1: The Castle of Vautsber on the Rhine -

A chamber in a tower . PRINCE HENRY, sitting alone, ill and restless. Midnight

PRINCE HENRY.

I cannot sleep! my fervid brain

Calls up the vanished Past again,

And throws its misty splendors deep

Into the pallid realms of sleep!

A breath from that far-distant shore

Comes freshening ever more and more,

And wafts o'er intervening seas

Sweet odors from the Hesperides!

A wind, that through the corridor

Just stirs the curtain, and no more,

And, touching the aeolian strings,

Faints with the burden that it brings!

Come back! ye friendships long departed!

That like o'erflowing streamlets started,

And now are dwindled, one by one,

To stony channels in the sun!

Come back! ye friends, whose lives are ended,

Come back, with all that light attended,

Which seemed to darken and decay

When ye arose and went away!

They come, the shapes of joy and woe,

The airy crowds of long ago,

The dreams and fancies known of yore.

That have been, and shall be no more

They change the cloisters of the night

Into a garden of delight;

They make the dark and dreary hours

Open and blossom into flowers!

I would not sleep! I love to be

Again in their fair company;

But ere my lips can bid them stay,

They pass and vanish quite away!

Alas! our memories may retrace

Each circumstance of time and place,

Season and scene come back again,

And outward things unchanged remain;

The rest we cannot reinstate;

Ourselves we cannot re-create,

Nor set our souls to the same key

Of the remembered harmony!

Rest! rest! Oh, give me rest and peace!

The thought of life that ne'er shall cease

Has something in it like despair,

A weight I am too weak to bear!

Sweeter to this afflicted breast

The thought of never-ending rest!

Sweeter the undisturbed and deep

Tranquillity of endless sleep!

A flash of lightning, out of which LUCIFERappears, in the garb of a travelling Physician .

LUCIFER.

All hail, Prince Henry!

PRINCE HENRY, starting

Who is it speaks?

Who and what are you?

LUCIFER.

One who seeks

A moment's audience with the Prince

PRINCE HENRY.

When came you in?

LUCIFER

A moment since

I found your study door unlocked,

And thought you answered when knocked

PRINCE HENRY

I did not hear you.

LUCIFER

You heard the thunder;

It was loud enough to waken the dead

And it is not a matter of special wonder

That, when God is walking overhead,

You should not hear my feeble tread.

PRINCE HENRY

What may your wish or purpose be?

LUCIFER

Nothing or everything, as it pleases

Your Highness. You behold in me

Only a travelling Physician;

One of the few who have a mission

To cure incurable diseases,

Or those that are called so.

PRINCE HENRY.

Can you bring

The dead to life?

LUCIFER

Yes; very nearly.

And, what is a wiser and better thing,

Can keep the living from ever needing

Such an unnatural, strange proceeding,

By showing conclusively and clearly

That death is a stupid blunder merely,

And not a necessity of our lives

My being here is accidental;

The storm, that against your casement drives,

In the little village below waylaid me.

And there I heard with a secret delight,

Of your maladies physical and mental,

Which neither astonished nor dismayed me.

And I hastened hither, though late in the night,

To proffer my aid!

PRINCE HENRY, ironically

For this you came!

Ah, how can I ever hope to requite

This honor from one so erudite?

LUCIFER

The honor is mine, or will be when

I have cured your disease.

PRINCE HENRY.

But not till then

LUCIFER.

What is your illness?

PRINCE HENRY.

It has no name.

A smouldering, dull, perpetual flame,

As in a kiln, burns in my veins,

Sending up vapors to the head;

My heart has become a dull lagoon,

Which a kind of leprosy drinks and drains;

I am accounted as one who is dead,

And, indeed, I think that I shall be soon.

LUCIFER.

And has Gordonius the Divine,

In his famous Lily of Medicine, —

I see the book lies open before you, —

No remedy potent enough to restore you?

PRINCE HENRY.

None whatever!

LUCIFER

The dead are dead,

And their oracles dumb, when questioned

Of the new diseases that human life

Evolves in its progress, rank and rife.

