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more especially if he be hight Jasmin, to remind us of his own oily perfumes, and if, further, he entitle his writings, "Curl-papers," to suggest more homely ideas still. Let no Latinist punster quote to us the line,
Dum canimus sacras alterno pectine nonas ; to us there is no profession so prosaic as a barber's, and for a poet to be found among its members is indeed a prodigy. But Jasmin is that prodigy. The little room behind his shop is full of gifts, presented to him in homage of his genius; admirers in every social and intellectual rank have sent their offerings, and kings are among the contributors. He writes after his name, "Member of the Academies of Agen and Bordeaux." Αι his button-hole he wears the ribbon of the legion of honor-in his case, at least, bestowed upon no unworthy grounds. And the little table beside his counter is covered with favorable reviews by critics whose judgment is stamped with authority, mingled with complimentary letters from correspond ents whose approbation is indeed high praise. All these Jasmin makes no ostentation either of ex
hibiting or of concealing; he has not been spoiled by the flattery he has received; but he is conscious of his own merits, and disdains the mock modesty it would be affectation to assume.
In appearance he is a fine, manly-looking fellow, in manners he is hearty and simple. From the first prepossessing, he gains upon you at every moment, till when he is fairly launched into the recital of one of his poems, and his rich voice does justice to the harmonious Gascon in which they nearly all are written, the animation and feeling he discovers become contagious; your admiration kindles; cold as you may generally be, you are involved in his ardor. You forget the shop in which you stand; all idea of his being a hair-dresser vanishes; you
rise with him into his superior world, and experience in a way you will never forget, the power exercised by a true poet pouring forth his living thoughts in his own verses.
Amongst Jasmin's productions is a picce entitled Mous Soubenis-My Souvenirs. It appeared in 1832. Nothing can give a better idea at once of the man and of the poet than this work; for it not only yields us a retrospect of his life, but exhibits in a peculiar degree the mixture of pathos and humor, of playfulness and passion, which distinguishes him. We shall, therefore, make the acquaintance of the modern troubadour by means of this autobiography. We translate word for
word when we quote in prose.
Aged and broken, the other century had only a couple of years more to pass upon earth, when, at the corner of an old street, in a house where dwelt more than one rat, on Thursday in Shrovetide, behind the door, at the hour when they toss pancakes, of a hunchbacked father and a lame mother, was born a baby, and that baby was I.
The hunchbacked father was a tailor; and, though he could not read, he too was a poet, of a much lower degree, however, than his son. He composed burlesque and occasional couplets for
the charivaris common in the country; but none of these effusions have come down to us-the poor tailor-satirist rests mute and inglorious. Though a thin, weak child, yet "nourished by good milk, and nestling in a warm cradle stuffed with lark's feathers," Jasmin grew, "just as if he had been the son of a king." At the age of seven he was strong enough to accompany his father to the charivaris, whither he went with a horn in his hand, a paper cap on his head, and seemingly much pride of position in his heart. But the greatest delight of his childhood was to go foot and barehead" to gather sticks for his parents in the willow-islands of the Garonne, with a party of some score of his companions. To this day it struck noon, the cry would arise, à l'illo, enchants him to remember how, "as the clock arnits!to the island, friends!" How they then set off, in that country; how, their fagots and their work singing, L'agnel que m'as dounal, a favorite song finished an hour before nightfall, they spent that time in swinging upon the pliant branches, and how they then returned home again, thirty voices bundles of wood danced on thirty heads." chanting the same air and chorus, while thirty
All his amusements, however, were not so innocent. He was a sad robber of orchards; nor his mouth evidently still waters at the recollection does he seem even yet reformed in principle, for of his exploits
Over the hedge and over the wall,
early years, there was a care which cast a gloom But, amid the gayety and carelessness of Jasmin's
over his happiest moments; and it arose from a cause which does not usually much sadden a child. The future poet had an eager thirst for education; the poverty of his parents did not admit of his receiving it. The thought of school, and of his being debarred from it, constantly haunted him ; his poor mother would whisper the word to his grandfather, and then look wistfully at her boy; but there was no help, they had not the means. and his singular desire of knowledge could not be gratified. He could only wish.
