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

The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems

Songs. To an Old Danish Song Book

  • Mr. Longfellow upon Andersen’s Story of my Life, notes in his diary: “Autumn always brings back very freshly my autumnal sojourn in Copenhagen, delightfully mingled with bracing air and yellow falling leaves. I have tried to record the impression in the song To an Old Danish Song Book.”

  • WELCOME, my old friend,

    Welcome to a foreign fireside,

    While the sullen gales of autumn

    Shake the windows.

    The ungrateful world

    Has, it seems, dealt harshly with thee,

    Since, beneath the skies of Denmark,

    First I met thee.

    There are marks of age,

    There are thumb-marks on thy margin,

    Made by hands that clasped thee rudely

    At the alehouse.

    Soiled and dull thou art;

    Yellow are thy time-worn pages,

    As the russet, rain-molested

    Leaves of autumn.

    Thou art stained with wine

    Scattered from hilarious goblets,

    As the leaves with the libations

    Of Olympus.

    Yet dost thou recall

    Days departed, half-forgotten,

    When in dreamy youth I wandered

    By the Baltic,—

    When I paused to hear

    The old ballad of King Christian

    Shouted from suburban taverns

    In the twilight.

    Thou recallest bards,

    Who, in solitary chambers,

    And with hearts by passion wasted,

    Wrote thy pages.

    Thou recallest homes

    Where thy songs of love and friendship

    Made the gloomy Northern winter

    Bright as summer.

    Once some ancient Scald,

    In his bleak, ancestral Iceland,

    Chanted staves of these old ballads

    To the Vikings.

    Once in Elsinore,

    At the court of old King Hamlet,

    Yorick and his boon companions

    Sang these ditties.

    Once Prince Frederick’s Guard

    Sang them in their smoky barracks;—

    Suddenly the English cannon

    Joined the chorus!

    Peasants in the field,

    Sailors on the roaring ocean,

    Students, tradesmen, pale mechanics,

    All have sung them.

    Thou hast been their friend;

    They, alas! have left thee friendless!

    Yet at least by one warm fireside

    Art thou welcome.

    And, as swallows build

    In these wide, old-fashioned chimneys,

    So thy twittering song shall nestle

    In my bosom,—

    Quiet, close, and warm,

    Sheltered from all molestation,

    And recalling by their voices

    Youth and travel.