Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Geneviève de Rustéfan

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


Geneviève de Rustéfan

By Anonymous

Translated by Louisa Stuart Costello

WHAT time his flock young Iann kept

He little thought a priest to be,

But gayly rose, and sweetly slept,

Nor e’er of priest or monk dreamed he.

Light was his heart, as oft he sung,

“The maid I love is fair and young!”

One morn his mother called him home.

“This life will fit my son no more;

Leave there the sheep, to Quimper come,

And learn, at length, some better lore.

For you must study well and long,

That I a priest my son may view,

Forget at once each idle song,—

Say to the fair young maids adieu.”

The maids of all the land most fair,

Of beauty and of grace the flower,

Who raised their heads the brightest there,

Were daughters to the Lord of Naour.

As shines the moon the stars above,

They shone all majesty and love!

A milk-white steed each maiden brought,

Whose hoofs resounded on the way,

When they the Pardon yearly sought,

And at Pontaven came to pray.

Their kirtles green, of silk so rare,

With gold chains glittered as they moved,—

None with the youngest might compare,

And she, they said, young Iann loved.

“To gain my hand four suitors strove,

And each was forced the vows to take,

But Iannik Flécher is my love,

And I am dying for his sake!”

Fair Geneviève was at her gate

As Iann passed his vows to pay,

Embroidering lace the damsel sate,

With glittering threads of silver gay,

(The kerchief that she works so neat

Were covering for a chalice meet!)

“Iann Flécher, list to me!

Take not vows that fit thee not.

Is the past ’twixt me and thee

And all promises forgot?

All the tender words we said,

All the faithful vows we made?”

“O, I dare not turn me now,

Dare not think upon the past,

For the Church has claimed my vow,

And the fatal lot is cast!”

“Thou the golden ring hast lost

Given thee in the dance of yore?”

“No: the pledge I prized the most

God has ta’en, ’t is mine no more!”

“O Iann Flécher! turn again;

Take all the wealth I call my own,

I ’ll follow thee through toil and pain,

I ’ll love, I ’ll live for thee alone!

The coarsest clothes for thee I ’ll wear,

For thee all hardships learn to bear,

But say not I must lose thy love!

Or, if I fail thy heart to move,

Come thou, a priest, beside my bed,

And read the office for the dead.”

“O Geneviève! a mighty chain

Has twined its fetters round my heart,

O Geneviève! our tears are vain,

I am a priest and we must part!”

And now the young priest is professed,

And as he passed the Manor hall,

He said, while sorrow swelled his breast,

“Hail! Lord of Rustéfan,—hail all!

Much joy on each may Heaven bestow,

(More than my heart can ever know!)

’T is my first mass this morn, I say;

Will any come to grace the day?”

“O yes, young priest, and thou shalt see

The first who offers shall be me:

The plate shall twenty crowns receive,

Ten more thy god-mother shall give,

In honor of our pious priest

Who follows thus the Lord’s behest.”

I strayed by Penn-al-Lenn that day,

For I the mass was fain to hear,

I saw the people in dismay,

Come trooping fast with looks of fear;

“Aged mother, wilt thou say

If the mass is done to-day?”

“He begun it, fair and well,

But it is not ended yet,

For his tears so fast they fell

That his books of prayer were wet.

“No: in vain to read he strove,

Vainly tried to end the hymn,

For his heart was torn with love,

And his eyes with tears were dim.

“He would check their rising flood,

He would yet the words repeat,

At the altar where he stood

Geneviève is at his feet!

And she cried, in piercing tone,

‘For the love of God, forbear!

Iann! every hope is gone,

And I perish in despair!

Iann! thou hast caused my death,

Take, O, take my dying breath!’”


Iann Flécher since that time

Is the rector of the town:

I who made this mournful rhyme

Oft have wandered up and down,

By the church and by the vale

Where I heard the fatal tale,

And have seen the young priest grieve

O’er the grave of Geneviève:

Years past on,—I went and came,

But his tears flowed on the same!