John Greenleaf Whittier

St. John

The fierce rivalry between Charles de La Tour, a Protestant, and D'Aulnay Charnasy, a Catholic, for the possession of Acadia, forms one of the most romantic passages in the history of the New World. La Tour
received aid in several instances from the Puritan colony of Massachusetts. During one of his voyages for the purpose of obtaining arms and provisions for his establishment at St. John, his castle was attacked by D'Aulnay, and successfully defended by its high-spirited mistress. A second attack however followed in the fourth month, 1647, when D'Aulnay was successful, and the garrison was put to the sword. Lady La Tour languished a few days in the hands of her enemy, and then died of grief.

"To the winds give our banner!
Bear homeward again!"
Cried the Lord of Acadia,
Cried Charles of Estienne;
From the prow of his shallop
He gazed, as the sun,
From its bed in the ocean,
Streamed up the St. John.

O'er the blue western waters
That shallop had passed,
Where the mists of Penobscot
Clung damp on her mast.
St. Saviour had looked
On the heretic sail,
As the songs of the Huguenot
Rose on the gale.

The pale, ghostly fathers
Remembered her well,
And had cursed her while passing,
With taper and bell;
But the men of Monhegan,
Of Papists abhorred,
Had welcomed and feasted
The heretic Lord.

They had loaded his shallop
With dun-fish and ball,
With stores for his larder,
And steel for his wall.
Pemaquid, from her bastions
And turrets of stone,
Had welcomed his coming
With banner and gun.

And the prayers of the elders
Had followed his way,
As homeward he glided,
Down Pentecost Bay.
Oh, well sped La Tour
For, in peril and pain,
His lady kept watch,
For his coming again.

O'er the Isle of the Pheasant
The morning sun shone,
On the plane-trees which shaded
The shores of St. John.
"Now, why from yon battlements
Speaks not my love!
Why waves there no banner
My fortress above?"

Dark and wild, from his deck
St. Estienne gazed about,
On fire-wasted dwellings,
And silent redoubt;
From the low, shattered walls
Which the flame had o'errun,
There floated no banner,
There thundered no gun!

But beneath the low arch
Of its doorway there stood
A pale priest of Rome,
In his cloak and his hood.
With the bound of a lion,
La Tour sprang to land,
On the throat of the Papist
He fastened his hand.

"Speak, son of the Woman
Of scarlet and sin!
What wolf has been prowling
My castle within?"
From the grasp of the soldier
The Jesuit broke,
Half in scorn, half in sorrow,
He smiled as he spoke:

"No wolf, Lord of Estienne,
Has ravaged thy hall,
But thy red-handed rival,
With fire, steel, and ball!
On an errand of mercy
I hitherward came,
While the walls of thy castle
Yet spouted with flame.

"Pentagoet's dark vessels
Were moored in the bay,
Grim sea-lions, roaring
Aloud for their prey."
"But what of my lady?"
Cried Charles of Estienne.
"On the shot-crumbled turret
Thy lady was seen:

"Half-veiled in the smoke-cloud,
Her hand grasped thy pennon,
While her dark tresses swayed
In the hot breath of cannon!
But woe to the heretic,
Evermore woe!
When the son of the church
And the cross is his foe!

"In the track of the shell,
In the path of the ball,
Pentagoet swept over
The breach of the wall!
Steel to steel, gun to gun,
One moment,--and then
Alone stood the victor,
Alone with his men!

"Of its sturdy defenders,
Thy lady alone
Saw the cross-blazoned banner
Float over St. John."
"Let the dastard look to it!"
Cried fiery Estienne,
"Were D'Aulnay King Louis,
I'd free her again!"

"Alas for thy lady!
No service from thee
Is needed by her
Whom the Lord hath set free;
Nine days, in stern silence,
Her thraldom she bore,
But the tenth morning came,
And Death opened her door!"

As if suddenly smitten
La Tour staggered back;
His hand grasped his sword-hilt,
His forehead grew black.
He sprang on the deck
Of his shallop again.
"We cruise now for vengeance!
Give way!" cried Estienne.

"Massachusetts shall hear
Of the Huguenot's wrong,
And from island and creekside
Her fishers shall throng!
Pentagoet shall rue
What his Papists have done,
When his palisades echo
The Puritan's gun!"

Oh, the loveliest of heavens
Hung tenderly o'er him,
There were waves in the sunshine,
And green isles before him:
But a pale hand was beckoning
The Huguenot on;
And in blackness and ashes
Behind was St. John!


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