Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Germany
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII.  1876–79.
 
Rhine, the River
Wines of the Rhine
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)
 
(From The Golden Legend)

FRIAR CLAUS in the Convent cellar.

I HAVE heard it said that at Easter-tide,
When buds are swelling on every side,
And the sap begins to move in the vine,
Then in all the cellars, far and wide,
The oldest, as well as the newest, wine        5
Begins to stir itself, and ferment,
With a kind of revolt and discontent
At being so long in darkness pent,
And fain would burst from its sombre tun
To bask on the hillside in the sun;        10
As in the bosom of us poor friars,
The tumult of half-subdued desires
For the world that we have left behind
Disturbs at times all peace of mind!
And now that we have lived through Lent,        15
My duty it is, as often before,
To open awhile the prison-door,
And give these restless spirits vent.
 
Now here is a cask that stands alone,
And has stood a hundred years or more,        20
Its beard of cobwebs, long and hoar,
Trailing and sweeping along the floor,
Like Barbarossa, who sits in his cave,
Taciturn, sombre, sedate, and grave,
Till his beard has grown through the table of stone!        25
 
It is of the quick and not of the dead!
In its veins the blood is hot and red,
And a heart still beats in those ribs of oak
That time may have tamed, but has not broke!
It comes from Bacharach on the Rhine,        30
Is one of the three best kinds of wine,
And costs some hundred florins the ohm;
But that I do not consider dear,
When I remember that every year
Four butts are sent to the Pope of Rome.        35
And whenever a goblet thereof I drain,
The old rhyme keeps running in my brain:
      At Bacharach on the Rhine,
      At Hochheim on the Main,
      And at Würzburg on the Stein,        40
      Grow the three best kinds of wine!
 
They are all good wines, and better far
Than those of the Neckar or those of the Ahr.
In particular, Würzburg well may boast
Of its blessed wine of the Holy Ghost,        45
Which of all wines I like the most.
This I shall draw for the Abbot’s drinking,
Who seems to be much of my way of thinking.
 
Fills a flagon.
Ah! how the streamlet laughs and sings!
What a delicious fragrance springs        50
From the deep flagon, while it fills,
As of hyacinths and daffodils!
Between this cask and the Abbot’s lips
Many have been the sips and slips;
Many have been the draughts of wine,        55
On their way to his, that have stopped at mine;
And many a time my soul has hankered
For a deep draught out of his silver tankard,
When it should have been busy with other affairs,
Less with its longings and more with its prayers.        60
But now there is no such awkward condition,
No danger of death and eternal perdition;
So here ’s to the Abbot and Brothers all,
Who dwell in this convent of Peter and Paul!
 
He drinks.
O cordial delicious! O soother of pain!
        65
It flashes like sunshine into my brain!
A benison rest on the Bishop who sends
Such a fudder of wine as this to his friends!
 
And now a flagon for such as may ask
A draught from the noble Bacharach cask,        70
And I will be gone, though I know full well
The cellar ’s a cheerfuller place than the cell.
Behold where he stands, all sound and good,
Brown and old in his oaken hood;
Silent he seems externally        75
As any Carthusian monk may be;
But within, what a spirit of deep unrest!
What a seething and simmering in his breast!
As if the heaving of his great heart
Would burst his belt of oak apart!        80
Let me unloose this button of wood,
And quiet a little his turbulent mood.
 
Sets it running.
See! how its currents gleam and shine,
As if they had caught the purple hues
Of autumn sunsets on the Rhine,        85
Descending and mingling with the dews;
Or as if the grapes were stained with the blood
Of the innocent boy, who, some years back,
Was taken and crucified by the Jews,
In that ancient town of Bacharach;        90
Perdition upon those infidel Jews,
In that ancient town of Bacharach!
The beautiful town, that gives us wine
With the fragrant odor of Muscadine!
I should deem it wrong to let this pass        95
Without first touching my lips to the glass,
For here in the midst of the current I stand,
Like the stone Pfalz in the midst of the river,
Taking toll upon either hand,
And much more grateful to the giver.        100
 
He drinks.
Here, now, is a very inferior kind,
Such as in any town you may find,
Such as one might imagine would suit
The rascal who drank wine out of a boot.
And, after all, it was not a crime,        105
For he won thereby Dorf Hüffelsheim.
A jolly old toper! who at a pull
Could drink a postilion’s jack-boot full,
And ask with a laugh, when that was done,
If the fellow had left the other one!        110
This wine is as good as we can afford
To the friars, who sit at the lower board,
And cannot distinguish bad from good,
And are far better off than if they could,
Being rather the rude disciples of beer        115
Than of anything more refined and dear!
 
 
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