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.
 
Montpellier
Narcissa
Edward Young (1681–1765)
 
        
(From The Complaint)
  Had you been with me in a solitary walk the other day, you would have shed a tear over the remains of his dear Narcissa. I was walking in a place called the King’s Garden; and there I saw the spot where she was interred. Mr. J——, Mrs. H——, and myself, had some conversation with the gardener respecting it, who told us that about forty-five years ago Dr. Young was here with his daughter for her health; that he used constantly to be walking backward and forward in this garden; and that he bribed the under gardener, belonging to his father, to let him bury his daughter, which he did; pointed out the most solitary place, and dug the grave. The man, through a private door, admitted the Doctor at midnight, bringing his beloved daughter, wrapped up in a sheet, upon his shoulder; he laid her in the hole, sat down, and (as the man expressed it) “rained tears!”—W. Taylor’s Letter to Mrs. Mouncher.

SNATCHED ere thy prime! and in thy bridal hour!
And when kind fortune, with thy lover, smiled!
And when high-flavored thy fresh-opening joys!
And when blind man pronounced thy bliss complete!
And on a foreign shore where strangers wept!        5
Strangers to thee, and, more surprising still,
Strangers to kindness, wept. Their eyes let fall
Inhuman tears; strange tears! that trickled down
From marble hearts! obdurate tenderness!
A tenderness that called them more severe,        10
In spite of Nature’s soft persuasion steeled:
While Nature melted, Superstition raved;
That mourned the dead, and this denied a grave.
  Their sighs incensed; sighs foreign to the will!
Their will the tiger-sucked outraged the storm:        15
For, O, the cursed ungodliness of Zeal!
While sinful flesh relented, spirit nursed
In blind Infallibility’s embrace,
The sainted spirit petrified the breast;
Denied the charity of dust to spread        20
O’er dust! a charity their dogs enjoy.
What could I do? what succor? what resource?
With pious sacrilege a grave I stole;
With impious piety that grave I wronged;
Short in my duty, coward in my grief!        25
More like her murderer than friend, I crept
With soft-suspended step, and, muffled deep
In midnight darkness, whispered my last sigh,
I whispered what should echo through their realms,
Nor writ her name, whose tomb should pierce the skies!        30
Presumptuous fear! how durst I dread her foes,
While Nature’s loudest dictates I obeyed?
Pardon necessity, blest shade! of grief
And indignation rival bursts I poured;
Half-execration mingled with my prayer;        35
Kindled at man, while I his God adored;
Sore grudged the savage land her sacred dust;
Stamped the curst soil; and with humanity
(Denied Narcissa) wished them all a grave.
 
 
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