Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Charlemagne and the Bridge of Moonbeams

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


Charlemagne and the Bridge of Moonbeams

By Emanuel Geibel (1815–1884)

Translated by J. C. Mangan

BEAUTEOUS is it in the summer-night, and calm along the Rhine,

And like molten silver shines the light that sleeps on wave and vine.

But a stately figure standeth on the silent hill alone,

Like the phantom of a monarch looking vainly for his throne!

Yes!—’t is he,—the unforgotten lord of this belovéd land!

’T is the glorious Car’lus Magnus, with his gleamy sword in hand,

And his crown enwreathed with myrtle, and his golden sceptre bright,

And his rich imperial purple vesture floating on the night!

Since he dwelled among his people stormy centuries have rolled,

Thrones and kingdoms have departed, and the world is waxing old:

Why leaveth he his house of rest? Why cometh he once more

From his marble tomb to wander here by Langewinkel’s shore?

O, fear ye not the emperor!—he doth not leave his tomb

As the herald of disaster to our land of blight and bloom;

He cometh not with blight or ban on castle, field, or shrine,

But with overflowing blessings for the vineyards of the Rhine!

As a bridge across the river lie the moonbeams all the time,

They shine from Langewinkel unto ancient Ingelheim;

And along this Bridge of Moonbeams is the monarch seen to go,

And from thence he pours his blessings on the royal flood below.

He blesses all the vineyards, he blesses vale and plain,

The lakes and glades and orchards, and fields of golden grain,

The lofty castle-turrets and the lowly cottage-hearth;

He blesses all, for over all he reigned of yore on earth;

Then to each and all so lovingly he waves a mute farewell,

And returns to slumber softly in his tomb at La Chapelle,

Till the summer-time be come again, with sun and rain and dew,

And the vineyards and the gardens woo him back to them anew.