HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
THE GOLDEN LEGEND
THE SPIRE OF STRASBURG CATHEDRAL.
Night and storm. LUCIFER, with the Powers of the Air, trying to tear down the Cross.
Lucifer. HASTEN! hasten! O ye spirits! From its station drag the ponderous Cross of iron, that to mock us Is uplifted high in air!
Voices. O, we cannot! For around it All the Saints and Guardian Angels Throng in legions to protect it; They defeat us everywhere!
The Bells. Laudo Deum verum Plebem voco! Congrego clerum!
Lucifer. Lower! lower! Hover downward! Seize the loud, vociferous bells, and Clashing, clanging, to the pavement Hurl them from their windy tower!
Voices. All thy thunders Here are harmless! For these bells have been anointed, And baptized with holy water! They defy our utmost power.
The Bells. Defunctos ploro! Pestem fugo! Festa decoro!
Lucifer. Shake the casements! Break the painted Panes that flame with gold and crimson! Scatter them like leaves of Autumn, Swept away before the blast!
Voices. O, we cannot! The Archangel Michael flames from every window, With the sword of fire that drove us Headlong, out of heaven, aghast!
The Bells. Funera plango! Fulgora frango! Sabbata pango!
Lucifer. Aim your lightnings At the oaken, Massive, iron-studded portals! Sack the house of God, and scatter Wide the ashes of the dead!
Voices. O, we cannot! The Apostles And the Martyrs, wrapped in mantles, Stand as wardens at the entrance, Stand as sentinels o'erhead!
The Bells. Excito lentos! Dissipo ventos! Paco cruentos!
Lucifer. Baffled! baffled! Inefficient, Craven spirits! leave this labor Unto Time, the great Destroyer! Come away, ere night is gone!
Voices. Onward! onward! With the night-wind, Over field and farm and forest, Lonely homestead, darksome hamlet, Blighting all we breathe upon!
(They sweep away. Organ and Gregorian Chant.)
Choir. Nocte surgentes Vig lemus omnes!
* * * * *
THE CASTLE OF VAUTSBERG ON THE RHINE.
* * * * *
A chamber in a tower. PRINCE HENRY, sitting alone, ill and restless.
Prince Henry. I cannot sleep! my fervid brain Calls up the vanished Past again, And throws its misty splendors deep Into the pallid realms of sleep! A breath from that far-distant shore Comes freshening ever more and more, And wafts o'er intervening seas Sweet odors from the Hesperides! A wind, that through the corridor Just stirs the curtain, and no more, And, touching the aeolian strings, Faints with the burden that it brings! Come back! ye friendships long departed! That like o'erflowing streamlets started, And now are dwindled, one by one, To stony channels in the sun! Come back! ye friends, whose lives are ended! Come back, with all that light attended, Which seemed to darken and decay When ye arose and went away! They come, the shapes of joy and woe, The airy crowds of long-ago, The dreams and fancies known of yore, That have been, and shall be no more. They change the cloisters of the night Into a garden of delight; They make the dark and dreary hours Open and blossom into flowers! I would not sleep! I love to be Again in their fair company; But ere my lips can bid them stay, They pass and vanish quite away!
Alas! our memories may retrace Each circumstance of time and place, Season and scene come back again, And outward things unchanged remain; The rest we cannot reinstate; Ourselves we cannot re-create, Nor set our souls to the same key Of the remembered harmony!
Rest! rest! O, give me rest and peace! The thought of life that ne'er shall cease Has something in it like despair, A weight I am too weak to bear! Sweeter to this afflicted breast The thought of never-ending rest! Sweeter the undisturbed and deep Tranquillity of endless sleep!
(A flash of lightning, out of which LUCIFER appears, in the garb of a travelling Physician.)
Lucifer. All hail Prince Henry!
Prince Henry (starting). Who is it speaks? Who and what are you?
Lucifer. One who seeks A moment's audience with the Prince.
Prince Henry. When came you in?
Lucifer. A moment since. I found your study door unlocked, And thought you answered when I knocked.
Prince Henry. I did not hear you.
Lucifer. You heard the thunder; It was loud enough to waken the dead. And it is not a matter of special wonder That, when God is walking overhead, You should not have heard my feeble tread.
Prince Henry. What may your wish or purpose be?
Lucifer. Nothing or everything, as it pleases Your Highness. You behold in me Only a traveling Physician; One of the few who have a mission To cure incurable diseases, Or those that are called so.
Prince Henry. Can you bring The dead to life?
Lucifer. Yes; very nearly. And, what is a wiser and better thing, Can keep the living from ever needing Such an unnatural, strange proceeding, By showing conclusively and clearly That death is a stupid blunder merely, And not a necessity of our lives. My being here is accidental; The storm, that against your casement drives, In the little village below waylaid me. And there I heard, with a secret delight, Of your maladies physical and mental, Which neither astonished nor dismayed me. And I hastened hither, though late in the night, To proffer my aid!
Prince Henry (ironically) For this you came! Ah, how can I ever hope to requite This honor from one so erudite?
Lucifer. The honor is mine, or will be when I have cured your disease.
Prince Henry. But not till then.
Lucifer. What is your illness?
Prince Henry. It has no name. A smouldering, dull, perpetual flame, As in a kiln, burns in my veins, Sending up vapors to the head, My heart has become a dull lagoon, Which a kind of leprosy drinks and drains; I am accounted as one who is dead, And, indeed, I think that I shall be soon.
Lucifer And has Gordonius the Divine, In his famous Lily of Medicine,— I see the book lies open before you,— No remedy potent enough to restore you?
Prince Henry. None whatever!
Lucifer The dead are dead, And their oracles dumb, when questioned Of the new diseases that human life Evolves in its progress, rank and rife. Consult the dead upon things that were, But the living only on things that are. Have you done this, by the appliance And aid of doctors?
Prince Henry. Ay, whole schools Of doctors, with their learned rules, But the case is quite beyond their science. Even the doctors of Salern Send me back word they can discern No cure for a malady like this, Save one which in its nature is Impossible, and cannot be!
Lucifer That sounds oracular!
Prince Henry Unendurable!
Lucifer What is their remedy?
Prince Henry You shall see; Writ in this scroll is the mystery.
Lucifer (reading). "Not to be cured, yet not incurable! The only remedy that remains Is the blood that flows from a maiden's veins, Who of her own free will shall die, And give her life as the price of yours!" That is the strangest of all cures, And one, I think, you will never try; The prescription you may well put by, As something impossible to find Before the world itself shall end! And yet who knows? One cannot say That into some maiden's brain that kind Of madness will not find its way. Meanwhile permit me to recommend, As the matter admits of no delay, My wonderful Catholicon, Of very subtile and magical powers!
Prince Henry. Purge with your nostrums and drugs infernal The spouts and gargoyles of these towers, Not me! My faith is utterly gone In every power but the Power Supernal! Pray tell me, of what school are you?
Lucifer. Both of the Old and of the New! The school of Hermes Trismegistus, Who uttered his oracles sublime Before the Olympiads, in the dew Of the early dawn and dusk of Time, The reign of dateless old Hephaestus! As northward, from its Nubian springs, The Nile, forever new and old, Among the living and the dead, Its mighty, mystic stream has rolled; So, starting from its fountain-head Under the lotus-leaves of Isis, From the dead demigods of eld, Through long, unbroken lines of kings Its course the sacred art has held, Unchecked, unchanged by man's devices. This art the Arabian Geber taught, And in alembics, finely wrought, Distilling herbs and flowers, discovered The secret that so long had hovered Upon the misty verge of Truth, The Elixir of Perpetual Youth, Called Alcohol, in the Arab speech! Like him, this wondrous lore I teach!
Prince Henry. What! an adept?
Lucifer. Nor less, nor more!
Prince Henry. I am a reader of such books, A lover of that mystic lore! With such a piercing glance it looks Into great Nature's open eye, And sees within it trembling lie The portrait of the Deity! And yet, alas! with all my pains, The secret and the mystery Have baffled and eluded me, Unseen the grand result remains!
Lucifer (showing a flask). Behold it here! this little flask Contains the wonderful quintessence, The perfect flower and efflorescence, Of all the knowledge man can ask! Hold it up thus against the light!
Prince Henry. How limpid, pure, and crystalline, How quick, and tremulous, and bright The little wavelets dance and shine, As were it the Water of Life in sooth!
Lucifer. It is! It assuages every pain, Cures all disease, and gives again To age the swift delights of youth. Inhale its fragrance.
Prince Henry. It is sweet. A thousand different odors meet And mingle in its rare perfume, Such as the winds of summer waft At open windows through a room!
Lucifer. Will you not taste it?
Prince Henry. Will one draught Suffice?
Lucifer. If not, you can drink more.
Prince Henry. Into this crystal goblet pour So much as safely I may drink.
Lucifer (pouring). Let not the quantity alarm you: You may drink all; it will not harm you.
Prince Henry. I am as one who on the brink Of a dark river stands and sees The waters flow, the landscape dim Around him waver, wheel, and swim, And, ere he plunges, stops to think Into what whirlpools he may sink; One moment pauses, and no more, Then madly plunges from the shore! Headlong into the dark mysteries Of life and death I boldly leap, Nor fear the fateful current's sweep, Nor what in ambush lurks below! For death is better than disease!
(An ANGEL with an aeolian harp hovers in the air.)
Angel. Woe! woe! eternal woe! Not only the whispered prayer Of love, But the imprecations of hate, Reverberate Forever and ever through the air Above! This fearful curse Shakes the great universe!
