Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
July 14
La Tricoteuse
By George Walter Thornbury (1828–1876)
 
THE FOURTEENTH of July had come,
  And round the guillotine
The thieves and beggars, rank by rank,
  Moved the red flags between.
A crimson heart, upon a pole,—        5
  The long march had begun;
But still the little smiling child
  Sat knitting in the sun.
 
The red caps of those men of France
  Shook like a poppy field;        10
Three women’s heads with gory hair,
  The standard-bearers wield.
Cursing, with song and battle-hymn,
  Five butchers dragged a gun;
Yet still the little maid sat there,        15
  A-knitting in the sun.
 
An axe was painted on the flags,
  A broken throne and crown,
A ragged coat upon a lance,
  Hung in foul black threads down.        20
“More heads!” the seething rabble cry,
  And now the drums begun;
But still the little fair-haired child
  Sat knitting in the sun.
 
And every time a head rolled off,        25
  They roll like winter seas,
And, with a tossing up of caps,
  Shouts shook the Tuileries.
Whizz—went the heavy chopper down,
  And then the drums begun;        30
But still the little smiling child
  Sat knitting in the sun.
 
The Jacobins, ten thousand strong,
  And every man a sword;
The red caps, with the tri-colors,        35
  Led on the noisy horde.
“The Sans-Culottes to-day are strong.”
  The gossips say, and run;
But still the little maid sits there,
  A-knitting in the sun.        40
 
Then the slow death-cart moved along;
  And, singing patriot songs,
A pale, doomed poet bowing comes
  And cheers the swaying throng.
Oh, when the axe swept shining down,        45
  The mad drums all begun;
But, smiling still, the little child
  Sat knitting in the sun.
 
“Le Marquis!”—linen snowy white,
  The powder in his hair,        50
Waving his scented handkerchief,
  Looks down with careless stare.
A whirr, a chop—another head—
  Hurrah! the works begun;
But still the little child sat there,        55
  A-knitting in the sun.
 
A stir, and through the parting crowd,
  The people’s friends are come;
Marat and Robespierre—“Vivat!
  Roll thunder from the drum.”        60
The one a wild beast’s hungry eye,
  Hair tangled—hark! a gun!
The other kindly kissed the child
  A-knitting in the sun.
 
“And why not work all night?” the child        65
  Said to the knitters there;
Oh, how the furies shook their sides,
  And tossed their grizzled hair!
Then clapped a bonnet rouge on her,
  And cried—“’Tis well begun!”        70
And laughed to see the little child
  Knit, smiling, in the sun.
 
 
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