I MUST beg leave to remark in passing that I have constantly recurring doubts about the fitness for English verse, especially in earnest and impassioned narrative, of the Alexandrine or iambic hexameter, which forms the basis of all Jasmin’s longer poems. It is, however, difficult to find a substitute for it. The iambic pentameter, our natural narrative metre, is one foot shorter, and the Gascon of Jasmin is not easily condensed. Moreover, the pentameter does not lend itself readily to rhythmic variations and caprices, and so I am fain, though diffidently, still to follow the movement of the original.
In a preface dated July 4, 1840, Jasmin dedicated the poem of Françonette to the city of Toulouse, thereby expressing his gratitude for a banquet given him in 1836 by the leading citizens of that place, at which the president of the day had given the toast, “Jasmin, the adopted son of Toulouse.” The action of the poem begins during the persecutions of the French Protestants in the sixteenth century. Blaise de Montluc, Marshal of France, after putting men, women, and children of the Huguenots, indiscriminately to the sword, had shut himself up in the Château d’Estillac, and was understood to be devoting himself to religious exercises; “taking the sacrament while dripping with fraternal blood,” says the poet.
At the bare name of Huguenot would shiver with affright
Amid their loves and laughter. So then it came to pass
In a hamlet nestling underneath a castled height,
On the day of Roquefort fête, while Sunday bells outrang,
The jocund youth danced all together,
And, to a fife, the praises sang
Of Saint James and the August weather, —
That bounteous month which year by year,
Through dew-fall of the even clear
And fire of tropic noons, doth bring
Both grapes and figs to ripening.
'T was the very finest fete that eyes had ever seen
'n the shadow of the vast and leafy parasol Where aye the country-folk convene.
O’erflowing were the spaces all;
Down cliff, up dale, from every home
In Montagnac or Saint Colombe,
Still they come,
Too many far to number;
More and more, more and more, while flames the
But there “s room for all, their coming will not cumber ;
For the fields will be their iun, and the little hillocks green
The couches of their slumber.
Among them came Françonette, the belle of the country - side, concerning whom we are besought to allow the poet just two words.
This was a soft and pensive creature,
Lily-fair in every feature,
With tender eyes and languishing, half-shut and
heaven blue ;
With light and slender shape in languor ever swaying,
Like a weeping willow with a limpid fountain playing;
Not so, my masters ; Françonette
Had vivid, flashing orbs, like the stars in heaver set;
And the laughing cheeks were round, whereon a lover might
Gather in handfuls roses bright.
Brown locks and curly decked her head,
Her lips were as the cherry red,
Whiter than snow her teeth, her feet
How softly molded, small and fleet!
How light her limbs ! Ah, welladay !
What if the whole at once I say ?
Hers was the very head ideal
Grafted on woman of this earth, most fair and real!
Such a miracle the poet says may be wrought in any rank or race, to the envy of maidens and the despair of men. All the swains in a wide region about Roquefort admired Françonette, and the girl knew it, and it made her beauty shine the brighter. Yet she felt her triumph to be incomplete, until Pascal, the handsomest of them all, and incomparably the best singer, who hitherto had held somewhat aloof, should fairly acknowledge her sway. Her good old grandmother, with whom she lived (for her mother was dead, and her father had disappeared in her own infancy and his fate was unknown), detected her coquettish manœuvres and reproved them:
“ A meadow’s not a parlor, and the country " not the town!
And thou knowest that we promised thee lang-syne
To the soldier-lad, Marcel, who is lover true of thine.
So curb thy flights, thou giddy one,
For the maid who covets all, in the end, mayhap,
“ Nay, nay,” replied the tricksy fay,
With swift caress and laughter gay
Darting upon the dame, “ there’s another saw well
Time enough, granny dear, to love some later day !
Meanwhile, she who hath only one hath none.'”
Made hosts of melancholy swains,
Who sighed and suffered jealous pains,
Yet never sang reproachful strains
Like learned lovers when they pine ;
Who, ere they go away to die, their woes write carefully
On willow or on poplar tree.
Good lack ! those could not shape a letter,
And the silly souls, though lovesick, to death did
Deeming to live and suffer on were better !
But tools were handled clumsily,
And vine-sprays blew abroad at will,
And trees were pruned exceeding ill,
And many a furrow drawn awry.
Watch while she treads one measure, then ! See,
see her dip and twirl!
Young Étienne holds her hand by chance,
“T is the first rigadoon they dance ;
With parted lips, right thirstily
Each rustic tracks them whure they fly,
And the damsel sly
Feels every eye,
And lighter moves for each adoring glance.
