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A POEM ABOUT CALAIS, LATELY RETAKEN
It is not the Parca, Destiny’s accomplice, nor is it the slippery wheel of fate, that knows not how to stop, but the sole Architect of nature Who governs the world,
Who commands the inert land to stand in its place, the sea to churn its endless eddies, the sky now to vary its light with shadows, and now its shadows with light,
Who grants scepters to temperate Modesty, and bridles to arrogant Pride, who besmirches triumphs with tears, and gladdens tears with triumphs.
Let me not fetch examples from afar. Lo, he is prostrate and hopeless whom Fortune cherished at her bosom, and lately bore through all the peoples in his swollen pride.
Nor were you, Henri, unacquainted with the roar of the rain-bringing storm, you whom virtue wafts over waters of felicity with her favoring breeze.
But stubborn haughtiness still oppresses this man, and weighs upon him in his oppression, and also his progeny, swollen with like self-confidence, and vexes Philip with a like catastrophe.
A kindly Father harkens to you, who bear yourself as lesser than the gods, and atone with tears for your acknowledged fault, and heaps up His wonted favor,
Nor does He give you uncertain signs of His renewed grace. Under chill Capricorn the lengthy night oppressed the earth with perpetual shadows,
The winter shivered with snowy gusts, the rivers stood still with sharp ice, for the husbandman a shapeless horror lay on his abandoned acres.
But when the King of France lifted up his banners within his caps, and Guise, captain of the King’s army, the moderate temperature of a better climate smiled under the chilly North,
With its arrow blunted, sluggish wintertime moderated the force of its harsh night: through a serene winter, out of a hollowed cloud rain stood over the parched fields.
Neptune strewed the water with tranquil waves, Aeolus stored up the winds in his caves, save for those which would bear French ships with a favoring breeze.
Through fields lately squalid, the Briton’s fires all but still burning, abundant Plenty has replenished their provisions with her kindly horn.
Likewise, as the French King placed his battalions in their towns, the gentle winter has rearmed itself with storms and renewed the wraths it had set aside.
Sluggish rivers stand slow with their sluggish ice, the fields are hidden beneath white snows. The sea rages, fanned by the North wind’s shaggy wings.
Thus neither could their walls, girt with deep swamps, withstand the powers of France, nor could their marshes, protected by forts, withstand the Frenchmen’s headlong rush.
Prince of Lorraine, blessed with God’s especial favor, you to whom God assigned an especial role, that you should suppress those haughty men with your mastering hand,
A following age will scarce believe that within the circuit of a single year you have garnered so many well-deserved laurels, not if you were born through the skies on Pegasus’ wing.
The snowy passes yielded, and the Alpine peaks thrust into the sky, when the Roman Father prayed that you set your shoulders under the nearby ruin.
Rome was defended, Valenza taken, Naples compelled to endure peace, and the man of Susa freed from the barbarian torch by your renown.
The sea with its storms, the land with its marshes, the Briton with his arms, the walls unconquered through long centuries defended the insolent spirits of the men of Calais.
The virtue of Lorraine, accustomed to seize an untrodden way through pathless places by conquering the unconquered, disproved this old reputation with its new glory.
The savage Briton, hitherto menacing with his powers and with his French massacres, scarce thought himself secure from his enemy, separated by the ocean’s waves.
Their Queen, knowing not how to endure peace, now laments the treaties she scorned, now she dreads the wrath of God that overhangs her, and the avenging Fury’s flail.
Now she equally fears and loathes her subjects and her foemen, and, a common leech upon subjects and foemen, with equal greed she thirsts after the blood of both.
For her, by day the terror of Mars roars at her, and a mind guilty of dire slaughter, and nocturnal specters disturb her repose with their fearful shapes.