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

Heisterbach, the Abbey

The Monk of Heisterbach

By Carl Wilhelm Müller (1728–1801)

Translated by C. T. Brooks

IN cloister Heisterbach a youthful monk

Went sauntering through the garden’s farthest ground,

Reading God’s Holy Word in silence, sunk

In musings on eternity profound.

He reads, and hears the Apostle Peter say:

“One day is with the Lord a thousand years,

A thousand years with him are but a day,”—

But, in his maze of doubt, no clew appears.

He heeds not, lost in thought, the flight of time,

And deeper in the wood is lost his track,

Until the bell, with holy vesper chime,

To serious cloister-duties calls him back.

He reaches with swift steps the gate; the hand

Of an unknown one answers now the bell;

He starts—but sees the church all lighted stand,

And hears the friars the holy chorus swell.

Then, entering, to his seat he straightway goes,

But strange to tell, he finds it occupied;

He looks upon the monks in their long rows,

He sees all strangers, there, on every side.

The staring one is stared at all around,

They ask his name, and why he there appears;

He tells,—low murmurs through the chapel sound!

“None such has lived here these three hundred years.

“The last who bore the name,” out spake the crowd,

“A doubter was, and disappeared one day;

None, since, to take that name has been allowed”—

He hears the word, and shudders with dismay.

He names the abbot now, and names the year:

They call for the old cloister-book, and lo!

A mighty miracle of God is clear:

’T is he was lost three hundred years ago!

The terror palsies him,—his hair grows gray,—

A deathly paleness settles on his face,—

He sinks,—while breath enough is left to say:

“God is exalted over time and space!

“What he had hid, a miracle now clears;

Think of my fate, believe, adore, obey!

I know: a day is as a thousand years

With God, a thousand years are as a day!”