A Brave Emperor
by Rose Hartwick Thorpe
Night rolled its sombre curtain back
To greet the dawning day,
Black swept the angry Danube
On its terror-freighted way.
Great blocks of ice came crashing down
Amid the torrent's roar,
And seething waters flung their spray
Upon the ice-bound shore.
Across that raging, roaring space
Where Leopoldstadt lies,
Back to Vienna's listening ear
Came moans and sobs and cries, --
Came piteous voices pleading,
We are starving! bring us bread!
And white hands reached imploring
O'er the waters dark and dread.
The Emperor Francis Second
Soon filled the boats with food;
But who will face the dangers
Of this angry, seething flood?
He begs, implores, and threatens:
Bribes and promises are vain,
While from his famished people
Comes that anguished wail again.
I cannot see my people starve!
The Emperor Francis cries;
A quiver thrills his earnest voice,
A moisture dims his eyes.
Alone he leaps into a boat
And pushes from the shore;
They'd give their lives for me, he said,
And I can do no more.
A hundred men are ready now
To brave the swollen tide.
If death must come to their brave king,
They'll meet it at his side.
Behold they reach the distant shore!
The hungry ones are fed;
And mothers kiss the hands that bring
Their starving children bread!
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