The family had evidently a hard battle to sustain. Jasmin's childhood was one of hunger and privation. We find him afterwards alluding to his forced fasts, in some humorous verses addressed
To a Curé of Marmande, who at a great dinner wished to make him observe Lent." We think we hear some troubadour of Raymond's court discharging his pleasantry at the penance-pronouneing St. Dominic, or some of his monk companions.
Cries our abbé, "Sinners all,
Sinners, oh! to be forgiven,
Me your words in no way touch;
But even hunger cannot sink the buoyancy natural to childhood. Jasmin was always merry. Every season had its own pleasures, cheap and natural, but not the less enjoyed. In winter, for instance, they consisted in listening to dreadful stories told by an old woman.
things he had never dreamed of before: that the severe looking woman, who came every morning with an iron pot, bore in it to his grandmother, "sick though still not old," the soup of charity; that the old wallet was what his grandfather used to carry from farmhouse to farmhouse, seeking the scanty doles of his former friends; that no old man ever died in their house, but "that as soon as they took to crutches they were sent to the hospital." So it had been from father to son. Paoure Pepy!-poor grandfather."
One day, however a bright day for him-his mother entered the house joyfully. "Jacques," said she, "Jacques, my son, you shall go to school! Your cousin the schoolmaster takes you for nothing." Six months afterwards the boy could read
he was diligent and had a good memory-six more and he assisted the priest at mass-six more, and as a chorister he struck up the Tantum ergo -six more and he entered the seminary gratui
What delight and what pain I felt when she recounted the Ogre and Little Tom Thumb," when she painted a hundred ghosts, with the noise of a hundred chains, in an old ruin, when she rehearsed theSorcerer" or "Bluebeard," or described the "Loup-garou" howling in the street. Half dead with fear, I dared not breathe, and when, as mid-tously-six more and he was expelled from it with night sounded, I returned home, it seemed as if shame on his face and curses on his head. sorcerers and loups-garoux were always at my this, too, was in the very moment of his first great heels. triumph. He had gained a prize—it was only an So much for imaginary terrors. old cassock-but it was still a prize. His mother The actual came and saw it; full of joy was that poor moththings of life and their stern reality were soon and between her kisses she said to him, forced upon him in a way that left its trace forIt was a Monday. At play with his com- for, thanks to you, they send us every Tuesday a Poor thing! you have a good right to learn; panions, he was their king and they formed his loaf of bread, and this year times are so bad, that In the midst of his reign he sees two God knows it is welcome." Jasmin, very proud, porters approach, bearing an old man seated on a willow chair. They come nearer and nearer, near promised repeatedly that he would become a grand savant, and his mother went away radiant with enough at last for him to distinguish his grandfather. He throws himself round his poor rela-joy. His father, it was arranged, was to lay his professional hands on the cassock and alter it to tive's neck, and asks him anxiously, and in wonder, the boy's size. But that vestment Jasmin was what ails him, why he has left home, where he is To the workhouse, my son," replies never destined to wear. going. He fell, both literally the weeping old man. "The devil, that instigator of "Acòs aqui que lous Jansemins môron-it is there the Jasmins die. evil," ," led him, it seems, near a ladder, at the top He embraced me," continued Jasmin, "and was carried away, shutting his blue eyes-five days afterwards my grandfather was no more." Then, for the first time, the boy felt what poverty really is. This event struck deep into his mind; the recollection of it has since been constantly present to him, and on one occasion, at least, it exercised a salutary influence on his fortunes. last, more prosperous days came, he found great satisfaction in making a bonfire of the old willow chair in which his forefathers, "all the Jasmins," had been carried to their almshouse death-bed. With this incident the first canto closes.
of which a plump servant maid was perched, occupied-type of innocence-in feeding pigeons in a dove-cot above her. He mounted the ladder one,
two, three, four steps, Kitty turned and uttered a
scream, the ladder was thrown over, and both came
So wicked and so young! As Heaven is my guard,
The second begins with an inventory of the family furniture, in which figure, among other things, "three old beds in ruins; six old curtains, which the wind from the crannies would have caused to belly out like sails, if they had not been eaten by time and rats into the semblance of Shut up in his cell, Jasmin was far from being sieves; a sideboard frequently subjected to threat miserable. He had, it seems, visions of lovely of bailiff-it was the only thing worth seizing-women, who, and an old wallet hanging in a corner." He had not before remarked the scantiness of their possessions, but his eyes were now opened. He saw how slender were his parents' means, and he learned
Sweet consolers of disgrace,
Never o'er a couch so bare Wantoned dreams so fresh and fair.