Lucifer (disappearing). Drink! drink! And thy soul shall sink Down into the dark abyss, Into the infinite abyss, From which no plummet nor rope Ever drew up the silver sand of hope!
Prince Henry (drinking). It is like a draught of fire! Through every vein I feel again The fever of youth, the soft desire; A rapture that is almost pain Throbs in my heart and fills my brain! O joy! O joy! I feel The band of steel That so long and heavily has pressed Upon my breast Uplifted, and the malediction Of my affliction Is taken from me, and my weary breast At length finds rest.
The Angel. It is but the rest of the fire, from which the air has been taken! It is but the rest of the sand, when the hour-glass is not shaken! It is but the rest of the tide between the ebb and the flow! It is but the rest of the wind between the flaws that blow! With fiendish laughter, Hereafter, This false physician Will mock thee in thy perdition.
Prince Henry. Speak! speak! Who says that I am ill? I am not ill! I am not weak! The trance, the swoon, the dream, is o'er! I feel the chill of death no more! At length, I stand renewed in all my strength! Beneath me I can feel The great earth stagger and reel, As it the feet of a descending God Upon its surface trod, And like a pebble it rolled beneath his heel! This, O brave physician! this Is thy great Palingenesis!
The Angel. Touch the goblet no more! It will make thy heart sore To its very core! Its perfume is the breath Of the Angel of Death, And the light that within it lies Is the flash of his evil eyes. Beware! O, beware! For sickness, sorrow, and care All are there!
Prince Henry (sinking back). O thou voice within my breast! Why entreat me, why upbraid me, When the steadfast tongues of truth And the flattering hopes of youth Have all deceived me and betrayed me? Give me, give me rest, O, rest! Golden visions wave and hover, Golden vapors, waters streaming, Landscapes moving, changing, gleaming! I am like a happy lover Who illumines life with dreaming! Brave physician! Rare physician! Well hast thou fulfilled thy mission!
(His head falls On his book.)
The Angel (receding). Alas! alas! Like a vapor the golden vision Shall fade and pass, And thou wilt find in thy heart again Only the blight of pain, And bitter, bitter, bitter contrition!
* * * * *
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, 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, Haunt, like a ghost, the banquet-hall. Alas! the merry guests no more Crowd through the hospital door; No eyes with youth and passion shine, No cheeks glow redder than the wine; 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, 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, 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 traveler's feet!
(Enter WALTER the Minnesinger.)
Walter. How now, my friend! This looks quite lonely! No banner flying from the walls, No pages and no seneschals, No wardens, and one porter only! Is it you, Hubert?
Hubert. Ah! Master Walter!
Walter. Alas! how forms and faces alter! 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; 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; 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, 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; 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; 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 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 chaunted. Then three times laid upon his head A shovelful of church-yard 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 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 travelers away.
Walter. O, 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, 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,— "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 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 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,— 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 With outdoor 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, 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, 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, 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 upgathers his spent shafts, 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, 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! 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, 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!
A FARM IN THE ODENWALD
* * * * *
A garden; morning; PRINCE HENRY seated, with a book. ELSIE, at a distance, gathering flowers.
Prince Henry (reading). One morning, all alone, Out of his convent of gray stone, Into the forest older, darker, grayer, His lips moving as if in prayer, His head sunken upon his breast As in a dream of rest, Walked the Monk Felix. All about The broad, sweet sunshine lay without, Filling the summer air; And within the woodlands as he trod, The twilight was like the Truce of God With worldly woe and care; Under him lay the golden moss; And above him the boughs of hemlock-tree Waved, and made the sign of the cross, And whispered their Benedicites; And from the ground Rose an odor sweet and fragrant Of the wild flowers and the vagrant Vines that wandered, Seeking the sunshine, round and round. These he heeded not, but pondered On the volume in his hand, A volume of Saint Augustine; Wherein he read of the unseen Splendors of God's great town In the unknown land, And, with his eyes cast down In humility, he said: "I believe, O God, What herein I have read, But alas! I do not understand!"
And lo! he heard The sudden singing of a bird, A snow-white bird, that from a cloud Dropped down, And among the branches brown Sat singing So sweet, and clear, and loud, It seemed a thousand harp strings ringing. And the Monk Felix closed his book, And long, long, With rapturous look, He listened to the song, And hardly breathed or stirred, Until he saw, as in a vision, The land Elysian, And in the heavenly city heard Angelic feet Fall on the golden flagging of the street. And he would fain Have caught the wondrous bird, But strove in vain; For it flew away, away, Far over hill and dell, And instead of its sweet singing He heard the convent bell Suddenly in the silence ringing For the service of noonday. And he retraced His pathway homeward sadly and in haste.
In the convent there was a change! He looked for each well known face, But the faces were new and strange; New figures sat in the oaken stalls, New voices chaunted in the choir, Yet the place was the same place, The same dusky walls Of cold, gray stone, The same cloisters and belfry and spire.
A stranger and alone Among that brotherhood The Monk Felix stood "Forty years," said a Friar. "Have I been Prior Of this convent in the wood, But for that space Never have I beheld thy face!"
The heart of the Monk Felix fell: And he answered with submissive tone, "This morning, after the hour of Prime, I left my cell, And wandered forth alone, Listening all the time To the melodious singing Of a beautiful white bird, Until I heard The bells of the convent ringing Noon from their noisy towers, It was as if I dreamed; For what to me had seemed Moments only, had been hours!"
"Years!" said a voice close by. It was an aged monk who spoke, From a bench of oak Fastened against the wall;— He was the oldest monk of all. For a whole century Had he been there, Serving God in prayer, The meekest and humblest of his creatures. He remembered well the features Of Felix, and he said, Speaking distinct and slow: "One hundred years ago, When I was a novice in this place, There was here a monk, full of God's grace, Who bore the name Of Felix, and this man must be the same."
And straightway They brought forth to the light of day A volume old and brown, A huge tome, bound With brass and wild-boar's hide, Therein were written down The names of all who had died In the convent, since it was edified. And there they found, Just as the old monk said, That on a certain day and date, One hundred years before, Had gone forth from the convent gate The Monk Felix, and never more Had entered that sacred door. He had been counted among the dead! And they knew, at last, That, such had been the power Of that celestial and immortal song, A hundred years had passed, And had not seemed so long As a single hour!
(ELSIE comes in with flowers.)
Elsie. Here are flowers for you, But they are not all for you. Some of them are for the Virgin And for Saint Cecilia.
Prince Henry. As thou standest there, Thou seemest to me like the angel That brought the immortal roses To Saint Cecilia's bridal chamber.
Elsie. But these will fade.
Prince Henry. Themselves will fade, But not their memory, And memory has the power To re-create them from the dust. They remind me, too, Of martyred Dorothea, Who from celestial gardens sent Flowers as her witnesses To him who scoffed and doubted.
Elsie. Do you know the story Of Christ and the Sultan's daughter? That is the prettiest legend of them all.
Prince Henry. Then tell it to me. But first come hither. Lay the flowers down beside me. And put both thy hands in mine. Now tell me the story.
Elsie. Early in the morning The Sultan's daughter Walked in her father's garden, Gathering the bright flowers, All full of dew.
Prince Henry. Just as thou hast been doing This morning, dearest Elsie.
Elsie. And as she gathered them, She wondered more and more Who was the Master of the Flowers, And made them grow Out of the cold, dark earth. "In my heart," she said, "I love him; and for him Would leave my father's palace, To labor in his garden."
Prince Henry. Dear, innocent child! How sweetly thou recallest The long-forgotten legend, That in my early childhood My mother told me! Upon my brain It reappears once more, As a birth-mark on the forehead When a hand suddenly Is laid upon it, and removed!
Elsie. And at midnight, As she lay upon her bed, She heard a voice Call to her from the garden, And, looking forth from her window, She saw a beautiful youth Standing among the flowers. It was the Lord Jesus; And she went down to him, And opened the door for him; And he said to her, "O maiden! Thou hast thought of me with love, And for thy sake Out of my Father's kingdom Have I come hither: I am the Master of the Flowers. My garden is in Paradise, And if thou wilt go with me, Thy bridal garland Shall be of bright red flowers." And then he took from his finger A golden ring, And asked the Sultan's daughter If she would be his bride. And when she answered him with love, His wounds began to bleed, And she said to him, "O Love! how red thy heart is, And thy hands are full of roses," "For thy sake," answered he, "For thy sake is my heart so red, For thee I bring these roses. I gathered them at the cross Whereon I died for thee! Come, for my Father calls. Thou art my elected bride!" And the Sultan's daughter Followed him to his Father's garden.
Prince Henry. Wouldst thou have done so, Elsie?
Elsie. Yes, very gladly.
Prince Henry. Then the Celestial Bridegroom Will come for thee also. Upon thy forehead he will place, Not his crown of thorns, But a crown of roses. In thy bridal chamber, Like Saint Cecilia, Thou shall hear sweet music, And breathe the fragrance Of flowers immortal! Go now and place these flowers Before her picture.
* * * * *
A ROOM IN THE FARM-HOUSE.
* * * * *
Twilight. URSULA spinning. GOTTLIEB asleep in his chair.
Ursula. Darker and darker! Hardly a glimmer Of light comes in at the window-pane; Or is it my eyes are growing dimmer? I cannot disentangle this skein, Nor wind it rightly upon the reel. Elsie!
Gottlieb (starting). The stopping of thy wheel Has wakened me out of a pleasant dream. I thought I was sitting beside a stream, And heard the grinding of a mill, When suddenly the wheels stood still, And a voice cried "Elsie" in my ear! It startled me, it seemed so near.
