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.
V. IV. At the Foot of the Alps
 
A halt under the trees at noon.

PRINCE HENRY.
HERE let us pause a moment in the trembling
Shadow and sunshine of the roadside trees,
And, our tired horses in a group assembling,
Inhale long draughts of this delicious breeze.
Our fleeter steeds have distanced our attendants;        5
They lag behind us with a slower pace;
We will await them under the green pendants
Of the great willows in this shady place.
Ho, Barbarossa! how thy mottled haunches
Sweat with this canter over hill and glade!        10
Stand still, and let these overhanging branches
Fan thy hot sides and comfort thee with shade!
 
ELSIE.
What a delightful landscape spreads before us,
Marked with a whitewashed cottage here and there!
And, in luxuriant garlands drooping o’er us,        15
Blossoms of grape-vines scent the sunny air.
 
PRINCE HENRY.
Hark! what sweet sounds are those, whose accents holy
Fill the warm noon with music sad and sweet!
 
ELSIE.
It is a band of pilgrims, moving slowly
On their long journey, with uncovered feet.        20
 
PILGRIMS, chanting the Hymn of St. Hildebert.
        Me receptet Sion illa,
        Sion David, urbs tranquilla,
        Cujus faber auctor lucis,
        Cujus portæ lignum crucis,
        Cujus claves lingua Petri,        25
        Cujus cives semper læti,
        Cujus muri lapis vivus,
        Cujus custos Rex festivus!
 
LUCIFER, as a Friar in the procession.
Here am I, too, in the pious band,
In the garb of a barefooted Carmelite dressed!        30
The soles of my feet are as hard and tanned
As the conscience of old Pope Hildebrand,
The Holy Satan, who made the wives
Of the bishops lead such shameful lives.
All day long I beat my breast,        35
And chant with a most particular zest
The Latin hymns, which I understand
Quite as well, I think, as the rest.
And at night such lodging in barns and sheds,
Such a hurly-burly in country inns,        40
Such a clatter of tongues in empty heads,
Such a helter-skelter of prayers and sins!
Of all the contrivances of the time
For sowing broadcast the seeds of crime,
There is none so pleasing to me and mine        45
As a pilgrimage to some far-off shrine!
 
PRINCE HENRY.
If from the outward man we judge the inner,
And cleanliness is godliness, I fear
A hopeless reprobate, a hardened sinner,
Must be that Carmelite now passing near.        50
 
LUCIFER.
There is my German Prince again,
Thus far on his journey to Salern,
And the lovesick girl, whose heated brain
Is sowing the cloud to reap the rain;
But it ’s a long road that has no turn!        55
Let them quietly hold their way,
I have also a part in the play.
But first I must act to my heart’s content
This mummery and this merriment,
And drive this motley flock of sheep        60
Into the fold, where drink and sleep
The jolly old friars of Benevent.
Of a truth, it often provokes me to laugh
To see these beggars hobble along,
Lamed and maimed, and fed upon chaff,        65
Chanting their wonderful piff and paff,
And, to make up for not understanding the song,
Singing it fiercely, and wild, and strong!
Were it not for my magic garters and staff,
And the goblets of goodly wine I quaff,        70
And the mischief I make in the idle throng,
I should not continue the business long.
 
PILGRIMS, chanting.
        In hâc urbe, lux solennis,
        Ver æternum, pax perennis;
        In hâc odor implens cælos,        75
        In hâc semper festum melos!
 
PRINCE HENRY.
Do you observe that monk among the train,
Who pours from his great throat the roaring bass,
As a cathedral spout pours out the rain,
And this way turns his rubicund, round face?        80
 
ELSIE.
It is the same who, on the Strasburg square,
Preached to the people in the open air.
 
PRINCE HENRY.
And he has crossed o’er mountain, field, and fell,
On that good steed, that seems to bear him well,
The hackney of the Friars of Orders Gray,        85
His own stout legs! He, too, was in the play,
Both as King Herod and Ben Israel.
Good morrow, Friar!

FRIAR CUTHBERT.
                    Good morrow, noble Sir!
 
PRINCE HENRY.
I speak in German, for, unless I err,
You are a German.

FRIAR CUTHBERT.
                        I cannot gainsay you.
        90
But by what instinct, or what secret sign,
Meeting me here, do you straightway divine
That northward of the Alps my country lies?
 
PRINCE HENRY.
Your accent, like St. Peter’s, would betray you,
Did not your yellow beard and your blue eyes.        95
Moreover, we have seen your face before,
And heard you preach at the Cathedral door
On Easter Sunday, in the Strasburg square.
We were among the crowd that gathered there,
And saw you play the Rabbi with great skill,        100
As if, by leaning o’er so many years
To walk with little children, your own will
Had caught a childish attitude from theirs,
A kind of stooping in its form and gait,
And could no longer stand erect and straight.        105
Whence come you now?

FRIAR CUTHBERT.
                    From the old monastery
Of Hirschau, in the forest; being sent
Upon a pilgrimage to Benevent,
To see the image of the Virgin Mary,
That moves its holy eyes, and sometimes speaks,        110
And lets the piteous tears run down its cheeks,
To touch the hearts of the impenitent.
 
PRINCE HENRY.
Oh, had I faith, as in the days gone by,
That knew no doubt, and feared no mystery!
 
LUCIFER, at a distance.
Ho, Cuthbert! Friar Cuthbert!

FRIAR CUTHBERT.
                        Farewell, Prince!
        115
I cannot stay to argue and convince.
 
PRINCE HENRY.
This is indeed the blessed Mary’s land,
Virgin and Mother of our dear Redeemer!
All hearts are touched and softened at her name,
Alike the bandit, with the bloody hand,        120
The priest, the prince, the scholar, and the peasant,
The man of deeds, the visionary dreamer,
Pay homage to her as one ever present!
And even as children, who have much offended
A too indulgent father, in great shame,        125
Penitent, and yet not daring unattended
To go into his presence, at the gate
Speak with their sister, and confiding wait
Till she goes in before and intercedes;
So men, repenting of their evil deeds,        130
And yet not venturing rashly to draw near
With their requests an angry father’s ear,
Offer to her their prayers and their confession,
And she for them in heaven makes intercession.
And if our Faith had given us nothing more        135
Than this example of all womanhood,
So mild, so merciful, so strong, so good,
So patient, peaceful, loyal, loving, pure,
This were enough to prove it higher and truer
Than all the creeds the world had known before.        140
 
PILGRIMS, chanting afar off.
        Urbs cœlestis, urbs beata,
        Supra petram collocata,
        Urbs in portu satis tuto
        De longinquo te saluto,
        Te saluto, te suspiro,        145
        Te affecto, te requiro!
 
 
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