LEGENDS THAT EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW
A SELECTION OF THE GREAT LEGENDS
OF ALL TIMES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
EDITED BY HAMILTON WRIGHT MABIE
ILLUSTRATED AND DECORATED BY BLANCHE OSTERTAG
If we knew how the words in our language were made and what they have
meant to successive generations of the men and women who have used them,
we should have a new and very interesting kind of history to read. For
words, like all other creations of man, were not deliberately
manufactured to meet a need, as are the various parts of a bicycle or of
an automobile; but grew gradually and slowly out of experiences which
compelled their production. For it is one of the evidences of the
brotherhood of men that, either by the pressure of necessity or of the
instinct to describe to others what has happened to ourself and so make
common property of personal experience, no interesting or influential or
significant thing can befall a man that is not accompanied by a desire
to communicate it to others.
The word legend has a very interesting history, which sheds light not
only on its origin but on early habits of thought and customs. It is
derived from the Latin verb legere, which means "to read." As
legends are often passed down by word of mouth and are not reduced to
writing until they have been known for centuries by great numbers of
people, it seems difficult at first glance to see any connection between
the Latin word and its English descendant. In Russia and other
countries, where large populations live remote from cities and are
practically without books and newspapers, countless stories are told by
peasant mothers to their children, by reciters or semi-professional
story-tellers, which have since been put into print. For a good many
hundred years, probably, the vast majority of legends were not read;
they were heard.
When we understand, however, what the habits of people were in the early
Christian centuries and what the early legends were about, the original
meaning of the word is not only clear but throws light on the history of
this fascinating form of literature. The early legends, as a rule, had
to do with religious people or with places which had religious
associations; they were largely concerned with the saints and were
freely used in churches for the instruction of the people. In all
churches selections from some book or books are used as part of the
service; readings from the Old and New Testament are included in the
worship of all churches in Christendom. In the earliest times not only
were Lessons from the Old Testament and the Gospels and Epistles of the
New Testament read, but letters of bishops and selections from other
writings which were regarded as profitable for religious instruction.
Later stories of the saints and passages from the numerous lives which
appeared were read at different services and contributed greatly to
their interest. The first legends in Christian countries were incidents
from the lives of the saints and were included in the selections made
from various writings for public worship; these selections were called
legends. The history of the word makes clear, therefore, the
origin and early history of the class of stories which we call legends.
The use of the stories at church services led to the collection, orderly
arrangement and reshaping of a great mass of material which grew rapidly
because so many people were interested in these semi-religious tales. In
the beginning the stories had, as a rule, some basis in fact, though it
was often very slight. As time went on the element of fact grew smaller
and the element of fiction larger; stories which were originally very
short were expanded into long tales and became highly imaginative. In
the Thirteenth Century the Legenda Aurea, or Golden Legend, which
became one of the most popular books of the Middle Ages, appeared. In
time, as the taste for this kind of writing grew, the word legend came
to include any story which, under a historical form, gave an account of
an historical or imaginary person.
During the Middle Ages verse-making was very popular and very widely
practised; for versification is very easy when people are in the habit
of using it freely, and a verse is much more easily remembered than a
line of prose. For many generations legends were versified. It must be
remembered that verse and poetry are often very far apart; and poetry is
as difficult to compose as verse is easy. The versified legends were
very rarely poetic; they were simply narratives in verse. Occasionally
men of poetic genius took hold of these old stories and gave them
beautiful forms as did the German poet Hartmann von Aue in "Der Arme
Heinrich." With the tremendous agitation which found expression in the
Reformation, interest in legends died out, and was not renewed until the
Eighteenth Century, when men and women, grown weary of artificial and
mechanical forms of literature, turned again to the old stories and
songs which were the creation of less self-conscious ages. With the
revival of interest in ballads, folk-stories, fairy stories and myths
came a revival of interest in legends.
The myths were highly imaginative and poetic explanations of the world
and of the life of man in it at a time when scientific knowledge and
habits of thought had not come into existence. The fairy story was "a
free poetic dealing with realities in accordance with the law of mental
growth, … a poetic wording of the facts of life, … an endeavour to
shape the facts of the world to meet the needs of the imagination, the
cravings of the heart." The legend, dealing originally with incidents in
the lives of the saints and with places made sacred by association with
holy men, has, as a rule, some slight historical basis; is cast in
narrative form and told as a record of fact; and, in cases where it is
entirely imaginative, deals with some popular type of character like
Robin Hood or Rip Van Winkle; or with some mysterious or tragic event,
as Tennyson's "Idylls of the King" are poetic renderings of part of a
great mass of legends which grew up about a little group of imaginary or
semi-historical characters; Longfellow's "Golden Legend" is a modern
rendering of a very old mediaeval tale; Irving's "Legend of Sleepy
Hollow" is an example of purely imaginative prose, and Heine's "Lorelei"
of a purely imaginative poetic legend.
The legend is not so sharply defined as the myth and the fairy story,
and it is not always possible to separate it from these old forms of
stories; but it always concerns itself with one or more characters; it
assumes to be historical; it is almost always old and haunts some
locality like a ghost; and it has a large admixture of fiction, even
where it is not wholly fictitious. Like the myth and fairy story it
throws light on the mind and character of the age that produced it; it
is part of the history of the unfolding of the human mind in the world;
and, above all, it is interesting.
