Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BURGHERS OF CALAIS, by EMILY A. BRADDOCK



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THE BURGHERS OF CALAIS, by            
First Line: Philippa of hainault, the good, philippa, england's
Last Line: And tear-dimmed eyes, as when she saved the burghers of calais.
Subject(s): Calais, France; Edward Iii, King Of England (1312-1377)


PHILIPPA of Hainault, the Good, Philippa, England's Queen,
Rear high her statue—let it by all the world be seen!
A figure—not in armor clad, sword-girt, on prancing steed,
From Nevil's Cross the routed Scots waving across the Tweed—
Nay, nay, but kneeling, with loose hair, clasped hands upraised to pray,
And tear-dimmed eyes, as when she saved the burghers of Calais.

"Now, by my troth," had Edward sworn, "Calais shall yield to me!
If England France shall keep in ward 'tis meet she hold the key."
But vain was menace, vain was siege to make its castle bow—
Twelve weary months dragged on to mock the proud king's empty vow;
Till Famine skulked within at last and won for him the day,
And England's lion glared above the lilies of Calais.

"Bring forth, curst Town," the conqueror cried, "six of thy burghers best,
For such vile headstrongness to be an offering for the rest!
Bare-legg'd, with ropes about their necks, so lead them forth to me,
The keys within their hands, nor look their coming back to see!"
The haughty summons thundering burst, no place it gave delay,
And there was loud lament and there was weeping in Calais.

Then up spoke Eustace de St. Pierre — all honor to his name!
"I give myself, for one to save the town from woe and shame."
"And I!" "and I!" right after him cried noble others, five;
"What matter if there perish six to keep the rest alive?"
In truth it was a sorry sight — in truth a sorry day,
When from the gates went forth to death those burghers of Calais.

"Strike off their heads!" stern Edward order gave, full fierce and loud.
Helpless and mute before his feet the dauntless six were bowed.
'Twas then Philippa knelt: "My lord, oh! if you will not free
These men for mercy's own sweet sake, do it for love of me!"
"Alas! that you have asked, my queen, since ne'er I say you nay!"
And to her tender hands he gave the burghers of Calais.

Right royally she feasted them, right bravely them she drest,
For ropes gave chains of gold to wear, as fitted noble guest;
Gifts from her treasury she brought, her minstrels for them sang,
And all the camp with shouts of joy as for a victory rang;
And when she sped them, cheered and bless'd, upon their homeward way,
They deemed an angel gave them back again unto Calais.

Philippa of Hainault, the Good, Philippa, England's Queen—
Rear high her statue — let it by all the world be seen!
A figure — not in armor clad, sword-girt, on prancing steed,
From Nevil's Cross the routed Scots waving across the Tweed —
Nay, nay, but kneeling with loose hair, clasped hands upraised to pray,
And tear-dimmed eyes, as when she saved the burghers of Calais.





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