Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
The Refusal
(Addressed to General Sebastiani)

By Pierre Jean de Beranger

(French lyric poet, of great popularity, 1780–1857; twice prosecuted by the government for his republican utterances)
A MINISTER offers me gold!
Not a creature, of course, to be told,
  Not a word to appear in the press!
My wants are but few, to be sure,
And yet, when I think of the poor,        5
  I long to be rich, I confess!
With the poor, as the world is aware,
Stars and ribands one cannot well share,
  But gold is a different thing!
Yes, just for a hundred francs down        10
I’d cheerfully pawn both my crown
  And my sceptre, if I were king!
When money does come in my way,
It goes the next moment astray,
  How and where I can’t really explain;        15
My pocket is cursed with a hole
Which my grandmother, excellent soul,
  All her days would have stitched at in vain!
All the same, my good friend, keep your gold!
In my teens, if the truth must be told,        20
  Proud Freedom I fervently woo’d;
Yes, I, who have vaunted in song
Lax loveliness all my life long,
  Am wedded in fact to a prude!
Ay, Liberty, Sir, you must learn,        25
Is a bigot inflexibly stern,
  Who, heedless of time and of place,
Directly the tinsel she spies
On Servility’s livery, cries,
  “Away with the rascally lace!”        30
Your dross she an insult would deem!
But, frankly, how came you to dream
  Of attempting to treat with my muse?
As it is, I’m at least a good “sou,”
But lacquer me over, and you        35
  Make me counterfeit ev’n among “sous.”
Keep your pelf; I’m no hero, I fear,
But if the world happens to hear
  Of this secret you think so profound,
You’ll know whence the story has sprung—        40
My heart’s like a lyre newly strung,
  One touch, and you make it resound!

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