by Pierre Jean de Béranger (1780 - 1857)
Translation by William Young (1809 - 1888)

Le vieux vagabond
Language: French (Français) 
Dans ce fossé cessons de vivre,
Je finis vieux, infirme et las.
Les passants vont dire: il est ivre!
Tant mieux: Ils ne me plaindront pas.
J'en vois qui détournent la tête;
D'autres me jettent quelques sous.
Courez vite; allez à la fête,
Vieux vagabond, je puis mourir sans vous.

Oui, je meurs ici de vieillesse,
Parce qu'on ne meurt pas de faim.
J'espérais voir de ma détresse
L'hôpital adoucir la fin.
Mais tout est plein dans chaque hospice,
Tant le peuple est infortuné.
La rue, hélas! fut ma nourrice:
Vieux vagabond, mourons où je suis né.

Aux artisans, dans mon jeune âge,
J'ai dit: qu'on m'enseigne un métier.
Va, nous n'avons pas trop d'ouvrage,
Répondaient-ils; va mendier.
Riches qui me disiez: Travaille,
J'eus bien des os de vos repas;
J'ai bien dormi sur votre paille:
Vieux vagabond, je ne vous maudis pas.

J'aurais pu voler, moi pauvre homme;
Mais non: mieux vant tender la main:
Au plus, j'ai dérobé la pomme
Qui mûrit au bord du chemin.
Vingt fois pourtant on me verrouille
Dans les cachots, de par le roi.
De mon seul bien l'on me dépouille:
Vieux vagabond, le soleil est à moi.

La pauvre a-t-il une patrie?
Que me font vos vins et vos blés,
Votre gloire et votre industrie,
Et vos orateurs assemblés?
Dans vos murs ouverts à ses armes,
Lorsque l'étranger s'engraissait,
Comme un sot j'ai versé des larmes:
Vieux vagabond, sa main me nourrissait.

Comme un insecte, fait pour nuire,
Hommes, que ne m'écrasiez vous?
Ah! plutôt deviez m'instruire
A travailler au bien de tous.
Mis à l'abri du vent contraire
Le ver fût devenu fourmi;
Je vous aurais chéris en frère:
Vieux vagabond, je meurs votre ennemi.

E. Lalo sets stanzas 1-2, 5-6

Authorship

Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

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Researcher for this text: Sharon Krebs [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 48
Word count: 284

The old vagabond
Language: English  after the French (Français) 
Here in this ditch I'll breathe my last;
Weary, infirm, and old -- 'tis past.
"He's drunk," the lookers-on will swear;
Let them, so they their pity spare!
Some turn their heads as on they go;
Some a few pence in passing throw--
Off to the fete, haste, quickly fly;
Old vagabond, alone, without you I can die!

Yes, of old age I die; for now,
That hunger kills us, none allow.
I hoped some hospital might cheer
The close of my forlorn career:
But all are full; each refuge shows,
By crowds within, the people's woes.
The street, alas! my nurse -- 'tis right,
Old vagabond, to die where first I saw the light!

In youth, to artisans I made
Request, that I might learn their trade:
"Go, work is scarce," thus would they say,
"For us ourselves; go, beg your way!"
Ye rich! who bade me work, a bone
Oft from your feasts for me was thrown:
I found your straw the best of beds;
Old vagabond, my curse is not upon your heads!

I might, poor wretch, have stolen; no!
'Twere better I should begging go;
At most the apple was my prey,
That ripening hung beside the way:
Still, twenty times, in dungeon hard,
In the King's name, have I been barred;
Of treasures I possessed but one--
Old vagabond, alas! they robbed me of the sun!

What country's his who poor is born,
What are to me your wines, your corn,
Your glory, your industrious skill,
Your speakers who your councils fill?
The stranger fattened in your halls--
You opened to his arms your walls--
Fool that I was, tears then to shed:
Old vagabond, his hand was wont to give me bread!

Why, as some noxious insect, then,
Did ye not crush me, sons of men?
Ah! rather should I have been taught
What good for man I might have wrought!
Sheltered, and adverse winds allayed,
Soon had the worm an ant been made;
My brethren I had loved--but no--
Old vagabond, I die, yes, yes, I die your foe!

Authorship

Based on

Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

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Researcher for this text: Sharon Krebs [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website: 2011-04-25
Line count: 48
Word count: 344