Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part II. The Golden Legend. I. II. Court-Yard of the Castle

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Christus: A Mystery

Part II. The Golden Legend. I. II. Court-Yard of the Castle

HUBERT standing by the gateway.

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 hospitable 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 traveller’s feet!

Enter WALTER the Minnesinger.

How now, my friend! This looks quite lonely!

No banner flying from the walls,

No pages and no seneschals,

No warders, and one porter only!

Is it you, Hubert?

Ah! Master 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!

Alack! I am a poor old sinner,

And, like these towers, begin to moulder;

And you have been absent many a year!

How is the Prince?

He is not here;

He has been ill: and now has fled.

Speak it out frankly: say he ’s dead!

Is it not so?

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!

Poor Prince!

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.

How did it end?

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 chanted,

Then three times laid upon his head

A shovelful of churchyard clay,

Saying to him, as he stood undaunted,

“This is a sign that thou art dead,

So in thy heart be penitent!”

And forth from the chapel door he went

Into disgrace and banishment,

Clothed in a cloak of hodden gray,

And bearing a wallet, and a bell,

Whose sound should be a perpetual knell

To keep all travellers away.

Oh, horrible fate! Outcast, rejected,

As one with pestilence infected!

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!”

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?

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 out-door hospitality

My prince’s friend thus entertain?

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 up-gathers 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!