DEIR AL QAMAR, LEBANON, AUG. 9 -- Villagers danced with the coffin of former president Camille Chamoun held shoulder high today in a last, emotional tribute to their leader before he was laid to rest in his birthplace, Deir al Qamar, a Christian town now under Druze Moslem control.

The 87-year-old Maronite leader, whose political career spanned five decades, died of a heart attack in a Beirut hospital Thursday and was given a state funeral in Christian-controlled East Beirut yesterday. President Amin Gemayel attended. At the time of his death Chamoun was Lebanon's finance minister.

Observing the old mountain tradition of magnanimity in times of deep sorrow, Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt led a delegation of white-turbaned Druze sheiks to welcome the black hearse that transported Chamoun's body 22 miles from Beirut across the winding roads and pine-decked hills of the southern Chouf Mountains.

Out of the 30,000 Christians who inhabited the village a few years ago, only 2,500 remain, according to elders. A bloody mountain war and three-month siege that began in September 1983 drove the residents of about 70 Christian villages out of the Chouf, but Chamoun lobbied tirelessly with Jumblatt to save his town. Jumblatt's Druze Progressive Socialist Party relented and gave Deir al Qamar special protection in the midst of the Druze heartland.

Little girls hurled flower petals and women wailed in grief at first sight of the funeral procession. Druze militiamen rushed to the motorcade to hoist Chamoun's wooden casket on their shoulders as soon as it approached the entrance to Deir al Qamar. In Lebanese culture, the coffin dance symbolizes a defiant rejection of death.

The church bells of Deir al Qamar resounded off the red tile roofs and old stone houses of this hilltop village with a slow, sure toll to signal mourning, while townspeople gathered in the square around a water fountain under the blazing sun to await their deceased leader. The preparations were sober and understated, with only a few banners bidding Chamoun, Deir al Qamar's "leader, symbol and flame," farewell, declaring that the "devoted son" had returned to its embrace for good.

In the 400-year-old Knist Seydet al Tall, the Church of the Lady of the Hill, chants by a choir of women rang out across the valley. Mayor George Dib Neemeh cried while eulogizing Chamoun saying the leader "was everything for Deir al Qamar and bound to it in an unending love affair."

Chamoun was known for his political endurance in a country where few outspoken politicians survive. President from 1952 to 1958 and founder of the all-Christian Lebanese Front, Chamoun survived four assassination attempts. He was revered by supporters for his defense of Christian interests and strident opposition to Syrian and Palestinian influence in the country.

Marcel Abi Khalil could not conceal his sense of loss. "The mighty one has fallen," the old man said dejectedly. "Deir al Qamar will only live with the memory of Chamoun. He left us at a delicate time. He was a true politician and he always knew that the Chouf cannot live without coexistence {between Moslems and Christians}."

Men and women gathered outside the municipal building spoke of his modesty and willingness to serve his community. "He was our protector and safety pin against all crises," said Ghada Ibrahim, stepping out of the old stone church. "Deir al Qamar became a shelter for all Christians because of him. "Our loss is great indeed."

Druze leader Jumblatt, now master of the Chouf Mountains and staunch opponent of the Lebanese Front, predicted that the Christian leaders who survive Chamoun will be reduced to bickering and will "eat one another." Jumblatt said: "With the late President Chamoun, though a political adversary, there was always a basis for dialogue -- but not with this band of vultures."

Asked why he had made the gesture of allowing Chamoun's burial despite a rift with the Christian camp, Jumblatt said: "This was a gesture addressed to the Chamoun family and meant to show the world that it is always possible {for Lebanese} to live together."