And having brought them to that famous height…he pushed them through the open-standing window”

~ by Anthony Hecht

And I recall certain ambassadors,
Cuffed all in ermine and with vests of mail,
Who came their way into the town of Prague
Announced by horns, as history tells the tale,
To seek avoidances of future wars
And try the meaning of the Decalogue,
But whispers went about against their names.
And so it happened that a courtier wit,
Hating their cause with an intemperate might,
Lauded his castle’s vantage, and made claims
Upon their courtesy to visit it,
And having brought them to that famous height,
To witness the whole streamed and timbered view
Of his ancestral property, and smell
His fine ancestral air, he pushed them through
The open-standing window, whence they fell,
O in a manner worthy to be sung,
Full thirty feet into a pile of dung.


The Defenestration of Prague in 1618 triggered The Thirty Years’ War. (The upper floor of the castle tower from which the victims fell was, in fact, seventy feet above the ground.)

“Thus in his naked style, though well attired, he went forth in the city”

~ by Anthony Hecht

Samuel Sewell, in a world of wigs,
Flouted opinion in his personal hair.
For foppery he gave not any figs,
But in his right and honor took the air.

Thus in his naked style, though well attired,
He went forth in the city, or paid court
To Madam Winthrop, whom he much admired,
Most godly, but yet liberal with the port.

And all the town admired for two full years
His excellent address, his gifts of fruit,
Her gracious ways and delicate white ears,
And held the course of nature absolute.

But yet she bade him suffer a peruke,
“That One be not distinguished from the All,”
Delivered of herself this stern rebuke
Framed in the resonant language of St. Paul.

“Madam,” he answered her, “I have a Friend
Furnishes me with hair out of His strength,
And He requires only I attend
Unto His charity and to its length.”

And all the town was witness to his trust.
On Monday he walked out with Widow Gibbs,
A pious lady of charm and notable bust,
Whose heart beat tolerably beneath her ribs.

On Saturday he wrote proposing marriage,
And closed, imploring that she not be cruel,
“Your favorable answer will oblige,
Madam, your humble servant, Samuel Sewell.”


For a primary source on Anthony Hecht’s poem, see The Diary Of Samuel Sewell, a record of the life of that wealthy English Puritan businessman and magistrate in Colonial Massachussets. In his diary Sewell describes trying to find love again, a second and a third time, in his maturer years.

He had been one of the assistant magistrates in the notorious Salem Witch Trials. He, years later, publicly recanted the court’s condemnation to death of the hysteria-afflicted “witches” and “warlocks.” Also, he had been an impassioned, principled slavery-abolition advocate all his life, at a time when slavery was still legal and entirely customary in the North as well as the South. He was one of the stout-hearted moralists of his time.