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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.


II. Unacknowledged and Uncollected Translations. The Banks of the Cher

By Antoine-Marin le Mièrre

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;

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,

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

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

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,

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

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,

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

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.

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.

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,

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,

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,

The imperious Catharina,

Jealous of all pleasant things,

To her cruel purpose still

Subjugating every will,

Kept her sons as underlings

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.

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,

Files before all earthly loves;

But that charming mortal dame,

She the Poiterine alone,

She the Second Henry’s flame,

Who with her celestial zone

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,

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

From the stream; and with his mast

Lowered salutes it, gliding past.