Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > France
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X.  1876–79.
 
Loire, the River
To the Loire
Anonymous
 
(Excerpt)

RIVER of the golden sands,
River of the sunny lands,
How blithe thy rolling waves advance,
The life-streams of thy glorious France!
The pilgrim, wandering near thy tide,        5
Forgets his toil those banks beside,
While checkered fancies, proud and vast,
Fling o’er his soul the mighty Past.
 
Not thine the lot, in silent vale,
Unseen, to kiss the osiers pale,—        10
Through pool or waste or fen to pass
By stagnant lake or lone morass.
Springs forth thy source in earliest birth,
To deck with gifts the grateful earth;
Bears onward still the richest stores,        15
And casts broad harvests on thy shores.
 
Yet is thy temper, sooth to tell,
Like thine own land thou lov’st so well,
And change comes o’er thy beaming smile,
Inconstant as a maiden’s wile;        20
While all seems tranquil on thy face,
Sweeps o’er the plain thy sudden race,
And wide thy boiling surges roll,
O’er homestead lone and fenceless knoll.
 
The poplar, thy true vassal, sees,        25
The angry torrent’s frenzied hour,
And, bending low before the breeze,
Does homage to unquestioned power.
No change of dynasties is here,—
Loire’s gleaming sword is always near;        30
Crowns may be lost, and states o’erthrown,
Yet Loire forever holds her own.
 
Far on the dim horizon’s line
Thy golden spires, fair Orleans, shine;
With glories laden, as with years,        35
Thy giant minster’s form appears;
While still by Loiret’s filial stream
St. Mesmin’s humbler lilies gleam.
And pious Clovis smiles above
O’er broad lands given for churches’ love.        40
 
Pass onwards, towards still distant Blois;
Dream of Beaugency and Dunois;
Breathe not too long St. Cléry’s air,
Nor seek the grave of “Maitre Pierre.”
Let Ménars, with its bowers, beguile;        45
Let Pompadour’s ambitious smile,
Which royal love paid dear to buy,
Dwell on the pilgrim’s memory.
 
Pause not where frowns yon darkling pile,
As though it shunned the sunbeam’s smile,        50
Deserted Blois! thy vanes of yore
Aloft the royal lilies bore;
Yet lurked thy gloomy towers beneath
Treason and murder, blood and death,
When Henry steeped his soul in crime,        55
And Catharine sought to master Time.
 
The bright stars shine upon thy shore,
River, as they were wont before;
Still flow thy waves in eddies deep,
Where noble Guise was doomed to sleep.        60
The dark astrologer, unshriven,
With Catharine, waits the doom of heaven;
Victims and kings alike are past
To their dread trial at the last.
 
Come, let us wander far away,        65
While shadows robe declining day:
O’er wooded plains and forests deep,
Where royal Chambord’s turrets sleep,
The sculptured lily fresh and fair,
Symbol of sovereign power, is there,—        70
No longer prostrate on the earth,
But blooming in a second birth.
 
Say, mighty river, is the sword
Forever sheathed for Chambord’s lord?
France’s pure lily seems a sham,        75
Unsheltered by the oriflambe.
Silence and solitude reign there,
And point to Henri’s vacant chair;
Sad is the lot, and deep the trance,
Of those who love the son of France.        80
 
Through tufted heights and woodlands green
Fair Chaumont’s donjon lowers between.
Time was when warriors kept this prize,
Time was ’t was given for woman’s eyes;
Time is, and those embattled towers        85
By woman’s hand are crowned with flowers;
Through moss-grown walls the woodbines creep,
And roses kiss the hoary keep.
 
Now seek thee good St. Hubert’s cell,
Where Amboise boasts her citadel;        90
Fortress and prison, pride and shame,
That makes, yet mars, a nation’s fame;
Of old, dark records tell of cost
Of life, and lands and freedom lost;
And now, the Arab chieftain’s fate,        95
And France’s honor, saved too late!
 
Joy to thee, noble river, joy!
No slothful brooks thy course alloy;
Swiftly by curtained Azy’s keep,
Indre pours forth her currents deep,        100
Sweeps on her course the winding Vienne,
Where Domrémy sought regal ken,
And Chinon’s leafy honors wave
O’er brave De Molay’s knightly grave.
 
Sweet are thy amorous precincts, Cher!        105
Spangled with flowers thy meadows are;
Fair as of old thy tangled woods
And clear and deep thy gushing floods.
Yon stately pile is fresh and gay,
As time had cast his scythe away:        110
Since unchaste Dian drew her bow,
With hound and horn at Chenonceaux.
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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