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Poems About France

Table of Contents

  1. France by Oliver Goldsmith
  2. France by Charles d’Orleans
  3. Near Cannes by Cora Kennedy Aitken
  4. St. Cloud by Sir Walter Scott
  5. To the River Rhone by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  6. The Rhone, excerpt by Frédéric Mistral, translated by Harriet W. Preston
  7. The Garden of the Palais Royal by Bessie Rayner Parkes
  8. A Southern Night, excerpt by Matthew Arnold
  9. Cagnes by Mathilde Blind
  10. On the Lighthouse at Antibes by Mathilde Blind

  1. France

    by Oliver Goldsmith

    From "The Traveller"

    To kinder skies, where gentler manners reign,
    I turn; and France displays her bright domain:
    Gay, sprightly land of mirth and social ease,
    Pleased with thyself, whom all the world can please,
    How often have I led thy sportive choir,
    With tuneless pipe, beside the murmuring Loire!
    Where shading elms along the margin grew,
    And freshened from the wave the zephyr flew;
    And haply, though my harsh touch, faltering still,
    But mocked all tune, and marred the dancer’s skill,
    Yet would the village praise my wondrous power,
    And dance, forgetful of the noontide hour.
    Alike all ages. Dames of ancient days
    Have led their children through the mirthful maze;
    And the gay grandsire, skilled in gestic lore,
    Has frisked beneath the burden of threescore.
    So blest a life these thoughtless realms display,
    Thus idly busy rolls their world away:
    Theirs are those arts that mind to mind endear,
    For honor forms the social temper here,—
    Honor, that praise which real merit gains,
    Or even imaginary worth obtains,
    Here passes current; paid from hand to hand,
    It shifts, in splendid traffic, round the land;
    From courts to camps, to cottages it strays,
    And all are taught an avarice of praise;
    They please, are pleased, they give to get esteem,
    Till, seeming blest, they grow to what they seem.

  2. France

    by Charles d’Orleans, translated by Louisa Stuart Costello

    I stood upon the wild sea-shore,
    And marked the wide expanse;
    My straining eyes were turned once more
    To long-loved, distant France:
    I saw the sea-bird hurry by
    Along the waters blue;
    I saw her wheel amid the sky,
    And mock my tearful, eager eye,
    That would her flight pursue.

    Onward she darts, secure and free,
    And wings her rapid course to thee!
    O that her wing were mine, to soar,
    And reach thy lovely land once more!
    O Heaven! it were enough to die
    In my own, my native home,—
    One hour of blessed liberty
    Were worth whole years to come!

  3. Near Cannes

    by Cora Kennedy Aitken

    Here little birds fly low and fold
    Their wings to stillness in the shade
    Of lines of willow-trees, that hold
    Sweet secrets in them unbetrayed;

    Though sometimes in a dream of sound,
    Half music and half sun, we hear
    Ripples of water touch the ground,
    And smell the lilies bending near.

    Upon the fields the wanton sun
    Lies with his yellow locks between
    The poppy blooms that one by one
    Steal blushing to him through the green.

    And tenderest forget-me-nots
    That e’er a lover honored yet
    With glance made sweet by sweetest thoughts
    Are softly in the grasses set.

    And yonder by the gleaming road
    Whose white feet pass the meadows by,
    Mute in an awe-struck dream of God,
    The poplars look up to the sky.

  4. St. Cloud

    by Sir Walter Scott

    Soft spread the southern summer night
    Her veil of darksome blue;
    Ten thousand stars combined to light
    The terrace of St. Cloud.

    The evening breezes gently sighed,
    Like breath of lover true,
    Bewailing the deserted pride
    And wreck of sweet St. Cloud.

    The drum’s deep roll was heard afar,
    The bugle wildly blew
    Good-night to Hulan and Hussar,
    That garrison St. Cloud.

    The startled Naiads from the shade
    With broken urns withdrew,
    And silenced was that proud cascade,
    The glory of St. Cloud.

    We sat upon its steps of stone,
    Nor could its silence rue,
    When waked, to music of our own,
    The echoes of St. Cloud.

    Slow Seine might hear each lovely note
    Fall light as summer dew,
    While through the moonless air they float
    Prolonged from far St. Cloud.

    And sure a melody more sweet
    His waters never knew,
    Though music’s self was wont to meet
    With princes at St. Cloud.

    Nor then, with more delighted ear,
    The circle round her drew,
    Than ours, when gathered round to hear
    Our songstress at St. Cloud.

    Few happy hours poor mortals pass,
    Then give those hours their due,
    And rank among the foremost class
    Our evenings at St. Cloud.

