In Renan's exquisitely phrased preface to his Drames Philosophiques occurs the following sentence which I render into English tant bien que mal: "Side by side are the history of fact and the history of the ideal, the latter materially speaking of what has never taken place, but which, in the ideal sense, has happened a thousand times."

Who when visiting the beautiful little town of Saumur thinks of the historic figures connected with its name? Even the grand personality of Duplessis Morny sinks into insignificance by comparison with that of the miser's daughter, the gentle, ill-starred Eugenie Grandet! And who when Carcassonne first breaks upon his view thinks of aught but Nadaud's immortal peasant and his plaint -

     "I'm growing old, just three score year, 
       In wet and dry, in dust and mire, 
     I've sweated, never getting near 
       Fulfilment of my heart's desire. 
     Ah, well I see that bliss below 
       'Tis Heaven's will to vouchsafe none, 
     Harvest and vintage come and go, 
       I've never got to Carcassonne!"

The tragi-comic poem of six eight-lined verses ending thus -

     "So sighed a peasant of Limoux, 
       A worthy neighbour bent and worn. 
     'Ho, friend,' quoth I, 'I'll go with you. 
       We'll sally forth to-morrow morn.' 
     And true enough away we hied, 
       But when our goal was almost won, 
     God rest his soul! - the good man died, 
       He never got to Carcassonne!"

No lover of France certainly should die without having seen Carcassonne, foremost of what I will call the pictorial Quadrilateral, no formidable array after the manner of their Austrian cognominal, but lovely, dreamlike things. These four walled-in towns or citadels, perfect as when they represented mediaeval defence, are Carcassonne, Provins in the Brie, Semur in upper Burgundy, and the Breton Guerande, scene of Balzac's Beatrix. To my thinking, and I have visited each, there is little to choose between the first two, but exquisite as is the little Briard acropolis, those imaginary "topless towers of Ilium" of Nadaud's peasant bear the palm. That first view of Carcassonne as we approach it in the railway of itself repays a long and tedious journey. A vision rather than reality, structure of pearly clouds in mid-heaven, seems that opaline pile lightly touched with gold. We expect it to evaporate at evenfall! Vanish it does not, nor wholly bring disillusion, so fair and harmonious are the vistas caught in one circuit of the citadel, mere matter of twenty minutes.

But the place by this time has become so familiar to travellers in France and readers of French travel, that I will here confine myself to its glorifier, author of a song that has toured the world.

The first biography of the French Tom Moore, published last year, gives no history of this much translated poem. Had, indeed, some worthy vine-grower poured out such a plaint in the poet's ears? Very probably, for one and all of Nadaud's rural poems breathe the very essence of the fields, the inmost nature of the peasant, from first to last they reveal Jacques Bonhomme to us, his conceptions of life, his mentality and limitations.

[Footnote: My own rendering of this piece and many other of Nadaud's songs and ballads are given in French Men, Women and Books, 1910. American translators have admirably translated Carcassonne.]

Nadaud's career is uneventful, but from one point of view, far from being noteless, he was pre-eminently the happy man. His biographer (A. Varloy) tells us of a smooth, much relished, even an exuberant existence. The son of an excellent bourgeois, whose ancestry, nevertheless, like that of many another, could be traced for six hundred years, his early surroundings were the least lyric imaginable.

He was born at Roubaix, the flourishing seat of manufacture near Lille, which, although a mere chef-lieu du canton, does more business with the Bank of France than the big cities of Toulouse, Nimes, Montpellier and others thrice its size. Dress fabrics, cloths and exquisite napery are the products of Roubaix and its suburb; vainly, however, does any uncommercial traveller endeavour to see the weavers at work. Grimy walls and crowded factory chimneys are relieved at Roubaix by gardens public and private, and the town is endowed with museums, libraries, art and technical schools. But Nadaud, like Cyrano de Bergerac, if asked what gave him most delectation, would certainly have replied -

     "Lorsque j'ai fait un vers et que je l'aime, 
      Je me paye en me le chantant a moi-meme."

Here is the boy's daily programme when a twelve-year-old student at the College Rollin, Paris. The marvel is that the poetic instinct survived such routine, marvellous also the fact that the dry-as-dust in authority was a well-known translator of Walter Scott. If anything could have conjured the Wizard of the North from his grave it was surely these particulars written by Gustave Nadaud to his father on the 19th of October, 1833 -

"Five-thirty, rise; five-forty-five, studies till seven-thirty; breakfast and recreation from seven-thirty till eight; from eight till ten, school; from ten to a quarter past, recreation; from a quarter past ten till half past twelve, school; then dinner and recreation from one till two. School from two till half past four; collation from half past four till a quarter past five; school from a quarter past five till eight. Supper and to bed."

Poetry here was, however, a healthy plant, and in his school-days this born song-writer would scribble verses on his copy-books and read Racine for his own amusement. Turning his back upon the mill-wheels of his native town and an assured future in a Parisian business house, like Gil Bias's friend, il s'est jete dans le bel esprit - in other words, he betook himself to the career of a troubadour. Never, surely, did master of song-craft write and sing so many ditties!

