Read THE SPIRE OF STRASBURG CATHEDRAL. of The Golden Legend, free online book, by Dante Alighieri, on

Night and storm. Lucifer, with the Powers of the Air, trying to tear down the Cross.

Lucifer. Hasten! hasten! 
O ye spirits! 
From its station drag the ponderous
Cross of iron, that to mock us
Is uplifted high in air!

Voices. O, we cannot! 
For around it
All the Saints and Guardian Angels
Throng in legions to protect it;
They defeat us everywhere!

  The Bells. Laudo Deum verum
                    Plebem voco
                    Congrego clerum!

Lucifer. Lower! lower! 
Hover downward! 
Seize the loud, vociferous bells, and
Clashing, clanging, to the pavement
Hurl them from their windy tower!

Voices. All thy thunders
Here are harmless! 
For these bells have been anointed,
And baptized with holy water! 
They defy our utmost power.

  The Bells. Defunctos ploro
                    Pestem fugo
                    Festa decoro!

Lucifer. Shake the casements! 
Break the painted
Panes that flame with gold and crimson! 
Scatter them like leaves of Autumn,
Swept away before the blast!

Voices. O, we cannot! 
The Archangel
Michael flames from every window,
With the sword of fire that drove us
Headlong, out of heaven, aghast!

  The Bells. Funera plango
                    Fulgora frango
                    Sabbata pango!

Lucifer. Aim your lightnings
At the oaken,
Massive, iron-studded portals! 
Sack the house of God, and scatter
Wide the ashes of the dead!

Voices. O, we cannot! 
The Apostles
And the Martyrs, wrapped in mantles,
Stand as wardens at the entrance,
Stand as sentinels o’erhead!

  The Bells. Excito lentos
                    Dissipo ventos! 
                    Paco cruentos!

Lucifer. Baffled! baffled! 
Craven spirits! leave this labor
Unto Time, the great Destroyer! 
Come away, ere night is gone!

Voices. Onward! onward! 
With the night-wind,
Over field and farm and forest,
Lonely homestead, darksome hamlet,
Blighting all we breathe upon!

          (They sweep away.  Organ and Gregorian Chant.)

  Choir. Nocte surgentes
                    Vig lemus omnes!


A chamber in a tower. PRINCE HENRY, sitting alone, ill and restless.

Prince Henry. I cannot sleep! my fervid brain
Calls up the vanished Past again,
And throws its misty splendors deep
Into the pallid realms of sleep! 
A breath from that far-distant shore
Comes freshening ever more and more,
And wafts o’er intervening seas
Sweet odors from the Hesperides! 
A wind, that through the corridor
Just stirs the curtain, and no more,
And, touching the aeolian strings,
Faints with the burden that it brings! 
Come back! ye friendships long departed! 
That like o’erflowing streamlets started,
And now are dwindled, one by one,
To stony channels in the sun! 
Come back! ye friends, whose lives are ended! 
Come back, with all that light attended,
Which seemed to darken and decay
When ye arose and went away! 
They come, the shapes of joy and woe,
The airy crowds of long-ago,
The dreams and fancies known of yore,
That have been, and shall be no more. 
They change the cloisters of the night
Into a garden of delight;
They make the dark and dreary hours
Open and blossom into flowers! 
I would not sleep!  I love to be
Again in their fair company;
But ere my lips can bid them stay,
They pass and vanish quite away!

Alas! our memories may retrace
Each circumstance of time and place,
Season and scene come back again,
And outward things unchanged remain;
The rest we cannot reinstate;
Ourselves we cannot re-create,
Nor set our souls to the same key
Of the remembered harmony!

Rest! rest!  O, give me rest and peace! 
The thought of life that ne’er shall cease
Has something in it like despair,
A weight I am too weak to bear! 
Sweeter to this afflicted breast
The thought of never-ending rest! 
Sweeter the undisturbed and deep
Tranquillity of endless sleep!

(A flash of lightning, out of which LUCIFER appears, in the garb of a travelling Physician.)

  Lucifer.  All hail Prince Henry!

Prince Henry (starting).  Who is it speaks?  Who and what are you?

Lucifer.  One who seeks A moment’s audience with the Prince.

  Prince Henry.  When came you in?

Lucifer.  A moment since.  I found your study door unlocked, And thought you answered when I knocked.

  Prince Henry.  I did not hear you.

Lucifer.  You heard the thunder;
It was loud enough to waken the dead. 
And it is not a matter of special wonder
That, when God is walking overhead,
You should not have heard my feeble tread.

  Prince Henry.  What may your wish or purpose be?

Lucifer.  Nothing or everything, as it pleases
Your Highness.  You behold in me
Only a traveling Physician;
One of the few who have a mission
To cure incurable diseases,
Or those that are called so.

Prince Henry.  Can you bring The dead to life?

Lucifer.  Yes; very nearly. 
And, what is a wiser and better thing,
Can keep the living from ever needing
Such an unnatural, strange proceeding,
By showing conclusively and clearly
That death is a stupid blunder merely,
And not a necessity of our lives. 
My being here is accidental;
The storm, that against your casement drives,
In the little village below waylaid me. 
And there I heard, with a secret delight,
Of your maladies physical and mental,
Which neither astonished nor dismayed me. 
And I hastened hither, though late in the night,
To proffer my aid!

Prince Henry (ironically) For this you came!  Ah, how can I ever hope to requite This honor from one so erudite?

Lucifer.  The honor is mine, or will be when I have cured your disease.

  Prince Henry.  But not till then.

  Lucifer.  What is your illness?

Prince Henry.  It has no name. 
A smouldering, dull, perpetual flame,
As in a kiln, burns in my veins,
Sending up vapors to the head,
My heart has become a dull lagoon,
Which a kind of leprosy drinks and drains;
I am accounted as one who is dead,
And, indeed, I think that I shall be soon.

Lucifer And has Gordonius the Divine,
In his famous Lily of Medicine, ­
I see the book lies open before you, ­
No remedy potent enough to restore you?

  Prince Henry.  None whatever!

Lucifer The dead are dead,
And their oracles dumb, when questioned
Of the new diseases that human life
Evolves in its progress, rank and rife. 
Consult the dead upon things that were,
But the living only on things that are. 
Have you done this, by the appliance
And aid of doctors?

Prince Henry.  Ay, whole schools
Of doctors, with their learned rules,
But the case is quite beyond their science. 
Even the doctors of Salern
Send me back word they can discern
No cure for a malady like this,
Save one which in its nature is
Impossible, and cannot be!

  Lucifer That sounds oracular!

  Prince Henry Unendurable!

  Lucifer What is their remedy?

Prince Henry You shall see; Writ in this scroll is the mystery.

Lucifer (reading). “Not to be cured, yet not incurable! 
The only remedy that remains
Is the blood that flows from a maiden’s veins,
Who of her own free will shall die,
And give her life as the price of yours!”
That is the strangest of all cures,
And one, I think, you will never try;
The prescription you may well put by,
As something impossible to find
Before the world itself shall end! 
And yet who knows?  One cannot say
That into some maiden’s brain that kind
Of madness will not find its way. 
Meanwhile permit me to recommend,
As the matter admits of no delay,
My wonderful Catholicon,
Of very subtile and magical powers!

