In the Paris of the Empire, in the days of long ago,
Moves the drama they are acting, move the puppets of their show—
Those were days when life went briskly; when the stakes were hearts and brains;
And the rattle of the dicebox hid the clink of Fouché's chains—
But those days are past and done with, and you've changed the tune (I know)
From the tune we played in Paris—in the days of long ago.
Ere Hausmann's streets were builded—ere the coup d'état was tried—
How we lived like Gods at Paris! How we gambled, loved and lied!
Ere we lost the Quartier Latin—when the Rue La Harpe was new;
Ere the bugles blew to battle through the wheat of Waterloo—
Ah! Life was worth the living (if you 'scaped the Headsman's blow)
In the Paris of the Empire—in the days of long ago.
I was member of the Force there—what you'd call a D. S. P. —
Half the secrets of our Paris—Lordly Paris—passed through me.
I was plotter, lover, liar, with the best of all my friends—
I was foiled, refused, detected (so this moral drama ends)
I betrayed my love and lost her, lost the love I strove for so—
(Hearts were true sometimes in Paris, in the days of long ago.)
Now, the lights are all extinguished in the rooms I knew so well;
Never sound of Royal laughter wakes the Hall where Fouché fell—
I, a shadow scorned of shadows, linger by the gilded ball
Of the great Hotel we guarded in the days of Cadoudal;
For we murdered ladies sometimes ('twas affaire d'état you know)
In our Paris of the Empire, in the days of long ago.
What know ye of 'plot and passion'—as we took their meaning then?
When our Goddesses were women, and our men were more than men;
When Life and Death were counters, and we staked them boldly both—
And the guillotine might follow on a lover's broken oath;
When the 'ladies from the Fauberg' broke the bank of Petiot
At Paris of the Empire in the days of long ago.
Yet I linger for a moment—mark the progress of your play;
Watch some guileless little gamin act the part of Desmarets.
But your words have lost their passion, and your speech is strange & cold,-
You can neither love nor hate Sires, as we did in days of old.
Ah me for faded glories of Le Petit Denisot'!
Where I schemed and died at Paris, in the days of long ago.