The Palace Burner by Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt

The Palace-Burner

(A Picture in a Newspaper.)

by Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt

To understand this poem better, you may find it helpful to read the notes from Representative Poetry Online.

Versailles is a classic example of the royal wealth and excess that the French revolutionaries despised..

The Main Palace at Versailles
Photo by W. Brian Duncan,
Oct. 12, 2011.
www.batteredluggage.com
[No, this palace hasn’t been burned down!]

1 She has been burning palaces. .“To see
2 The sparks look pretty in the wind?.” Well, yes .-
3 And something more. But women brave as she
4 Leave much for cowards such as I to guess.

5 But this is old, so old that everything
6 Is ashes here .- the woman and the rest.
7 Two years are oh! so long. Now you may bring
8 Some newer pictures. You like this one best?

9 You wish that you had lived in Paris then?
10 You would have loved to burn a palace, too?
11 But they had guns in France, and Christian men
12 Shot wicked little Communists, like you.

13 You would have burned the palace? Just because
14 You did not live in it yourself! Oh! Why?
15 Have I not taught you to respect the laws?
16 You would have burned the palace. Would not I?

17 Would I? Go to your play. Would I, indeed?
18 I? Does the boy not know my soul to be
19 Languid and worldly, with a dainty need
20 For light and music? Yet he questions me.

21 Can he have seen my soul more nearer than I?
22 Ah! in the dusk and distance sweet she seems,
23 With lips to kiss away a baby’s cry,
24 Hands fit for flowers, and eyes for tears and dreams.

25 Can he have seen my soul? And could she wear
26 Such utter life upon a dying face,
27 Such unappealing, beautiful despair,
28 Such garments .- soon to be a shroud .- with grace?

29 Has she a charm so calm that it could breathe
30 In damp, low places till some frightened hour;
31 Then start, like a fair, subtle snake, and wreathe
32 A stinging poison with a shadowy power?

33 Would I burn palaces? The child has seen
34 In this fierce creature of the Commune here,
35 So bright with bitterness and so serene,
36 A being finer than my soul, I fear.

***

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