Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Germany
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII.  1876–79.
 
Strasburg
The Strasburg Clock
Anonymous
 
MANY and many a year ago,—
To say how many I scarcely dare,—
Three of us stood in Strasburg streets,
In the wide and open square,
Where, quaint and old, and touched with the gold        5
Of a summer morn, at stroke of noon
The tongue of the great Cathedral tolled,
And into the church with the crowd we strolled
To see their wonder, the famous Clock.
Well, my love, there are clocks a many,        10
As big as a house, as small as a penny;
And clocks there be with voices as queer
As any that torture human ear,—
Clocks that grunt, and clocks that growl,
That wheeze like a pump, and hoot like an owl,        15
From the coffin shape with its brooding face
That stands on the stair (you know the place),
Saying, “Click, cluck,” like an ancient hen,
A-gathering the minutes home again,
To the kitchen knave with its wooden stutter,        20
Doing equal work with double splutter,
Yelping, “Click, clack,” with vulgar jerk,
As much as to say, “Just see me work!”
But of all the clocks that tell Time’s bead-roll.
There are none like this in the old Cathedral;        25
Never a one so bids you stand
While it deals the minutes with even hand:
For clocks, like men, are better and worse,
And some you dote on, and some you curse;
And clock and man may have such a way        30
Of telling the truth that you can’t say nay.
 
So in we went and stood in the crowd
To hear the old clock as it crooned aloud,
With sound and symbol, the only tongue
The maker taught it while yet ’t was young.        35
And we saw Saint Peter clasp his hands,
And the cock crow hoarsely to all the lands,
And the Twelve Apostles come and go,
And the solemn Christ pass sadly and slow;
And strange that iron-legged procession,        40
And odd to us the whole impression,
As the crowd beneath, in silence pressing,
Bent to that cold mechanic blessing.
 
But I alone thought far in my soul
What a touch of genius was in the whole,        45
And felt how graceful had been the thought
Which for the signs of the months had sought,
Sweetest of symbols, Christ’s chosen train;
And much I pondered, if he whose brain
Had builded this clock with labor and pain        50
Did only think, twelve months there are,
And the Bible twelve will fit to a hair;
Or did he say, with a heart in tune,
Well-loved John is the sigh of June,
And changeful Peter hath April hours,        55
And Paul the stately, October bowers,
And sweet or faithful or bold or strong,
Unto each one shall a month belong.
 
But beside the thought that under it lurks,
Pray, do you think clocks are saved by their works?        60
 
 
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