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

Tales of a Wayside Inn

Part Third. Interlude

“O EDREHI, forbear to-night

Your ghostly legends of affright,

And let the Talmud rest in peace;

Spare us your dismal tales of death

That almost take away one’s breath;

So doing, may your tribe increase.”

Thus the Sicilian said; then went

And on the spinet’s rattling keys

Played Marianina, like a breeze

From Naples and the Southern seas,

That brings us the delicious scent

Of citron and of orange trees,

And memories of soft days of ease

At Capri and Amalfi spent.

“Not so,” the eager Poet said;

“At least, not so before I tell

The story of my Azrael,

An angel mortal as ourselves,

Which in an ancient tome I found

Upon a convent’s dusty shelves,

Chained with an iron chain, and bound

In parchment, and with clasps of brass,

Lest from its prison, some dark day,

It might be stolen or steal away,

While the good friars were singing mass.

“It is a tale of Charlemagne,

When like a thunder-cloud, that lowers

And sweeps from mountain-crest to coast,

With lightning flaming through its showers,

He swept across the Lombard plain,

Beleaguering with his warlike train

Pavia, the country’s pride and boast,

The City of the Hundred Towers.”

Thus heralded the tale began,

And thus in sober measure ran.