Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The People’s Reminiscences

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


The People’s Reminiscences

By Pierre-Jean de Béranger (1780–1857)

Translated by William Young

O, 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 did he pass this spot:

’T was long ago; I had, just then,

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 trembled, near him, till he said,

‘Good day, my dear,’—’t is true.”

“O Granny, Granny, did he speak?

What, Granny! speak to you?”

“Next year as I, poor soul, by chance,

Through Paris strolled one day,

I saw him go to Notre Dame,

With all his court so gay.

The crowd were charmed with such a show;

Their hearts were filled with pride;

‘What splendid weather for the fête!

Heaven favors him!’ they cried.

Softly he smiled, for God had given

To his fond arms a boy.”

“O, how much joy you must have felt!

O Granny, how much joy!”

“But when at length our poor Champagne

To strangers fell a prey,

He seemed alone to hold his ground,

And stand in danger’s way.

One night, as now, I heard a knock,

And soon the door unbarred;

When, O good God! ’t was he himself,

With but a scanty guard.

‘Alas, these wars! these wars!’ he cried,

Whilst seated in this 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 reclined his head.

Waking, he saw my tears, and cried,

‘Cheer up, good dame; I go

’Neath Paris’ walls to strike for France

One last avenging blow.’

He went; and on the glass be used

Such value I have set,

That I have kept it.” “What! till now?

You have it, Granny, yet?”

“Here ’t is: but ’t was the hero’s fate

To ruin to be led;

He whom a Pope had crowned, alas!

In a lone isle lies dead.

Long time they deemed it false, and said,

‘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 we our error knew!”

“Poor Granny! God will kindly look,

Will kindly look on you.”