Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Switzerland and Austria: Vol. XVI. 1876–79.

Switzerland: Soleure (Solothurn)

Saint Verena

By Heinrich von Laufenberg (c. 1390–1460)

Translated by C. T. Brooks

WHERE, below the steep of Jura,

Rocky Solothurn is seen,

Sweetly nestling in the mountains,

Lies a deep and wild ravine.

Up towards heaven the stone Colossi

Soar above the vale so high,

Gloomy firs fling out their branches

Grimly, there, athwart the sky.

Down below, among the bushes,

Bright the rivulet glides along,

In the pilgrim’s ear it murmurs

Like a holy convent song.

By it oft sate Saint Verena,

Long had she her dwelling here,

Whether Spring came down the valley,

Or grim Winter howled so drear.

Whosoe’er was seized with sickness

Straightway sought her holy cell,

And had scarcely crossed her threshold

When he felt himself made well.

Whoso hears her words of wisdom,

Witnesses the daily deed,

Feels a longing stir within him:

“O that I such life might lead!”

Many a one would surely whisper,

Once beholding her at prayer:

“Ah, in sooth, for such rough region

Is the damsel all too fair.”

But her daily care is only

To extend Christ’s kingdom here,

And all hearts, in these wild places,

Praise and bless her far and near.

Even the forest’s untamed creatures

Seem as if they knew her well,

And all night, as friends and servants,

Keep their guard around her cell.

But the Evil One is frantic,

And he seeks, with envious heart,

How to circumvent and crush her,

Her who foils his every art.

Often has he made the brooklet

Through the vale a torrent roar,

But, amid the swelling waters,

Still, dry-shod, she passes o’er.

Oft, to kill the holy maiden,

Has he sent a murderer grim:

But the wretch has fled with terror,

When she turned and looked on him.

But, since all his spells are fruitless,

Underfoot his wiles all trod,

Now, at least, the fiend will show her

That he stronger is than God.

And as she, with fervor praying,

Knelt in morning’s rosy hour,

There stands Satan right behind her,—

Now her life is in his power!

With both hands the grinning monster,

See! a giant bowlder grasps;

High above him swings it fiercely;

Sympathetic nature gasps.

One more instant and he ’ll hurl it,

Surely crush her in the place,

But she hears a sudden rustling,

Backward turns her angel-face.

Such a flood of radiant beauty

Blinds him with its dazzling light;

Poised he holds the rock above him,

And forgets his fury quite.

From his mind reflection’s traces

Have so clean departed, all,

That he lets the trembling bowlder

On his toes directly fall.

But what vexes him most sorely,

Fills his soul with spite and shame,

Is, that only “limping devil”

Since that day has been his name.

Wilt thou not believe my legend,

Go to Saint Verena’s glen;

In the rocky clump thou ’lt see there

Print of Satan’s fingers ten.