-dores resounded,
   While Pascal stood among them quite confounded!

   Oh, what a picture for the soldier who so loved his queen!
   Him the kiss maddened!  Measuring Pascal with his een,
   He thundered, "Peasant, you have filled my place most sly;
   Not so fast, churl!"--and brutally let fly
   With aim unerring one fierce blow,
   Straight in the other's eyes, doubling the insult so.

   Good God!{2} how stings the madd'ning pain,
   His dearest happiness that blow must stain,
   Kissing and boxing--glory, shame!
   Light, darkness!  Fire, ice!  Life, death!  Heaven, hell!
   All this was to our Pascal's soul the knell
   Of hope!  But to be thus tormented
   By flagrant insult, as the soldier meant it;
   Now without fear he must resent it!
   It does not need to be a soldier nor a "Monsieur,"
   An outrage placidly to bear.
   Now fiery Pascal let fly at his foe,
   Before he could turn round, a stunning blow;
   'Twas like a thunder peal,
   And made the soldier reel;
   Trying to draw his sabre,
   But Pascal, seeming bigger,
   Gripped Marcel by the waist, and sturdily
   Lifted him up, and threw his surly
   Foe on the ground, breathless, and stunned severely.

   "Now then!" while Pascal looked on the hound thrown by him,
   "The peasant grants thee chance of living!"
   "Despatch him!" cried the surging crowd.
   "Thou art all cover'd o'er with blood!"
   But Pascal, in his angry fit of passion,
   Had hurt his wrist and fist in a most serious fashion.

   "No matter!  All the same I pardon him!
   You must have pity on the beaten hound!"
   "No, finish him!  Into morsels cut him!"
   The surging, violent crowd now cried around.
   "Back, peasants, back!  Do him no harm!"
   Sudden exclaimed a Monsieur, speaking with alarm;
   The peasants moved aside, and then gave place
   To Montluc, glittering with golden lace;
   It was the Baron of Roquefort!

   The frightened girls, like hunted hares,
   At once dispers'd, flew here and there.
   The shepherds, but a moment after,
   With thrilling fife and beaming laughter,
   The brave and good Pascal attended on his way,
   Unto his humble home, as 'twere his nuptial day.

   But Marcel, furious, mad with rage, exclaimed,
   "Oh! could I stab and kill them!  But I'm maimed!"
   Only a gesture of his lord
   Restrained him, hand upon his sword.
   Then did he grind his teeth, as he lay battered,
   And in a low and broken voice he muttered:
   "They love each other, and despise my kindness,
   She favours him, and she admires his fondness;
   Ah, well! by Marcel's patron, I'll not tarry
   To make them smart, and Franconnette
   No other husband than myself shall marry!"


   SECOND PART.

   The Enamoured Blacksmith--His Fretful Mother--The Busking
   Soiree--Pascal's Song--The Sorcerer of the Black Forest--
   The Girl Sold to the Demon.

   Since Roquefort fete, one, two, three months have fled;
   The dancing frolic, with the harvest ended;
   The out-door sports are banished--
   For winter comes; the air is sad and cold, it sighs
   Under the vaulted skies.
   At fall of night, none risks to walk across the fields,
   For each one, sad and cheerless, beelds
   Before the great fires blazing,
   Or talks of wolfish fiends{3} amazing;
   And sorcerers--to make one shudder with affright--
   That walk around the cots so wight,
   Or 'neath the gloomy elms, and by farmyards at night.

   But now at last has Christmas come,
   And little Jack, who  beats the drum,
   Cries round the hamlet, with his beaming face:
   "Come brisken up, you maidens fair,
   A merry busking{4} shall take place
   On Friday, first night of the year!"

   Ah! now the happy youths and maidens fair
   Proclaimed the drummer's words, so bright and rare.
   The news were carried far and near
   Light as a bird most fleet
   With wings to carry thoughts so sweet.
   The sun, with beaming rays, had scarcely shone
   Ere everywhere the joyous news had flown;
   At every fireside they were known,
   By every hearth, in converse keen,
   The busking was the theme.

   But when the Friday came, a frozen dew was raining,
   And by a fireless forge a mother sat complaining;
   And to her son, who sat thereby,
   She spoke at last entreatingly:
   "Hast thou forgot the summer day, my boy, when thou didst come
   All bleeding from the furious fray, to the sound of music home?
   How I have suffered for your sorrow,
   And all that you have had to go through.
   Long have I troubled for your arm!  For mercy's sake
   Oh! go not forth to-night!  I dreamt of flowers again,
   And what means that, Pascal, but so much tears and pain!"

   "Now art thou craven, mother! and see'st that life's all black,
   But wherefore tremble, since Marcel has gone, and comes not
   back!"
   "Oh yet, my son, do you take heed, I pray!
   For the wizard of the Black Wood is roaming round this way;
   The same who wrought such havoc, 'twas but a year agone,
   They tell me one was seen to come from 's cave at dawn
   But two days past--it was a soldier; now
   What if this were Marcel?  Oh, my child, do take care!
   Each mother gives her charms unto her sons; do thou
   Take mine; but I beseech, go not forth anywhere!"

   "Just for one little hour, mine eyes to set
   On my friend Thomas, whom I'm bound to meet!"

   "Thy friend, indeed!  Nay, nay!  Thou meanest Franconnette,
   Whom thou loves dearly!  I wish thou'd love some other maid!
   Oh, yes!  I read it in thine eyes!
   Though thou sing'st, art gay, thy secret bravely keeping,
   That I may not be sad, yet all alone thou'rt weeping--
   My head aches for thy misery;
   Yet leave her, for thine own good, my dear Pascal;
   She would so greatly scorn a working smith like thee,
   With mother old in penury;
   For poor we are--thou knowest truly.