HAMILTON W. MABIE.
From "Indian Myths." By Ellen Emerson.
From "A Book of Famous Myths and Legends."
III. CHILDE HORN
From "A Book of Famous Myths and Legends."
IV. SIR GALAHAD
V. RUSTEM AND SOHRAB
From "The Epic of Kings. Stories Retold from Firdusi." By Helen Zimmern.
VI. THE SEVEN SLEEPERS OF EPHESUS
From "Curious Myths of the Middle Ages." By Sabine Baring-Gould.
VII. GUY OF WARWICK
From "Popular Romances of the Middle Ages." By George W. Cox,
M. A. and Eustace Hinten Jones.
VIII. CHEVY CHASE
From "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads." Edited by Francis
IX. THE FATE OF THE CHILDREN OF LIR
From "Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha de Danaan
and of the Fianna of Ireland." Arranged and put into English by Lady
X. THE BELEAGUERED CITY
From "Voices of the Night." By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
XI. PRESTER JOHN
From "Curious Myths of the Middle Ages." By Sabine Baring-Gould.
XII. THE WANDERING JEW
From "Curious Myths of the Middle Ages." By Sabine Baring-Gould.
XIII. KING ROBERT OF SICILY
From "The Wayside Inn." By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
XIV. THE LIFE OF THE BEATO TORELLO DA POPPI
From "Il Libro d'Oro of Those Whose Names are Written in the
Lamb's Book of Life." Translated from the Italian by Mrs. Francis
Alexander. Originally written in Latin by Messer Torrelo of
Casentino, Canonico of Fiesole, and put into Italian by Don Silvano.
XV. THE LORELEI
From the German of Heinrich Heine.
XVI. THE PASSING OF ARTHUR
From "Idylls of the King." By Alfred Tennyson.
XVII. RIP VAN WINKLE
XVIII. THE GRAY CHAMPION
From "Twice Told Tales." By Nathaniel Hawthorne.
XIX. THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
WIGWAM LEGEND OF HIAWATHA [Footnote: This story is ascribed to Abraham
le Fort, an Onondaga chief, a graduate of Geneva College. The poem of
Longfellow has given it general interest. Hiawatha is an example of the
intellectual capacity of one of that race of whom it has been said "Take
these Indians in their owne trimme and naturall disposition, and they
bee reported to bee wise, lofty spirited, constant in friendship to one
another: true in their promise, and more industrious than many
others."—Wood's, "New England's Prospect," London, 1634.]
On the banks of Tioto, or Cross Lake, resided an eminent man who bore
the name of Hiawatha, or the Wise Man.
This name was given him, as its meaning indicates, on account of his
great wisdom in council and power in war. Hiawatha was of high and
mysterious origin. He had a canoe which would move without paddles,
obedient to his will, and which he kept with great care and never used
except when he attended the general council of the tribes. It was from
Hiawatha the people learned to raise corn and beans; through his
instructions they were enabled to remove obstructions from the water
courses and clear their fishing grounds; and by him they were helped to
get the mastery over the great monsters which overran the country. The
people listened to him with ever increasing delight; and he gave them
wise laws and maxims from the Great Spirit, for he had been second to
him only in power previous to his taking up his dwelling with mankind.
Having selected the Onondagas for his tribe, years passed away in
prosperity; the Onondagas assumed an elevated rank for their wisdom and
learning, among the other tribes, and there was not one of these which
did not yield its assent to their superior privilege of lighting the
But in the midst of the high tide of their prosperity, suddenly there
arose a great alarm at the invasion of a ferocious band of warriors from
the North of the Great Lakes; and as these bands advanced, an
indiscriminate slaughter was made of men, women, and children.
Destruction fell upon all alike.
The public alarm was great; and Hiawatha advised them not to waste their
efforts in a desultory manner, but to call a council of all the tribes
that could be gathered together, from the East to the West; and, at the
same time, he appointed a meeting to take place on an eminence on the
banks of the Onondaga Lake. There, accordingly, the chief men assembled,
while the occasion brought together a vast multitude of men, women, and
children, who were in expectation of some marvellous deliverance.
Three days elapsed, and Hiawatha did not appear. The multitude began to
fear that he was not coming, and messengers were despatched for him to
Tioto, who found him depressed with a presentiment that evil would
follow his attendance. These fears were overruled by the eager
persuasions of the messengers; and Hiawatha, taking his daughter with
him, put his wonderful canoe in its element and set out for the council.
The grand assemblage that was to avert the threatened danger appeared
quickly in sight, as he moved rapidly along in his magic canoe; and when
the people saw him, they sent up loud shouts of welcome until the
venerated man landed. A steep ascent led up the banks of the lake to the
place occupied by the council; and, as he walked up, a loud whirring
sound was heard above, as if caused by some rushing current of air.
Instantly, the eyes of all were directed upward to the sky, where was
seen a dark spot, something like a small cloud, descending rapidly, and
as it approached, enlarging in its size and increasing in velocity.
