The Beleaguered City

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I have read, in some old, marvelous tale,
Some legend strange and vague,
That a midnight host of specters pale
Beleaguered the walls of Prague.
Beside the Moldau's rushing stream,
With the wan moon 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 mistlike 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.