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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Stopford Augustus Brooke b. 1832


IN Carnival we were, and supp’d that night

In a long room that overlook’d the Square,

When that strange matter happ’d of which you ask.

We rang all pleasure’s carillon that week;

Feasts and rich shows, and hunting in the woods,

Light love that liv’d on change, deep drinking, mirth

As mad as Nero’s on the Palatine;

The women were as wild as we, and, like

The King’s, our money flew about in showers.

They said, “The people starv’d”; it could not be;

We spent a million on the Carnival.

And now for fifty years gone by I have heard

“The people starve”—Why then do the useless beasts

Gender so fast? Less mouths, more bread! For me,

I do not care whether they live or die,—

Canaille the dunghill breeds,—but Drummond car’d,

The young Scotch musketeer whose waking dream

You wish to hear from me, who only live

Of all our joyous company. I am old,

My life burns like the thinnest flame, but then

It was a glorious fire, and on that night

I led the feast, and roof and table rang

With revelry: till at the height of noise

A sudden silence fell, and while we smil’d,

Waiting for whom should break it, the great clock

Struck three in the still air—and a hush’d sound

Like coming wind pass’d by, and in its breath

I thought I heard, far off, a wail and roar

As if a city perish’d at one stroke;

The rest heard not, but Drummond starting up

And muttering—“Death, Death and his troops are nigh,”—

Strode to the window. Half asleep he seem’d,

Pale as that madman Damiens on the day

He met the torture—and across the bar

He lean’d, and saw the white square in the moon.

Men mock’d, and let him be—they knew his mood;

One of his Highland trances, so they said;

But I kept watch—the grim gray North in him,

Midst of our Gallic lightness, pleas’d me well.

I watch’d and mark’d above his head the moon,

That shone like pearl amid the western heaven,

Suddenly swallow’d up by a vast cloud,

With edges like red lightning, but the rest

Of the sky and stars was clear, and the rushing noise

Now louder swell’d, like cataracts of rain.

And then I saw how Drummond toss’d his arms

High o’er his head, and, crying “Horror, horror,”

Fell like a stabb’d man prone upon the floor.

We laid him on a couch and cried, “Speak—speak,

What is it, what have you seen?”

“I have seen Death,” he said,

“And Doom,”—and truly with his matted hair,

And eyes which as he rose upon his hands

Seem’d’ neath their cavern’d arches coals of fire,

He look’d like a gaunt, shaggy mountain wolf

Caught in a pit, and mad with rage and fear.

“You heard,” he said, “that sighing rush of wind

And then the awful cry, far off, as if

The world had groan’d and died—I heard, and trance

Fell on my brain, and in the trance I saw

The square below me in the moonlight fill

With nobles, dames, and maidens, pages, all

The mighty names of France, and midst them walk’d

The King and Queen, not ours, but those that come

Hereafter, and I heard soft speech of love

And laughter please the night—when momently

The moon went out, and from the darkness stream’d

A hissing flood of rain that where it fell

Changed into blood, and ’twixt the courtyard stones

Blood well’d as water from a mountain moss;

And the gay crowd, unwitting, walk’d in it:

Bubbling it rose past ankle, knee, and waist,

From waist to throat; and still they walk’d as if

They knew it not, until a fierce wind lash’d

The crimson sea, and beat it into waves,

And when its waves smote on their faces, then

They knew and shriek’d, but all in vain; the blood,

Storming upon them, whelm’d and drown’d them all;

At which a blinding lightning like a knife

Gash’d the cloud’s breast, and dooming thunder peal’d.

I woke, and crying ‘Horror’ knew no more.

I ’ve seen the fates of France; the day of God

And vengeance is at hand; take heed—repent—

Leave me to rest.”

We laugh’d to hear him preach,

And left him on the couch, where like a man

Drunken he slept, but when he rose, his hue

Was changed, a cloud was on his eyes, his mouth

Was stern. He sang, he ruffled, lov’d no more,

Provok’d no man, and went about like one

Who—can you think it?—thought there was a God

Who, midst his court, car’d how his people liv’d.

We all were doom’d, he said, and France was doom’d,

He would not stay! And so gave up his sword,

And went to Scotland, where in some grim tower

He lov’d and married—fool!—a nameless girl,

And made the peasants happy, I am told;

But we liv’d out our life, and met no doom;

And now I am old, and Louis, my good friend

The Wellbelov’d, is dead long since, and soon

My time will come!—The people starve, they say,

And curse. I know they curse and hate us! Well,

We will ride down and slay the mutinous dogs;

Why, yesterday my horses in the crowd

Threw down a mother and a child, and splash’d

A hideous dwarf, who shook his fist and curs’d;

I laugh’d, but as he curs’d with skill, I ask’d

The ruffian’s name—“Marat,” they said, “a leech,

Who physics horses and the common herd,

Brute healing brute—the people’s friend, and yet

He takes our wages—writes us down, but keeps

A place in d’Artois’ stable!” These are the scum

That Drummond fear’d—Artois shall flog the man.