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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Belgium: Waterloo

Verses on the Day of Waterloo

By Pierre Jean de Béranger (1780–1857)

Translated by William Young

OLD soldiers tell me, “We may thank thy Muse,

That now the People popular songs can sing;

Laugh thou at laurels faction may refuse;

To our exploits again thy numbers string.

Sing of that day, which traitors dared invoke,

That latest day of ruin, though of fame.”

I said, my moist eyes drooping as I spoke,

“Ne’er shall my verse be saddened by that name.”

In Athens, who of Cheronea’s day

Would sing, the whilst his tuneful lyre he swept?

Doubting her gods, crestfallen Athens lay,

And cursing Philip, o’er her fortunes wept.

On such a day our glorious empire fell;

Then, charged with chains for us, the stranger came;

Degenerate Frenchmen deigned to greet him well:

Ne’er shall my verse be saddened by that name.

“Giant of battles, he at length must fall!

Hasten, brave people,” cry the despot train;

“Freedom herself shall spread his funeral pall,

And saved by you, by you alone we ’ll reign.”

The giant sinks,—the dwarfs forgetful swear

In slavish yoke the universe to tame;

Alas for Glory! doubly cheated there!

Ne’er shall my verse be saddened by that name.

But hold! the scions of another age

Even now the causes of my grief demand;

Why should this wreck, in truth, their thoughts engage?

Their buoyant cradles floated safe to land.

May they be happy! their ascending star

Of that disastrous day blots out the shame!

Still, were that day but some vain dream afar,

Ne’er should my verse be saddened by its name.