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.
 
Arles
Arles
Frédéric Mistral (1830–1914)
 
Translated by Harriet W. Preston

AT Arles in the Carlovingian days,
          By the swift Rhône water,
A hundred thousand on either side,
Christian and Saracen fought till the tide
          Ran red with the slaughter.        5
 
May God forefend such another flood
          Of direful war!
The Count of Orange on that black morn
By seven great kings was overborne,
          And fled afar,        10
 
Whenas he would avenge the death
          Of his nephew slain.
Now are the kings upon his trail;
He slays as he flies; like fiery hail
          His sword-strokes rain.        15
 
He hies him into the Aliscamp, 1
          No shelter there!
A Moorish hive is the home of the dead,
And hard he spurs his goodly steed
          In his despair.        20
 
Over the mountain and over the moor
          Flies Count Guillaume;
By sun and by moon he ever sees
The coming cloud of his enemies;
          Thus gains his home,        25
 
Halts, and lifts at the castle gate
          A mighty cry,
Calling his haughty wife by name,
“Guibour, Guibour, my gentle dame,
          Open! ’T is I!        30
 
“Open the gate to thy Guillaume,
          Ta’en is the city
By thirty thousand Saracen,
Lo, they are hunting me to my den;
          Guibour, have pity!”        35
 
But the countess from the rampart cried,
          “Nay, chevalier,
I will not open my gates to thee;
For, save the women and babes,” said she,
          “Whom I shelter here,        40
 
“And the priest who keeps the lamps alight,
          Alone am I.
My brave Guillaume and his barons all
Are fighting the Moor by the Aliscamp wall,
          And scorn to fly!”        45
 
“Guibour, Guibour, it is I myself!
          And those men of mine,
(God rest their souls!) they are dead,” he cried,
“Or rowing with slaves on the salt sea-tide.
          I have seen the shine        50
 
“Of Arles on fire in the dying day;
          I have heard one shriek
Go up from all the arenas where
The nuns disfigure their bodies fair
          Lest the Marran wreak        55
 
“His brutal will. Avignon’s self
          Will fall to-day!
Sweetheart, I faint; O, let me in
Before the savage Mograbin
          Fall on his prey!”        60
 
“I swear thou liest,” cried Guibour,
          “Thou base deceiver!
Thou art perchance thyself a Moor
Who whinest thus outside my door,
          My Guillaume, never!        65
 
“Guillaume to look on burning towns
          And fired by—thee!
Guillaume to see his comrades die,
Or borne to sore captivity,
          And then to flee!        70
 
“He knows not flight! He is a tower
          Where others fly!
The heathen spoiler’s doom is sure,
The virgin’s honor aye secure,
          When he is by!”        75
 
Guillaume leapt up, his bridle set
          Between his teeth,
While tears of love and tears of shame
Under his burning eyelids came,
          And hard drew breath        80
 
And seized his sword and plunged his spurs
          Right deep, and so
A storm, a demon, did descend
To roar and smite, to rout and rend
          The Moorish foe.        85
 
As when one shakes an almond-tree,
          The heathen slain
Upon the tender grass fall thick
Until the flying remnant seek
          Their ships again.        90
 
Four kings with his own hand he slew,
          And when once more
He turned him homeward from the fight,
Upon the drawbridge long in sight
          Stood brave Guibour.        95
 
“By the great gateway enter in,
          My lord!” she cried,
And might no further welcome speak,
But loosed his helm, and kissed his cheek,
          With tears of pride.        100
 
Note 1. The Aliscamp, that is, Elysii Campi—an ancient cemetery near Arles, supposed to have been consecrated by Christ in person. [back]
 
 
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