Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part II. The Golden Legend. IV. II. The Convent of Hirschau in the Black Forest

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

Christus: A Mystery

Part II. The Golden Legend. IV. II. The Convent of Hirschau in the Black Forest

The Convent cellar. FRIAR CLAUS comes in with a light and a basket of empty flagons.

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 underground,

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 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 Würzburg 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, Würzburg 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!

He drinks.

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.

He drinks.

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 Hüffelsheim.

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 flagon and departs.