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



By Kenelm Henry Digby (1800–1880)


IT was a dark autumnal day

When first to Clisson I would stray;

The groves were clad in brown and green,

To suit the interval between

The parting friend and coming foe

So sure to lay their beauties low.

Thick hedge-rows, groves, and small rich fields,

The region that surrounds it yields;

Methought I spied at each brake pass

The peasants risen in a mass,

Intrenched within the pathless wood,

Where hostile legions were withstood

By rustics all like heroes now,

With sacred cause and holy vow.

But changed abruptly all I found,

Descending o’er a rugged ground;

Until I reached a deep ravine,

The Sèvre winding on between;

When suddenly there raised its head,

All spectral-like, quite causing dread,

The vast huge pile, so dark and hoary,

Whose checkered fame aye lives in story,

While stretched along and at its feet

I saw the village winding street

Far scattered up and down, and strange;

Just such as on some Alpine range

Will lead you to the welcome spot

Where soon fatigues are all forgot.

Long grass-grown steps cut o’er the rock

Which shelves down in a mighty block

Conduct you to the portals grand

Which green with ivy proudly stand.

There now, within these crumbling walls,

Lives recent Fame that pity calls,

When standing o’er that fatal well

Down whose dark depths the victims fell,

Who fought to stay an impious hand

And cruel despots to withstand.

Then on I strayed through towers vast

That now stand open to the blast,

All roofless, split on every side,

Where owls and bats can well abide,

Such canopies of creeping flowers

Combine with walls to make their bowers,

Through courts where huge trees cast a shade

As in some haunted forest glade,

Through many a grim, spacious room

Where all is desolation, gloom;

Each window still with iron barred,

As suiting manners stern and hard,

If possible, more dreary still,

From such left traces of the skill

Which fashioned all things that you see,

If not for pain, with mystery.