William Henry Drummond

(13 April, 1854 – 6 April, 1907 / Mohill, County Leitrim)

Madeleine Vercheres - Poem by William Henry Drummond

I've told you many a tale, my child, of the
old heroic days
Of Indian wars and massacre, of villages ablaze
With savage torch, from Ville Marie to the
Mission of Trois Rivieres
But never have I told you yet, of Madeleine
Vercheres.

Summer had come with its blossoms, and gaily
the robin sang
And deep in the forest arches the axe of the
woodman rang
Again in the waving meadows, the sun-browned
farmers met
And out on the green St. Lawrence, the fisher-
man spread his net.

And so through the pleasant season, till the
days of October came
When children wrought their parents, and
even the old and lame
With tottering frames and footsteps, their
feeble labors lent
At the gathering of the harvest le bon Dieu
himself had sent.

For news there was none of battle, from the
forts on the Richelieu
To the gates of the ancient city, where the
flag of King Louis flew
All peaceful the skies hung over the seignerie
of Vercheres,
Like the calm that so often cometh, ere the
hurricanes rends the air.

And never a thought of danger had the
Seigneur sailing away,
To join the soldiers of Carignan, where down
at Quebec they lay,
But smiled on his little daughter, the maiden
Madeleine,
And a necklet of jewels promised her, when
home he should come again.

And ever the days passed swiftly, and careless
the workmen grew
For the months they seemed a hundred, since
the last war-bugle blew.
Ah! little they dreamt on their pillows, the
farmers of Vercheres,
That the wolves of the southern forest had
scented the harvest fair.

Like ravens they quickly gather, like tigers
they watch their prey
Poor people! with hearts so happy, they sang
as they toiled away.
Till the murderous eyeballs glistened, and the
tomahawk leaped out
And the banks on the green St. Lawrence
echoed the savage shout.

'Oh mother of Christ have pity,' shrieked
the women in despair
'This is no time for praying,' cried the young
Madeleine Vercheres,
'Aux armes! aux armes! les Iroquois! quick
to your arms and guns
Fight for your God and country and the lives
of the inocent ones.'

And she sped like a deer of the mountain, when
beagles press close behind
And the feet that would follow after, must be
swift as the prairie wind.
Alas! for the men and women, and litle ones
that day
For the road it was long and weary, and the
fort it was far away.

But the fawn had outstripped the hunters, and
the palisades drew near,
And soon from the inner gateway the war-
bugle rang out clear;
Gallant and clear it sounded, with never a note
of despair
'T was a soldier of France's challenge, from
the young Madeleine Vercheres.

'And this is my little garrison, my brothers
Louis and Paul?
With soldiers two- and a cripple? may the
Virgin pray for us all.
But we've powder and guns in plenty, and
we 'll fight to the latest breath
And if need be for God and country, die a
brave soldier's death.

'Load all the carabines quickly, and whenever
you sight the foe
Fire from the upper turret, and the loopholes
down below.
Keep up the fire, brave soldiers, though the
fight may be fierce and long
And they 'll think out little garrison is more
than a hundred strong.'

So spake the maiden Madeleine, and she roused
the Norman blood
That seemed for a moment sleeping, and sent
it like a flood
Though every heart around her, and they
fought the red Iroquois
As fought in the old time battles, the soldiers
of Carignan.

And they say the black clouds gathered, and a
tempest swept the sky
And the roar of the thunder mingled with the
forest tiger's cry
But still the garrison fought on, while the
lightning's jagged spear
Tore a hole in the night's dark curtain, and
showed them a foeman near.

And the sun rose up in the morning, and the
color of blood was he
Gazing down from the heavens on the little
company.
'Behold! my friend!' cried the maiden, ' 't is
a warning lest we forget
Though the night saw us do our duty, our
work is not finished yet.'

And six days followed each other, and feeble
her limbs became
Yet the maid never sought her pillow, and the
flash of the carabines' flames
Illuminated the powder-smoked face, aye, even
when hope seemed gone
And she only smiled on her comrades, and told
them to fight, fight on.

And she blew a blast on the bugle, and lo!
from the forest black
Merrily, merrily ringing, an answer came peal-
ing back
Oh! pleasant and sweet it sounded, borne on
the morning air,
For it heralded fifty soldiers, with gallant De
la Monniere.

And when he beheld the maiden, the soldier
of Carignan,
And looked on the little garrison that fought
the red Iroquois
And held their own in the battle, for six long
weary days,
He stood for a moment speechless, and mar-
velled at woman's ways.

Then he beckoned the men behind him and
steadily they advance
And with carabines uplifted, the veterans of
France
Saluted the brave young captain so timidly
standing there
And they fired a volley in honor of Madeleine
Vercheres.

And this, my dear, is the story of the maiden
Madeleine
God grant that we in Canada may never see
again
Such cruel wars and massacres, in waking or in
dream
As our fathers and mothers saw, my child, in
the days of the old regime.


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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010



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