   "How we have sold and sold fill scarce a scythe remains.
   Oh, dark the days this house hath seen
   Since, Pascal, thou so ill hast been;
   Now thou art well, arouse! do something for our gains
   Or rest thee, if thou wilt; with suffering we can fight;
   But, for God's love, oh! go not forth to-night!"

   And the poor mother, quite undone,
   Cried, while thus pleading with her son,
   Who, leaning on his blacksmith's forge
   The stifling sobs quelled in his gorge.
   "'Tis very true," he said, "that we are poor,
   But had I that forgot?... I go to work, my mother, now, be sure!"

   No sooner said than done; for in a blink
   Was heard the anvil's clink,
   The sparks flew from the blacksmith's fire
   Higher and still higher!
   The forgeman struck the molten iron dead,
   Hammer in hand, as if he had a hundred in his head!

   But now, the Busking was apace,
   And soon, from every corner place
   The girls came with the skein of their own making
   To wind up at this sweethearts' merry meeting.

   In the large chamber, where they sat and winded
   The threads, all doubly garnished,
   The girls, the lads, plied hard their finger,
   And swiftly wound together
   The clews of lint so fair,
   As fine as any hair.

   The winding now was done; and the white wine, and rhymsters,
   Came forth with rippling glass and porringers,
   And brought their vivid vapours
   To brighten up their capers--
   Ah! if the prettiest were the best, with pride
   I would my Franconnette describe.

   Though queen of games, she was the last, not worst,
   It is not that she reigned at present, yet was first.

   "Hold!  Hold!" she cried, the brown-haired maid,
   Now she directed them from side to side--
   Three women merged in one, they said--
   She dances, speaks, sings, all bewitching,
   By maiden's wiles she was so rich in;
   She sings with soul of turtle-dove,
   She speaks with grace angelic;
   She dances on the wings of love--
   Sings, speaks, and dances, in a guise
   More than enough to turn the head most wise!

   Her triumph is complete; all eyes are fixed upon her,
   Though her adorers are but peasants;
   Her eyes are beaming,
   Blazing and sparkling,
   And quite bewitching;
   No wonder that the sweetheart lads are ravished with her!

   Then Thomas rose and, on the coquette fixing
   His ardent eyes, though blushing,
   In language full of neatness,
   And tones of lute-like sweetness,
   This song began to sing:

   THE SYREN WITH A HEART OF ICE.

   "Oh, tell us, charming Syren,
   With heart of ice unmoved,
   When shall we hear the sound
   Of bells that ring around,
   To say that you have loved?
   Always so free and gay,
   Those wings of dazzling ray,

   Are spread to every air--
   And all your favour share;
   Attracted by their light
   All follow in your flight.
   But ah! believe me, 'tis not bliss,
   Such triumphs do but purchase pain;
   What is it to be loved like this,
   To her who cannot love again?

   "You've seen how full of joy
   We've marked the sun arise;
   Even so each Sunday morn
   When you, before our eyes,
   Bring us such sweet surprise.
   With us new life is born:
   We love your angel face,
   Your step so debonnaire,
   Your mien of maiden grace,
   Your voice, your lips, your hair,
   Your eyes of gentle fire,
   All these we now admire!
   But ah! believe me, 'tis not bliss,
   Such triumphs do but purchase pain;
   What is it to be loved like this,
   To her who cannot love again?

   "Alas! our groves are dull
   When widowed of thy sight,
   And neither hedge nor field
   Their perfume seem to yield;
   The blue sky is not bright
   When you return once more,
   All that was sad is gone,
   All nature you restore,
   We breathe in you alone;
   We could your rosy fingers cover
   With kisses of delight all over!
   But ah! believe me, 'tis not bliss,
   Such triumphs do but purchase pain;
   What is it to be loved like this,
   To her who cannot love again?

   "The dove you lost of late,
   Might warn you by her flight,
   She sought in woods her mate,
   And has forgot you quite;
   She has become more fair
   Since love has been her care.
   'Tis love makes all things gay,
   Oh follow where she leads--
   When beauteous looks decay,
   What dreary life succeeds!
   And ah! believe me, perfect bliss,
   A joy, where peace and triumph reign,
   Is when a maiden, loved like this,
   Has learnt 'tis sweet to love again!"

   The songster finished, and the ardent crowd
   Of listeners clapped their hands in praises loud.

   "Oh! what a lovely song!" they cried. "Who is the poet?"
   "'Tis Pascal," answered Thomas, "that has made it!"
   "Bravo!  Long live Pascal!" exclaimed the fervent crowd.

   Nothing said Franconnette; but she rejoiced--was proud--
   At having so much love evoked,
   And in a song so touching,
   Before this crowd admiring.

   Then she became more serious as she thought of Pascal;
   "How brave he is!  'Tis all for him; he has not got his equal!
   How he paints love!  All praise him without doubt;
   And his sweet song--so touching!" for now by heart she knows it.
   "But if he loves at last, why does he hide away?"
   Then turning suddenly, she says--
   "Thomas, he is not here, away he stays;
   I would him compliment; can he not come?"
   "Oh! now he cannot; but remains at home."

   Then spoke the jealous Lawrence: "Pascal knows
   He cannot any other songs compose;
   Poor fellow! almost ruined quite he is;
   His father's most infirm--stretched out, and cannot rise;
   The baker will not give him bread, he is constrained to debts."

   Then Franconnette grew pale, and said, "And he so very good!
   Poor lad! how much he suffers; and now he wants his food!"

