Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
 
Appendix I. Early and Uncollected Verses
The Sicilian Vespers
 
SILENCE o’er sea and earth
  With the veil of evening fell,
Till the convent-tower sent deeply forth
  The chime of its vesper bell.
One moment—and that solemn sound        5
  Fell heavy on the ear;
But a sterner echo passed around,
  And the boldest shook to hear.
 
The startled monks thronged up,
  In the torchlight cold and dim;        10
And the priest let fall his incense-cup,
  And the virgin hushed her hymn,
For a boding clash, and a clanging tramp,
  And a summoning voice were heard,
And fretted wall, and dungeon damp,        15
  To the fearful echo stirred.
 
The peasant heard the sound,
  As he sat beside his hearth;
And the song and the dance were hushed around,
  With the fire-side tale of mirth.        20
The chieftain shook in his banner’d hall,
  As the sound of fear drew nigh,
And the warder shrank from the castle wall,
  As the gleam of spears went by.
 
Woe! woe! to the stranger, then,        25
  At the feast and flow of wine,
In the red array of mailëd men,
  Or bowed at the holy shrine;
For the wakened pride of an injured land
  Had burst its iron thrall,        30
From the plumëd chief to the pilgrim band;
  Woe! woe! to the sons of Gaul!
 
Proud beings fell that hour,
  With the young and passing fair,
And the flame went up from dome and tower,        35
  The avenger’s arm was there!
The stranger priest at the altar stood,
  And clasped his beads in prayer,
But the holy shrine grew dim with blood,
  The avenger found him there!        40
 
Woe! woe! to the sons of Gaul,
  To the serf and mailed lord;
They were gathered darkly, one and all,
  To the harvest of the sword:
And the morning sun, with a quiet smile,        45
  Shone out o’er hill and glen,
On ruined temple and smouldering pile,
  And the ghastly forms of men.
 
Ay, the sunshine sweetly smiled,
  As its early glance came forth,        50
It had no sympathy with the wild
  And terrible things of earth.
And the man of blood that day might read,
  In a language freely given,
How ill his dark and midnight deed        55
  Became the calm of Heaven.

  20th of 11th mo., 1828.
 
 
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