The Abandoned Water-Milldetails

[Picture: The Abandoned Water-Mill]
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The Abandoned Water-Mill

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The drawing shows an old abandoned watermill, the wooden walls rotting away, the thatched roof uneven, the waterwheel still and rotten, the whole building overgrown. Romantic poems about deserted mills became popular in the second half of the nineteenth century, as mechanisation made a lot of them obsolete, and the mill here illustrates the following poem (printed in German in the book):

Die verlassene Mühle

The Deserted Mill

It stands in the lonely Winterthal,

At the base of Ilsberg hill;

It stands as though it fain would fall,

The dark Deserted mill.

Its engines, coated with moss and mould,

Bide silent all the day;

Its mildewed walls and windows old

Are crumbling into decay.

So through the Daylight’s lingering hours

It mourns in weary rest;

But, soon as the sunset’s gorgeous bowers

Begin to fade in the west,

The long-dead millers leave their lairs.

And open its creaking doors,

And their feet glide up and down its stairs,

And over its dusty floors.

And the millers’ men, they too awake.

And the night’s weird work begins:

The wheels turn round, the hoppers shake,

The flour falls into the binns.

The mill-bell tolls agen and agen,

And the cry is, “Grist here, ho!”

And the dead old millers and their men

Move busily to and fro.

And ever as the night wears more and more

New groups throng into the Mill,

And the clangor, deafening enough before,

Grows loader and wilder still.

Hnge sacks are harrowed from floor to floor;

The wheels redouble their din;

The hoppers clatter, the engines roar;

And the flour overflows the bin.

But with the Morning’s pearly sheen

This ghastly hubbub wanes;

And the moon-dim face of a woman is seen

Through the meal-dulled window panes.

She opens the sash, and her words resound

In tones of unearthly power,—

“Come hither, good folks, the corn is ground;

Come hither, and take your flour!”

Thereon strange hazy lights appear

A-flitting all through the pile,

And a deep, melodious, choral cheer

Ascends through the roof the while.

But, a moment more, and you gaze and hark

And wonder and wait in vain;

For suddenly all again is dark.

And all is hushed again.

It stands in the desolate Winterthal,

At the base of Ilsberg hill;

It stands as though it would rather fall,

The Long-deserted Mill.

Its engines, coated with moss and mould,

Bide silent all the day;

And its mildewed walls and windows old

Are crumbling fast away.

(p. 118)

Translation taken from The Poets and Poetry of Europe edited by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1870.


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