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

Christus: A Mystery

Part II. The Golden Legend. IV. V. The Chapel

Vespers; after which the monks retire, a chorister leading an old monk who is blind.

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 clenchèd 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!

Who is it that doth stand so near

His whispered words I almost hear?

I am Prince Henry of Hoheneck,

And you, Count Hugo of the Rhine!

I know you, and I see the scar,

The brand upon your forehead, shine

And redden like a baleful star!

Count Hugo once, but now the wreck

Of what I was. O Hoheneck!

The passionate will, the pride, the wrath

That bore me headlong on my path,

Stumbled and staggered into fear,

And failed me in my mad career,

As a tired steed some evil-doer,

Alone upon a desolate moor,

Bewildered, lost, deserted, blind,

And hearing loud and close behind

The o’ertaking steps of his pursuer.

Then suddenly from the dark there came

A voice that called me by my name,

And said to me, “Kneel down and pray!”

And so my terror passed away,

Passed utterly away forever.

Contrition, penitence, remorse,

Came on me, with o’erwhelming force;

A hope, a longing, an endeavor,

By days of penance and nights of prayer,

To frustrate and defeat despair!

Calm, deep, and still is now my heart,

With tranquil waters overflowed;

A lake whose unseen fountains start,

Where once the hot volcano glowed.

And you, O Prince of Hoheneck!

Have known me in that earlier time,

A man of violence and crime,

Whose passions brooked no curb nor check

Behold me now, in gentler mood,

One of this holy brotherhood.

Give me your hand; here let me kneel;

Make your reproaches sharp as steel;

Spurn me, and smite me on each cheek;

No violence can harm the meek,

There is no wound Christ cannot heal!

Yes; lift your princely hand, and take

Revenge, if ’t is revenge you seek;

Then pardon me, for Jesus’ sake!

Arise, Count Hugo! let there be

No further strife nor enmity

Between us twain; we both have erred!

Too rash in act, too wroth in word,

From the beginning have we stood

In fierce, defiant attitude,

Each thoughtless of the other’s right,

And each reliant on his might.

But now our souls are more subdued;

The hand of God, and not in vain,

Has touched us with the fire of pain.

Let us kneel down and side by side

Pray, till our souls are purified,

And pardon will not be denied!

They kneel.