Lucy Maud Montgomery
At the Long Sault
Searching the pile of corpses the victors found four Frenchmen still breathing. Three had scarcely a spark of life . . . the fourth seemed likely to survive and they reserved him for future torments.
- Parkman's History
A prisoner under the stars I lie,
With no friend near;
To-morrow they lead me forth to die,
The stake is ready, the torments set,
They will pay in full their deadly debt;
But I fear them not! Oh, none could fear
Of those who stood by Daulac's side
While he prayed and laughed and sang and fought
In the very reek of deathand caught
The martyr passion that flamed from his face
As he died!
Where he led us we followed glad,
For we loved him well;
Some there were that held him mad,
But we knew that a heavenly rage had place
In that dauntless soul; the good God spake
To us through him; we had naught to do
Save only obey; and when his eyes
Flashed and kindled like storm-swept skies,
And his voice like a trumpet thrilled us through,
We would have marched with delight for his sake
To the jaws of hell.
The mists hung blue and still on the stream
At the marge of dawn;
The rapids laughed till we saw their teeth
Like a snarling wolf's fangs glisten and gleam;
Sweetly the pine trees underneath
The shadows slept in the moonlight wan;
Sweetly beneath the steps of the spring
The great, grim forest was blossoming;
And we fought, that springs for other men
Might blossom again.
Faint, thirst-maddened we prayed and fought
By night and by day;
Eyes glared at us with serpent hate
Yet sometimes a hush fell, and then we heard naught
Save the wind's shrill harping far away,
The piping of birds, and the softened calls
Of the merry, distant water-falls;
Then of other scenes we thought
Of valleys beloved in sunny France,
Purple vineyards of song and dance,
Hopes and visions roseate;
Of many a holy festal morn,
And many a dream at vesper bell
But anon the shuddering air was torn
By noises such as the fiends of hell
Might make in holding high holiday!
Once, so bitter the death-storm hailed,
We shrank and quailed.
Daulac sprang out before us then,
Shamed in our fears;
Glorious was his face to see,
The face of one who listens and hears
Voices unearthly, summonings high
Rang his tone like a clarion, "Men,
See yonder star in the golden sky,
Such a man's duty is to him,
A beacon that will not flicker nor dim,
Shining through darkness and despair.
Almost the martyr's crown is yours!
Thinking the price too high to be paid,
Will you leave the sacrifice half made?
I tell you God will answer the prayer
Of the soul that endures!
"Comrades, far in the future I see
A mighty land;
Throned among the nations of earth,
Noble and happy, calm and free;
As a veil were lifted I see her stand,
And out of that future a voice to me
Promises that our names shall shine
On the page of her story with lustre divine
Impelling to visions and deeds of worth.
"Ever thus since the world was begun,
When a man hath given up his life,
Safety and freedom have been won
By the holy power of self-sacrifice;
For the memory of your mother's kiss
Valiantly stand to the breach again.
Comrades, blench not now from the strife,
Quit you like men!"
Oh, we rushed to meet at our captain's side
Death as a bride!
All our brave striplings bravely fell.
I, less fortunate, slowly came
Back from that din of shot and yell
Slowly and gaspingly, to know
A harder fate reserved for me
Than that brief, splendid agony.
Through many a bitter pang and throe
My spirit must to-morrow go
To seek my comrades; but I bear
The tidings that our desperate stand
By the Long Sault has saved our land,
And God has answered Daulac's prayer.
Lucy Maud Montgomery's Other Poems
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(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
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