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

March 9

The Death of Cardinal Mazarin

By Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791–1865)

  • Cardinal Mazarin was a French statesman of Italian descent. He succeeded Richelieu as prime minister and was retained in that capacity by Anne of Austria when she became regent on the death of Louis XIII. He died on March 9, 1661.

  • “Two months,” the questioned healer said,

    And turned him from the place,

    While every tint of color fled

    That dark Italian face,—

    Heart-struck was he, whom France obeyed,

    Peasant, and prince, and peer,

    And with the clank of fetters made

    Rich music for his ear.

    Proud Anne of Austria lowest bent

    With subjugated soul,

    And Ludovicus Magnus scarce

    Withstood his stern control,

    While distant nations feared the man

    Who ruled in court and bower;

    Yet those slight words dissolved the spell

    Of all his pomp and power.

    Before him passed his portioned line,

    Mancini’s haughty race,

    Jewels and coronets they wore,

    With cold and thankless grace;

    And for a payment poor as this,

    Had he his conscience grieved?

    And marred with perjured hand the cross

    His priestly vow received?

    Beside him strode a spectral form,

    Still whispering in his ear,

    “Make restitution!” Fearful sound,

    That none besides might hear;

    “Make restitution!” But the spoil

    From earth and ocean wrung,

    By countless chains and wreathed bands,

    Around his spirit clung.

    “Two months! two months!” these frightful words

    Could all his peace destroy,

    And poison the enamelled cup

    Where sparkled every joy.

    They met him in the courtly hall,

    They silenced song and tale,

    Like those dead fingers on the wall

    That turned Belshazzar pale.

    Once in his velvet chair he dreamed,

    But rocking to and fro,

    His restless form and heaving breast

    Betrayed a rankling wo;

    “Two months! two months!” he murmured deep,

    Those fatal words were there,

    To grave upon his broken sleep

    The image of despair.

    Uncounted wealth his coffers told,

    From rifled king and clime,

    His flashing gems might empires buy,

    But not an hour of time.

    No! not a moment, inch by inch,

    Where’er he bent his way,

    That grim pursuer steadfast gained

    Upon the shrinking prey.

    His pulseless hand a casket clutched,

    Though Death was near his side,

    And ’neath the pillow lurked a scroll

    He might no longer hide:

    While buried heaps of hoarded gain

    In rust and darkness laid,

    Bore witness to the Omniscient Eye

    Like an accusing shade.

    But on the King of Terrors came

    With strong relentless hold,

    And shook the shuddering miser loose

    From all his idol gold,

    And poorer than the peasant hind

    That humbly ploughs the sod,

    Went forth that disembodied mind

    To stand before its God.