Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Americas: Vol. XXX. 1876–79.

British America: St. John, N. B.

St. John

By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)


“TO the winds give our banner!

Bear homeward again!”

Cried the Lord of Acadia,

Cried Charles of Estienne;

From the prow of his shallop

He gazed, as the sun,

From its bed in the ocean,

Streamed up the St. John.

O’er the blue western waters

That shallop had passed,

Where the mists of Penobscot

Clung damp on her mast.

St. Saviour had looked

On the heretic sail,

As the songs of the Huguenot

Rose on the gale.

The pale, ghostly fathers

Remembered her well,

And had cursed her, while passing,

With taper and bell,

But the men of Monhegan,

Of Papists abhorred,

Had welcomed and feasted

The heretic Lord.

They had loaded his shallop

With dun-fish and ball,

With stores for his larder,

And steel for his wall.

Pemequid, from her bastions

And turrets of stone,

Had welcomed his coming

With banner and gun.

And the prayers of the elders

Had followed his way,

As homeward he glided,

Down Pentecost Bay.

Oh, well sped La Tour!

For, in peril and pain,

His lady kept watch

For his coming again.

O’er the Isle of the Pheasant

The morning sun shone,

On the plane-trees which shaded

The shores of St. John.

“Now, why from yon battlements

Speaks not my love!

Why waves there no banner

My fortress above?”

Dark and wild, from his deck

St. Estienne gazed about,

On fire-wasted dwellings

And silent redoubt;

From the low, shattered walls

Which the flame had o’errun,

There floated no banner,

There thundered no gun!

But beneath the low arch

Of its doorway there stood

A pale priest of Rome,

In his cloak and his hood.

With the bound of a lion

La Tour sprang to land,

On the throat of the Papist

He fastened his hand.

“Speak, son of the Woman

Of scarlet and sin!

What wolf has been prowling

My castle within?”

From the grasp of the soldier

The Jesuit broke,

Half in scorn, half in sorrow,

He smiled as he spoke:

“No wolf, Lord of Estienne,

Has ravaged thy hall,

But thy red-handed rival,

With fire, steel, and ball!

On an errand of mercy

I hitherward came,

While the walls of thy castle

Yet spouted with flame.

Pentagoet’s dark vessels

Were moored in the bay,

Grim sea-lions, roaring

Aloud for their prey.”

“But what of my lady?”

Cried Charles of Estienne:

“On the shot-crumbled turret

Thy lady was seen;

“Half veiled in the smoke-cloud,

Her hand grasped thy pennon,

While her dark tresses swayed

In the hot breath of cannon!

But woe to the heretic,

Evermore woe!

When the son of the church

And the cross is his foe!

“In the track of the shell,

In the path of the ball,

Pentagoet swept over

The breach of the wall!

Steel to steel, gun to gun,

One moment,—and then

Alone stood the victor,

Alone with his men!

“Of its sturdy defenders,

Thy lady alone

Saw the cross-blazoned banner

Float over St. John.”

“Let the dastard look to it!”

Cried fiery Estienne,

“Were D’Aulney King Louis,

I ’d free her again!”

“Alas for thy lady!

No service from thee

Is needed by her

Whom the Lord hath set free:

Nine days, in stern silence,

Her thraldom she bore,

But the tenth morning came,

And Death opened her door!”

As if suddenly smitten

La Tour staggered back;

His hand grasped his sword-hilt,

His forehead grew black.

He sprang on the deck

Of his shallop again.

“We cruise now for vengeance!

Give way!” cried Estienne.

“Massachusetts shall hear

Of the Huguenot’s wrong,

And from island and creekside

Her fishers shall throng!

Pentagoet shall rue

What his Papists have done,

When his palisades echo

The Puritan’s gun!”

Oh, the loveliest of heavens

Hung tenderly o’er him;

There were waves in the sunshine,

And green isles before him:

But a pale hand was beckoning

The Huguenot on;

And in blackness and ashes

Behind was St. John!