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In weakness strong a hero's heart subdues,
And rules the wise while seeming to amuse.
Love levels all, Charles idolized his belle;
Great Henry bent the knee to Gabrielle.
The grave historian, (there's a charm in words,)
Of royal courtezans the worth records.
Fame chronicles the pure reward of love,
The house of Agnes and her favour'd grove.
As if the favours of a king transmute
Dross into gold, bad into good repute.
Yet Agnes Sorel saved a falling throne,
And France to hours of dalliance owes her Joan. *
Heaven to confound the arrogant, and aid
A falling kingdom, raised a servant maid!
That maid, (a wonder-worker, Faith, thou art ;)
Revivified a fainting nation's heart.
Whence but from heaven to her the prescience came
Of foes then conquerors quailing at her name?
Shut in his cage of iron Commines pin'd (Man ever is in cruelty refin'd,)
For eight long months, so will'd that despot-lord Whom his physician frightened with a word!
This king between his conscience and his deeds
Madonna placed, and murdering, told his beads!
As pendant to this second Antonine,
Chenonceaux boasts the gentle Catherine;
A most illustrious dame by right divine.
The bowers of Love among, by these untamed,
Her nets for catching heretics she framed;
And when her wiles succeeded, greater gust
The triumph gave her amid scenes of lust.
Such crested serpents trail'd their poisonous slime Through Touraine's flowery meads in th' olden time; Morals become, where skies are brightest, worse; And tyranny's the loveliest country's curse.
Too old for love, no more by conquest crown'd,
The great state-actor a dark bigot frown'd;
This Jove, whose godship for his pleasure deign'd
To rob a servile people he enchain'd,
Taxed conscience; 'twas impolitic to drive
Away the bees that filled for him their hive.
Was it a crime that e'er could be forgiven
To choose a way the king chose not to heaven?
French peasants, famed for loyalty, obey'd
Their king, danced in their chains and taxes paid;
The noble gaily lived, in battle brave,
Tyrant o'er others, at Versailles a slave.
Thus were the seeds of revolution sown,
When vice, reign after reign, bedimm'd the crown.
Great Rabelais, whose mine of wit ne'er fails,
Whose genius oft a mystic curtain veils,
Of Chinon was; at rubbish of the schools
Laugh'd he, at lazy monks, and formal fools;
His satire, safe beneath a motley dress
Of words, struck those he feared, not hated less.
Who lived at Ussé? certes, gallant knights;
But here tradition gives uncertain lights.
The lords of Saintré, mighty in romance,
Famous among the chivalry of France;
Burning for tournaments if there they dwelt,
At times ennui the lively heroes felt.
(Nobles in England, sober country, draw
Their rank not from knight-errantry but law)
But, no fictitious hero, great Vauban
There made improvements on a soldier's plan :
Generals, though eminent, have small applause
For raising terraces, or framing laws.
A monarch, sensual and religious, lived
At Chambord; there his monks and minions thrived.
There Francis, squire of dames, display'd a show
Of chivalry, inimitable now.
What yet of Chambord rests, where Pleasure breath'd
Sweet poison? towers fantastically wreath'd,
And walls so richly wrought, they seem to be
The work of fairies for their revelry.
Gone are the habitants, monks, minions, dames;
Read, if you please, in annals old, their names.
As Talleyrand's terse wit his power secured,
By craft, that revolution taught, matured,
A tract, a song, while volumes useless are,
Might save a nation millions or a war.
Who made Belshazzar tremble at his feasts?
Who paled the cheeks of princes and of priests?
Who in the exercise of mind has shown
A facile energy that's all his own?
Courier; his frequent arrows, barb'd with wit,
Feather'd with ridicule, the mighty hit.
Would he had lived to win a brighter wreath
Of Fame; France justly may lament his death.
Whate'er he wrote, in earnestness or sport,
Had nerv'd her language and improved her court.
And Béranger-how brilliant is his song,
Even more than La Fontaine in humour strong—
Pearls of great price among his roses threw,
Thoughts dear to freedom and to nature true.
He for the popular taste in artless phrase
Cloth'd his fine raillery; France loves his lays;
And labour great it cost him to attain
That which is her delight, his easy vein.
Well! Gabrielles now are rare, and seigneurs bred
Legitimately, female Carlists wed.
In this, their "pays de Cocagne," they drink
And eat their fill, do any thing but think.
And what may thought accomplish ?—can it show
That men are happier here the more they know?
Louis de Béchameil, the best of mayors,
Invented here the sauce his name that bears,
Live then, as gentlemen of Tours, or flies
That flash above the Loire their thousand dyes.
Down the broad sunny stream light vessels sail,
And lighter loungers crowd the Rue Royale,
While those, whose game at soldiers with dismay
Europe beheld, at harmless billiards play.
Priest-ridden they are not, with wines to cheer
Their hearts, they do not Czar or devil fear.
Sad Carlists some, yet hospitable bores,
Who ope to whigs and heretics their doors.
Woods and demesnes, more than the painted thing
Called ceremony, please the nation's king.
Royalty, since the civic crown she wore,
Grows by compression mightier than before.
And wiser Louis-Philippe is as great
As the great Louis in his god-like state.