Consult the dead upon things that were

But the living only on things that are.

Have you done this, by the appliance

And aid of doctors?

PRINCE HENRY.

Ay, whole schools

Of doctors, with their learned rules;

But the case is quite beyond their science.

Even the doctors of Salern

Send me back word they can discern

No cure for a malady like this,

Save one which in its nature is

Impossible and cannot be!

LUCIFER.

That sounds oracular!

PRINCE HENRY

Unendurable!

LUCIFER.

What is their remedy?

PRINCE HENRY.

You shall see

Writ in this scroll is the mystery

LUCIFER, reading .

" Not to be cured, yet not incurable!

The only remedy that remains

Is the blood that flows from a maid en's veins,

Who of her own free will shall die,

And give her life as the price of yours! "

That is the strangest of all cures,

And one, I think, you will never try;

The prescription you may well put by,

As something impossible to find

Before the world itself shall end!

And yet who knows? One cannot say

That into some maiden's brain that kind

Of madness will not find its way

Meanwhile permit me to recommend,

As the matter admits of no delay,

My wonderful Catholicon,

Of very subtile and magical powers!

PRINCE HENRY

Purge with your nostrums and drugs infernal

The spouts and gargoyles of these towers,

Not me! My faith is utterly gone

In every power but the Power Supernal!

Pray tell me, of what school are you?

LUCIFER

Both of the Old and of the New!

The school of Hermes Trismegistus,

Who uttered his oracles sublime

Before the Olympiads, in the dew

Of the early dusk and dawn of time,

The reign of dateless old Hephaestus!

As northward, from its Nubian springs,

The Nile, forever new and old,

Among the living and the dead,

Its mighty, mystic stream has rolled;

So, starting from its fountain-head

Under the lotus-leaves of Isis,

From the dead demigods of eld,

Through long, unbroken lines of kings

Its course the sacred art has held,

Unchecked, unchanged by man's devices.

This art the Arabian Geber taught,

And in alembics, finely wrought,

Distilling herbs and flowers, discovered

The secret that so long had hovered

Upon the misty verge of Truth,

The Elixir of Perpetual Youth,

Called Alcohol, in the Arab speech!

Like him, this wondrous lore I teach!

PRINCE HENRY

What! an adept?

LUCIFER.

Nor less, nor more!

PRINCE HENRY

I am a reader of your books,

A lover of that mystic lore!

With such a piercing glance it looks

Into great Nature's open eye,

And sees within it trembling lie

The portrait of the Deity!

And yet, alas! with all my pains,

The secret and the mystery

Have baffled and eluded me,

Unseen the grand result remains!

LUCIFER, showing a flask

Behold it here! this little flask

Contains the wonderful quintessence,

The perfect flower and efflorescence,

Of all the knowledge man can ask!

Hold it up thus against the light!

PRINCE HENRY

How limpid, pure, and crystalline,

How quick, and tremulous, and bright

The little wavelets dance and shine,

As were it the Water of Life in sooth!

LUCIFER.

It is! It assuages every pain,

Cures all disease, and gives again

To age the swift delights of youth

Inhale its fragrance.

PRINCE HENRY

It is sweet

A thousand different odors meet

And mingle in its rare perfume,

Such as the winds of summer waft

At open windows through a room!

LUCIFER.

Will you not taste it?

PRINCE HENRY.

Will one draught

Suffice?

LUCIFER.

If not, you can drink more.

PRINCE HENRY

Into this crystal goblet pour

So much as safely I may drink

LUCIFER, pouring .

Let not the quantity alarm you;

You may drink all; it will not harm you

PRINCE HENRY

I am as one who on the brink

Of a dark river stands and sees

The waters flow, the landscape dim

Around him waver, wheel, and swim,

And, ere he plunges, stops to think

Into what whirlpools he may sink;

One moment pauses, and no more,

Then madly plunges from the shore!

Headlong into the mysteries

Of life and death I boldly leap.

Nor fear the fateful current's sweep,

Nor what in ambush lurks below!

For death is better than disease!

An ANGELwith an aeolian harp hovers in the air

ANGEL.

