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The church-bells tolled, the chant of monks drew
near, Loud trumpets stammered forth their notes of fear, A line of torches smoked along the street, There was a stir, a rush, a tramp of feet, And, with its banners floating in the air, Slowly the long procession crossed the square, And, to the statues of the Prophets bound, The victims stood, with fagots piled around. Then all the air a blast of trumpets shook, And louder sang the monks with bell and book, And the Hidalgo, lofty, stern, and proud, Lifted his torch, and, bursting through the crowd, Lighted in haste the fagots, and then fled, Lest those imploring eyes should strike him dead!
O pitiless skies! why did your clouds retain
That night, a mingled column of fire and smoke
Three centuries and more above his bones
Thus closed the tale of guilt and gloom,
The Student first the silence broke,
And thus he dealt the avenging stroke.
A tale so tragic seems amiss,
Some merry Night of Straparole,
And here the Poet raised his hand,
THE POET'S TALE.
THE BIRDS OF KILLINGWORTH
Published in The Atlantic Monthly, December, 1863.
It was the season, when through all the land
The merle and mavis build, and building sing
The banners of the vanguard of the Spring,
The robin and the bluebird, piping loud,
The sparrows chirped as if they still were proud
Their race in Holy Writ should mentioned be; And hungry crows, assembled in a crowd,
Clamored their piteous prayer incessantly, Knowing who hears the ravens cry, and said: “ Give us, O Lord, this day, our daily bread !
Across the Sound the birds of passage sailed, Speaking some unknown language strange and
sweet Of tropic isle remote, and passing hailed
The village with the cheers of all their fleet; Or quarrelling together, laughed and railed
Like foreign sailors, landed in the street Of seaport town, and with outlandish noise Of oaths and gibberish frightening girls and boys
Thus came the jocund Spring in Killingworth,
In fabulous days, some hundred years ago ; And thrifty farmers, as they tilled the earth,
Heard with alarm the cawing of the crow, That mingled with the universal mirth,
Cassandra-like, prognosticating woe; They shook their heads, and doomed with dreadful
words To swift destruction the whole race of birds.
And a town-meeting was convened straightway
To set a price upon the guilty heads Of these marauders, who, in lieu of pay,
Levied black-mail upon the garden beds And cornfields, and beheld without dismay
The awful scarecrow, with his fluttering shreds ;
The skeleton that waited at their feast,
Then from his house, a temple painted white,
With fluted columns, and a roof of red, The Squire came forth, august and splendid sight!
Slowly descending, with majestic tread, Three flights of steps, nor looking left nor right, Down the long street he walked, as one who
said, “ A town that boasts inhabitants like me Can have no lack of good society !”
The Parson, too, appeared, a man austere,
The instinct of whose nature was to kill ; The wrath of God he preached from year to year,
And read, with fervor, Edwards on the Will; His favorite pastime was to slay the deer
In Summer on some Adirondac hill;
From the Academy, whose belfry crowned
The hill of Science with its vane of brass, Came the Preceptor, gazing idly round,
Now at the clouds, and now at the green grass, And all absorbed in reveries profound
Of fair Almira in the upper class, Who was, as in a sonnet he had said, As
pure as water, and as good as bread.
And next the Deacon issued from his door,
In his voluminous neck-cloth, white as snow;