Terror and alarm filled the minds of the multitude and they scattered in
confusion. But as soon as he had gained the eminence, Hiawatha stood
still, causing his daughter to do the same—deeming it cowardly to fly,
and impossible, if it was attempted, to divert the designs of the Great
Spirit. The descending object now assumed a more definite aspect; and,
as it came nearer, revealed the shape of a gigantic white bird, with
wide-extended and pointed wings. This bird came down with ever
increasing velocity, until, with a mighty swoop, it dropped upon the
girl, crushing her at once to the earth.
The fixed face of Hiawatha alone indicated his consciousness of his
daughter's death; while in silence he signalled to the warriors, who had
stood watching the event in speechless consternation. One after the
other stepped up to the prostrate bird, which was killed by its violent
fall, and selecting a feather from its snow-white plumage, decorated
himself therewith. [Footnote: Since this event, say the Indians of this
tribe, the plumage of the white heron has been used for their
decorations on the war-path.]
But now a new affliction fell upon Hiawatha; for, on removing the
carcass of the bird, not a trace could be discovered of his daughter.
Her body had vanished from the earth. Shades of anguish contracted the
dark face of Hiawatha. He stood apart in voiceless grief. No word was
spoken. His people waited in silence, until at length arousing himself,
he turned to them and walked in calm dignity to the head of the council.
The first day he listened with attentive gravity to the plans of the
different speakers; on the next day he arose and said: "My friends and
brothers; you are members of many tribes, and have come from a great
distance. We have come to promote the common interest, and our mutual
safety. How shall it be accomplished? To oppose these Northern hordes in
tribes singly, while we are at variance often with each other, is
impossible. By uniting in a common band of brotherhood we may hope to
succeed. Let this be done, and we shall drive the enemy from our land.
Listen to me by tribes. You, the Mohawks, who are sitting under the
shadow of the great tree, whose branches spread wide around, and whose
roots sink deep into the earth, shall be the first nation, because you
are warlike and mighty. You, the Oneidas, who recline your bodies
against the everlasting stone that cannot be moved, shall be the second
nation, because you always give wise counsel. You, the Onondagas, who
have your habitation at the foot of the great hills, and are
overshadowed by their crags, shall be the third nation, because you are
greatly gifted in speech. You, the Senecas, whose dwelling is in the
dark forest, and whose home is all over the land, shall be the fourth
nation, because of your superior cunning in hunting. And you, the
Cayugas, the people who live in the open country and possess much
wisdom, shall be the fifth nation, because you understand better the art
of raising corn and beans, and making lodges. Unite, ye five nations,
and have one common interest, and no foe shall disturb and subdue you.
You, the people who are the feeble bushes, and you who are a fishing
people, may place yourselves under our protection, and we will defend
you. And you of the South and West may do the same, and we will protect
you. We earnestly desire the alliance and friendship of you all.
Brothers, if we unite in this great bond, the Great Spirit will smile
upon us, and we shall be free, prosperous, and happy; but if we remain
as we are, we shall be subject to his frown. We shall be enslaved,
ruined, perhaps annihilated. We may perish under the war-storm, and our
names be no longer remembered by good men, nor be repeated in the dance
and song. Brothers, those are the words of Hiawatha. I have spoken. I am
done." [Footnote: Canassatego, a renowned chief of the Confederacy, in
his remarkable piece of advice to the Colonial Commissioners of
Lancaster in July, 1744, seems to imply that there was an error in this
plan of Hiawatha, as it did not admit all nations into their Confederacy
with equal rights.]
The next day his plan of union was considered and adopted by the
council, after which Hiawatha again addressed the people with wise words
of counsel, and at the close of this speech bade them farewell; for he
conceived that his mission to the Iroquois was accomplished, and he
might announce his withdrawal to the skies. He then went down to the
shore, and assumed his seat in his mystical canoe. Sweet music was heard
in the air as he seated himself; and while the wondering multitude stood
gazing at their beloved chief, he was silently wafted from sight, and
they saw him no more. He passed to the Isle of the Blessed, inhabited by
Owayneo [Footnote: A name for their Great Spirit in the dialect of the
Iroquois.] and his manitos.
And they said, "Farewell forever!"
Said, "Farewell, O Hiawatha!"
And the forests, dark and lonely,
Moved through all their depths of darkness^
Sighed, "Farewell, O Hiawatha!"
And the waves upon the margin,
Rising, rippling on the pebbles,
Sobbed, "Farewell, O Hiawatha!"
And the heron, the shuh-shu-gah,
From her haunts among the fen-lands,
Screamed, "Farewell, O Hiawatha!"
Thus departed Hiawatha,
Hiawatha the Beloved,
In the glory of the sunset,
In the purple mists of evening,
To the regions of the home-wind,
Of the northwest wind, Keewaydin,
To the Islands of the Blessed,
To the kingdom of Ponemah,
To the land of the Hereafter.
[Footnote: "The Song of Hiawatha," by H. W. Longfellow.]
Old King Hrothgar built for himself a great palace, covered with gold,
with benches all round outside, and a terrace leading up to it. It was
bigger than any hall men had ever heard of, and there Hrothgar sat on
his throne to share with men the good things God had given him. A band
of brave knights gathered round him, all living together in peace and
But there came a wicked monster, Grendel, out of the moors. He stole
across the fens in the thick darkness, and touched the great iron bars
of the door of the hall, which immediately sprang open. Then, with his
eyes shooting out flame, he spied the knights sleeping after battle.