Woe! woe! eternal woe!

Not only the whispered prayer

Of love,

But the imprecations of hate,

Reverberate

For ever and ever through the air

Above!

This fearful curse

Shakes the great universe!

LUCIFER, disappearing

Drink! drink!

And thy soul shall sink

Down into the dark abyss,

Into the infinite abyss,

From which no plummet nor rope

Ever drew up the silver sand of hope.

PRINCE HENRY, drinking .

It is like a draught of fire!

Through every vein

I feel again

The fever of youth, the soft desire;

A rapture that is almost pain

Throbs in my heart and fills my brain,

O joy! O joy! I feel

The band of steel

That so long and heavily has pressed

Upon my breast

Uplifted, and the malediction

Of my affliction

Is taken from me, and my weary breast

At length finds rest.

THE ANGEL.

It is but the rest of the fire, from which the air has been taken!

It is but the rest of the sand, when the hour-glass is not shaken!

It is but the rest of the tide between the ebb and the flow!

It is but the rest of the wind between the flaws that blow!

With fiendish laughter,

Hereafter,

This false physician

Will mock thee in thy perdition

PRINCE HENRY

Speak! speak!

Who says that I am ill?

I am not ill! I am not weak!

The trance, the swoon, the dream, is o'er!

I feel the chill of death no more!

At length,

I stand renewed in all my strength!

Beneath me I can feel

The great earth stagger and reel,

As if the feet of a descending God

Upon its surface trod,

And like a pebble it rolled beneath his heel!

This, O brave physician! this

Is thy great Palingenesis!

Drinks again .

THE ANGEL.

Touch the goblet no more!

It will make thy heart sore

To its very core!

Its perfume is the breath

Of the Angel of Death,

And the light that within it lies

Is the flash of his evil eyes.

Beware! Oh, beware!

For sickness, sorrow, and care

All are there!

PRINCE HENRY, sinking back .

O thou voice within my breast!

Why entreat me, why upbraid me,

When the steadfast tongues of truth

And the flattering hopes of youth

Have all deceived me and betrayed me?

Give me, give me rest, oh rest!

Golden visions wave and hover,

Golden vapors, waters streaming,

Landscapes moving, changing, gleaming!

I am like a happy lover,

Who illumines life with dreaming!

Brave physician! Rare physician!

Well hast thou fulfilled thy mission!

His head falls on his book.

THE ANGEL, receding .

Alas! alas!

Like a vapor the golden vision

Shall fade and pass,

And thou wilt find in thy heart again

Only the blight of pain,

And bitter, bitter, bitter contrition!

COURT-YARD OF THE CASTLE.

HUBERT, standing by the gateway

HUBERT.

How sad the grand old castle looks!

O'erhead, the unmolested rooks

Upon the turret's windy top

Sit, talking of the farmer's crop;

Here in the court-yard springs the grass,

So few are now the feet that pass;

The stately peacocks, bolder grown,

Come hopping down the steps of stone,

As if the castle were their own;

And I, the poor old seneschal,

Haunt, like a ghost, the banquet-hall

Alas! the merry guests no more

Crowd through the hospitable door;

No eyes with youth and passion shine,

No cheeks glow redder than the wine;

No song, no laugh, no jovial din

Of drinking wassail to the pin;

But all is silent, sad, and drear,

And now the only sounds I hear

Are the hoarse rooks upon the walls,

And horses stamping in their stalls!

A horn sounds .

What ho! that merry, sudden blast

Reminds me of the days long past!

And, as of old resounding, grate

The heavy hinges of the gate,

And, clattering loud, with iron clank,

Down goes the sounding bridge of plank,

As if it were in haste to greet

The pressure of a traveller's feet!

WALTER.

How now, my friend! This looks quite lonely!

No banner flying from the walls,

No pages and no seneschals,

No warders, and one porter only!

Is it you, Hubert?

HUBERT.

Ah! Master Walter!

WALTER.

Alas! how forms and faces alter!

I did not know you. You look older!

Your hair has grown much grayer and thinner,

And you stoop a little in the shoulder!

HUBERT.