Holy cross, what a sight! when the madcap rears
Her shining lizard’s head, and her Spanish foot falls
And when the wasp-like figure sways
And swims and whirls and springs again,
And the wind with a corner of the blue kerchief plays,
One and all smack their lips, and the cheeks whereon they gaze
Would fain salute with kisses twain.
And some one shall; for here the ancient custom is
Who tires his partner out may leave her with a kiss;
Now girls turn weary when they will, always and everywhere.
Wherefore already Jean and Paul,
Louis, Guillaume, Pierre,
Have breathless yielded up their place
Without the coveted embrace.
It is now the turn of Marcel, the big, blustering soldier, comely enough in feature, “ straight as an I,” boastful and vain, who makes a claim to the hand of Françonette, which the village belle has never allowed. He has tried all manner of clumsy stratagems to entrap her into a formal acceptance. He has ostentatiously paraded every smile which he has won from any other damsel in the vain hope of exciting her jealousy, and now, having witnessed the discomfiture of so many of his rivals, strides forward and takes her hand with an air of intense confidence and satisfaction. The dance begins anew, and is watched with breathless interest. On they go for an incredible while, and Françonette apparently grows fresher with every figure, but the herculean soldier is tired out at last, turns giddy, and reels : —
Two steps they take, one change they make, and Françonette,
Weary at last, with laughing grace
Her foot stayed and upraised her face ;
Tarried Pascal that kiss to set ?
Not he, be sure ! and all the crowd
His victory hailed with plaudits loud.
The clapping of their palms like battledores resounded,
While Pascal stood among them as confounded.
How then Marcel, who truly loved the wayward fair?
Him the kiss maddened. Springing, measuring
with his eye,
“ Pascal,”he thundered forth, “beware !
Not so fast, churl! ” and therewith brutally let fly
With aim unerring one fierce blow
Straight in the other’s eyes, doubling the insult so.
A shadow as of a thunder-cloud fell on the merry fête. “ A man need not be a monsieur,” says Jasmin, to resent an insult, and the fiery Pascal returned the blow with interest. Directly, with a zest which would appear to be peculiarly Gascon, the two engaged on the spot in a terrific duel. They fought for a long time without decided advantage on either side, the sympathies of the on-lookers being mostly with Pascal, until suddenly there appeared among them a “ gentleman all gleaming with gold,” no other than the lord of the manor, the Baron of Roquefort himself, who sternly separated the combatants. The young shepherds cheered the wounded Pascal to his dwelling, while Marcel turned silently away vowing vengeance on them all, and swearing that Françonette should marry no man but him. The next canto opens in mid-winter, when notice is carried round by Jean the tambourinist, among the countryfolk, now secluded upon their comparatively silent farms, of a grand busking,1 followed by a dance, to take place on Friday, the last night of the year : —
And by a fireless forge a mother sat complaining ;
And to her son, who stood thereby,
Spoke out at last entreatingly :
“ Hast forgot the summer day, my boy, when thou
All bleeding from the fray to the sound of music
Ah, go not forth, Pascal! I have dreamed of flowers
And what means that but tears and pain ? ”
“ Now art thou craven, mother! and seest life all
But wherefore tremble, since Marcel is gone and
comes not back? ”
“ Oh yet, my son, take heed, I pray,
For the Wizard of‘the Black Wood is roaming
round this way, —
The same who wrought such harm a year agone.
And they tell mo there was seen coming from his
cave at dawn,
But two days past, a soldier. Now
What if that were Marcel ? Oh, child, take care, takecare!
The mothers all give charms unto their sons : do
Take mine, but, I beseech, go not forth anywhere ! ”
“ Just for one hour mine eyes to set
On friend Thomas ! No more, my mother.”
“ Thy friend, indeed ! Nay, nay ! Thou meanest on
Dreamest I cannot see thou lovest no Other ?
Go to! I read it in thine eyes.
Though thou singest and art gay, thy secret bravely keeping,
That I may not be sad, yet all alone thou ’rt weeping.
My heart aches for thy miseries ;
Yet leave her, for thy good, Pascal!
She would so scorn a smith like thee,
With sire grown old in penury :
For poor we are ; thou knowest all —
How we have sold and sold till barely a scythe remains.
Oh, dark the days this house hath seen,
Pascal, since thou hast ailing been !
Now thou art well, arouse thee ! do something for
Or rest thee if thou wilt; we can suffer, we can
But for God’s love go thou not forth to-night! ”
After a short struggle with himself Pascal yielded, and turned away to his forge in silent dejection, and soon the anvil was ringing and the sparks were flying, while away down in the village the busking went merrily on. “ If the prettiest were always the most capable,” says the sensible poet, " how much my Françonette would have accomplished; ” but instead she flitted from place to place, idle and gay, jesting, singing, and, as usual, bewitching all. At last Thomas, the friend of whom Pascal had spoken to his mother, asked leave to sing a song, and fixing his keen eyes upon the coquette, he began in tones of lute-like sweetness, —
O maid of wayward will,
O icy-hearted siren,
The hour we all desire when
Thou too, thou too shalt feel!
