Charles Stuart Calverley
Dover To Munich - Poem by Charles Stuart Calverley
Farewell, farewell! Before our prow
Leaps in white foam the noisy channel,
A tourist's cap is on my brow,
My legs are cased in tourists' flannel:
Around me gasp the invalids -
(The quantity to-night is fearful) -
I take a brace or so of weeds,
And feel (as yet) extremely cheerful.
The night wears on:- my thirst I quench
With one imperial pint of porter;
Then drop upon a casual bench -
(The bench is short, but I am shorter) -
Place 'neath my head the harve-sac
Which I have stowed my little all in,
And sleep, though moist about the back,
Serenely in an old tarpaulin.
* * *
Bed at Ostend at 5 A.M.
Breakfast at 6, and train 6.30.
Tickets to Konigswinter (mem.
The seats objectionably dirty).
And onward through those dreary flats
We move, with scanty space to sit on,
Flanked by stout girls with steeple hats,
And waists that paralyse a Briton; -
By many a tidy little town,
Where tidy little Fraus sit knitting;
(The men's pursuits are, lying down,
Smoking perennial pipes, and spitting
And doze, and execrate the heat,
And wonder how far off Cologne is,
And if we shall get aught to eat,
Till we get there, save raw polonies:
Until at last the 'grey old pile'
Is seen, is past, and three hours later
We're ordering steaks, and talking vile
Mock-German to an Austrian waiter.
* * *
Konigswinter, hateful Konigswinter!
Burying-place of all I loved so well!
Never did the most extensive printer
Print a tale so dark as thou could'st tell!
In the sapphire West the eve yet lingered,
Bathed in kindly light those hill-tops cold;
Fringed each cloud, and, stooping rosy-fingered,
Changed Rhine's waters into molten gold; -
While still nearer did his light waves splinter
Into silvery shafts the streaming light;
And I said I loved thee, Konigswinter,
For the glory that was thine that night.
And we gazed, till slowly disappearing,
Like a day-dream, passed the pageant by,
And I saw but those lone hills, uprearing
Dull dark shapes against a hueless sky.
Then I turned, and on those bright hopes pondered
Whereof yon gay fancies were the type;
And my hand mechanically wandered
Towards my left-hand pocket for a pipe.
Ah! why starts each eyeball from its socket,
As, in Hamlet, start the guilty Queen's?
There, deep-hid in its accustomed pocket,
Lay my sole pipe, smashed to smithereens!
* * *
On, on the vessel steals;
Round go the paddle-wheels,
And now the tourist feels
As he should;
For king-like rolls the Rhine,
And the scenery's divine,
And the victuals and the wine
From every crag we pass'll
Rise up some hoar old castle;
The hanging fir-groves tassel
And the vine her lithe arms stretches
O'er peasants singing catches -
And you'll make no end of sketches,
I should hope.
We've a nun here (called Therese),
Two couriers out of place,
One Yankee, with a face
Like a ferret's:
And three youths in scarlet caps
Drinking chocolate and schnapps -
A diet which perhaps
Has its merits.
And day again declines:
In shadow sleep the vines,
And the last ray through the pines
Then sinks behind yon ridge;
And the usual evening midge
Is settling on the bridge
Of my nose.
And keen's the air and cold,
And the sheep are in the fold,
And Night walks sable-stoled
Through the trees;
And on the silent river
The floating starbeams quiver; -
And now, the saints deliver
Us from fleas.
* * *
Avenues of broad white houses,
Basking in the noontide glare; -
Streets, which foot of traveller shrinks from,
As on hot plates shrinks the bear; -
Elsewhere lawns, and vista'd gardens,
Statues white, and cool arcades,
Where at eve the German warrior
Winks upon the German maids; -
Such is Munich:- broad and stately,
Rich of hue, and fair of form;
But, towards the end of August,
There, the long dim galleries threading,
May the artist's eye behold,
Breathing from the 'deathless canvass'
Records of the years of old:
Pallas there, and Jove, and Juno,
'Take' once more 'their walks abroad,'
Under Titian's fiery woodlands
And the saffron skies of Claude:
There the Amazons of Rubens
Lift the failing arm to strike,
And the pale light falls in masses
On the horsemen of Vandyke;
And in Berghem's pools reflected
Hang the cattle's graceful shapes,
And Murillo's soft boy-faces
Laugh amid the Seville grapes;
And all purest, loveliest fancies
That in poets' souls may dwell
Started into shape and substance
At the touch of Raphael. -
Lo! her wan arms folded meekly,
And the glory of her hair
Falling as a robe around her,
Kneels the Magdalene in prayer;
And the white-robed Virgin-mother
Smiles, as centuries back she smiled,
Half in gladness, half in wonder,
On the calm face of her Child:-
And that mighty Judgment-vision
Tells how man essayed to climb
Up the ladder of the ages,
Past the frontier-walls of Time;
Heard the trumpet-echoes rolling
Through the phantom-peopled sky,
And the still voice bid this mortal
Put on immortality.
* * *
Thence we turned, what time the blackbird
Pipes to vespers from his perch,
And from out the clattering city
Pass'd into the silent church;
Marked the shower of sunlight breaking
Thro' the crimson panes o'erhead,
And on pictured wall and window
Read the histories of the dead:
Till the kneelers round us, rising,
Cross'd their foreheads and were gone;
And o'er aisle and arch and cornice,
Layer on layer, the night came on.
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