Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
 
On the Late Massacher in Piemont
By John Milton (1608–1674)
 
AVENGE 1 O Lord thy slaughter’d Saints, whose bones
  Lie scatter’d on the Alpine mountains cold,
  Ev’n them who kept thy truth so pure of old
  When all our Fathers worship’t Stocks and Stones, 2
Forget not: in thy book record their groanes        5
  Who were thy Sheep and in their antient Fold
  Slayn by the bloody Piemontese that roll’d
  Mother with Infant down the Rocks. 3 Their moans
The Vales redoubl’d to the Hills, and they
  To Heav’n. Their martyr’d blood and ashes sow        10
  O’re all th’ Italian fields where still doth sway
The triple Tyrant: that from these may grow
  A hunder’d-fold, who having learnt thy way
  Early may fly the Babylonian wo. 4
 
Note 1. The incident which called forth this sonnet is recorded by Pattison in his Life of Milton, p. 126: “The inhabitants of certain Piedmontese valleys had held from time immemorial, and long before Luther, tenets and forms of worship very like those to which the German reformers had sought to bring back the Church. The Vaudois were wretchedly poor, and had been incessantly the objects of aggression and persecution. In January 1655, a sudden determination was taken by the Turin government to make them conform to the Catholic religion by force. The whole of the inhabitants of three valleys were ordered to quit the country, within three days, under pain of death and confiscation of goods, unless they would become, or undertake to become, Catholics. They sent their humble remonstrances to the Court of Turin against this edict. The remonstrances were disregarded, and military execution was ordered. On April 17, 1655, the soldiers, recruits from all countries—the Irish are especially mentioned—were let loose upon the unarmed population. Murder, and rape, and burning are the ordinary incidents of military execution. These were not enough to satisfy the ferocity of the Catholic soldiery, who revelled for many days in the infliction of all that brutal lust or savage cruelty can suggest to man.” [back]
Note 2. When all our Fathers worship’t Stocks and Stones: i.e., when England was a Catholic country before the Reformation, and idolatry which Milton insists to be the most repulsive element in the faith and practice of the Catholic religion. Cf. His tract on True Religion, 1659. [back]
Note 3. That rolled mother with infant down the rocks: This incident was related as fact by Sir William Moreland, Cromwell’s agent in Piedmont, in his account of the massacre published in London, 1658. [back]
Note 4. Babylonian wo: Rome was Babylon to the Puritans, and was doomed to suffer the Apocalyptical vision of St. John at the day of Judgment. Cf. Rev. xviii. [back]
 
 
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