Jasmin's recitations in Paris.

Assembly at Augustin Thierry's-- The 'Blind Girl' Recited-- The Girl's Blindness-- Interruptions of Thierry-- Ampere Observation-- Jasmin's love of Applause-- Interesting Conversation-- Fetes at Paris-- Visit to Louis Philippe and the Duchess of Orleans-- Recitals before the Royal Family-- Souvenirs of the Visit-- Banquet of Barbers and Hair-dressers-- M. Chateaubriand-- Return to Agen

It was a solemn and anxious moment for Jasmin when he appeared before this select party of the most distinguished literary men in Paris: he was no doubt placed at a considerable disadvantage, for his judges did not even know his language. He had frequently recited to audiences who did not know Gascon; and on such occasions he used, before commencing his recitation, to give in French a short sketch of his poem, with, an explanation of some of the more difficult Gascon words. This was all; his mimic talent did the rest. His gestures were noble and well-marked. His eyes were flashing, but they became languishing when he represented tender sentiments. Then his utterance changed entirely, often suddenly, following the expressions of grief and joy. There were now smiles, now tears in his Voice.

It was remarkable that Jasmin should first recite before the blind historian The Blind Girl of Castel- Cuillé. It may be that he thought it his finest poem, within the compass of time allotted to him, and that it might best please his audience. When he began to speak in Gascon he was heard with interest. A laugh was, indeed, raised by a portion of his youthful hearers, but Jasmin flashed his penetrating eye upon them; and there was no more laughter. When he reached the tenderest part he gave way to his emotion, and wept. Tears are as contagious as smiles; and even the academicians, who may not have wept with Rachel, wept with Jasmin. It was the echo of sorrow to sorrow; the words which blind despair had evoked from the blind Margaret.

All eyes were turned to Thierry as Jasmin described the girl's blindness. The poet omitted some of the more painful lines, which might have occasioned sorrow to his kind entertainer. These lines, for instance, in Gascon:

"Jour per aoutres, toutjour! et per jou, malhurouzo,
Toutjour nèy! toutjour nèy!
Que fay negre lèn d'el! Oh! que moun amo és tristo!
Oh! que souffri, moun Diou! Couro bèn doun, Batisto!"
or, as translated by Longfellow:

"Day for the others ever, but for me
For ever night! for ever night!
When he is gone, 'tis dark! my soul is sad!
I suffer! O my God! come, make me glad."
When Jasmin omitted this verse, Thierry, who had listened with rapt attention, interrupted him. "Poet," he said,"you have omitted a passage; read the poem as you have written it." Jasmin paused, and then added the omitted passage. "Can it be?" said the historian: "surely you, who can describe so vividly the agony of those who cannot see, must yourself have suffered blindness!" The words of Jasmin might have been spoken by Thierry himself, who in his hours of sadness often said, "I see nothing but darkness today."

At the end of his recital Jasmin was much applauded. Ampère, who had followed him closely in the French translation of his poem, said: "If Jasmin had never written verse, it would be worth going a hundred leagues to listen to his prose." What charmed his auditors most was his frankness. He would even ask them to listen to what he thought his best verses. "This passage," he would say, "is very fine." Then he read it afresh, and was applauded. He liked to be cheered. "Applaud! applaud!" he said at the end of his reading, "the clapping of your hands will be heard at Agen."

After the recitation an interesting conversation took place. Jasmin was asked how it was that he first began to write poetry; for every one likes to know the beginnings of self-culture. He thereupon entered into a brief history of his life; how he had been born poor; how his grandfather had died at the hospital; and how he had been brought up by charity. He described his limited education and his admission to the barber's shop; his reading of Florian; his determination to do something of a similar kind; his first efforts, his progress, and eventually his success. He said that his object was to rely upon nature and truth, and to invest the whole with imagination and sensibility --that delicate touch which vibrated through all the poems he had written. His auditors were riveted by his sparkling and brilliant conversation.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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