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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

New England: Newport, R. I.

The Romance of a Rose

By Nora Perry (1832–1896)

IT is nearly a hundred years ago,

Since the day that the Count de Rochambeau—

Our ally against the British crown—

Met Washington in Newport town.

’T was the month of March, and the air was chill,

But bareheaded over Aquidneck hill,

Guest and host they took their way,

While on either side was the grand array

Of a gallant army, French and fine,

Ranged three deep in a glittering line;

And the French fleet sent a welcome roar

Of a hundred guns from Canonicut shore.

And the bells rang out from every steeple,

And from street to street the Newport people

Followed and cheered, with a hearty zest,

De Rochambeau and his honored guest.

And women out of the windows leant,

And out of the windows smiled and sent

Many a coy admiring glance

To the fine young officers of France.

And the story goes, that the belle of the town

Kissed a rose and flung it down

Straight at the feet of De Rochambeau;

And the gallant marshal, bending low,

Lifted it up with a Frenchman’s grace,

And kissed it back, with a glance at the face

Of the daring maiden where she stood,

Blushing out of her silken hood.

That night at the ball, still the story goes,

The Marshal of France wore a faded rose

In his gold-laced coat; but he looked in vain

For the giver’s beautiful face again.

Night after night and day after day,

The Frenchman eagerly sought, they say,

At feast, or at church, or along the street,

For the girl who flung her rose at his feet.

And she, night after night, day after day,

Was speeding farther and farther away

From the fatal window, the fatal street,

Where her passionate heart had suddenly beat

A throb too much for the cool control

A Puritan teaches to heart and soul;

A throb too much for the wrathful eyes

Of one who had watched in dismayed surprise

From the street below; and taking the gauge

Of a woman’s heart in that moment’s rage,

He swore, this old colonial squire,

That before the daylight should expire,

This daughter of his, with her wit and grace,

And her dangerous heart and her beautiful face,

Should be on her way to a sure retreat,

Where no rose of hers could fall at the feet

Of a curséd Frenchman, high or low;

And so while the Count de Rochambeau

In his gold-laced coat wore a faded flower,

And awaited the giver hour by hour,

She was sailing away in the wild March night

On the little deck of the sloop Delight;

Guarded even in the darkness there

By the wrathful eyes of a jealous care.

Three weeks after, a brig bore down

Into the harbor of Newport town,

Towing a wreck,—’t was the sloop Delight,

Off Hampton rocks, in the very sight

Of the land she sought, she and her crew

And all on board of her, full in view

Of the storm-bound fishermen over the bay,

Went to their doom on that April day.

When Rochambeau heard the terrible tale,

He muttered a prayer, for a moment grew pale;

Then “Mon Dieu,” he exclaimed, “so my fine romance

From beginning to end is a rose and a glance.”