From these pleasant visions, however, Jasmin awoke to the direful reality of hunger-a reality which causes him emphatically to deny the truth of the proverb, "qui dron munjo❞—he who sleeps dines. To tantalize him more, from the valiant spits hard at work in the kitchen, ascended, coming through the keyhole, and impelled by the 66 great devil," an odor of unctuous and most delectable meats. It is the carnival, and he is in prison, alone and hungry. He becomes desperate, his eye flashes with rage, and at that moment it falls on a cupboard in the wall-high up, but secured only by a wooden pin. The means of ascent are speedily furnished by a table, some washing lines, and four chairs; on this ladder, at the risk of his neck, he climbs. Opening the cupboard he beholds in the interior four pots; "trembling like a king upon his throne," he draws one of them towards him; something soft and black flows out on his face and trickles to his mouth; he tastes"triumph it is quince marmalade!"
"But at this moment who is coming up stairs? -who fumbles at the door?-who opens it?who enters ?-O, terror! it is the principal himself-bearing a pardon." But what a sad and unexpected sight meets his eye! Of course it was all over with Jasmin. There had been forgiveness for his other transgression, but for this there was none-a boy who eats a canon's own particular choice quince marmalade, puts himself beyond the pale of mercy. With a cry of " Out, you devil, out!" the enraged ecclesiastic shook the frail scaffold Jasmin, followed by a pot or two, tumbled from his bad eminence, and was summarily expelled from the seminary. His face being still besmeared with the stolen sweets, the carnivalkeepers, as he ran through the streets, saluted him with jeering cries of "A mask! a mask!" but escaping from his tormentors he at last got home, sore with his fall and very hungry. Here he found the table laid, and some beans cooking-but there was no bread.
"You need not wait for it," said
life, and at the opening of the third canto the schoolboy has become apprentice to a hair-dresser, and is now, as he says, almost a man. Engaged the greater part of each day in adorning outwardly the heads of others, he devoted all his spare hours to storing the interior of his own. Every night the ray of a lamp, shining from a and in his bed, waking the night through, he garret window, lit up the neighboring elm-tree; lulled asleep his griefs by reading, forgetting for So he lived, "unhappy and contented." He also the time the ring, the wallet, and the workhouse. now began to write verses, addressed in the first place, strangely enough, to the heroine of a novel, to pray her to be his guardian angel. he says, ever in his thoughts; and when, during his occupations of the day, the terrible thought of the workhouse presented itself as it seems constantly to have done he had for solace only vented his minding his proper business, and he this sweet unsubstantiality. This of course pre
How often, when dreaming, in terror or hope, My razor too heedlessly played!
And over a visage of lather and soap What staggers and stumbles it made! doubt many a worthy citizen of Agen had to curse the ideal Estella who possessed the thoughts of the awkward and romantic barber's boy.
But from romance-reading Jasmin came play-going. One evening he chanced to mingle with a crowd assembled before a large house; the doors suddenly opened, and the throng, entering precipitately, bore him along in its current. Where am I? Heavens! Why is that curtain raised?
How fine! Another country! Am I crazed? How well they sing! How soft they speak, yet`
But all to see and all to hear
My ears and eyes too much are mazed. "Tis Cinderella!" loud I cried-" 't is she, I say."
"Silence!" my neighbor muttered;
his mother to her children, sadly but tenderly;"Why so, sir? What is this, where are we, "it will not come."
They were without bread. "O poverty! O repentance! O well-turned ankles and quince marmalade! O Kitty, and O canon!"-the ration had been stopped because of his misconduct the previous day! After a while his mother cast a glance at her hand, and then exclaiming, "Wait a little-yes, you shall have it!" she goes out. She soon returns with a loaf, and all the family regain their spirits; Jacques alone is serious and watchful-watchful of his mother-serious, for he has his fears. They finish their beanporridge she prepares to cut the loaf-he observes her closely-observes her left hand. Alas! it was true—“ n'abiò plus soun anèl”—she had sold her marriage ring!
This is the end of the second canto, or pause." Jasmin here passes over a year of his
pray?" I stuttered :
"You fool! you 're at the play!"
