Page:François-Millet.djvu/47

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JEAN FRANÇOIS MILLET

and worldlings present France as a land of pleasure and free thought—which, in reality, it is not—Millet has this interest of his own: that he is the voice of those who are the majority and who do not speak because they are busy doing; those millions of dwellers in rural France who have remained obscurely religious and harshly enslaved by sorrow, who are, in fact, inimical to Paris, and, until the last few years, were indifferent to and apart from the apparent evolution of society. As Burty aptly says, Millet had genius enough to "draw forth the passive virtue of an agricultural race." The reason was that he belonged to that race. His whole life, from childhood to death, was spent amid the labours of peasants. He had all their passions and all their prejudices, the hatred of Paris and of the Parisian spirit and the ardent love of the land. He knew not only how to paint the ground but how to till it. He had been a good ploughman and was proud of it, and, on occasion, as he walked around Barbizon would set his hand to the plough and draw long, straight furrows across the plain. One of his friends, speaking of a portrait taken of him about 1861, which shows him standing

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