Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (18071882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893. The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems
Songs. To an Old Danish Song Book
Mr. Longfellow upon Andersens Story of my Life, notes in his diary: Autumn always brings back very freshly my autumnal sojourn in Copenhagen, delightfully mingled with bracing air and yellow falling leaves. I have tried to record the impression in the song To an Old Danish Song Book.
W ELCOME, my old friend,
Welcome to a foreign fireside,
While the sullen gales of autumn
Shake the windows.
The ungrateful world 5
Has, it seems, dealt harshly with thee,
Since, beneath the skies of Denmark,
First I met thee.
There are marks of age,
There are thumb-marks on thy margin, 10
Made by hands that clasped thee rudely
At the alehouse.
Soiled and dull thou art;
Yellow are thy time-worn pages,
As the russet, rain-molested 15
Leaves of autumn.
Thou art stained with wine
Scattered from hilarious goblets,
As the leaves with the libations
Of Olympus. 20
Yet dost thou recall
Days departed, half-forgotten,
When in dreamy youth I wandered
By the Baltic,
When I paused to hear 25
The old ballad of King Christian
Shouted from suburban taverns
In the twilight.
Thou recallest bards,
Who, in solitary chambers, 30
And with hearts by passion wasted,
Wrote thy pages.
Thou recallest homes
Where thy songs of love and friendship
Made the gloomy Northern winter 35
Bright as summer.
Once some ancient Scald,
In his bleak, ancestral Iceland,
Chanted staves of these old ballads
To the Vikings. 40
Once in Elsinore,
At the court of old King Hamlet,
Yorick and his boon companions
Sang these ditties.
Once Prince Fredericks Guard 45
Sang them in their smoky barracks;
Suddenly the English cannon
Joined the chorus!
Peasants in the field,
Sailors on the roaring ocean, 50
Students, tradesmen, pale mechanics,
All have sung them.
Thou hast been their friend;
They, alas! have left thee friendless!
Yet at least by one warm fireside 55
Art thou welcome.
And, as swallows build
In these wide, old-fashioned chimneys,
So thy twittering song shall nestle
In my bosom, 60
Quiet, close, and warm,
Sheltered from all molestation,
And recalling by their voices Youth and travel.