This gave a new direction to his thoughts; that night Cinderella supplanted poor Estella in his affections. He talked in his sleep, made long speeches, and disturbed his master's house. The ire of the old barber was of course kindled, and in the morning he ascends to his apprentice's garret to scold him. The scene which follows is inimitable. The dreamy, imaginative, easily impressioned boy, lying on the floor of the room, and just awakened from silvery visions of fairyland and the beautiful Cinderella; the practical, sober, methodical, but withal good-natured master, standing with authority over him, and questioning him the professional pride of the worthy man as he tells the lad that he is unfit to be a barber, and had better turn player-his horror at finding
himself unexpectedly taken at his word his scene in which they, as well as his sisters, are broken remonstrances, half indignation, half pity, introduced in a comfortable family picture, the and the unlooked for effect of his chance expres-only drawback on the happiness of the party sion, "Infatuated boy! do you wish to die in the being their indignation at some complimentary workhouse?"—which, by the terrible reminis- verses which termed the poet a son of Apollo," cences it calls up, restores the stage-struck ap- and thereby, as they thought, cast doubts on the prentice to his proper senses-are all sketched fair character of his mother. with so masterly a hand, in a few vigorous lines, that the incident, than which nothing could in itself be more commonplace, becomes eminently interesting and dramatic. But it is the peculiar merit of Jasmin, as, indeed, it is his professed aim, to depict the natural, to adhere closely to the true, to represent every-day occurrences, and simply putting them in their proper light, or by directing on them the illumination of his poetry, to give to even the most ordinary personages and events the effect and attraction which are usually considered as being confined to the romantic, the exciting, and the improbable.
Two years went by after the memorable visit to the theatre; Jasmin was now nearly eighteen years of age, the future began to brighten, and at last an important day in his history arrived-his own little "saloun" (saloon) for hair-dressing was opened. It was not much frequented at first; customers were few and fortune niggardly, "mais se non plèou, rouzino"-if it did not rain, it drizzled. And soon he became completely happy. "He found in the world," he says, a spirit that pleased him," he fell in love, that is to say. His wooing was successful; his marriage day came; "in a renovated hat, in a blue coat-new for the second time, and with a shirt of coarse stuff, having a calico front," he carried away his bride, the pleasing, good-natured little woman whom we have seen at Agen.
His later history he passes lightly over. You know the rest, (he says, addressing himself to M. Florimond de St. Amant, to whom the "Soubenis" are dedicated.) Fifteen years have passed; the "Curl-papers" and other songs have attracted to my shop a little stream of so silvery a nature, that in my poetic ardor I broke to pieces the terrible chair. My fears are gone; so much so, that reading the other day that Pegasus is a horse which carries poets to the almshouse, I filled the whole house with my laughter. I, for my part, have been carried by that steed, not to the almshouse, but to a certain notary's office; and now, in the full pride of my greatness, I rejoice to see myself figuring on the list of the tax-gatherer, being the first of my family who has had that honor. It is true, the honor costs something; but no matter, our house shelters us against wind and rain, though behind it is certainly but imperfectly roofed in. But my wife says to me, "Courage! every verse you make is a tile, and it is rafters you are squaring when you write;" and she who at first, when my verses were not so argentiferous, used to lock up my paper and split my pen, now offers me, with a courteous air, the finest pen and the smoothest paper.
It is pleasing to find that both the parents of Jasmin lived to see and to profit by their son's success; for the "Soubenis" conclude with a
In the same little shop Jasmin still remains. But his fame soon went forth. In 1835 we find him reciting his verses amid the applause of the critical Academy of Bordeaux; and in 1840, raising to extraordinary enthusiasm an immense mixed multitude at Toulouse. Passing over, however, his other triumphs, we come to his reception at Paris, an account of which he gives in a piece entitled "My Journey." The scene is the saloon of M. Augustin Thierry, the learned and accomplished author of the "History of the Norman Conquest." The illustrious writer, whose eyes a "thick drop serene" has obscured forever, is seated as usual in his arm-chair, a melancholy calm upon his fine features, his devoted wife is beside him, around him are assembled the most distinguished people of Parispoets, critics, orators—the learned, the witty, the imaginative. The eyes of all are turned upon a man who, with the embarrassment of modesty, but with the just confidence of conscious power, prepares to read a poem of his own. He announces it as "The Blind Girl of Castèl-Cuillè." There is a movement of curiosity, not a few looks of incredulity, one or two of the party manifest something approaching to a sneer-for the pretended poet is a hair-dresser, and writes in patois.
