John Hay

(8 October 1838 – 1 July 1905 / Salem, Indiana)

A Triumph of Order


A squad of regular infantry
In the Commune's closing days,
Had captured a crowd of rebels
By the wall of Pere-la-Chaise.

There were desperate men, wild women,
And dark-eyed Amazon girls,
And one little boy, with a peach-down cheek
And yellow clustering curls.

The captain seized the little waif,
And said, "What dost thou here?"
"Sapristi, Citizen captain!
I'm a Communist, my dear!"

"Very well! Then you die with the others!"
"Very well! That's my affair;
But first let me take to my mother,
Who lives by the wine-shop there,

"My father's watch. You see it;
A gay old thing, is it not?
It would please the old lady to have it,
Then I'll come back here, and be shot."

"That is the last we shall see of him,"
The grizzled captain grinned,
As the little man skimmed down the hill,
Like a swallow down the wind.

For the joy of killing had lost its zest
In the glut of those awful days,
And Death writhed, gorged like a greedy snake,
From the Arch to Père-la-Chaise.

But before the last platoon had fired,
The child's shrill voice was heard;
"Houp-là! the old girl made such a row
I feared I should break my word."

Against the bullet-pitted wall
He took his place with the rest,
A button was lost from his ragged blouse,
Which showed his soft white breast.

"Now blaze away, my children!
With your little one-two-three!"
The Chassepots tore the stout young heart,
And saved Society.

Submitted: Saturday, January 04, 2003

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