by Flori Van Acker, 1858 - 1940
Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me.
~ Sigmund Freud ~
After watching the movie In Bruges a couple of years ago, Gerry and I became fixated on the idea of visiting this medieval city. We watched the film a few more times for its wit and character development, and for the mesmerizing scenes of Bruges in snowy December. Yes, it's true, I had to avert my eyes during the more violent subplots; but the town center, parks, side streets, and canals all appeared so enchanting that we decided to travel there as a 25th Wedding Anniversary* trip and see for ouselves the city frozen in time for half a millennium.
Freud was right, many poets had preceded us. Here are two:
The Belfry of Bruges
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
found in The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems, 1845
In the market-place of Bruges stands the belfry old and brown;
Thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o'er the town.
As the summer morn was breaking, on that lofty tower I stood,
And the world threw off the darkness, like the weeds of widowhood.
Thick with towns and hamlets studded, and with streams and vapors gray,
Like a shield embossed with silver, round and vast the landscape lay.
At my feet the city slumbered. From its chimneys, here and there,
Wreaths of snow-white smoke, ascending, vanished, ghost-like, into air.
Not a sound rose from the city at that early morning hour,
But I heard a heart of iron beating in the ancient tower.
From their nests beneath the rafters sang the swallows wild and high;
And the world, beneath me sleeping, seemed more distant than the sky.
Then most musical and solemn, bringing back the olden times,
With their strange, unearthly changes rang the melancholy chimes,
Like the psalms from some old cloister, when the nuns sing in the choir;
And the great bell tolled among them, like the chanting of a friar.
Visions of the days departed, shadowy phantoms filled my brain;
They who live in history only seemed to walk the earth again;
All the Foresters of Flanders,--mighty Baldwin Bras de Fer,
Lyderick du Bucq and Cressy Philip, Guy de Dampierre.
I beheld the pageants splendid that adorned those days of old;
Stately dames, like queens attended, knights who bore the Fleece of Gold
Lombard and Venetian merchants with deep-laden argosies;
Ministers from twenty nations; more than royal pomp and ease.
I beheld proud Maximilian, kneeling humbly on the ground;
I beheld the gentle Mary, hunting with her hawk and hound;
And her lighted bridal-chamber, where a duke slept with the queen,
And the armed guard around them, and the sword unsheathed between.
I beheld the Flemish weavers, with Namur and Juliers bold,
Marching homeward from the bloody battle of the Spurs of Gold;
Saw the light at Minnewater, saw the White Hoods moving west,
Saw great Artevelde victorious scale the Golden Dragon's nest.
And again the whiskered Spaniard all the land with terror smote;
And again the wild alarum sounded from the tocsin's throat;
Till the bell of Ghent responded o'er lagoon and dike of sand,
"I am Roland! I am Roland! there is victory in the land!"
Then the sound of drums aroused me. The awakened city's roar
Chased the phantoms I had summoned back into their graves once more.
Hours had passed away like minutes; and, before I was aware,
Lo! the shadow of the belfry crossed the sun-illumined square.
On Leaving Bruges
by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The city's steeple-towers remove away,
Each singly; as each vain infatuate Faith
Leaves God in heaven, and passes. A mere breath
Each soon appears, so far. Yet that which lay
The first is now scarce further or more grey
Than the last is. Now all are wholly gone.
The sunless sky has not once had the sun
Since the first weak beginning of the day.
The air falls back as the wind finishes,
And the clouds stagnate. On the water's face
The current breathes along, but is not stirred.
There is no branch that thrills with any bird.
Winter is to possess the earth a space,
And have its will upon the extreme seas.
Kitti & Gerry ~ 25 / 26 Years
Incognito ~ In Bruges
* Gerry and I had to complicate things, having our civil wedding on 3 February 1989, and our religious ceremony seven months later on 2 September 1989. We try to celebrate both dates in some small way each year, usually tying Anniversary #1 in with Valentine's Day and Anniversary #2 in with Labor Day. Coincidentally, our belated 25th Anniversary #2 trip to Bruges, that we started planning in September 2014, fell on the eve of our 26th Anniversary #1. So Happy Both to Us!
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