Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part Third. Interlude

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

Tales of a Wayside Inn

Part Third. Interlude

“A PLEASANT and a winsome tale,”

The Student said, “though somewhat pale

And quiet in its coloring,

As if it caught its tone and air

From the gray suits that Quakers wear;

Yet worthy of some German bard,

Hebel, or Voss, or Eberhard,

Who love of humble themes to sing,

In humble verse; but no more true

Than was the tale I told to you.”

The Theologian made reply,

And with some warmth, “That I deny;

’T is no invention of my own,

But something well and widely known

To readers of a riper age,

Writ by the skilful hand that wrote

The Indian tale of Hobomok,

And Philothea’s classic page.

I found it like a waif afloat,

Or dulse uprooted from its rock,

On the swift tides that ebb and flow

In daily papers, and at flood

Bear freighted vessels to and fro,

But later, when the ebb is low,

Leave a long waste of sand and mud.”

“It matters little,” quoth the Jew;

“The cloak of truth is lined with lies,

Sayeth some proverb old and wise;

And Love is master of all arts,

And puts it into human hearts

The strangest things to say and do.”

And here the controversy closed

Abruptly, ere ’t was well begun;

For the Sicilian interposed

With, “Lordlings, listen, every one

That listen may, unto a tale

That’s merrier than the nightingale;

A tale that cannot boast, forsooth,

A single rag or shred of truth;

That does not leave the mind in doubt

As to the with it or without;

A naked falsehood and absurd

As mortal ever told or heard.

Therefore I tell it; or, maybe,

Simply because it pleases me.”