Home  »  library  »  poem  »  The Beleaguered City

C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Beleaguered City

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

I HAVE read in some old, marvelous tale,

Some legend strange and vauge,

That a midnight host of spectres pale

Beleaguered the walls of Prague.

Beside the Moldau’s rushing stream,

With the wan mood overhead,

There stood, as in an awful dream,

The army of the dead.

White as a sea-fog, landward bound,

The spectral camp was seen;

And with a sorrowful, deep sound

The river flowed between.

No other voice nor sound was there,—

No drum, nor sentry’s pace;

The mist-like banners clasped the air,

As clouds with clouds embrace.

But when the old cathedral bell

Proclaimed the morning prayer,

The white pavilions rose and fell

On the alarmèd air.

Down the broad valley fast and far

The troubled army fled;

Up rose the glorious morning star,—

The ghastly host was dead.


I have read in the marvelous heart of man,

That strange and mystic scroll,

That an army of phantoms vast and wan

Beleaguer the human soul.

Encamped beside Life’s rushing stream,

In Fancy’s misty light,

Gigantic shapes and shadows gleam

Portentous through the night.

Upon its midnight battle-ground

The spectral camp is seen,

And with a sorrowful, deep sound

Flows the River of Life between.

No other voice nor sound is there,

In the army of the grave;

No other challenge breaks the air,

But the rushing of life’s wave.

And when the solemn and deep church bell

Entreats the soul to pray,

The midnight phantoms feel the spell,

The shadows sweep away.

Down the broad Vale of Tears afar

The spectral camp is fled;

Faith shineth as a morning star,

Our ghastly fears are dead.