   "My faith!" said Lawrence, a heart of goodness aping,
   "They say that now he goes a-begging!"
   "You lie!" cried Thomas, "hold thy serpent's tongue!
   Pascal, 'tis true, is working, yet with harm,
   Since, for this maiden, he has suffered in his arm;
   But he is cured; heed not this spiteful knave!
   He works now all alone, for he is strong and brave."
   If someone on the girl his eyes had set,
   He would have seen tears on the cheeks of Franconnette.

   "Let's 'Hunt the Slipper!"' cried the maids;
   Round a wide ring they sat, the jades.
   Slipper was bid by Franconnette,
   But in a twinkle, Marionette--
   "Lawrence, hast thou my slipper?" "No, demoiselle!"
   "Rise then, and seek it now, ah, well!"
   Lawrence, exulting in his features,
   Said, "Franconnette, hast thou my slipper?"
   "No, sir!" "'Tis false!" It was beneath her seat!
   "Thou hast it!  Rise!  Now kiss me as the forfeit!"

   A finch, just taken in a net,
   First tries some gap to fly at;
   So Franconnette, just like a bird, escaped
   With Lawrence, whom she hated;
   Incensed he turned to kiss her;
   He swiftly ran, but in his pursuit warm,
   The moment she was caught he stumbled,
   Slipped, fell, and sudden broke his arm.

   Misfortunes ne'er come single, it is said.
   The gloomy night was now far spent;
   But in that fright of frights, quite in a breath,
   The house-door creaked and ope'd!  Was it a wraith?
   No! but an old man bearded to the waist,
   And now there stood before the throng the Black Wood Ghaist!
   "Imprudent youths!" he cried; "I come from gloomy rocks up
   yonder,
   Your eyes to ope: I'm filled with wrath and wonder!
   You all admire this Franconnette;
   Learn who she is, infatuate!

   From very cradle she's all evil;
   Her wretched father, miserable,

   Passed to the Hugnenots and sold her to the Devil;
   Her mother died of shame--
   And thus the demon plays his game.
   Now he has bought this woman base,
   He tracks her in her hiding-place.
   You see how he has punished Pascal and Lawrence
   Because they gave her light embrace!
   Be warned!  For who so dares this maid to wed,
   Amid the brief delight of their first nuptial night,
   Will sudden hear a thunder-peal o'er head!
   The demon cometh in his might
   To snatch the bride away in fright,
   And leave the ill-starred bridegroom dead!"

   The Wizard said no more; but angry, fiery rays,
   From scars his visage bore, seemed suddenly to blaze.
   Four times he turned his heel upon,
   Then bade the door stand wide, or ere his foot he stayed;
   With one long creak the door obeyed,
   And lo! the bearded ghaist was gone!

   He left great horror in his wake!  None stirred in all the
   throng;
   They looked nor left nor right, when he away had gone,
   They seemed all changed to stone--
   Only the stricken maid herself stood brave against her wrong;

   And in the hope forlorn that all might pass for jest,
   With tremulous smile, half bright, half pleading,
   She swept them with her eyes, and two steps forward pressed;
   But when she saw them all receding,
   And heard them cry "Avaunt!" then did she know her fate;
   Then did her saddened eyes dilate
   With speechless terror more and more,
   The while her heart beat fast and loud,
   Till with a cry her head she bowed
   And sank in swoon upon the floor.
   Such was the close of Busking night,
   Though it began so gay and bright;
   The morrow was the New Year's day,
   It should have been a time most gay;
   But now there went abroad a fearful rumour--
   It was remembered long time after
   In every house and cottage home throughout the land--
   Though 'twas a fiction and a superstition,--
   It was, "The De'il's abroad!  He's now a-roaming;
   How dreadful!  He is now for lost souls seeking!"

   The folks were roused and each one called to mind
   That some, in times of yore, had heard the sound
   Of Devil's chains that clanked;
   How soon the father vanished,
   The mother, bent in agony,
   A maniac she died!
   That then all smiled; they felt nor hurt nor harm,
   They lived quite happy on their cottage farm,
   And when the fields were spoilt with hail or rain,
   Their ground was covered o'er with plums and grain.

   It was enough; the girls believed it all,
   Grandmothers, mothers--thoughts did them appal--
   Even infants trembled at the demon's name;
   And when the maiden hung her head in pain,.
   And went abroad, they scarce would give her passage;
   They called to her, "Away!  Avaunt! thou imp of evil,
   Behold the crime of dealing with the Devil!"


   THIRD PART.

   The Maid at Estanquet--A Bad Dream--The Grandmother's Advice--
   Blessed Bread--Satisfaction and Affection--First Thought of Love
   --Sorrowfulness--The Virgin.

   Beside a cot at Estanquet,
   Down by a leafy brooklet,
   The limpid stream
   Enshadowed sheen,
   Lapped o'er the pebbles murmuring.
   Last summer sat a maid, with gathered flowers,
   She was engaged in setting,
   Within her grassy bowers;
   She sang in joy her notes so thrilling,
   As made the birds, their sweet songs trilling,
   Most jealous.

   Why does she sing no more? midst fields and hedgerows verdant;
   'The nightingales that came within her garden,
   With their loud "jug! jug!" warbling,
   And their sweet quavers singing;
   Can she have left her cottage home?

   No!  There's her pretty hat of straw
   Laid on the bench; but then they saw
   There was no ribbon round it;
   The garden all neglected;
   The rake and wat'ring-pot were down
   Amongst the jonquils overthrown;
   The broken-branched roses running riot;
   The dandelion, groundsell, all about;
   And the nice walks, laid out with so much taste,
   Now cover'd with neglected weeds and wanton waste.

