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


The Coronation of Charles the Simple

By Pierre-Jean de Béranger (1780–1857)

Translated by John Oxenford

YE Frenchmen who at Rheims are met

“Montjoie and St. Denis” repeat.

The ampoule we have got once more,

The sparrows in a merry flock

Are all set loose, as heretofore,

And seem the state of man to mock.

About the church each flutterer flies,

The monarch smiles their sport to see;

The people cries: “Dear birds, take warning and be wise;

Birds, mind you keep your liberty.”

As now we ’re on the ancient track,

To Charles the Third will I go back,

That worthy grandson of Charlemagne,

Whom folks the “Simple” aptly call,

So famous by the great campaign

In which he did just naught at all.

But to his crowning here we go

While birds and flatterers sing with glee;

The people cries: “No foolish gladness show;

Birds, mind you keep your liberty.”

This king, bedecked with tinsel fine,

Who on fat taxes loves to dine,

Is marching with a faithful throng

Of subjects, who in wicked times

With rebel banners tramped along,

And aided an usurper’s crimes.

Now cash has set all right again,

Good faith should well rewarded be;

The people cries: “We dearly buy our chain;

Birds, mind you keep your liberty.”

Charles kneels embroidered priests before,

And mumbles his “Confiteor,”

Then he ’s anointed, kissed, and dressed,

And while the hymns salute his ear

His hand upon the book is pressed,

And his confessor whispers: “Swear!”

Rome, who cares most about the clause,

The faithful from an oath can free;

The people cries: “Thus do they wield our laws;

Birds, mind you keep your liberty.”

The royal wight has scarcely felt

About his waist old Charles’s belt

Than in the dust he humbly lies.

A soldier shouts, “King, do not crouch,”

“Keep where you are,” a bishop cries,

“And mind you fill the church’s pouch.

I crown you, and a gift from heaven

The gift of priests must surely be.”

The people cries: “Lo, kings to kings are given!

Birds, mind you keep your liberty.”

Ye birds, this king we prize so much

Can cure the evil with his touch:

Fly, birds, although you are in fact

The only gay ones in the church.

You might commit more impious act,

If on the altar you should perch.

The sanguinary tools of kings

Placed as the altar’s guard we see;

The people cries: “We envy you your wings;

Birds, mind you guard your liberty.”