Tuesday, January 10, 2017

TO FRANCE (1894), a poem

MOTHER of Freedom!  Mother and fond nurse!
     Who, from thy mighty loins, with awful throes
     And cries of anguish bore her!  what new woes
Encompass thee?  What long-forgotten curse
Revives to chill thy soul and dull its seeing?
     Veiled are thy falcon-glances, as in death:
     Thou bleedest, France!  and, sobbing, drawest breath,
Sore smitten by the thing thou gavest being!

Is this thine offspring—once so nobly fair
     That at her look were riven human chains,
     And all men blessed thee for thy travail pains?
Behold!  with serpents writhing in her hair
She stands, Medusa-like, the world appalling!
     Her bloodless cheeks bespeak the vampire's lust;
     Her victims fall before her in the dust;
Yet, unappeased, she still would see them falling.

Is this blest Liberty, this treacherous thing
     That hides its venom 'neath a mask of flowers,
     That smites its own defenders, and devours
The hands that feed it?  This whose rancorous sting
Is uncontrolled by reason?  Red and gory,
     The standard it uplifts on land and sea
     Reveals it truly, hell-born Anarchy!
Which borrows for its shame a name of glory.

Freedom disdains the cruel and the base,
     Their praise she deems inexpiable wrong,
     And in the homage of their savage song
She hears the voice of insult and disgrace.
Scorning the ransomed slaves who rule no better
     Than the oppressors they in wrath hurl down,
     Who make the Phrygian cap a despot's crown,
And others with their broken shackles fetter—

She leaves them to the evils they invoke;
     And listening to the voices of the wild,—
     As listens for the mother's voice her child,—
Courting the tempest and the lightning-stroke,
She opens to the void her pinions regal:
     The clouds, the skies, she knows to be her own,
     And rising to the mountain-summits lone,
She rests where rock the eyries of the eagle!
"To France" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine (January 1895) and Poems (1898).

View events from the year 1894 in France at Wikipedia.

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