Prince Henry. Purge with your nostrums and drugs infernal
The spouts and gargoyles of these towers,
Not me!  My faith is utterly gone
In every power but the Power Supernal! 
Pray tell me, of what school are you?

Lucifer. Both of the Old and of the New! 
The school of Hermes Trismegistus,
Who uttered his oracles sublime
Before the Olympiads, in the dew
Of the early dawn and dusk of Time,
The reign of dateless old Hephaestus! 
As northward, from its Nubian springs,
The Nile, forever new and old,
Among the living and the dead,
Its mighty, mystic stream has rolled;
So, starting from its fountain-head
Under the lotus-leaves of Isis,
From the dead demigods of eld,
Through long, unbroken lines of kings
Its course the sacred art has held,
Unchecked, unchanged by man’s devices. 
This art the Arabian Geber taught,
And in alembics, finely wrought,
Distilling herbs and flowers, discovered
The secret that so long had hovered
Upon the misty verge of Truth,
The Elixir of Perpetual Youth,
Called Alcohol, in the Arab speech! 
Like him, this wondrous lore I teach!

  Prince Henry. What! an adept?

  Lucifer. Nor less, nor more!

Prince Henry. I am a reader of such books,
A lover of that mystic lore! 
With such a piercing glance it looks
Into great Nature’s open eye,
And sees within it trembling lie
The portrait of the Deity! 
And yet, alas! with all my pains,
The secret and the mystery
Have baffled and eluded me,
Unseen the grand result remains!

Lucifer (showing a flask). Behold it here! this little flask
Contains the wonderful quintessence,
The perfect flower and efflorescence,
Of all the knowledge man can ask! 
Hold it up thus against the light!

Prince Henry. How limpid, pure, and crystalline,
How quick, and tremulous, and bright
The little wavelets dance and shine,
As were it the Water of Life in sooth!

Lucifer. It is!  It assuages every pain,
Cures all disease, and gives again
To age the swift delights of youth. 
Inhale its fragrance.

Prince Henry. It is sweet. 
A thousand different odors meet
And mingle in its rare perfume,
Such as the winds of summer waft
At open windows through a room!

  Lucifer. Will you not taste it?

Prince Henry. Will one draught Suffice?

  Lucifer. If not, you can drink more.

Prince Henry. Into this crystal goblet pour So much as safely I may drink.

Lucifer (pouring). Let not the quantity alarm you:  You may drink all; it will not harm you.

Prince Henry. I am as one who on the brink
Of a dark river stands and sees
The waters flow, the landscape dim
Around him waver, wheel, and swim,
And, ere he plunges, stops to think
Into what whirlpools he may sink;
One moment pauses, and no more,
Then madly plunges from the shore! 
Headlong into the dark mysteries
Of life and death I boldly leap,
Nor fear the fateful current’s sweep,
Nor what in ambush lurks below! 
For death is better than disease!

          (An ANGEL with an aeolian harp hovers in the air.)

Angel. Woe! woe! eternal woe! 
Not only the whispered prayer
Of love,
But the imprecations of hate,
Forever and ever through the air
This fearful curse
Shakes the great universe!

Lucifer (disappearing). Drink! drink! 
And thy soul shall sink
Down into the dark abyss,
Into the infinite abyss,
From which no plummet nor rope
Ever drew up the silver sand of hope!

Prince Henry (drinking). It is like a draught of fire! 
Through every vein
I feel again
The fever of youth, the soft desire;
A rapture that is almost pain
Throbs in my heart and fills my brain! 
O joy!  O joy!  I feel
The band of steel
That so long and heavily has pressed
Upon my breast
Uplifted, and the malediction
Of my affliction
Is taken from me, and my weary breast
At length finds rest.

  The Angel. It is but the rest of the fire, from which the air
                        has been taken! 
It is but the rest of the sand, when the hour-glass is not shaken!  It is but the rest of the tide between the ebb and the flow!  It is but the rest of the wind between the flaws that blow!  With fiendish laughter, Hereafter,
This false physician
Will mock thee in thy perdition.

Prince Henry. Speak! speak! 
Who says that I am ill? 
I am not ill!  I am not weak! 
The trance, the swoon, the dream, is o’er! 
I feel the chill of death no more! 
At length,
I stand renewed in all my strength! 
Beneath me I can feel
The great earth stagger and reel,
As it the feet of a descending God
Upon its surface trod,
And like a pebble it rolled beneath his heel! 
This, O brave physician! this
Is thy great Palingenesis!

          (Drinks again.)

The Angel. Touch the goblet no more! 
It will make thy heart sore
To its very core! 
Its perfume is the breath
Of the Angel of Death,
And the light that within it lies
Is the flash of his evil eyes. 
Beware!  O, beware! 
For sickness, sorrow, and care
All are there!

Prince Henry (sinking back). O thou voice within my breast! 
Why entreat me, why upbraid me,
When the steadfast tongues of truth
And the flattering hopes of youth
Have all deceived me and betrayed me? 
Give me, give me rest, O, rest! 
Golden visions wave and hover,
Golden vapors, waters streaming,
Landscapes moving, changing, gleaming! 
I am like a happy lover
Who illumines life with dreaming! 
Brave physician!  Rare physician! 
Well hast thou fulfilled thy mission!

          (His head falls On his book.)

The Angel (receding). Alas! alas! 
Like a vapor the golden vision
Shall fade and pass,
And thou wilt find in thy heart again
Only the blight of pain,
And bitter, bitter, bitter contrition!


HUBERT standing by the gateway.

Hubert. How sad the grand old castle looks! 
O’erhead, the unmolested rooks
Upon the turret’s windy top
Sit, talking of the farmer’s crop;
Here in the court-yard springs the grass,
So few are now the feet that pass;
The stately peacocks, bolder grown,
Come hopping down the steps of stone,
As if the castle were their own;
And I, the poor old seneschal,
Haunt, like a ghost, the banquet-hall. 
Alas! the merry guests no more
Crowd through the hospital door;
No eyes with youth and passion shine,
No cheeks glow redder than the wine;
No song, no laugh, no jovial din
Of drinking wassail to the pin;
But all is silent, sad, and drear,
And now the only sounds I hear
Are the hoarse rooks upon the walls,
And horses stamping in their stalls!

          (A horn sounds.)

What ho! that merry, sudden blast
Reminds me of the days long past! 
And, as of old resounding, grate
The heavy hinges of the gate,
And, clattering loud, with iron clank,
Down goes the sounding bridge of plank,
As if it were in haste to greet
The pressure of a traveler’s feet!

          (Enter WALTER the Minnesinger.)

Walter. How now, my friend!  This looks quite lonely! 
No banner flying from the walls,
No pages and no seneschals,
No wardens, and one porter only! 
Is it you, Hubert?

