Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Church of St. John, and the Ruins of Lahneck Castle

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

Lahneck, the Castle

The Church of St. John, and the Ruins of Lahneck Castle

By Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802–1838)

ON the dark heights that overlook the Rhine,

Flinging long shadows on the watery plains,

Crowned with gray towers, and girdled by the vine,

How little of the warlike past remains!

The castle walls are shattered, and wild-flowers

Usurp the crimson banner’s former sign.

Where are the haughty Templars and their powers?

Their forts are perished, but not so their shrine.

Like Memory veiled, Tradition sits and tells

Her twilight histories of the olden time;

How few the records of those craggy dells

But what recall some sorrow or some crime!

Of Europe’s childhood was the feudal age,

When the world’s sceptre was the sword; and power,

Unfit for human weakness, wrong, and rage,

Knew not that curb which waits a wiser hour.

Ill suited empire with a human hand;

Authority needs rule, restraint, and awe;

Order and peace spread gradual through the land,

And force submits to a diviner law.

A few great minds appear, and by their light

The many find their way; truth after truth

Doth starlike rise on depths of moral night,

Though even now is knowledge in its youth.

Still as those ancient heights, which only bore

The iron harvest of the sword and spear,

Are now with purple vineyards covered o’er,

While cornfields fill the fertile valleys near:

Our moral progress has a glorious scope,

Much has the Past by thought and labor done;

Knowledge and Peace pursue the steps of Hope,

Whose noblest victories are yet unwon.