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


St. Gildas de Rhuis

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

YOU must know, then, it is in the diocese

Called the Diocese of Vannes,

In the province of Brittany.

From the gray rocks of Morbihan

It overlooks the angry sea;

The very sea-shore where,

In his great despair,

Abbot Abelard walked to and fro,

Filling the night with woe,

And wailing aloud to the merciless seas

The name of his sweet Heloise!

Whilst overhead

The convent windows gleamed as red

As the fiery eyes of the monks within,

Who with jovial din

Gave themselves up to all kinds of sin!

Ha! that is a convent! that is an abbey!

Over the doors,

None of your death-heads carved in wood,

None of your saints looking pious and good,

None of your patriarchs old and shabby!

But the heads and tusks of boars,

And the cells

Hung all round with the fells

Of the fallow-deer.

And then what cheer!

What jolly, fat friars,

Sitting round the great, roaring fires,

Roaring louder than they,

With their strong wines,

And their concubines,

And never a bell,

With its swagger and swell,

Calling you up with a start of affright

In the dead of night,

To send you grumbling down dark stairs,

To mumble your prayers.

But the cheery crow

Of cocks in the yard below,

After daybreak, an hour or so,

And the barking of deep-mouthed hounds,

These are the sounds

That, instead of bells, salute the ear.

And then all day

Up and away

Through the forest, hunting the deer!