Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > France
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X.  1876–79.
The Bastille
George Gordon McCrae (1833–1927)
(From Man in the Iron Mask)

A DAY of driving sleet, with hail and rain
That hissed and splashed, and sprayed against the walls,
Urged by the eastern wind, that, wolf-like, howled
Along the leaden ledges of the roof,
Or screamed through loopholes of the masonry,        5
Or hoarsely rumbled in the sooty throats.
(Cimmerian)—of the chimneys of the keep,
Rattling the vexed and rusty vanes about,
That veered and creaked, and creaked and veered again
A most tempestuous whirl (and icy chill),        10
Where groans and shrieks and sobbing airs and moans
Prevailed, according to the fantasy
That drave the wild and whistling storm along.
The dark foundations of the Bastille walls
Were banked with lengthy, crisp, white, sloping drifts        15
Of hailstones multitudinous, that lay
Thick as the pebbles on a moonlit beach,
That binds itself a silvern sandal on,
To grace the foot some towering cliff has given,
In queenly form, to subject waves to kiss.        20
Crowded together close, the starlings crept
For mutual shelter ’neath the leeward wall,
With tiny plumes awry, or else on end,
While ’neath the blind-arch of a Seine-washed bridge
Some wretched outcast from the storm would cower,        25
With chin on knees, and icy fingers thrust
Deep in his ragged bosom, seeking warmth;
And in the crowded faubourg girls would creep
To bed in wet and windy garret-nooks,
Where drops the rain upon the wretched floor        30
In sullen plashes, or else fiercely stabs
With icy needles into shivering flesh,
And these in their storm-broken slumbers dream
Of folks that sit with heavy shutters barred,
And thick warm curtains drawn, and fires ablaze,        35
And children playing round them; where the hours
Glide gayly on, with lighted lamps and song.
This side the dream,—the real was wretchedness,
The skin upon the body crept, each hair
Was stiffened to a spine, and nature’s life        40
Shrank back within itself, and feigned to die,
As the anemone in ocean depths
Draws in its tender arms, and hides itself
Within itself, till dread or danger ’s past.

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