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THE FOLK-SONGS OF POITOU. 237
moved by an irresistible longing, the unfortunate conscript has deserted the ranks, been captured by his comrades, and condemned to suffer the penalty of his weakness in a shameful death. The old songs have many subjects of that kind, whose memory lingers, although the penalty for desertion is now less severe. One of them is Le Deserteur, whose deeply plaintive air, and the melopoeism of its verse, as well as its simple tragedy, have kept it alive.
" For eight long years within the troop I served, Without a furlough to relieve my pain. The longing took me to desert the ranks, To my fair land to turn my steps again.
" I had a luckless meeting on my way,
Three grenadiers before me made a halt. With handcuffs hard and cold they bound my hands, And led me to Bordeaux to a prison vault.
" Ah, is it then for love of a brown maid, That in a cell I lie in dismal mood ; My only couch the hard planks of the floor,
Water and black bread my only drink and food."
But when the maiden heard these words of grief, Both night and day she walked her love to see. " Courage, my dear love," through the grate she said, " I will find out a way to rescue thee.