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British War Poetry in the Age of Romanticism 1793-1815, by Betty T. Bennet, Edited by Orianne Smith

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1793.16
Stanzas, supposed to be written whilst the late QUEEN OF FRANCE was sleeping, by her attendant in the TEMPLE.
Anon
The Gentleman's Magazine, LXIII (October 1793), p. 941


What means this stillness, like the silent
                        tomb?—
    The very echoes sleep in drear repose:
Does no low groan along the prison gloom
    Awake the midnight mourner to her woes?

In the dread pause of Nature, sunk by grief,
    Steals her sad soul from memory's living
                        pain:
Stay, ye short slumbers, mis'ry's sole relief!—
    Unfeeling guards, your foot-steps rude restrain!

Swift fled that smile, which o'er her features
                        pass'd:—
    Should blank forgetfulness her sense beguile,
Should wayward madness lay her feelings waste,
    That faded face might know a conscious smile.

But no oblivion from thy thinking soul
    Shall tear the record of departed days;
Shall teach thine eye at pleasure's call to roll,
    Or flush thy cheek with health's rekindling rays.

Rest, rest, thou with'red beauty, wretched Queen,
    Thou tortur'd mother, thou,— a wife no more![1]
Soft visions, float around on wing serene,
    And on her lids your balmy blessings pour!

Paint the bright courts, that saw her morning
                        shine,
    Gay as the day-star gilds her summer sky,
When adoration knelt at Beauty's shrine,
    And rapt'rous passion heav'd the flatt'ring
                       sigh;

Paint the white hours that, wing'd with transport,
                       flew,
    When laughing Love her bridal banners bore;
Thy skies, O Gallia, smil'd a softer blue,
    With bursts of triumph rang thy festive
                      shore.

And Chivalry was there, romantic maid!
    And the fine glow of gallantry and grace,
And grandeur blaz'd, in regal pomp array'd;
    And gay Versailles was Pleasure's fav'rite
                      place.

Ah! proud Versailles, no more the courtly song,
    That breath'd soft flatt'ry, carols round
                     thy rooms;
No more thy gates admit the glitt'ring throng:
    But thro' the lonely palace horror glooms.

Mourn, lost Versailles! (yet not, that this thy
                     fall
    Is mark'd by memory with a secret sigh;
Nor, that unhallow'd rapine strips thy wall,
    Whilst fall'n magnificence sits trembling by;)

Mourn for thy Queen!—not Sleep's oblivious balm
    Stills the sick pulse, that throbs with cureless
                     woe:
Grief's haggard phantoms haunt the midnight calm;
    The bitter streams of agony will flow.

Will not the sportive train of visions light
    Start at the murd'rous crowd's rebellious roar?
Will not pale fancy faint, in wild affright
    To see an headless husband, spouting gore?

Thy soul shall linger on his last embrace,
    Still on thine ear his dying groans shall swell;
Still shall his spirit, hov'ring o'er the place,
    In hollow sounds repeat the fond farewell.

 And ask'd I those, the dreams of revelry,
    If now they quench the burning fount of tears?—
Ah! rather,—sees the soul with tranquil eye
    These glitt'ring pageants of her idler years?

Enough, if these fond charms, for ever fled,
    These gay delights were innocently gay;
If, at this hour, no ghost of Pleasure dead
    Calls startled conscience to a dread survey.

O! to thy widow'd couch, and tearful sight,
    May happier slumbers, brighter forms, arise,
Thy sainted Lord, th' angelic train of light,
    The Martyr's crown of bliss, and heav'nly
                    harmonies.

Then headless be the corse:—the Soulentire
    Heeds not the rites we vain survivors pay,
Nor asks the guardian grave, or funeral fire,
    But mounts, and dwells in everlasting day.[2]


Notes

1. Louis XVI was executed by guillotine on January 21, 1793; Marie Antoinette was executed by guillotine on October 16, 1793.

2. The imagery of this poem seems to be drawn directly from Edmund Burke's passages on Marie Antoinette in Reflections on the Revolution in France.

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Published @ RC

September 2004

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