With his steel finger nails the hideous fiend seized thirty of them in
their sleep. He gave yells of joy, and sped as quick as lightning across
the moors, to reach his home with his prey.
When the knights awoke, they raised a great cry of sorrow, whilst the
aged King himself sat speechless with grief. None could do battle with
the monster, he was too strong, too horrible for any one to conquer. For
twelve long years Grendel warred against Hrothgar; like a dark shadow of
death he prowled round about the hall, and lay in wait for his men on
the misty moors. One thing he could not touch, and that was the King's
Now there lived in a far-off land a youngster called Beowulf, who had
the strength of thirty men. He heard of the wicked deeds of Grendel, and
the sorrow of the good King Hrothgar. So he had made ready a strong
ship, and with fourteen friends set sail to visit Hrothgar, as he was in
need of help. The good ship flew over the swelling ocean like a bird,
till in due time the voyagers saw shining white cliffs before them. Then
they knew their journey was at an end; they made fast their ship,
grasped their weapons, and thanked God that they had had an easy voyage.
Now the coastguard spied them from a tower. He set off to the shore,
riding on horseback, and brandishing a huge lance.
"Who are you," he cried, "bearing arms and openly landing here? I am
bound to know from whence you come before you make a step forward.
Listen to my plain words, and hasten to answer me." Beowulf made answer
that they came as friends, to rid Hrothgar of his wicked enemy Grendel,
and at that the coastguard led them on to guide them to the King's
palace. Downhill they ran together, with a rushing sound of voices and
armed tread, until they saw the hall shining like gold against the sky.
The guard bade them go straight to it, then, wheeling round on his
horse, he said, "It is time for me to go. May the Father of All keep you
in safety. For myself, I must guard the coast."
The street was paved with stone, and Beowulf's men marched along,
following it to the hall, their armour shining in the sun and clanging
as they went. They reached the terrace, where they set down their broad
shields. Then they seated themselves on the bench, while they stacked
their spears together and made themselves known to the herald. Hrothgar
speedily bade them welcome. They entered the great hall with measured
tread, Beowulf leading the way. His armour shone like a golden net-work,
and his look was high and noble, as he said, "Hail, O King! To fight
against Grendel single-handed have I come. Grant me this, that I may
have this task alone, I and my little band of men. I know that the
terrible monster despises weapons, and therefore I shall bear neither
sword, nor shield, nor buckler. Hand to hand I will fight the foe, and
death shall come to whomsoever God wills. If death overtakes me, then
will the monster carry away my body to the swamps, so care not for my
body, but send my armour to my King. My fate is in God's hands."
Hrothgar loved the youth for his noble words, and bade him and his men
sit down to the table and merrily share the feast, if they had a mind to
do so. As they feasted, a minstrel sang with a clear voice. The Queen,
in cloth of gold, moved down the hall and handed the jewelled cup of
mead to the King and all the warriors, old and young. At the right
moment, with gracious words, she brought it to Beowulf. Full of pride
and high purpose, the youth drank from the splendid cup, and vowed that
he would conquer the enemy or die.
When the sun sank in the west, all the guests arose. The King bade
Beowulf guard the house, and watch for the foe. "Have courage," he said,
"be watchful, resolve on success. Not a wish of yours shall be left
unfulfilled, if you perform this mighty deed."
Then Beowulf lay down to rest in the hall, putting off from him his coat
of mail, helmet, and sword.
Through the dim night Grendel came stealing. All slept in the darkness,
all but one! The door sprang open at the first touch that the monster
gave it. He trod quickly over the paved floor of the hall; his eyes
gleamed as he saw a troop of kinsmen lying together asleep. He laughed
as he reckoned on sucking the life of each one before day broke. He
seized a sleeping warrior, and in a trice had crunched his bones. Then
he stretched out his hand to seize Beowulf on his bed. Quickly did
Beowulf grip his arm; he stood up full length and grappled with him with
all his might, till his fingers cracked as though they would burst.
Never had Grendel felt such a grip; he had a mind to go, but could not.
He roared, and the hall resounded with his yells, as up and down he
raged, with Beowulf holding him in a fast embrace. The benches were
overturned, the timbers of the hall cracked, the beautiful hall was all
but wrecked. Beowulf's men had seized their weapons and thought to hack
Grendel on every side, but no blade could touch him. Still Beowulf held
him by the arm; his shoulder cracked, and he fled, wounded to death,
leaving hand, arm, and shoulder in Beowulf's grasp. Over the moors, into
the darkness, he sped as best he might, and to Beowulf was the victory.
Then, in the morning, many a warrior came from far and near. Riding in
troops, they tracked the monster's path, where he had fled stricken to
death. In a dismal pool he had yielded up his life.
Racing their horses over the green turf, they reached again the paved
street. The golden roof of the palace glittered in the sunlight. The
King stood on the terrace and gave thanks to God. "I have had much woe,"
he said, "but this lad, through God's might, has done the deed that we,
with all our wisdom, could not do. Now I will heartily love you,
Beowulf, as if you were my son. You shall want for nothing in this
world, and your fame shall live forever."
The palace was cleansed, the walls hung anew with cloth of gold, the
whole place was made fair and straight, for only the roof had been left
altogether unhurt after the fight.