  Hubert. Ah!  Master Walter!

Walter. Alas! how forms and faces alter! 
I did not know you.  You look older! 
Your hair has grown much grayer and thinner,
And you stoop a little in the shoulder!

Hubert. Alack!  I am a poor old sinner, And, like these towers, begin to moulder; And you have been absent many a year!

  Walter. How is the Prince?

Hubert. He is not here; He has been ill:  and now has fled.

Walter. Speak it out frankly:  say he’s dead!  Is it not so?

Hubert. No; if you please;
A strange, mysterious disease
Fell on him with a sudden blight. 
Whole hours together he would stand
Upon the terrace, in a dream,
Resting his head upon his hand,
Best pleased when he was most alone,
Like Saint John Nepomuck in stone,
Looking down into a stream. 
In the Round Tower, night after night,
He sat, and bleared his eyes with books;
Until one morning we found him there
Stretched on the floor, as if in a swoon
He had fallen from his chair. 
We hardly recognized his sweet looks!

  Walter. Poor Prince!

Hubert. I think he might have mended;
And he did mend; but very soon
The Priests came flocking in, like rooks,
With all their crosiers and their crooks,
And so at last the matter ended.

  Walter. How did it end?

Hubert. Why, in Saint Rochus
They made him stand, and wait his doom;
And, as if he were condemned to the tomb,
Began to mutter their hocus pocus. 
First, the Mass for the Dead they chaunted. 
Then three times laid upon his head
A shovelful of church-yard clay,
Saying to him, as he stood undaunted,
“This is a sign that thou art dead,
So in thy heart be penitent!”
And forth from the chapel door he went
Into disgrace and banishment,
Clothed in a cloak of hodden gray,
And bearing a wallet, and a bell,
Whose sound should be a perpetual knell
To keep all travelers away.

Walter. O, horrible fate!  Outcast, rejected, As one with pestilence infected!

Hubert. Then was the family tomb unsealed,
And broken helmet, sword and shield,
Buried together, in common wreck,
As is the custom, when the last
Of any princely house has passed,
And thrice, as with a trumpet-blast,
A herald shouted down the stair
The words of warning and despair, ­
“O Hoheneck!  O Hoheneck!”

Walter.  Still in my soul that cry goes on, ­
Forever gone! forever gone! 
Ah, what a cruel sense of loss,
Like a black shadow, would fall across
The hearts of all, if he should die! 
His gracious presence upon earth
Was as a fire upon a hearth;
As pleasant songs, at morning sung,
The words that dropped from his sweet tongue
Strengthened our hearts; or, heard at night,
Made all our slumbers soft and light. 
Where is he?

Hubert. In the Odenwald. 
Some of his tenants, unappalled
By fear of death, or priestly word, ­
A holy family, that make
Each meal a Supper of the Lord, ­
Have him beneath their watch and ward,
For love of him, and Jesus’ sake! 
Pray you come in.  For why should I
With outdoor hospitality
My prince’s friend thus entertain?

Walter. I would a moment here remain. 
But you, good Hubert, go before,
Fill me a goblet of May-drink,
As aromatic as the May
From which it steals the breath away,
And which he loved so well of yore;
It is of him that I would think
You shall attend me, when I call,
In the ancestral banquet hall. 
Unseen companions, guests of air,
You cannot wait on, will be there;
They taste not food, they drink not wine,
But their soft eyes look into mine,
And their lips speak to me, and all
The vast and shadowy banquet-hall
Is full of looks and words divine!

          (Leaning over the parapet.)

The day is done; and slowly from the scene
The stooping sun upgathers his spent shafts,
And puts them back into his golden quiver! 
Below me in the valley, deep and green
As goblets are, from which in thirsty draughts
We drink its wine, the swift and mantling river
Flows on triumphant through these lovely regions,
Etched with the shadows of its sombre margent,
And soft, reflected clouds of gold and argent! 
Yes, there it flows, forever, broad and still,
As when the vanguard of the Roman legions
First saw it from the top of yonder hill! 
How beautiful it is!  Fresh fields of wheat,
Vineyard, and town, and tower with fluttering flag,
The consecrated chapel on the crag,
And the white hamlet gathered round its base,
Like Mary sitting at her Saviour’s feet,
And looking up at his beloved face! 
O friend!  O best of friends!  Thy absence more
Than the impending night darkens the landscape o’er! 

A garden; morning; PRINCE HENRY seated, with a book.  ELSIE, at a distance, gathering flowers.

Prince Henry (reading). One morning, all alone,
Out of his convent of gray stone,
Into the forest older, darker, grayer,
His lips moving as if in prayer,
His head sunken upon his breast
As in a dream of rest,
Walked the Monk Felix.  All about
The broad, sweet sunshine lay without,
Filling the summer air;
And within the woodlands as he trod,
The twilight was like the Truce of God
With worldly woe and care;
Under him lay the golden moss;
And above him the boughs of hemlock-tree
Waved, and made the sign of the cross,
And whispered their Bénédicités;
And from the ground
Rose an odor sweet and fragrant
Of the wild flowers and the vagrant
Vines that wandered,
Seeking the sunshine, round and round. 
These he heeded not, but pondered
On the volume in his hand,
A volume of Saint Augustine;
Wherein he read of the unseen
Splendors of God’s great town
In the unknown land,
And, with his eyes cast down
In humility, he said: 
“I believe, O God,
What herein I have read,
But alas!  I do not understand!”

And lo! he heard
The sudden singing of a bird,
A snow-white bird, that from a cloud
Dropped down,
And among the branches brown
Sat singing
So sweet, and clear, and loud,
It seemed a thousand harp strings ringing. 
And the Monk Felix closed his book,
And long, long,
With rapturous look,
He listened to the song,
And hardly breathed or stirred,
Until he saw, as in a vision,
The land Elysian,
And in the heavenly city heard
Angelic feet
Fall on the golden flagging of the street. 
And he would fain
Have caught the wondrous bird,
But strove in vain;
For it flew away, away,
Far over hill and dell,
And instead of its sweet singing
He heard the convent bell
Suddenly in the silence ringing
For the service of noonday. 
And he retraced
His pathway homeward sadly and in haste.

In the convent there was a change! 
He looked for each well known face,
But the faces were new and strange;
New figures sat in the oaken stalls,
New voices chaunted in the choir,
Yet the place was the same place,
The same dusky walls
Of cold, gray stone,
The same cloisters and belfry and spire.

A stranger and alone
Among that brotherhood
The Monk Felix stood
“Forty years,” said a Friar. 
“Have I been Prior
Of this convent in the wood,
But for that space
Never have I beheld thy face!”

The heart of the Monk Felix fell: 
And he answered with submissive tone,
“This morning, after the hour of Prime,
I left my cell,
And wandered forth alone,
Listening all the time
To the melodious singing
Of a beautiful white bird,
Until I heard
The bells of the convent ringing
Noon from their noisy towers,
It was as if I dreamed;
For what to me had seemed
Moments only, had been hours!”

