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OOR La Fontaine! Racine took him one evening during Holy Week to church. “Le bon homme," as his friends called
him, was not at all learned, nor was religion, in the old sense of the word, one of his prominent characteristics; therefore he grew horribly weary with the length of the services.
To occupy him, Racine gave him a Bible which contained the Minor Prophets. La Fontaine opened it at the prayer of the Jews in Baruch. Struck with the sublime fulness of this grand diapason of supplication, he could not control his surprise and delight, and commenced elbowing Racine restlessly.
“O my friend,” he whispered, eagerly, “what a fine genius this Baruch had ! But tell me, who was he?"
And for some time after he was so full of Baruch that every friend he met in the streets of Paris was greeted with the question, “Avez-vous lu Baruch? ? h, c'était par ma foi un beau génie.” Poor great La Fontaine ! I have often thought during my journey in Southern Italy of “ Avez-vous lu Baruch ?” when expressing my sincere enthusiasm. And while relating with innocent delight all this which was new to me in 6 Les Petites Prophètes” (the Minor Prophets) of the grand Bible of Art and History, I have been probably like le bon homme La Fontaine.
Many of my readers may have known these Minor Prophets of art their whole lifetime, may be familiar with every word of beauty they have uttered through countless ages, - words which have served as texts of inspiration for great poets from the time of that "golden world” where
“ The holy laws of homely pastoral,
And all the Graces, found their old abodes,” up through passionate passages of perilous human contests and gorgeous mediæval splendors, on to this nineteenth century where men are driving out
• From clouds of steam majestical white horses,” making true the prophetic words of Baruch, that wise s old man of noble extraction and learned in the law,” — “Bringing down every high mountain, and the everlasting rocks, and filling up the valleys to make them even with the ground.” But the Bible of the Beautiful is ever young and ever new, and the earnest, unaffected admiration of those to whom this Bible has been opened for the first time has its own peculiar charm; therefore, though my readers may be more learned, they must show as much good-natured patience as did the cleverer friends of the great French humorist, to my reiterated exclamation, “Avez-vous lu Baruch? Ah, c'était par ma foi un beau génie.”
Then there is a kinder view which can be taken of these pages, for, as Bold Fletcher said to his audience,
“ We would fain please ye, and as fain be pleased;
'Tis but a little liking, both are eased." There are seasons of quiet that come in the midst of great trials, rare and short to be sure, but precious. All outside interferences seem to arrange themselves, and social tangles unweave their knots most graciously, as if to lend us a short rest and peace, - it may be to give strength for future trouble, — fresh discipline, - Mother Nature holding the soul back, as it were, with tender solicitude and pensive prevision on the edge of a moral winter.
During such a -season were these pages written, and the pleasure of writing them under the influence of that sweet lull added greatly to the diversion of sad thoughts. Therefore, as they have performed such a gentle office to me, I would not have them ungently judged.
And now as I gather these journal leaves together, and think of that pleasant period, I name them, and that part of my life, after the sweet autumn season of the year which they resemble,
66 ST. MARTIN'S SUMMER."