The effect is chilling for the poor man; his southern ardor feels the frost of the atmosphere. He has an awful reverence for the great men round him, and he is crushed by their superiority. Their conventional politeness, so different from Gascon warmth, is painfully scrupulous; he is a stranger too, and so alone.
How shall he move such an audience? How shall his simple "Abuglo" touch their hearts? He sees that they are resolved not to be influenced in his favor by the mere curiosity of the thing-by the phenomenon of a barber making tolerable verses, and venturing so boldly to recite them on such ground; he sees he must stand or fall by his real merits. Let him describe his own emotions.
A crowd of learned men and women waited coldly till I should open my lips, to measure my mind and my words. And it is not in Paris as on the banks of the Garonne. At home all are my friends, here all are judges; and he who comes to establish his name, if he does not gain a throne, finds nothing but a tomb. Doubtless they had an amicable air towards me-they even called me a poet; but I saw, by the expression of their eyes, how difficult my proof would be; and then, none of them understood our sweet, smooth language. I was dumb-I was afraid. I changed from hot to cold, and from cold to hot. In vain the magnificent countenance of the blind man grew bright with kindness towards me-in vain his guardian
angel, his gentle companion, touched me with her golden wing. I trembled-I wished to go away.
But at last he took courage. He began his "Abuglo," and from the first his success was complete. He was frequently interrupted by the applause of his hearers. That evening was decisive. Twenty-six times, he tells us, within fifteen days, he repeated his recitation, the last of them being before the then royal family at Neuilly. Covered with applause and honor, he returned to his beloved Agen; and the year after he received a substantial proof of the estimation in which his poetry was held, an annual pension of a thousand francs being allotted to him by the Minister of
He loves, when all things verdant beam,
rest then here; not rich, but free;
With water from my spring, with bread of rye :
I wept too long 't is time to laugh and sing;
In which our days so soon will have been told,
In the preceding translation we have endeavored Since then he has remained perfectly contented to preserve something of the rhythm of the origiin his native town, making occasional tours, and nal, which, in almost all Jasmin's productions' is reciting his works to admiring crowds in the very arbitrary. He mingles short lines with long different places of the south, but refusing all lines at pleasure; one of fifteen syllables shall, solicitation to leave his present position. One of for instance, precede one of two; to a series of the most pleasing of his many pleasing poetical stately hexameters shall succeed a flight of epistles is on this subject, and contains his rea- trochaics, in many of which the verse is composed sons for not following the advice of a "rich agri- of a single word. Such license, though common culturist near Toulouse, who incessantly wrote to enough among French writers in the composition him to go and establish himself in Paris, where of fables and the like, has never been considered he would make his fortune." It is too long to by them admissible in the more elevated style; quote entire, but we select from it some passages, but Jasmin's innovation is as successful as it was of which even the author of the ode, "Rectius vives," would have had no cause to be ashamed.
Why do you always repeat to me, (he says,) that money is money, and that fame is only fame? My eye is fixed on a laurel; a little sprig of it will, I hope, one day be mine; and compared with that sprig, all the riches of the world are to me as nothing. Besides, I do not know how to use wealth-wealth would spoil me. I cannot employ it usefully as you do; you, who while you enrich yourself, enrich a hundred others.
No! I should do as upstarts always do,
In Agen, then, content and poor,
Beneath the shade of ash or thorn,
In the same place where I was born.
When once is come the summer sky,
Their chirp of zigo, ziou, ziou,
The wandering sparrows quit their homes, and fly
daring. But if his rhythm is irregular, his rhymes
Al tour del mayne d'Estanquet,
Uno poulido fillo, en amassan de flous,
Al brut de soun himou jouyouzo,
Perquè nou canto plus? Prats et sègos berdejon,
Bènon l'agarreja jusquo dins soun cazal ;
Es akki, labas, sur soun ban;
Soun cazalet tapaou n'a plus tan bouno mino;
Soun pel las jounquillos boulcâdos;