Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > France
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X.  1876–79.
 
Versailles
Address to the Orange-tree at Versailles
Horace Smith (1779–1849)
 
Called the Great Bourbon, Which Is above Four Hundred Years Old

WHEN France with civil wars was torn,
And heads, as well as crowns, were shorn
          From royal shoulders,
One Bourbon, in unaltered plight,
Hath still maintained its regal right,        5
And held its court,—a goodly sight
          To all beholders.
 
Thou, leafy monarch, thou alone,
Hast sat uninjured on thy throne,
          Seeing the war range;        10
And when the great Nassaus were sent
Crownless away, (a sad event!)
Thou didst uphold and represent
          The House of Orange.
 
To tell what changes thou hast seen,        15
Each grand monarque, and king and queen,
          Of French extraction,
Might puzzle those who don’t conceive
French history, so I believe
Comparing thee with ours will give        20
          More satisfaction.
 
Westminster Hall, whose oaken roof
The papers say (but that ’s no proof)
          Is nearly rotten,
Existed but in stones and trees,        25
When thou wert waving in the breeze,
And blossoms (what a treat for bees!)
          By scores hadst gotten.
 
Chaucer, so old a bard that time
Has antiquated every chime,        30
And from his tomb outworn each rhyme
          Within the Abbey;
And Gower, an older poet whom
The Borough Church enshrines (his tomb,
Though once restored, has lost its bloom,        35
          And got quite shabby,)
 
Lived in thy time,—the first perchance
Was beating monks when thou in France
          By monks wert beaten,
Who shook beneath this very tree        40
Their reverend beards, with glutton glee,
As each down-falling luxury
          Was caught and eaten.
 
Perchance when Henry gained the fight
Of Agincourt, some Gaulish knight,        45
(His bleeding steed in woful plight,
          With smoking haunches,)
Laid down his helmet at thy root,
And, as he plucked the grateful fruit,
Suffered his poor exhausted brute        50
          To crop thy branches.
 
Thou wert of portly size and look,
When first the Turks besieged and took
          Constantinople;
And eagles in thy boughs might perch,        55
When, leaving Bullen in the lurch,
Another Henry changed his church,
          And used the Pope ill.
 
What numerous namesakes hast thou seen
Lounging beneath thy shady green,        60
          With monks as lazy;
Louis Quatorze has pressed that ground,
With his six mistresses around,—
A sample of the old and sound
          Legitimacy.        65
 
And when despotic freaks and vices
Brought on the inevitable crisis
          Of revolution,
Thou heard’st the mob’s infuriate shriek,
Who came their victim queen to seek,        70
On guiltless heads the wrath to wreak
          Of retribution.
 
O, of what follies, vice, and crime,
Hast thou in thine eventful time
          Been made beholder!        75
What wars, what feuds,—the thoughts appall!
Each against each, and all with all,
Till races upon races fall,
          In earth to moulder.
 
Whilst thou, serene, unaltered, calm,        80
(Such are the constant gifts and balm
          Bestowed by Nature!)
Hast year by year renewed thy flowers,
And perfumed the surrounding bowers,
And poured down grateful fruit by showers,        85
And proffered shade in summer hours
          To man and creature.
 
Thou green and venerable tree!
Whate’er the future doom may be,
          By fortune given,        90
Remember that a rhymester brought
From foreign shores thine umbrage sought,
Recalled the blessings thou hadst wrought,
And, as he thanked thee, raised his thought
          To heaven!        95
 
 
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