Page images

Ne'er so smooth a brow before Battle's darkening ensign wore; And 't was still the gentle eye Wont when evening veil'd the sky, In the whispering shade to see Angels haunt the lonely tree.


Loud o'er Orleans' rampart swells Music from her steeple bell, Loud to France the triumph tells; And the vehement trumpets blending, With the shouts to heaven ascending, Hail the maid whom seraphs bless, Consecrated Championess! Sound from heart to heart that tingles,

Echoing on without a pause; While her name like sunshine mingles

With each breath a nation draws. All the land, with joy on fire,

Blazes round the festal march, Till they meet the priestly choir

Under Rheims' cathedral arch. Ancient towers, and cloisters hoary,

Gleam and thrill above the king; Beauteous rite and blazon'd story

On his crown their lustre Aling,
With an old resurgent glory,

Laws and freedom hallowing.
Therefore, baron, count, and peer,
Priest and dame no more in fear,
All assemble wondering here;
And a sea of common men,
Feasting all with greedy ken,
Now behold, in pomp appear,
Smiling, not without a tear,
Joan, the dearest sight to see,
First of all the chivalry,
Bearing low her banner'd spear.

Over them a light is streaming,
On their gracious foreheads beaming,
Efluence from an orb unseen,
To which heaven is but a screen ;
All our human sight above,
Not beyond our human love:
And from thence she hears a voice
That can make the dead rejoice;
-Give not way to pride or fear,
For the end of all is near!"

End with many tears implored !
'Tis the sound of home restored!
And as mounts the angel show,
Gliding with them she would go,
But again to stoop below,
And, return'd to green Lorraine,
Be a shepherd child again.
Now the crown of Charles is won,
Now the work of God is done,
Angel wings, away! away!
Lift her home by close of day,
And upon her mother's breast
Give her weary spirit rest.
Then, with vernal thickets nigh,
And the waters glistening by,

In smooth valleys let her keep · Undescried her quiet sheep.

This the promise to the maid By the heavenly voice convey'd: Oh! how differing far the doom; Oh! how close the bloody tomb; Thus men hear, but not discern, What Heaven wills that they should learn ; And the time and deed alone Make the eternal meaning known.

Dizzy with their full delight,
All disperse ere comes the night.
Charles and all his train are met,

Revelling in royal hall;
Shield and pennon o'er them set,

Many a doubtful fight recall;
And the throng'd and clanging town
For the rescued land's renown,

Keeps a sudden carnival. Ask ye, where the while is Joan? She within the minster lone, To the silent altar steals, And before it trembling kneels; And amid the shadows dim, Faithfully she prays to Him Who his light in dark reveals. Now again her home she sees, Domremy with all its trees, Where the ancient beech is growing, And the haunted fount is flowing, And the Meuse with equal sound Breathes its quiet all around. Won again by weeping prayer, Lo! her loved protectors there, Catherine mild, and Margaret fair.

Wail, ye fields and woods of France ! Rivers, dim your sunny glance ! All of strong, and fair, and old That the eyes of men behold, Mountain gray, and hermit dell, Sun and stars unquenchable, Founts whose kisses woo the lea, Endless, many-flooded sea, All that witnesses a power To o'erawe the importunate hour, Human works devoutly wrought To unfold enduring thought, Shrines that seem the reverend birth Of an elder, holier earth, Mourn above your altars dear, Quaking with no godless fear! And, thou deepest heart of man, Home of love ere sin began, Faith prophetic, Mercy mild, Patriot passion undefiled, Mourn with righteous grief the day When was hush'd your choral lay When the hovering guardian band Of the liberated land, Radiant kings, were seen to wane, And were eyeless cloud again; When the foe, who far recoil'd, By a maiden's presence foil'd,

[blocks in formation]

Rush'd again in grim despair
From his burning, bloody lair,
And made prey of her whose word
Was so oft a living sword.

W oful end, and conflict long !
Stress of agonizing wrong!
In the black and stifling cell,
Watch'd by many a sentinel,
Not a saint is with her now,
Beaming light from locks and brow;
No melodious angel calls
Through the huge unshaken walls;
But the brutal sworder jeers,
Making merry at her tears,
And the priests her faith assail
Till it fears, but cannot fail.
So the hopeful cheer she wore
Like a robe of state before-
Branch, and leaf, and summer flower,
Perish from her hour by hour.
But the firm sustaining root
Dies not with the feathery shoot.
So survives her soul-but oh!
Fierce the closing gust of wo,
When beneath the eyes of day
Thousands gather round her way,
And a host in steel array;
When the captive, wan and lowly,
Walks beside her jailer slowly,
Till before the expectant pile
Weak she stands, with saddest smile;
And her steady tones reply
To the cowl'd tormentor's lie-
u God commanded me to go,
And I went, as well ye know,
To destroy my country's foe !"
While she clasps the saving rood
Fiercer swells the murderers' mood.
Till, through rising smoke and flame
Comes no sound but Jesu's name
Jesu—Jesu—oft renew'd,
Ort by stifling pain subdued.
Soon that cry is heard no more,
And the people, mute before,
Groan to heaven, for all is o'er.

