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John Greenleaf Whittier's "From Perugia"

The following is the complete text of John Greenleaf Whittier's poem "From Perugia." Our presentation of this poem comes from The Complete Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier (1894). The various books, short stories and poems we offer are presented free of charge with absolutely no advertising as a public service from Internet Accuracy Project.


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"From Perugia" by John Greenleaf Whittier

FROM PERUGIA

BY JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER

"The thing which has the most dissevered the people from the Pope,--the unforgivable thing,--the breaking point between him and them,--has been the encouragement and promotion he gave to the officer under whom were executed the slaughters of Perugia. That made the breaking point in many honest hearts that had clung to him before."--HARRIET BEECHER STOWE'S Letters from Italy.


The tall, sallow guardsmen their horsetails have spread,
Flaming out in their violet, yellow, and red;
And behind go the lackeys in crimson and buff,
And the chamberlains gorgeous in velvet and ruff;
Next, in red-legged pomp, come the cardinals forth,
Each a lord of the church and a prince of the earth.

What's this squeak of the fife, and this batter of drum?
Lo! the Swiss of the Church from Perugia come;
The militant angels, whose sabres drive home
To the hearts of the malcontents, cursed and abhorred,
The good Father's missives, and "Thus saith the Lord!"
And lend to his logic the point of the sword!

O maids of Etruria, gazing forlorn
O'er dark Thrasymenus, dishevelled and torn!
O fathers, who pluck at your gray beards for shame!
O mothers, struck dumb by a woe without name!
Well ye know how the Holy Church hireling behaves,
And his tender compassion of prisons and graves!

There they stand, the hired stabbers, the blood-stains yet fresh,
That splashed like red wine from the vintage of flesh;
Grim instruments, careless as pincers and rack
How the joints tear apart, and the strained sinews crack;
But the hate that glares on them is sharp as their swords,
And the sneer and the scowl print the air with fierce words!

Off with hats, down with knees, shout your vivas like mad!
Here's the Pope in his holiday righteousness clad,
From shorn crown to toe-nail, kiss-worn to the quick,
Of sainthood in purple the pattern and pick,
Who the role of the priest and the soldier unites,
And, praying like Aaron, like Joshua fights!

Is this Pio Nono the gracious, for whom
We sang our hosannas and lighted all Rome;
With whose advent we dreamed the new era began
When the priest should be human, the monk be a man?
Ah, the wolf's with the sheep, and the fox with the fowl,
When freedom we trust to the crosier and cowl!

Stand aside, men of Rome! Here's a hangman-faced Swiss--
(A blessing for him surely can't go amiss)--
Would kneel down the sanctified slipper to kiss.
Short shrift will suffice him,--he's blest beyond doubt;
But there's blood on his hands which would scarcely wash out,
Though Peter himself held the baptismal spout!

Make way for the next! Here's another sweet son
What's this mastiff-jawed rascal in epaulets done?
He did, whispers rumor, (its truth God forbid!)
At Perugia what Herod at Bethlehem did.
And the mothers? Don't name them! these humors of war
They who keep him in service must pardon him for.

Hist! here's the arch-knave in a cardinal's hat,
With the heart of a wolf, and the stealth of a cat
(As if Judas and Herod together were rolled),
Who keeps, all as one, the Pope's conscience and gold,
Mounts guard on the altar, and pilfers from thence,
And flatters St. Peter while stealing his pence!

Who doubts Antonelli? Have miracles ceased
When robbers say mass, and Barabbas is priest?
When the Church eats and drinks, at its mystical board,
The true flesh and blood carved and shed by its sword,
When its martyr, unsinged, claps the crown on his head,
And roasts, as his proxy, his neighbor instead!

There! the bells jow and jangle the same blessed way
That they did when they rang for Bartholomew's day.
Hark! the tallow-faced monsters, nor women nor boys,
Vex the air with a shrill, sexless horror of noise.
Te Deum laudamus! All round without stint
The incense-pot swings with a taint of blood in 't!

And now for the blessing! Of little account,
You know, is the old one they heard on the Mount.
Its giver was landless, His raiment was poor,
No jewelled tiara His fishermen wore;
No incense, no lackeys, no riches, no home,
No Swiss guards! We order things better at Rome.

So bless us the strong hand, and curse us the weak;
Let Austria's vulture have food for her beak;
Let the wolf-whelp of Naples play Bomba again,
With his death-cap of silence, and halter, and chain;
Put reason, and justice, and truth under ban;
For the sin unforgiven is freedom for man!


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