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


The King of the Seven Hills

By Joseph Matzerath (1815–1876)

Translated by R. Harrison

IN ancient times, beside the Rhine, a king sat on his throne,

And all his people called him “good,”—no other name is known.

Seven hills and seven old castles marked the land beneath his sway;

His children all were beautiful and cheerful as the day.

Oft, clad in simple garments, he travelled through the land,

And to the poorest subject there he gave a friendly hand.

Now when this good old king believed his latest hour was nigh,

He bade his servants bear him to a neighboring mountain high:

Below he saw the pleasant fields in cloudless sunlight shine,

While through the valleys, brightly green, flowed peacefully the Rhine;

And pastures, gayly decked with flowers, extended far away;

While round them stood the mighty hills in darkly-blue array;

And on the hills along the Rhine seven noble castles frown,

Stern guardians! on their charge below forever looking down.

Long gazed the king upon that land; his eyes with tears o’erflow,—

He cries, “My own loved country! I must bless thee ere I go!

“O fairest of all rivers! my own, my noble Rhine!

How beauteous are the pastures all that on thy margin shine.

“To leave thee, O my land! wakes my bosom’s latest sigh,

Let me spend my breath in blessing thee, and so, contented, die.

“My good and loving people all! my land! farewell forever!

May sorrow and oppression come within your borders never!

“May people, land, and river, all, in sure protection lie

Forever ’neath the guardianship of the Almighty’s eye!”

Soon as the blessing was pronounced, the good old king was dead,

And the halo of the setting sun shone all around his head.

That king was always called “the good,”—no other name is known;

But his blessing still is resting on the land he called his own.