Some thirty years ago, at Geneva, Switzerland, I was a seminary student under the late Dr. Merle d'Aubigne. 

There were thirty students only in the Oratoire as the theological school was called and we knew each other better than in Princeton, where I had been with one hundred and fifty mates, among whom were the Alexanders, Miller, Hodge, and Greene. There were some eight or ten Waldensian students at Geneva, for there was no seminary then at Florence. A few of us boarded in a beautiful environ of Geneva called Melangnou. The student who roomed next to me was Rivoir, a Waldensian, and we had frequently had sweet converse, whether in regard to the ancient " Israel of the Alps," or concerning the things of the kingdom.

One day my friend tapped at my door, and asked me to come into his room and hear him read an interesting French poem about the manner in which his ancestors of the valleys did good and propagated the truth in the olden time, "when," as Milton wrote in his beautiful sonnet, "our fathers worshiped stocks and stones." I gladly accepted the invitation, and listened to a short, but very interesting poem, called "Le Colporteur Vaudois," which was in Vinet's Chrestomathy of French Literature. Your readers are aware that the French term for Waldensian is Vaudois, and that the term colporteur in French is much wider than with us. There it meant an itinerant hawker, or peddler. They are also probably aware that the late Vinet, the greatest and most eloquent preacher in the French language, was also an eminent literary man. More than forty years ago, while he was Professor in the University of Basle, he gave several courses of lectures on French literature, which were afterward published, in three volumes, under the title of a "Chrestomathy of French Literature." So excellent were the selections, and so admirable were the criticisms, that whatever was found in this collection became classic in the French language.  I naturally inquired of my friend Rivoir, "Who is the author of this poem?" It represented an old Waldensian colporteur going with trinkets and silks for sale, and thus being in the end the means of giving to the noble lady of the castle, the "Pearl of Great Price." He replied that he did not know, but that it was translated from the English by Prof. G. de Felice, of Montauban.

I afterward found that this poem,  "The Colporteur Vaudois," was not only a portion of general French literature, but was taught to every Protestant child in France, and that among the Waldenses it was as familiar as a household word. When all Italy was open to the gospel, the brave Waldenses began their work. They established schools and churches, and wherever converts were made, the "Colporteur," after the Bible, was taught to the people, both old and young. 

But to revert to the original question, "Who wrote the original English?" The next year after Rivoir had read to me the translation, I thought I had found the journal wherein it first appeared. 

The London Observer had published it some years before, and Dr. Baird, in the American and Foreign Christian Union Magazine, said that it was "attributed to the London Observer;" and the Presbyterian Board of Publication still issued a book on the Waldenses, in which it stated that the poem appeared originally in the London Observer.  But strange to say, I did not learn who the author was until 1854, when I returned from Brazil for the first time. 

Then it was that I learned that the poem was not written, by an Englishman, and that it did not first appear in the London Observer, but that it originally appeared in the press of the United States, and that its author was no other than the most American of American poets, John Greenleaf Whittier. Its title in his works is "The Vaudois Teacher."

In 1857 I contributed an article on the fact narrated above to the Boston Saturday Evening Gazette. A short time afterward, I visited Whittier in his little home in Amesbury, when he informed me that he had been more moved in hearing that the "Vaudois Teacher" had touched the brave Waldenses, than by any other piece that he had ever written for any purpose whatever.

A few years ago, finding that the Waldenses themselves did not know who had composed the beautiful piece, translated by G. de Felice, I wrote up to the Moderator of the Waldensian Synod at La Tour, telling him who the author was. In September, 1875, when the Synod met amidst the fastnesses of the Alps, the Moderator, at the clerical banquet always given at the conclusion, arose and said that it gave him the greatest pleasure to make known to his brethren, who wrote the "Colporteur Vaudois." "It was," he continued," written by Jean Greenleaf Wittier, of America; and, my brethren, I propose the health of Monsieur Whittier." All rose to their feet, and with a right hearty goodwill they drank to the Quaker poet. A letter was written by the Moderator to Whittier, stating that he thanked him in the name of the Waldensian Church for the beautiful "Colporteur Vaudois." I afterward saw Whittier's answer, translated into Italian and printed from one end of Italy to the other.

Believing that the poem will be interesting to your readers as the only poem which has become classic in French, and which has become a household word to the Waldenses and all other Protestants in Italy, I append it, together with the portion from Rhenarius Saccho, (an inquisitor of the twelfth century,) which inspired Whittier to write the 

"Vaudois Teacher."


"The manner," says Saccho, "in which the Waldenses and heretics disseminated their principles among the Catholic gentry was by carrying with them a box of trinkets, or articles of dress. Having entered the houses of the gentry, and disposed of some of their goods, they cautiously intimated that they had commodities far more valuable than these inestimable, jewels, which they would show if they could be protected from the clergy. 

They would then give their purchasers a Bible or a Testament; and thereby many were deluded into heresy." 

 Here is the poem: 

"O lady fair, these silks of mine are beautiful

 and rare

 The richest web of Indian loom, 

which beauty's queen might wear;

And my pearls are pure as thine own neck, 

with whose radiant light they vie;

I have brought them with me a weary way 

Will my gentle lady buy?"

And my lady smiled on the worn old man,

through the dark and clustering curls. 

Which veiled her brow as she bent to view his

silks and glittering pearls; 

And she placed their price in the old man's hand,

and lightly turned away, 

But she paused at the wanderer's earnest call

 "My gentle lady, stay!"

"O lady fair, I have yet a gem which a purer

luster flings 

Than the diamond flash of the jeweled crown

on the lofty brow of kings, 

A wonderful pearl of exceeding price, whose

virtue shall not decay, 

Whose light shall be as a spell to thee, and a

blessing on thy way!"

The lady glanced at the mirroring steel where

her form of grace was seen, 

Where her dark eyes shone clear, and her dark

locks waved their clasping pearls between ; 

"Bring forth the pearl of exceeding worth

thou traveler gray and old, 

And name the price of thy precious gem, and

my page shall count thy gold!"

 The cloud went off from the pilgrim's brow, as

a small and meager book, 

Unchased with gold or gem of cost, from his

folding robe he took. 

"Here, lady fair, is the pearl of price; may it

prove as such to thee! 

Nay, keep thy gold, I ask it not, the word of 

God is free!"

The hoary traveler went his way, but the gift 

he left behind

Hath had its pure and perfect work on that 

high-born maiden's mind;

And she hath turned from the pride of sin to 

the loveliness of truth,

And given her human heart to God in its 

beautiful hour of youth!

J. C. Fletcher.