Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, LA PUCELLE DE VERCHERES, by GEORGE HERBERT CLARKE

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

LA PUCELLE DE VERCHERES, by                
First Line: Name of heaven! 'no woman, 'you say, 'may be
Last Line: But to test our own was madeleine's soul lent us from heaven an hour.
Subject(s): Courage; Death; Religion; United States - Colonial Period; Women; Valor; Bravery; Dead, The; Theology

NAME of Heaven! "No woman," you say, "may be brave with the courage of man;
She may suffer with patience, endure; but let him encounter who can!"
Ah, but, my friend, it is idle, for how should you know what you say?
The Maid, you will have it, is liker Our Lady,—we kneel to and pray,—
La Sainte Vierge,—liker Her spirit, than they that must wandering go
Down the way of the woman in silence, whether for welfare or woe ...
I know not;—Our Lady was silent; not seldom the Maid was withdrawn,
Ahark for the voices that whispered through the night and the dawn.
But to me was it shown,—I have seen and 't is mine to declare
What the soul of a woman may do in the hour of darkest despair.
Jus fourteen years had she, no saint, but of Canada's breast,—
A girl in her fibre-of-fear, yet a general true to the test.
No saint? Mais non! The good God knoweth no angel so fair
As she that dwells pure in His heaven now,—Madeleine de Verchères!
Verchères was unguarded, look you, the Seignior on duty away,
And Madame at Montreal, and the people afield for the day,—
The twenty-second October, Sixteen Hundred, Ninety-Two,—
And Madeleine stayed at the landing-place, expecting my canoe;
For I brought in supplies for the fort each day, or shine or rain,
Wresting its good from the forest-soil;—one needed Pierre Fontaine;
And I knew the need, and met it, and was making ready that morn,
When suddenly in my bosom the sense of fear was born;—
Ah God! that cry of anguish, ever it echoes to me,
As I saw the Iroquois fiends of hell beginning their butchery.
They had stolen upon the settlers, and were scalping them in the fields,
Fifty savages red with blood. "'T is now that Verchères yields,"
I thought; "It is time to die," but I ran for my canoe,
And into it urged my dear ones, and waited what to do;
Ma foi! it was hard to know, but my heart for joy gave a leap
When I saw little Madeleine running,—not her had they caught asleep;
She was in the fort, and the gate was shut, and the breaches all repaired
Ere the enemy could enter, though he came as near as he dared,
Leaping, and yelling his frightful yells, and waving in the sun
The dripping spoil of his human hunt;—Sacred Name,—that it should be

There were only three men in the fort, and none of them could fight,
For one was weary for the grave, and the rest no men aright;
But Laviolette, who gave the alarm and entered with her the gate,—
Let him be named as a brave man there who bravely faced his fate;—
He it was told me after of the craven soldier pair
That Madeleine found in hiding and drove to the open air;
He it was told me her saying to her brothers young but true:
"We must fight to the death for God and country. I count on you.
Remember, our father has taught you that gentlemen are born
To shed their blood for God and the king. Let our name sustain no scorn!"

For me and mine, the Indians had seen us at last, and I knew
That the one hope left was to reach the fort, and I suddenly turned the canoe
To the landing-place, and tore the water, paddling for life or death,
When all at once I saw a sight that made me catch my breath;—
'T was Madeleine coming from the fort alone, to meet and bless,
And the Iroquois stood stupid,—stark images, no less!
For they feared it meant a sortie, and they stood and watched us feign,
And fired no shot, till they saw the gate swing open and close again.

And the night fell on us, and a storm swept down,— wind and snow and
And the spirits of all were darkened, and some began to quail;
But the maid she showed no sign of dread, and a cheerful tone she chose:
"Until this moment the hand of God has saved us from our foes.
Now let us have courage and ward them off, whate'er may hap to-night.
Gladly will I command the fort, and the six who can shall fight."
The soldiers and I were to guard the blockhouse, with orders clear,
And she placed the boys on the bastions,—good lads that had lost their
And the agéd man and the child herself made up the sentinel four,

And through the long night the cry "All's well!" rang out 'mid the storm's
And the enemy made no move, for he thought that our few were a host,
But he bode his time, and our little band were beleaguered a week almost;
And if Madeleine ate or slept I know not, but this I know,—
When I looked toward the bastion she was there; in the blockhouse, there also;
Smiling, rallying, promising help, shaming and cheering us all.
With a gliding grace as sweet to see as though she were leading a ball.
My friend, had Daniel beheld her, our maid in his wild beast's den,
Rescue might come what time it would, how should it matter when?
In a girl's young soul I had seen for a week the soul of the human race,
And I longed to bear more and do more before I should leave that place.

But the moment came—too soon it came,—our maid was adoze, with her gun
Lying across her tired-out arms, for the day was spent and done,
When some of us heard a sound below, down by the riverside,
And instantly from the bastion "Qui vive?" a sentinel cried;
And little Madeleine started up, and La Monnerie stood without,—
With his forty fighting men come up to put the foe to rout.
He praised her wit and her courage; right gallantly did he bow;
But she smiled and said: "Lieutenant, to you we surrender now."

And we crowded round her to kiss the hand and have the heavenly smile,
But she would not listen to our thanksgivings, and went apart awhile.
Would she had grown a woman in years, for woman she was in power!
But to test our own was Madeleine's soul lent us from Heaven an hour.

Discover our poem explanations - click here!

Other Poems of Interest...

Home: PoetryExplorer.net