Now rings the bell, nine times reverberating,
And the white daybreak, stealing up the sky,
Sees in two cottages two maidens waiting,
How differently!

Queen of a day, by flatterers caressed,
The one puts on her cross and crown,
Decks with a huge bouquet her breast,
And flaunting, fluttering up and down,
Looks at herself, and cannot rest.
The other, blind, within her little room,
Has neither crown nor flower’s perfume;
But in their stead for something gropes apart,
That in a drawer’s recess doth lie,
And, ’neath her bodice of bright scarlet dye,
Convulsive clasps it to her heart.

The one, fantastic, light as air,
’Mid kisses ringing,
And joyous singing,
Forgets to say her morning prayer!

The other, with cold drops upon her brow,
Joins her two hands, and kneels upon the floor,
And whispers, as her brother opes the door,
“O God! forgive me now!”

Margaret sits in the second pew, on the groom’s side. She can feel the villagers’ stares, but nobody quite dares to ask her to move, not even Baptiste’s father. She is untouchable, radiant, terrifying.

Baptiste himself is strangely quiet – he speaks not one word before the ceremony, and it is only when the priest asks if he will take Angela for his wife that she finally hears his voice. A single word, but that word puts him forever apart from her.

Margaret smiles, serenely. He will be apart from the world soon enough.

She does not take communion. She knows that she is not in a state of grace – her sins cannot be forgiven, since she will not forgive he who sinned against her. She is at peace with this.

Margaret waits for the service to end. Waits for the bride and groom to walk down the aisle, hand in hand. Waits for the procession to meet them at the church door. Waits her turn to kiss bride and groom.

And then she uses her father’s dagger.

It turns out that Baptiste does have a heart after all.

The road should mourn and be veiled in gloom,
So fair this corpse shall leave its homes!
Should mourn and should weep, ah, well-away!
So fair this corpse shall pass today!

[I prefer my poems with less murder in them. Take me back!]

[Take me back to the start]


Jacques Jasmin, Poetry, and Railway stations

Jasmin is the name of a station on the Paris Metro 9 line, in the 16th arondissement, not far from the Bois de  Boulogne.  It was built in 1922, and is named for the Rue de Jasmin, which in turn is named for the 19th century Occitan poet and barber, Jacques Jansemin (or Jasmin, as he is known in French).  Occitan was the language of the troubadours in the middle ages, and Jansemin’s poetry was credited with reviving this poetic tradition (though he himself felt that his own poems were far superior to those of the troubadours).  Occitan, or langue d’oc, is the dialect spoken in the south of France, particularly Provence and Gascony, as well as parts of Italy and Spain.  Modern French derives from the sister dialect, langue d’oïl, and most of those who now speak Occitan use French as their official language. I suspect that Jansemin’s use of Occitan to write poetry was in some ways a political statement, given its association both with the south and with rural peasantry.

Jansemin wrote a variety of poems, of which L’Abuglo de Castèl Cuillè (The Blind Girl of Castel Cuille) is one of the better known.  His poetry was popular with the English romantic and pastoral poets, and the translation I have used in this story is by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  You can read the original Occitan here, and Longfellow’s translation can be found here. The translation seems to be a fairly accurate one – while I do not speak Occitan, it is similar enough to French and Italian that I can follow it in the English translation, and I saw no obvious dissimilarities.

I found the poetry lovely but the story immensely frustrating, and kind of awful about disability. I wanted to give Margaret some agency in her life, and the opportunity to make better (if perhaps less romantic) choices. This isn’t one of them. I hope I have achieved a less infuriating result on this score than Jasmin did.

I would like to thank Alison Uren for beta reading and Loki Carbis for help with coding. Any problems that still remain in the story are entirely my fault!


Michel-Ange – Auteuil fleur9left Jasmin fleur9right Ranelagh

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