A merry feast was held. The King brought forth out of his treasures a
banner, helmet, and mail coat. These he gave to Beowolf; but more
wonderful than all was a famous sword handed down to him through the
ages. Then eight horses with golden cheekplates were brought within the
court; one of them was saddled with King Hrothgar's own saddle,
decorated with silver. Hrothgar gave all to Beowulf, bidding him enjoy
them well. To each of Beowulf's men he gave rich gifts. The minstrels
sang; the Queen, beautiful and gracious, bore the cup to the King and
Beowulf. To Beowulf she, too, gave gifts: mantle and bracelets and
collar of gold. "Use these gifts," she said, "and prosper well! As far
as the sea rolls your name shall be known."
Great was the joy of all till evening came. Then the hall was cleared of
benches and strewn with beds. Beowulf, like the King, had his own bower
this night to sleep in. The nobles lay down in the hall, at their heads
they set their shields and placed ready their helmets and their mail
coats. Each slept, ready in an instant to do battle for his lord.
So they sank to rest, little dreaming what deep sorrow was to fall on
Hrothgar's men sank to rest, but death was to be the portion of one.
Grendel the monster was dead, but Grendel's mother still lived. Furious
at the death of her son, she crept to the great hall, and made her way
in, clutched an earl, the King's dearest friend, and crushed him in his
sleep. Great was the uproar, though the terror was less than when
Grendel came. The knights leapt up, sword in hand; the witch hurried to
escape, she wanted to get out with her life.
The aged King felt bitter grief when he heard that his dearest friend
was slain. He sent for Beowulf, who, like the King, had had his own
sleeping bower that night. The youth stood before Hrothgar and hoped
that all was well.
"Do not ask if things go well," said the sorrowing King, "we have fresh
grief this morning. My dearest friend and noblest knight is slain.
Grendel you yourself destroyed through the strength given you by God,
but another monster has come to avenge his death. I have heard the
country folk say that there were two huge fiends to be seen stalking
over the moors, one like a woman, as near as they could make out, the
other had the form of a man, but was huger far. It was he they called
Grendel. These two haunt a fearful spot, a land of untrodden bogs and
windy cliffs. A waterfall plunges into the blackness below, and twisted
trees with gnarled roots overhang it. An unearthly fire is seen gleaming
there night after night. None can tell the depth of the stream. Even a
stag, hunted to death, will face his foes on the bank rather than plunge
into those waters. It is a fearful spot. You are our only help, dare you
enter this horrible haunt?"
Quick was Beowulf's answer: "Sorrow not, O King! Rouse yourself quickly,
and let us track the monster. Each of us must look for death, and he who
has the chance should do mighty deeds before it comes. I promise you
Grendel's kin shall not escape me, if she hide in the depths of the
earth or of the ocean."
The King sprang up gladly, and Beowulf and his friends set out. They
passed stony banks and narrow gullies, the haunts of goblins.
Suddenly they saw a clump of gloomy trees, overhanging a dreary pool. A
shudder ran through them, for the pool was blood-red.
All sat down by the edge of the pool, while the horn sounded a cheerful
blast. In the water were monstrous sea-snakes, and on jutting points of
land were dragons and strange beasts: they tumbled away, full of rage,
at the sound of the horn.
One of Beowulf's men took aim at a monster with his arrow, and pierced
him through, so that he swam no more.
Beowulf was making ready for the fight. He covered his body with armour
lest the fiend should clutch him. On his head was a white helmet,
decorated with figures of boars worked in silver. No weapon could hurt
it. His sword was a wonderful treasure, with an edge of iron; it had
never failed any one who had needed it in battle.
"Be like a father to my men, if I perish," said Beowulf to Hrothgar,
"and send the rich gifts you have given me to my King. He will see that
I had good fortune while life lasted. Either I will win fame, or death
shall take me."
He dashed away, plunging headlong into the pool. It took nearly the
whole day before he reached the bottom, and while he was still on his
way the water-witch met him. For a hundred years she had lived in those
depths. She made a grab at him, and caught him in her talons, but his
coat of mail saved him from her loathsome fingers. Still she clutched
him tight, and bore him in her arms to the bottom of the lake; he had no
power to use his weapons, though he had courage enough. Water-beasts
swam after him and battered him with their tusks.
Then he saw that he was in a vast hall, where there was no water, but a
strange, unearthly glow of firelight. At once the fight began, but the
sword would not bite—it failed its master in his need; for the first
time its fame broke down. Away Beowulf threw it in anger, trusting to
the strength of his hands. He cared nothing for his own life, for he
thought but of honour.
He seized the witch by the shoulder and swayed her so that she sank on
the pavement. Quickly she recovered, and closed in on him; he staggered
and fell, worn out. She sat on him, and drew her knife to take his life,
but his good mail coat turned the point. He stood up again, and then
truly God helped him, for he saw among the armour on the wall an old
sword of huge size, the handiwork of giants. He seized it, and smote
with all his might, so that the witch gave up her life.
His heart was full of gladness, and light, calm and beautiful as that of
the sun, filled the hall. He scanned the vast chamber, and saw Grendel
lying there dead. He cut off his head as a trophy for King Hrothgar,
whose men the fiend had killed and devoured.
