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

Moselle (Mosel), the River

The Moselle

By Ausonius (c. 310–395)

Translated by C. T. Brooks
HAIL, O illustrious river! renowned for thy fields and thy farmers!

River that washest the walls of the Belgæ’s Imperial city!

River whose ridges are crowned with the vine’s odoriferous clusters!

River whose meadows are clothed by the grass with an emerald verdure!

Ships on thy bosom thou bearest,—a sea; a river, thou rollest

Down from the uplands; a lake, in the crystalline depth of thy waters;

Yet like a rill from the mountains, with silvery foot canst meander;

Nor can the coldest spring yield such refreshment as thine is.

River and brooklet and lake art thou, and fountain and ocean,—

Ocean, with ebb and flow of its multitudinous waters.

Peaceful and placid the speed of thy current; no howling of storm-winds

Vexes thy brow; no dark rocks lie lurking to anger thy bosom.


Oft, in the bend of thy current, thou lookest across, and with wonder

Seemest to see thy own waves gliding backward, and then for a moment

Thou, in thine own proper course, (so dreamest thou haply?) dost linger;

Yet with no slime-gendered reeds thou lazily linest thy borders,

Nor on thy shore in mud and ooze dost thou sluggishly stagnate,

But all unsoiled and unwet come the feet to thy silvery margin.


Go, and with Phrygian mosaics inlay thou the floor of thy mansion,

Till like the face of a mirror the marble-paved corridors glisten!

I, meanwhile, despising what wealth and luxury offer,

Wonder at Nature’s works, where never a miserly boaster,

Not even poverty, grasps, in the joy of the lavish creation.

Silvery sand and pure pebbles adorn this clean floor of the river,

And it retains in remembrance no trace of the last passing footprint.

Down through the crystalline depths of the waters we see to the bottom.

They have no mysteries to hide; and, as in the clear upper heavens

Ranges the eye far round through all the circling horizon,

What time no breath of wind shakes a leaflet or ripples the water,

So in the blue heaven below the eve freely ranges or lingers,

And in the azure-light chambers sees manifold shapes of rare beauty;

Plants that gracefully wave in the silent sway of the waters,

And through green groves of moss glittering jewels of sand.


Lo! how the slippery swarms of fishes that chase one another

Through the green labyrinth there, in and out, in perpetual motion,

Charm and bewilder at once the eye of the wearied beholder!

All the names and the tribes of the numberless finny creation,

Whether of those that swim down stream on their way to the ocean,

Or those that follow each other up-river in shoals never ending.


There, in the liquid glass, the bending forms of the oarsmen,—

Shadowy oarsmen, dipping alternate in time with the real,

Only in inverse position, are seen gliding merrily onward.

How the illusive picture delights the charmed eyes of the young folk!

Such the ecstatic delight of the child when the nurse at the toilet

Holds up before her the glass and shows her her shadowy sister,

Looking so real to her,—as if ’t were her double incarnate,—

That she must needs imprint a kiss, in her wondering transport,

On the blank metal that stares with a cold, unanswering surface.


But what end can I find of celebrating thy waters,

Blue as the blue of the ocean, that mirrors the heavens, O Mosella!

Lo! what innumerable streams come down, either side, from the mountains,

Eager to mingle their waters with thine! full fain would they linger

In the fair regions they pass; but a yearning far mightier bids them

Baptize themselves into thy name, and bury themselves in thy bosom.


Yea, majestic Mosella! had Smyrna but lent thee her singer,

Mantua bequeathed thee her bard, not Simois, then, nor Ilyssus,

Nay, not Tiber himself, should go before thee in glory!

Mighty Rome,—thy forgiveness! Far from thy greatness be envy!

Ever my prayer is: May Nemesis (strange to the tongue of the Latin)

Guard thee, of empire the seat,—guard, Rome! thy illustrious Fathers!

Hail! O Mosella, to thee, great parent of fruits and of peoples!

Thee an heroic nobility graces, a youth of tried prowess,

Thee an excellent speech that rivals the Latian language.

Nay, to thy sons has been given by Nature, with earnest, grave faces,

And with refinement of manners, the deep-welling joy of the spirit.

Not old Rome alone can point with pride to her Catos,

Nor was the model of truth and integrity buried forever

With the just Aristides, sometime the glory of Athens.


Let me sing to the close the praise of the glorious river,

Follow the sweep of its tide rejoicing along the green meadows,

Till in the waves of the Rhine it shall come to receive consecration!

Open, O Rhine! thy blue bosom! Spread wide thy green fluttering garments

To the new stream that with thine would mingle its sisterly waters!

Nor does it bring thee alone the wealth of its waters; but stately

Sweeps from the walls of the city, the princely that once saw in triumph

Father and son return from Nicer and Lupodunum.


Proud grew the laurel and high from the field of the freshly won battles;

Soon other lands may bear others; but ye, as brother and sister,

Roll in majesty on to the purple expanse of the ocean!

Fear not, O glorious Rhine! that thy name and thy fame shall be lessened!

Far from the host be all envy! Thy name and renown are immortal!

Sure of thy glory, then open thy wide arms to welcome thy sister!