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poet. The pleasures of love and wine are generally associated by light natures, and Béranger had not the loftier soul or the correct training to spurn this union, as is illustrated in his song, "Le Printemps et l'Automne :"
“Deux saisons règlent toutes choses
Pour qui sait vivre en s'amusant;
A l'automne un jus bienfaisant.
On fait le vin quand ils sont courts.
En automne, adieu les amours !"* Béranger's sparkling wit and rollicking gayety contributed principally to his popularity among a people where such qualities are highly esteemed. His satire is biting, yet not malicious. He scatters his bolts of wit and sarcasm right and left, yet in a playful manner, and seems never to desire to injure any one, only to excite a laugh. Yet he as well as his victims sometimes discovered that this playing with fire is dangerous. His charitable nature led him oftener to indulge in a gay humor than in wit or sarcasm, and in this province he is always delightful. He was ever observing objects that excited his laughter, and he represented their comic aspects so as to make others perceive them and laugh with him. In his gay moods he resembled his “Roger Bontemps ;"
“Aux gens atrabilaires
Pour exemple donné,
Roger Bontemps est né,”+ His pictures of Bohemian life are admirable. Some of them are only too true to nature, but he makes us sympathize with his characters. Mürger's “Scenes of Bohemian Life” contains many such pictures as Béranger's “ Le Grenier," but nothing more truthful. Another illustration of this kind of life is given in “Les Cinquante Ecus.” The ills of sublunary existence, of which it would seem that he had more than his share, touched him but lightly.
* “Two seasons of all things dispose,
For those who know life's real use;
And farewell in autumn to love !"-Euvres, t. i. p. 22. + Ib. t. i. p. 12.
“Ma gaieté s'en est allée;
Sage ou fou qui la rendra ?
Dieu l'en récompensera.'
To so kindly and genial a disposition tears are as native as laughter. Béranger often makes us weep for those whom, but for his influence, we should perhaps have passed by with indifference or scorn. For specimens of pathos, and as showing his sympathy with all misfortune, take "La Bonne Vieille,” “Le Violin Brisé,” “La Pauvre Femme,” and “ Jacques.” Of a somewhat different kind, but equally humane, are “Le Vieux Vagabond” and “Le Juif Errant.” Béranger's muse did not scorn the lowest human subject, and she invests all with a peculiar charm. His pictures of common characters are such as will long live in the memory of the reader.
Such are “Le Maître d'Ecole," "Le Vieux Ménétrier,” “Paillasse,” “L'Aveugle de Bagnolet,” and “Le Bon Vieillard.” In such poems as “Le Vieux Drapeau,” “Le Vieux Sergent,” “ Les Deux Grenadiers,” and “Le Vieux Caporal," he touched a chord in the heart of every true Frenchman. His love of military glory and his patriotism find free expression in his songs. The two occupations of Paris by the allies called forth some bitter satires. Yet even here he sees the comic aspects of things, and gives “ L'Opinion de ces Demoiselles ” respecting the occupation subsequent to the Hundred Days.
"Viv' nos amis !
Nos amis les enn’mis !"+
There is an occasional burst of a wild spirit of adventure and enthusiasm for a life in strange and unusual circumstances, as in “Les Bohemiens,” “Les Contrabandiers,” and “Le Chant du Cosaque.” Quite as imaginative, but less weird and outré, are “La Voyage Imaginaire," " Le Tailleur et la Fée,” “La Petite Fée,” and “ La Métempsychose.” For specimens of playful satire we have “Les Marionnettes” and “Les Infinements Petits.”
* Buvres, t. ii. p. 11.
† 16. t. i. p. 171.
Béranger was always poking fun at the priests, as in “ Les Capucins” and “Mon Curé.” Even the Pope does not escape, for we have “Le Bon Pape," "Le Fils du Pape,” “Le Mariage du Pape,” and “ La Mort du Diable.”
“Dieu sera plus grand que le pape,
Yet his satire did not prevent the Catholic clergy of France, to their honor be it mentioned, from rendering ample justice to the merits of the poet and the man. In 1849, the Archbishop of Paris, accompanied by one of his vicars-general and by the Curé of Passy, visited Béranger in his modest retreat, to pay his respects to the brilliant star of French literature.
The poet at one time shared in his countrymen's hatred of the English, and can be excused for a fling at them after the entry into Paris, in 1814:
“Quoique leur chapeaux soient bien laid,
God dam! moi, j'aime les Anglais;
Que leurs plaisirs sont de bon goût!”+ His love of humanity often rose into a noble, statesmanlike enthusiasm for the rights of men as peoples and as nations. He sings much of liberty, and his hymn, “La Sainte Alliance du Peuples,” is a grand lyric of humanity. Béranger assures us that he greatly loves the woods and fields; yet he does not in his poems show an intimate acquaintance with nature. He seldom represents still life, but his rural pictures are generally associated with human interests and actions, as in “Les Vendages.” The birds are especially dear to his heart, as we can well understand, for his nature was quite similar to theirs. His love and appreciation of them are exhibited in “ Les Rossignols,” “Les Hirondelles," and other poems. He sometimes
* Frivres, t. ii. p. 169.
+ 1b. t. i. p. 102.
looks on the serious side of life and considers it thoughtfully, as in “Le Jour des Morts." In “ L'Orage” the disposition to be gay when one can, in spite of adverse and threatening circumstances, is well exhibited :
“Chers enfants, dansez, dansez !
Echappe à l'orage ;
Dansez, chantez, dansez !"* Popular superstitions he respects, and employs where he can render them poetical, as in “Les Etoiles qui Filent.” His delight in song is well expressed in his poem entitled “Ma Vocation :"
“Jeté sur cette boule,
Laid, chétif, et souffrant:
Faute d'être assez grand;
De ma bouche sortit :
Chante, pauvre petit !”+ It is next to impossible to transfuse the spirit of Béranger into a foreign language. As well undertake to preserve the foam, and sparkle, and aroma of the richest champagne when turning that liquor into brandy, as to render our poet's best songs into anything like literal English. The English translator of Béranger must accept this proposition : given a poem in one language which produces a certain effect, to write a poem in another language which shall produce the same or a similar effect. To accomplish this the movement in the two languages must often be quite different. No one but a person of fine poetical instincts and thoroughly practised in the versifying art can properly translate Béranger; consequently we have few good renderings of his lyrics—few that give us their spirit, which is as evanescent as the morning dew. That eccentric but delightful genius, "Father Prout," was well fitted to appreciate Béranger, and has given us some excellent translations of bis lyrics. As a specimen, we give a stanza or two from
* Euvres, t. i. p. 369.
Up and down this wheeling world ;
“Oh! it was here that love his gifts bestowed
On youth's wild age!
Reckless to dwell;
This attic cell."
“Yes, 'twas a garret! be it known to all,
Here was love's shrine:
The unfinished line.
The Jew can tell
In attic cell !
“Oh! my Lisette's fair form could I recall
With fairy wand,
Bashful, yet fond !
Learned but too well ?
In attic cell !"
Another piece, much admired in the original, but by no means so attractive in its English dress, is “The Shooting-Stars," from which, however, we can only snatch a fragment:
"Shepherd, thou sayest our earthly doom
Obeys some star's mysterious power?'
Veils from our eyes the destined hour.'
Hast tracked each planet's wandering way;