Now those men who were seated on the banks of the pool watching with
Hrothgar saw that the water was tinged with blood. Then the old men
spoke together of the brave Beowulf, saying they feared they would never
see him again. The day was waning fast, so they and the King went
homeward. Beowulf's men stayed on, sick at heart, gazing at the pool.
They longed, but did not expect, to see their lord and master.
Under the depths, Beowulf was making his way to them. The magic sword
melted in his hand, like snow in sunshine; only the hilt remained, so
venomous was the fiend that had been slain therewith. He brought nothing
more with him than the hilt and Grendel's head. Up he rose through the
waters where the furious sea-beasts before had chased him. Now not one
was to be seen; the depths were purified when the witch lost her life.
So he came to land, bravely swimming, bearing his spoils. His men saw
him, they thanked God, and ran to free him of his armour. They rejoiced
to get sight of him, sound and whole.
Now they marched gladly through the highways to the town. It took four
of them to carry Grendel's head. On they went, all fourteen, their
captain glorious in their midst. They entered the great hall, startling
the King and Queen, as they sat at meat, with the fearful sight of
Beowulf handed the magic hilt to Hrothgar, who saw that it was the work
of giants of old. He spake to Beowulf, while all held their peace,
praised him for his courage, said that he would love him as his son,
and bade him be a help to mankind, remembering not to glory in his own
strength, for he held it from God, and death without more ado might
subdue it altogether. "Many, many treasures," he said, "must pass from
me to you to-morrow, but now rest and feast."
Gladly Beowulf sat down to the banquet, and well he liked the thought of
When day dawned, he bade the King farewell with noble words, promising
to help him in time of need. Hrothgar with tears and embraces let him
go, giving him fresh gifts of hoarded jewels. He wept, for he loved
Beowulf well, and knew he would never see him any more.
The coastguard saw the gallant warriors coming, bade them welcome, and
led them to their ship. The wind whistled in the sails, and a pleasant
humming sound was heard as the good ship sped on her way. So Beowulf
returned home, having done mighty deeds and gained great honour.
In due time Beowulf himself became King, and well he governed the land
for fifty years. Then trouble came.
A slave, fleeing from his master, stumbled by an evil chance into the
den of a dragon. There he saw a dazzling hoard of gold, guarded by the
dragon for three hundred winters. The treasure tempted him, and he
carried off a tankard of gold to give to his master, to make peace with
The dragon had been sleeping, now he awoke, and sniffed the scent of an
enemy along the rock. He hunted diligently over the ground; he wanted to
find the man who had done the mischief in his sleep. In his rage he
swung around the treasure mound, dashing into it now and again to seek
the jewelled tankard. He found it hard to wait until evening came, when
he meant to avenge with fire the loss of his treasure.
Presently the sun sank, and the dragon had his will. He set forth,
burning all the cheerful homes of men: his rage was felt far and wide.
Before dawn he shot back again to his dark home, trusting in his mound
and in his craft to defend himself.
Now Beowulf heard that his own home had been burnt to the ground. It was
a great grief to him, almost making him break out in a rage against
Providence. His breast heaved with anger.
He meant to rid his country of the plague, and to fight the dragon
single handed. He would have thought it shame to seek him with a large
band, he who, as a lad, had killed Grendel and his kin. As he armed for
the fray, many thoughts filled his mind; he remembered the days of his
youth and manhood. "I fought many wars in my youth," he said, "and now
that I am aged, and the keeper of my people, I will yet again seek the
enemy and do famously."
He bade his men await him on the mountain-side. They were to see which
of the two would come alive out of the tussle.
There the aged King beheld where a rocky archway stood, with a stream of
fire gushing from it; no one could stand there and not be scorched. He
gave a great shout, and the dragon answered with a hot breath of flame.
Beowulf, with drawn sword, stood well up to his shield, when the burning
dragon, curved like an arch, came headlong upon him. The shield saved
him but little; he swung up the sword to smite the horrible monster, but
its edge did not bite. Sparks flew around him on every side; he saw that
the end of his days had come.
His men crept away to the woods to save their lives. One, and one only,
Wiglaf by name, sped through the smoke and flame to help his lord.
"My Lord Beowulf!" he cried, "with all your might defend life, I will
support you to the utmost."
The dragon came on in fury; in a trice the flames consumed Wiglaf's
shield, but, nothing daunted, he stepped under the shelter of Beowulf's,
as his own fell in ashes about him. The King remembered his strength of
old, and he smote with his sword with such force that it stuck in the
monster's head, while splinters flew all around. His hand was so strong
that, as men used to say, he broke any sword in using it, and was none
the worse for it.
Now, for the third time, the dragon rushed upon him, and seized him by
the neck with his poisonous fangs. Wiglaf, with no thought for himself,
rushed forward, though he was scorched with the flames, and smote the
dragon lower down than Beowulf had done. With such effect the sword
entered the dragon's body that from that moment the fire began to cease.
