. A Glass for My Father Marie-Maurille de Virot, Mademoiselle de Sombreuil (February 14, 1768—May 15, 1823) My father was the Marquis de Sombreuil: An old man when it happened, but back then The Revolution took no note of age, Of sex, infirmities, or past distinction. All they saw was that our family was Of gentle blood, and for that fact condemned. When they came to escort him to prison I insisted that I too should go— I shared my father’s blood, why not his pain? A maiden girl of twenty-four can die As easily as men advanced in years. They dragged us off to La Abbaye, and there A mock tribunal of some drunken thugs Read out the fatal judgment: father’s life Was forfeit to the guillotine. I begged With filial tears and pleadings. They just smirked. One of the guards sat on a pile of corpses Freshly slain and still warm to the touch— Great pools of blood and gore were everywhere. He poured red wine out for that fell tribunal Into cups and glasses smeared by fingers Still wet from pikes and bludgeons and curved sabers. He took a filthy, blood-polluted glass, Filled it with wine, and held it out to me: Drain this glass of blood-tinged wine and we’ll Allow you and your father to go home. Drink a toast to our great Revolution! They smiled in mockery, as if to say A frightened and a well-bred noble girl Could never put a gore-smeared glass like that To her shy and hesitating lips. But I reached out and took it, made the toast, And drank it down in one impulsive swallow. They laughed with frank amusement and surprise That I had drunk a chalice of foul death, Looked at me with a grudging new respect, And released us from that hall of murder. We hurried out to freedom and fresh air. Still to this day I cannot hold a glass Without revulsion and a sense of loathing. Red wine? Just a hint of its bouquet Turns my stomach like a foetid corpse. They killed my father and his younger son At a later date. My elder brother Fell in the wars that came in terror’s wake. I am the last of Sombreuil’s ancient line And in my own way, I too died with them. I leave the world this one important truth: You crush no revolutions with a prayer, With votive candles or a pious hope, Or pleas for mercy, or noblesse oblige. The only thing the Revolution fears Is when you drink hot blood before their faces, And swear the next cup will be filled with theirs. . Poet's Note: About two years after this incident at La Abbaye prison, the old Marquis de Sombreuil and one of his sons were arrested again and executed by the Revolutionists, and Mademoiselle de Sombreuil remained imprisoned until the fall of Robespierre. Her remaining brother died after the battle of Quiberon in 1795, when the murderous Revolutionist general Lazare Hoche massacred several hundred Royalist prisoners who had surrendered. . . Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide. He is the editor of the literary magazine TRINACRIA and writes for Expansive Poetry On-line. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College.