Thy gay wings thou dost flutter,
Thy airy nothings utter,
While the crowd can only mutter
In ecstasy complete
At thy feet.
Yet hark to one who proves thee
Thy victories are vain,
Until a heart that loves thee
Thou hast learned to love again !
We welcome with delight;
But thy sweet face returning,
With every Sunday morning,
Is yet a rarer sight.
We love thy haughty graces,
Thy swallow-like, swift paces
Thy song the soul upraises,
Thy lips, thine eyes, thy hair,
All are fair,
Yet hark to one who proves thee, etc.
All places utterly ;
The hedgerows and the meadows
Turn scentless ; gloomy shadows
Discolor the blue sky.
Then, when thou comest again,
Farewell fatigue and pain !
Life glows in every vein ;
O'er every slender finger
We would linger,
Yet hark to one who proves thee, etc.
Doth warn thee, lady fair !
Thee, in the wood forgetting,
Brighter for his dim setting
He shines, for love is there!
Love is the life of all,
Oh answer thou his call,
Lest the flower of thy days fall,
And the grace whereof we wot
Be forgot !
For till great love shall move thee
Thy victories are vain.
'T is little men should love thee,
Learn thou to love again !
There arose a clamor of approbation and cries for the name of the composer, which Thomas gave without hesitation, Pascal. Franponette was unwontedly touched, and yet more when, in reply to some inquiry about his absence that night, she heard Thomas explaining that his friend had been six months ill from the severe wound which he received in defense of Françonette, and that the family, dependent on his labor, had sunk into extreme poverty. But she concealed her emotion sedulously, and was in the midst of a game of sarro coutelou, cache cauteau, or hunt the slipper, and the life of it, when a sudden misfortune interrupted their sport. Amid her struggles to free herself from Laurent, who had caught her and was claiming the customary forfeit, Françonette caused him to slip on the floor, and it presently appeared that his arm was broken. Precisely at this unlucky moment a sombre apparition dawned on the assembly: —
With girdle swept by flowing beard ;
'T was the Black Forest Wizard I All knew him and all feared.
“ Wretches,” he said, “ I am come from my gloomy rocks up yonder
To open your eyes, being filled with ruth for you and wonder !
You all adore this Françonette ;
Learn who she is, infatuate !
Her sire, a poor man and an evil,
While yet the babe in cradle sate
Went over to the Huguenots, and sold her to the Devil I
Her mother is dead of grief and shame,
And thus the demon plays his game.
Full closely doth he guard his slave,
Unseen he tracks her high and low.
See Laurent and Pascal ! Did Doth not come to woe
Just for one light embrace she gave?
Be warned in time! For whoso dares this maid to wed,
Amid the brief delight of his first nuptial night
Suddenly hears a dreadful thunder-peal o'erhead !
The Demon cometh in his might
To snatch the bride away in flight
And leave the ill-starred bridegroom — dead.”
From the scars his visage bore, seemed suddenly to blaze.
Four times he turned his heel upon,
Then bade the door stand wide or ever his foot he
With one long groan the door obeyed,
And lo, the bearded man was gone !
Only the stricken maid herself stood brave against
her wrong ;
And in the hope forlorn that all might pass for jest,
With tremulous smile, half bright, half pleading,
She swept them with her eyes, and two steps for
ward pressed ;
But when she saw them all receding,
And heard them say " Avaunt! ” her fate
She knew. Then did her eyes dilate
With speechless terror more and more,
The while her heart beat fast and loud,
Till with a cry her head she bowed,
And sank iu swoon upon the floor.
It is very characteristic of Jasmin that he pauses at this crisis of the story earnestly to explain and excuse the dense superstition of his country folk at that period, whereby it came to pass that the once radiant and triumphant Françonette was shunned thenceforward as an accursed thing. These frequent confidences of the poet with his reader are so perfectly unstudied that they add wonderfully to the vraisemblance of his tale. The third canto opens with a lovely picture of a cottage by a leafy brookside in Estanquet, one of the hamlets adjacent to Roquefort (and where tradition still identifies the home of Françonette). There, when the next spring opened, the “ jealous birds ” listened in vain for a girlish voice, the music of which in years gone by had been sweeter than their own. At last the nightingales, more curious than the rest, made their way into the maid’s garden, and what did they see? Her straw hat lay on a bench; there was no ribbon about the crown. Her rake and watering-pot were dropped among her neglected jonquils ; the branches of her rose-trees ran riot. Peering yet farther, even inside the cottage door, these curious birds discovered an old woman asleep in an arm-chair, and a pale, quiet girl beside her, who, from time to time, let fall a tear upon her little hands. “ It is Françonette,” says the poet. “ You will have guessed that already.”
