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


Pictures of Paris

By Marc Antoine Madelaine Désaugiers (1772–1827)

Translated by John Oxenford


NOW the darkness breaks,

Flight it slowly takes;

Now the morning wakes,

Roofs around to gild.

Now the day ’s in sight,

Lamps give paler light,

Houses grow more white;

Markets all are filled.

From La Vilette

Comes young Susette,

Her flowers to set

Upon the quay.

His donkey Pierre

Is driving near,

From Vincennes here

His fruit brings he.

Florists ope their eyes,

Oysterwomen rise,

Grocers, who are wise,

Start from bed at dawn;

Artisans now toil,

Poets paper soil,

Pedants eyesight spoil,

Idlers only yawn.

I see Javotte,

Who cries, “Carotte!”

And sells a lot

Of parsnips cheap.

Her voice so shrill

The air can fill,

And drown it will

The chimney-sweep.

Now the gamester’s seen;

With a haggard mien,

And his pocket clean,

Swearing, home he goes

While the drunkard lies

On his path, more wise,

Making music rise

From his blushing nose.

In yonder house

They still carouse,

Change loving vows,

And sing and play.

Through all the night,

In sorry plight,

A wretched wight

Before it lay.

Now the patient rings,

Till the servant brings

Draughts and other things,

Such as doctors know;

While his lady fair

Feigns with modest air

(Love is lurking there!)

For a bath to go.

Love’s pilgrims creep

With purpose deep,

And measured step

Where none can see;

The diligence

Is leaving France,

To seek Mayence

Or Italy.

“Dear papa, adieu,

Good by, mother, too,

And the same to you,

Every little one.”

Now the horses neigh,

Now the whip ’s in play,

Windows ring away,

Out of sight they ’re gone.

In every place

New things I trace,

No empty place

Can now be found.

But great and small,

And short and tall,

Tag rag and all,

In crowds abound.

Ne’er the like has been;

Now they all begin

Such a grievous din,

They will split my head;

How I feel it ache

With the noise they make;—

Paris is awake,

So I ’ll go to bed.


NOW the motley throng,

As it rolls along

With its torrents strong,

Seems to ebb away.

Business-time has past,

Dinner comes at last,

Cloths are spreading fast,—

Night succeeds to day.

Here woodcock fine,

I can divine,

On fowl some dine,

And turkey too.

While here a lot

Of cabbage hot

All in the pot

With beef they stew.

Now the parasite

Hastes with footstep light,

Where the fumes invite

Of a banquet rare.

Yonder wretch I see,

For a franc dines he,

But in debt he ’ll be

For his sorry fare.

Hark, what a noise!

Sure every voice

Its force employs

To swell the sound.

Here softest strains

Tell lover’s pains;

There proudly reigns

The drunken round.

Dinner ’s over, so

To cafés they go,

While their faces glow;

Then elate with wine

Yon gourmand so great

Falls, and with his weight

Crushes one, whom fate

Suffered not to dine.

The mocha steams,

The punch-bowl gleams

And perfume seems

To fill the air.

“Ice! ice!” they call,

And “Coffee” bawl,

“Could you at all

The paper spare?”

Journals they read o’er,

Liquors down they pour,

Or they sit before

Tables spread for play.

While with watchful eyes,

And with aspect wise,

Stands to criticise

The habitué.

There tragedy

They go to see,

Here comedy

Asserts her reign;

A juggler here,

A drama there,

Your purse would clear,

Nor sues in vain.

Now the lamps are bright,

Chandeliers alight,

Shops are quite a sight

While with wicked eye

Stands the little queen

Of the magazine,

And with roguish mien

Tempts the folks to buy.

A nook obscure

Will some allure,

Who there secure

May play their parts.

There thieves at will

Their pockets fill;

And lovers steal

The ladies’ hearts.

Jeannot, and Claude, and Blaise,

Nicolas and Nicaise,

Who all five from Falaise

To Paris lately came;

Admire with upturned faces,

Fast rooted to their places,

Paillasse’s strange grimaces,

Naught paying for the same.

Her labors done,

Her dress put on,

To dance has gone

The gay grisette.

Her grandma dear

And neighbor near,

Their souls will cheer

With cool piquette.

Now ’t is ten o’clock,

Now against a rock,

With a heavy shock,

Three new plays have struck.

From the doors the mob

Rushes,—mind your fob,—

Gentlefolks who rob

Try just now their luck.

“St. Jean,” I say,

“Quick,—no delay!

My cab this way!”

The livery all

With wine accursed

Could almost burst,

But still athirst,

From taverns crawl.

Carriages with pride

Take their lords inside,

Then away they glide

In a solemn row.

Cabs retreat of course,

While the drivers hoarse

Swear with all their force,

As they backwards go.

Hark! what a rout!

They push about,

And loudly shout,

“Take care, take care!”

Some hurry, yet

Are soon upset,

Across some get

And home repair.

Trade begins to drop,

Finding custom stop,

Tradesmen shut up shop;

Here ’s a contrast strange!

Noisy thoroughfare,

Crowd-encumbered square,

To a desert bare

Now is doomed to change.

A form I see

Approaching me,

“Qui vive!” says he;

At once I shrink;

As he draws nigh

Away go I,

’T is best to fly

All scrapes, I think.

Now there ’s naught in sight

Save the lamps’ pale light,—

Scattered through the night,

Timidly they peep;

These too disappear,

Nothing far or near

But the breeze I hear,—

All are fast asleep.