Poems (Coates 1916)/Volume II/Place de la Concorde
PLACE DE LA CONCORDE
AUGUST 14, 1914
Since the bombardment of Strasburg, August 14, 1870, her statue in Paris, representing Alsace, has been draped in mourning by the French people.
NEAR where the royal victims fell
In days gone by, caught in the swell
Of a ruthless tide
Of human passion, deep and wide:
There where we two
A Nation's later sorrow knew,—
To-day, O friend! I stood
Amid a self-ruled multitude
That by nor sound nor word
Betrayed how mightily its heart was stirred.
A memory Time never could efface—
A memory of grief—
Like a great Silence brooded o'er the place;
And men breathed hard, as seeking for relief
From an emotion strong
That would not cry, though held in check too long.
One felt that joy drew near,—
A joy intense that seemed itself to fear,—
Brightening in eyes that had been dull,
As all with feeling gazed
Upon the Strasburg figure, raised
Above us,—mourning, beautiful!
Then one stood at the statue's base, and spoke—
Men needed not to ask what word;
Each in his breast the message heard,
Writ for him by Despair,
That evermore in moving phrase
Breathes from the Invalides and Père-Lachaise,—
Vainly it seemed, alas!
But now, France, looking on the image there,
Hope gave her back the lost Alsace.
A deeper hush fell on the crowd:
A sound—the lightest—seemed too loud
(Would, friend, you had been there!)
As to that form the speaker rose,
Took from her, fold on fold,
The mournful crape, gray-worn and old,
Her, proudly, to disclose,
And with the touch of tender care
That fond emotion speaks,
Mid tears that none could quite command,
Placed the Tricolour in her hand,
And kissed her on both cheeks!