Alack! I am a poor old sinner,

And, like these towers, begin to moulder;

And you have been absent many a year!

WALTER.

How is the Prince?

HUBERT.

He is not here;

He has been ill: and now has fled

WALTER.

Speak it out frankly: say he's dead!

Is it not so?

HUBERT

No; if you please,

A strange, mysterious disease

Fell on him with a sudden blight,

Whole hours together he would stand

Upon the terrace, in a dream,

Resting his head upon his hand,

Best pleased when he was most alone,

Like Saint John Nepomuck in stone,

Looking down into a stream.

In the Round Tower, night after night,

He sat and bleared his eyes with books;

Until one morning we found him there

Stretched on the floor, as if in a swoon

He had fallen from his chair.

We hardly recognized his sweet looks!

WALTER

Poor Prince!

HUBERT

I think he might have mended;

And he did mend; but very soon

The priests came flocking in, like rooks,

With all their crosiers and their crooks,

And so at last the matter ended

WALTER.

How did it end?

HUBERT.

Why, in Saint Rochus

They made him stand, and wait his doom;

And, as if he were condemned to the tomb,

Began to mutter their hocus-pocus.

First, the Mass for the Dead they chanted,

Then three times laid upon his head

A shovelful of churchyard clay,

Saying to him, as he stood undaunted,

" This is a sign that thou art dead,

So in thy heart be penitent! "

And forth from the chapel door he went

Into disgrace and banishment,

Clothed in a cloak of hodden gray,

And bearing a wallet, and a bell,

Whose sound should be a perpetual knell

To keep all travellers away.

WALTER.

Oh, horrible fate! Outcast, rejected;

As one with pestilence infected!

HUBERT.

Then was the family tomb unsealed,

And broken helmet, sword, and shield,

Buried together, in common wreck,

As is the custom, when the last

Of any princely house has passed,

And thrice, as with a trumpet-blast,

A herald shouted down the stair

The words of warning and despair, —

" O Hoheneck! O Hoheneck! "

WALTER.

Still in my soul that cry goes on, —

Forever gone! forever gone!

Ah, what a cruel sense of loss,

Like a black shadow, would fall across

The hearts of all, if he should die!

His gracious presence upon earth

Was as a fire upon a hearth;

As pleasant songs, at morning sung,

The words that dropped from his sweet tongue

Strengthened our hearts; or heard at night,

Made all our slumbers soft and light

Where is he?

HUBERT.

In the Odenwald

Some of his tenants, unappalled

By fear of death, or priestly word, —

A holy family, that make

Each meal a Supper of the Lord, —

Have him beneath their watch and ward,

For love of him, and Jesus' sake!

Pray you come in. For why should I

With out-door hospitality

My prince's friend thus entertain?

WALTER.

I would a moment here remain.

But, you good Hubert, go before,

Fill me a goblet of May-drink,

As aromatic as the May

From which it steals the breath away

And which he loved so well of yore;

It is of him that I would think.

You shall attend me, when I call,

In the ancestral banquet-hall.

Unseen companions, guests of air,

You cannot wait on, will be there;

They taste not food, they drink not wine,

But their soft eyes look into mine,

And their lips speak to me, and all

The vast and shadowy banquet hall

Is full of looks and words divine!

Leaning over the parapet

The day is done; and slowly from the scene

The stooping sun up-gathers his spent shafts,

And puts them back into his golden quiver!

Below me in the valley, deep and green

As goblets are, from which in thirsty draughts

We drink its wine, the swift and mantling river

Flows on triumphant through these lovely regions,

Etched with the shadows of its sombre margent,

And soft, reflected clouds of gold and argent!

Yes, there it flows, forever, broad and still

As when the vanguard of the Roman legions

First saw it from the top of yonder hill!

How beautiful it is! Fresh fields of wheat,

Vineyard, and town, and tower with fluttering flag,

The consecrated chapel on the crag,

And the white hamlet gathered round its base,

Like Mary sitting at her Saviour's feet

And looking up at his beloved face!

O friend! O best of friends! Thy absence more

Than the impending night darkens the landscape o'er:

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