Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Huguenot Pastor

Lydia Sigourney, "The Huguenot Pastor" in Zinzendorff: And Other Poems, pp. 154-156:


During the persecution of the Huguenots in France, soon after the revocation of the edict of Nantz, one of their ministers, possessed of great learning and piety, having witnessed the demolition of his own Church at Montpelier, was induced by the solicitations of his people, to preach to them in the night, upon its ruins. For this offence, he was condemned to be broken on the wheel.

Behold him on the ruins, -- not of fanes
With ivy mantled, which the touch of time
Hath slowly crumbled, -- but amid the wreck
Of his own temple, by infuriate hands
In shapeless masses, and rude fragments strown
Wide o'er the trampled turf. Serene he stood,
A pale, sad beauty on his youthful brow,
With eyes uprais'd, as if his stricken soul
Fled from material things. Where was the spire
That solemn through those chestnut trees looked forth?
The tower, the arch, the altar whence he bless'd
A kneeling throng? the font where infancy
Rais'd in his arms to God was consecrate,
An incense-breathing bud? Not on such themes
Dar'd his fond thoughts to dwell, but firm in faith
He lifted up his voice, and spake of Heaven
Where desolations come not.
Midnight hung
Dreary and dense around, and the lone lamp
That o'er his Bible stream'd, hung tremulous
Beneath the fitful gale.
There, resting deep
Upon the planted staff, were aged men,
The grave's white tokens in their scatter'd hair,
And youthful forms, with gaze intensely fix'd
On their beloved Pastor, as he taught
Of Christ their righteousness, while here and there
A group of mourning mothers from whose arms
Their babes by persecution's rage were torn
Blent with their listening, the low sob of grief.
Close by their fathers' knees, young children cower'd
And in each echoing footstep fear'd a foe.
-- It was a time of trouble, and the flock
Came hungering for that heavenly bread which gives
Strength to the heavy laden. 'Twas a scene
That France might well have wept with tears of blood
But in the madness of a dire disease
She slew her faithful sons, and urg'd the sword
'Gainst her own vitals.
Lo! the dawn is out,
With her grey banner, and the parting flock
Seek their own homes, praising the Hand that spares
Their faithful shepherd. Silent evening wakes
Far different orgies. Yonder mangled form
Sinking 'neath murderous fury, can ye trace
Its lineaments of beauty, 'mid the wreck
Of anguish and distortion? Son of God!
Is this thy messenger, whose voice so late
Thrill'd with an angel's sweetness, as it pour'd
Thy blessing on the people?
Yet, be still,
And breathe no bitter thought above his dust,
Who served the Prince of Peace. The spirit of love
Did make that lifeless breast its temple-shrine,
Offend it not. But raise with tender ahnd
Those blood-stain'd curls, and shed the pitying tear.
-- That marble lip no more can bless its foes,
But from the rack of martyrdom, the soul
Hath risen in radiance, o'er the strife of man.


  1. That is very well told; and a very good, though painful, thing to think of. Thank you.

  2. You're welcome, Heidi. Huguenot history is bitter-sweet - inspirational and sad at the same time.