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

July 14

The Column of July

By George Gordon McCrae (1833–1927)

  • The storming of the Bastille took place on July 14, 1789.

  • TIME was, ere thy bright presence bathed the “Place”

    In borrowed sunshine, when the Bastille towers

    Frowned on the passer-by; and silence reigned

    Supremely sad, save where the night-bird cries

    Of sentinels beat back the crowding air;

    Or where the booming clock, with sullen tones,

    Proclaimed the lapse, the wane, the death of hours;

    Or where the low cadenzas of a lute,

    Borne through a loophole’s gush of whirling wind,

    And mingled with strange murmurs, tranced the ear,

    Saddening all souls that felt the harmony,

    Too late! too late thy brandished blazing torch

    Flamed like a glory through those darkened cells;

    Too late the might of thine herculean arm

    Wrested. O golden angel! from those doors

    The bolts and staples, hinges, massy chains,

    Setting the captives free, mid warlike din,

    And voices of a populace that roared,

    “Down with the Bastille! Over with it! Down!”

    Another angel, with a sadder face,

    Descended like a dart, still angel-like,

    Through clouds of air, stout roofs, and floors of stone,

    Into the masked one’s cell, and sat with him,

    Looked the unutterable mystery

    Into the weary eyes that followed his,

    Content to be absorbed; then vanishing

    Fled out into the night,—and not alone.