Barber and Hair-dresser

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

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

After the day's work was over, the apprentice retired to his garret under the tiles. There he spent his evenings, and there he slept at night. Though the garret was infested by rats, he thought nothing of them; he had known them familiarly at home. They did him no harm, and they even learnt to know him. His garret became his paradise, for there he renewed his love of reading. The solitariness of his life did him good, by throwing his mind in upon himself, and showing the mental stuff of which he was made. All the greatest and weightiest things have been done in solitude.

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

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

The first books he read were of comparatively little importance, though they furnished an opening into literature. 'The Children's Magazine'2 held him in raptures for a time. Some of his friendly customers lent him the 'Fables of Florian,' and afterwards Florian's pastoral romance of 'Estelle'--perhaps his best work. The singer of the Gardon entirely bewitched Jasmin. 'Estelle' allured him into the rosy-fingered regions of bliss and happiness. Then Jasmin himself began to rhyme. Florian's works encouraged him to write his first verses in the harmonious Gascon patois, to which he afterwards gave such wonderful brilliancy.

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

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

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

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

  By PanEris using Melati.

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