   Oh! what has happened here?  Where is the lively maid?
   The little birds now whispering said;
   Her home is sparkling there beyond,
   With tufted branch of hazel round;
   Let's just peep in, the door is open,
   We make no noise, but let us listen.
   Ah! there's grandmother, on her arm-chair, fast asleep!
   And here, beside the casement deep,
   The maid of Estanquet, in saddened pain and grief,
   The tears down-falling on her pretty hand;
   To whom no joy nor hope can ever give relief!

   Ah! yes,'twas dark enough! for it is Franconnette,
   Already you've divined it is our pet!

   And see her now, poor maiden,
   Bending beneath the falsest blow, o'erladen;
   She sobs and weeps alternately--
   Her heart is rent and empty,
   Oft, to console herself, she rises, walks, and walks again;
   Alas! her trouble is so full of pain--
   Awake or sleeping--
   she's only soothed by weeping.
   Daughter of Huguenot accursed,
   And banished from the Church!
   Sold to the demon; she's for ever cursed!
   Grandmother, waking, said, "Child, 'tis not true;
   It matters not; 'tis but thy father fled,
   No one can contradict that raving crew;
   They know not where he is, and could they see him,
   They would so frightened be, they'd not believe their een!"

   "How changed things are," said Franconnette, "before I was so
   happy;
   Then I was village queen, all followed love in harmony;
   And all the lads, to please me,
   Would come barefooted, e'en through serpents' nests, to bless me!
   But now, to be despised and curst,
   I, who was once the very first!
   And Pascal, too, whom once I thought the best,
   In all my misery shuns me like a pest!
   Now that he knows my very sad mishaps,
   He ne'er consoles with me at all--perhaps----"

   She did deceive herself. Her grief to-day was softened
   By hearing that Pascal 'gainst slanders her defended;
   Such magic help, it was a balm
   Her aching soul to calm;
   And then, to sweeten all her ill,
   She thought always of Pascal--did this softened girl.

   What is that sound?  A sudden shriek!
   Grandmother dreamt--she was now wide awake;
   The girl sprang to her; she said, "Isn't the house aflame?
   Ah! twas a dream!  Thank God!" her murmur came.

   "Dear heart," the girl said softly; "what was this dream of
   thine?"
   "Oh, love! 'twas night, and loud ferocious men, methought
   Came lighting fires all round our little cot,
   And thou did'st cry unto them, daughter mine,
   To save me, but did'st vainly strive,
   For here we too must burn alive!
   The torment that I bore!  How shall I cure my fright
   Come hither, darling, let me hold thee tight!"

   Then the white-headed dame, in withered arms of love,
   With yearning tenderness folded the brown-haired girl, who
   strove,
   By many a smile, and mute caress,
   To hearten her, until at length
   The aged one cried out, her love gave vital strength,
   "Sold to the Demon, thou?  It is a hideous lie!
   Therefore, dear child, weep not so piteously;
   Take courage!  Be thou brave in heart once more,
   Thou art more lovely than before--
   Take grannie's word for that!  Arise!
   Go forth; who hides from envious eyes
   Makes wicked people spiteful; I've heard this, my pet;
   I know full well there's one who loves thee yet--
   Marcel would guard thee with his love;
   Thou lik'st not him?  Ah! could he move
   Thy feelings, he would shield thee, dear,
   And claim thee for his own.
   But I am all too feeble grown;
   Yet stay, my darling, stay!  To-morrow's Easter Day,
   Go thou to Mass, and pray as ne'er before!
   Then take the blessed bread, if so the good God may
   The precious favour of his former smile restore,
   And on thy sweet face, clear as day,
   Own thou art numbered with his children evermore!"

   Then such a gleam of hope lit the old face again,
   Furrowed so deep with years and pain,
   That, falling on her neck, the maiden promised well,
   And once more on the white cot silence fell.

   When, therefore, on the morrow, came the country-side,
   To hear the Hallelujas in the church of Saint Pierre;
   Great was the wonderment of those that spied
   The maiden, Franconnette, silently kneeling there,

   Telling her beads with downcast eyes of prayer.
   She needs, poor thing, Heaven's mercy to implore,
   For ne'er a woman's will she win!
   But then, beholding her sweet mien,
   Were Marvel and Pascal, eyeing her fondly o'er;
   She saw them with her glances, dark as night,
   Then shrinking back, they left her all alone,
   Midway of a great circle, as they might
   Some poor condemned one
   Bearing some stigma on her brow in sight.

   This was not all, poor child!  It was well known--
   The warden, uncle to Marcel,
   Carried the Blessed Bread;
   And like a councillor, did swell
   In long-tailed coat, with pompous tread:
   But when the trembling maid, making a cross, essayed
   To take a double portion, as her dear old grandame bade,
   Right in the view of every eye,
   The sacred basket he withdrew, and passed her wholly
   And so, denied her portion of the bread whereby we live,
   She, on glad Easter, doth receive
   Dismissal from God's house for aye.

   The maid, trembling with fear, thought all was lost indeed!
   But no! she hath a friend at need;
   'Twas Pascal, who had seen her all the while--
   Pacal, whose young foot walked along the aisle,
   He made the quest, and nothing loth,
   In view of uncle and of nephew both,
   Doth quietly to her present,

   Upon a silver plate, with flowers fair blossoming,
   The crown-piece{5} of the Holy Sacrament--
   And all the world beholds the pious offering.

