James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

June 19


By John Godfrey Saxe (1816–1887)

  • Maximilian was an Austrian prince whom Napoleon III. undertook to place upon the throne of Mexico. The United States refusing to recognize the empire the French troops were withdrawn, contrary to the express agreement made by Napoleon. Maximilian resolved at first to resign but was induced to remain and took personal command of his army. He was besieged by a republican army, captured, tried by court martial and shot on June 19, 1867.

  • NOT with a craven spirit he

    Submitted to the harsh decree

    That bade him die before his time,

    Cut off in manhood’s golden prime,—

    Poor Maximilian!

    And some who marked his noble mien,

    His dauntless heart, his soul serene,

    Have deemed they saw a martyr die,

    And chorused forth the solemn cry,

    “Great Maximilian!”

    Alas! Ambition was his sin;

    He staked his life a throne to win;

    Counted amiss the fearful cost

    (As chiefs have done before),—and lost!

    Rash Maximilian!

    ’Tis not the victim’s tragic fate,

    Nor calm endurance makes him great;

    Mere lust of empire and renown

    Can never claim the martyr’s crown,

    Brave Maximilian!

    Alas! it fell, that, in thy aim

    To win a sovereign’s power and fame,

    Thy better nature lost its force,

    And royal crimes disgraced thy course,

    King Maximilian!

    Alas! what ground for mercy’s plea

    In his behalf, whose fell decree

    Gave soldiers unto felons’ graves,

    And freemen to the doom of slaves,—

    Fierce Maximilian?

    I loathe the rude, barbaric wrath

    That slew thee in thy vent’rous path;

    But “they who take,” thus saith the Lord,

    “Shall also perish by the sword,”

    Doomed Maximilian!

    But, when I think upon the scene,—

    Thy fearful fate, thy wretched queen,—

    And mark how bravely thou didst die,

    I breathe again the pitying sigh,

    “Poor Maximilian!”