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


John of Tours

By Old French

Translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

JOHN of Tours is back with peace,

But he comes home ill at ease.

“Good morrow, mother.” “Good morrow, son;

Your wife has borne you a little one.”

“Go now, mother, go before,

Make me a bed upon the floor;

“Very low your foot must fall,

That my wife hear not at all.”

As it neared the midnight toll,

John of Tours gave up his soul.

“Tell me, now, my mother my dear,

What ’s the crying that I hear?”

“Daughter, it ’s the children wake

Crying with their teeth that ache.”

“Tell me though, my mother my dear,

“What ’s the knocking that I hear?”

“Daughter, it ’s the carpenter

Mending planks upon the stair.”

“Tell me, too, my mother my dear,

What ’s the singing that I hear?”

“Daughter, it ’s the priests in rows

Going round about our house.”

“Tell me then, my mother my dear,

What ’s the dress that I should wear?”

“Daughter, any reds or blues,

But the black is most in use.”

“Nay, but say, my mother my dear,

Why do you fall weeping here?”

“O, the truth must be said,—

It ’s that John of Tours is dead.”

“Mother, let the sexton know

That the grave must be for two;

Ay, and still have room to spare,

For you must shut the baby there.”