  5. To the River Rhone

    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Thou Royal River, born of sun and shower
    In chambers purple with the Alpine glow,
    Wrapped in the spotless ermine of the snow
    And rocked by tempests!—at the appointed hour
    Forth, like a steel-clad horseman from a tower,
    With clang and clink of harness dost thou go
    To meet thy vassal torrents, that below
    Rush to receive thee and obey thy power.
    And now thou movest in triumphal march,
    A king among the rivers! On thy way
    A hundred towns await and welcome thee;
    Bridges uplift for thee the stately arch,
    Vineyards encircle thee with garlands gay,
    And fleets attend thy progress to the sea!

  6. The Rhone, excerpt

    by Frédéric Mistral, translated by Harriet W. Preston

    From "Mirèio"

    Majestically calm, but wearily
    And as he fain would sleep, the Rhone passed by
    Like some great veteran dying. He recalls
    Music and feasting in Avignon’s halls
    And castles, and profoundly sad is he
    To lose his name and waters in the sea.

  7. The Garden of the Palais Royal

    by Bessie Rayner Parkes

    In the Palais Royal by moonlight,
    Watching the fountains play,
    Are a thousand ghostly shadows
    Of those who are passed away.
    Shadows of beauty and splendor,
    Flitting from salle to salle;
    Sweetest of all among them,
    Marie Thérèse de Lamballe!

    Yet there is not a place in Paris
    Where it seems less wise to dream,
    Than here, where the people gather
    And flow in an endless stream;
    Full of their follies and pleasures,
    Full of the last new thing,
    Under the close-cropped lindens,
    Blossoming every spring.

    But for me the Palais Royal
    Is full of the days gone by,
    And the flash of the silver fountains
    Is a murmur blent with a sigh;
    And the steps of the people passing
    Are as if they came to me
    From the far, unearthly distance
    Of a bygone century!

  8. A Southern Night, excerpt

    by Matthew Arnold

    The sandy spits, the shore-locked lakes,
    Melt into open, moonlit sea;
    The soft Mediterranean breaks
    At my feet, free.

    Dotting the fields of corn and vine,
    Like ghosts and huge, gnarled olives stand;
    Behind, that lovely mountain-line!
    While by the strand

    Cette, with its glistening houses white,
    Curves with the curving beach away
    To where the lighthouse beacons bright
    Far in the bay.

    Ah, such a night, so soft, so lone,
    So moonlit, saw me once of yore
    Wander unquiet, and my own
    Vext heart deplore!

    But now that trouble is forgot;
    Thy memory, thy pain, to-night,
    My brother! and thine early lot,
    Possess me quite.

    The murmur of this Midland deep
    Is heard to-night around thy grave
    There where Gibraltar’s cannoned steep
    O’erfrowns the wave.

    For there, with bodily anguish keen,
    With Indian heats at last fordone,
    With public toil and private teen,
    Thou sank’st, alone.

    Slow to a stop, at morning gray,
    I see the smoke-crowned vessel come;
    Slow round her paddles dies away
    The seething foam.

    A boat is lowered from her side;
    Ah, gently place him on the bench!
    That spirit—if all have not yet died—
    A breath might quench.

    Is this the eye, the footstep fast,
    The mien of youth we used to see,
    Poor, gallant boy!—for such thou wast,
    Still art, to me.

    The limbs their wonted tasks refuse,
    The eyes are glazed, thou canst not speak;
    And whiter than thy white burnous
    That wasted cheek!

    Enough! The boat, with quiet shock,
    Unto its haven coming nigh,
    Touches, and on Gibraltar’s rock
    Lands thee, to die.

  9. Cagnes

    by Mathilde Blind


    In tortuous windings up the steep incline
    The sombre street toils to the village square,
    Whose antique walls in stone and moulding bear
    Dumb witness to the Moor. Afar off shine,
    With tier on tier, cutting heaven's blue divine,
    The snowy Alps; and lower the hills are fair,
    With wave-green olives rippling down to where
    Gold clusters hang and leaves of sunburnt vine.

    You may perchance, I never shall forget
    When, between twofold glory of land and sea,
    We leant together o'er the old parapet,
    And saw the sun go down. For, oh, to me,
    The beauty of that beautiful strange place
    Was its reflection beaming from your face.

  10. On the Lighthouse at Antibes

    by Mathilde Blind

    A stormy light of sunset glows and glares
    Between two banks of cloud, and o'er the brine
    Thy fair lamp on the sky's carnation line
    Alone on the lone promontory flares:
    Friend of the Fisher who at nightfall fares
    Where lurk false reefs masked by the hyaline
    Of dimpling waves, within whose smile divine
    Death lies in wait behind Circean snares.

    The evening knows thee ere the evening star;
    Or sees thy flame sole Regent of the bight,
    When storm, hoarse rumoured by the hills afar,
    Makes mariners steer landward by thy light,
    Which shows through shock of hostile nature's war
    How man keeps watch o'er man through deadliest night.

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