The King, recovering his senses, drew his knife and ended the monster's
life. So these two together destroyed the enemy of the people. To
Beowulf that was the greatest moment of his life, when he saw his work
The wound that the dragon had given him began to burn and swell, for the
poison had entered it. He knew that the tale of his days was told. As he
rested on a stone by the mound, he pondered thoughtfully, looking on the
cunning work of the dwarfs of old, the stone arches on their rocky
pillars. Wiglaf, with tender care, unloosed his helmet and brought him
water, Beowulf discoursing the while: "Now I would gladly have given my
armour to my son, had God granted me one. I have ruled this people fifty
years, and no King has dared attack them. I have held my own with
justice, and no friend has lost his life through me. Though I am sick
with deadly wounds, I have comfort in this. Now go quickly, beloved
Wiglaf, show me the ancient wealth that I have won for my people, the
gold and brilliant gems, that I may then contentedly give up my life."
Quickly did Wiglaf enter the mound at the bidding of his master. On
every side he saw gold and jewels and choice vases, helmets and
bracelets, and over head, a marvellous banner, all golden, gleaming with
light, so that he could scan the surface of the floor and see the
curious treasured hoards. He filled his lap full of golden cups and
platters, and also took the brilliant banner.
He hastened to return with his spoils, wondering, with pain, if he
should find his King still alive. He bore his treasures to him, laid
them on the ground, and again sprinkled him with water. "I thank God,"
said the dying King, "that I have been permitted to win this treasure
for my people; now they will have all that they need. But I cannot be
any longer here. Bid my men make a lofty mound on the headland
overlooking the sea, and there place my ashes. In time to come men shall
call it Beowulf's Barrow, it shall tower aloft to guide sailors over the
The brave King took from his neck his golden collar, took his helmet and
his coronet, and gave them to his true knight, Wiglaf. "Fate has swept
all my kinsmen away," said he, "and now I must follow them."
That was his last word, as his soul departed from his bosom, to join the
company of the just.
Of all Kings in the world, he was, said his men, the gentlest to his
knights and the most desirous of honour.
There dwelt once in Southland a King named Altof, who was rich,
powerful, and gentle. His Queen was named Gotthild, and they had a young
son called Horn. The rain never rained, the sun never shone upon a
fairer boy; his skin was like roses and lilies, and as clear as glass;
and he was as brave as he was handsome. At fifteen years old his like
was not to be seen in all the kingdoms around. He had a band of
play-fellows, twelve boys of noble birth, but not one of them could
throw the ball so high as Horn. Out of the twelve, two were his special
companions, and one of them, Athulf, was the best of the company, while
the other, Figold, was altogether the worst.
It came to pass one summer morning that good King Altof was riding on
the sea-shore with only two attendants, and he looked out to sea and saw
fifteen ships lying in the offing. It was the heathen Vikings who had
come from Northland, bent on plundering Christian lands. When these saw
the three Norsemen, they swarmed on to shore like a pack of wolves, all
armed and full of battle fury. They slew the King and his knights, and
made themselves masters of the whole land.
Queen Gotthild wept much for her lord, and more for her son, Childe
Horn, who could not now ascend his father's throne. She clad herself in
mourning garments, the meanest she could find, and went to dwell in a
cave, where she prayed night and day for her son, that he might be
preserved from the malice of his enemies, at whose mercy he and his
comrades lay. At first they thought to have slain him, but one of their
leaders was touched by his glorious beauty, and so he said to the boy,
"Horn, you are a fair stripling and a bold, and when you come to years,
you and your band here, you are like to prove too many for us, so I am
going to put you all in a boat and let it drift out to sea—where may
the gods preserve you, or else send you to the bottom; but, for all our
sakes, you cannot remain here."
Then they led the boys down to the shore, placed them in a little skiff,
and pushed it off from the land. All but Horn wrung their hands in fear.
The waves rose high, and, as the boat was tossed up and down, the lads
gave themselves up for lost, not knowing whither they were driven; but
when the morning of the second day broke, Horn sprang up from where he
sat in the forepart of the skiff, crying, "I hear the birds sing, and I
see the grass growing green—we are at the land!" Then they sprang right
gladly on shore, and Horn called after the boat as it floated away, "A
good voyage to thee, little boat! May wind and wave speed thee back to
Southland. Greet all who knew me, and chiefly the good Queen Gotthild,
my mother. And tell the heathen King that some day he shall meet his
death at my hand."
Then the boys went on till they came to a city, where reigned King
Aylmer of Westland—whom God reward for his kindness to them. He asked
them in mild words whence they came, "for in good sooth," said he,
"never have I seen so well-favoured a company"; and Horn answered
proudly, "We are of good Christian blood, and we come from Southland,
which has just been raided by pagans, who slew many of our people, and
sent us adrift in a boat, to be the sport of the winds and waves. For a
day and a night we have been at sea without a rudder; and now we have
been cast upon your coast, you may enslave or slay us, if but, it please
thee, show us mercy."
Then the good King asked, "What is your name, my child?" and the boy
answered. "Horn, at your pleasure, my Lord King; and if you need a
servant, I will serve you well and truly."
"Childe Horn," said the King, "you bear a mighty name for one so young
"Over hills and valleys oft the horn has rung,
In the royal palace long the horn has hung.
So shall thy name, O Hornchild, through every land resound,
And the fame of thy wondrous beauty in all the West be found."
