Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > France
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X.  1876–79.
 
Rouen
The Curfew
Anonymous
 
(Excerpt)

WHEN William lay a-dying
  All dull of eye and dim,
And he that conquered Harold
  Felt one that conquered him,
He recked not of the minutes,        5
  The midnight, or the morn,
But there he lay, unbreathing
  As the babe that is still-born.
 
But suddenly a bell tolled!
  He started from the swound,        10
First glared, and then grew gentle,
  Then wildly stared around.
He deemed ’t was bell at even,
  To quench the Saxon’s coal,
But O, it was a curfew        15
  To quench his fiery soul.
 
“Now, prithee, holy father!
  What means this bell, I pray;
Is ’t curfew-time in England,
  Or am I far away?        20
God wot, it moves my spirit
  As if it even might be
The bells of mine own city,
  In dear old Normandie.”
 
“Ay, sire, thou art in Rouen;        25
  And ’t is the prayer-bell’s chime,
In the steeple of St. Mary’s
  That tolls the hour of prime!”
“Then bid them pray for William,
  And may the Virgin-born,        30
In the church of his sweet mother,
  Hear their praying this blest morn.”
 
Little dream the kneeling people
  Who joins them in their prayers!
They deem not stout King William        35
  Their paternoster shares:
Nor see they how he lifteth
  With theirs his dying hand;
The hand that from the Saxon
  Tore the crown of fair England!        40
 
Nor heard they, as responding
  To their chanting oft he sighed,
Till rose their de profundis,
  And the mighty Norman died:
But I have thought, who knoweth,        45
  But if that early toll,
Like the contrite malefactor’s,
  Saved a dying sinner’s soul!
 
 
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