Ursula. I was calling her: I want a light. I cannot see to spin my flax. Bring the lamp, Elsie. Dost thou hear?
Elsie (within). In a moment!
Gottlieb. Where are Bertha and Max?
Ursula. They are sitting with Elsie at the door. She is telling them stories of the wood, And the Wolf, and Little Red Ridinghood.
Gottlieb. And where is the Prince?
Ursula. In his room overhead; I heard him walking across the floor, As he always does, with a heavy tread.
(ELSIE comes in with a lamp. MAX and BERTHA follow her; and they all sing the Evening Song on the lighting of the lamps.)
O gladsome light Of the Father Immortal, And of the celestial Sacred and blessed Jesus, our Saviour!
Now to the sunset Again hast thou brought us; And, seeing the evening Twilight, we bless thee, Praise thee, adore thee!
Father omnipotent! Son, the Life-giver! Spirit, the Comforter! Worthy at all times Of worship and wonder!
Prince Henry (at the door). Amen!
Ursula. Who was it said Amen?
Elsie. It was the Prince: he stood at the door, And listened a moment, as we chaunted The evening song. He is gone again. I have often seen him there before.
Ursula. Poor Prince!
Gottlieb. I thought the house was haunted! Poor Prince, alas! and yet as mild And patient as the gentlest child!
Max. I love him because he is so good, And makes me such fine bows and arrows, To shoot at the robins and the sparrows, And the red squirrels in the wood!
Bertha. I love him, too!
Gottlieb. Ah, yes! we all Love him, from the bottom of our hearts; He gave us the farm, the house, and the grange, He gave us the horses and the carts, And the great oxen in the stall, The vineyard, and the forest range! We have nothing to give him but our love!
Bertha. Did he give us the beautiful stork above On the chimney-top, with its large, round nest?
Gottlieb. No, not the stork; by God in heaven, As a blessing, the dear, white stork was given; But the Prince has given us all the rest. God bless him, and make him well again.
Elsie. Would I could do something for his sake, Something to cure his sorrow and pain!
Gottlieb. That no one can; neither thou nor I, Nor any one else.
Elsie. And must he die?
Ursula. Yes; if the dear God does not take Pity upon him, in his distress, And work a miracle!
Gottlieb. Or unless Some maiden, of her own accord, Offers her life for that of her lord, And is willing to die in his stead.
Elsie. I will!
Ursula. Prithee, thou foolish child, be still! Thou shouldst not say what thou dost not mean!
Elsie. I mean it truly!
Max. O father! this morning, Down by the mill, in the ravine, Hans killed a wolf, the very same That in the night to the sheepfold came, And ate up my lamb, that was left outside.
Gottlieb. I am glad he is dead. It will be a warning To the wolves in the forest, far and wide.
Max. And I am going to have his hide!
Bertha. I wonder if this is the wolf that ate Little Red Ridinghood!
Ursula. O, no! That wolf was killed a long while ago. Come, children, it is growing late.
Max. Ah, how I wish I were a man, As stout as Hans is, and as strong! I would do nothing else, the whole day long, But just kill wolves.
Gottlieb. Then go to bed, And grow as fast as a little boy can. Bertha is half asleep already. See how she nods her heavy head, And her sleepy feet are so unsteady She will hardly be able to creep upstairs.
Ursula. Good-night, my children. Here's the light. And do not forget to say your prayers Before you sleep.
Max and Bertha. Good-night!
(They go out with ELSIE.)
Ursula, (spinning). She is a strange and wayward child, That Elsie of ours. She looks so old, And thoughts and fancies weird and wild Seem of late to have taken hold Of her heart, that was once so docile and mild!
Gottlieb. She is like all girls.
Ursula. Ah no, forsooth! Unlike all I have ever seen. For she has visions and strange dreams, And in all her words and ways, she seems Much older than she is in truth. Who would think her but fourteen? And there has been of late such a change! My heart is heavy with fear and doubt That she may not live till the year is out. She is so strange,—so strange,—so strange!
Gottlieb. I am not troubled with any such fear! She will live and thrive for many a year.
* * * * *
* * * * *
Night. ELSIE praying.
Elsie. My Redeemer and my Lord, I beseech thee, I entreat thee, Guide me in each act and word, That hereafter I may meet thee, Watching, waiting, hoping, yearning, With my lamp well trimmed and burning!
Interceding With these bleeding Wounds upon thy hands and side, For all who have lived and erred Thou hast suffered, thou hast died, Scourged, and mocked, and crucified, And in the grave hast thou been buried!
If my feeble prayer can reach thee, O my Saviour, I beseech thee, Even as thou hast died for me, More sincerely Let me follow where thou leadest, Let me, bleeding as thou bleedest, Die, if dying I may give Life to one who asks to live, And more nearly, Dying thus, resemble thee!
* * * * *
THE CHAMBER OF GOTTLIEB AND URSULA.
* * * * *
Midnight. ELSIE standing by their bedside, weeping.
Gottlieb. The wind is roaring; the rushing rain Is loud upon roof and window-pane, As if the Wild Huntsman of Rodenstein, Boding evil to me and mine, Were abroad to-night with his ghostly train! In the brief lulls of the tempest wild, The dogs howl in the yard; and hark! Some one is sobbing in the dark, Here in the chamber!
Elsie. It is I.
Ursula. Elsie! what ails thee, my poor child?
Elsie. I am disturbed and much distressed, In thinking our dear Prince must die, I cannot close mine eyes, nor rest.
Gottlieb. What wouldst thou? In the Power Divine His healing lies, not in our own; It is in the hand of God alone.
Elsie. Nay, he has put it into mine, And into my heart!
Gottlieb. Thy words are wild!
Ursula. What dost thou mean? my child! my child!
Elsie. That for our dear Prince Henry's sake I will myself the offering make, And give my life to purchase his.
Ursula Am I still dreaming, or awake? Thou speakest carelessly of death, And yet thou knowest not what it is.
Elsie. 'T is the cessation of our breath. Silent and motionless we lie; And no one knoweth more than this. I saw our little Gertrude die, She left off breathing, and no more I smoothed the pillow beneath her head. She was more beautiful than before. Like violets faded were her eyes; By this we knew that she was dead. Through the open window looked the skies Into the chamber where she lay, And the wind was like the sound of wings, As if angels came to bear her away. Ah! when I saw and felt these things, I found it difficult to stay; I longed to die, as she had died, And go forth with her, side by side. The Saints are dead, the Martyrs dead, And Mary, and our Lord, and I Would follow in humility The way by them illumined!
Ursula. My child! my child! thou must not die!
Elsie Why should I live? Do I not know The life of woman is full of woe? Toiling on and on and on, With breaking heart, and tearful eyes, And silent lips, and in the soul The secret longings that arise, Which this world never satisfies! Some more, some less, but of the whole Not one quite happy, no, not one!
Ursula. It is the malediction of Eve!
Elsie. In place of it, let me receive The benediction of Mary, then.
Gottlieb. Ah, woe is me! Ah, woe is me! Most wretched am I among men!
Ursula. Alas! that I should live to see Thy death, beloved, and to stand Above thy grave! Ah, woe the day!
Elsie. Thou wilt not see it. I shall lie Beneath the flowers of another land, For at Salerno, far away Over the mountains, over the sea, It is appointed me to die! And it will seem no more to thee Than if at the village on market-day I should a little longer stay Than I am used.
Ursula. Even as thou sayest! And how my heart beats, when thou stayest! I cannot rest until my sight Is satisfied with seeing thee. What, then, if thou wert dead?
Gottlieb Ah me! Of our old eyes thou art the light! The joy of our old hearts art thou! And wilt thou die?
Ursula. Not now! not now!
Elsie Christ died for me, and shall not I Be willing for my Prince to die? You both are silent; you cannot speak. This said I, at our Saviour's feast, After confession, to the priest, And even he made no reply. Does he not warn us all to seek The happier, better land on high, Where flowers immortal never wither, And could he forbid me to go thither?
Gottlieb. In God's own time, my heart's delight! When he shall call thee, not before!
Elsie. I heard him call. When Christ ascended Triumphantly, from star to star, He left the gates of heaven ajar. I had a vision in the night, And saw him standing at the door Of his Father's mansion, vast and splendid, And beckoning to me from afar. I cannot stay!
Gottlieb. She speaks almost As if it were the Holy Ghost Spake through her lips, and in her stead! What if this were of God?
Ursula. Ah, then Gainsay it dare we not.
Gottlieb. Amen! Elsie! the words that thou hast said Are strange and new for us to hear, And fill our hearts with doubt and fear. Whether it be a dark temptation Of the Evil One, or God's inspiration, We in our blindness cannot say. We must think upon it, and pray; For evil and good in both resembles. If it be of God, his will be done! May he guard us from the Evil One! How hot thy hand is! how it trembles! Go to thy bed, and try to sleep.
Ursula. Kiss me. Good-night; and do not weep!
(ELSIE goes out.)
Ah, what an awful thing is this! I almost shuddered at her kiss. As if a ghost had touched my cheek, I am so childish and so weak! As soon as I see the earliest gray Of morning glimmer in the east, I will go over to the priest, And hear what the good man has to say!
* * * * *
A VILLAGE CHURCH.
* * * * *
_A woman kneeling at the confessional.
The Parish Priest (from within)_. Go, sin no more! Thy penance o'er, A new and better life begin! God maketh thee forever free From the dominion of thy sin! Go, sin no more! He will restore The peace that filled thy heart before, And pardon thine iniquity!