   Oh! moment full of joy; her blood sprang into fleetness;
   Warmth was in all her frame, her senses thrilled with sweetness;
   She saw the bread of God arisen
   Out of its earthly prison,
   Thus life unto her own was given:
   But wherefore did her brow quite blushing grow?
   Because the angel bright of love, I trow,
   Did with her glowing breath impart
   Life to the flame long smouldering in her heart.
   It did become a something strange, and passing all desire
   As honey sweet, and quick as fire
   Did her sad soul illuminate
   With a new being; and, though late,
   She knew the word for her delight,
   The fair enigma she could guess.
   People and priest all vanish'd from her sight,
   She saw in all the church only one man aright--
   He whom she loved at last, with utmost gratefulness.

   Then from Saint Peter's church the throng widely dispersed,
   And of the scandal they had seen, now eagerly conversed;
   But lost not sight of her at all
   Who bore the Bread of Honour to the ancient dame, ere this,
   She sitteth now alone, shut in her chamber small,
   While Franconnette beams brightly with her new-found bliss.

   On the parched earth, where falls the earliest dew,
   As shines the sun's first rays, the winter flown--
   So love's first spark awakes to life anew,
   And fills the startled mind with joy unknown.
   The maiden yielded every thought to this--
   The trembling certainty of real bliss;
   The lightning of a joy before improved,
   Flash'd in her heart, and told her that she loved.

   She fled from envy, and from curious eyes,
   And dreamed, as all have done, their waking dreams,
   Bidding in thought bright fairy fabrics rise
   To shrine the loved one in their golden gleams.
   Alas! the sage is right, 'tis the distrest
   Who dream the fondest, and who love the best.

   But when the saddened heart controls us quite,
   It quickly turns to gall the sweets of our delight.
   Then she remembered all!  The opening heaven turned grey,
   Dread thought now smites her heavily.
   Dreams she of love?  Why, what is she?
   Sweet love is not for her!  The dreaded sorcerer
   Hath said she's fore-sold for a price--a murderer!
   With heart of dev'lish wrath, which whoso dares to brave
   To lie with her one night, therein shall find his grave.
   She, to see Pascal perish at her side!
   "Oh God! have pity on me now!" she cried.
   So, rent with cruel agonies,
   And weeping very sore,
   Fell the poor child upon her knees,
   Her little shrine before.

   "Oh, Holy Virgin!"--sighing--"on thee alone relying,
   I come; I'm all astray!  Father and mother too
   Are dead lang syne, and I accursed!  All tongues are crying
   This hideous tale!  Yet save me if't be true;
   If they have falsely sworn, be it on their souls borne
   When I shall bring my taper on the fete-day morn{6}
   Oh! blessed Mother, let me see
   That I am not denied of thee!"

   Brief prayer,
   Though 'tis sincere,
   To Heaven mounts quickly,
   Sure to have won a gracious ear;
   The maid her purpose holds, and ponders momently,
   And oftentimes grows sick, and cannot speak for fear,
   But sometimes taketh heart, and sudden hope and strong
   Shines in her soul, as brightest meteor gleams the sky along.


   FOURTH PART.

   The Fete at Notre Dame--Offering to the Virgin--Thunderstroke
   and Taper Extinguished--The Storm at Roquefort--
   Fire at Estanquet--Triumph of Pascal--Fury of Marcel--
   Power of a Mother--Bad Head and Good Heart--Conclusion.

   At last, behold the day she longed for, yet so fearfully,
   But lo! the sun rose cheerfully;
   And long, long lines of white-robed village girls
   From all the country round, walked tow'rds the tinkling bells,
   And soon, proud Notre Dame appeared in sight,
   As 'midst a cloud of perfume!
   'Twas if the thirty hamlets in their might
   Were piled together into one.

   What priests!  What candles!  Crucifixes!  Garlands!
   What Angels,{7} and what banners!

   You see there Artigues, Puymiral, Astafort,
   Saint-Cirq, Cardonnet, Lusignan, Brax, Roquefort,
   But this year, Roquefort first, o'erleapeth all.
   What crowds there are of curious people,
   To watch the girl sold to the Devil!
   The news has travelled everywhere;
   They know that she, in silent prayer,
   Implores the Virgin to protect her there!

   Her neighbours scoff, and her menace,
   But saddened friends grieve at her sore disgrace,
   Love, through their heart, in fervour rills,
   Each one respects this plaintivest of girls;
   And many a pitying soul a prayer said,
   That some great miracle might yet be made
   In favour of this poor and suppliant maid.

   She saw, rejoiced, more hope with her abode;
   Though voice of people is the voice of God!
   Oh! how her heart beat as the church she neared,
   'Twas for the Virgin's indulgence she cared.
   Mothers with heartaches; young unfortunates;
   The orphan girls; the women without mates;
   All knelt before, with tapers waxen,
   The image of the Virgin;
   And there the aged priest, in surplice dressed,
   Placed the crosses at their lips, and afterwards them blessed.

   No sign of sorrow did on any suppliant fall,
   But with their happy hearts, their ways went one and all,
   So Franconnette grew happy too,
   And most because Pascal prayed fervent in her view;
   She dared t'raise her eyes to the holy father's face,
   It seemed to her that love, hymns, lights, and the incense
   United, cried out, "Grace!"
   "Grace, grace divine," she sighed, "and love!  Let them be mine!"
   Then stretching out her taper lit, and followed to the shrine,
   Bearing a garland in her hand; and all about her strove
   To give a place to her, and bade her forward move.
   They fixed their eyes upon the sacred priest and her,
   And scarce a breath was drawn, and not a soul did stir;
   But when the priest, holding the image of redeeming love,
   Had laid it on the orphan's lips; before her kiss was given,
   Burst a terrific thunderpeal, as if 'twould rend the heaven,
   Blowing her taper out, and all the altar lights above.

