Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  King Henry the Fifth and the Hermit of Dreux

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


King Henry the Fifth and the Hermit of Dreux

By Robert Southey (1774–1843)

HE passed unquestioned through the camp;

Their heads the soldiers bent

In silent reverence, or begged

A blessing as he went;

And so the hermit passed along,

And reached the royal tent.

King Henry sate in his tent alone;

The map before him lay:

Fresh conquests he was planning there

To grace the future day.

King Henry lifted up his eyes

The intruder to behold;

With reverence he the hermit saw,

For the holy man was old;

His look was gentle as a saint’s,

And yet his eye was bold.

“Repent thee, Henry! of the wrongs

Which thou hast done this land;

O King! repent in time, for know

The judgment is at hand.

“I have passed forty years of peace

Beside the river Blaise;

But what a weight of woe hast thou

Laid on my latter days!

“I used to see along the stream

The white sail gliding down,

That wafted food, in better times,

To yonder peaceful town.

“Henry! I never now behold

The white sail gliding down;

Famine, Disease, and Death, and Thou,

Destroy that wretched town.

“I used to hear the traveller’s voice

As here he passed along,

Or maiden as she loitered home

Singing her even-song.

“No traveller’s voice may now be heard;

In fear he hastens by:

But I have heard the village maid

In vain for succor cry.

“I used to see the youths row down,

And watch the dripping oar,

As pleasantly their viol’s tones

Came softened to the shore.

“King Henry, many a blackened corpse

I now see floating down!

Thou man of blood! repent in time,

And leave this leaguered town.”

“I shall go on,” King Henry cried,

“And conquer this good land:

Seest thou not, hermit, that the Lord

Hath given it to my hand?”

The hermit heard King Henry speak,

And angrily looked down:

His face was gentle, and for that

More solemn was his frown.

“What if no miracle from Heaven

The murderer’s arm control;

Think you, for that, the weight of blood

Lies lighter on his soul?

“Thou conqueror King, repent in time,

Or dread the coming woe!

For, Henry, thou hast heard the threat,

And soon shalt feel the blow!”

King Henry forced a careless smile,

As the hermit went his way;

But Henry soon remembered him

Upon his dying day.