On the terrible New Years Eve just described, when Françonette bad fled for shelter to the arms of her good old grandmother, the latter had soothed her as best she might by solemn assurances that the sorcerer’s cruel charge was false. But how could it be proved so save by Françonette’s father, whose whereabouts no one knew, even if he were alive, so long ago had he vanished from the place? For the remainder of the winter the two women lived almost alone, neglected by all their neighbors, and scarce venturing abroad. Only with the return of spring, one sweet gleam of hope had come to Françonette with the rumor that Pascal defended her everywhere, and boldly declared her to be the victim of a brutal plot. She was dreamins; of his goodness even now, and it was this which had softened her proud spirit to tears. But her trance was dispelled by a sudden, sharp cry from the aged sleeper: —
And caught the awesome word, " Is the wall not
all aflame ? ”
And then : “ Ah, ’t was a dream! Thank God ! ”
the murmur came.
“ Dear heart,” the girl said softly, " what was this
dream of thine ! ”
“ O love, ’t was night, and loud, ferocious men,
Were lighting fires all round our cot,
And thou didst cry unto them, daughter mine,
To save me, but didst vainly strive,
And here we two must burn alive !
Oh torment that I bare', flow shall I cure my
Come hither, darling, let me hold thee tight! ”
Long time with yearning tenderness folded the
brown-haired girl, who strove
By many a smile and mute caress
To hearten her, until at length
The aged one cried out, for that love gave her
“ Sold to the demon? Thou ! It is a hideous lie !
Wherefore weep not so patiently
And childlike, but take heart once more,
For thou art lovelier than before,
Take granny’s word for that! Arise,
Go forth ! Who hides from envious eyes
The thirst of envy slakes. I have heard so o'er
and o'er !
Also I know full well there is one who loves thee
Only a word he waiteth to claim thoe for his own.
Thou likest not Marcel ? But he could guard thee,
And I am all too feeble grown.
Or stay, my darling, stay! To-morrow’s Easter
Go thou to mass, and pray as ne'er before !
Then take the blessed bread, if so the good God may
The precious favor of his former smile restore ;
And, on thy sweet face, clear as day,
Prove thou art numbered with his children evermore.”
Then such a light of hope lit the faded face again,
Furrowed so deep with years and pain,
That, falling on her neck the maiden promised well
And once more on the white cot silence fell.
To list the hallelujahs in the church of Saint-pierre
Great was their wonderment who spied
The maiden Frarnçonette silently kneeling there,
Telling her beads with downcast eyes of prayer.
She hath need, poor little thing, Heaven’s mercy to
Never a woman’s will she win,
For these, beholding her sweet mien,
And Marcel and Pascal, who eyed her fondly o’er
Smote her with glances black as night;
Then, shrinking back, left her alone,
Midway of a great circle, as they might
Some guilty and condemnèd one,
Branded upon his brow in sight.
Nor was this all. A man well known,
Warden and uncle to Marcel,
Carried the blessèd Easter bread,
And like a councilor did swell,
In long-tailed coat, with pompous tread.
But when the trembling maid, signing the cross, essayed
To take a double portion, as the dear old grandame bade
Right in the view of every eye
The sacred basket he withdrew, and passed her wholly by.
And so, denied her portion of the bread whereby we live
Site, on glad Easter, doth receive
Dismissal from God’s house for aye !
Death-sick with fear, she deemeth all is lost indeed.
But no, — she hath a friend at need.
Pascal hath seen her all the while ;
Pascal’s young foot is on the aisle ;
He is making the quest, and, nothing loath,
In view of uncle and of nephew both,
Quietly doth to her present
Upon a silver plate, with fair flowers blossoming,
The crown-piece1 of the holy element,
And all the world beholds the thing.
Warmth was in all her frame, and her senses
thrilled once more,
As the body of God arisen
Out of its deathly prison
Could life unto her own restore.
But wherefore did her brow suddenly rosy grow ?
Because the angel of love, I trow,
Did with his glowing breath impart
Life to the flame long smoldering in her wayward heart,
Because a something strange, and passing all desire,
As honey sweet, and quick as fire,
Did her sad soul illuminate
With a new being; and, though late,
She knew the name of her delight,
The fair enigma she could guess.
