James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

August 24

Millais’s “Huguenots”

By London Spectator

  • An organized slaughter of French Protestants in Paris and the provinces instigated by Catherine de Medicis, the Queen Dowager. The number of victims is estimated at from 20,000 to 30,000. The massacre took place on St. Bartholomew’s Day (August 24), 1572.

  • YOUR favorite picture rises up before me,

    Whene’er you play that tune;

    I see two figures standing in a garden

    In the still August noon.

    One is a girl’s with pleading face turned upward

    Wild with a great alarm,

    Trembling with haste, she binds her broidered kerchief

    Around the other’s arm.

    Whose gaze is bent on her in tender pity,

    Whose eyes look into hers

    With a deep meaning though she cannot read it,

    Hers are so dim with tears.

    What are they saying in the sunny garden,

    With Summer flowers ablow?

    What gives the woman’s voice its passionate pleading;

    What makes the man’s so low?

    “See, love,” she murmurs, “you shall wear my kerchief,

    It is the badge, I know;

    And it will bear you safely through the conflict

    If—if indeed you go?

    “You will not wear it? Will not wear my kerchief?

    Nay! Do not tell me why,

    I will not listen! If you go without it

    You will go hence to die.

    “Hush! Do not answer! It is death, I tell you,

    Indeed I speak the truth.

    You, standing there so full of life and courage,

    So bright with health and youth.

    “You would go hence, out of the Summer sunshine,

    Out of the garden bloom;

    Out of the living, thinking, feeling, present

    Into the unknown gloom?”

    Than he makes answer. “Hush! oh, hush my darling!

    Life is so sweet to me,

    So full of hope you need not bid me guard it,

    If such a thing might be!

    “If such a thing might be!—but not through falsehood,

    I could not come to you;

    I dare not stand here in your pure, sweet presence,

    Knowing myself untrue.”

    “It is no sin!” the wild voice interrupts him,

    “This is no open strife.

    Have you not often dreamt a nobler warfare

    In which to spend your life?

    “Oh! for my sake—though but for my sake—wear it!

    Think what my life would be

    If you, who gave it first true worth and meaning

    Were taken now from me!

    “Think of the long, long days, so slowly passing!

    Think of the endless years!

    I am so young! Must I live out my life-time

    With neither hopes nor fears?”

    He speaks again, in mournful tones and tender,

    But with unswerving faith:

    “Should not love make us braver, aye, and stronger

    Either for life or death?

    “And life is hardest. Oh, my love, my treasure

    If I could bear your part

    Of this great sorrow, I would go to meet it

    With an unshrinking heart.

    “Child! child! I little dreamt in that bright Summer

    When first your love I sought,

    Of all the future store of woe and anguish

    Which I, unknowing, wrought.

    “But you’ll forgive me? Yes, you will forgive me

    I know, when I am dead!

    I would have loved you—but words have scant meaning

    God loves you more instead.”

    Then there is silence in the sunny garden,

    Until, with faltering tone,

    She sobs, the while still clings close to him,

    “Forgive me—go—my own!”

    So human love, and faith by death unshaken,

    Mingle their glorious psalm,

    Albeit low, until the passionate pleading

    Is hushed in deepest calm.