Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  A Day-Dream on the Rhine

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII. 1876–79.

Rhine, the River

A Day-Dream on the Rhine

By Walter Thornbury (1828–1876)

O FOR a kingdom rocky throned

Above the brimming Rhine!

With vassals who should pay their toll

In many sorts of wine;

Above me naught but the blue air,

And all below the vine.

I ’d plant my throne where legends say,

In nights of harvest-time,

King Charlemagne, in golden robe

(So runs the rustic rhyme),

Doth come to bless the mellowing crops,

While the bells of heaven chime,

(Children have heard them!) and a bridge

Of gold leaps o’er the stream

For the king to cross. A maiden once

Saw its bright arches gleam;

The priests they burnt her for that sight,

Calling it “Satan’s Dream.”

Churches should in my valleys hide,

Old towers rise on each hill;

The forge, the farm-house, and the inn

Should cluster round the mill,

And past them all the river broad

Would flow at its own sweet will.

My stream at noon of fairy gold

Should crimson turn ere night,

Then by the magic of the moon

Change to quicksilver bright.

At dawn each little wave should be

Mantled with purple light.

I ’d dwell where Charlemagne looked down,

And, turning to his peers,

Exclaimed, “Behold, for this fair land

I ’ve prayed and fought for years.”

Then all the Rhine towers shook to hear

The earthquake of their cheers.

That day the tide ran crimson red

(But not with Rhenish wine);

Not with those vintage streams that through

The green leaves gush and shine;

’T was blood that from the Lombard ranks

Rushed down into the Rhine.

’T was here the German soldiers flocked,

Burning with love and pride,

And threw their muskets down to kiss

The soil with French blood dyed.

“The Rhine, dear Rhine!” ten thousand men,

Kneeling together, cried.

O, fairest of the many brides

Wedded to Father Sea,

That from thy cold home in the snow

Trippest so merrily,

As if in eager haste of love

To plight thy fealty;

Thy handmaids are the little streams,

That to thee flock and throng,

Each with her own small dower of vines,

Each with her special song;

Each like a vein of blood, the more

To make thee stark and strong.

Fair daughter of the crownéd Alps

In aspiration bold,

No frost can bind thy fervent flood,

That never doth grow old,

Unchecked by summer’s golden fire,

Or by fierce winter’s cold.

O special favorite of God,

Eternal beauty cling

Around thy banks; let all thy vines

Together praise and sing,

And o’er thee angels bend and pause

With sheathed and reverent wing.

Sweet river! where the laughing hills

Thy majesty do greet,

And echoes call from rock to rock,

All through the noonday heat.

In earliest dusk the gathering stars

Above thee love to meet

When lovers in the ferry-boat

Forget the passing tide,

And, closer drawn, cling lip to lip.

What though the river’s wide,

And silver clouds no secrets tell

To the towers on either side;

When church-bells o’er the water speak

Of God unto the hill,

Where ruined castles on the cliff

Speak of God’s anger still,

How strong his arm, how swift his shaft,—

Who may resist his will?

Yes, here upon this haunted Rhine

My kingdom I will found,

No spectre knight, or goblins blue,

My purpose shall confound;

I ’ll bring the Golden Age again

To this old feudal ground.