Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
 
Christus: A Mystery
Part II. The Golden Legend.
I. II. Court-Yard of the Castle
 
HUBERT standing by the gateway.

HUBERT.
HOW sad the grand old castle looks!
O’erhead, the unmolested rooks
Upon the turret’s windy top
Sit, talking of the farmer’s crop;
Here in the court-yard springs the grass,        5
So few are now the feet that pass;
The stately peacocks, bolder grown,
Come hopping down the steps of stone,
As if the castle were their own;
And I, the poor old seneschal,        10
Haunt, like a ghost, the banquet-hall.
Alas! the merry guests no more
Crowd through the hospitable door;
No eyes with youth and passion shine,
No cheeks glow redder than the wine;        15
No song, no laugh, no jovial din
Of drinking wassail to the pin;
But all is silent, sad, and drear,
And now the only sounds I hear
Are the hoarse rooks upon the walls,        20
And horses stamping in their stalls!
A horn sounds.
What ho! that merry, sudden blast
Reminds me of the days long past!
And, as of old resounding, grate
The heavy hinges of the gate,        25
And, clattering loud, with iron clank,
Down goes the sounding bridge of plank,
As if it were in haste to greet
The pressure of a traveller’s feet!
 
Enter WALTER the Minnesinger.

WALTER.
How now, my friend! This looks quite lonely!
        30
No banner flying from the walls,
No pages and no seneschals,
No warders, and one porter only!
Is it you, Hubert?

HUBERT.
                    Ah! Master Walter!
 
WALTER.
Alas! how forms and faces alter!
        35
I did not know you. You look older!
Your hair has grown much grayer and thinner,
And you stoop a little in the shoulder!
 
HUBERT.
Alack! I am a poor old sinner,
And, like these towers, begin to moulder;        40
And you have been absent many a year!
 
WALTER.
How is the Prince?

HUBERT.
                        He is not here;
He has been ill: and now has fled.
 
WALTER.
Speak it out frankly: say he ’s dead!
Is it not so?

HUBERT.
                No; if you please,
        45
A strange, mysterious disease
Fell on him with a sudden blight.
Whole hours together he would stand
Upon the terrace, in a dream,
Resting his head upon his hand,        50
Best pleased when he was most alone,
Like Saint John Nepomuck in stone,
Looking down into a stream.
In the Round Tower, night after night,
He sat and bleared his eyes with books;        55
Until one morning we found him there
Stretched on the floor, as if in a swoon
He had fallen from his chair.
We hardly recognized his sweet looks!
 
WALTER.
Poor Prince!

HUBERT.
            I think he might have mended;
        60
And he did mend; but very soon
The priests came flocking in, like rooks,
With all their crosiers and their crooks,
And so at last the matter ended.
 
WALTER.
How did it end?

HUBERT.
                Why, in Saint Rochus
        65
They made him stand, and wait his doom;
And, as if he were condemned to the tomb,
Began to mutter their hocus-pocus.
First, the Mass for the Dead they chanted,
Then three times laid upon his head        70
A shovelful of churchyard clay,
Saying to him, as he stood undaunted,
“This is a sign that thou art dead,
So in thy heart be penitent!”
And forth from the chapel door he went        75
Into disgrace and banishment,
Clothed in a cloak of hodden gray,
And bearing a wallet, and a bell,
Whose sound should be a perpetual knell
To keep all travellers away.        80
 
WALTER.
Oh, horrible fate! Outcast, rejected,
As one with pestilence infected!
 
HUBERT.
Then was the family tomb unsealed,
And broken helmet, sword, and shield,
Buried together, in common wreck,        85
As is the custom, when the last
Of any princely house has passed,
And thrice, as with a trumpet-blast,
A herald shouted down the stair
The words of warning and despair,—        90
“O Hoheneck! O Hoheneck!”
 
WALTER.
Still in my soul that cry goes on,—
Forever gone! forever gone!
Ah, what a cruel sense of loss,
Like a black shadow, would fall across        95
The hearts of all, if he should die!
His gracious presence upon earth
Was as a fire upon a hearth;
As pleasant songs, at morning sung,
The words that dropped from his sweet tongue        100
Strengthened our hearts; or heard at night,
Made all our slumbers soft and light.
Where is he?

HUBERT.
                In the Odenwald.
Some of his tenants, unappalled
By fear of death, or priestly word,—        105
A holy family, that make
Each meal a Supper of the Lord,—
Have him beneath their watch and ward,
For love of him, and Jesus’ sake!
Pray you come in. For why should I        110
With out-door hospitality
My prince’s friend thus entertain?
 
WALTER.
I would a moment here remain.
But you, good Hubert, go before,
Fill me a goblet of May-drink,        115
As aromatic as the May
From which it steals the breath away,
And which he loved so well of yore;
It is of him that I would think.
You shall attend me, when I call,        120
In the ancestral banquet-hall.
Unseen companions, guests of air,
You cannot wait on, will be there;
They taste not food, they drink not wine,
But their soft eyes look into mine,        125
And their lips speak to me, and all
The vast and shadowy banquet-hall
Is full of looks and words divine!
Leaning over the parapet.
The day is done; and slowly from the scene
The stooping sun up-gathers his spent shafts,        130
And puts them back into his golden quiver!
Below me in the valley, deep and green
As goblets are, from which in thirsty draughts
We drink its wine, the swift and mantling river
Flows on triumphant through these lovely regions,        135
Etched with the shadows of its sombre margent,
And soft, reflected clouds of gold and argent!
Yes, there it flows, forever, broad and still
As when the vanguard of the Roman legions
First saw it from the top of yonder hill!        140
How beautiful it is! Fresh fields of wheat,
Vineyard, and town, and tower with fluttering flag,
The consecrated chapel on the crag,
And the white hamlet gathered round its base,
Like Mary sitting at her Saviour’s feet,        145
And looking up at his beloved face!
O friend! O best of friends! Thy absence more
Than the impending night darkens the landscape o’er!
 
 
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