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Christian Ballads

By A. Cleveland Coxe, D.D.

New York: D. Appleton, 1865.

The Curfew.


IN each New-England village,
  At nine o'clock at night,
Still rings old England's curfew,
  And says--put out the light!
Then tell they to their children,
  Of long long years ago,
The tale of Battle-Abbey,
  How they fought with shaft and bow.


But here's another story
  New-England wives may tell,
How he that bade the curfew
  Heard an unbidden bell;
And let the boy that listens
  Which best he liketh say,
The bell that rings for darkness,
  Or the bell that rings for day.


When William lay a-dying,
  All dull of eye and dim,
And he that conquered Harold
  Felt One that conquered him;
He recked not of the minutes,
  The midnight, or the morn,
But there he lay--unbreathing
  As the babe that is still-born.


But suddenly a bell tolled!
  He started from the swound,
First glared, and then grew gentle,
  Then wildly stared around.
He deemed 'twas bell at even,
  To quench the Saxon's coal,
But oh, it was a curfew
  To quench his fiery soul.


Now, prithee, holy father!
  What means this bell, I pray?
Is't curfew-time in England,
  Or am I far away?
GOD wot--it moves my spirit,
  As if it ev'n might be
The bells of mine own city,
  In dear old Normandie.


Ay, sire--thou art in Rouen;
  And 'tis the prayer-bell's chime
In the steeple of St. Mary's,
  That tolls the hour of prime!
Then bid them pray for William,
  And may the Virgin-born,
In the church of His sweet mother,
  Hear their praying, this blest morn.


Little dream the kneeling people
  Who joins them in their prayers!
They deem not stout King William
  Their paternoster shares:
Nor see they how he lifteth
  With theirs, his dying hand--
The hand that, from the Saxon,
  Tore the crown of fair England:


Nor heard they--as responding
  To their chaunting oft he sighed,
Till rose their DE PROFUNDIS,
  And the mighty Norman died.
And I have thought, who knoweth,
  But if that early toll,
Like the contrite malefactor's,
  Moved a dying sinner's soul.


And we, the Seed of England,
  Hear yet the curfew's knell;
Oh might we learn from William
  That soul-awaking bell!
Then should the sound that covers
  At night the cheery coal,
Stir, too, the morning-embers
  Of worship in the soul.

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