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[He passes by; and others come in, bearing on a litter a sick child.)
Boys. Set down the litter and draw near!
The King of Bethlehem is here!
What ails the child, who seems to fear
That we shall do him harm?
The Bearers. He climbed up to the Robin's nest,
And out there darteil, from his rest,
A serpent with a crimson crest,
And stung him in the arm.
Jesus. Bring him to me, and let me feel
The wounded place; my touch can heal
The sting of serpents, and can steal
The poison from the bite!
(He touches the wound, and the boy begins to cry.)
Cease to lament! I can foresee
That thou hereafter known shall be,
Among the men who follow me,
As Simon the Canaanite!
In the after part of the day
Will be represented another play,
Of the passion of our Blessed Lord,
Beginning directly after Nones!
At the close of which we shall accord,
By way of benison and reward,
The sight of a holy Martyr's bones !
IV. The road to Hirschou. PRINCE HENRY and Elsie, with their attendants, on horseback. Elsie. Onward and onward the highway runs to the distant city,
impatiently bearing Tidings of human joy and disaster, of love and of hate, of doing and
daring! Prince Henry. This life of ours is a wild æolian harp of many a
joyous strain, But under them all there runs a loud perpetual wail, as of souls in
pain. Elsie. Faith alone can interpret life, and the heart that aches and
bleeds with the stigma Of pain, alone bears the likeness of Christ, and can comprehend its
dark enigma. Prince Henry. Man is selfish, and seeketh pleasure with little care
of what may betide; Else why am I travelling here beside thee, a demon that rides by an
Elsie. All the hedges are white with dust, and the great dog under
the creaking wain Hangs his head in the lazy heat, while onward the horses toil and
strain. Prince Henry. Now they stop at the way-side inn, and the waggoner
laughs with the landlord's daughter, While out of the dripping trough the horses distend their leathern sides
with water. Elsie. All through life there are way-side inns, where man may
refresh his soul with love; Even the lowest may quench his thirst at rivulets fed by springs from
above. Prince Henry. Yonder, where rises the cross of stone, our journey
along the highway ends, And over the fields, by a bridle path, down into the broad green valley
descends. Elsie. I am not sorry to leave behind the beaten road with its dust
and heat; The air will be sweeter far, and the turf will be softer under horses' feet.
[They turn down a green lane.) Elsie. Sweet is the air with the budding haws, and the valley,
stretching for miles below, Is white with blossoming cherry-trees, as if just covered with lightest
snow. Prince Henry. Over our heads a white cascade is gleaming against
the distant hill; We cannot hear it, nor see it move, but it hangs like a banner when
winds are still. Elsie. Damp and cool is this deep ravine, and cool the sound of the
brook by our side! What is this castle that rises above us, and lords it over a land so
wide ? Prince Henry. It is the home of the Counts of Calva; well have
I known these scenes of old, Well I remember each tower and turret, remember the brooklet, the
wood, and the wold. Elsie. Hark! from the little village below us the bells of the church
are ringing for rain! Priests and peasants in long procession come forth and kneel on the
arid plain. Prince Henry. They have not long to wait, for I see in the south
uprising a little cloud, That before the sun shall be set will cover the sky above us as with a shroud.
[They pass on.)
The Convent of Hirschau in the Black Forest. The Convent cellar. FRIAR CLAUS comes in
with a light and a basket of empty flagons.
Friar Claus. I always enter this sacred place
With a thoughtful, solemn, and reverent pace,
Pausing long enough on each stair
To breathe an ejaculatory prayer,
And a benediction of the vines
That produce these various sorts of wines !
For my part, I am well content
That we have got through with the tedious Lent!
Fasting is all very well for those
Who have to contend with invisible-foes ;
But I am quite sure it does not agree
With a quiet, peaceful man like me,
Who am not of that nervous and meagre kind
That are always distressed in body and mind.
And at times it really does me good
To come down among this brotherhood,
Dwelling for ever under ground,
Silent, contemplative, round and sound;
Each one old, and brown with mould,
But filled to the lips with the ardour of youth,
With the latent power and love of truth,
And with virtues fervent and manifold.