People and priest vanished from sight,
And she saw in all the church only one man aright,
He whom she loved at last with utmost gratefulness.
Of all I here have been rehearsing,
But lose not sight of her at all
Who hath home the bread of honor to the ancient
dame ere this,
And sitteth now alone, shut in her chamber small,
Face to face with her new-found bliss.
First mild sun-ray in winter, ye are less welcome far
Unto the earth with sorrow stricken
Than these mysterious transports are
To the dazed maiden dreaming there,
Forgetful of her heavy care,
And softly in her spirit moving
To the flame-new delight of loving.
As do we all — sank open-eyed in reverie,
And built, with neither hammer nor stone,
A small, fair castle of her own,
Where shone all things in Pascal’s light, and cheer and rest
Flowed like a living brook. Ah, yes, the sago was right!
The sorrowing heart aye loveth best.
But when the heart controls us quite,
Quick turns to gall the honey of our delight.
Suddenly she remembers all! Her heaven turns gray.
A dread thought smites her heavily :
To dream of love? Why, what is she?
Sweet love is not for her ! Themighty sorcerer
Hath said she is sold for a price, — a foredoomed murderer
With a heart of devilish wrath, which whoso dares to brave.
And lie one night in her arms, therein shall find his grave.
She to see Pascal perish at her side ?
“ O my good God, have pity on me ! ” she cried.
So, rent with cruel agonies,
And weeping very sore,
Fell the poor child upon her knees
Her little shrine before.
I come. I am all astray ! Father and mother too
Are dead lang syne, and I accursed ! All tongues
The hideous tale ! yet save, if haply it be true ;
Or if they have falsely sworn, he it on my soul borne
When I shall bring my taper to thy church 2 on fête-day morn.
Then, blessed mother, let me see
That I am not denied of thee ! ”
If truly spoken,
Doth lightly up to henven fly.
Sure to have won a gracious ear
The maid her purpose holds, and ponders momently, >
And oftentimes turns sick, and cannot speak for fear,
But sometimes taketh heart, and sudden hope and
Shines in her soul, as a meteor gleams the night
So ends the third canto, and the fourth and last begins with the dawn of the fete-day on which are fixed Franêonette’s desperate hopes and fears. The inhabitants of half a dozen villages, Puymirol, Artigues, Astaffort, Lusignan, Cardonnet, Saint - Cirge, and Roquefort, with priests and crucifixes, garlands and candles, banners anti angels,3 are mustering at the church of Notre Dame in Agen, and somehow, not only is the tale rife among them of the maiden who has been sold to the demon, but the rumor circulates that to-day she will publicly entreat the blessed virgin to save her. The strangers are kinder to her than her more immediate neighbors, and from many a pitying heart the prayer goes up that a miracle may be wrought in the beautiful girl’s behalfShe feels their sympathy and gathers confidence. And now the special suppliants are passing up to the altar one by one, — anxious mothers, disappointed lovers, the orphaned, and the childless. They kneel, they ask for their blessing, they present their candles for the old surpliced priest to bless, and they retire: —
But with lightened hearts of hope their ways went
One and all.
So Françonette grew happy too,
And most of all, because Pascal prayed smiling in
her view ;
Yea, dared to raise her eyes to the holy father’s own;
For it seemed to her that love and lignts and hymns
and incense, too.
Were crying “ grace,” in sweetest unison.
And she sighed, " Oh, grace divine, and love ! —
let these be mine ! ”
Then straightway lit her taper and followed to the
Bearing flowers in her other hand ; and every one
Kindly gave place, and bade her forward move,
Then fixed their eyes upon the priest and her,
And scarce a hreath was drawn, and not a soul did stir,
While the priest laid the image of redeeming love
Upon the orphan’s lips. But ere her kiss was given
Brake a terrific peal, as it would rend the heaven,
Darkening her taper and three altar-lights above !
Oh, what is this1? The crashing thunder
The prayer denied, the lights put out.
“ Good God, she is sold indeed! All, all is true, no
So a long murmur rose of horror and of wonder ;
And while the maiden breathlessly,
Cowering like a lost soul, their shuddering glances under,
Crept forth, all shrank away and let her pass them by.
Of a wild storm and terrible,
That straightway upon Roquefort fell.
The spire of Saint-Pierre 4 was laid in ruin low,
And, smitten by the sharp scourge of the hail,
In all the region round men could but weep and wail.
The angel-bands who walked that day
In fair procession, hymns to sing,
Turned sorrowing, all save one, away,
Ora pro nobis murmuring.
Her perilous waves to clear,
To other jealous towns could stately Agen show
Great bridges three, as she a royal city were.