Loud usurpers, fierce and mean,
Ruling an unstable scene;
Blinding hate, and gnawing lust,
Lies that cheat our wiser trust,
These may cleave to formless dust;
But the earth, oppress'd so long
By the heavy steps of wrong,
Sends an awful voice on high
With a keen accusing cry,
And appeals to him whose lore
Tells--the All can ne'er be o'er.

Faithful maiden, gentle heart!
Thus our thoughts of grief depart;
Vanishes the place of death;
Sounds no more thy painful breath;
O'er the unbloody stream of Meuse
Melt the silent evening dews,
And along the banks of Loire
Rides no more the arm'd destroyer.
But thy native waters flow
Through a land unnamed below,
And thy woods their verdure wave
In the vale beyond the grave,
Where the deep-dyed western sky
Looks on all with tranquil eye,
And on distant dateless hills
Each high peak with radiance fills.
There amid the oak-tree shadow,
And o'er all the beech crown'd meadow,
Those for whom the earth must mourn
In their peaceful joy sojourn.
Join'd with fame's selected few,
Those whom rumor never knew,
But no less to conscience true :
Each grave prophet, soul sublime,
Pyramids of elder time;
Bards with hidden fire possess'd,
Flashing from a wo-worn breast;
Builders of man's better lot,
Whom their hour acknowledged not,
Now with strength appeased and pure
Feel whate'er they loved is sure.
These and such as these the train,
Sanctified by former pain.
Mid those softest yellow rays
Sphered afar from mortal praise ;
Peasant, matron, monarch, child,
Saint undaunted, hero mild,
Sage whom pride has ne'er beguiled ;
And with them the champion maid
Dwells in that serenest glade ;
Danger, toil, and grief no more
Fret her life's unearthly shore ;
Gentle sounds that will not cease,
Breathe but peace, and ever peace;
While above the immortal trees,
Michael and his host she sees
Clad in diamond panoplies;
And more near, in tenderer light,
Honoured Catherine, Margaret bright,
Agnes whom her loosened hair
Robes like woven amber air-
Sisters of her childhood come
To her last eternal home.

[ocr errors]

Word untrue! That All can ne'er
Have its close and destiny here.
All that can be o'er on earth
Is the shifting cloudland's birth;
Dream and shadow, mist and error,
Joy unblest, and nightmare terror-
Passions blent in ghostly play,
Twinkling of a gusty day-
Glittering sights that vaguely roll,
Catch the eye, but mock the soul-
Griefs and hopes ill understood,
Tyrants of man's weaker mood,
Folly's loved, portentous brood-
These, and all the aims they cherish,
In their native tomb may perish.
Phantoms shapeless, huge, and wild,
That beset the graybeard child-


Sing high the praise of Denmark's host,

High praise each dauntless earl; The brave who stun this English coast

With war's unceasing whirl." The harper sat upon a block,

Heap'd up with wealthy spoil, The wool of England's helpless flock,

Whose blood had stain'd the soil. He sat and slowly bent his head,

And touch'd aloud the string; Then raised his face, and boldly said,

“Hear thou my lay, O king!

« High praise from all whose gift is song

To him in slaughter tried,
Whose pulses beat in battle strong,

As if to meet his bride.
High praise from every mouth of man

To all who boldly strive,
Who fall where first the fight began,

And ne'er go back alive.

