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

Tales of a Wayside Inn

Part Second. Interlude

ALL praised the Legend more or less;

Some liked the moral, some the verse;

Some thought it better, and some worse

Than other legends of the past;

Until, with ill-concealed distress

At all their cavilling, at last

The Theologian gravely said:

“The Spanish proverb, then, is right;

Consult your friends on what you do,

And one will say that it is white,

And others say that it is red.”

And “Amen!” quoth the Spanish Jew.

“Six stories told! We must have seven,

A cluster like the Pleiades,

And lo! it happens, as with these,

That one is missing from our heaven.

Where is the Landlord? Bring him here;

Let the Lost Pleiad reappear.”

Thus the Sicilian cried, and went

Forthwith to seek his missing star,

But did not find him in the bar,

A place that landlords most frequent,

Nor yet beside the kitchen fire,

Nor up the stairs, nor in the hall;

It was in vain to ask or call,

There were no tidings of the Squire.

So he came back with downcast head,

Exclaiming: “Well, our bashful host

Hath surely given up the ghost.

Another proverb says the dead

Can tell no tales; and that is true.

It follows, then, that one of you

Must tell a story in his stead.

You must,” he to the Student said,

“Who know so many of the best,

And tell them better than the rest.”

Straight, by these flattering words beguiled,

The Student, happy as a child

When he is called a little man,

Assumed the double task imposed,

And without more ado unclosed

His smiling lips, and thus began.