(The woman goes out. The Priest comes forth, and walks slowly up and down the church.)
O blessed Lord! how much I need Thy light to guide me on my way! So many hands, that, without heed, Still touch thy wounds, and make them bleed! So many feet, that, day by day, Still wander from thy fold astray! Unless thou fill me with thy light, I cannot lead thy flock aright; Nor, without thy support, can bear The burden of so great a care, But am myself a castaway!
The day is drawing to its close; And what good deeds, since first it rose, Have I presented, Lord, to thee, As offerings of my ministry? What wrong repressed, what right maintained What struggle passed, what victory gained, What good attempted and attained? Feeble, at best, is my endeavor! I see, but cannot reach, the height That lies forever in the light, And yet forever and forever, When seeming just within my grasp, I feel my feeble hands unclasp, And sink discouraged into night! For thine own purpose, thou hast sent The strife and the discouragement!
Why stayest thou, Prince of Hoheneck? Why keep me pacing to and fro Amid these aisles of sacred gloom, Counting my footsteps as I go, And marking with each step a tomb? Why should the world for thee make room, And wait thy leisure and thy beck? Thou comest in the hope to hear Some word of comfort and of cheer. What can I say? I cannot give The counsel to do this and live; But rather, firmly to deny The tempter, though his power is strong, And, inaccessible to wrong, Still like a martyr live and die!
The evening air grows dusk and brown; I must go forth into the town, To visit beds of pain and death, Of restless limbs, and quivering breath, And sorrowing hearts, and patient eyes That see, through tears, the sun go down, But never more shall see it rise. The poor in body and estate, The sick and the disconsolate. Must not on man's convenience wait.
(Goes out. Enter LUCIFER, as a Priest. LUCIFER, with a genuflexion, mocking.)
This is the Black Pater-noster. God was my foster, He fostered me Under the book of the Palm-tree! St. Michael was my dame. He was born at Bethlehem, He was made of flesh and blood. God send me my right food, My right food, and shelter too, That I may to yon kirk go, To read upon yon sweet book Which the mighty God of heaven shook. Open, open, hell's gates! Shut, shut, heaven's gates! All the devils in the air The stronger be, that hear the Black Prayer!
(Looking round the church.)
What a darksome and dismal place! I wonder that any man has the face To call such a hole the House of the Lord, And the Gate of Heaven,—yet such is the word. Ceiling, and walls, and windows old, Covered with cobwebs, blackened with mould; Dust on the pulpit, dust on the stairs, Dust on the benches, and stalls, and chairs! The pulpit, from which such ponderous sermons Have fallen down on the brains of the Germans, With about as much real edification As if a great Bible, bound in lead, Had fallen, and struck them on the head; And I ought to remember that sensation! Here stands the holy water stoup! Holy-water it may be to many, But to me, the veriest Liquor Gehennae! It smells like a filthy fast day soup! Near it stands the box for the poor; With its iron padlock, safe and sure, I and the priest of the parish know Whither all these charities go; Therefore, to keep up the institution, I will add my little contribution!
(He puts in money.)
Underneath this mouldering tomb, With statue of stone, and scutcheon of brass, Slumbers a great lord of the village. All his life was riot and pillage, But at length, to escape the threatened doom Of the everlasting, penal fire, He died in the dress of a mendicant friar, And bartered his wealth for a daily mass. But all that afterward came to pass, And whether he finds it dull or pleasant, Is kept a secret for the present, At his own particular desire.
And here, in a corner of the wall, Shadowy, silent, apart from all, With its awful portal open wide, And its latticed windows on either side, And its step well worn by the bended knees Of one or two pious centuries, Stands the village confessional! Within it, as an honored guest, I will sit me down awhile and rest!
(Seats himself in the confessional.)
Here sits the priest, and faint and low, Like the sighing of an evening breeze, Comes through these painted lattices The ceaseless sound of human woe, Here, while her bosom aches and throbs With deep and agonizing sobs, That half are passion, half contrition, The luckless daughter of perdition Slowly confesses her secret shame! The time, the place, the lover's name! Here the grim murderer, with a groan, From his bruised conscience rolls the stone, Thinking that thus he can atone For ravages of sword and flame! Indeed, I marvel, and marvel greatly, How a priest can sit here so sedately, Reading, the whole year out and in, Naught but the catalogue of sin, And still keep any faith whatever In human virtue! Never! never!
I cannot repeat a thousandth part Of the horrors and crimes and sins and woes That arise, when with palpitating throes The graveyard in the human heart Gives up its dead, at the voice of the priest, As if he were an archangel, at least. It makes a peculiar atmosphere, This odor of earthly passions and crimes, Such as I like to breathe, at times, And such as often brings me here In the hottest and most pestilential season. To-day, I come for another reason; To foster and ripen an evil thought In a heart that is almost to madness wrought, And to make a murderer out of a prince, A sleight of hand I learned long since! He comes In the twilight he will not see the difference between his priest and me! In the same net was the mother caught!
(Prince Henry entering and kneeling at the confessional.)
Remorseful, penitent, and lowly, I come to crave, O Father holy, Thy benediction on my head.
Lucifer. The benediction shall be said After confession, not before! 'T is a God speed to the parting guest, Who stands already at the door, Sandalled with holiness, and dressed In garments pure from earthly stain. Meanwhile, hast thou searched well thy breast? Does the same madness fill thy brain? Or have thy passion and unrest Vanished forever from thy mind?
Prince Henry. By the same madness still made blind, By the same passion still possessed, I come again to the house of prayer, A man afflicted and distressed! As in a cloudy atmosphere, Through unseen sluices of the air, A sudden and impetuous wind Strikes the great forest white with fear, And every branch, and bough, and spray Points all its quivering leaves one way, And meadows of grass, and fields of grain, And the clouds above, and the slanting rain, And smoke from chimneys of the town, Yield themselves to it, and bow down, So does this dreadful purpose press Onward, with irresistible stress, And all my thoughts and faculties, Struck level by the strength of this, From their true inclination turn, And all stream forward to Salem!
Lucifer. Alas! we are but eddies of dust, Uplifted by the blast, and whirled Along the highway of the world A moment only, then to fall Back to a common level all, At the subsiding of the gust!
Prince Henry. O holy Father! pardon in me The oscillation of a mind Unsteadfast, and that cannot find Its centre of rest and harmony! For evermore before mine eyes This ghastly phantom flits and flies, And as a madman through a crowd, With frantic gestures and wild cries, It hurries onward, and aloud Repeats its awful prophecies! Weakness is wretchedness! To be strong Is to be happy! I am weak, And cannot find the good I seek, Because I feel and fear the wrong!
Lucifer. Be not alarmed! The Church is kind— And in her mercy and her meekness She meets half-way her children's weakness, Writes their transgressions in the dust! Though in the Decalogue we find The mandate written, "Thou shalt not kill!" Yet there are cases when we must. In war, for instance, or from scathe To guard and keep the one true Faith! We must look at the Decalogue in the light Of an ancient statute, that was meant For a mild and general application, To be understood with the reservation, That, in certain instances, the Right Must yield to the Expedient! Thou art a Prince. If thou shouldst die, What hearts and hopes would prostrate he! What noble deeds, what fair renown, Into the grave with thee go down! What acts of valor and courtesy Remain undone, and die with thee! Thou art the last of all thy race! With thee a noble name expires, And vanishes from the earth's face The glorious memory of thy sires! She is a peasant. In her veins Flows common and plebeian blood; It is such as daily and hourly stains The dust and the turf of battle plains, By vassals shed, in a crimson flood, Without reserve, and without reward, At the slightest summons of their lord! But thine is precious, the fore-appointed Blood of kings, of God's anointed! Moreover, what has the world in store For one like her, but tears and toil? Daughter of sorrow, serf of the soil, A peasant's child and a peasant's wife, And her soul within her sick and sore With the roughness and barrenness of life! I marvel not at the heart's recoil From a fate like this, in one so tender, Nor at its eagerness to surrender All the wretchedness, want, and woe That await it in this world below, For the unutterable splendor Of the world of rest beyond the skies. So the Church sanctions the sacrifice: Therefore inhale this healing balm, And breathe this fresh life into thine; Accept the comfort and the calm She offers, as a gift divine, Let her fall down and anoint thy feet With the ointment costly and most sweet Of her young blood, and thou shall live.
Prince Henry. And will the righteous Heaven forgive? No action, whether foul or fair, Is ever done, but it leaves somewhere A record, written by fingers ghostly, As a blessing or a curse, and mostly In the greater weakness or greater strength Of the acts which follow it, till at length The wrongs of ages are redressed, And the justice of God made manifest!
Lucifer In ancient records it is stated That, whenever an evil deed is done, Another devil is created To scourge and torment the offending one! But evil is only good perverted, And Lucifer, the Bearer of Light, But an angel fallen and deserted, Thrust from his Father's house with a curse Into the black and endless night.
Prince Henry. If justice rules the universe, From the good actions of good men Angels of light should be begotten, And thus the balance restored again.
Lucifer. Yes; if the world were not so rotten, And so given over to the Devil!
Prince Henry. But this deed, is it good or evil? Have I thine absolution free To do it, and without restriction?
Lucifer. Ay; and from whatsoever sin Lieth around it and within, From all crimes in which it may involve thee, I now release thee and absolve thee!
Prince Henry. Give me thy holy benediction.
Lucifer. (stretching forth his hand and muttering), Maledictione perpetua Maledicat vos Pater eternus!
