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Bingen on the Rhine

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"I can read pretty well and I know ever so many pieces of poetry off by heart—'The Battle of Hohenlinden' and 'Edinburgh after Flodden,' and 'Bingen on the Rhine,' and most of the 'Lady of the Lake' and most of 'The Seasons' by James Thompson. Don't you just love poetry that gives you a crinkly feeling up and down your back? There is a piece in the Fifth Reader—'The Downfall of Poland'—that is just full of thrills. Of course, I wasn't in the Fifth Reader—I was only in the Fourth—but the big girls used to lend me theirs to read."
Anne Shirley[src]
"Bingen on the Rhine" is a poem by 19th century poet Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton (1808-1877). It was first published in 1867. In February 1877, Gilbert Blythe recited it at the Debating Club concert on Diana Barry's birthday.[1]

Significance

The line "There's another, not a sister" was directed to Anne, but she was too stubborn to care about the romance in it at that time. It is very ironic that when Gilbert did his best to impress her, she ignored him, and when he didn't try and was dying, she fell in love with him.

Text

A soldier of the legion lay dying in Algiers,
There was lack of woman's nursing, there was dearth
[sic] of woman's tears;
But a comrade stood beside him, while his life-blood ebbed away,
And bent, with pitying glances, to hear what he might say.
The dying soldier faltered, as he took that comrade's hand,
And he said, "I never more shall see my own, my native land:
Take a message and a token to some distant friends of mine;
For I was born at Bingen—at Bingen on the Rhine.

"Tell my brothers and companions, when they meet and crowd around,
To hear my mournful story, in the pleasant vineyard ground
That we fought the battle bravely, and when the day was done,
Full many a corpse lay ghastly pale beneath the setting sun:
And 'mid the dead and dying were some grown old in wars—
The death-wound on their gallant breasts, the last of many scars;
And some were young, and suddenly beheld life's morn decline—
And one had come from Bingen—fair Bingen on the Rhine.

"Tell my mother that her other son shall comfort her old age;
For I was still a truant bird, that thought his home a cage.
For my father was a soldier, and even as a child
My heart leaped forth to hear him tell of struggles fierce and wild;
And when he died, and left us to divide his scanty hoard,
I let them take whate'er they would—but kept my father's sword;
And with boyish love I hung it where the bright light used to shine,
On the cottage wall at Bingen—calm Bingen on the Rhine.

"Tell my sister not to weep for me, and sob with drooping head,
When the troops come marching home again, with glad and gallant tread,
But to look upon them proudly, with a calm and steadfast eye,
For her brother was a soldier, too, and not afraid to die;
And if a comrade seek her love, I ask her in my name,
To listen to him kindly, without regret or shame,
And to hang the old sword in its place (my father's sword and mine),
For the honour of old Bingen—dear Bingen on the Rhine.

"There's
another—not a sister; in the happy days gone by,
You'd have known her by the merriment that sparkled in her eye;
Too innocent for coquetry—too fond for idle scorning—
O, friend! I fear the lightest heart makes sometimes heaviest mourning!
Tell her the last night of my life (for ere the moon be risen,
My body will be out of pain, my soul be out of prison)—
I dreamed I stood with
her, and saw the yellow sunlight shine
On the vine-clad hills of Bingen—sweet Bingen on the Rhine.

"I saw the blue Rhine sweep along—I heard, or seemed to hear,
The German songs we used to sing in chorus sweet and clear;
And down the pleasant river, and up the slanting hill,
The echoing chorus sounded through the evening calm and still;
And her glad blue eyes were on me, as we passed with friendly talk,
Down many a path beloved of yore, and well-remembered walk!
And her little hand lay lightly, confidingly in mine—
But we meet no more at Bingen—loved Bingen on the Rhine."

His trembling voice grew faint and hoarse; his grasp was childish weak;
His eyes put on a dying look; and he sighed and ceased to speak;
His comrade bent to lift him, but the spark of life had fled;
The soldier of the Legion in a foreign land—was dead!
And the soft moon rose up slowly, and calmly she looked down
On the red sand of the battle-field, with bloody corpses strewn;
Yes, calmly on that dreadful scene her pale light seemed to shine,
As it shown on distant Bingen—fair Bingen on the Rhine.

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