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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.

Luberon, the Mountains

Gathering the Cocoons

By Frédéric Mistral (1830–1914)

(From Mirèio)
Translated by Harriet W. Preston

ONCE, in the wild woods of the Luberon,

A shepherd kept his flock. His days were long;

But when at last the same were wellnigh spent,

And toward the grave his iron frame was bent,

He sought the hermit of Saint Ouquèri,

To make his last confession piously.

Alone, in the Vaumasco valley lost,

His foot had never sacred threshold crost,

Since he partook his first communion.

Even his prayers were from his memory gone;

But now he rose and left his cottage lowly,

And came and bowed before the hermit holy.

“With what sin chargest thou thyself, my brother?”

The solitary said. Replied the other,

The aged man, “Once, long ago, I slew

A little bird about my flock that flew,—

A cruel stone I flung its life to end:

It was a wagtail, and the shepherds’ friend.”

“Is this a simple soul,” the hermit thought,

“Or is it an impostor?” And he sought

Curiously to read the old man’s face

Until, to solve the riddle, “Go,” he says,

“And hang thy shepherd’s cloak yon beam upon,

And afterward I will absolve my son.”

A single sunbeam through the chapel strayed;

And there it was the priest the suppliant bade

To hang his cloak! But the good soul arose,

And drew it off with mien of all repose,

And threw it upward. And it hung in sight

Suspended on the slender shaft of light!

Then fell the hermit prostrate on the floor,

“O man of God!” he cried, and he wept sore,

“Let but the blessed hand these tears bedew,

Fulfil the sacred office for us two!

No sins of thine can I absolve, ’t is clear:

Thou art the saint, and I the sinner here!”