   Oh, what is this?  The crashing thunder!
   Her prayer denied, the lights put out!
   Good God! she's sold indeed!  All, all is true, no doubt,
   So a long murmur rose of horror and of wonder;
   For while the maiden breathlessly
   Cowering like some lost soul, their shuddering glances under,
   Sudden crept forth, all shrunk away, and let her pass them by.

   Howbeit, that great peal was the opening blow
   Of a wild storm and terrible,
   That straightway upon Roquefort fell,
   The spire of Saint Pierre{8} lay in ruins low,
   And, smitten by the sharp scourge of the hail,
   In all the region round, men could but weep and wail.

   The angel bands who walked that day
   In fair procession, hymns to sing,
   Turned sorrowing, all save one, away,
   Ora pro nobis chaunting.

   Yet, in those early times, though not as now,
   The angry waves to clear;
   To other jealous towns could Agen show
   Great bridges three, as she a royal city were;

   Then she had only barges two, by poles propelled slow,
   That waited for the minstrels, to bear them to Roquefort,
   Whose villagers heard rumours of the widespread woe;
   Ere landing, they were ranged for singing on the shore.
   At first the tale but half they heed,
   But soon they see in very deed,
   Vineyards and happy fields with hopeless ruin smit;
   Then each let fall his banner fair,
   And lamentations infinite
   Bent on all sides the evening air,
   Till o'er the swelling throng rose deadly clear the cry,
   "And still we spare this Franconnette!" Then suddenly,
   As match to powder laid, the words
   "Set her on fire!  That daughter of the Huguenot,
   Let's burn her up, and let her ashes rot."
   Then violent cries were heard.
   Howls of "Ay!  Ay! the wretch!  Now let her meet her fate!
   She is the cause of all, 'tis plain!
   Once she has made us desolate,
   But she shall never curse again!"

   And now the crowd grew angrier, wilder too.
   "Hunt her off face of earth!" one shouts anew;
   "Hunt her to death!  'Tis meet," a thousand tongues repeat,
   The tempest in the skies cannot with this compete.
   Oh, then, to see them as they came,
   With clenched fists and eyes aflame,
   Hell did indeed its demons all unchain.
   And while the storm recedes, the night is growing clear,
   But poison shoots through every vein
   Of the possess'd madmen there.

   Thus goaded they themselves to crime; but where was she,
   Unhappy Franconnette?  To her own cottage driven--
   Worshipping her one relic, sad and dreamily,
   And whispered to the withered flowers Pascal had loving given:
   "Dear nosegay, when I saw thee first,
   Methought thy sweetness was divine,
   And I did drink it, heart athirst;
   But now thou art not sweet as erst,
   Because those wicked thoughts of mine
   Have blighted all thy beauty rare;
   I'm sold to powers of ill, for Heav'n hath spurned my prayer;
   My love is deadly love!  No hope on earth have I!
   So, treasure of my heart, flowers of the meadow fair,
   Because I bless the hand that gathered thee, good-bye!
   Pascal must not love such as I!
   He must th' accursed maid forswear,
   Who yet to God for him doth cry!
   In wanton merriment last year,
   Even at love laughed Franconnette;
   Now is my condemnation clear,
   Now whom I love, I must forget;
   Sold to the demon at my birth!
   My God, how can it be?  Have I not faith in Thee?
   Oh! blessed blossoms of the earth;
   Let me drive with my cross the evil one from me!
   And thou, my mother, in the star-lit skies above,
   And thou, my guardian, oh! mother of our God,
   Pity me: For I bless Pascal, but part from him I love!

   Pity the maid accursed, by the rod
   Sore smitten, to the earth down-trod,
   Help me, thy Heart Divine to move!"

   "Franconnette, little one, what means thy plaintive moan?"
   So spake the hoary dame. "Didst thou not smiling say
   Our Lady did receive thy offering to-day?
   But sure, no happy heart should make so sad a groan.
   Thou hast deceived me?  Some new ill," she said,
   Hath fall'n upon us!" "Nay, not so; be comforted.
   I--I'm quite happy!" "So my sweetest deary,
   God grant that some good respite we may have,
   For your sad sorrow diggeth up my grave;
   And this hath been a lonesome, fearsome day, and weary;
   That cruel dream of fire I had some time ago,
   Howe'er I strove, did always haunt me so!
   And then, thou know'st the storm; oh, I was terrified,
   So that, to-night, my dear, I shudder in my fright!"

   What sudden noise is this outside?
   "Fire!  Fire!  Let's burn them in their cot!"
   Flames shine through all the shutters wide,
   Then Franconnette springs to the doorway tremblingly,
   And, gracious Heaven! what doth she see?
   By light of burning reek,
   An angry people huddled thick;
   She hears them shout, "Now, to your fate!
   Spare ne'er the young one, nor the old,
   Both work us ruin manifold.
   Sold to the demon, we must burn you straight!"

   The girl fell on her knees, before the face
   Of that most furious populace.

   She cried, "Grandmother will you kill?  Oh, pity, grace!"
   "Twas of no use, the wretches, blind with fury,
   In viewing her bareheaded, in their hurry,
   Saw but a cursed leman,
   Sold bodily to the demon.
   The fiercest cried "Avaunt!"
   While the more savage forward spring,
   And on the door their feet they plant,
   With fiery brand in their hand brandishing.

   "Hold!  I implore you!"cried a voice, before unheard;
   And sudden leapt before the crowd like lightning with the word,
   A man of stately strength and tall,
   It was the noble, brave Pascal!