The Angel (with the aeolian harp). Take heed! take heed! Noble art thou in thy birth, By the good and the great of earth Hast thou been taught! Be noble in every thought And in every deed! Let not the illusion of thy senses Betray thee to deadly offences. Be strong! be good! be pure! The right only shall endure, All things else are but false pretences! I entreat thee, I implore, Listen no more To the suggestions of an evil spirit, That even now is there, Making the foul seem fair, And selfishness itself a virtue and a merit!
* * * * *
A ROOM IN THE FARM-HOUSE.
* * * * *
Gottlieb. It is decided! For many days, And nights as many, we have had A nameless terror in our breast, Making us timid, and afraid Of God, and his mysterious ways! We have been sorrowful and sad; Much have we suffered, much have prayed That he would lead us as is best, And show us what his will required. It is decided; and we give Our child, O Prince, that you may live!
Ursula. It is of God. He has inspired This purpose in her; and through pain, Out of a world of sin and woe, He takes her to himself again. The mother's heart resists no longer; With the Angel of the Lord in vain It wrestled, for he was the stronger.
Gottlieb. As Abraham offered long ago His son unto the Lord, and even The Everlasting Father in heaven Gave his, as a lamb unto the slaughter, So do I offer up my daughter!
(URSULA hides her face.)
Elsie. My life is little, Only a cup of water, But pure and limpid. Take it, O my Prince! Let it refresh you, Let it restore you. It is given willingly, It is given freely; May God bless the gift!
Prince Henry. And the giver!
Prince Henry. I accept it!
Gottlieb. Where are the children?
Ursula. They are already asleep.
Gottlieb. What if they were dead?
* * * * *
IN THE GARDEN.
* * * * *
Elsie. I have one thing to ask of you.
Prince Henry. What is it? It is already granted.
Elsie. Promise me, When we are gone from here, and on our way Are journeying to Salerno, you will not, By word or deed, endeavor to dissuade me And turn me from my purpose, but remember That as a pilgrim to the Holy City Walks unmolested, and with thoughts of pardon Occupied wholly, so would I approach The gates of Heaven, in this great jubilee, With my petition, putting off from me All thoughts of earth, as shoes from off my feet. Promise me this.
Prince Henry. Thy words fall from thy lips Like roses from the lips of Angelo: and angels Might stoop to pick them up!
Elsie. Will you not promise?
Prince Henry. If ever we depart upon this journey, So long to one or both of us, I promise.
Elsie. Shall we not go, then? Have you lifted me Into the air, only to hurl me back Wounded upon the ground? and offered me The waters of eternal life, to bid me Drink the polluted puddles of this world?
Prince Henry. O Elsie! what a lesson thou dost teach me! The life which is, and that which is to come, Suspended hang in such nice equipoise A breath disturbs the balance; and that scale In which we throw our hearts preponderates, And the other, like an empty one, flies up, And is accounted vanity and air! To me the thought of death is terrible, Having such hold on life. To thee it is not So much even as the lifting of a latch; Only a step into the open air Out of a tent already luminous With light that shines through its transparent walls! O pure in heart! from thy sweet dust shall grow Lilies, upon whose petals will be written "Ave Maria" in characters of gold!
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. Sleepless and restless, I alone, In the dusk and damp of these wails of stone, Wander and weep in my remorse!
Crier of the dead (ringing a bell). Wake! wake! All ye that sleep! 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! 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! 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 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 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!
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 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, 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! 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, The walls of the cathedral rise, Like a mysterious grove of stone, With fitful lights and shadows bleeding, As from behind, the moon, ascending, Lights its dim aisles and paths unknown! 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, Gives to each spire and buttress jagged A seeming motion undefined. Below on the square, an armed knight, Still as a statue and as white, Sits on his steed, and the moonbeams quiver 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 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 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! 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 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 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! 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 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! 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, 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; 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.
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, 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.
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 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 To Hirsehau, 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 Wakes you to sin and crime again, 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; 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! Sleep, sleep, O city! though within The circuit of your walls there lies No habitation free from sin, And all its nameless miseries; The aching heart, the aching head, 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!
SQUARE IN FRONT OF THE CATHEDRAL.
* * * * *
Easter Sunday. FRIAR CUTHBERT preaching to the crowd from a pulpit in the open air. PRINCE HENRY and ELSIE crossing the square.
Prince Henry. This is the day, when from the dead Our Lord arose; and everywhere, Out of their darkness and despair, Triumphant over fears and foes, The hearts of his disciples rose, When to the women, standing near, The Angel in shining vesture said, "The Lord is risen; he is not here!" And, mindful that the day is come, On all the hearths in Christendom The fires are quenched, to be again Rekindled from the sun, that high Is dancing in the cloudless sky. The churches are all decked with flowers. The salutations among men Are but the Angel's words divine, "Christ is arisen!" and the bells Catch the glad murmur, as it swells, And chaunt together in their towers. All hearts are glad; and free from care The faces of the people shine. See what a crowd is in the square, Gaily and gallantly arrayed!
Elsie. Let us go back; I am afraid!
Prince Henry. Nay, let us mount the church-steps here, Under the doorway's sacred shadow; We can see all things, and be freer From the crowd that madly heaves and presses!
Elsie. What a gay pageant! what bright dresses! It looks like a flower besprinkled meadow. What is that yonder on the square?
Prince Henry A pulpit in the open air, And a Friar, who is preaching to the crowd With a voice so deep and clear and loud, That, if we listen, and give heed, His lowest words will reach the ear.
Friar Cuthbert (gesticulating and cracking a postilion's whip) What ho! good people! do you not hear? Dashing along at the top of his speed, Booted and spurred, on his jaded steed, A courier comes with words of cheer. Courier! what is the news, I pray? "Christ is arisen!" Whence come you? "From court." Then I do not believe it; you say it in sport.
(Cracks his whip again.)
There comes another, riding this way; We soon shall know what he has to say. Courier! what are the tidings to-day? "Christ is arisen!" Whence come you? "From town." Then I do not believe it; away with you, clown.
(Cracks his whip more violently.)
And here comes a third, who is spurring amain; What news do you bring, with your loose-hanging rein, Your spurs wet with blood, and your bridle with foam? "Christ is arisen!" Whence come you? "From Rome." Ah, now I believe. He is risen, indeed. Ride on with the news, at the top of your speed!
(Great applause among the crowd.)
To come back to my text! When the news was first spread That Christ was arisen indeed from the dead, Very great was the joy of the angels in heaven; And as great the dispute as to who should carry The tidings, thereof to the Virgin Mary, Pierced to the heart with sorrows seven. Old Father Adam was first to propose, As being the author of all our woes; But he was refused, for fear, said they, He would stop to eat apples on the way! Abel came next, but petitioned in vain, Because he might meet with his brother Cain! Noah, too, was refused, lest his weakness for wine Should delay him at every tavern sign; And John the Baptist could not get a vote, On account of his old fashioned, camel's-hair coat; And the Penitent Thief, who died on the cross, Was reminded that all his bones were broken! Till at last, when each in turn had spoken, The company being still at a loss, The Angel, who had rolled away the stone, Was sent to the sepulchre, all alone, And filled with glory that gloomy prison, And said to the Virgin, "The Lord is arisen!"
(The Cathedral bells ring.)
But hark! the bells are beginning to chime; And I feel that I am growing hoarse. I will put an end to my discourse, And leave the rest for some other time. For the bells themselves are the best of preachers; Their brazen lips are learned teachers, From their pulpits of stone, in the upper air, Sounding aloft, without crack or flaw, Shriller than trumpets under the Law, Now a sermon and now a prayer. The clangorous hammer is the tongue, This way, that way, beaten and swung, That from mouth of brass, as from Mouth of Gold, May be taught the Testaments, New and Old. And above it the great crossbeam of wood Representeth the Holy Rood, Upon which, like the bell, our hopes are hung. And the wheel wherewith it is swayed and rung Is the mind of man, that round and round Sways, and maketh the tongue to sound! And the rope, with its twisted cordage three, Denoteth the Scriptural Trinity Of Morals, and Symbols, and History; And the upward and downward motions show That we touch upon matters high and low; And the constant change and transmutation Of action and of contemplation, Downward, the Scripture brought from on high, Upward, exalted again to the sky; Downward, the literal interpretation, Upward, the Vision and Mystery!
And now, my hearers, to make an end, I have only one word more to say; In the church, in honor of Easter day, Will be represented a Miracle Play; And I hope you will all have the grace to attend. Christ bring us at last So his felicity! Pax vobiscum! et Benedicite!
IN THE CATHEDRAL.
* * * * *
CHAUNT. Kyrie Eleison! Christe Eleison!
Elsie. I am at home here in my Father's house! These paintings of the Saints upon the walls Have all familiar and benignant faces.
Prince Henry. The portraits of the family of God! Thine own hereafter shall be placed among them.
Elsie. How very grand it is and wonderful! Never have I beheld a church so splendid! Such columns, and such arches, and such windows, So many tombs and statues in the chapels, And under them so many confessionals. They must be for the rich. I should not like To tell my sins in such a church as this. Who built it?
Prince Henry. A great master of his craft, Erwin von Steinbach; but not he alone, For many generations labored with him. Children that came to see these Saints in stone, As day by day out of the blocks they rose, Grew old and died, and still the work went on, And on, and on, and is not yet completed. The generation that succeeds our own Perhaps may finish it. The architect Built his great heart into these sculptured stones, And with him toiled his children, and their lives Were builded, with his own, into the walls, As offerings unto God. You see that statue Fixing its joyous, but deep-wrinkled eyes Upon the Pillar of the Angels yonder. That is the image of the master, carved By the fair hand of his own child, Sabina.
