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
The Lorelei
Rowland E. Egerton-Warburton (1804–1891)
 
WHERE the Rhine pursues its track
By the walls of Bacharach,
There a bright-eyed sorceress dwells,
Hearts bewitching with her spells.
 
By her magic charms perplext,        5
Bravest men are sorely vext,
Knight nor peasant rescue find
Whom her love-enchantments bind.
 
Her the bishop bade appear,
Judgment from the church to hear;        10
But could not her doom decree,
Of so fair a form was she!
 
Movingly to her he said,
“Lorelei, misguided maid!
What hath tempted thee to ply        15
Damnéd craft of sorcery?”
 
“Holy Bishop! let me die,
Weary of my life am I;
In my glance there lurketh death,
Whom I look on perisheth!        20
 
“Stars of flaming light these eyne!
Magic wand this arm of mine!
Bind me to the burning stake,
This my wand of magic break.”
 
“Thy sad sentence must be stayed        25
Till thou hast confession made;
Why, e’en now those flaming eyne
Burn into this heart of mine.
 
“Lorelei! this powerless hand
Dare not break thy magic wand,        30
Or, with pity for thy sake,
Truly my own heart would break.”
 
“Why those bitter words to me,
Sporting with my misery?
Bishop! more I need thy prayer        35
That God’s mercy I may share;
 
“Let me die, since naught can move
My sad heart again to love;
Let thy lips my doom decree:
Death no terror has for me!        40
 
“Me my lover has betrayed,
Left me a forsaken maid,
Wandering on some foreign shore,
To return again no more.
 
“Eyes by nature soft and bright,        45
Cheeks where blended hues unite,
Voice of sweet and sorrowing tone,
My enchantments,—these alone!
 
“Nor can I their influence fly.
Anguish-stricken, I must die;        50
When my features I survey,
Sorrow wastes my heart away.
 
“Ere I die thy blessing give,
That with Jesu I may live;
Why must I on earth abide,        55
Severed from my lover’s side?”
 
Three knights at his bidding wait:
“Bear her to the cloister straight.”
“Lorelei! God’s mercy still
Guard thy brain from further ill!        60
 
“Thou, in garb of nun bedight,
Robe of black, and veil of white,
There to prayer and penance given,
Win thy way from earth to heaven!”
 
Now the mounted knights, all three,        65
Ride forth to the nunnery;
Sadly on, with tearful eye,
In the midst rode Lorelei.
 
“Let me now, I pray thee, knight,
Stand upon yon rocky height,        70
Once again my sight would fall
On my lover’s castle wall;
 
“Once again my longing eyne
Look into the depth of Rhine:
Then, within the cloister gate,        75
I on God will ever wait.”
 
Where that rock from out the deep
Like a wall rose straight and steep,
Climbing up from stone to stone,
On the top she stood alone.        80
 
Said the maid, “A bark I spy,
On the Rhine-stream floating by;
He whom I, returning, see
Must, I trow, my lover be!
 
“Now, my heart is light and free,        85
My lost lover, it is he!”
From the mountain’s rocky bank
Plunging, in the Rhine she sank!
 
 
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