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.
 
Chenonceaux
The Banks of the Cher
Antoine-Marie Lemièrre (1723–1793)
 
Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

IN that province of our France
Proud of being called its garden,
In those fields where once by chance
Pepin’s father with his lance
Made the Saracen sue for pardon;        5
There between the old château
Which two hundred years ago
Was the centre of the League,
Whose infernal, black intrigue
Almost fatal was, ’t is reckoned,        10
To young Francis, called the Second;
And that pleasant city’s wall
Of this canton capital,
City memorable in story,
And whose fruits preserved with care        15
Make the riches and the glory
Of the gourmands everywhere!—
Now, a more prosaic head
Without verbiage might have said,
There between Tours and Amboise        20
In the province of Touraine;
But the poet, and with cause,
Loves to ponder and to pause;
Ever more his soul delighteth
In the language that he writeth,        25
Finer far than other people’s;
So, while he describes the steeples,
One might travel through Touraine,
Far as Tours and back again.
 
On the borders of the Cher        30
Is a valley green and fair,
Where the eye, that travels fast,
Tires with the horizon vast;
There, since five and forty lustres,
From the bosom of the stream,        35
Like the castle of a dream,
High into the fields of air
The château of Chenonceaux
Lifts its glittering vanes in clusters.
Six stone arches of a bridge        40
Into channels six divide
The swift river in its flow,
And upon their granite ridge
Hold this beautiful château,
Flanked with turrets on each side.        45
Time, that grand old man with wings,
Who destroys all earthly things,
Hath not tarnished yet one stone,
White as ermine is alone,
Of this palace of dead kings.        50
 
One in speechless wonder sees
In the rampart-walls of Blois,
To the shame of the Valois,
Marble stained with blood of Guise;
By the crimes that it can show,        55
By its war-beleaguered gates,
Famous be that black château;
Thou art famous for thy fêtes
And thy feastings, Chenonceaux!
Ah, most beautiful of places,        60
With what pleasure thee I see;
Everywhere the selfsame traces,
Residence of all the Graces
And Love’s inn and hostelry!
 
Here that second Agrippina,        65
The imperious Catharina,
Jealous of all pleasant things,
To her cruel purpose still
Subjugating every will,
Kept her sons as underlings        70
Fastened to her apron-strings.
 
Here, divested of his armor,
As gallant as he was brave,
Francis First to some fair charmer
Many an hour of dalliance gave.        75
Here, beneath these ceilings florid,
Chose Diana her retreat,—
Not Diana of the groves
With the crescent on her forehead,
Who, as swiftest arrow fleet,        80
Flies before all earthly loves;
But that charming mortal dame,
She the Poiterine alone,
She the Second Henry’s flame,
Who with her celestial zone        85
Loves and Laughters made secure
From banks of Cher to banks of Eure.
 
Cher, whose stream, obscure and troubled,
Flowed before with many a halt,
By this palace is ennobled,        90
Since it bathes its noble vault.
Even the boatman, hurrying fast,
Pauses, mute with admiration
To behold a pile so vast
Rising like an exhalation        95
From the stream; and with his mast
Lowered salutes it, gliding past.
 
 
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