   "Cowards!" he cried. "What?  Will you murder women then,
   And burn their cot?  Children of God!  Are you the same?
   Tigers you are, and cannot then be men;
   And after all that they have suffered!  Shame!
   Fall back!  Fall back!  I say; the walls are growing hot!"

   "Then let her leave us quite, this wretched Huguenot,
   For she was long since by the devil bought,
   God smites us 'cause we did not drive her forth before."
   "Quick! quick!" cried Pascal, "living they will burn!
   Ye dogs, who moved ye to this awful crime?"
   "'Twas Marcel," they replied. "See, now he comes in time!"
   "You lie!" the soldier thundered in his turn;
   "I love her, boaster, more than thou!"
   Said Pascal, "How wilt prove thy love, thou of the tender heart?"
   "I come," the other said, "to save her. I come to take her part.
   I come, if so she will, to wed her, even now."

   "And so am I," replied Pascal, and steadfastly
   Before his rival's eyes, as bound by some great spell.
   Then to the orphan girl turned he,
   With worship all unspeakable.
   "Answer me, Franconnette, and speak the truth alone;
   Thou'st followed by the wicked with spite and scorn, my own;
   But we two love thee well, and ready are to brave
   Death!  Yes, or hell, thy precious life to save.
   Choose which of us thou wilt!" "Nay," she lamented sore,
   "Dearest, mine is a love that slays!
   Be happy, then, without me!  Forget me!  Go thy ways!"

   "Happy without thee, dear!  That can I never more:
   Nay, were it true, as lying rumour says,
   An evil spirit ruled you o'er,
   I'd rather die with you, than live bereaved days!"

   When life is at its bitterest,
   The voice of love aye rules us best;
   Instantly rose the girl above her mortal dread,
   And on the crowd advancing straight,
   "Because I love Pascal, alone I'd meet my fate!
   Howbeit his will is law," she said,
   "Wherefore together let our souls be sped."
   Then was Pascal in heav'n, and Marcel in the dust laid low;
   Then Pascal sought his gallant rival, saying,
   "I am more blest than thou!  Forgive! thou'rt brave, I know,
   Some squire{9} should follow me to death; then wilt thou not
   Serve me?  I have no other friend!"  Marcel seemed dreaming;
   And now he scowled with wrath, and now his eyes were kindling;
   Terrible was the battle in his mind;
   Till his eye fell on Franconnette, serene and beaming,
   But with no word for him; then pale, but smilingly,
   "Because it is her will," he said, "I follow thee."

   Two weeks had passed away, and a strange nuptial train,
   Adown the verdant hill went slowly to the plain;
   First came the comely pair we know, in all their bloom,
   While gathered far and wide, three deep on either side,
   The ever-curious rustics hied,
   Shudd'ring at heart o'er Pascal's doom.
   Marcel conducts their march, but pleasures kindly true,
   Glows not upon th' unmoving face he lifts to view.
   And something glances from his eye,
   That makes men shudder as they pass him by;

   Yet verily his mien triumphant is, at least
   Sole master is he of this feast,
   And gives his rival, for bouquet,
   A supper and a ball to-day.
   But at the dance and at the board
   Alike, scarce one essayed a word;
   None sung a song, none raised a jest,
   For dark forebodings everyone oppressed.

   And the betrothed, by love's deep rapture fascinated,
   Silent and sweet, though near the fate she sad awaited,
   No sound their dream dispelled, yet hand in hand did press,
   Their eyes looked ever in a visioned happiness;
   And so, at last, the evening fell.
   But one affrighted woman straightway broke the spell;
   She fell on Pascal's neck and "Fly, my son!" she cried.
   "I from the Sorcerer come!  Fly, fly from thy false bride
   The fatal sieve{10} hath turned; thy death decree is spoken!
   There's sulphur fume in bridal room, and by the same dread token,
   Enter it not; for if thou liv'st thou'rt lost," she sadly said;
   "And what were life to me, my son, if thou wert dead?"
   Then Pascal felt his eyes were wet,
   And turned away, striving to hide his face, where on
   The mother shrieked, "Ingrate! but I will save thee yet.

   Thou wilt not dare!"--falling before her stricken son.
   "Thou shalt now o'er my body pass, even as thou goest forth!
   A wife, it seems, is all; and mother nothing worth!
   Unhappy that I am!  "The crowd alas! their heavy tears ran down!

   "Marcel," the bridegroom said, "her grief is my despair;
   But love, thou knowest, 's stronger yet; indeed 'tis time to go!
   Only, should I perish, let my mother be thy care."

   "I can no more," cried Marcel, "thy mother's conquered here."
   And then the valiant soldier from his eyelids brushed a tear.
   "Take courage, Pascal, friend of mine
   Thy Franconnette is good and pure.
   That hideous tale was told, of dark design;
   But give thy mother thanks; but for her coming, sure
   This night might yet have seen my death and thine."
   "What say'st thou?" "Hush! now I will tell thee all;
   Thou knowest that I lov'd this maid, Pascal.
   For her, like thee, I would have shed my blood;
   I dreamt that I was loved again; she held me in her thrall.
   Albeit my prayer was aye withstood;
   Her elders promised her to me;
   And so, when other suitors barr'd my way, In spite,
   Saying, in love or war, one may use strategy,
   I gave the wizard gold, my rival to affright,
   Therefore, my chance did everything, insomuch that I said,
   My treasure is already won and made.
   But when, in the same breath, we two our suit made known,
   And when I saw her, without turn of head,
   Choose thee, to my despair, it was not to be borne.
   And then I vow'd her death and thine, before the morrow morn!
   I thought to lead you forth to the bridal bower ere long,
   And then, the bed beside which I had mined with care,
   That they might say no prince or power of th' air
   Is here. That I might burn you for my wrong;
   Ay, cross yourselves, thought I, for you shall surely die!
   But thy mother, with her tears, has made my vengeance fly
   I thought of my own, Pascal, who died so long ago.
   Care thou for thine!  And now fear nought from me, I trow,
   Eden is coming down to earth for thee, no doubt,
   But I, whom henceforth men can only hate and flout,
   Will to the wars away!  For in me something saith
   I may recover from my rout,
   Better than by a crime!  Ay! by a soldier's death!"
   Thus saying, Marcel vanished, loudly cheered on every side;
   And then with deepening blushes the twain each other eyed,
   For now the morning stars in the dark heavens shone
   But now I lift my pencil suddenly.
   Colours for strife and pain have I,
   But for such perfect rapture--none!