“Years!” said a voice close by. 
It was an aged monk who spoke,
From a bench of oak
Fastened against the wall; ­
He was the oldest monk of all. 
For a whole century
Had he been there,
Serving God in prayer,
The meekest and humblest of his creatures. 
He remembered well the features
Of Felix, and he said,
Speaking distinct and slow: 
“One hundred years ago,
When I was a novice in this place,
There was here a monk, full of God’s grace,
Who bore the name
Of Felix, and this man must be the same.”

And straightway
They brought forth to the light of day
A volume old and brown,
A huge tome, bound
With brass and wild-boar’s hide,
Therein were written down
The names of all who had died
In the convent, since it was edified. 
And there they found,
Just as the old monk said,
That on a certain day and date,
One hundred years before,
Had gone forth from the convent gate
The Monk Felix, and never more
Had entered that sacred door. 
He had been counted among the dead! 
And they knew, at last,
That, such had been the power
Of that celestial and immortal song,
A hundred years had passed,
And had not seemed so long
As a single hour!

          (ELSIE comes in with flowers.)

Elsie. Here are flowers for you,
But they are not all for you. 
Some of them are for the Virgin
And for Saint Cecilia.

Prince Henry. As thou standest there,
Thou seemest to me like the angel
That brought the immortal roses
To Saint Cecilia’s bridal chamber.

  Elsie. But these will fade.

Prince Henry. Themselves will fade,
But not their memory,
And memory has the power
To re-create them from the dust. 
They remind me, too,
Of martyred Dorothea,
Who from celestial gardens sent
Flowers as her witnesses
To him who scoffed and doubted.

Elsie. Do you know the story Of Christ and the Sultan’s daughter?  That is the prettiest legend of them all.

Prince Henry. Then tell it to me. 
But first come hither. 
Lay the flowers down beside me. 
And put both thy hands in mine. 
Now tell me the story.

Elsie. Early in the morning
The Sultan’s daughter
Walked in her father’s garden,
Gathering the bright flowers,
All full of dew.

Prince Henry. Just as thou hast been doing This morning, dearest Elsie.

Elsie. And as she gathered them,
She wondered more and more
Who was the Master of the Flowers,
And made them grow
Out of the cold, dark earth. 
“In my heart,” she said,
“I love him; and for him
Would leave my father’s palace,
To labor in his garden.”

Prince Henry. Dear, innocent child! 
How sweetly thou recallest
The long-forgotten legend,
That in my early childhood
My mother told me! 
Upon my brain
It reappears once more,
As a birth-mark on the forehead
When a hand suddenly
Is laid upon it, and removed!

Elsie. And at midnight,
As she lay upon her bed,
She heard a voice
Call to her from the garden,
And, looking forth from her window,
She saw a beautiful youth
Standing among the flowers. 
It was the Lord Jesus;
And she went down to him,
And opened the door for him;
And he said to her, “O maiden! 
Thou hast thought of me with love,
And for thy sake
Out of my Father’s kingdom
Have I come hither: 
I am the Master of the Flowers. 
My garden is in Paradise,
And if thou wilt go with me,
Thy bridal garland
Shall be of bright red flowers.” 
And then he took from his finger
A golden ring,
And asked the Sultan’s daughter
If she would be his bride. 
And when she answered him with love,
His wounds began to bleed,
And she said to him,
“O Love! how red thy heart is,
And thy hands are full of roses,”
“For thy sake,” answered he,
“For thy sake is my heart so red,
For thee I bring these roses. 
I gathered them at the cross
Whereon I died for thee! 
Come, for my Father calls. 
Thou art my elected bride!”
And the Sultan’s daughter
Followed him to his Father’s garden.

  Prince Henry. Wouldst thou have done so, Elsie?

  Elsie. Yes, very gladly.

Prince Henry. Then the Celestial Bridegroom
Will come for thee also. 
Upon thy forehead he will place,
Not his crown of thorns,
But a crown of roses. 
In thy bridal chamber,
Like Saint Cecilia,
Thou shall hear sweet music,
And breathe the fragrance
Of flowers immortal! 
Go now and place these flowers
Before her picture.


Twilight. URSULA spinning. GOTTLIEB asleep in his chair.

Ursula. Darker and darker!  Hardly a glimmer
Of light comes in at the window-pane;
Or is it my eyes are growing dimmer? 
I cannot disentangle this skein,
Nor wind it rightly upon the reel. 

Gottlieb (starting).  The stopping of thy wheel
Has wakened me out of a pleasant dream. 
I thought I was sitting beside a stream,
And heard the grinding of a mill,
When suddenly the wheels stood still,
And a voice cried “Elsie” in my ear! 
It startled me, it seemed so near.

Ursula. I was calling her:  I want a light. 
I cannot see to spin my flax. 
Bring the lamp, Elsie.  Dost thou hear?

  Elsie (within). In a moment!

  Gottlieb. Where are Bertha and Max?

Ursula. They are sitting with Elsie at the door.  She is telling them stories of the wood, And the Wolf, and Little Red Ridinghood.

Gottlieb.  And where is the Prince?

Ursula.  In his room overhead; I heard him walking across the floor, As he always does, with a heavy tread.

(ELSIE comes in with a lamp.  MAX and BERTHA follow her; and they all sing the Evening Song on the lighting of the lamps.)


O gladsome light
Of the Father Immortal,
And of the celestial
Sacred and blessed
Jesus, our Saviour!

Now to the sunset
Again hast thou brought us;
And, seeing the evening
Twilight, we bless thee,
Praise thee, adore thee!

Father omnipotent! 
Son, the Life-giver! 
Spirit, the Comforter! 
Worthy at all times
Of worship and wonder!

Prince Henry (at the door).  Amen!

Ursula.  Who was it said Amen?

Elsie.  It was the Prince:  he stood at the door, And listened a moment, as we chaunted The evening song.  He is gone again.  I have often seen him there before.

  Ursula.  Poor Prince!

Gottlieb.  I thought the house was haunted!  Poor Prince, alas! and yet as mild And patient as the gentlest child!

Max. I love him because he is so good, And makes me such fine bows and arrows, To shoot at the robins and the sparrows, And the red squirrels in the wood!

  Bertha. I love him, too!

Gottlieb. Ah, yes! we all
Love him, from the bottom of our hearts;
He gave us the farm, the house, and the grange,
He gave us the horses and the carts,
And the great oxen in the stall,
The vineyard, and the forest range! 
We have nothing to give him but our love!

Bertha. Did he give us the beautiful stork above On the chimney-top, with its large, round nest?

Gottlieb. No, not the stork; by God in heaven, As a blessing, the dear, white stork was given; But the Prince has given us all the rest.  God bless him, and make him well again.

Elsie. Would I could do something for his sake, Something to cure his sorrow and pain!

Gottlieb. That no one can; neither thou nor I, Nor any one else.

  Elsie. And must he die?

Ursula. Yes; if the dear God does not take Pity upon him, in his distress, And work a miracle!