Dank fell the night, the watch was set,

The host was idly spread,
The dames around their watchfires met,

Caroused, and fiercely fed.
They feasted all on English food,

And quaff'd the English ale,
Their hearts leapt up with burning blood

At each old Norseman tale.
The chiefs beneath a tent of leaves,

And Guthrum, king of all,
Devour'd the flesh of England's beeves,

And laugh'd at England's fall.
Each warrior proud, each Danish earl,

In mail and wolf-skin clad,
Their bracelets white with plunder'd pearl,

Their eyes with triumph mad.
A mace beside each king and lord

Was seen, with blood bestain'd; From golden cups upon the board

Their kindling wine they drain'd.
Ne'er left their sad storm-beaten coast

Sea-kings so hot for gore;
Mid Selwood's oaks so dreadful host

Ne'er burnt a track before.
From Humber-land to Severn-land,

And on to Tamar stream,
Where Thames makes green the towery strand,

Where Medway's waters gleam,-
With hands of steel and mouths of flame

They raged the kingdom through ;
And where the Norseman sickle came,

No crop but hunger grew.
They loaded many an English horse

With wealth of cities fair;
They dragg'd from many a father's corse

The daughter by her hair.
And English slaves, and gems and gold,

Were gather'd round the feast;
Till midnight in their woodland hold,

Oh! never that riot ceased.
In stalk'd a warrior tall and rude

Before the strong sea-kings;
“Ye lords and earls of Odin's brood,

Without a harper sings.
He seems a simple man and poor,

But well he sounds the lay,
And well, ye Norseman chiefs, be sure,

Will ye the song repay.”
In trod the bard with keen, cold look,

And glanced along the board,
That with the shout and war-cry shook,

Of many a Danish lord.
But thirty brows, inflamed and stern,

Soon bent on him their gaze,
While calm he gazed, as if to learn

Who chief deserved his praise.
Loud Guthrum spake. Nay, gaze not thus

Thou harper weak and poor!
By Thor! who bandy looks with us,

Must worse than looks endure.

« But chief his fame be quick as fire,

Be wide as is the sea,
Who dares in blood and pangs expire,

To keep his country free.
To such, great earls, and mighty king !

Shall praise in heaven belong;
The starry harps their praise shall ring,

And chime to mortal song.
« Fill high your cups, and swell the shout,

At famous Regnar's name!
Who sank his host in bloody rout,

When he to Humber came.
His men were chased, his sons were slain,

And he was left alone.
They bound him in an iron chain

Upon a dungeon stone.
“With iron links they bound him fast;

With snakes they fill’d the hole,
That made his flesh their long repast,

And bit into his soul.
The brood with many a poisonous fang

The warrior's heart beset;
While still he cursed his foes, and sang

His fierce but hopeless threat. “Great chiefs, why sink in gloom your eyes?

Why champ your teeth in pain ?
Still lives the song though Regnar dies!

Fill high your cups again.
Ye too, perchance, Ő Norsemen lords !

Who fought and sway'd so long,
Shall soon but live in minstrel words,

And owe your names to song.
“This land has graves by thousands more

Than that were Regnar lies.
When conquests fade, and rule is o'er,

The sod must close your eyes.
How soon, who knows? Not chief, nor bard;

And yet to me 'tis given,
To see your foreheads deeply scarr'd

And guess the doom of Heaven.

«I may not read or when, or how,

But earls and kings, be sure I see a blade o'er every brow,

Where pride now sits secure. Fill high the cups, raise loud the strain!

When chief and monarch fall, Their names in song shall breathe again,

And thrill the feastful hall.

The minstrel took the goblet bright,

And said, “I drink the wine
To him who owns by justest right

The cup thou bid'st be mine,
«To him your lord, oh shout ye all !

His meed be deathless praise ! The king who dares not nobly fall,

Dies basely all his days.
The king who dares not guard his throne,

May curses heap his head;
But hope and strength, be all his own

Whose blood is bravely shed.”

“ The praise thou speakest,” Guthrum said,

“With sweetness fills mine ear; For Alfred swift before me fled,

And left me monarch here. The royal coward never dared

Beneath mine eye to stand. Oh, would that now this feast he shared,

And saw me rule his land !”

Then stern the minstrel rose, and spake,

And gazed upon the king, « Not now the golden cup I take,

Nor more to thee I sing. Another day, a happier hour,

Shall bring me here again, The cup shall stay in Guthrum's power

Till I demand it then.”

« Like God's own voice, in after years

Resounds the warrior's fame,
Whose deed his hopeless country cheers,

Who is its noblest name.
Drain down, O chiefs! the gladdening bowl!

The present hour is yours;
Let death to-morrow take the soul,

If joy to-day endures."
Grim sat the chiefs; one heaved a groan,

And one grew palo with dread,
His iron mace was grasped by one,

By one his wine was shed.
And Guthrum cried, “Nay, bard, no more

We hear thy boding lay;
Make drunk the song with spoil and gore; i

Light up the joyous fray!” “Quick throbs my brain"—so burst the song

“To hear the strife once more.
The mace, the axe, they rest too long;

Earth cries my thirst is sore.
More blithely twang the strings of bows

Than strings of harps in glee;
Red wounds are lovelier than the rose,

Or rosy lips to me.
« Oh! fairer than a field of flowers,

When flowers in England grew,
Would be the battle's marshall’d powers,

The plain of carnage new.
With all its deaths before my soul

The vision rises fair;
Raise loud the song, and drain the bowl!

I would that I were there!
“'Tis sweet to live in honour'd might,

With true and fearless hand; 'Tis sweet to fall in freedom's fight,

Nor shrink before the brand.
But sweeter far, when girt by foes,

Unmoved to meet their frown,
And count with cheerful thought the woes

That soon shall dash them down.”
Loud rang the harp, the minstrel's eye

Rolla fiercely round the throng;
It seem'd two crashing hosts were nigh,

Whose shock aroused the song.
A golden cup king Guthrum gave

To him who strongly play'd; And said, “I won it from the slave

Who once o'er England sway'd."
King Guthrum cried, « 'T was Alfred's own;

Thy song befits the brave;
The king who cannot guard his throne

Nor wine nor song shall have."