   And so the morning came, with softly-dawning light,
   No sound, no stir as yet within the cottage white,
   At Estanquet the people of the hamlets gathered were,
   To wait the waking of the happy married pair.
   Marcel had frankly told th' unhappy truth; Nathless,
   The devil had an awful power,
   And ignorance was still his dower.
   Some feared for bride and bridegroom yet; and guess
   At strange mischance. "In the night cries were heard,"
   Others had seen some shadows on the wall, in wondrous ways.
   Lives Pascal yet?  None dares to dress
   The spicy broth,{11} to leave beside the nuptial door;
   And so another hour goes o'er.
   Then floats a lovely strain of music overhead,
   A sweet refrain oft heard before,
   'Tis the aoubado{12} offered to the newly-wed.

   So the door opes at last, and the young pair was seen,
   She blushed before the folk, but friendly hand and mien,
   The fragments of her garter gives,
   And every woman two receives;
   Then winks and words of ruth from eye and lip are passed,
   And luck of proud Pascal makes envious all at last,
   For the poor lads, whose hearts are healed but slightly,
   Of their first fervent pain,
   When they see Franconnette, blossoming rose-light brightly,
   All dewy fresh, so sweet and sightly,
   They cry aloud, "We'll ne'er believe a Sorcerer again!"


Endnotes to FRANCONNETTE.

{1} Blaise de Montluc, Marshal of France, was one of the bitterest
persecutors of the Hugueuots. Towards the end of the sixteenth century,
Agen was a centre of Protestantism. The town was taken again and again
by the contending religious factions. When Montluc retook the place, in
1562, from Truelle, the Huguenot captain, he found that the inhabitants
had fled, and there was no one to butcher (Gascogne et Languedoc, par
Paul Joanne, p. 95). Montluc made up for his disappointment by laying
waste the country between Fumel and Penne, towns to the north of Agen,
and slaying all the Huguenots--men, women, and children--on whom he
could lay his hands. He then returned to his castle of Estillac, devoted
himself to religious exercises, and "took the sacrament," says Jasmin,
"while his hands were dripping with fraternal blood." Montluc died in
1577, and was buried in the garden of Estillac, where a monument, the
ruins of which still exist', was erected over his remains.

{2} Jour de Dieu!

{3} Wehr-wolves, wizard wolves--loup-garou. Superstitions respecting
them are known in Brittany and the South of France.

{4} Miss Harriett W. Preston, in her article on Jasmin's Franconnette in
the Atlantic Monthly for February, 1876, says: "The buscou, or busking,
was a kind of bee, at which the young people assembled, bringing the
thread of their late spinning, which was divided into skeins of the
proper size by a broad thin plate of steel or whalebone called a busc.
The same thing, under precisely the same name, figured in the toilets
of our grandmothers, and hence, probably, the Scotch use of the verb to
busk, or attire." Jamieson (Scottish Dictionary) says: "The term busk is
employed in a beautiful proverb which is very commonly used in Scotland,
'A bonny bride is soon busked.'"

{5} Miss Preston says this was a custom which prevailed in certain parts
of France. It was carried by the French emigrants to Canada, where it
flourished in recent times. The Sacramental Bread was crowned by one or
more frosted or otherwise ornamented cakes, which were reserved for the
family of the Seigneur, or other communicants of distinction.

{6} At Notre Dame de Bon Encontre, a church in the suburbs of Agen,
celebrated for its legends, its miracles, and the numerous pilgrimages
which are usually made to it in the month of May.

{7} The Angels walked in procession, and sang the Angelos at the
appropriate hours.

{8} The ancient parish church of Roquefort, whose ruins only now remain.
See text for the effects of the storm.

{9} Dounzel is the word used by Jasmin. Miss H. W. Preston says of this
passage: "There is something essentially knightly in Pascal's cast of
character, and it is singular that, at the supreme crisis of his fate,
he assumes, as if unconsciously, the very phraseology of chivalry.
'Some squire (dounzel) should follow me to death,' &c., and we find it
altogether natural and burning in the high-hearted smith. There are many
places where Jasmin addresses his hearers directly as 'Messieurs,' where
the context also makes it evident that the word is emphatic, that he is
distinctly conscious of addressing those who are above him in rank, and
that the proper translation is 'gentles,' or even 'masters'; yet no poet
ever lived who was less of a sycophant."

{10} Low sedas (the sieve) is made of raw silk, and is used for sifting
flour. It has also a singular use in necromancy. When one desires to
know the name of the doer of an act--a theft for instance--the sieve is
made to revolve, but woe to him whose name is spoken just as the sieve
stops!

{11} An ancient practice. Lou Tourrin noubial, a highly-spiced onion
soup, was carried by the wedding guests to the bridegroom at a late hour
of the night.

{12} The aoubado--a song of early morning, corresponding to the serenade
or evening song.





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