Skip to Content
Indiana University

Search Options




View Options


Ballads and Lyrics of Socialism 1883-1908 . Nesbit, E. (Edith), 1858–1924.
previous
next
page: 19

The Ballad of Splendid Silence

In Memoriam. Ferencz Renyi, Hungary, 1848.

  • THIS is the story of Renyi,
  • And when you have heard it through,
  • Pray God He send no trial like his
  • To try the faith of you.
  • And if is doom be upon you,
  • Then may God grant you this:
  • To fight as good a fight as he,
  • And win a crown like his!
  • He was strong and handsome and happy,
  • Beloved and loving and young,
  • With eyes that men set their trust in,
  • And the fire of his soul on his tongue.
  • He loved the Spirit of Freedom,
  • He hated his country’s wrongs,
  • He told the patriots’ stories,
  • And he sang the patriots’ songs.
  • With mother and sister and sweetheart
  • His safe glad days went by,
  • Till Hungary called on her children
  • To arm, to fight, and to die.
  • ‘Good‐bye to mother and sister;
  • Good‐bye to my sweet sweetheart;
  • I fight for you—you pray for me,
  • We shall not be apart!’
  • The women prayed at the sunrise,
  • They prayed when the skies grew dim;
  • His mother and sister prayed for the Cause,
  • His sweetheart prayed for him.
page: 20
  • For mother and sister and sweetheart,
  • But most for the true and the right,
  • He low laid down his own life’s hopes
  • And led his men to fight.
  • Skirmishing, scouting, and spying,
  • Night‐watch, attack, and defeat;
  • The resolute, desperate fighting,
  • The hopeless, reluctant retreat;
  • Ruin, defeat, and disaster,
  • Capture and loss and despair,
  • And half of his regiment hidden,
  • And only this man knew where!
  • Prisoner, fast bound, sore wounded,
  • They brought him roughly along
  • With his body as weak and broken
  • As his spirit was steadfast and strong
  • Before the Austrian general—
  • ‘Where are your men?’ he heard;
  • He looked black death in its ugly face
  • And answered never a word.
  • ‘Where is your regiment hidden?
  • Speak—you are pardoned straight.
  • No? We can find dumb dogs their tongues,
  • You rebel reprobate!’
  • They dragged his mother and sister
  • Into the open hall.
  • ‘Give up your men, if these women
  • Are dear to your heart at all!’
  • He turned his eyes on his sister,
  • And spoke to her silently;
  • She answered his silence with speaking,
  • And straight from her heart spoke she:
page: 21
  • ‘If you betray your country,
  • You spit on our father’s name;
  • And what is life without honor?
  • And what is death without shame?’
  • He looked on the mother who bore him
  • And her smile was splendid to see;
  • He hid his face with a bitter cry,
  • But never a word said he.
  • ‘Son of my body—be silent!
  • My days at the best are few,
  • And I shall know how to give them,
  • Son of my heart, for you!’
  • He shivered, set teeth, kept silence:
  • With never a plaint or cry
  • The women were slain before him,
  • And he stood and he saw them die.
  • Then they brought his lovely beloved,
  • Desire of his heart and eyes.
  • ‘Say where your men are hidden,
  • Or say that your sweetheart dies.’
  • She threw her arms about him,
  • She laid her lips to his cheek:
  • ‘Speak! for my sake who love you!
  • Love, for our love’s sake, speak!’
  • His eyes are burning and shining
  • With the fire of immortal disgrace—
  • Christ! walk with him in the furnace
  • And strengthen his soul for a space!
  • Long he looked at his sweetheart
  • His eyes grew tender and wet;
  • Closely he held her to him,
  • His lips to her lips were set.
page: 22
  • ‘See! I am young! I love you!
  • I am not ready to die!
  • One word makes us happy for ever,
  • Together, you and I.’
  • Her arms round his neck were clinging,
  • Her lips his cold lips caressed;
  • He suddenly flung her from him,
  • And folded his arms to his breast.
  • She wept, she shrieked, she struggled,
  • She cursed him in God’s name,
  • For the woe of her early dying,
  • And for her dying’s shame.
  • And still he stood, and his silence
  • Like fire was burning him through,
  • Then the muskets spoke once, through his silence,
  • And she was silent too.
  • They turned to torture him further,
  • If further might be—in vain;
  • He had held his peace in that threefold hell,
  • And he never spoke again:
  • The end of the uttermost anguish
  • The soul of the man could bear,
  • Was the madhouse where tyrants bury
  • The broken shells of despair.

    * * * *

  • By the heaven renounced in her service,
  • By the hell thrice braved for her sake,
  • By the years of madness and silence,
  • By the heart that her enemies brake;
page: 23
  • By the young life’s promise ruined,
  • By the years of too living death,
  • By the passionate self‐devotion,
  • And the absolute perfect faith;
  • By the thousands who know such anguish,
  • And share such divine renown,
  • Who have borne them bravely in battle,
  • And won the conqueror’s crown;
  • By the torments her children have suffered,
  • By the blood that her martyrs will give,
  • By the deaths men have died at her altars,
  • By these shall our Liberty live!
  • In the silence of tears, in the burden
  • Of the wrongs we some day will repay,
  • Live the brothers who died in all ages
  • For the Freedom we live for to‐day!
1886.
previous
next