Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Jacques Jasmin

Jasmin, Jacques, Provencal poet, b. at Agen, March 6, 1798; d. October 4, 1864. When a very young boy, he had to help his parents, who were in straitened circumstances, by picking up dead wood in the forests or doing errands at the fairs. It was only at the age of twelve that he was first sent to school, attending afterwards the seminary of Agen, where he stayed a very short time. He then became a journeyman hairdresser, and a few years later opened a hairdressing shop of his own. To complete his scanty education, he began to read, after hours, the works of Florian, Ducray-Duminil, and above all Goudouli, an eighteenth century poet, from Toulouse, known as the "last troubadour". From his childhood he had been acquainted with popular songs in his native patois, because his father, a tailor and almost illiterate, had a real talent for doggerel verses which he sang at fairs. Jacques himself soon started writing songs, and used to recite them to his customers. Being applauded by local admirers, he ventured to publish in 1825 a first volume, "Charivari", and from 1825 to 1831 various songs and patriotic hymns, which were highly praised by the Academies of Bordeaux and Toulouse. They met with a tremendous success, even beyond the boundaries of his province, and Parisian critics, like Sainte-Beuve and Nodier, pointed out the genuine talent of the hairdresser-poet. He then enjoyed a national reputation, received from King Louis-Philippe the cross of the Legion of Honor, and in 1852 was granted a prize of 5000 francs by the French Academy. All his works have been collected in four volumes under the common title of "Papillotos (curl paper) de Jasmin, coiffur, de las Academias d'Agen et de Bordeou" (Agen, 1845-53). He stubbornly declined to go and settle in Paris, whose worldly life frightened his simple and candid nature, and continued, among others, the noted poem, "Abuglo de Castel-Cuille" (Blind Girl of Castel-Cuille-1836), which was translated into English by Longfellow; "Francounetto" (1840); "Marthe la Folle" (1844); "Les deux Freres jumeaux" (1845); "La Semaine d'un Fils" (1849), and "Mes Souvenirs" (begun in 1831, and supplemented at several intervals). These gay poems are redolent with a true Christian spirit. When he died, he was engaged in writing a long poem against Renan's "Vie de Jesus". The language he used in his poems was not the literary and erudite language of the troubadours, but a popular dialect of Agen; it is harmonious, highly musical, and full of picturesque idioms.