Two simple barges only, by poles propellèd slow,
Waited the sacred minstrels to bear them to Roquefort,
To whom came rumors of the wide-spread woe
Ere lauding they were ranged for singing on the shore.
And first the tale but half they heed ;
But soon they see, in very deed,
Vineyards and happy fields with hopeless ruin smit.
Then each let fall his banner fair,
And lamentations infinite
Rent on all sides the evening air,
Till, o'er the swelling throng rose deadly dear the
“ And still we spare this Françonette ! ” Then sudenly,
As match to powder laid, the word
Set all on fire, and there were heard
Howls of “ Ay, ay, the wretch ! now let her meet
her fate !
She is the cause of all, ’t is plain ! Once hath she made us desolate, But verily shall not so again.” And ever the press grew, and wilder, angrier, too, And, “Hunt her off the face of the earth!” shrieked one anew-. “ Ay, hunt her to death! ’T is meet! " a thousand tongues repeat;
And the tempest in the skies cannot with this compete.
Oh, then, to have seen them as they came
With clenchèd fists and eyes aflame,
You had said, “ Hell doth indeed its demons all unchain.”
Hot poison shoots through every rein
Of the possessed madmen here.
Unhappy Françonette ? To her own cottage driven
She worshiped her one relic, sadly, dreamily,
And whispered to the withered flowers Pascal had given
“ Dear nosegay, when I saw thee first
Methought thy sweetness was divine,
And I did drink it, heart-athirst:
But now thou art not sweet as erst,
Because these wicked thoughts of mine
Have blasted all thy beauty rare.
I am sold to the powers of ill, and Heaven hath spurned my prayer!
My love is deadly love ! No hope on earth have I!
So, treasure of my heart, flowers of the meadow fair,
Because I love the hand that gathered you, goodby !
Pascal must not love such as I!
He must the accursed maid forswear,
Who yet to God for him doth cry.
In wanton merriment last year
Even at love laughed Françonette ;
Now is my condemnation clear.
Now whom I love, I must forget.
Sold to the demon at my birth —
My God, how can it be ? Have I not faith in thee ?
O blessed blossoms of the earth,
Let me drive with my cross the evil one from me !
And thou, my mother, in the starry skies above,
And thou, my guardian, Mother of God,
Pity ! I love Pascal! Must part from him I love
Pity the maid accursed, by the rod
Sore smitten, to the earth down-trod ;
Help me the heart divine to move ! ”
So spake the hoary dame. “ Didst thou not smiling say
Our lady did receive thy offering to-day ?
lint sure, no happy heart e’er made so sad a moan !
Thou hast deceived me ! Some new ill,” she said,
“ Hath fallen upon us! ” “Nay, not so. Be comforted ;
I — I — am happy.” “ So, my deary,
God grant some respite we may have,
For sorrow of thine doth dig my grave,
And this hath been a lonesome, fearsome day, and weary —
That cruel dream of the fire I had a while ago,
However I strove, did haunt me so ’
And then, thou knowest the storm ; anew I was terrified,
So that to-night, meseems, I shudder at nought" —
What sudden roar is this outside ?
“ Fire ! Fire! Let us burn them in their cot! ”
Shine all the cracks in the old shutter gaping wide
And Françonette springs to the doorway tremblingly,
And, gracious Heaven ! what doth she see ?
By the light of the burning rick
An angry people huddled thick ;
She hears them shout, “ Now, to your fate !
Spare neither the youug one, nor the old,
Both work us ruin manifold
Off with thee, child of wrath ! or we will roast thee, straight! ”
Then cried the girl on her knees to the cruel populace
“ You will slay my granny with your very words! ”
and prayed for grace,
But when, in their infuriate blindness, heed they take
Of the poor pleader in her unbound hair,
They only think they see her, then and there,
Torn by the rage demoniac,
And all the fiercer cry, “ Avaunt! ”
While the more savage forward spring,
And their feet on the threshold plant,
Fragments of blazing cord in their arms brandishing.
And a man leaped in to the crowd like lightning with
One whom we know, — and over all
His voice uplifted thus Pascal:
“ What, will ye murder women, then ?
Children of God, and you, the same ;
Or are ye tigers, and not men ?
And after all they have suffered ! Shame !
Fall back, fall back, I say! The walls are growing hot ! ”
“ Then let them quit for aye our shore !
They are Huguenots — knowesfe thou not? — long
since by the demon bought;
God smites because we drove them not before.”
“ Quick, bring the other forth, or living she will burn!
Ye dogs, who moved you to this crime?
It was the wroth Marcel! See where he comes in time!”
“ Thou liest! ” the soldier thundered in his turn,
“ I love her, boaster, more than thou ! ”
“ How wilt thou prove thy love, thou of the tender heart ? ”
“ I am come to save her life ! I am come to take her part.
