Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.



By Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791–1865)

Queen Philippa

EDWARD was fired with wrath.
“Bring forth,” he said,

“The hostages, and let their death instruct

This contumacious city.”
Forth they came,

The rope about their necks, those patriot men,

Who nobly chose an ignominious doom

To save their country’s blood. Famine and toil

And the long siege had worn them to the bone;

Yet from their eye spoke that heroic soul

Which scorns the body’s ill. Father and son

Stood side by side, and youthful forms were there,

By kindred linked, for whom the sky of life

Was bright with love. Yet no repining sigh

Darkened their hour of fate. Well had they taxed

The midnight thought, and nerved the wearied arm,

While months and seasons thinned their wasting ranks.

The harvest failed, the joy of vintage ceased;—

Vine-dresser and grape-gatherer manned the walls,

And when they sank with hunger, others came,

Of cheek more pale, perchance, but strong at heart.

Yet still those spectres poured their arrow-flight,

Or hurled the deadly stone, while at the gates

The conqueror of Cressy sued in vain.

“Lead them to die!” he bade.
In nobler hearts

There was a throb of pity for the foe

So fallen and so unblenching; yet none dared

Meet that fierce temper with the word, Forgive!

Who comes with hasty step, and flowing robe,

And hair so slightly bound? The Queen! the Queen!

An earnest pity on her lifted brow,

Tears in her azure eye, like drops of light.

What seeks she with such fervid eloquence?

Life for the lost! And ever as she fears

Her suit in vain, more wildly heaves her breast,

In secrecy of prayer, to save her lord

From cruelty so dire, and from the pangs

Of late remorse. At first, the strong resolve

Curled on his lip, and raised his haughty head,

While every firm-set muscle prouder swelled

To iron rigor. Then his flashing eye

Rested upon her, till its softened glance

Confessed contagion from her tenderness,

As with a manly and chivalrous grace

The boon he gave.
O woman! ever seek

A victory like this; with heavenly warmth

Still melt the icy purpose, still preserve

From error’s path the heart that thou dost fold

Close in thine own pure love. Yes, ever be

The advocate of mercy, and the friend

Of those whom all forsake; so may thy prayer

In thine adversity be heard of Him,

Who multiplies to pardon.
Still we thought

Of thee, Philippa, and thy fervent tone

Of intercession, and the cry of joy,

Which was its echo from the breaking heart,

In many a mournful home. Of thee we thought,

With blessings on thy goodness, as we came

All chill and dripping from the salt sea wave,

Within the gates of Calais, soon to wend

Our onward course.
The vales of France were green,

As if the soul of summer lingered there,

Yet the crisp vine-leaf told an autumn tale,

While the brown windmills spread their flying arms

To every fickle breeze. The singing-girl

Awoke her light guitar, and featly danced

To her own madrigals; but the low hut

Of the poor peasant seemed all comfortless,

And his harsh-featured wife, made swarth by toils

Unfeminine, with no domestic smile

Cheered her sad children, plunging their dark feet

Deep in the miry soil.
At intervals

Widely disjoined, where clustering roofs arose,

The cry of shrill mendicity was up,

And at each window of our vehicle,

Hand, hat, and basket thrust, and the wild eye

Of clamorous children, eager for a coin,

Assailed our every pause. At first, the pang

Of pity moved us, and we vainly wished

For wealth to fill each meagre hand with gold;

But, oft besought, suspicion steeled the heart,

And ’neath the guise of poverty we deemed

Vice or deception lurked. So on we passed,

Save when an alms some white-haired form implored,

Bowed down with age, or some pale, pining babe,

Froze into silence by its misery,

Clung to the sickly mother. On we passed,

In homely diligence, like cumbrous house,

Tripartite and well peopled, its lean steeds

Rope-harnessed and grotesque, while the full moon

Silvered our weary caravan, that wrought

Unresting, night and day, until the towers

Of fair St. Denis, where the garnered dust

Of many a race of Gallic monarchs sleeps,

Gleamed through the misty morning, and we gained

The gates of Paris.