Sunrise in the Place de la Concorde by John Milton Hay

Paris, August, 1865

I stand at the break of day
In the Champs Elysees.
The tremulous shafts of dawning
As they shoot o’er the Tuileries early,
Strike Luxor’s cold gray spire,
And wild in the light of the morning
With their marble manes on fire,
Ramp the white Horses of Marly.

But the Place of Concord lies
Dead hushed ‘neath the ashy skies.
And the Cities sit in council
With sleep in their wide stone eyes.
I see the mystic plain
Where the army of spectres slain
In the Emperor’s life-long war
March on with unsounding tread
To trumpets whose voice is dead.

Their spectral chief still leads them,-
The ghostly flash of his sword
Like a comet through mist shines far,
And the noiseless host is poured,
For the gendarme never heeds them,
Up the long dim road where thundered
The army of Italy onward
Through the great pale Arch of the Star!

The spectre army fades
Far up the glimmering hill,
But, vaguely lingering still,
A group of shuddering shades
Infects the pallid air,
Growing dimmer as day invades
The hush of the dusky square.
There is one that seems a King,
As if the ghost of a Crown
Still shadowed his jail-bleached hair;

I can hear the guillotine ring,
As its regicide note rang there,
When he laid his tired life down
And grew brave in his last despair.
And a woman frail and fair
Who weeps at leaving a world
Of love and revel and sin
In the vast Unknown to be hurled;
(For life was wicked and sweet
With kings at her small white feet!)
And one, every inch a Queen,
In life and in death a Queen,
Whose blood baptized the place,
In the days of madness and fear,-
Her shade has never a peer
In majesty and grace.

Murdered and murderers swarm;
Slayers that slew and were slain,
Till the drenched place smoked with the rain
That poured in a torrent warm,
Till red as the Rider’s of Edom
Were splashed the white garments of Freedom
With the wash of the horrible storm!

And Liberty’s hands were not clean
In the day of her pride unchained,
Her royal hands were stained
With the life of a King and Queen;
And darker than that with the blood
Of the nameless brave and good
Whose blood in witness clings
More damning than Queens’ and Kings’.

Has she not paid it dearly?
Chained, watching her chosen nation
Grinding late and early
In the mills of usurpation?
Have not her holy tears
Flowing through shameful years,
Washed the stains from her tortured hands?
We thought so when God’s fresh breeze,
Blowing over the sleeping lands,
In ‘Forty-Eight waked the world,
And the Burgher-King was hurled
From that palace behind the trees.

As Freedom with eyes aglow
Smiled glad through her childbirth pain,
How was the mother to know
That her woe and travail were vain?
A smirking servant smiled
When she gave him her child to keep;
Did she know he would strangle the child
As it lay in his arms asleep?

Liberty’s cruellest shame!
She is stunned and speechless yet.
In her grief and bloody sweat
Shall we make her trust her blame?
The treasure of ‘Forty-Eight
A lurking jail-bird stole,
She can but watch and wait
As the swift sure seasons roll.

And when in God’s good hour
Comes the time of the brave and true,
Freedom again shall rise
With a blaze in her awful eyes
That shall wither this robber-power
As the sun now dries the dew.
This Place shall roar with the voice
Of the glad triumphant people,
And the heavens be gay with the chimes
Ringing with jubilant noise
From every clamorous steeple
The coming of better times.
And the dawn of Freedom waking
Shall fling its splendors far
Like the day which now is breaking
On the great pale Arch of the Star,
And back o’er the town shall fly,
While the joy-bells wild are ringing,
To crown the Glory springing
From the Column of July!

From: http://www.poetryatlas.com/poetry/poem/1837/sunrise-in-the-place-de-la-concorde.html

Date: 1865

By: John Milton Hay (1838-1905)

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