I am come, if so she will, to marry her, even now'! ”
Before his rival’s eyes, bound as by some great spell,
Unto the orphan girl turned he
With worship ail unspeakable.
“ Answer us, Françonette, and speak the truth alone!
Thou art followed from place to place,by spite and scorn, my own;
But we two love thee well, and ready are to brave
Death, ay or hell, thy life to save.
Choose which of us thou wilt ! ” “ Nay,” she lamented sore,
“ Dearest, mine is a love that slays.
Be happy then without me! Forget me; go thy ways !”
“ Happy without thee, dear ? That can I never more!
Nay, were it true, as lying rumor says,
An evil spirit ruled thee o'er,
I would rather die with thee than live bereaved days! ”
The voice of love aye rules us best.
Instantly rose the girl above her mortal dread,
And, on the crowd advancing straight,
“ Because I love Pascal, alone I would meet my fate.
Howbeit, his will is law,” she said,
“ Wherefore together let our souls be sped.”
Then was Pascal in heaven, Marcel in the dust laid low.
Whom amid all the quaking throng his rival sought,
Crying, “I am more blessed than thou. Forgive !
Thou art brave, I know ;
Some squire should follow me to death, and wilt thou not?
Serve me! I have no other friend.” Marcel
And now he scowled with wrath, and now his eye grew kind ;
Terrible was the battle in his mind
Till his eye fell on Françonette, serene and beaming,
But with no word for him. Then pale but smilingly,
“ Because it is her will,” he said, “ I follow thee.” Two weeks had passed away, and a strange nuptial train
Adown the verdant hill wound slowly to the plain.
First came the comely pair we know in all their bloom,
While, gathered from far and wide, three deep on either side,
The ever curious rustics hied,
Shuddering at heart o'er Pascal’s doom.
Marcel conducts their march, but pleasure’s kindly hue
Glows not on the unmoving face he lifts to view,
And something glances from his eye
Which makes men shudder as they pass him by.
Yet verily his mien triumphant is ; at least
Sole master is he of this feast,
And gives his rival, for bouquet,
A supper and a ball to-day.
But, at the dance and at the board
Alike, scarce one essayed a word ;
None sang a song, none raised a jest,
For dark forebodings that oppressed.
Silent on the sheer edge of fate the end awaited.
No sound their dream dispelled, but hand in hand did press,
And eyes looked ever on a visioned happiness.
And so, at last, the evening fell.
Then one affrighted woman suddenly brake the spell.
She came. She fell on Pascal’s neck.
“Fly, son! ” she cried ;
“ I am come from the sorceress even now ! Fly thy false bride !
For the fatal sieve 5 hath turned ; thy death decree is spoken !
There ;s a sulphur fume in the bridal room, by the
same dread token.
Enter it not! If thou livest, thou art lost,” she said,
“ And what were life to me if thou wert dead ? ”
Then Pascal felt his eyelids wet,
And turned away, striving to hide his face ; whereon,
“ Ingrate ! ” the mother shrieked, “ but I will savo thee yet;
Thou wilt not dare ” —and fell at the feet of her son -
“ Thou shalt pass over my body, sure as thou goest forth !
A wife, it seems, is all, and a mother nothing worth,
Unhappy that I am !" All wept aloud for woe.
“ Marcel,” the bridegroom said, “ her grief is my despair,
But love, thou knowest, is stronger yet. ’Tis time to go !
Only, if I should die, my mother be thy care.”
The sturdy soldier said, and he too brushed a tear.
“ Prythee take courage, friend of mine !
Thy Françonette is good and pure ;
Yon tale was told of dark design.
But give thy mother thanks : but for her coming, sure
This night hail seen my death and thine.”
“ What sayest thou ?” “ Hush ! I will tell thee all.
Thou knowest I loved this maid, Pascal;
For her, like thee, I would have shed my blood.
And I dreamed I was loved again, — she held mo so in thrall, —
Albeit my prayer was aye withstood.
She knew her elders promised her to me,
And so, when other suitors barred my way, in spite,
Saying, In love as in war one may use strategy,
I gave the wizard gold, my rivals to alfright.
Thereafter chance did all ; insomuch that I said,
My treasure is already won ;
But when, in the same breath, we two our suit made known,
And when I saw her, without turn or head
Toward my despair, choose thee, it was not to be borne!
I vowed her death and thine and mine ere morrow morn !
I had thought to lead you forth to the bridal bower erelong,
And there, the bed beside, which I had mined with care,
To say, ‘ No prince of the power of the air
Is here ! I burn you for my wrong.