Quitting school with a tip-top certificate both as to conduct and application, Gustave Nadaud quickly won fame if not fortune. Hardly of age, he wrote somewhat Bohemian effusions that at once made the round of Parisian music-halls.

The revolution, if it brought topsy-turvydom in politics, like its great forerunner '89 brought the apogee of song. The popular young lyrist, ballader and minstrel, for Nadaud accompanied himself on the piano, now made a curious compact, agreeing to write songs for twenty years, a firm named Heugel paying him six thousand francs yearly by way of remuneration.

Two hundred and forty pounds a year should seem enough for a young man, a bachelor brought up in bourgeois simplicity. But the cost of living in Paris was apparently as high sixty years ago as now. In 1856-7 he wrote to a friend: "How upon such an income I contrived to live and frequent Parisian salons without ever asking a farthing of any one, only those who have been poor can tell." The salons spoken of were not only aristocratic but Imperial, the late Princess Mathilde being an enthusiastic hostess and patroness. Several operettas were composed by Nadaud for her receptions and philanthropic entertainments. Here is a sketch of the French Tom Moore in 1868 by a witty contributor of the Figaro -

"Nadaud then seated himself at the piano, and of the words he sang I give you full measure, the impression produced by his performance I cannot hope to convey. Quite indescribable was the concord of voice and hands, on the music as on wings each syllable being lightly borne, yet its meaning thereby intensified. In one's memory only can such delight be revived and reproduced."

With other poets, artists and musicians Nadaud cast vocation to the winds in 1870-1, working in field and other hospitals. "I did my best to act the part of a poor little sister of charity," he wrote to a friend. His patriotic poem, "La grande blessee," was written during that terrible apprenticeship.

With Nadaud henceforward it was a case of roses, roses all the way. Existence he had ever taken easily, warm friendships doing duty for a domestic circle. And did he not write -

     "I dreamed of an ideal love 
      And Benedick remain?"

His songs proved a mine of wealth, and the sumptuously illustrated edition got up by friends and admirers brought him 80,000 francs, with which he purchased a villa, christened Carcassonne, at Nice, therein spending sunny and sunny-tempered days and dispensing large-hearted hospitality. To luckless brethren of the lyre he held out an ungrudgeful hand, alas! meeting with scant return. The one bitterness of his life, indeed, was due to ingratitude. Among his papers after death was found the following note -

"Throughout the last thirty years I have lent sums, large considering my means, to friends, comrades and entire strangers. Never, never, never has a single centime been repaid by a single one of these borrowers. I now vow to myself, never under any circumstances whatever to lend money again!"

Poor song-writers, nevertheless, he posthumously befriended. By his will with the bulk of his property was founded "La petite Caisse des chansonniers," a benefit society for less happy Nadauds to come. By aid of these funds, lyrists and ballad-writers unable to find publishers would be held on their onward path. Full of honours, Nadaud died in 1893, monuments being erected to his memory, streets named after him, and undiminished popularity keeping his name alive.

And the honour denied to Beranger, to Victor Hugo, to Balzac, the coveted sword and braided coat of the Forty were Nadaud's also. With the witty Piron he could not ironically anticipate his own epitaph thus -

"Here lies Nadaud who was nothing, not even an Academician!"

Before taking leave of Carcassonne, poetic and picturesque, the most inveterate anti-sightseer should peep into its museum. For this little chef-lieu of the Aude, with a population under thirty thousand, possesses what, indeed, hardly a French townling lacks, namely, a picture-gallery. If not remarkable from an artistic point of view, the collection serves to demonstrate the persistent, self-denying and constant devotion to culture in France. Times may be peaceful or stormy, seasons may prove disastrous, the withered, thin and blasted ears of corn may devour the seven ears full and golden, the ship of State may be caught in a tornado and lurch alarmingly - all the same "the man in the street," "the rascal many," to quote Spenser, will have a museum in which, with wife and hopefuls, to spend their Sunday afternoons. The local museum is no less of a necessity to Jacques Bonhomme than his daily pot-au-feu, that dish of soup which, according to Michelet, engenders the national amiability.

The splendid public library - the determinative is used in the sense of comparison - numbers just upon a volume per head, and the art school, school of music, and other institutions tell the same story. Culture throughout the country seems indigenous, to spread of itself, and, above all things, to reach all classes. Culture on French soil is gratuitous, ever free as air! We must never overlook that primary fact.

One or two more noticeable facts about Carcassonne. Here was born that eccentric revolutionary and poetic genius, Fabre d'Eglantine, of whom I have written elsewhere.

 [Footnote: See Literary Rambles in France, 1906]

Yet another historic note. From St. Vincent's tower during the Convention, 1792-5, were taken those measurements, the outcome of which was the metric system. Two mathematicians, by name Delambre and Mechain, were charged with the necessary calculations, the metre, or a ten-millionth part of the distance between the poles and the equator (32,808 English feet), being made the unit of length. Uniformity of weight followed, and became law in 1799.

But to touch upon historic Carcassonne is to glance upon an almost interminable perspective. The chronicle of this charming little city on the bright blue Aude has been penned and re-penned in blood and tears. In 1560 Carcassonne suffered a preliminary Saint Bartholomew, a general massacre of Protestants announcing the evil days to follow; days that after five hundred years have left their trace, moral as well as material.