Coming to France

Robert Crawford

after the Latin ‘Adventus in Galliam’ of George Buchanan (1506-82)

Badlands of Portugal, bye-bye
For ever, starving crofts whose year-round crop
Is lack of cash. And you, fair France, bonjour!
Bonjour, adoring sponsor of the arts,
Your air’s to die for, and your earth’s so rich
Vineyards embrace your warm, umbrageous hills,
Cows crowd your pastures, glens gabble with burns,
Broad, open meadows fan out fields of flowers;
Sailboats go gliding down long waterways,
Fish throng your ponds, lochs, rivers, and the sea
Where, left and right, your harbours greet the world
With open arms. Unstinting, smiling France,
Your towns are stunners, safe, walled, turreted,
Sights for sore eyes, stacked out with shining roofs;
Your folk are never pushy, but plain-speaking,
Well-dressed, well-fed, so ready to be friends.
France, alma mater of the universe,
Faithful, happy, flourishing at peace,
Jocund and easy, but grim-faced in war,
Unbeatable, but not flushed with success.
When the going’s tough you show true grit. You stand,
Defender of the true faith, with no time
For foreign bigots’ fads. Well-balanced France,
Your summer’s free from arid heat. Your winter
Gives up its bleak excesses at your hearth.
No east wind plagues make autumn faces pale,
No spring floods drown your farms with fast-thawed ice.
France, if for just one instant in my life
I cease to love you as my patria,
Send me straight back to Portugal’s dour badlands,
Those crofts whose only crop is lack of cash.