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Poems of Henri Murger


SPRING IN THE STUDENT'S QUARTER
HENRI MURGER.

Winter is passing, and the bells
For ever with their silver lay
Murmur a melody that tells
Of April and of Easter day.
High in sweet air the light vane sets,
The weathercocks all southward twirl;
A sou will buy her violets
And make Nini a happy girl.

The winter to the poor was sore,
Counting the weary winter days,
Watching his little fire-wood store,
The bitter snow-flakes fell always;
And now his last log dimly gleamed,
Lighting the room with feeble glare,
Half cinder and half smoke it seemed
That the wind wafted into air.

Pilgrims from ocean and far isles
See where the east is reddening,
The flocks that fly a thousand miles
From sunsetting to sunsetting;
Look up, look out, behold the swallows,
The throats that twitter, the wings that beat;
And on their song the summer follows,
And in the summer life is sweet.

* * * * * *

With the green tender buds that know
The shoot and sap of lusty spring
My neighbour of a year ago
Her casement, see, is opening;
Through all the bitter months that were,
Forth from her nest she dared not flee,
She was a study for Boucher,
She now might sit to Gavarni.


OLD LOVES
HENRI MURGER.

Louise, have you forgotten yet
The corner of the flowery land,
The ancient garden where we met,
My hand that trembled in your hand?
Our lips found words scarce sweet enough,
As low beneath the willow-trees
We sat; have you forgotten, love?
Do you remember, love Louise?

Marie, have you forgotten yet
The loving barter that we made?
The rings we changed, the suns that set,
The woods fulfilled with sun and shade?
The fountains that were musical
By many an ancient trysting tree -
Marie, have you forgotten all?
Do you remember, love Marie?

Christine, do you remember yet
Your room with scents and roses gay?
My garret--near the sky 'twas set -
The April hours, the nights of May?
The clear calm nights--the stars above
That whispered they were fairest seen
Through no cloud-veil? Remember, love!
Do you remember, love Christine?

Louise is dead, and, well-a-day!
Marie a sadder path has ta'en;
And pale Christine has passed away
In southern suns to bloom again.
Alas! for one and all of us -
Marie, Louise, Christine forget;
Our bower of love is ruinous,
And I alone remember yet.


MUSETTE
HENRI MURGER. 1850

Yesterday, watching the swallows' flight
That bring the spring and the season fair,
A moment I thought of the beauty bright
Who loved me, when she had time to spare;
And dreamily, dreamily all the day,
I mused on the calendar of the year,
The year so near and so far away,
When you were lief, and when I was dear.

Your memory has not had time to pass;
My youth has days of its lifetime yet;
If you only knocked at the door, alas,
My heart would open the door, Musette!
Still at your name must my sad heart beat;
Ah Muse, ah maiden of faithlessness!
Return for a moment, and deign to eat
The bread that pleasure was wont to bless.

The tables and curtains, the chairs and all,
Friends of our pleasure that looked on our pain,
Are glad with the gladness of festival,
Hoping to see you at home again;
Come, let the days of their mourning pass,
The silent friends that are sad for you yet;
The little sofa, the great wine glass -
For know you had often my share, Musette.

Come, you shall wear the raiment white
You wore of old, when the world was gay,
We will wander in woods of the heart's delight
The whole of the Sunday holiday.
Come, we will sit by the wayside inn,
Come, and your song will gain force to fly,
Dipping its wing in the clear and thin
Wine, as of old, ere it scale the sky.

Musette, who had scarcely forgotten withal
One beautiful dawn of the new year's best,
Returned at the end of the carnival,
A flown bird, to a forsaken nest.
Ah faithless and fair! I embrace her yet,
With no heart-beat, and with never a sigh;
And Musette, no longer the old Musette,
Declares that I am no longer I.

Farewell, my dear that was once so dear,
Dead with the death of our latest love;
Our youth is laid in its sepulchre,
The calendar stands for a stone above.
'Tis only in searching the dust of the days,
The ashes of all old memories,
That we find the key of the woodland ways
That lead to the place of our paradise.


THE THREE CAPTAINS

All beneath the white-rose tree
Walks a lady fair to see,
She is as white as the snows,
She is as fair as the day:
From her father's garden close
Three knights have ta'en her away.

He has ta'en her by the hand,
The youngest of the three -
'Mount and ride, my bonnie bride,
On my white horse with me.'

And ever they rode, and better rode,
Till they came to Senlis town,
The hostess she looked hard at them
As they were lighting down.

'And are ye here by force,' she said,
'Or are ye here for play?
From out my father's garden close
Three knights me stole away.

'And fain would I win back,' she said,
'The weary way I come;
And fain would see my father dear,
And fain go maiden home.'

'Oh, weep not, lady fair,' said she,
'You shall win back,' she said,
'For you shall take this draught from me
Will make you lie for dead.'

'Come in and sup, fair lady,' they said,
'Come busk ye and be bright;
It is with three bold captains
That ye must be this night.'

When they had eaten well and drunk,
She fell down like one slain:
'Now, out and alas! for my bonny may
Shall live no more again.'

'Within her father's garden stead
There are three white lilies;
With her body to the lily bed,
With her soul to Paradise.'

They bore her to her father's house,
They bore her all the three,
They laid her in her father's close,
Beneath the white-rose tree.

She had not lain a day, a day,
A day but barely three,
When the may awakes, 'Oh, open, father,
Oh, open the door for me.

''Tis I have lain for dead, father,
Have lain the long days three,
That I might maiden come again
To my mother and to thee.'


THE BRIDGE OF DEATH

'The dance is on the Bridge of Death
And who will dance with me?'
'There's never a man of living men
Will dare to dance with thee.'

Now Margaret's gone within her bower
Put ashes in her hair,
And sackcloth on her bonny breast,
And on her shoulders bare.

There came a knock to her bower door,
And blithe she let him in;
It was her brother from the wars,
The dearest of her kin.

'Set gold within your hair, Margaret,
Set gold within your hair,
And gold upon your girdle band,
And on your breast so fair.

'For we are bidden to dance to-night,
We may not bide away;
This one good night, this one fair night,
Before the red new day.'

'Nay, no gold for my head brother,
Nay, no gold for my hair;
It is the ashes and dust of earth
That you and I must wear.

'No gold work for my girdle band,
No gold work on my feet;
But ashes of the fire, my love,
But dust that the serpents eat.'

* * * * * *

They danced across the bridge of Death,
Above the black water,
And the marriage-bell was tolled in hell
For the souls of him and her.