Elsie. How beautiful is the column that he looks at!
Prince Henry. That, too, she sculptured. At the base of it Stand the Evangelists; above their heads Four Angels blowing upon marble trumpets, And over them the blessed Christ, surrounded By his attendant ministers, upholding The instruments of his passion.
Elsie. O my Lord! Would I could leave behind me upon earth Some monument to thy glory, such as this!
Prince Henry. A greater monument than this thou leavest In thine own life, all purity and love! See, too, the Rose, above the western portal Flamboyant with a thousand gorgeous colors, The perfect flower of Gothic loveliness!
Elsie. And, in the gallery, the long line of statues, Christ with his twelve Apostles watching us.
(A BISHOP in armor, booted and spurred, passes with his train.)
Prince Henry. But come away; we have not time to look. The crowd already fills the church, and yonder Upon a stage, a herald with a trumpet, Clad like The Angel Gabriel, proclaims The Mystery that will now be represented.
* * * * *
A MIRACLE PLAY.
* * * * *
Praeco. Come, good people, all and each, Come and listen to our speech! In your presence here I stand, With a trumpet in my hand, To announce the Easter Play, Which we represent to-day! First of all we shall rehearse, In our action and our verse, The Nativity of our Lord, As written in the old record Of the Protevangelion, So that he who reads may run!
(Blows his trumpet.)
* * * * *
Mercy (at the feet of God). Have pity, Lord be not afraid To save mankind, whom thou hast made, Nor let the souls that were betrayed Perish eternally!
Justice. It cannot be, it must not be! When in the garden placed by thee, The fruit of the forbidden tree He ate, and he must die!
Mercy. Have pity, Lord! let penitence Atone for disobedience, Nor let the fruit of man's offence Be endless misery!
Justice. What penitence proportionate Can e'er be felt for sin so great? Of the forbidden fruit he ate, And damned must he be!
God. He shall be saved, if that within The bounds of earth one free from sin Be found, who for his kith and kin Will suffer martyrdom.
The Four Virtues. Lord! we have searched the world around, From centre to the utmost bound, But no such mortal can be found; Despairing, back we come.
Wisdom. No mortal, but a God made man, Can ever carry out this plan, Achieving what none other can, Salvation unto all!
God. Go, then, O my beloved Son; It can by thee alone be done; By thee the victory shall be won O'er Satan and the Fall!
(Here the ANGEL GABRIEL shall leave Paradise and fly toward the earth; the jaws of Hell open below, and the Devils walk about, making a great noise.)
* * * * *
II. MARY AT THE WELL.
Mary. Along the garden walk, and thence Through the wicket in the garden fence, I steal with quiet pace, My pitcher at the well to fill, That lies so deep and cool and still In this sequestered place. These sycamores keep guard around; I see no face, I hear no sound, Save babblings of the spring, And my companions, who within The threads of gold and scarlet spin, And at their labor sing.
The Angel Gabriel. Hail, Virgin Mary, full of grace!
(Here MARY looketh around her, trembling, and then saith:)
Mary. Who is it speaketh in this place, With such a gentle voice?
Gabriel. The Lord of heaven is with thee now! Blessed among all women thou, Who art his holy choice!
Mary (setting down the pitcher). What can this mean? No one is near, And yet, such sacred words I hear, I almost fear to stay.
(Here the ANGEL, appearing to her, shall say:)
Gabriel. Fear not, O Mary! but believe! For thou, a Virgin, shalt conceive A child this very day.
Fear not, O Mary! from the sky The majesty of the Most High Shall overshadow thee!
Mary. Behold the handmaid of the Lord! According to thy holy word, So be it unto me!
(Here the Devils shall again make a great noise, under the stage.)
III. THE ANGELS OF THE SEVEN PLANETS, bearing the Star of Bethlehem.
The Angels. The Angels of the Planets Seven Across the shining fields of heaven The natal star we bring! Dropping our sevenfold virtues down, As priceless jewels in the crown Of Christ, our new-born King.
Raphael. I am the Angel of the Sun, Whose flaming wheels began to run When God's almighty breath Said to the darkness and the Night, Let there be light! and there was light! I bring the gift of Faith.
Gabriel. I am the Angel of the Moon, Darkened, to be rekindled soon Beneath the azure cope! Nearest to earth, it is my ray That best illumes the midnight way. I bring the gift of Hope!
Anael. The Angel of the Star of Love, The Evening Star, that shines above The place where lovers be, Above all happy hearths and homes, On roofs of thatch, or golden domes, I give him Charity!
Zobiachel. The Planet Jupiter is mine! The mightiest star of all that shine, Except the sun alone! He is the High Priest of the Dove, And sends, from his great throne above, Justice, that shall atone!
Michael. The Planet Mercury, whose place Is nearest to the sun in space, Is my allotted sphere! And with celestial ardor swift I bear upon my hands the gift Of heavenly Prudence here!
Uriel. I am the Minister of Mars, The strongest star among the stars! My songs of power prelude The march and battle of man's life, And for the suffering and the strife, I give him Fortitude!
Anachiel. The Angel of the uttermost Of all the shining, heavenly host, From the far-off expanse Of the Saturnian, endless space I bring the last, the crowning grace, The gift of Temperance!
(A sudden light shines from the windows of the stable in the village below.)
IV. THE WISE MEN OF THE EAST.
The stable of the Inn. The VIRGIN and CHILD. Three Gypsy Kings, GASPAR, MELCHIOR, and BELSHAZZAR, shall come in.
Gaspar. Hail to thee, Jesus of Nazareth! Though in a manger thou drawest thy breath, Thou art greater than Life and Death, Greater than Joy or Woe! This cross upon the line of life Portendeth struggle, toil, and strife, And through a region with dangers rife In darkness shall thou go!
Melchior. Hail to thee, King of Jerusalem Though humbly born in Bethlehem, A sceptre and a diadem Await thy brow and hand! The sceptre is a simple reed, The crown will make thy temples bleed, And in thy hour of greatest need, Abashed thy subjects stand!
Belshazzar. Hail to thee, Christ of Christendom! O'er all the earth thy kingdom come! From distant Trebizond to Rome Thy name shall men adore! Peace and good-will among all men, The Virgin has returned again, Returned the old Saturnian reign And Golden Age once more.
The Child Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, am I, Born here to suffer and to die According to the prophecy, That other men may live!
The Virgin. And now these clothes, that wrapped him, take And keep them precious, for his sake; For benediction thus we make, Naught else have we to give.
(She gives them swaddling-clothes and they depart.)
V. THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT.
Here shall JOSEPH come in, leading an ass, on which are seated MARY and the CHILD.
Mary. Here will we rest us, under these Underhanging branches of the trees, Where robins chant their Litanies, And canticles of joy.
Joseph. My saddle-girths have given way With trudging through the heat to-day To you I think it is but play To ride and hold the boy.
Mary. Hark! how the robins shout and sing, As if to hail their infant King! I will alight at yonder spring To wash his little coat.
Joseph. And I will hobble well the ass, Lest, being loose upon the grass, He should escape; for, by the mass. He is nimble as a goat.
(Here MARY shall alight and go to the spring.)
Mary. O Joseph! I am much afraid, For men are sleeping in the shade; I fear that we shall be waylaid, And robbed and beaten sore!
(Here a band of robbers shall be seen sleeping, two of whom shall rise and come forward.)
Dumachus. Cock's soul! deliver up your gold!
Joseph. I pray you, Sirs, let go your hold! Of wealth I have no store.
Dumachus. Give up your money!
Titus. Prithee cease! Let these good people go in peace!
Dumachus. First let them pay for their release, And then go on their way.
Titus. These forty groats I give in fee, If thou wilt only silent be.
Mary. May God be merciful to thee Upon the Judgment Day!
Jesus. When thirty years shall have gone by, I at Jerusalem shall die, By Jewish hands exalted high On the accursed tree. Then on my right and my left side, These thieves shall both be crucified And Titus thenceforth shall abide In paradise with me.
(Here a great rumor of trumpets and horses, like the noise of a king with his army, and the robbers shall take flight.)
VI. THE SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS.
King Herod. Potz-tausend! Himmel-sacrament! Filled am I with great wonderment At this unwelcome news! Am I not Herod? Who shall dare My crown to take, my sceptre bear, As king among the Jews?
(Here he shall stride up and down and flourish his sword.)
What ho! I fain would drink a can Of the strong wine of Canaan! The wine of Helbon bring, I purchased at the Fair of Tyre, As red as blood, as hot as fire, And fit for any king!
(He quaffs great goblets of wine.)
Now at the window will I stand, While in the street the armed band The little children slay: The babe just born in Bethlehem Will surely slaughtered be with them, Nor live another day!
(Here a voice of lamentation shall be heard in the street.)
Rachel. O wicked king! O cruel speed! To do this most unrighteous deed! My children all are slain!
Herod. Ho seneschal! another cup! With wine of Sorek fill it up! I would a bumper drain!
Rahab. May maledictions fall and blast Thyself and lineage, to the last Of all thy kith and kin!
Herod. Another goblet! quick! and stir Pomegranate juice and drops of myrrh And calamus therein!
Soldiers (in the street). Give up thy child into our hands! It is King Herod who commands That he should thus be slain!
The Nurse Medusa. O monstrous men! What have ye done! It is King Herod's only son That ye have cleft in twain!
Herod. Ah, luckless day! What words of fear Are these that smite upon my ear With such a doleful sound! What torments rack my heart and head! Would I were dead! would I were dead, And buried in the ground!