Gottlieb. Or unless
Some maiden, of her own accord,
Offers her life for that of her lord,
And is willing to die in his stead.

  Elsie. I will!

Ursula. Prithee, thou foolish child, be still!  Thou shouldst not say what thou dost not mean!

  Elsie. I mean it truly!

Max. O father! this morning,
Down by the mill, in the ravine,
Hans killed a wolf, the very same
That in the night to the sheepfold came,
And ate up my lamb, that was left outside.

Gottlieb. I am glad he is dead.  It will be a warning To the wolves in the forest, far and wide.

  Max. And I am going to have his hide!

Bertha. I wonder if this is the wolf that ate Little Red Ridinghood!

Ursula. O, no!  That wolf was killed a long while ago.  Come, children, it is growing late.

Max. Ah, how I wish I were a man, As stout as Hans is, and as strong!  I would do nothing else, the whole day long, But just kill wolves.

Gottlieb. Then go to bed,
And grow as fast as a little boy can. 
Bertha is half asleep already. 
See how she nods her heavy head,
And her sleepy feet are so unsteady
She will hardly be able to creep upstairs.

Ursula. Good-night, my children.  Here’s the light.  And do not forget to say your prayers Before you sleep.

  Gottlieb. Good-night!

  Max and Bertha. Good-night!

          (They go out with ELSIE.)

Ursula, (spinning). She is a strange and wayward child,
That Elsie of ours.  She looks so old,
And thoughts and fancies weird and wild
Seem of late to have taken hold
Of her heart, that was once so docile and mild!

  Gottlieb. She is like all girls.

Ursula. Ah no, forsooth! 
Unlike all I have ever seen. 
For she has visions and strange dreams,
And in all her words and ways, she seems
Much older than she is in truth. 
Who would think her but fourteen? 
And there has been of late such a change! 
My heart is heavy with fear and doubt
That she may not live till the year is out. 
She is so strange, ­so strange, ­so strange!

Gottlieb. I am not troubled with any such fear!  She will live and thrive for many a year.


Night. ELSIE praying.

Elsie. My Redeemer and my Lord,
I beseech thee, I entreat thee,
Guide me in each act and word,
That hereafter I may meet thee,
Watching, waiting, hoping, yearning,
With my lamp well trimmed and burning!

With these bleeding
Wounds upon thy hands and side,
For all who have lived and erred
Thou hast suffered, thou hast died,
Scourged, and mocked, and crucified,
And in the grave hast thou been buried!

If my feeble prayer can reach thee,
O my Saviour, I beseech thee,
Even as thou hast died for me,
More sincerely
Let me follow where thou leadest,
Let me, bleeding as thou bleedest,
Die, if dying I may give
Life to one who asks to live,
And more nearly,
Dying thus, resemble thee!


Midnight. ELSIE standing by their bedside, weeping.

Gottlieb. The wind is roaring; the rushing rain
Is loud upon roof and window-pane,
As if the Wild Huntsman of Rodenstein,
Boding evil to me and mine,
Were abroad to-night with his ghostly train! 
In the brief lulls of the tempest wild,
The dogs howl in the yard; and hark! 
Some one is sobbing in the dark,
Here in the chamber!

  Elsie. It is I.

  Ursula. Elsie! what ails thee, my poor child?

Elsie. I am disturbed and much distressed, In thinking our dear Prince must die, I cannot close mine eyes, nor rest.

Gottlieb. What wouldst thou?  In the Power Divine His healing lies, not in our own; It is in the hand of God alone.

Elsie. Nay, he has put it into mine, And into my heart!

  Gottlieb. Thy words are wild!

  Ursula. What dost thou mean? my child! my child!

Elsie. That for our dear Prince Henry’s sake I will myself the offering make, And give my life to purchase his.

Ursula Am I still dreaming, or awake?  Thou speakest carelessly of death, And yet thou knowest not what it is.

Elsie. ’T is the cessation of our breath. 
Silent and motionless we lie;
And no one knoweth more than this. 
I saw our little Gertrude die,
She left off breathing, and no more
I smoothed the pillow beneath her head. 
She was more beautiful than before. 
Like violets faded were her eyes;
By this we knew that she was dead. 
Through the open window looked the skies
Into the chamber where she lay,
And the wind was like the sound of wings,
As if angels came to bear her away. 
Ah! when I saw and felt these things,
I found it difficult to stay;
I longed to die, as she had died,
And go forth with her, side by side. 
The Saints are dead, the Martyrs dead,
And Mary, and our Lord, and I
Would follow in humility
The way by them illumined!

  Ursula. My child! my child! thou must not die!

Elsie Why should I live?  Do I not know
The life of woman is full of woe? 
Toiling on and on and on,
With breaking heart, and tearful eyes,
And silent lips, and in the soul
The secret longings that arise,
Which this world never satisfies! 
Some more, some less, but of the whole
Not one quite happy, no, not one!

  Ursula. It is the malediction of Eve!

Elsie. In place of it, let me receive The benediction of Mary, then.

Gottlieb. Ah, woe is me!  Ah, woe is me!  Most wretched am I among men!

Ursula. Alas! that I should live to see Thy death, beloved, and to stand Above thy grave!  Ah, woe the day!

Elsie. Thou wilt not see it.  I shall lie
Beneath the flowers of another land,
For at Salerno, far away
Over the mountains, over the sea,
It is appointed me to die! 
And it will seem no more to thee
Than if at the village on market-day
I should a little longer stay
Than I am used.

Ursula. Even as thou sayest! 
And how my heart beats, when thou stayest! 
I cannot rest until my sight
Is satisfied with seeing thee. 
What, then, if thou wert dead?

Gottlieb Ah me! 
Of our old eyes thou art the light! 
The joy of our old hearts art thou! 
And wilt thou die?

  Ursula. Not now! not now!

Elsie Christ died for me, and shall not I
Be willing for my Prince to die? 
You both are silent; you cannot speak. 
This said I, at our Saviour’s feast,
After confession, to the priest,
And even he made no reply. 
Does he not warn us all to seek
The happier, better land on high,
Where flowers immortal never wither,
And could he forbid me to go thither?

Gottlieb. In God’s own time, my heart’s delight!  When he shall call thee, not before!

Elsie. I heard him call.  When Christ ascended
Triumphantly, from star to star,
He left the gates of heaven ajar. 
I had a vision in the night,
And saw him standing at the door
Of his Father’s mansion, vast and splendid,
And beckoning to me from afar. 
I cannot stay!

Gottlieb. She speaks almost
As if it were the Holy Ghost
Spake through her lips, and in her stead! 
What if this were of God?

Ursula. Ah, then Gainsay it dare we not.

Gottlieb. Amen! 
Elsie! the words that thou hast said
Are strange and new for us to hear,
And fill our hearts with doubt and fear. 
Whether it be a dark temptation
Of the Evil One, or God’s inspiration,
We in our blindness cannot say. 
We must think upon it, and pray;
For evil and good in both resembles. 
If it be of God, his will be done! 
May he guard us from the Evil One! 
How hot thy hand is! how it trembles! 
Go to thy bed, and try to sleep.

