The French Revolution
The dead brood over Europe: the cloud and vision descends over cheerful France;
O cloud well appointed!
Sick, sick, the Prince on his couch! wreath'd in dim
And appalling mist; his strong hand outstretch'd, from
his shoulder down the bone,
Runs aching cold into the sceptre, too heavy for mortal grasp--no more To
be swayèd by visible hand, nor in cruelty bruise the mild flourishing mountains.
Sick the mountains! and
all their vineyards weep, in the eyes of the kingly mourner;
Pale is the morning cloud in his visage. Rise,
Necker! the ancient dawn calls us
To awake from slumbers of five thousand years. I awake, but my soul
is in dreams;
From my window I see the old mountains of France, like agèd men, fading away.
Troubled, leaning on Necker, descends the King to his chamber of council; shady mountains
In fear utter
voices of thunder; the woods of France embosom the sound; Clouds of wisdom prophetic reply, and roll
over the palace roof heavy.
Forty men, each conversing with woes in the infinite shadows of his soul,
Like our ancient fathers in regions of twilight, walk, gathering round the King:
Again the loud voice of
France cries to the morning; the morning prophesies to its clouds.
For the Commons convene in the Hall of the Nation. France shakes! And the heavens of France
vibrate round each careful countenance! Darkness of old times around them
Utters loud despair, shadowing
Paris; her grey towers groan, and the Bastille trembles.
In its terrible towers the Governor stood, in dark fogs list'ning the horror; A thousand his soldiers, old
veterans of France, breathing red clouds of power and dominion.
Sudden seiz'd with howlings, despair,
and black night, he stalk'd like a lion from tower
To tower; his howlings were heard in the Louvre; from
court to court restless he dragg'd
His strong limbs; from court to court curs'd the fierce torment unquell'd,
Howling and giving the dark command; in his soul stood the purple plague,
Tugging his iron manacles,
and piercing thro' the seven towers dark and sickly,
Panting over the prisoners like a wolf gorg'd. And the
den nam'd Horror held a man
Chain'd hand and foot; round his neck an iron band, bound to the impregnable
In his soul was the serpent coil'd round in his heart, hid from the light, as in a cleft rock:
man was confin'd for a writing prophetic. In the tower nam'd Darkness was a man
Pinion'd down to the
stone floor, his strong bones scarce cover'd with sinews; the iron rings
Were forg'd smaller as the flesh
decay'd: a mask of iron on his face hid the lineaments
Of ancient Kings, and the frown of the eternal lion
was hid from the oppressèd earth.
In the tower namèd Bloody, a skeleton yellow remainèd in its chains on
Of stone, once a man who refus'd to sign papers of abhorrence; the eternal worm
Crept in the
skeleton. In the den nam'd Religion, a loathsome sick woman bound down
To a bed of straw; the seven
diseases of earth, like birds of prey, stood on the couch
And fed on the body: she refus'd to be whore
to the Minister, and with a knife smote him.
In the tower nam'd Order, an old man, whose white beard
cover'd the stone floor like weeds
On margin of the sea, shrivell'd up by heat of day and cold of night; his
den was short
And narrow as a grave dug for a child, with spiders' webs wove, and with slime
horrors cover'd, for snakes and scorpions are his companions, harmless they breathe
His sorrowful breath: he,
by conscience urg'd, in the city of Paris rais'd a pulpit,
And taught wonders to darken'd souls. In the den
nam'd Destiny a strong man sat,
His feet and hands cut off, and his eyes blinded; round his middle a
chain and a band
Fasten'd into the wall; fancy gave him to see an image of despair in his den,
rushing round, like a man on his hands and knees, day and night without rest:
He was friend to the favourite.
In the seventh tower, nam'd the tower of God, was a man
Mad, with chains loose, which he dragg'd up
and down; fed with hopes year by year, he pinèd
For liberty.--Vain hopes! his reason decay'd, and the
world of attraction in his bosom
Centred, and the rushing of chaos overwhelm'd his dark soul: he was
For a letter of advice to a King, and his ravings in winds are heard over Versailles.
But the dens shook and trembled: the prisoners look up and assay to shout; they listen,
Then laugh in
the dismal den, then are silent; and a light walks round the dark towers.
For the Commons convene in
the Hall of the Nation; like spirits of fire in the beautiful
Porches of the Sun, to plant beauty in the desert
craving abyss, they gleam On the anxious city: all children new-born first behold them, tears are fled,
they nestle in earth-breathing bosoms. So the city of Paris, their wives and children,
Look up to the morning
Senate and visions of sorrow leave pensive streets.
But heavy-brow'd jealousies lour o'er the Louvre; and