Pierre Jean de Beranger

(1780-1857 / France)

The People's Reminiscences - Poem by Pierre Jean de Beranger


Ay, many a day the straw-thatched cot
Shall echo with his glory!
The humblest shed, these fifty years,
Shall know no other story.
There shall the idle villagers
To some old dame resort,
And beg her with those good old tales
To make their evenings short.
'What though they say he did us harm?
Our love this cannot dim;
Come, granny, talk of him to us;
Come, granny, talk of him.'

'Well, children--with a train of kings,
Once he passed by this spot;
'Twas long ago; I had but just
Begun to boil the pot.
On foot he climbed the hill, whereon
I watched him on his way:
He wore a small three-cornered hat;
His overcoat was gray.
I was half frightened till he said
'Good day, my dear!' to me.'
'O granny, granny, did he speak?
What, granny! you and he?'

'Next year, as I, poor soul, by chance
Through Paris strolled one day,
I saw him taking, with his court,
To Notre Dame his way.
The crowd were charmed with such a show;
Their hearts were filled with pride:
'What splendid weather for the fete!
Heaven favors him!' they cried.
Softly he smiled, for God had given
To his fond arms a boy.'
'Oh, how much joy you must have felt!
O granny, how much joy!'

'But when at length our poor Champagne
By foes was overrun,
He seemed alone to hold his ground;
Nor dangers would he shun.
One night--as might be now--I heard
A knock--the door unbarred--
And saw--good God! 'twas he, himself,
With but a scanty guard.
'Oh, what a war is this!' he cried,
Taking this very chair.'
'What! granny, granny, there he sat?
What! granny, he sat there?'

''I'm hungry,' said he: quick I served
Thin wine and hard brown bread;
He dried his clothes, and by the fire
In sleep dropped down his head.
Waking, he saw my tears--'Cheer up,
Good dame!' says he, 'I go
'Neath Paris' walls to strike for France
One last avenging blow.'
He went; but on the cup he used
Such value did I set--
It has been treasured.'--'What! till now?
You have it, granny, yet?'

'Here 'tis: but 'twas the hero's fate
To ruin to be led;
He whom a Pope had crowned, alas!
In a lone isle lies dead.
'Twas long denied: 'No, no,' said they,
'Soon shall he reappear!
O'er ocean comes he, and the foe
Shall find his master here.'
Ah, what a bitter pang I felt,
When forced to own 'twas true!'
'Poor granny! Heaven for this will look--
Will kindly look on you.'

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, September 16, 2010

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