(He falls down and writhes as though eaten by worms. Hell opens, and SATAN and ASTAROTH come forth, and drag him down.)
VII. JESUS AT PLAY WITH HIS SCHOOLMATES.
Jesus. The shower is over. Let us play, And make some sparrows out of clay, Down by the river's side.
Judas. See, how the stream has overflowed Its banks, and o'er the meadow road Is spreading far and wide!
(They draw water out of the river by channels, and form little pools JESUS makes twelve sparrows of clay, and the other boys do the same.)
Jesus. Look! look! how prettily I make These little sparrows by the lake Bend down their necks and drink! Now will I make them sing and soar So far, they shall return no more Into this river's brink.
Judas. That canst thou not! They are but clay, They cannot sing, nor fly away Above the meadow lands!
Jesus. Fly, fly! ye sparrows! you are free! And while you live, remember me, Who made you with my hands.
(Here JESUS shall clap his hands, and the sparrows shall fly away, chirruping.)
Judas. Thou art a sorcerer, I know; Oft has my mother told me so, I will not play with thee!
(He strikes JESUS on the right side.)
Jesus. Ah, Judas! thou has smote my side, And when I shall be crucified, There shall I pierced be!
(Here JOSEPH shall come in, and say:)
Joseph. Ye wicked boys! why do ye play, And break the holy Sabbath day? What, think ye, will your mothers say To see you in such plight! In such a sweat and such a heat, With all that mud-upon your feet! There's not a beggar in the street Makes such a sorry sight!
VIII. THE VILLAGE SCHOOL.
The RABBI BEN ISRAEL, with a long beard, sitting on a high stool, with a rod in his hand.
Rabbi. I am the Rabbi Ben Israel, Throughout this village known full well, And, as my scholars all will tell, Learned in things divine; The Kabala and Talmud hoar Than all the prophets prize I more, For water is all Bible lore, But Mishna is strong wine.
My fame extends from West to East, And always, at the Purim feast, I am as drunk as any beast That wallows in his sty; The wine it so elateth me, That I no difference can see Between "Accursed Haman be!" And "Blessed be Mordecai!"
Come hither, Judas Iscariot. Say, if thy lesson thou hast got From the Rabbinical Book or not. Why howl the dogs at night?
Judas. In the Rabbinical Book, it saith The dogs howl, when with icy breath Great Sammael, the Angel of Death, Takes through the town his flight!
Rabbi. Well, boy! now say, if thou art wise, When the Angel of Death, who is full of eyes, Comes where a sick man dying lies, What doth he to the wight?
Judas. He stands beside him, dark and tall, Holding a sword, from which doth fall Into his mouth a drop of gall, And so he turneth white.
Rabbi. And now, my Judas, say to me What the great Voices Four may be, That quite across the world do flee, And are not heard by men?
Judas. The Voice of the Sun in heaven's dome, The Voice of the Murmuring of Rome, The Voice of a Soul that goeth home, And the Angel of the Rain!
Rabbi. Well have ye answered every one Now little Jesus, the carpenter's son, Let us see how thy task is done. Canst thou thy letters say?
Rabbi. What next? Do not stop yet! Go on with all the alphabet. Come, Aleph, Beth; dost thou forget? Cock's soul! thou'dst rather play!
Jesus. What Aleph means I fain would know, Before I any farther go!
Rabbi. O, by Saint Peter! wouldst thou so? Come hither, boy, to me. And surely as the letter Jod Once cried aloud, and spake to God, So surely shalt thou feel this rod, And punished shalt thou be!
(Here RABBI BEN ISRAEL shall lift up his rod to strike JESUS, and his right arm shall be paralyzed.)
IX. CROWNED WITH FLOWERS.
JESUS sitting among his playmates, crowned with flowers as their King.
Boys. We spread our garments on the ground' With fragrant flowers thy head is crowned, While like a guard we stand around, And hail thee as our King! Thou art the new King of the Jews! Nor let the passers-by refuse To bring that homage which men use To majesty to bring.
(Here a traveller shall go by, and the boys shall lay hold of his garments and say:)
Boys. Come hither! and all reverence pay Unto our monarch, crowned to-day! Then go rejoicing on your way, In all prosperity!
Traveller. Hail to the King of Bethlehem, Who weareth in his diadem The yellow crocus for the gem Of his authority!
(He passes by; and others come in, bearing on a litter a sick child.)
Boys. Set down the litter and draw near! The King of Bethlehem is here! What ails the child, who seems to fear That we shall do him harm?
The Bearers. He climbed up to the robin's nest, And out there darted, from his rest, A serpent with a crimson crest, And stung him in the arm.
Jesus. Bring him to me, and let me feel The wounded place; my touch can heal The sting of serpents, and can steal The poison from the bite!
(He touches the wound, and the boy begins to cry.)
Cease to lament! I can foresee That thou hereafter known shalt be, Among the men who follow me, As Simon the Canaanite!
* * * * *
In the after part of the day Will be represented another play, Of the Passion of our Blessed Lord, Beginning directly after Nones! At the close of which we shall accord, By way of benison and reward, The sight of a holy Martyr's bones!
IV. THE ROAD HIRSCHAU.
PRINCE HENRY and ELSIE, with their attendants, on horseback.
Elsie. Onward and onward the highway runs to the distant city, impatiently bearing Tidings of human joy and disaster, of love and of hate, of doing and daring!
Prince Henry. This life of ours is a wild aeolian harp of many a joyous strain, But under them all there runs a loud perpetual wail, as of souls in pain.
Elsie. Faith alone can interpret life, and the heart that aches and bleeds with the stigma Of pain, alone bears the likeness of Christ, and can comprehend its dark enigma.
Prince Henry. Man is selfish, and seeketh pleasure with little care of what may betide; Else why am I travelling here beside thee, a demon that rides by an angel's side?
Elsie. All the hedges are white with dust, and the great dog under the creaking wain Hangs his head in the lazy heat, while onward the horses toil and strain
Prince Henry. Now they stop at the wayside inn, and the wagoner laughs with the landlord's daughter, While out of the dripping trough the horses distend their leathern sides with water.
Elsie. All through life there are wayside inns, where man may refresh his soul with love; Even the lowest may quench his thirst at rivulets fed by springs from above.
Prince Henry. Yonder, where rises the cross of stone, our journey along the highway ends, And over the fields, by a bridle path, down into the broad green valley descends.
Elsie. I am not sorry to leave behind the beaten road with its dust and heat; The air will be sweeter far, and the turf will be softer under our horses' feet.
(They turn down a green lane.)
Elsie. Sweet is the air with the budding haws, and the valley stretching for miles below Is white with blossoming cheery trees, as if just covered with lightest snow.
Prince Henry. Over our heads a white cascade is gleaming against the distant hill; We cannot hear it, nor see it move, but it hangs like a banner when winds are still.
Elsie. Damp and cool is this deep ravine, and cool the sound of the brook by our side! What is this castle that rises above us, and lords it over a land so wide?
Prince Henry. It is the home of the Counts of Calva; well have I known these scenes of old, Well I remember each tower and turret, remember the brooklet, the wood, and the wold.
Elsie. Hark! from the little village below us the bells of the church are ringing for rain! Priests and peasants in long procession come forth and kneel on the arid plain.
Prince Henry. They have not long to wait, for I see in the south uprising a little cloud, That before the sun shall be set will cover the sky above us as with a shroud.
(They pass on.)
* * * * *
THE CONVENT OF HIRSCHAU IN THE BLACK FOREST.
* * * * *
The Convent cellar. FRIAR CLAUS comes in with a light and a basket of empty flagons.
Friar Claus. I always enter this sacred place With a thoughtful, solemn, and reverent pace, Pausing long enough on each stair To breathe an ejaculatory prayer, And a benediction on the vines That produce these various sorts of wines!
For my part, I am well content That we have got through with the tedious Lent! Fasting is all very well for those Who have to contend with invisible foes; But I am quite sure it does not agree With a quiet, peaceable man like me, Who am not of that nervous and meagre kind That are always distressed in body and mind! And at times it really does me good To come down among this brotherhood, Dwelling forever under ground, Silent, contemplative, round and sound; Each one old, and brown with mould, But filled to the lips with the ardor of youth, With the latent power and love of truth, And with virtues fervent and manifold.
I have heard it said, that at Easter-tide, When buds are swelling on every side, And the sap begins to move in the vine. Then in all the cellars, far and wide, The oldest, as well as the newest, wine Begins to stir itself, and ferment, With a kind of revolt and discontent At being so long in darkness pent, And fain would burst from its sombre tun To bask on the hillside in the sun; As in the bosom of us poor friars, The tumult of half-subdued desires For the world that we have left behind Disturbs at times all peace of mind! And now that we have lived through Lent, My duty it is, as often before, To open awhile the prison-door, And give these restless spirits vent.
Now here is a cask that stands alone, And has stood a hundred years or more, Its beard of cobwebs, long and hoar, Trailing and sweeping along the floor, Like Barbarossa, who sits in his cave, Taciturn, sombre, sedate, and grave, Till his beard has grown through the table of stone! It is of the quick and not of the dead! In its veins the blood is hot and red, And a heart still beats in those ribs of oak That time may have tamed, but has not broke; It comes from Bacharach on the Rhine, Is one of the three best kinds of wine, And costs some hundred florins the ohm; But that I do not consider dear, When I remember that every year Four butts are sent to the Pope of Rome. And whenever a goblet thereof I drain, The old rhyme keeps running in my brain:
At Bacharach on the Rhine, At Hochheim on the Main, And at Wuerzburg on the Stein, Grow the three best kinds of wine!
