Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > America
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX.  1876–79.
 
New England: Newport, R. I.
The Romance of a Rose
Nora Perry (1832–1896)
 
IT is nearly a hundred years ago,
Since the day that the Count de Rochambeau—
Our ally against the British crown—
Met Washington in Newport town.
 
’T was the month of March, and the air was chill,        5
But bareheaded over Aquidneck hill,
Guest and host they took their way,
While on either side was the grand array
 
Of a gallant army, French and fine,
Ranged three deep in a glittering line;        10
And the French fleet sent a welcome roar
Of a hundred guns from Canonicut shore.
 
And the bells rang out from every steeple,
And from street to street the Newport people
Followed and cheered, with a hearty zest,        15
De Rochambeau and his honored guest.
 
And women out of the windows leant,
And out of the windows smiled and sent
Many a coy admiring glance
To the fine young officers of France.        20
 
And the story goes, that the belle of the town
Kissed a rose and flung it down
Straight at the feet of De Rochambeau;
And the gallant marshal, bending low,
 
Lifted it up with a Frenchman’s grace,        25
And kissed it back, with a glance at the face
Of the daring maiden where she stood,
Blushing out of her silken hood.
 
That night at the ball, still the story goes,
The Marshal of France wore a faded rose        30
In his gold-laced coat; but he looked in vain
For the giver’s beautiful face again.
 
Night after night and day after day,
The Frenchman eagerly sought, they say,
At feast, or at church, or along the street,        35
For the girl who flung her rose at his feet.
 
And she, night after night, day after day,
Was speeding farther and farther away
From the fatal window, the fatal street,
Where her passionate heart had suddenly beat        40
 
A throb too much for the cool control
A Puritan teaches to heart and soul;
A throb too much for the wrathful eyes
Of one who had watched in dismayed surprise
 
From the street below; and taking the gauge        45
Of a woman’s heart in that moment’s rage,
He swore, this old colonial squire,
That before the daylight should expire,
 
This daughter of his, with her wit and grace,
And her dangerous heart and her beautiful face,        50
Should be on her way to a sure retreat,
Where no rose of hers could fall at the feet
 
Of a curséd Frenchman, high or low;
And so while the Count de Rochambeau
In his gold-laced coat wore a faded flower,        55
And awaited the giver hour by hour,
 
She was sailing away in the wild March night
On the little deck of the sloop Delight;
Guarded even in the darkness there
By the wrathful eyes of a jealous care.        60
 
Three weeks after, a brig bore down
Into the harbor of Newport town,
Towing a wreck,—’t was the sloop Delight,
Off Hampton rocks, in the very sight
 
Of the land she sought, she and her crew        65
And all on board of her, full in view
Of the storm-bound fishermen over the bay,
Went to their doom on that April day.
 
When Rochambeau heard the terrible tale,
He muttered a prayer, for a moment grew pale;        70
Then “Mon Dieu,” he exclaimed, “so my fine romance
From beginning to end is a rose and a glance.”
 
 
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