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.
III. I. A Street in Strasburg
 
Night. PRINCE HENRY wandering alone, wrapped in a cloak.

PRINCE HENRY.
STILL is the night. The sound of feet
Has died away from the empty street,
And like an artisan, bending down
His head on his anvil, the dark town
Sleeps, with a slumber deep and sweet.        5
Sleepless and restless, I alone,
In the dusk and damp of these walls of stone,
Wander and weep in my remorse!
 
CRIER OF THE DEAD, ringing a bell.
            Wake! wake!
            All ye that sleep!        10
            Pray for the Dead!
            Pray for the Dead!
 
PRINCE HENRY.
Hark! with what accents loud and hoarse
This warder on the walls of death
Sends forth the challenge of his breath!        15
I see the dead that sleep in the grave!
They rise up and their garments wave,
Dimly and spectral, as they rise,
With the light of another world in their eyes!
 
CRIER OF THE DEAD.
            Wake! wake!
        20
            All ye that sleep!
            Pray for the Dead!
            Pray for the Dead!
 
PRINCE HENRY.
Why for the dead, who are at rest?
Pray for the living, in whose breast        25
The struggle between right and wrong
Is raging terrible and strong,
As when good angels war with devils!
This is the Master of the Revels,
Who, at Life’s flowing feast, proposes        30
The health of absent friends, and pledges,
Not in bright goblets crowned with roses,
And tinkling as we touch their edges,
But with his dismal, tinkling bell,
That mocks and mimics their funeral knell!        35
 
CRIER OF THE DEAD.
            Wake! wake!
            All ye that sleep!
            Pray for the Dead!
            Pray for the Dead!
 
PRINCE HENRY.
Wake not, beloved! be thy sleep
        40
Silent as night is, and as deep!
There walks a sentinel at thy gate
Whose heart is heavy and desolate,
And the heavings of whose bosom number
The respirations of thy slumber,        45
As if some strange, mysterious fate
Had linked two hearts in one, and mine
Went madly wheeling about thine,
Only with wider and wilder sweep!
 
CRIER OF THE DEAD, at a distance.
            Wake! wake!
        50
            All ye that sleep!
            Pray for the Dead!
            Pray for the Dead!
 
PRINCE HENRY.
Lo! with what depth of blackness thrown
Against the clouds, far up the skies        55
The walls of the cathedral rise,
Like a mysterious grove of stone,
With fitful lights and shadows blending,
As from behind, the moon, ascending,
Lights its dim aisles and paths unknown!        60
The wind is rising; but the boughs
Rise not and fall not with the wind,
That through their foliage sobs and soughs;
Only the cloudy rack behind,
Drifting onward, wild and ragged,        65
Gives to each spire and buttress jagged
A seeming motion undefined.
Below on the square, an armàd knight,
Still as a statue and as white,
Sits on his steed, and the moonbeams quiver        70
Upon the points of his armor bright
As on the ripples of a river.
He lifts the visor from his cheek,
And beckons, and makes as he would speak.
 
WALTER the Minnesinger.
Friend! can you tell me where alight
        75
Thuringia’s horsemen for the night?
For I have lingered in the rear,
And wander vainly up and down.
 
PRINCE HENRY.
I am a stranger in the town,
As thou art; but the voice I hear        80
Is not a stranger to mine ear.
Thou art Walter of the Vogelweid!
 
WALTER.
Thou hast guessed rightly; and thy name
Is Henry of Hoheneck!

PRINCE HENRY.
                        Ay, the same.
 
WALTER, embracing him.
Come closer, closer to my side!
        85
What brings thee hither? What potent charm
Has drawn thee from thy German farm
Into the old Alsatian city?
 
PRINCE HENRY.
A tale of wonder and of pity!
A wretched man, almost by stealth        90
Dragging my body to Salern,
In the vain hope and search for health,
And destined never to return.
Already thou hast heard the rest.
But what brings thee, thus armed and dight        95
In the equipments of a knight?
 
WALTER.
Dost thou not see upon my breast
The cross of the Crusaders shine?
My pathway leads to Palestine.
 
PRINCE HENRY.
Ah, would that way were also mine!
        100
O noble poet! thou whose heart
Is like a nest of singing-birds
Rocked on the topmost bough of life,
Wilt thou, too, from our sky depart,
And in the clangor of the strife        105
Mingle the music of thy words?
 
WALTER.
My hopes are high, my heart is proud,
And like a trumpet long and loud,
Thither my thoughts all clang and ring!
My life is in my hand, and lo!        110
I grasp and bend it as a bow,
And shoot forth from its trembling string
An arrow, that shall be, perchance,
Like the arrow of the Israelite king
Shot from the window toward the east,        115
That of the Lord’s deliverance!
 
PRINCE HENRY.
My life, alas! is what thou seest!
O enviable fate! to be
Strong, beautiful, and armed like thee
With lyre and sword, with song and steel;        120
A hand to smite, a heart to feel!
Thy heart, thy hand, thy lyre, thy sword,
Thou givest all unto thy Lord;
While I, so mean and abject grown,
Am thinking of myself alone.        125
 
WALTER.
Be patient: Time will reinstate
Thy health and fortunes.

PRINCE HENRY.
                        ’T is too late!
I cannot strive against my fate!
 
WALTER.
Come with me; for my steed is weary;
Our journey has been long and dreary,        130
And, dreaming of his stall, he dints
With his impatient hoofs the flints.
 
PRINCE HENRY, aside.
I am ashamed, in my disgrace,
To look into that noble face!
To-morrow, Walter, let it be.        135
 
WALTER.
To-morrow, at the dawn of day,
I shall again be on my way.
Come with me to the hostelry,
For I have many things to say.
Our journey into Italy        140
Perchance together we may make;
Wilt thou not do it for my sake?
 
PRINCE HENRY.
A sick man’s pace would but impede
Thine eager and impatient speed.
Besides, my pathway leads me round        145
To Hirschau, in the forest ’s bound,
Where I assemble man and steed,
And all things for my journey’s need.
They go out.
 
LUCIFER, flying over the city.
Sleep, sleep, O city! till the light
Wake you to sin and crime again,        150
Whilst on your dreams, like dismal rain,
I scatter downward through the night
My maledictions dark and deep.
I have more martyrs in your walls
Than God has; and they cannot sleep;        155
They are my bondsmen and my thralls;
Their wretched lives are full of pain,
Wild agonies of nerve and brain;
And every heart-beat, every breath,
Is a convulsion worse than death!        160
Sleep, sleep, O city! though within
The circuit of your walls there be
No habitation free from sin,
And all its nameless misery;
The aching heart, the aching head,        165
Grief for the living and the dead,
And foul corruption of the time,
Disease, distress, and want, and woe,
And crimes, and passions that may grow
Until they ripen into crime!        170
 
 
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