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


The Return from England

By Anonymous

Translated by Louisa Stuart Costello

FROM Pouldregat to Plouaret,

All the land that lies between,

Knight and squire in brave array

Spurring for the field are seen,

Summoned by the duchess’ son

To the Saxon war begun.

From all Bretagne trooping fast

O’er the foaming seas they haste.

“My Silvestre too must go,—

I have begged his stay in vain;

But one child I had—and, lo!

He has followed in their train.

“Sleepless as I lingered long,

Kerlaz’ maids began their song,

In my ear their accents rung,

Of my absent son they sung:

“‘Heaven protect thy wanderings now!

Ah, Silvestre! where art thou?

Art thou on the foaming deep

Many hundred leagues away,

Dost thou midst the surges sleep,

To the ravening fish a prey!

Hadst thou been content to stay,

Lead the life thy father led,

Thou wert happy as the day

Thou hadst been betrothed and wed,

Wed to Manna, fairest maid,

She to whom thy vows were paid:

Then thou wouldst have lived to see

Children climbing round thy knee,

Children with their merry din

Letting joy and pleasure in.’

“Near my door, within a cell

Of the rock, there loves to dwell,

Close concealed, a pigeon white,

Him I ’ll from his nest invite;

On his neck of ivory

Will a letter safely lie,

With my bridal ribbon bound

All his silver feathers round:

That shall call my son once more,

And my Silvestre shall restore.

“Go, my dove,—ah! swiftly go,

Rise upon thy wings of snow,

Fly far o’er the stormy sea,

Bid my son return to me.

Fly where battle’s thunders sound,

Gaze with piercing eye around,

Go,—midst carnage fierce and wild,

Bring me tidings of my child!”

“’T is my mother’s dove I see

Wont amidst the wood to be;

Now he skims the waters nigh,

Now he seeks the mast so high!”

“Hail, Silvestre,—list to me,—

Letters I have brought to thee.”

“Bid my mother dry the tear,

Bid my father be of cheer,

For three years and but a day

Keeps me from their arms away.”

Three long years were past and o’er,

But Silvestre came no more!

“Fare thee well, beloved one!

Now my latest hopes are gone,

Never shall we meet again!

If the loud and stormy main

Cast thy bones upon the strand,

I will watch them float to land,

Gather them,—how tenderly!

Kiss them, cherish them,—and die!”

Scarce she spoke,—a bark appeared,

And a Breton flag it bore,

Soon the rocky bay it neared

And a wreck it reached the shore.

Helm and oars and rudder lost,

Mast and sails all split and torn,

Beaten on that rugged coast,

On the surging breakers borne.

Full of dead,—that pallid lay,—

Whence it comes no tongue can say,

Nor how long that fated bark

Had been tossed by tempests dark;

And Silvestre there reposed,—

But no friend his eyes had closed,

No fond mother’s tender voice

Bade him at the last rejoice,

No kind father’s soothing care,—

He was lying lifeless—there!