  Ursula. Kiss me.  Good-night; and do not weep!

          (ELSIE goes out.)

Ah, what an awful thing is this! 
I almost shuddered at her kiss. 
As if a ghost had touched my cheek,
I am so childish and so weak! 
As soon as I see the earliest gray
Of morning glimmer in the east,
I will go over to the priest,
And hear what the good man has to say!


A woman kneeling at the confessional.

The Parish Priest (from within)_.  Go, sin no
more!  Thy penance o’er,
A new and better life begin! 
God maketh thee forever free
From the dominion of thy sin! 
Go, sin no more!  He will restore
The peace that filled thy heart before,
And pardon thine iniquity!

(The woman goes out.  The Priest comes forth, and
  walks slowly up and down the church

O blessed Lord! how much I need
Thy light to guide me on my way! 
So many hands, that, without heed,
Still touch thy wounds, and make them bleed! 
So many feet, that, day by day,
Still wander from thy fold astray! 
Unless thou fill me with thy light,
I cannot lead thy flock aright;
Nor, without thy support, can bear
The burden of so great a care,
But am myself a castaway!

          (A pause.)

The day is drawing to its close;
And what good deeds, since first it rose,
Have I presented, Lord, to thee,
As offerings of my ministry? 
What wrong repressed, what right maintained
What struggle passed, what victory gained,
What good attempted and attained? 
Feeble, at best, is my endeavor! 
I see, but cannot reach, the height
That lies forever in the light,
And yet forever and forever,
When seeming just within my grasp,
I feel my feeble hands unclasp,
And sink discouraged into night! 
For thine own purpose, thou hast sent
The strife and the discouragement!

          (A pause.)

Why stayest thou, Prince of Hoheneck? 
Why keep me pacing to and fro
Amid these aisles of sacred gloom,
Counting my footsteps as I go,
And marking with each step a tomb? 
Why should the world for thee make room,
And wait thy leisure and thy beck? 
Thou comest in the hope to hear
Some word of comfort and of cheer. 
What can I say?  I cannot give
The counsel to do this and live;
But rather, firmly to deny
The tempter, though his power is strong,
And, inaccessible to wrong,
Still like a martyr live and die!

          (A pause.)

The evening air grows dusk and brown;
I must go forth into the town,
To visit beds of pain and death,
Of restless limbs, and quivering breath,
And sorrowing hearts, and patient eyes
That see, through tears, the sun go down,
But never more shall see it rise. 
The poor in body and estate,
The sick and the disconsolate. 
Must not on man’s convenience wait.

(Goes out.  Enter LUCIFER, as a Priest.  LUCIFER,
  with a génuflexion, mocking.)

This is the Black Pater-noster
God was my foster,
He fostered me
Under the book of the Palm-tree! 
St. Michael was my dame. 
He was born at Bethlehem,
He was made of flesh and blood. 
God send me my right food,
My right food, and shelter too,
That I may to yon kirk go,
To read upon yon sweet book
Which the mighty God of heaven shook. 
Open, open, hell’s gates! 
Shut, shut, heaven’s gates! 
All the devils in the air
The stronger be, that hear the Black Prayer!

          (Looking round the church.)

What a darksome and dismal place! 
I wonder that any man has the face
To call such a hole the House of the Lord,
And the Gate of Heaven, ­yet such is the word. 
Ceiling, and walls, and windows old,
Covered with cobwebs, blackened with mould;
Dust on the pulpit, dust on the stairs,
Dust on the benches, and stalls, and chairs! 
The pulpit, from which such ponderous sermons
Have fallen down on the brains of the Germans,
With about as much real edification
As if a great Bible, bound in lead,
Had fallen, and struck them on the head;
And I ought to remember that sensation! 
Here stands the holy water stoup! 
Holy-water it may be to many,
But to me, the veriest Liquor Gehennae
It smells like a filthy fast day soup! 
Near it stands the box for the poor;
With its iron padlock, safe and sure,
I and the priest of the parish know
Whither all these charities go;
Therefore, to keep up the institution,
I will add my little contribution!

          (He puts in money.)

Underneath this mouldering tomb,
With statue of stone, and scutcheon of brass,
Slumbers a great lord of the village. 
All his life was riot and pillage,
But at length, to escape the threatened doom
Of the everlasting, penal fire,
He died in the dress of a mendicant friar,
And bartered his wealth for a daily mass. 
But all that afterward came to pass,
And whether he finds it dull or pleasant,
Is kept a secret for the present,
At his own particular desire.

And here, in a corner of the wall,
Shadowy, silent, apart from all,
With its awful portal open wide,
And its latticed windows on either side,
And its step well worn by the bended knees
Of one or two pious centuries,
Stands the village confessional! 
Within it, as an honored guest,
I will sit me down awhile and rest!

          (Seats himself in the confessional.)

Here sits the priest, and faint and low,
Like the sighing of an evening breeze,
Comes through these painted lattices
The ceaseless sound of human woe,
Here, while her bosom aches and throbs
With deep and agonizing sobs,
That half are passion, half contrition,
The luckless daughter of perdition
Slowly confesses her secret shame! 
The time, the place, the lover’s name! 
Here the grim murderer, with a groan,
From his bruised conscience rolls the stone,
Thinking that thus he can atone
For ravages of sword and flame! 
Indeed, I marvel, and marvel greatly,
How a priest can sit here so sedately,
Reading, the whole year out and in,
Naught but the catalogue of sin,
And still keep any faith whatever
In human virtue!  Never! never!

I cannot repeat a thousandth part
Of the horrors and crimes and sins and woes
That arise, when with palpitating throes
The graveyard in the human heart
Gives up its dead, at the voice of the priest,
As if he were an archangel, at least. 
It makes a peculiar atmosphere,
This odor of earthly passions and crimes,
Such as I like to breathe, at times,
And such as often brings me here
In the hottest and most pestilential season. 
To-day, I come for another reason;
To foster and ripen an evil thought
In a heart that is almost to madness wrought,
And to make a murderer out of a prince,
A sleight of hand I learned long since! 
He comes In the twilight he will not see
the difference between his priest and me! 
In the same net was the mother caught!

          (Prince Henry entering and kneeling at the confessional.)

Remorseful, penitent, and lowly,
I come to crave, O Father holy,
Thy benediction on my head.

Lucifer.  The benediction shall be said
After confession, not before! 
’T is a God speed to the parting guest,
Who stands already at the door,
Sandalled with holiness, and dressed
In garments pure from earthly stain. 
Meanwhile, hast thou searched well thy breast? 
Does the same madness fill thy brain? 
Or have thy passion and unrest
Vanished forever from thy mind?

