Category Archives: Poetry

The Aristocracy of France (1852)

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Oh, never yet was theme so meet for roundel or romance
As the ancient aristocracy and chivalry of France;
As when they went for Palestine, with Louis at their head,
And many a waving banner, and the oriflamme outspread;
And many a burnished galley with its blaze of armor shone
In the ports of sunny Cyprus and the Acre of St. John:
And many a knight who signed the corss, as he saw the burning sands,
With a prayer for those whom he had left in green and fairer lands.
God aid them all, God them assoil; for few shall see again
Streams like their own, their azure Rhone, or swife and silver Seine.
God aid him, the first baron, the first of Christendom!
God aid the Montmorenci, far from his northern home!
And they are far from their Navarre, and from their soft Garonne,
The lords of Foix and Grammont, and the Count of Carcassone;
For they have left, those southron knights, the clime they love so well,
The feasts of fair Montpelier, and the Toulouse carousel,
And the chase in early morning, when the keen and pleasant breeze
Came cold to the cheek, from many a peak of the snowy Pyrenees;
And they have vowed that they will vie with the Northmen in the plain,
With De Joinville, and with Artois, and with Thibaut of Champagne;
But of them all might none compare, how great and grand his line,
With that young knight who bore in fight the blazon of Sergine:
Nor one could boast, of all that host that went against the Moor,
So fair a feat, or one so meet for praise from troubadour.
He clove his way where Louis lay, with the Moslemin around—
He clove his way through all the fray, and bore him from the ground:
And thus he earned a prouder name than herald ever gave,
The foremost of the foremost, and the bravest of the brave.

Oh, never yet was theme so meet for roundel or romance
As the ancient aristocracy and chivalry of France;
As when they lay before Tournay, and the Grand Monarque was there,
With the bravest of his warriors, and the fairest of his fair;
And the sun, that was his symbol, and on his army shone,
Was in lustre and in splendor and in light itself outdone:
For the lowland and the highland were gleaming as of old,
When England vied with France in pride, on the famous Field of Gold;
And morn, and noon, and evening, and all the livelong night,
Were the sound of ceaseless music and the echo of delight:
And but for Vauban’s waving arm and the answering cannonade,
It might hvae been a festal scene in some Versailles arcade;
For she was there, the beautiful, the daughter of Montemart,
And her proud eyes flashed the prouder for the roaring of the war:
And many a dark-haired rival, who bound her lover’s arm
With a ribbon, or a ringlet, or a kerchief for a charm;
And with an air as dainty, and with a step as light
As they moved among the masquers, they went into the fight.
Oh! brave they went, and brave they fought, for glory and for France,
The La Tremoille, and the Noailles, and the Courtenay of Byzance;
And haughty was their war cry as they rushed into the field,
The De Narbonne and De Talleyrand in Castilian on each shield;
And well they knew, De Montesquieu, and Rohan, and Loraine,
That a bold deed was ever sure high lady’s smiles to gain;
For none were loved with such true love, or wept with so true a tear,
As he who lived a courtier, but who died a cavalier.

Oh, never yet was theme so meet for roundel or romance
As the ancient aristocracy and chivalry of France;
As now they lie in poverty, and dark is their decline:
For the sun that shone so long on them, it now hath ceased to shine.
And the mighty house of Bourbon, that made them what they were,
Kneels humbly at the Austrian’s feet, beneath the Austrian’s care.
And the nineteenth Louis knows not France; and his queen, she never sees
Her soft St. Cloud, her Rambouillet, her solemn Tuileries;
And the revel, and the pageant, and the feast that were of yore,
And courtly wit and compliment—these things are now no more,
Save in some old man’s memory, who loves to ponder yet
On Lamballe’s playful jesting, and the smile of Antoinette,
And bids his son remember how the middle classes reign
In the Basilie of monarchs, and the nobles’ old domain!
For these they have lost all things save their honor and their names,
Chateaubriand, and DeBreze, and Stuart of Fitzjames,
And Levis, and La Rochejacquelein, and the brave and blameless few,
Like De Biron and De Luxembourg, the loyal and the true:
Then, though their state be fallen, all Europe cannot show
Such glory as was theirs of old, such glory as is now.
For they themselves have conquered, themselves they have foregone,
And they their own relinquish, till the King shall have his own.
Then grant, God grant, that day may come, and long shall it endure,
For the poor will find good friends in those who have themselves been poor;
And the Noble, and the People, and the Church alike shall know
A Christian King of France, in King Henry of Bordeaux.