Ay, cross yourselves,’ quoth I, ' for you shall surely die !'
And the folk had seen us three together fly!
I thought of my own, Pascal, who died so long ago.
Care thou for thine! Thou hast nought to fear from me ; I trow
Eden is coming down to earth for thee, no doubt,
But I, whom men henceforth can only hate and flout,
Will to the wars away ! for something in me saith
I may recover from my rout
Better than by a crime ! Ay, by a soldier’s death ! ”
The while with deepening blushes the twain each other eyed,
As they were suddenly timid grown.
I lift my pencil here, my breath comes hurriedly ;
Colors for strife and pain have I,
But for their perfect rapture — none.6
No sound, no stir as yet, inside tho cottage white,
Albeit at Estanquet three hamlets gathered were
To wait the waking of the wedded pair.
Marcel had told the whole unhappy truth. Nathless
The devil was mighty in those days ;
Some fear for the bridegroom yet, and guess
At strange mischance. “ In the night wild cries were heard,” one says.
One hath seen shadows dance on the wall in wondrous ways.
Lives Pascal yet ? None dares to dress
The spicy broth 7 to leave beside the nuptial door,
And so another hour goes o'er.
Then floats a lovely strain of music overhead,
A sweet refrain oft heard before,
’T is the aubado8 offered to the newly-wed.
And she, though flushing for the folk, with friendly hand and mien
The fragments of her garter gives,
And every woman two receives.
Then, winks and words of ruth from eye and lip are passed,
And tho luck of our Pascal makes envious all at last;
For the poor lads, whose hearts I ween are healed but slightly
Of their first passionate pain,
When they see Françonette, blossoming rose-like, brightly,
All dewy-fresh, all sweet and sightly,
Cry, “ We will ne'er believe in sorcerers again.”
The action of the poem is so rapid that, in order to give a complete outline of the plot and some notion of the fine discrimination of character which it contains, I have been obliged to omit some descriptive passages of extreme beauty. M. de Lavergne says truly of Françonette that it is of all Jasmin’s works the one in which he has aimed at being most entirely popular, and that it is, at the same time, the most noble and the most chastened. He might have added the most chivalrous, also. There is something essentially knightly in Pascal’s east of character, and it is singular that at the supreme crisis of his fate he assumes, as if unconsciously, the very phraseology of chivalry: “ Some squire (donzel) should follow me to death,” etc., and we find it altogether natural and becoming in the high-hearted smith. There are many places where Jasmin addresses his readers directly as Messieurs ; where the context also makes it evident that the word is emphatic, that he is distinctly conscious of addressing those who are above him in rank, and that the proper translation is “ gentles ” or even “masters,” yet no poet ever lived who was less of a sycophant. The rather rude wood-cut likeness prefixed to the popular edition of the Gascon’s works represents a face so widely unlike all well-known modern types that one feels sure it must be like the original, Once seen in living reality, it must have haunted the memory forever. It is broad and massive in feature, shrewd and yet sweet in expression, homely and serenely unconscious. It is “ vilain et très vilain ” in every line, but the head is carried high, with something more than a courtier’s dignity.
Harriet W. Preston.
- The buscou or busking was a kind of bee, at which the young people assembled, bringing the thread of their late spinning, which was divided into skeins of the proper size by a broad, thin plate of steel or whalebone called a busc. The same thing under precisely the same name figured in the toilets of our grandmothers, and hence, probably, the Scotch use of the verb to busk or attire.↩
- A custom formerly prevailed in some parts of France, and was brought thence by emigrants to Canada, where it flourished not long ago, of crowning the sacramental bread by one or move frosted or otherwise ornamented cakes, which were reserved for the family of the Seigneur, or other communicants of distinction.↩
- Notre Dame do bon Encontre, a church in the suburbs of Agen celebrated for its legend, its miracles, and the numerous pilgrimages which are annually made to it in the month of May.↩
- The angels walked in procession and sang the Angelus at the appropriate hours.↩
- The ancient parish church of Roquefort, whose ruins only now remain.↩
- Lou sedas. The sedas is a sieve of raw silk used for sifting flour It has also a singular use in necromancy. When one desires to know the name of the author of an act, — a theft, for instance,— the sieve is made to revolve, but woe to him whose name is spoken just as the sieve stops.↩
- The reader will he reminded of William Morris it the close of his exquisite story of Psyche: —↩
- “ My lyre is but attuned to tears and pain;↩
- How can. I sing the never-ending day ? ”↩
- Lou tourrin, a highlv spiced onion soup, which is carried by the wedding guests to the bridegroom at a late hour of the night.↩
- A song of early morning corresponding to the serenade or evening song.↩