Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
Narrative and Legendary Poems
St. John
          The fierce rivalry between Charles de La Tour, a Protestant, and D’Aulnay Charnasy, a Catholic, for the possession of Acadia, forms one of the most romantic passages in the history of the New World. La Tour received aid in several instances from the Puritan colony of Massachusetts. During one of his voyages for the purpose of obtaining arms and provisions for his establishment at St. John, his castle was attacked by D’Aulnay, and successfully defended by its high-spirited mistress. A second attack however followed in the fourth month, 1647, when D’Aulnay was successful, and the garrison was put to the sword. Lady La Tour languished a few days in the hands of her enemy, and then died of grief.

TO the winds give our banner!
  Bear homeward again!”
Cried the Lord of Acadia,
  Cried Charles of Estienne;
From the prow of his shallop        5
  He gazed, as the sun,
From its bed in the ocean,
  Streamed up the St. John.
O’er the blue western waters
  That shallop had passed,        10
Where the mists of Penobscot
  Clung damp on her mast.
St. Saviour had looked
  On the heretic sail,
As the songs of the Huguenot        15
  Rose on the gale.
The pale, ghostly fathers
  Remembered her well,
And had cursed her while passing,
  With taper and bell;        20
But the men of Monhegan,
  Of Papists abhorred,
Had welcomed and feasted
  The heretic Lord.
They had loaded his shallop        25
  With dun-fish and ball,
With stores for his larder,
  And steel for his wall.
Pemaquid, from her bastions
  And turrets of stone,        30
Had welcomed his coming
  With banner and gun.
And the prayers of the elders
  Had followed his way,
As homeward he glided,        35
  Down Pentecost Bay.
Oh, well sped La Tour!
  For, in peril and pain,
His lady kept watch,
  For his coming again.        40
O’er the Isle of the Pheasant
  The morning sun shone,
On the plane-trees which shaded
  The shores of St. John.
“Now, why from yon battlements        45
  Speaks not my love!
Why waves there no banner
  My fortress above?”
Dark and wild, from his deck
  St. Estienne gazed about,        50
On fire-wasted dwellings,
  And silent redoubt;
From the low, shattered walls
  Which the flame had o’errun,
There floated no banner,        55
  There thundered no gun!
But beneath the low arch
  Of its doorway there stood
A pale priest of Rome,
  In his cloak and his hood.        60
With the bound of a lion,
  La Tour sprang to land,
On the throat of the Papist
  He fastened his hand.
“Speak, son of the Woman        65
  Of scarlet and sin!
What wolf has been prowling
  My castle within?”
From the grasp of the soldier
  The Jesuit broke,        70
Half in scorn, half in sorrow,
  He smiled as he spoke:
“No wolf, Lord of Estienne,
  Has ravaged thy hall,
But thy red-handed rival,        75
  With fire, steel, and ball!
On an errand of mercy
  I hitherward came,
While the walls of thy castle
  Yet spouted with flame.        80
“Pentagoet’s dark vessels
  Were moored in the bay,
Grim sea-lions, roaring
  Aloud for their prey.”
“But what of my lady?”        85
  Cried Charles of Estienne.
“On the shot-crumbled turret
  Thy lady was seen:
“Half-veiled in the smoke-cloud,
  Her hand grasped thy pennon,        90
While her dark tresses swayed
  In the hot breath of cannon!
But woe to the heretic,
  Evermore woe!
When the son of the church        95
  And the cross is his foe!
“In the track of the shell,
  In the path of the ball,
Pentagoet swept over
  The breach of the wall!        100
Steel to steel, gun to gun,
  One moment,—and then
Alone stood the victor,
  Alone with his men!
“Of its sturdy defenders,        105
  Thy lady alone
Saw the cross-blazoned banner
  Float over St. John.”
“Let the dastard look to it!”
  Cried fiery Estienne,        110
“Were D’Aulnay King Louis,
  I ’d free her again!”
“Alas for thy lady!
  No service from thee
Is needed by her        115
  Whom the Lord hath set free;
Nine days, in stern silence,
  Her thraldom she bore,
But the tenth morning came,
  And Death opened her door!”        120
As if suddenly smitten
  La Tour staggered back;
His hand grasped his sword-hilt,
  His forehead grew black.
He sprang on the deck        125
  Of his shallop again.
“We cruise now for vengeance!
  Give way!” cried Estienne.
“Massachusetts shall hear
  Of the Huguenot’s wrong,        130
And from island and creekside
  Her fishers shall throng!
Pentagoet shall rue
  What his Papists have done,
When his palisades echo        135
  The Puritan’s gun!”
Oh, the loveliest of heavens
  Hung tenderly o’er him,
There were waves in the sunshine,
  And green isles before him:        140
But a pale hand was beckoning
  The Huguenot on;
And in blackness and ashes
  Behind was St. John!


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