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

Christus: A Mystery

Part II. The Golden Legend. II. II. A Room in the Farm-House

Twilight. URSULA spinning. GOTTLIEB asleep in his chair.

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.


GOTTLIEB, starting.
The stopping of thy wheel

Has awakened 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.

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!

Where are Bertha and Max?

They are sitting with Elsie at the door.

She is telling them stories of the wood,

And the Wolf, and little Red Ridinghood.

And where is the Prince?

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.

Who was it said Amen?

It was the Prince: he stood at the door,

And listened a moment, as we chanted

The evening song. He is gone again.

I have often seen him there before.

Poor Prince!

I thought the house was haunted

Poor Prince, alas! and yet as mild

And patient as the gentlest child!

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!

I love him, too!

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!

Did he give us the beautiful stork above

On the chimney-top, with its large, round nest?

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.

Would I could do something for his sake,

Something to cure his sorrow and pain!

That no one can; neither thou nor I,

Nor any one else.

And must he die?

Yes; if the dear God does not take

Pity upon him, in his distress,

And work a miracle!

Or unless

Some maiden, of her own accord,

Offers her life for that of her lord,

And is willing to die in his stead.

I will!

Prithee, thou foolish child, be still!

Thou shouldst not say what thou dost not mean!

I mean it truly!

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.

I am glad he is dead. It will be a warning

To the wolves in the forest, far and wide.

And I am going to have his hide!

I wonder if this is the wolf that ate

Little Red Ridinghood!

Oh, no!

That wolf was killed a long while ago.

Come, children, it is growing late.

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.

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.

Good night, my children. Here ’s the light.

And do not forget to say your prayers

Before you sleep.

Good night!

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!

She is like all girls.

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 fifteen?

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!

I am not troubled with any such fear;

She will live and thrive for many a year.