The Vision of Danton

Weary of strife renewed from day to day,
Th' inveterate war of parties brought to bay,
With clash of hatreds jarring on his sense,
And poison'd darts of hostile eloquence,
With all the excitement of the brain and heart,
That forms the life of men, who play their part
In mighty dramas, — Danton lay at rest,
His face to Heaven, his hands upon his breast,
And said within himself, — " It must not be —
Surely this grief shall end, and France be free."

He closed his eyes, and saw a vision pass
Clear as a show in a magician's glass;
He saw a figure massive like his own
Headless, and quivering, from a scaffold thrown;
He saw the pavement running red with blood,
And crowds insatiate dabbling in the flood.
He saw Despair at every threshold stand
And ruffian Terror stalking o'er the land,
And sigh'd remorseful — " Mine the guilt," said he,
" But surely it shall pass, and France be free."

The vision changed: he saw th' embattled world,
And France defiant with her flag unfurled:
He heard her trumpets peal; her cannons roar;
Her captains shout and wave her tricolor.
He saw their leader fattening the sod
With bones of myriads; heard the cry to God,
Raised by the ravaged lands; he heard and saw
That Might was murder, and that Force was law;
And sighed for pity — " Heaven is just," said he,
" And this new plague shall pass, and France be free."

The vision darken'd: Paris the superb,
The beautiful, impatient of a curb,
Received the law from strangers at her gate,
And gave for insults nothing but her hate.
She who with trumpet-voice had roused the lands,
Felt on her prostrate neck the Cossack's hands;
Heard in her panting streets th' invader's drum,
And groan'd for worse indignities to come:
And ev'n in slumber Danton blushed to see —
" Surely this shame shall pass, and France be free."

It changed again: and lo! a royal drone,
Untaught by suffering dozed upon the throne,
Or waking, fancied that his hands could bind
The tide of Thought, the Reason of mankind.
Another followed, bigoted, but strong,
Who, deeming Time had gone a century wrong,
Strove with a desperate force to turn the hand,
And bring the darkness back upon the land;
And Danton groan'd — " Oh, that these eyes might see
This folly brought to shame, and France made free."

The vision brighten'd: Paris as of old
Aroused her faubourgs as the tocsin toll'd;
Placed in each hand a weapon for the Right,
And fought its battle in the world's despite;
Dragg'd the degraded purple through the town,
Roll'd in the dust the sceptre and the crown;
And read the nations listening far and near
A mighty lesson full of hope and fear;
And Danton shouted in his sleep to see —
" Now has the sorrow passed, and France is free."

Another change and shifting of the parts —
The fool was foil'd — the knave essay'd his arts;
He hated Freedom and her priests and scribes,
And swore to crush her, not with force, but bribes.
Th' ignoble plan succeeded for a while —
The halcyon days of mammon and of guile;
The dense corruption spread from high to low,
Till virtue perish'd in its overflow;
And Danton groan'd — " Oh, worst of infamy!
When shall this sorrow pass, and France be free?"

What more he saw was dim before his eyes,
Shapes undefined and huge unsymmetries —
Darkness and storm and thunder-clouds afar,
And forms gigantic panoplied for war;
But still a radiance glimmered through the cloud, —
And a voice seemed to speak to him aloud: —
" Not all in vain the struggles thou hast seen,
Truth bides her time and keeps her brow serene:
Each seed she scatters bears its destined tree —
The grief shall pass, and France shall yet be free."
Rate this poem: 


No reviews yet.