Maurice Thompson

(1844-1901 / the United States)

To Provence - Poem by Maurice Thompson

Provence, where love and rhyme
Sweetened one throb of time;
Provence, whose voice is dead,
Whose rose-tree vanishëd;
Provence, old broken broc,
Whose melodious Langue d'oc,
Like sweet wine spilled and gone,
Has left a fragrance ever lingering on;
Whose nightingale finds no new song to sing,-
I, a wild bird upon the outer rim
Of a young choir, this sunrise carol fling
Across thine ashes and thy ruins dim!


Provence,
This new song in my mouth
Is of the younger South,
Bright with the dawn of Freedom's renaissance,
The South that has no care
For the sad, grim cavalier,
Dreaming of flaunting flag and crashing lance,
And all unmindful of the day and year
Whereon the world took leave of old romance.


The South whose gaze is cast
No more upon the past,
But whose bright eyes the skies of promise sweep,
Whose feet in paths of progress swiftly leap;
And whose fresh thoughts, like cheerful rivers run,
Through odorous ways to meet the morning sun!


Gone is thy troubadour,
Gone the soft clamor of thy cour d'amour,
Rondeau, ballade, chanson;
And the plaudits that they won
Echo no more along the sheeny Rhone.
All desolate! And why is this?
Where is that splendid thing
That leaped from thee on many-colored wing?
Thou lifeless chrysalis!


Remembered as a dream,
Thy soft song glories seem
To hover on Time's outmost purple bound;
Thy hautbois and guitar-
They touch us with the merest film of sound!


Provence,
Wafts of thy gaie science
Still lightly pass, whereto we do not know,
Like some frail, fine perfume,
From a paradise of bloom
Fallen to golden dust five hundred years ago!


Thou art the old, dead South,
Given over unto drouth;
Given over unto memory, unto dust,
Unto mildew, unto must,
With a false smack of chivalry in thy mouth,
Mumbling, in false pride, thy miserable crust!


My South, too, was dead,
And on her corse the ghoul of slavery fed;
But the resurrection came,
And a new life leaped, like flame,
In every breast!
Oh, it was joy to see
The slave ride down the lists of Liberty,
With shining shield and leveled lance in rest,
His swart face lifted high,
His eyes on destiny,
While Lincoln's hand erased the inscription old
Of the nation's palimpsest,
And wrote thereon, in words of fire and gold,
Freedom, from North to South, from East to West!


Ah! what was dust
Is dew!
And what was rust
Is new!
The breath of death is gone,
And life goes pouring on
In a bright flood.
No more
The cannon's roar,
And the blue sky is tinged no more with blood,
Whilst from the mountains to the shining sea,
The peace of morning evermore shall be!


Provence, turn, turn away,
From thy long yesterday,
And see how fair to-morrow's promise shines!
What is the past but death?
How fresh the Future's breath!
Awake. 'T is morn. Thy orchards and thy vines
Are rich with bloom,
The mistral throbs ecstatic with perfume,
And fans to flame thine ashes with its wings!
Lo, the Republic makes
Life out of death, and takes
Even ruin captive with the song it sings!


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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 17, 2010



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