The harper turn’d and left the shed,

Nor bent to Guthrum's crown; And one who mark'd his visage said

It wore a ghastly frown.
The Danes ne'er saw that harper more,

For soon as morning rose,
Upon their camp king Alfred bore,

And slew ten thousand foes.


In the cavern's lonely hall,
By the mighty waterfall,
Lives a spirit shy and still,
Whom the soften'd murmurs thrill,
Heard within the twilight nook,
Like the music of a brook.

Poet! thus sequester'd dwell, In thy fancy's haunted cell, That the floods abroad may be Like a voice of peace to thee, While thou giv'st to nature's tone Soul and sweetness all thy own. Hear, but, ah! intrust thee not To the waves beyond thy grot, Lest thy low and wizard strain Warble through the storm in vain, And thy dying songs deplore Thou must see thy cave no more.


Not oft has peopled earth sent up

So deep and wide a groan before, As when the word astounded France

-« The life of Mirabeau is o'er !" From its one heart a nation wail'd,

For well the startled sense divined A greater power had fled away

Than aught that now remained behind. The scathed and haggard face of will,

And look so strong with weapon'd thought, Had been to many million hearts

The All between themselves and naught; And so they stood aghast and pale,

As if to see the azure sky
Come shattering down, and show beyond

The black and bare Infinity.
For he, while all men trembling peer'd

Upon the Future's empty space,
Had strength to bid above the void

The oracle unveil its face;
And when his voice could rule no more,

A thicker weight of darkness fell,
And tomb'd in its sepulchral vault

The wearied master of the spell.
A myriad hands like shadows weak,

Or stiff and sharp as bestial claws,
Had sought to steer the fluctuant mass

That bore his country's life and laws; The rudder felt his giant hand,

And quailed beneath the living grasp That now must drop the helm of fate,

Nor pleasure's cup can madly clasp. France did not reck how fierce a storm

Of rending passion, blind and grim, Had ceased its audible uproar

When death sank heavily on him; Nor heeded they the countless days

Of toiling smoke and blasting flame, That now by this one fatal hour

Were summ'd for him as guilt and shame. The wondrous life that flow'd so long

A stream of all commixtures vile, Had seem'd for them in morning light

With gold and crystal waves to smile. It rollid with mighty breadth and sound

A new creation through the land, Then sudden vanish'd into earth,

And left a barren waste of sand. To them at first the world appear'd

Aground, and lying shipwreck'd there, And freedom's folded flag no more

With dazzling sun-burst filled the air ; But 'tis in after years for men

A sadder and a greater thing, To muse upon the inward heart

Of him who lived the people's king. Oh! wasted strength! Oh! light and calm,

And better hopes so vainly given ! Like rain upon the herbless sea

Poured down by too benignant heaven

We see not stars unfix'd by winds,

Or lost in aimless thunder-peals,
But man's large soul, the star supreme,

In guideless whirl how oft it reels!
The mountain hears the torrent dash,

But rocks will not in billows run; No eagle's talons rend away

Those eyes that joyous drink the sun; Yet man, by choice and purpose weak,

Upon his own devoted head Calls down the flash, as if its fires

A crown of peaceful glory shed. Alas!—yet wherefore mourn? The law

Is holier than a sage's prayer; The godlike power bestow'd on men

Demands of them a godlike care ; And noblest gifts, if basely used,

Will sternliest avenge the wrong, And grind with slavish pangs the slave

Whom once they made divinely strong. The lamp that, mid the sacred cell,

On heavenly forms its glory sheds, Untended dies, and in the gloom

A poisonous vapor glimmering spreads. It shines and flares, and reeling ghosts

Enormous through the twilight swell, Till o'er the wither'd world and heart

Rings loud and slow the dooming knell. No more I hear a nation's shout

Around the hero's tread prevailing, No more I hear above his tomb

A nation's fierce bewilder'd wailing; I stand amid the silent night,

And think of man and all his wo, With fear and pity, grief and awe,

When I remember Mirabeau.


The king with all his kingly train

Had left his Pompadour behind, And forth he rode in Senart's wood,

The royal beasts of chase to find. That day by chance the monarch mused,

And turning suddenly away, He struck alone into a path

That far from crowds and courtiers lay, He saw the pale green shadows play

Upon the brown untrodden earth; He saw the birds around him flit

As if he were of peasant birth ; He saw the trees that know no king

But him who bears a woodland axe; He thought not, but he look'd about

Like one who skill in thinking lacks. Then close to him a footstep fell,

And glad of human sound was he, For truth to say he found himself

A weight from which he fain would flee.

« PreviousContinue »