The legends of the Rhine

Beetling walls with ivy grown,
Frowning heights of mossy stone;
Turret, with its flaunting flag
Flung from battlemented crag;
Dungeon-keep and fortalice
Looking down a precipice
O`er the darkly glancing wave
By the Lurline-haunted cave;
Robber haunt and maiden bower,
Home of love and crime and power, -
That’s the scenery, in fine,
Of the legends of the Rhine.

One bold baron, double-dyed
Bigamist and parricide,
And, as most the stories run,
Partner of the evil one;
Injured innocence in white,
Fair but idiotic quite,
Wringing of her lily hands;
Valor fresh from paynim lands,
Abbot ruddy, hermit pale,
Minstrel fraught with many a tale, -
Are the actors that combine
In the legends of the Rhine.

Bell-mouthed flagons round a board;
Suits of armor, shield, and sword;
Kerchief with its bloody stain;
Ghosts of the untimely slain;
Thunder-clap and clanking chain;
Headsman`s block and shining axe;
Thumb-screw, crucifixes, racks;
Midnight-tolling chapel bell,
Heard across the gloomy fell, -
These and other pleasant facts
Are the properties that shine
In the legends of the Rhine.

Maledictions, whispered vows
Underneath the linden boughs;
Murder, bigamy, and theft;
Travelers of goods bereft;
Rapine, pillage, arson, spoil, -
Everything but honest toil,
Are the deeds that best define
Every legend of the Rhine.

That virtue always meets reward,
But quicker when it wears a sword;
That providence has special care
Of gallant knight and lady fair;
That villains, as a thing of course,
Are always haunted by remorse, -
Is the moral, I opine,
Of the legends of the Rhine.

(Francis Bret Harte)


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