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

Portugal: Coimbra

The Coronation of Inez de Castro

By Felicia Hemans (1793–1835)

THERE was music on the midnight,

From a royal fane it rolled;

And a mighty bell, each pause between,

Sternly and slowly tolled.

Strange was their mingling in the sky,

It hushed the listener’s breath;

For the music spoke of triumph high,

The lonely bell,—of death!

There was hurrying through the midnight

A sound of many feet;

But they fell with a muffled fearfulness

Along the shadowy street:

And softer, fainter grew their tread,

As it neared the minster gate,

Whence a broad and solemn light was shed

From a scene of royal state.

Full glowed the strong red radiance

In the centre of the nave,

Where the folds of a purple canopy

Swept down in many a wave,

Loading the marble pavement old

With a weight of gorgeous gloom;

For something lay midst their fretted gold,

Like a shadow of the tomb.

And within that rich pavilion,

High on a glittering throne,

A woman’s form sat silently,

Midst the glare of light alone.

Her jewelled robes fell strangely still,—

The drapery on her breast

Seemed with no pulse beneath to thrill,

So stone-like was its rest!

But a peal of lordly music

Shook e’en the dust below,

When the burning gold of the diadem

Was set on her pallid brow!

Then died away that haughty sound;

And from the encircling band

Stepped prince and chief, midst the hush profound,

With homage to her hand.

Why passed a faint, cold shuddering

Over each martial frame,

As one by one, to touch that hand,

Noble and leader came?

Was not the settled aspect fair?

Did not a queenly grace,

Under the parted ebon hair,

Sit on the pale still face?

Death! Death! canst thou be lovely

Unto the eye of life?

Is not each pulse of the quick high breast

With thy cold mien at strife?

—It was a strange and fearful sight,

The crown upon that head,

The glorious robes, and the blaze of light,

All gathered round the dead!

And beside her stood in silence

One with a brow as pale,

And white lips rigidly compressed,

Lest the strong heart should fail:

King Pedro, with a jealous eye,

Watching the homage done

By the land’s flower and chivalry

To her, his martyred one.

But on the face he looked not

Which once his star had been;

To every form his glance was turned

Save of the breathless queen:

Though something, won from the grave’s embrace,

Of her beauty still was there,

Its hues were all of that shadowy place,

It was not for him to bear.

Alas! the crown, the sceptre,

The treasures of the earth,

And the priceless love that poured those gifts,

Alike of wasted worth!

The rites are closed,—bear back the dead

Unto the chamber deep!

Lay down again the royal head,

Dust with the dust to sleep!

There is music on the midnight,—

A requiem sad and slow,

As the mourners through the sounding aisle

In dark procession go;

And the ring of state, and the starry crown,

And all the rich array,

Are borne to the house of silence down,

With her, that queen of clay!

And tearlessly and firmly

King Pedro led the train;

But his face was wrapped in his folding robe

When they lowered the dust again.

’T is hushed at last the tomb above,—

Hymns die, and steps depart:

Who called thee strong as Death, O Love?

Mightier thou wast and art.