Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part II. The Golden Legend. VI. III. The Castle of Vautsberg on the Rhine

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

Christus: A Mystery

Part II. The Golden Legend. VI. III. The Castle of Vautsberg on the Rhine

PRINCE HENRY and ELSIE standing on the terrace at evening.

The sound of bells heard from a distance.

WE are alone. The wedding guests

Ride down the hill, with plumes and cloaks,

And the descending dark invests

The Niederwald, and all the nests

Among its hoar and haunted oaks.

What bells are those, that ring so slow,

So mellow, musical, and low?

They are the bells of Geisenheim,

That with their melancholy chime

Ring out the curfew of the sun.

Listen, beloved.

They are done!

Dear Elsie! many years ago

Those same soft bells at eventide

Rang in the ears of Charlemagne,

As, seated by Fastrada’s side

At Ingelheim, in all his pride

He heard their sound with secret pain.

Their voices only speak to me

Of peace and deep tranquillity,

And endless confidence in thee!

Thou knowest the story of her ring,

How, when the court went back to Aix,

Fastrada died; and how the king

Sat watching by her night and day,

Till into one of the blue lakes,

Which water that delicious land,

They cast the ring, drawn from her hand:

And the great monarch sat serene

And sad beside the fated shore,

Nor left the land forevermore.

That was true love.

For him the queen

Ne’er did what thou hast done for me.

Wilt thou as fond and faithful be?

Wilt thou so love me after death?

In life’s delight, in death’s dismay,

In storm and sunshine, night and day,

In health, in sickness, in decay,

Here and hereafter, I am thine!

Thou hast Fastrada’s ring. Beneath

The calm, blue waters of thine eyes,

Deep in thy steadfast soul it lies,

And, undisturbed by this world’s breath,

With magic light its jewels shine!

This golden ring, which thou hast worn

Upon thy finger since the morn,

Is but a symbol and a semblance,

An outward fashion, a remembrance,

Of what thou wearest within unseen,

O my Fastrada, O my queen!

Behold! the hill-tops all aglow

With purple and with amethyst;

While the whole valley deep below

Is filled, and seems to overflow,

With a fast-rising tide of mist.

The evening air grows damp and chill;

Let us go in.

Ah, not so soon.

See yonder fire! It is the moon

Slow rising o’er the eastern hill.

It glimmers on the forest tips,

And through the dewy foliage drips

In little rivulets of light,

And makes the heart in love with night.

Oft on this terrace, when the day

Was closing, have I stood and gazed,

And seen the landscape fade away,

And the white vapors rise and drown

Hamlet and vineyard, tower and town,

While far above the hill-tops blazed.

But then another hand than thine

Was gently held and clasped in mine;

Another head upon my breast

Was laid, as thine is now, at rest.

Why dost thou lift those tender eyes

With so much sorrow and surprise?

A minstrel’s, not a maiden’s hand,

Was that which in my own was pressed.

A manly form usurped thy place,

A beautiful, but bearded face,

That now is in the Holy Land,

Yet in my memory from afar

Is shining on us like a star.

But linger not. For while I speak,

A sheeted spectre white and tall,

The cold mist climbs the castle wall,

And lays his hand upon thy cheek!

They go in.