Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
June 25
The Martyrdom of the Archbishop of Paris
By John Mason Neale (1818–1866)
 
          Shot on the barricades on June 25, during the revolution of 1848, as he was endeavoring to make peace between the contending parties.

A DAY of clouds and darkness! a day of wrath and woe!
The war of elements above, the strife of men below!
Through the air ring shout and outcry,—through the street a red tide pours,—
To the booming of the cannon the ancient city roars;
For wilder than the tempest is human passion’s strife,        5
And deadlier than the elements the waste of human life:
 
No breathing time for pity, ’tis the long stern tug of might,
The war of poor against the rich, and both against the right;
Each street and lane the artillery sweeps,—the rifle enfilades,
With stone and bar, with beam and spar, they pile the barricades;        10
And women, fiends with blood-specked arms, fierce eye and frenzied mien,
Cry “Up the Red Republic!” and “Up the Guillotine!”
 
Now forth and on them, Garde Mobile! stout heart, firm hand, quick eye!
No mercy know, no quarter show, to pity is to die!
To the last worst fate of cities—the murder and the rape,        15
’Tis yours to give one answer, the sabre and the grape:
There is lust and hate and murder—they have filled rebellion’s cup,
And to the God of Vengeance the city’s cry goes up!
 
And more and more, on, on they pour; there’s the battery’s thicker flame,
And the quicker ring of musketry, and the rifle’s deadlier aim;        20
Go, hurry to the Assembly,—for the bravest chiefs are there,—
Bedeau and Brea, and Cavaignac and Lamoriciere.
And in and out the frequent scout goes hastening as he may;
“At the Rue d’Antoine the Garde Mobile have the better of the day”—
“Some succour to the Port au Ble—they scarce can hold their own”—        25
“Help, help! or all is over at the Barriere du Trone!”
And out and forth, east, west, and north, the hurrying chiefs advance,
To combat with the combatants, and to die, if needs, for France.
 
Who come toward the barricade with steady steps and slow,
With prayers and tears, and blessings to aid them as they go?        30
Among the armed nor armor the little cohort boasts,
Their leader is their Prelate, their trust the Lord of Hosts.
And the brave Archbishop tells them in voice most sweet and deep
How the Good Shepherd layeth down His life to save the sheep:
How some short years of grief and tears were no great price to give        35
That peace might come from discord, and bid these rebels live:
Rebels so precious in His eyes, the He, Whose word is fate,
Alone could make, alone redeem, alone regenerate!
 
One moment’s lull of firing, and near and nearer goes
That candidate for martyrdom to the midmost of his foes;        40
And on he went, with love unspent, toward the rifled line,
As calm in faith, in sight of death, as in his Church’s shrine:
And the war closed deadlier round him, and more savage rose the cheer,
And the bullets whistled past him, but still he knew no fear:
And calmer grew his visage, and brighter grew his eye,        45
He could not save his people, for his people he could die:
And, following in the holy steps of Him that harrowed hell,
By death crushed death, by falling upraised the men that fell.
 
They bear him from his passion, for the prize of peace is won:
His warfare is accomplished, his godlike errand run:        50
They kneel before his litter, in the midst of hottest strife;
They ask his prayers, the uttermost, who gave for them his life.
So, offering up his sacrifice to God with free accord,
The city’s Martyr Bishop went home to see his Lord!
 
Now God be praised that even yet His promise doth not fail!        55
The gates of hell can nevermore against His Church prevail:
When human ties are slackened, and earthly kingdoms rock,
And thrones and sceptres crumble, like potsherd in the shock:
There’s that unearthly, though on earth, that ne’er shall be o’erthrown;
Laud to the King of Martyrs for the Victory of His own!        60
 
 
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