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

Rhine, the River

The Rhine

By Magnus Sabiston

(From Hildegarde)

THE RHINE, the far-famed, castled Rhine,

The mirror-stream of chivalry!

What legends hang about its course,

From Mount St. Gothard to the sea!

Most famous of historic streams,

Its banks have long been classic ground;

From the dim ages of the past,

In story and in song renowned.

The Rhine,—the legendary Rhine!

What tales so wondrous e’er were told

As those of its fiend-haunted wilds,

Its lovely nymphs, and knights of old!

River of battle and romance,

Chivalric Rhine! to it belong

The records of the historic page,

The legend, and the poet’s song.

It drinks the cool, clear glacier-stream,

’Neath azure skies and Alpine snows;

A brook, a torrent, and a lake,

It rushes on, and greater grows.

It winds by many a castled rock,

And many a dark and dreadful steep,

Where grim old ruins o’er its flood

Their watch like jealous guardians keep.

The Rhine,—the wild, romantic Rhine,—

The wondrous, spectre-haunted stream!

Its sight brings back the distant past:

I gaze upon it, and I dream.

I see these castles as they stood

Many a hundred years ago:

I hear the challenge and reply,

As mail-clad horsemen come and go.

I see dark forests stretching far,

Where trees no longer have a place;

I listen to the hunting-horn

Of stout old Rhinegraves in the chase.

I hear the merry laugh and shout

Of many a joyous party bent

On the high sport of falconry,

Or bound to some great tournament.

How fair the ladies whom I see

On pillioned palfreys gayly ride!

How brave and courteous are the knights

Who canter proudly by their side!

O for the days when noble deeds

Alone gained grace in beauty’s eyes,—

When men held honor more than life,

And fame, not wealth, the sought-for prize!

O for the days of chivalry,—

Of tournament and glittering throng,

And masque and pageantry and feast,

And lady-love and minstrel song!

O for a life-long summer day

To gaze on yonder glorious stream,

And give my wandering fancy play

In many a visionary dream!