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


St. Bartholomew’s Day

By Robert Southey (1774–1843)

THE NIGHT is come, no fears disturb

The dreams of innocence;

They trust in kingly faith and kingly oaths,

They sleep,—alas! they sleep.

Go to the palace wouldst thou know

How hideous night can be;

Eye is not closed in those accursed walls,

Nor heart at quiet there.

The monarch from the window leans,

He listens to the night,

And with a horrible and eager hope

Awaits the midnight bell.

O, he has hell within him now!

God, always art thou just!

For innocence can never know such pangs

As pierce successful guilt.

He looks abroad and all is still.

Hark!—now the midnight bell

Sounds through the silence of the night alone;

And now the signal gun!

Thy hand is on him, righteous God!

He hears the frantic shriek,

He hears the glorying yells of massacre,

And he repents too late.

He hears the murderer’s savage shout,

He hears the groan of death;

In vain they fly,—soldiers defenceless now,

Women, old men, and babes.

Righteous and just art thou, O God!

For at his dying hour

Those shrieks and groans re-echoed in his ear,

He heard that murderous yell!

They thronged around his midnight couch,

The phantoms of the slain,—

It preyed like poison on his powers of life,—

Righteous art thou, O God!

Spirits who suffered at that hour

For freedom and for faith,

Ye saw your country bent beneath the yoke,

Her faith and freedom crushed.

And like a giant from his sleep

Ye saw when France awoke;

Ye saw the people burst their double chain,

And ye had joy in heaven.