'The Blind Girl of Castle-Cuille'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The paths with buds and blossoms strew,
A lovely bride approaches nigh;
For all should bloom and spring anew,
A lovely bride is passing by!"2
Under the blue sky and brilliant sunshine, the joyous young people frisked along. The picture of youth, gaiety, and beauty, is full of truth and nature. The bride herself takes part in the frolic. With roguish eyes she escapes and cries: " Those who catch me will be married this year!" And then they descend the hill towards the church of Saint-Amans. Baptiste,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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