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James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

May 5

Popular Recollections of Bonaparte

By Father Prout (Francis Mahony) (1805–1866)

After Béranger

THEY’LL talk of him for years to come

In cottage chronicle and tale;

When for aught else renown is dumb,

His legend shall prevail!

Then in the hamlet’s honored chair

Shall sit some aged dame,

Teaching to lowly clown and villager

That narrative of fame.

’Tis true, they’ll say, his gorgeous throne

France bled to raise;

But he was all our own!

Mother, say something in his praise—

Oh speak of him always!

“I saw him pass: his was a host:

Countless beyond your young imaginings—

My children he could boast

A train of conquered kings!

And when he came this road,

’Twas on my bridal day,

He wore—for near to him I stood—

Cocked hat and surcoat gray.

I blushed; he said, ‘Be of good cheer!

Courage, my dear!’

That was his very word.”—

Mother! oh then this really occurred,

And you his voice could hear!

“A year rolled on; when next at Paris I,

Lone woman that I am,

Saw him pass by,

Girt with his peers, to kneel at Notre Dame,

I knew by merry chime and signal gun,

God granted him a son,

And oh! I wept for joy!

For why not weep when warrior-men did,

Who gazed upon that sight so splendid,

And blessed the imperial boy?

Never did noonday sun shine out so bright!

Oh, what a sight!”—

Mother! for you that must have been

A glorious scene!

“But when all Europe’s gathered strength

Burst o’er the French frontier at length,

’Twill scarcely be believed

What wonders, single-handed, he achieved.

Such general never lived!

One evening on my threshold stood

A guest—’twas he! Of warriors few

He had a toil-worn retinue.

He flung himself into this chair of wood,

Muttering, meantime, with fearful air,

‘Quelle guerre! oh, quelle guerre!’”

Mother, and did our emperor sit there,

Upon that very chair?

“He said, ‘Give me some food.’

Brown loaf I gave, and homely wine,

And made the kindling fire-blocks shine,

To dry his cloak, with wet bedewed.

Soon by the bonnie blaze he slept;

Then waking, chid me (for I wept):

‘Courage!’ he cried, ‘I’ll strike for all

Under the sacred wall

Of France’s noble capital!’

Those were his words: I’ve treasured up

With pride that same wine-cup,

And for its weight in gold

It never shall be sold!”

Mother! on that proud relic let us gaze—

Oh keep that cup always!

“But, through some fatal witchery,

He whom a Pope had crowned and blessed,

Perished, my sons, by foulest treachery!

Cast on an isle far in the lonely West.

Long time sad rumors were afloat—

The fatal tidings we would spurn,

Still hoping from that isle remote

Once more our hero would return.

But when the dark announcement drew

Tears from the virtuous and the brave—

When the sad whisper proved too true,

A flood of grief I to his memory gave.

Peace to the glorious dead!”—

Mother! may God His fullest blessing shed

Upon your aged head!