Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
 
Tales of a Wayside Inn
Part Second.
Interlude
 
“YES, well your story pleads the cause
Of those dumb mouths that have no speech,
Only a cry from each to each
In its own kind, with its own laws;
Something that is beyond the reach        5
Of human power to learn or teach,—
An inarticulate moan of pain,
Like the immeasurable main
Breaking upon an unknown beach.”
 
Thus spake the Poet with a sigh;        10
Then added, with impassioned cry,
As one who feels the words he speaks,
The color flushing in his cheeks,
The fervor burning in his eye:
“Among the noblest in the land,        15
Though he may count himself the least,
That man I honor and revere
Who without favor, without fear,
In the great city dares to stand
The friend of every friendless beast,        20
And tames with his unflinching hand
The brutes that wear our form and face,
The were-wolves of the human race!”
Then paused, and waited with a frown,
Like some old champion of romance,        25
Who, having thrown his gauntlet down,
Expectant leans upon his lance;
But neither Knight nor Squire is found
To raise the gauntlet from the ground,
And try with him the battle’s chance.        30
 
“Wake from your dreams, O Edrehi!
Or dreaming speak to us, and make
A feint of being half awake,
And tell us what your dreams may be.
Out of the hazy atmosphere        35
Of cloud-land deign to reappear
Among us in this Wayside Inn;
Tell us what visions and what scenes
Illuminate the dark ravines
In which you grope your way. Begin!”        40
 
Thus the Sicilian spake. The Jew
Made no reply, but only smiled,
As men unto a wayward child,
Not knowing what to answer, do.
As from a cavern’s mouth, o’ergrown        45
With moss and intertangled vines,
A streamlet leaps into the light
And murmurs over root and stone
In a melodious undertone;
Or as amid the noonday night        50
Of sombre and wind-haunted pines
There runs a sound as of the sea;
So from his bearded lips there came
A melody without a name,
A song, a tale, a history,        55
Or whatsoever it may be,
Writ and recorded in these lines.
 
 
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