They are all good wines, and better far Than those of the Neckar, or those of the Ahr In particular, Wuerzburg well may boast Of its blessed wine of the Holy Ghost, Which of all wines I like the most. This I shall draw for the Abbot's drinking, Who seems to be much of my way of thinking.
(Fills a flagon.)
Ah! how the streamlet laughs and sings! What a delicious fragrance springs From the deep flagon, while it fills, As of hyacinths and daffodils! Between this cask and the Abbot's lips Many have been the sips and slips; Many have been the draughts of wine, On their way to his, that have stopped at mine; And many a time my soul has hankered For a deep draught out of his silver tankard, When it should have been busy with other affairs, Less with its longings and more with its prayers. But now there is no such awkward condition, No danger of death and eternal perdition; So here's to the Abbot and Brothers all, Who dwell in this convent of Peter and Paul!
O cordial delicious! O soother of pain! It flashes like sunshine into my brain! A benison rest on the Bishop who sends Such a fudder of wine as this to his friends!
And now a flagon for such as may ask A draught from the noble Bacharach cask, And I will be gone, though I know full well The cellar's a cheerfuller place than the cell. Behold where he stands, all sound and good, Brown and old in his oaken hood; Silent he seems externally As any Carthusian monk may be; But within, what a spirit of deep unrest! What a seething and simmering in his breast! As if the heaving of his great heart Would burst his belt of oak apart! Let me unloose this button of wood, And quiet a little his turbulent mood.
(Sets it running.)
See! how its currents gleam and shine, As if they had caught the purple hues Of autumn sunsets on the Rhine, Descending and mingling with the dews; Or as if the grapes were stained with the blood Of the innocent boy, who, some years back, Was taken and crucified by the Jews, In that ancient town of Bacharach; Perdition upon those infidel Jews, In that ancient town of Bacharach! The beautiful town, that gives us wine With the fragrant odor of Muscadine! I should deem it wrong to let this pass Without first touching my lips to the glass, For here in the midst of the current I stand, Like the stone Pfalz in the midst of the river Taking toll upon either hand, And much more grateful to the giver.
Here, now, is a very inferior kind, Such as in any town you may find, Such as one might imagine would suit The rascal who drank wine out of a boot, And, after all, it was not a crime, For he won thereby Dorf Hueffelsheim. A jolly old toper! who at a pull Could drink a postilion's jack boot full, And ask with a laugh, when that was done, If the fellow had left the other one! This wine is as good as we can afford To the friars, who sit at the lower board, And cannot distinguish bad from good, And are far better off than if they could, Being rather the rude disciples of beer Than of anything more refined and dear!
(Fills the other flagon and departs.)
* * * * *
FRIAR PACIFICUS transcribing and illuminating.
Friar Pacificus It is growing dark! Yet one line more, And then my work for today is o'er. I come again to the name of the Lord! Ere I that awful name record, That is spoken so lightly among men, Let me pause awhile, and wash my pen; Pure from blemish and blot must it be When it writes that word of mystery!
Thus have I labored on and on, Nearly through the Gospel of John. Can it be that from the lips Of this same gentle Evangelist, That Christ himself perhaps has kissed, Came the dread Apocalypse! It has a very awful look, As it stands there at the end of the book, Like the sun in an eclipse. Ah me! when I think of that vision divine, Think of writing it, line by line, I stand in awe of the terrible curse, Like the trump of doom, in the closing verse! God forgive me! if ever I Take aught from the book of that Prophecy, Lest my part too should be taken away From the Book of Life on the Judgment Day.
This is well written, though I say it! I should not be afraid to display it, In open day, on the selfsame shelf With the writings of St Thecla herself, Or of Theodosius, who of old Wrote the Gospels in letters of gold! That goodly folio standing yonder, Without a single blot or blunder, Would not bear away the palm from mine, If we should compare them line for line.
There, now, is an initial letter! King Rene himself never made a better! Finished down to the leaf and the snail, Down to the eyes on the peacock's tail! And now, as I turn the volume over, And see what lies between cover and cover, What treasures of art these pages hold, All ablaze with crimson and gold, God forgive me! I seem to feel A certain satisfaction steal Into my heart, and into my brain, As if my talent had not lain Wrapped in a napkin, and all in vain. Yes, I might almost say to the Lord, Here is a copy of thy Word, Written out with much toil and pain; Take it, O Lord, and let it be As something I have done for thee!
(He looks from the window.)
How sweet the air is! How fair the scene! I wish I had as lovely a green To paint my landscapes and my leaves! How the swallows twitter under the eaves! There, now, there is one in her nest; I can just catch a glimpse of her head and breast, And will sketch her thus, in her quiet nook, In the margin of my Gospel book.
(He makes a sketch.)
I can see no more. Through the valley yonder A shower is passing; I hear the thunder Mutter its curses in the air, The Devil's own and only prayer! The dusty road is brown with rain, And speeding on with might and main, Hitherward rides a gallant train. They do not parley, they cannot wait, But hurry in at the convent gate. What a fair lady! and beside her What a handsome, graceful, noble rider! Now she gives him her hand to alight; They will beg a shelter for the night. I will go down to the corridor, And try to see that face once more; It will do for the face of some beautiful Saint, Or for one of the Maries I shall paint.
* * * * *
* * * * *
The ABBOT ERNESTUS pacing to and fro.
Abbot. Slowly, slowly up the wall Steals the sunshine, steals the shade; Evening damps begin to fall, Evening shadows are displayed. Round me, o'er me, everywhere, All the sky is grand with clouds, And athwart the evening air Wheel the swallows home in crowds. Shafts of sunshine from the west Paint the dusky windows red; Darker shadows, deeper rest, Underneath and overhead. Darker, darker, and more wan, In my breast the shadows fall; Upward steals the life of man, As the sunshine from the wall. From the wall into the sky, From the roof along the spire; Ah, the souls of those that die Are but sunbeams lifted higher.
(Enter PRINCE HENRY.)
Prince Henry. Christ is arisen!
Abbot. Amen! he is arisen! His peace be with you!
Prince Henry. Here it reigns forever! The peace of God, that passeth understanding, Reigns in these cloisters and these corridors, Are you Ernestus, Abbot of the convent?
Abbot. I am.
Prince Henry. And I Prince Henry of Hoheneck, Who crave your hospitality to-night.
Abbot. You are thrice welcome to our humble walls. You do us honor; and we shall requite it, I fear, but poorly, entertaining you With Paschal eggs, and our poor convent wine, The remnants of our Easter holidays.
Prince Henry. How fares it with the holy monks of Hirschau? Are all things well with them?
Abbot. All things are well.
Prince Henry. A noble convent! I have known it long By the report of travellers. I now see Their commendations lag behind the truth. You lie here in the valley of the Nagold As in a nest: and the still river, gliding Along its bed, is like an admonition How all things pass. Your lands are rich and ample, And your revenues large. God's benediction Rests on your convent.
Abbot. By our charities We strive to merit it. Our Lord and Master, When he departed, left us in his will, As our best legacy on earth, the poor! These we have always with us; had we not, Our hearts would grow as hard as are these stones.
Prince Henry. If I remember right, the Counts of Calva Founded your convent.
Abbot. Even as you say.
Prince Henry. And, if I err not, it is very old.
Abbot. Within these cloisters lie already buried Twelve holy Abbots. Underneath the flags On which we stand, the Abbot William lies, Of blessed memory.
Prince Henry. And whose tomb is that, Which bears the brass escutcheon?
Abbot. A benefactor's. Conrad, a Count of Calva, he who stood Godfather to our bells.
Prince Henry. Your monks are learned And holy men, I trust.
Abbot. There are among them Learned and holy men. Yet in this age We need another Hildebrand, to shake And purify us like a mighty wind. The world is wicked, and sometimes I wonder God does not lose his patience with it wholly, And shatter it like glass! Even here, at times, Within these walls, where all should be at peace, I have my trials. Time has laid his hand Upon my heart, gently, not smiting it, But as a harper lays his open palm Upon his harp, to deaden its vibrations. Ashes are on my head, and on my lips Sackcloth, and in my breast a heaviness And weariness of life, that makes me ready To say to the dead Abbots under us, "Make room for me!" Only I see the dusk Of evening twilight coming, and have not Completed half my task; and so at times The thought of my shortcomings in this life Falls like a shadow on the life to come.
Prince Henry. We must all die, and not the old alone; The young have no exemption from that doom.
Abbot. Ah, yes! the young may die, but the old must! That is the difference.
Prince Henry. I have heard much laud Of your transcribers. Your Scriptorium Is famous among all, your manuscripts Praised for their beauty and their excellence.
Abbot. That is indeed our boast. If you desire it, You shall behold these treasures. And meanwhile Shall the Refectorarius bestow Your horses and attendants for the night.
(They go in. The Vesper-bell rings.)
* * * * *
* * * * *
Vespers; after which the monks retire, a chorister leading an old monk who is blind.
Prince Henry. They are all gone, save one who lingers, Absorbed in deep and silent prayer. As if his heart could find no rest, At times he beats his heaving breast With clenched and convulsive fingers, Then lifts them trembling in the air. A chorister, with golden hair, Guides hitherward his heavy pace. Can it be so? Or does my sight Deceive me in the uncertain light? Ah no! I recognize that face, Though Time has touched it in his flight, And changed the auburn hair to white. It is Count Hugo of the Rhine, The deadliest foe of all our race, And hateful unto me and mine!