The War of Sicilian Vespers
JOHN OF PROCIDA
Procida, seest thou rise, from yon calm sea?
The dewy mists of morning veil the coast,
As, ‘gainst the shore, waves ripple tranquilly.
Though not of boundary wide that Isle can boast,
It is renowned through one, on whom has Fame
Bestowed, in Freedom’s cause, a deathless name!
The royal Dynasty was doomed to fall,
No more the House of Hohenstaufen reigned,
A Tyrant governed in the kingly hall,
And, with Sicilian gore, his sword was stained.
Flown was the noble Conrad’s youthful blood,
Upon the scaffold gushed life’s purple flood!
The foreign Despots rule upon that shore,
With arbitrary, dread severity;
They gloat on pleasure, as he gloats on gore,
Upon whose head a murderer’s crown doth lie.
Like Charles of Anjou, on his blood-stained throne,
Here, the voluptuous French, each law disown!
The rights of birth, youth, age, do they defy,
To gross licentiousness are they the slaves,
They glory in each vile atrocity,
And, from indignity, no virtue saves:
To satisfy unbridled lust, they live,
And, to base passions, daily victims give.
How keenly John of Procida doth feel
The rankling wound the brave Sicilians bear!
He fans that spark which hatred doth reveal,
A smouldering spark, enkindled by despair.
The Patriot scorns t’expel their enemy,
By retribution just, all – all shall die!
Long ere, from Aetna’s crater, towering high,
Torrents of bright, destructive lava flow,
Deceptive calms th’irruption prophesy,
And thus a Nation veils a desperate blow.
Foreboding silence, and tranquility
Conceal the thunderbolts that hidden lie.
By one decisive stroke their Foes to slay,
And to avenge the tyranny, long borne,
Will the Sicilians crime by crime repay:
The word: “Extermination!” all have sworn.
Hark! — the Sicilian Vesper-bells resound:
The French, the prey of Death, lie piled around!
Giovanni da Procida 1210-1298