Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Germany
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII.  1876–79.
Rhine, the River
A Day-Dream on the Rhine
Walter Thornbury (1828–1876)
O FOR a kingdom rocky throned
  Above the brimming Rhine!
With vassals who should pay their toll
  In many sorts of wine;
Above me naught but the blue air,        5
  And all below the vine.
I ’d plant my throne where legends say,
  In nights of harvest-time,
King Charlemagne, in golden robe
  (So runs the rustic rhyme),        10
Doth come to bless the mellowing crops,
  While the bells of heaven chime,
(Children have heard them!) and a bridge
  Of gold leaps o’er the stream
For the king to cross. A maiden once        15
  Saw its bright arches gleam;
The priests they burnt her for that sight,
  Calling it “Satan’s Dream.”
Churches should in my valleys hide,
  Old towers rise on each hill;        20
The forge, the farm-house, and the inn
  Should cluster round the mill,
And past them all the river broad
  Would flow at its own sweet will.
My stream at noon of fairy gold        25
  Should crimson turn ere night,
Then by the magic of the moon
  Change to quicksilver bright.
At dawn each little wave should be
  Mantled with purple light.        30
I ’d dwell where Charlemagne looked down,
  And, turning to his peers,
Exclaimed, “Behold, for this fair land
  I ’ve prayed and fought for years.”
Then all the Rhine towers shook to hear        35
  The earthquake of their cheers.
That day the tide ran crimson red
  (But not with Rhenish wine);
Not with those vintage streams that through
  The green leaves gush and shine;        40
’T was blood that from the Lombard ranks
  Rushed down into the Rhine.
’T was here the German soldiers flocked,
  Burning with love and pride,
And threw their muskets down to kiss        45
  The soil with French blood dyed.
“The Rhine, dear Rhine!” ten thousand men,
  Kneeling together, cried.
O, fairest of the many brides
  Wedded to Father Sea,        50
That from thy cold home in the snow
  Trippest so merrily,
As if in eager haste of love
  To plight thy fealty;
Thy handmaids are the little streams,        55
  That to thee flock and throng,
Each with her own small dower of vines,
  Each with her special song;
Each like a vein of blood, the more
  To make thee stark and strong.        60
Fair daughter of the crownéd Alps
  In aspiration bold,
No frost can bind thy fervent flood,
  That never doth grow old,
Unchecked by summer’s golden fire,        65
  Or by fierce winter’s cold.
O special favorite of God,
  Eternal beauty cling
Around thy banks; let all thy vines
  Together praise and sing,        70
And o’er thee angels bend and pause
  With sheathed and reverent wing.
Sweet river! where the laughing hills
  Thy majesty do greet,
And echoes call from rock to rock,        75
  All through the noonday heat.
In earliest dusk the gathering stars
  Above thee love to meet
When lovers in the ferry-boat
  Forget the passing tide,        80
And, closer drawn, cling lip to lip.
  What though the river’s wide,
And silver clouds no secrets tell
  To the towers on either side;
When church-bells o’er the water speak        85
  Of God unto the hill,
Where ruined castles on the cliff
  Speak of God’s anger still,
How strong his arm, how swift his shaft,—
  Who may resist his will?        90
Yes, here upon this haunted Rhine
  My kingdom I will found,
No spectre knight, or goblins blue,
  My purpose shall confound;
I ’ll bring the Golden Age again        95
  To this old feudal ground.

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