Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
 
Christus: A Mystery
Part II. The Golden Legend.
IV. IV. The Cloisters
 
The ABBOT ERNESTUS pacing to and fro.

ABBOT.
SLOWLY, slowly up the wall
Steals the sunshine, steals the shade;
Evening damps begin to fall,
Evening shadows are displayed.
Round me, o’er me, everywhere,        5
All the sky is grand with clouds,
And athwart the evening air
Wheel the swallows home in crowds.
Shafts of sunshine from the west
Paint the dusky windows red;        10
Darker shadows, deeper rest,
Underneath and overhead.
Darker, darker, and more wan,
In my breast the shadows fall;
Upward steals the life of man,        15
As the sunshine from the wall.
From the wall into the sky,
From the roof along the spire;
Ah, the souls of those that die
Are but sunbeams lifted higher.
Enter PRINCE HENRY.
        20
 
PRINCE HENRY.
Christ is arisen!

ABBOT.
                    Amen! He is arisen!
His peace be with you!

PRINCE HENRY.
                    Here it reigns forever!
The peace of God, that passeth understanding,
Reigns in these cloisters and these corridors.
Are you Ernestus, Abbot of the convent?        25
 
ABBOT.
I am.

PRINCE HENRY.
            And I Prince Henry of Hoheneck,
Who crave your hospitality to-night.
 
ABBOT.
You are thrice welcome to our humble walls.
You do us honor; and we shall requite it,
I fear, but poorly, entertaining you        30
With Paschal eggs, and our poor convent wine,
The remnants of our Easter holidays.
 
PRINCE HENRY.
How fares it with the holy monks of Hirschau?
Are all things well with them?

ABBOT.
                        All things are well.
 
PRINCE HENRY.
A noble convent! I have known it long
        35
By the report of travellers. I now see
Their commendations lag behind the truth.
You lie here in the valley of the Nagold
As in a nest: and the still river, gliding
Along its bed, is like an admonition        40
How all things pass. Your lands are rich and ample,
And your revenues large. God’s benediction
Rests on your convent.

ABBOT.
                        By our charities
We strive to merit it. Our Lord and Master,
When He departed, left us in his will,        45
As our best legacy on earth, the poor!
These we have always with us; had we not,
Our hearts would grow as hard as are these stones.
 
PRINCE HENRY.
If I remember right, the Counts of Calva
Founded your convent.

ABBOT.
                    Even as you say.
        50
 
PRINCE HENRY.
And, if I err not, it is very old.
 
ABBOT.
Within these cloisters lie already buried
Twelve holy Abbots. Underneath the flags
On which we stand, the Abbot William lies,
Of blessed memory.

PRINCE HENRY.
                And whose tomb is that,
        55
Which bears the brass escutcheon?

ABBOT.
                        A benefactor’s.
Conrad, a Count of Calva, he who stood
Godfather to our bells.

PRINCE HENRY.
                Your monks are learned
And holy men, I trust.

ABBOT.
                There are among them
Learned and holy men. Yet in this age        60
We need another Hildebrand, to shake
And purify us like a mighty wind.
The world is wicked, and sometimes I wonder
God does not lose his patience with it wholly,
And shatter it like glass! Even here, at times,        65
Within these walls, where all should be at peace,
I have my trials. Time has laid his hand
Upon my heart, gently, not smiting it,
But as a harper lays his open palm
Upon his harp, to deaden its vibrations.        70
Ashes are on my head, and on my lips
Sackcloth, and in my breast a heaviness
And weariness of life, that makes me ready
To say to the dead Abbots under us,
“Make room for me!” Only I see the dusk        75
Of evening twilight coming, and have not
Completed half my task; and so at times
The thought of my shortcomings in this life
Falls like a shadow on the life to come.
 
PRINCE HENRY.
We must all die, and not the old alone;
        80
The young have no exemption from that doom.
 
ABBOT.
Ah, yes! the young may die, but the old must!
That is the difference.

PRINCE HENRY.
                I have heard much laud
Of your transcribers. Your Scriptorium
Is famous among all; your manuscripts        85
Praised for their beauty and their excellence.
 
ABBOT.
That is indeed our boast. If you desire it,
You shall behold these treasures. And meanwhile
Shall the Refectorarius bestow
Your horses and attendants for the night.
They go in. The Vesper-bell rings.
        90
 
 
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