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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Old Tramp

By Pierre Jean de Béranger (1780–1857)

(Le Vieux Vagabond)

HERE in this gutter let me die:

Weary and sick and old, I’ve done.

“He’s drunk,” will say the passers-by:

All right, I want no pity—none.

I see the heads that turn away,

While others glance and toss me sous:

“Off to your junket! go!” I say:

Old tramp,—to die I need no help from you.

Yes, of old age I’m dying now:

Of hunger people never die.

I hoped some almshouse might allow

A shelter when my end was nigh;

But all retreats are overflowed,

Such crowds are suffering and forlorn.

My nurse, alas! has been the road:

Old tramp,—here let me die where I was born.

When young, it used to be my prayer

To craftsmen, “Let me learn your trade.”

“Clear out—we’ve got no work to spare;

Go beg,” was all reply they made.

You rich, who bade me work, I’ve fed

With relish on the bones you threw;

Made of your straw an easy bed:

Old tramp,—I have no curse to vent on you.

Poor wretch, I had the choice to steal;

But no, I’d rather beg my bread.

At most I thieved a wayside meal

Of apples ripening overhead.

Yet twenty times have I been thrown

In prison—’twas the King’s decree;

Robbed of the only thing I own:

Old tramp,—at least the sun belongs to me.

The poor man—is a country his?

What are to me your corn and wine,

Your glory and your industries,

Your orators? They are not mine.

And when a foreign foe waxed fat

Within your undefended walls,

I shed my tears, poor fool, at that:

Old tramp,—his hand was open to my calls.

Why, like the hateful bug you kill,

Did you not crush me when you could?

Or better, teach me ways and skill

To labor for the common good?

The ugly grub an ant may end,

If sheltered from the cold and fed.

You might have had me for a friend:

Old tramp,—I die your enemy instead.