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

Rhine, the River

The Legends of the Rhine

By Bret Harte (1836–1902)

BEETLING walls with ivy grown,

Frowning heights of mossy stone;

Turret, with its flaunting flag

Flung from battlemented crag;

Dungeon-keep and fortalice

Looking down a precipice

O’er the darkly glancing wave

By the Lurline-haunted cave;

Robber haunt and maiden bower,

Home of love and crime and power,—

That ’s the scenery, in fine,

Of the Legends of the Rhine.

One bold baron, double-dyed

Bigamist and parricide,

And, as most the stories run,

Partner of the Evil One;

Injured innocence in white,

Fair but idiotic quite,

Wringing of her lily hands;

Valor fresh from Paynim lands,

Abbot ruddy, hermit pale,

Minstrel fraught with many a tale,—

Are the actors that combine

In the Legends of the Rhine.

Bell-mouthed flagons round a board;

Suits of armor, shield, and sword;

Kerchief with its bloody stain;

Ghosts of the untimely slain;

Thunder-clap and clanking chain;

Headsman’s block and shining axe;

Thumbscrews, crucifixes, racks;

Midnight-tolling chapel bell,

Heard across the gloomy fell,—

These, and other pleasant facts,

Are the properties that shine

In the Legends of the Rhine.

Maledictions, whispered vows

Underneath the linden boughs;

Murder, bigamy, and theft;

Travellers of goods bereft;

Rapine, pillage, arson, spoil,—

Everything but honest toil,

Are the deeds that best define

Every Legend of the Rhine.

That Virtue always meets reward,

But quicker when it wears a sword;

That Providence has special care

Of gallant knight and lady fair;

That villains, as a thing of course,

Are always haunted by remorse,—

Is the moral, I opine,

Of the Legends of the Rhine.