Home  »  library  »  Song  »  Théodore de Banville (1823–1891)

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

Théodore de Banville (1823–1891)

The Ballad of the Common Folk

From ‘Gringoire’: Translation of John Payne

KINGS, in your turn that will be judged some day,

Think upon those that lack of all delight;

Have pity on the folk that love and pray,

That know no joy, that weary day and night,

That delve the soil, that die for you in fight.

Their life is like the damnèd souls’ in fire,

That never know the taste of their desire.

The luckiest barefoot and anhungered go;

The scorching sun, the rain, the frost, the mire—

For poor folk all is misery and woe.

Like beasts that wear their lives in toil away,

Within his hovel is the wretched wight.

Will he for once make merry and be gay,

For harvest reaped or for a bridal night,

Thinking at least to mark one day with white,

Down swoops his lord upon the luckless sire,

With outstretched hand, and greed that yet more dire

From satisfaction of its lust doth grow,

And like a vulture empties barn and byre.

For poor folk all is misery and woe.

Have pity on the wretched fool whose play

Unknits your brow; the fisher that for fright

Starts, when the levin leaps athwart his way;

The dreamy blue-eyed maiden, humbly dight,

That spins before her door in the sunlight;

Have pity on the mother’s void desire,

Clasping her starving infant nigh and nigher,

(Ah God! that little children should die so!)

To warm its frozen limbs for lack of fire.

For poor folk all is misery and woe.

For all poor folk I crave your pity, sire:

The peasant lying in the frozen mire,

The nun that telling o’er her beads doth go,

And for all those that lack their heart’s desire.

For poor folk all is misery and woe.