Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part II. The Golden Legend. V. IV. At the Foot of the Alps

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

Christus: A Mystery

Part II. The Golden Legend. V. IV. At the Foot of the Alps

A halt under the trees at noon.

HERE let us pause a moment in the trembling

Shadow and sunshine of the roadside trees,

And, our tired horses in a group assembling,

Inhale long draughts of this delicious breeze.

Our fleeter steeds have distanced our attendants;

They lag behind us with a slower pace;

We will await them under the green pendants

Of the great willows in this shady place.

Ho, Barbarossa! how thy mottled haunches

Sweat with this canter over hill and glade!

Stand still, and let these overhanging branches

Fan thy hot sides and comfort thee with shade!

What a delightful landscape spreads before us,

Marked with a whitewashed cottage here and there!

And, in luxuriant garlands drooping o’er us,

Blossoms of grape-vines scent the sunny air.

Hark! what sweet sounds are those, whose accents holy

Fill the warm noon with music sad and sweet!

It is a band of pilgrims, moving slowly

On their long journey, with uncovered feet.

PILGRIMS, chanting the Hymn of St. Hildebert.
Me receptet Sion illa,

Sion David, urbs tranquilla,

Cujus faber auctor lucis,

Cujus portæ lignum crucis,

Cujus claves lingua Petri,

Cujus cives semper læti,

Cujus muri lapis vivus,

Cujus custos Rex festivus!

LUCIFER, as a Friar in the procession.
Here am I, too, in the pious band,

In the garb of a barefooted Carmelite dressed!

The soles of my feet are as hard and tanned

As the conscience of old Pope Hildebrand,

The Holy Satan, who made the wives

Of the bishops lead such shameful lives.

All day long I beat my breast,

And chant with a most particular zest

The Latin hymns, which I understand

Quite as well, I think, as the rest.

And at night such lodging in barns and sheds,

Such a hurly-burly in country inns,

Such a clatter of tongues in empty heads,

Such a helter-skelter of prayers and sins!

Of all the contrivances of the time

For sowing broadcast the seeds of crime,

There is none so pleasing to me and mine

As a pilgrimage to some far-off shrine!

If from the outward man we judge the inner,

And cleanliness is godliness, I fear

A hopeless reprobate, a hardened sinner,

Must be that Carmelite now passing near.

There is my German Prince again,

Thus far on his journey to Salern,

And the lovesick girl, whose heated brain

Is sowing the cloud to reap the rain;

But it ’s a long road that has no turn!

Let them quietly hold their way,

I have also a part in the play.

But first I must act to my heart’s content

This mummery and this merriment,

And drive this motley flock of sheep

Into the fold, where drink and sleep

The jolly old friars of Benevent.

Of a truth, it often provokes me to laugh

To see these beggars hobble along,

Lamed and maimed, and fed upon chaff,

Chanting their wonderful piff and paff,

And, to make up for not understanding the song,

Singing it fiercely, and wild, and strong!

Were it not for my magic garters and staff,

And the goblets of goodly wine I quaff,

And the mischief I make in the idle throng,

I should not continue the business long.

PILGRIMS, chanting.
In hâc urbe, lux solennis,

Ver æternum, pax perennis;

In hâc odor implens cælos,

In hâc semper festum melos!

Do you observe that monk among the train,

Who pours from his great throat the roaring bass,

As a cathedral spout pours out the rain,

And this way turns his rubicund, round face?

It is the same who, on the Strasburg square,

Preached to the people in the open air.

And he has crossed o’er mountain, field, and fell,

On that good steed, that seems to bear him well,

The hackney of the Friars of Orders Gray,

His own stout legs! He, too, was in the play,

Both as King Herod and Ben Israel.

Good morrow, Friar!

Good morrow, noble Sir!

I speak in German, for, unless I err,

You are a German.

I cannot gainsay you.

But by what instinct, or what secret sign,

Meeting me here, do you straightway divine

That northward of the Alps my country lies?

Your accent, like St. Peter’s, would betray you,

Did not your yellow beard and your blue eyes.

Moreover, we have seen your face before,

And heard you preach at the Cathedral door

On Easter Sunday, in the Strasburg square.

We were among the crowd that gathered there,

And saw you play the Rabbi with great skill,

As if, by leaning o’er so many years

To walk with little children, your own will

Had caught a childish attitude from theirs,

A kind of stooping in its form and gait,

And could no longer stand erect and straight.

Whence come you now?

From the old monastery

Of Hirschau, in the forest; being sent

Upon a pilgrimage to Benevent,

To see the image of the Virgin Mary,

That moves its holy eyes, and sometimes speaks,

And lets the piteous tears run down its cheeks,

To touch the hearts of the impenitent.

Oh, had I faith, as in the days gone by,

That knew no doubt, and feared no mystery!

LUCIFER, at a distance.
Ho, Cuthbert! Friar Cuthbert!

Farewell, Prince!

I cannot stay to argue and convince.

This is indeed the blessed Mary’s land,

Virgin and Mother of our dear Redeemer!

All hearts are touched and softened at her name,

Alike the bandit, with the bloody hand,

The priest, the prince, the scholar, and the peasant,

The man of deeds, the visionary dreamer,

Pay homage to her as one ever present!

And even as children, who have much offended

A too indulgent father, in great shame,

Penitent, and yet not daring unattended

To go into his presence, at the gate

Speak with their sister, and confiding wait

Till she goes in before and intercedes;

So men, repenting of their evil deeds,

And yet not venturing rashly to draw near

With their requests an angry father’s ear,

Offer to her their prayers and their confession,

And she for them in heaven makes intercession.

And if our Faith had given us nothing more

Than this example of all womanhood,

So mild, so merciful, so strong, so good,

So patient, peaceful, loyal, loving, pure,

This were enough to prove it higher and truer

Than all the creeds the world had known before.

PILGRIMS, chanting afar off.
Urbs cœlestis, urbs beata,

Supra petram collocata,

Urbs in portu satis tuto

De longinquo te saluto,

Te saluto, te suspiro,

Te affecto, te requiro!