Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Feb. 27, 1807 - Mar. 24, 1882


The Black Knight

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

From The German of Uhland.

'Twas Pentecost, the Feast of Gladness,
When woods and fields put off all sadness,
Thus began the King and spake:
So from the halls
Of ancient Hofburgh's walls,
A luxuriant Spring shall break.

Drums and trumpets echo loudly,
Wave the crimson banners proudly,
From balcony the King looked on;
In the play of spears,
Fell all the cavaliers,
Before the monarch's stalwart son.

To the barrier of the fight
Rode at last a sable Knight.
Sir Knight! your name and scutcheon say!
Should I speak it here,
Ye would stand aghast with fear;
I am a Prince of mighty sway!

When he rode into the lists,
The arch of heaven grew black with mists,
And the castle 'gan to rock.
At the first blow,
Fell the youth from saddle-bow,
Hardly rises from the shock.

Pipe and viol call the dances,
Torch-light through the high hall glances;
Waves a mighty shadow in;
With manner bland
Doth ask the maiden's hand,
Doth with her the dance begin;

Danced in sable iron sark,
Danced a measure weird and dark,
Coldly clasped her limbs around.
From breast and hair
Down fall from her the fair
Flowerets, faded, to the ground.

To the sumptuous banquet came
Every Knight and every Dame.
'Twixt son and daughter all distraught,
With mournful mind
The ancient King reclined,
Gazed at them in silent thought.

Pale the children both did look,
But the guest a beaker took;
Golden wine will make you whole!
The children drank,
Gave many a courteous thank;
Oh, that draught was very cool!

Each the father's breast embraces,
Son and daughter; and their faces
Colourless grow utterly.
Whichever way
Looks the fear-struck father grey,
He beholds his children die.

Woe! the blessed children both
Takest thou in the joy of youth;
Take me, too, the joyless father!

Spake the grim Guest,
From his hollow, cavernous breast,
Roses in the spring I gather!


Longfellow's Poetical Works
Copyright 1893
Henry Frowde, London