A Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields/The Memories of the People (Béranger)



In the hut men shall talk of his glory,
With pride, not unmingled with tears;
And the roof shall not ring with a story
But that grand one, for fifty long years.
There villagers in evenings cold,
Shall haply beg some gossip old,
By stories of a former day,
To while the livelong hours away.
'Some say that he has done us wrong,
But the people love him yet;
Mother, sing of him a song,
We love him, though his sun be set.'

'My children, he passed through this village,
With kings not a few in his train;
I was young, and the house and the tillage
Was learning to manage with pain.
I clambered up a little hill
To see him pass, and stood quite still.
The well-known little hat he wore,
His grey coat marks of travel bore.
I felt an awe as he drew near,
He smiled the fear to view;
"Good day, good day," he cried, "my dear."'
'Mother, he spoke to you!'

'One day, a year after, in winter,
To Paris on business I came,
I saw him again the bright centre
Of a court in the old Notre Dame.
Every heart was there content,
Every eye was on him bent,
All cried, "What a glorious day,
God protect thee thus alway!"
That God had blessed him with a son,—
He smiled, such gracious smiles are few,
My heart, the heart of all it won.'
'Oh mother, what a day for you!'

'In the days when our country to strangers
Was given for a spoil and a prey,
It was he who, despising all dangers,
Upheld us, and kept them at bay.
An eve like this, when day was o'er,
I heard a knocking at the door,
I opened;—good God! it was he,
With weary escort, sad to see.
He sat upon this very seat,
"Ah, fearful war!” he said.'
'Mother, it makes our hearts to beat,
To think he here has stayed.'

'"I am hungry," he cried, and quick tripping,
The ale and the brown bread I place;
He dried all his clothes, that were dripping,
And he slept by the fire for a space.
Awaking up, he saw my tears,—
"Hope on," he cried, "and have no fears;
Misfortunes have come,—it is chance:
To Paris, avenger of France,

I hasten,"—he said, and he passed.
This wine-cup, 'twas his, that I fill,
A treasure to keep to the last.'
'Oh mother, keep that wine-cup still.'

'It is here. But oh, where is our warrior?
The wise and the brave and the true!
On a rock, with the sea for a barrier,
Broken-hearted he pined, and for you.
He whom the father Pope had crowned,
Deserted, exiled, and dethroned!
Long, long the tale was disbelieved,
"He'll come again," some said who grieved.
But when the truth was clearly known
That on the rock he dying lay,
My grief, the grief of France was shown.'
'God bless thee, mother!—Well-a-day.'