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.
 
Heidelberg
The Kaiser’s Feast
Felicia Hemans (1793–1835)
 
          Louis, Emperor of Germany, having put his brother, the Palsgrave Rodolphus, under the ban of the empire (in the twelfth century), that unfortunate prince fled to England, where he died in neglect and poverty. “After his decease, his mother, Matilda, privately invited his children to return to Germany; and by her mediation, during a season of festivity, when Louis kept wassail in the Castle of Heidelberg, the family of his brother presented themselves before him in the garb of suppliants, imploring pity and forgiveness. To this appeal the victor softened.”—Miss Benger’s Memoirs of the Queen of Bohemia.

THE KAISER feasted in his hall,
  The red wine mantled high;
Banners were trembling on the wall,
  To the peals of minstrelsy:
And many a gleam and sparkle came        5
  From the armor hung around,
As it caught the glance of the torch’s flame,
  Or the hearth with pine boughs crowned.
 
Why fell there silence on the chord
  Beneath the harper’s hand?        10
And suddenly, from that rich board,
  Why rose the wassail-band?
The strings were hushed,—the knights made way
  For the queenly mother’s tread,
As up the hall, in dark array,        15
  Two fair-haired boys she led.
 
She led them e’en to the Kaiser’s place,
  And still before him stood;
Till, with strange wonder o’er his face
  Flushed the proud warrior-blood:        20
And “Speak, my mother! speak!” he cried,
  “Wherefore this mourning vest?
And the clinging children by thy side,
  In weeds of sadness drest?”
 
“Well may a mourning vest be mine,        25
  And theirs, my son, my son!
Look on the features of thy line
  In each fair little one!
Though grief awhile within their eyes
  Hath tamed the dancing glee,        30
Yet there thine own quick spirit lies,—
  Thy brother’s children see!
 
“And where is he, thy brother, where?
  He, in thy home that grew,
And smiling, with his sunny hair,        35
  Ever to greet thee flew?
How would his arms thy neck entwine,
  His fond lips press thy brow!
My son! O, call these orphans thine,—
  Thou hast no brother now!        40
 
“What! from their gentle eyes doth naught
  Speak of thy childhood’s hours,
And smite thee with a tender thought
  Of thy dead father’s towers?
Kind was thy boyish heart and true,        45
  When reared together there,
Through the old woods like fawns ye flew,—
  Where is thy brother—where?
 
“Well didst thou love him then, and he
  Still at thy side was seen!        50
How is it that such things can be
  As though they ne’er had been?
Evil was this world’s breath, which came
  Between the good and brave!
Now must the tears of grief and shame        55
  Be offered to the grave.
 
“And let them, let them there be poured!
  Though all unfelt below,
Thine own wrung heart, to love restored,
  Shall soften as they flow.        60
O, death is mighty to make peace;
  Now bid his work be done!
So many an inward strife shall cease,—
  Take, take those babes, my son!”
 
His eye was dimmed,—the strong man shook        65
  With feelings long suppressed;
Up in his arms the boys he took,
  And strained them to his breast.
And a shout from all in the royal hall
  Burst forth to hail the sight;        70
And eyes were wet, midst the brave that met
  At the Kaiser’s feast that night.
 
 
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