Jasmin as Philanthropist.

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

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

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

". . . Man is dear to man; the poorest poor
Long for some moments in a weary life
When they can know and feel that they have been,
Themselves, the fathers and the dealers out
Of some small blessings, have been kind to such
As needed kindness, for the single cause
That we have all of us one human heart."
This maxim of Wordsworth's truly describes the life and deeds of Jasmin. It may be said that he was first incited to exert himself on behalf of charity to his neighbours, by the absence of any Poor Law in France such as we have in England. In the cases of drought, when the crops did not ripen; or in the phylloxera blights, when the grapes were ruined; or in the occasional disastrous floods, when the whole of the agricultural produce was swept away; the small farmers and labourers were reduced to great distress. The French peasant is usually very thrifty; but where accumulated savings were not available for relief, the result, in many cases, was widespread starvation.

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

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

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

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

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

Of course, Jasmin was received with enthusiasm in those towns and cities which he visited for charitable purposes. When it was known that he was about to give one of his poetical recitals, the artisan left

  By PanEris using Melati.

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