The Ragpicker’s Wine (Le Vin des Chiffoniers)

How often in a streetlamp’s reddish haze
As its flame is wind-battered, and its glass is grazed
In some muddy slum, cut off from the world
Where humanity roils in a feverish burl

A rag picker elbows his way through the crowd
Stumbling like a poet, head in the clouds
Ignoring the snitches who lurk in the seams
He pours all his heart into glorious schemes.

He swears oaths, lays out the strictures,
Knocks down the villains, turns victim to victor
And under a canopy of starry blue
He is drunk on the splendor of his own virtue.

These people harassed by homely sorrows
Ground down by work with too few tomorrows
Exhausted and bent beneath piles of debris
The harlequin puke of gigantic Paris.

Come nearer, smelling of old wine in old barrels,
Companions behind you, bleached white from battle
Mustaches draping like flags on the march.
Banners, flowers and triumphant arch.

And now before them in stately command
In this bright and stupendous orgy you stand
The sun, the cries and the drum beating harder
Bestowing glory on the crowd drunk with ardor!

Thus Wine, rolling through dizzy Mankind
Gleams like Pactolus the river that shined
Through the throat of each man he sings each great deed
And rules like a viceroy, by this noble creed:

To drown the bitterness and ease the disquiet
Of the cursed old men who silently buy it
God created sleep, his conscience to stun,
But man added Wine, holy child of the Sun!

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