Prince Henry.  By the same madness still made blind,
By the same passion still possessed,
I come again to the house of prayer,
A man afflicted and distressed! 
As in a cloudy atmosphere,
Through unseen sluices of the air,
A sudden and impetuous wind
Strikes the great forest white with fear,
And every branch, and bough, and spray
Points all its quivering leaves one way,
And meadows of grass, and fields of grain,
And the clouds above, and the slanting rain,
And smoke from chimneys of the town,
Yield themselves to it, and bow down,
So does this dreadful purpose press
Onward, with irresistible stress,
And all my thoughts and faculties,
Struck level by the strength of this,
From their true inclination turn,
And all stream forward to Salem!

Lucifer.  Alas! we are but eddies of dust,
Uplifted by the blast, and whirled
Along the highway of the world
A moment only, then to fall
Back to a common level all,
At the subsiding of the gust!

Prince Henry.  O holy Father! pardon in me
The oscillation of a mind
Unsteadfast, and that cannot find
Its centre of rest and harmony! 
For evermore before mine eyes
This ghastly phantom flits and flies,
And as a madman through a crowd,
With frantic gestures and wild cries,
It hurries onward, and aloud
Repeats its awful prophecies! 
Weakness is wretchedness!  To be strong
Is to be happy!  I am weak,
And cannot find the good I seek,
Because I feel and fear the wrong!

Lucifer.  Be not alarmed!  The Church is kind ­
And in her mercy and her meekness
She meets half-way her children’s weakness,
Writes their transgressions in the dust! 
Though in the Decalogue we find
The mandate written, “Thou shalt not kill!”
Yet there are cases when we must. 
In war, for instance, or from scathe
To guard and keep the one true Faith! 
We must look at the Decalogue in the light
Of an ancient statute, that was meant
For a mild and general application,
To be understood with the reservation,
That, in certain instances, the Right
Must yield to the Expedient! 
Thou art a Prince.  If thou shouldst die,
What hearts and hopes would prostrate he! 
What noble deeds, what fair renown,
Into the grave with thee go down! 
What acts of valor and courtesy
Remain undone, and die with thee! 
Thou art the last of all thy race! 
With thee a noble name expires,
And vanishes from the earth’s face
The glorious memory of thy sires! 
She is a peasant.  In her veins
Flows common and plebeian blood;
It is such as daily and hourly stains
The dust and the turf of battle plains,
By vassals shed, in a crimson flood,
Without reserve, and without reward,
At the slightest summons of their lord! 
But thine is precious, the fore-appointed
Blood of kings, of God’s anointed! 
Moreover, what has the world in store
For one like her, but tears and toil? 
Daughter of sorrow, serf of the soil,
A peasant’s child and a peasant’s wife,
And her soul within her sick and sore
With the roughness and barrenness of life! 
I marvel not at the heart’s recoil
From a fate like this, in one so tender,
Nor at its eagerness to surrender
All the wretchedness, want, and woe
That await it in this world below,
For the unutterable splendor
Of the world of rest beyond the skies. 
So the Church sanctions the sacrifice: 
Therefore inhale this healing balm,
And breathe this fresh life into thine;
Accept the comfort and the calm
She offers, as a gift divine,
Let her fall down and anoint thy feet
With the ointment costly and most sweet
Of her young blood, and thou shall live.

Prince Henry. And will the righteous Heaven forgive? 
No action, whether foul or fair,
Is ever done, but it leaves somewhere
A record, written by fingers ghostly,
As a blessing or a curse, and mostly
In the greater weakness or greater strength
Of the acts which follow it, till at length
The wrongs of ages are redressed,
And the justice of God made manifest!

Lucifer In ancient records it is stated
That, whenever an evil deed is done,
Another devil is created
To scourge and torment the offending one! 
But evil is only good perverted,
And Lucifer, the Bearer of Light,
But an angel fallen and deserted,
Thrust from his Father’s house with a curse
Into the black and endless night.

Prince Henry. If justice rules the universe,
From the good actions of good men
Angels of light should be begotten,
And thus the balance restored again.

Lucifer. Yes; if the world were not so rotten, And so given over to the Devil!

Prince Henry. But this deed, is it good or evil? 
Have I thine absolution free
To do it, and without restriction?

Lucifer. Ay; and from whatsoever sin
Lieth around it and within,
From all crimes in which it may involve thee,
I now release thee and absolve thee!

  Prince Henry. Give me thy holy benediction.

  Lucifer. (stretching forth his hand and muttering),
       Maledictione perpetua
       Maledicat vos
       Pater eternus!

The Angel (with the aeolian harp).  Take heed! take heed! 
Noble art thou in thy birth,
By the good and the great of earth
Hast thou been taught! 
Be noble in every thought
And in every deed! 
Let not the illusion of thy senses
Betray thee to deadly offences. 
Be strong! be good! be pure! 
The right only shall endure,
All things else are but false pretences! 
I entreat thee, I implore,
Listen no more
To the suggestions of an evil spirit,
That even now is there,
Making the foul seem fair,
And selfishness itself a virtue and a merit!


Gottlieb.  It is decided!  For many days,
And nights as many, we have had
A nameless terror in our breast,
Making us timid, and afraid
Of God, and his mysterious ways! 
We have been sorrowful and sad;
Much have we suffered, much have prayed
That he would lead us as is best,
And show us what his will required. 
It is decided; and we give
Our child, O Prince, that you may live!

Ursula.  It is of God.  He has inspired
This purpose in her; and through pain,
Out of a world of sin and woe,
He takes her to himself again. 
The mother’s heart resists no longer;
With the Angel of the Lord in vain
It wrestled, for he was the stronger.

Gottlieb.  As Abraham offered long ago
His son unto the Lord, and even
The Everlasting Father in heaven
Gave his, as a lamb unto the slaughter,
So do I offer up my daughter!

          (URSULA hides her face.)

Elsie.  My life is little,
Only a cup of water,
But pure and limpid. 
Take it, O my Prince! 
Let it refresh you,
Let it restore you. 
It is given willingly,
It is given freely;
May God bless the gift!

  Prince Henry. And the giver!

  Gottlieb. Amen!

  Prince Henry. I accept it!

  Gottlieb. Where are the children?

  Ursula. They are already asleep.

  Gottlieb. What if they were dead?


  Elsie. I have one thing to ask of you.

Prince Henry. What is it?  It is already granted.

Elsie. Promise me,
When we are gone from here, and on our way
Are journeying to Salerno, you will not,
By word or deed, endeavor to dissuade me
And turn me from my purpose, but remember
That as a pilgrim to the Holy City
Walks unmolested, and with thoughts of pardon
Occupied wholly, so would I approach
The gates of Heaven, in this great jubilee,
With my petition, putting off from me
All thoughts of earth, as shoes from off my feet. 
Promise me this.

Prince Henry. Thy words fall from thy lips Like roses from the lips of Angelo:  and angels Might stoop to pick them up!

  Elsie. Will you not promise?

Prince Henry. If ever we depart upon this journey, So long to one or both of us, I promise.

Elsie. Shall we not go, then?  Have you lifted me
Into the air, only to hurl me back
Wounded upon the ground? and offered me
The waters of eternal life, to bid me
Drink the polluted puddles of this world?

