Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘The Chronicle of the Drum’
By William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863)
AT Paris, hard by the Maine barriers,
  Whoever will choose to repair,
Midst a dozen of wooden-legged warriors
  May haply fall in with old Pierre.
On the sunshiny bench of a tavern        5
  He sits and he prates of old wars,
And moistens his pipe of tobacco
  With a drink that is named after Mars.
The beer makes his tongue run the quicker,
  And as long as his tap never fails,        10
Thus over his favorite liquor
  Old Peter will tell his old tales.
Says he, “In my life’s ninety summers
  Strange changes and chances I’ve seen,—
So here’s to all gentlemen drummers        15
  That ever have thumped on a skin.
“Brought up in the art military
  For four generations we are;
My ancestors drummed for King Harry,
  The Huguenot lad of Navarre.        20
And as each man in life has his station
  According as Fortune may fix,
While Condé was waving the baton,
  My grandsire was trolling the sticks.
“Ah! those were the days for commanders!        25
  What glories my grandfather won,
Ere bigots and lackeys and panders
  The fortunes of France had undone!
In Germany, Flanders, and Holland,—
  What foeman resisted us then?        30
No; my grandsire was ever victorious,—
  My grandsire and Monsieur Turenne….
“The princes that day passed before us,
  Our countrymen’s glory and hope:
Monsieur, who was learned in Horace,        35
  D’Artois, who could dance the tight-rope.
One night we kept guard for the Queen
  At her Majesty’s opera-box,
While the King, that majestical monarch,
  Sat filing at home at his locks.        40
“Yes, I drummed for the fair Antoinette,
  And so smiling she looked and so tender,
That our officers, privates, and drummers
  All vowed they would die to defend her.
But she cared not for us honest fellows,        45
  Who fought and who bled in her wars:
She sneered at our gallant Rochambeau,
  And turned Lafayette out of doors.
“Ventrebleu! then I swore a great oath,
  No more to such tyrants to kneel;        50
And so, just to keep up my drumming,
  One day I drummed down the Bastille.
Ho, landlord! a stoup of fresh wine:
  Come, comrades, a bumper we’ll try,
And drink to the year eighty-nine        55
  And the glorious fourth of July!
“Then bravely our cannon it thundered
  As onward our patriots bore:
Our enemies were but a hundred,
  And we twenty thousand or more.        60
They carried the news to King Louis;
  He heard it as calm as you please,
And like a majestical monarch,
  Kept filing his locks and his keys.
“We showed our republican courage:        65
  We stormed and we broke the great gate in,
And we murdered the insolent governor
  For daring to keep us a-waiting.
Lambesc and his squadrons stood by;
  They never stirred finger or thumb:        70
The saucy aristocrats trembled
  As they heard the republican drum.
“Hurrah! what a storm was a-brewing
  The day of our vengeance was come!
Through scenes of what carnage and ruin        75
  Did I beat on the patriot drum!
Let’s drink to the famed tenth of August:
  At midnight I beat the tattoo,
And woke up the pikemen of Paris
  To follow the bold Barbaroux….        80
“You all know the Place de la Concorde?
  ’Tis hard by the Tuileries wall;
Mid terraces, fountains, and statues,
  There rises an obelisk tall.
There rises an obelisk tall,        85
  All garnished and gilded the base is:
’Tis surely the gayest of all
  Our beautiful city’s gay places.
“Around it are gardens and flowers;
  And the Cities of France on their thrones,        90
Each crowned with his circlet of flowers,
  Sits watching this biggest of stones!
I love to go sit in the sun there,
  The flowers and fountains to see,
And to think of the deeds that were done there        95
  In the glorious year ninety-three.
“’Twas here stood the Altar of Freedom;
  And though neither marble nor gilding
Was used in those days to adorn
  Our simple republican building,—        100
Corbleu! but the MÈRE GUILLOTINE
  Cared little for splendor or show,
So you gave her an axe and a beam,
  And a plank and a basket or so.
“Awful, and proud, and erect,        105
  Here sat our republican goddess:
Each morning her table we decked
  With dainty aristocrats’ bodies.
The people each day flocked around
  As she sat at her meat and her wine:        110
’Twas always the use of our nation
  To witness the sovereign dine.
“Young virgins with fair golden tresses,
  Old silver-haired prelates and priests,
Dukes, marquises, barons, princesses,        115
  Were splendidly served at her feasts.
Ventrebleu! but we pampered our ogress
  With the best that our nation could bring;
And dainty she grew in her progress,
  And called for the head of a King!        120
“She called for the blood of our King,
  And straight from his prison we drew him;
And to her with shouting we led him,
  And took him, and bound him, and slew him.
‘The Monarchs of Europe against me        125
  Have plotted a godless alliance:
I’ll fling them the head of King Louis,’
  She said, ‘as my gage of defiance.’
“I see him, as now for a moment
  Away from his jailers he broke;        130
And stood at the foot of the scaffold,
  And lingered, and fain would have spoke.
‘Ho, drummer! quick, silence yon Capet,’
  Says Santerre, ‘with a beat of your drum’:
Lustily then did I tap it,        135
  And the son of St. Louis was dumb.”

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