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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 People’s Reminiscences

By Pierre Jean de Béranger (1780–1857)

(Les Souvenirs du Peuple)

Translation of William Young

AY, 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 he passed by this spot;

’Twas long ago; I had but just

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 was half frightened till he said

‘Good day, my dear!’ to me.”

“O granny, granny, did he speak?

What, granny! you and he?”

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

Through Paris strolled one day,

I saw him taking, with his court,

To Notre Dame his way.

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.”

“Oh, how much joy you must have felt!

O granny, how much joy!”

“But when at length our poor Champagne

By foes was overrun,

He seemed alone to hold his ground;

Nor dangers would he shun.

One night—as might be now—I heard

A knock—the door unbarred—

And saw—good God! ’twas he, himself,

With but a scanty guard.

‘Oh, what a war is this!’ he cried,

Taking this very 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 dropped down his head.

Waking, he saw my tears—‘Cheer up,

Good dame!’ says he, ‘I go

’Neath Paris’ walls to strike for France

One last avenging blow.’

He went; but on the cup he used

Such value did I set—

It has been treasured.”—“What! till now?

You have it, granny, yet?”

“Here ’tis: but ’twas the hero’s fate

To ruin to be led;

He whom a Pope had crowned, alas!

In a lone isle lies dead.

’Twas long denied: ‘No, no,’ said they,

‘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 forced to own ’twas true!”

“Poor granny! Heaven for this will look—

Will kindly look on you.”