Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 7/A day-dream on the Rhine


O for a kingdom rocky throned
Above the brimming Rhine!
With vassals who shall pay their toll,
In many sorts of wine;
Above me nought but the blue air,
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)
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
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:
The forge, the farm-house, and the inn,
Should cluster round the mill,
And past them all, the river broad,
Should flow at its own sweet will.

My stream at noon of fairy gold,
Should crimson turn ere night,
Then by the magic of the moon,
Change to quick-silver bright.
At dawn each little wave should be
Mantled with purple light.

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
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:
Twas blood that from the Lombard ranks
Rushed down into the Rhine.

Twas here the German soldiers flocked,
Burning with love and pride,
And threw their muskets down to kiss
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,
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,
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.

Fair daughter of the crowned Alps
In aspiration bold,
No frost can bind thy fervid flood,
That never doth grow old,
Unchecked by summer’s golden fire,
Or by fierce winter’s cold.

O, special favourite of God,
Eternal beauty cling
Around thy banks—let all thy vines
Together praise and sing,
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,
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,
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
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?

Then 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
To this old feudal ground.

Walter Thornbury.