I have heard it said, that at Easter-tide,
When buds are swelling on every side,
And the sap begins to move in the vine,
Then in all cellars, far and wide
The oldest, as well as the newest, wine
Begins to stir itself, and ferment,
With a kind of revolt and discontent
At being so long in darkness pent,
And fain would burst from its sombre tun
To bask on the hill-side in the sun;
As in the bosom of us poor friars,
The tumult of half-subdued desires
For the world that we have left behind
Disturbs at times all peace of mind !
And now that we have lived through Lent,
My duty it is, as often before,
To open awhile the prison-dvor,
And give these restless spirits vent.
Now here is a cask that stands alone,
And has stood a hundred years or more,
Its beard of cobwebs, long and hoar,
Trailing and sweeping along the floor,
Like Barbarossa, who sits in his cave,
Taciturn, sombre, sedate, and grave,
Till his beard has grown through the table of stone!
It is of the quick, and not of the dead!
In its veins the blood is hot and red,
And a heart still beats in those ribs of oak
That time may have tamed, but has not broke
It comes from Bacharach on the Rhine,
Is one of the three Lest kinds of wine,
And costs some hundred florins the ohm;
But that I do not consider dear,
When I remember that every year
Four butts are sent to the Pope of Rome,
And whenever a goblet thereof I drain,
The old rhyme keeps running in my brain :
At Bacharach on the Rhine,
At Hochheim on the Main,
And at Würzburg on the Stein,
Grow the three best kinds of wine!
They are all good wines, and better far
Than those of the Neckar, or those of the Ahr.
In particular, Würzburg well may boast
Of its blessed wine of the Holy Ghost,
Which of all wines I like the most.
This I shall draw for the Abbot's drinking,
Who seems to be much of my way of thinking.
[Fills a flagon.]
Ah! how the streamlet laughs and sings!
What a delicious fragrance springs
From the deep flagon, while it fills,
As of hyacinths and daffodils !
Between this cask and the Abbot's lips
Many have been the sips and slips;
Many have been the draughts of wine,
On their way to his, that have stopped at mine;
And many a time my soul has hankered
For a deep draught out of his silver tankard,
When it should have been busy with other affairs,
Less with its longings and more with its prayers.
But now there is no such awkward condition,
No danger of death and eternal perdition;
So here's to the Abbot and Brothers all,
Who dwell in this convent of Peter and Paul!
O cordial delicions! O soother of pain!
It flashes like sunshine into my brain!
A benison rest on the Bishop who sends
Such a fudder of wine as this to his friends
And now a flagon for such as may ask
A draught from the noble Bacharach cask,
And I will be gone, though I know full well
The cellar's a cheerfuller place than the cell.
Behold where he stands, all sound and good,
Brown and old in his oaken hood;
Silent he seems externally
As any Carthusian monk may be;
But within, what a spirit of deep unrest!
What a seething and simmering in his breast!
As if the heaving of his great heart
Would burst his belt of oak apart!
Let me unloose this button of wood,
And quiet a little his turbulent mood.
[Sets it running.)
See! how its currents gleam and shine,
As if they had caught the purple hues
Of autumn sunsets on the Rhine,
Descending and mingling with the dews;
Or as if the grapes were stained with the blood
Of the innocent boy, who, some years back,
Was taken and crucified by the Jews,
In that ancient town of Bacharach;
Perdition upon those infidel Jews,
In that ancient town of Bacharach!
The beautiful town, that gives us wine
With the fragrant odour of Muscadine!
I should deem it wrong to let this pass
Without first touching my lips to the glass,
For here in the midst of the current I stand,
Like the stone Pfalz in the midst of the river,
Taking toll upon either hand,
And much more grateful to the giver.
Here, now, is a very inferior kind,
Such as in any town you may find,
Such as one might imagine would suit
The rascal who drank wine out of a boot.
And, after all, it was not a crime,
For he won thereby Dort Hüffelsheim.
A jolly old toper! who at a pull
Could drink a postilion's jack-boot full,
And ask with a laugh, when that was done,
If the fellow had left the other one!
This wine is as good as we can afford
To the friars, who sit at the lower board,
And cannot distinguish bad from good,
And are far better off than if they could,