Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Belgium: Antwerp


By Elizabeth G. Barber

WHEN pilgrim thoughts retrace their way

Where the lone warder, Memory, waits,

Again as in a bygone day,

I stand by Antwerp’s ancient gates.

The selfsame scene my vision greets,

The ivied towers, the blackened walls;

And o’er the long and winding streets

The sunset’s golden glory falls.

I pause where Rubens silent stands,

Amid the city’s busy mart,

With soul-lit brow, and folded hands,

Of Antwerp’s noblest fame a part.

I meet again each Flemish face,

Which well might be the painter’s theme;

Nor softer eyes nor purer grace

Could haunt the poet’s raptured dream.

I seek the haunts old painters sought,

Where Teniers wooed divinest art;

The spot where Quintin Matsys wrought

For Love and Fame with giant heart.

The summer’s brightest sunbeams gleam

O’er hoary towers from smiling skies,

And o’er the Scheldt’s delicious stream

A golden path of ripples lies.

Then as those gleams of beauty fade

And soften into twilight time,

Slow stealing through the gathering shade,

I hear the bells of vesper chime.

Down from the old cathedral tower

Their notes of dream-like music fall,

The holiest voices of the hour,

And welcomed like an angel’s call.

I mingle with the crowd once more,

As in that vesper hour gone by;

And following through the arched door,

I pause amid them silently.

Through fretted arches high and dim,

I hear the organ’s mighty swells,

The chorus of the chanted hymn,

And over all, the chiming bells.

The white-robed priests, the murmured prayer,

The wreathing incense o’er the crowd,

The shadowy forms of sculpture rare,

The groups in silent worship bowed.

The pictures shining through the shades,

Touched by the sunset’s fading glow,

The misty light through long arcades,

The checkered marble just below.

These touch me with a dreamy spell,

As ’neath a seraph’s wing I bow;

These lips of mine can never tell

The silent awe that thrills me now.

The vision fades, the ancient towers

In evening shadows fade away,

Again as in the bygone hours,

I turn upon my pilgrim way.

O Antwerp! for that hour’s dear sake

I keep thy golden memories yet;

This heart of mine must chill or break,

Ere I thy loveliness forget.