Gateway to the Classics: Historic Poems and Ballads by Rupert S. Holland
Historic Poems and Ballads by  Rupert S. Holland

"Les Gants Glaces"

T HE Fronde was the name given to a civil war in France which lasted from 1648 to 1652. The word "fronde" means a "sling" in French, and the war was given that name because it began by the mob of Paris throwing stones at the windows of the houses of the friends of Cardinal Mazarin, who was fighting many of the nobles of France.

Turenne, a great general, led a revolt against Cardinal Mazarin in 1650. Turenne expected to receive aid from the Spaniards in the Netherlands, and a Spanish army was ready to march to join him when the country people of the French province of Champagne took up arms to keep out the foreigners. One of Turenne's allies was holding the town of Rethel, which lay in Ardennes, near the river Vosges. A battle was fought there December 15, 1650, between Turenne's Frondeurs, as his soldiers were called, and the army of Duplessis-Praslin, or, as the name is given in the poem, De Raslin. This poem tells how the attacking army was beaten back from the walls by the Frondeurs, until, goaded with desperation, the weary soldiers taunted the gaily-clad gentlemen of the Household Brigade, who were waiting in reserve, and dared them to advance on the town.

The "Gants Glaces," or "Kid Gloves," as the Brigade was nicknamed, took the challenge, marched forward, and carried the walls, although half their number were swept down in the storm of bullets.

That charge of "Les Gants Glaces" won the day for Cardinal Mazarin and his king, Louis XIV of France.

"Les Gants Glaces"


Wrapped in smoke stood the towers of Rethel,

The battle surged fierce by the town;

On terror and struggle and turmoil

The sweet skies of Champagne looked down.

Far away smiled the beautiful uplands,

The blue Vosges lay solemn beyond;

Well France knew such discord of color

In the terrible days of the Fronde.

At the breach in the ramparts of Rethel

Each stone was bought dearly by blood,

For De Raslin was leading the stormers,

And Turenne on the battlements stood.

Again and again closed the conflict,

The madness of strife upon all;

Right well fought the ranks of the marshal,

Yet twice they fell back from the wall.

Twice, thrice repulsed, baffled, and beaten,

They glared, where in gallant array,

Brave in gilding and 'broidery and feather,

The guards in reserve watched the fray.

"Go in, ye kid-gloved dandies!" they shouted

As sullenly rearward they bore;

The gaps deep and wide in their columns,

The lilies all dripping in gore.

"Come on, ye kid-gloved dandies!" and laughing

At the challenge, the Household Brigade

Dressed ranks, floated standards, blew trumpets,

And flashed out each glittering blade.

And carelessly as to a banquet,

And joyously as to a dance,

Where the Frondeurs in triumph were gathered,

Went the best blood of Scotland and France.

The gay plumes were shorn as in tempest;

The gay scarfs stained crimson and black;

Storm of bullet and broadsword closed o'er them,

Yet never one proud foot turned back.

Though half of their number lay silent

On the breach their last effort had won,

King Louis was master of Rethel

Ere the day and its story was done.

And the fierce taunting cry grew a proverb

Ere revolt and its horrors were past;

For men knew, ere o'er France's fair valleys

Peace waved her banner at last,

That the softest of tones in the boudoir,

The lightest of steps in the "ronde,"

Was theirs whose keen swords bit the deepest

In the terrible days of the Fronde.

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