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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892). The Poetical Works in Four Volumes. 1892.

Narrative and Legendary Poems

St. John

  • The fierce rivalry between Charles de La Tour, a Protestant, and D’Aulnay Charnasy, a Catholic, for the possession of Acadia, forms one of the most romantic passages in the history of the New World. La Tour received aid in several instances from the Puritan colony of Massachusetts. During one of his voyages for the purpose of obtaining arms and provisions for his establishment at St. John, his castle was attacked by D’Aulnay, and successfully defended by its high-spirited mistress. A second attack however followed in the fourth month, 1647, when D’Aulnay was successful, and the garrison was put to the sword. Lady La Tour languished a few days in the hands of her enemy, and then died of grief.

  • 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.

    Pemaquid, 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’Aulnay 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!