Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part II. The Golden Legend. IV. I. The Road to Hirschau

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

Christus: A Mystery

Part II. The Golden Legend. IV. I. The Road to Hirschau

PRINCE HENRY and ELSIE, with their attendants on horseback.

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!

This life of ours is a wild æolian harp of many a joyous strain,

But under them all there runs a loud perpetual wail, as of souls in pain.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Sweet is the air with the budding haws, and the valley stretching for miles below

Is white with blossoming cherry-trees, as if just covered with lightest snow.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.