Part 4 out of 6
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
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."
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 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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.
Footnotes for Chapter XV.
 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.
 Journal de Toulouse, 4th July, 1840.
 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."
 'Causeries du Lundi,' iv. 241, edit. 1852.
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
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
"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
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
passing through the district, stopped to visit him and praise his
almost divine efforts to help the cause of religion and
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
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!
Footnotes for Chapter XVI.
 The whole of the interview between the Archbishop of Rheims
and Jasmin is given by Sainte-Beuve in 'Causeries du Lundi,' iv.
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
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
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--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
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. 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."
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
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
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." 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
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.
Footnotes for Chapter XVII.
 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
Jasmin was certainly entitled to a share in this benevolent fund.
 Chambers' Edinburgh Journal, July, 1853
 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!"
 The editor of Vol. IV. of Jasmins Poems (1863) gives this
"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."
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
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  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
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
"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
"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
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.
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
"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.
Footnotes to Chapter XVIII.
 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."
 Perhaps this might be better rendered "The Crown of my
Infancy;" in Gascon, "La Courouno del Bres."
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
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
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
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 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."
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
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.
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."
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
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
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
"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.
Footnotes to Chapter XIX.
 'Jasmin, sa Vie et ses OEuvres.' Paris, 1867.
 Le Pays, 14th February, 1854.
 'Las Papillotos de Jasmin,' iv. 56.
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 be was gradually approaching the close of his
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, 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 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 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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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