Theirs

A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier

I.

Fate summoned, in gray-bearded age, to act
A history stranger than his written fact,
Him who portrayed the splendor and the gloom
Of that great hour when throne and altar fell
With long death-groan which still is audible.
He, when around the walls of Paris rung
The Prussian bugle like the blast of doom,
And every ill which follows unblest war
Maddened all France from Finistere to Var,
The weight of fourscore from his shoulders flung,
And guided Freedom in the path he saw
Lead out of chaos into light and law,
Peace, not imperial, but republican,
And order pledged to all the Rights of Man.

II.

Death called him from a need as imminent
As that from which the Silent William went
When powers of evil, like the smiting seas
On Holland's dikes, assailed her liberties.
Sadly, while yet in doubtful balance hung
The weal and woe of France, the bells were rung
For her lost leader. Paralyzed of will,
Above his bier the hearts of men stood still.
Then, as if set to his dead lips, the horn
Of Roland wound once more to rouse and warn,
The old voice filled the air! His last brave word
Not vainly France to all her boundaries stirred.
Strong as in life, he still for Freedom wrought,
As the dead Cid at red Toloso fought.

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