Prince Henry. O Elsie! what a lesson thou dost teach me! 
The life which is, and that which is to come,
Suspended hang in such nice equipoise
A breath disturbs the balance; and that scale
In which we throw our hearts preponderates,
And the other, like an empty one, flies up,
And is accounted vanity and air! 
To me the thought of death is terrible,
Having such hold on life.  To thee it is not
So much even as the lifting of a latch;
Only a step into the open air
Out of a tent already luminous
With light that shines through its transparent walls! 
O pure in heart! from thy sweet dust shall grow
Lilies, upon whose petals will be written
“Ave Maria” in characters of gold!


Night. PRINCE HENRY wandering alone, wrapped in a cloak.

Prince Henry. Still is the night.  The sound of feet
Has died away from the empty street,
And like an artisan, bending down
His head on his anvil, the dark town
Sleeps, with a slumber deep and sweet. 
Sleepless and restless, I alone,
In the dusk and damp of these wails of stone,
Wander and weep in my remorse!

  Crier of the dead (ringing a bell). Wake! wake! 
                                             All ye that sleep! 
                                             Pray for the Dead! 
                                             Pray for the Dead!

Prince Henry. Hark! with what accents loud and hoarse
This warder on the walls of death
Sends forth the challenge of his breath! 
I see the dead that sleep in the grave! 
They rise up and their garments wave,
Dimly and spectral, as they rise,
With the light of another world in their eyes!

Crier of the dead. Wake! wake! 
All ye that sleep! 
Pray for the Dead! 
Pray for the Dead!

Prince Henry. Why for the dead, who are at rest? 
Pray for the living, in whose breast
The struggle between right and wrong
Is raging terrible and strong,
As when good angels war with devils! 
This is the Master of the Revels,
Who, at Life’s flowing feast, proposes
The health of absent friends, and pledges,
Not in bright goblets crowned with roses,
And tinkling as we touch their edges,
But with his dismal, tinkling bell,
That mocks and mimics their funeral knell!

Crier of the dead. Wake! wake! 
All ye that sleep! 
Pray for the Dead! 
Pray for the Dead!

Prince Henry. Wake not, beloved! be thy sleep
Silent as night is, and as deep! 
There walks a sentinel at thy gate
Whose heart is heavy and desolate,
And the heavings of whose bosom number
The respirations of thy slumber,
As if some strange, mysterious fate
Had linked two hearts in one, and mine
Went madly wheeling about thine,
Only with wider and wilder sweep!

Crier of the dead (at a distance). Wake! wake! 
All ye that sleep! 
Pray for the Dead! 
Pray for the Dead!

Prince Henry. Lo! with what depth of blackness thrown
Against the clouds, far up the skies,
The walls of the cathedral rise,
Like a mysterious grove of stone,
With fitful lights and shadows bleeding,
As from behind, the moon, ascending,
Lights its dim aisles and paths unknown! 
The wind is rising; but the boughs
Rise not and fall not with the wind
That through their foliage sobs and soughs;
Only the cloudy rack behind,
Drifting onward, wild and ragged,
Gives to each spire and buttress jagged
A seeming motion undefined. 
Below on the square, an armed knight,
Still as a statue and as white,
Sits on his steed, and the moonbeams quiver
Upon the points of his armor bright
As on the ripples of a river. 
He lifts the visor from his cheek,
And beckons, and makes as he would speak.

Walter the Minnesinger Friend! can you tell me where alight
Thuringia’s horsemen for the night? 
For I have lingered in the rear,
And wander vainly up and down.

Prince Henry I am a stranger in the town,
As thou art, but the voice I hear
Is not a stranger to mine ear. 
Thou art Walter of the Vogelweid!

Walter Thou hast guessed rightly; and thy name Is Henry of Hoheneck!

  Prince Henry Ay, the same.

Walter (embracing him).  Come closer, closer to my side!  What brings thee hither?  What potent charm Has drawn thee from thy German farm Into the old Alsatian city?

Prince Henry.  A tale of wonder and of pity! 
A wretched man, almost by stealth
Dragging my body to Salern,
In the vain hope and search for health,
And destined never to return. 
Already thou hast heard the rest
But what brings thee, thus armed and dight
In the equipments of a knight?

Walter.  Dost thou not see upon my breast
The cross of the Crusaders shine? 
My pathway leads to Palestine.

Prince Henry.  Ah, would that way were also mine! 
O noble poet! thou whose heart
Is like a nest of singing birds
Rocked on the topmost bough of life,
Wilt thou, too, from our sky depart,
And in the clangor of the strife
Mingle the music of thy words?

Walter.  My hopes are high, my heart is proud,
And like a trumpet long and loud,
Thither my thoughts all clang and ring! 
My life is in my hand, and lo! 
I grasp and bend it as a bow,
And shoot forth from its trembling string
An arrow, that shall be, perchance,
Like the arrow of the Israelite king
Shot from the window toward the east,
That of the Lord’s deliverance!

Prince Henry.  My life, alas! is what thou seest! 
O enviable fate! to be
Strong, beautiful, and armed like thee
With lyre and sword, with song and steel;
A hand to smite, a heart to feel! 
Thy heart, thy hand, thy lyre, thy sword,
Thou givest all unto thy Lord,
While I, so mean and abject grown,
Am thinking of myself alone.

Walter.  Be patient:  Time will reinstate Thy health and fortunes.

Prince Henry.  ’T is too late!  I cannot strive against my fate!

Walter.  Come with me; for my steed is weary;
Our journey has been long and dreary,
And, dreaming of his stall, he dints
With his impatient hoofs the flints.

Prince Henry (aside).  I am ashamed, in my disgrace,
To look into that noble face! 
To-morrow, Walter, let it be.

Walter.  To-morrow, at the dawn of day,
I shall again be on my way
Come with me to the hostelry,
For I have many things to say. 
Our journey into Italy
Perchance together we may make;
Wilt thou not do it for my sake?

Prince Henry.  A sick man’s pace would but impede
Thine eager and impatient speed. 
Besides, my pathway leads me round
To Hirsehau, in the forest’s bound,
Where I assemble man and steed,
And all things for my journey’s need.

          (They go out.  LUCIFER, flying over the city.)

Sleep, sleep, O city! till the light
Wakes you to sin and crime again,
Whilst on your dreams, like dismal rain,
I scatter downward through the night
My malédictions dark and deep. 
I have more martyrs in your walls
Than God has; and they cannot sleep;
They are my bondsmen and my thralls;
Their wretched lives are full of pain,
Wild agonies of nerve and brain;
And every heart-beat, every breath,
Is a convulsion worse than death! 
Sleep, sleep, O city! though within
The circuit of your walls there lies
No habitation free from sin,
And all its nameless miseries;
The aching heart, the aching head,
Grief for the living and the dead,
And foul corruption of the time,
Disease, distress, and want, and woe,
And crimes, and passions that may grow
Until they ripen into, crime!