So Horn found great favour with the King, and he put him in charge of
Athelbrus, the house-steward, that he might teach him all knightly
duties, and he spared no pains with him, nor yet with his companions;
but well trained as they all were, Horn was far ahead of them both in
stature and noble bearing. Even a stranger looking at him could guess
his lofty birth, and the splendour of his marvellous beauty lit up all
the palace; while he won all hearts, from the meanest grooms to the
greatest of the court ladies.
Now the fairest thing in that lordly court was the King's only daughter,
Riminild. Her mother was dead, and she was well-beloved of her father,
as only children are. Not a word had she ever ventured to speak to Horn
when she saw him among the other knights at the great feasts, but day
and night she bore his image in her heart. One night she dreamed that he
entered her apartments (and she wondered much at his boldness), and in
the morning she sent for Athelbrus, the house-steward, and bade him
conduct Horn into her presence. But he went to Athulf, who was the pure
minded and true one of Horn's two chosen companions, while Figold, the
other, was a wolf in sheep's clothing, and said to him, "You shall go
with me in Horn's stead to the Princess."
So he went, and she, not recognising him in the ill-lighted room,
stretched out her hand to him, crying, "Oh, Horn, I have loved you long.
Now plight me your troth."
But Athulf whispered to her, "Hold! I am not Horn. I am but his friend,
Athulf, as unlike him as may well be. Horn's little finger is fairer
than my whole body; and were he dead, or a thousand miles off, I would
not play him false."
Then Riminild rose up in anger and glared upon the old steward, crying,
"Athelbrus, you wicked man, out of my sight, or I shall hate you for
evermore! All shame and ill befall you if you bring me not Childe Horn
"Lady and Princess," answered Athelbrus warily, "listen, and I will tell
you why I brought Athulf. The King entrusted Horn to my care, and I
dread his anger. Now be not angry with me, and I will fetch him
Then he went away, but, instead of Horn, this time he called Figold, the
deceiver, and said to him, "Come with me, instead of Horn, to the royal
Princess. Do not betray yourself, lest we both suffer for it."
Willingly went the faithless one with him, but to Figold the maid held
not out her hand—well she knew that he was false, and she drove him
from her presence in rage and fury. Athelbrus feared her anger, and said
to himself, "To make my peace with her I must now send her the true
Horn." He found him in the hall presenting the wine cup to the King, and
whispered to him, "Horn, you are wanted in the Princess's apartments";
and when Horn heard this his hand holding the full goblet so trembled
that the wine ran over the edge. He went straight into the presence of
the royal maiden, and as he knelt before her his beauty seemed to light
up the room.
"Fair befall thee and thy maidens, O Lady!" said he. "The house-steward
has sent me hither to ask thy will."
Then Riminild stood up, her cheeks red as the dawn, and told him of her
love; and Horn took counsel with himself how he should answer her.
"May God in heaven bless him whom thou weddest, whoever he may be," he
said. "I am but a foundling, and the King's servant to boot—it would be
against all rule and custom were he to wed me with thee."
When Riminild heard this her heart died within her, and she fell
fainting on the floor; but Horn lifted her up, and advised her to
request her father that he might now receive knighthood. "An then," said
he, "I will win you by my brave deeds."
When she heard that, she recovered herself and said, "Take my ring here
to Master Athelbrus, and bid him from me ask the King to make you a
So Horn went and told all to Athelbrus, who sought the King forthwith,
and said, "To-morrow is a festival; I counsel thee to admit Horn to
knighthood." And the King was pleased, and said, "Good! Horn is well
worthy of it. I will create him a knight to-morrow, and he himself shall
confer it on his twelve companions."
The next day the newly knighted one went to Riminild's bower, and told
her that now he was her own true knight, and must go forth to do brave
deeds in her name, and she said she would trust him evermore, and she
gave him a gold ring with her name graven on it, which would preserve
him from all evil. "Let this remind thee of me early and late," she
said, "and thou canst never fall by treachery." And then they kissed
each other, and she closed the door behind him, with tears.
The other knights were feasting and shouting in the King's hall, but
Horn went to the stable, armed from head to foot. He stroked his
coal-black steed, then sprang upon his back and rode off, his armour
ringing as he went. Down to the seashore he galloped, singing joyously
and praying God soon to send him the chance to do some deed of knightly
daring, and there he met a band of pagen marauders, who had just landed
from their pirate-ship. Horn asked them civilly what they wanted there,
and one of the pagans answered insolently, "To conquer the land and slay
all that dwell in it, as we did to King Altof, whose son now serves a
Horn, on hearing this, drew his sword and struck off the fellow's head;
then he thought of his dead father and of his mother in her lonely cave;
he looked on his ring and thought of Riminild, and dashed among the
pirates, laying about him right and left, till, I warrant you, there
were few of them left to tell the tale. "This," he cried, "is but the
foretaste of what will be when I return to my own land and avenge my
Then he rode back to the palace and told the King how he had slain the
invaders, and "Here," he said, "is the head of the leader, to requite
thee, O King, for granting me knighthood."
The next day the King went a-hunting in the forest, and the false Figold
rode at his side, but Horn stayed at home. And Figold spoke to the King
out of his wicked heart and said, "I warn thee, King Aylmer, Horn is
plotting to dishonour thee—to rob thee of thy daughter and of thy
kingdom to boot. He is even now plotting with her in her bower."
Then the King galloped home in a rage, and burst into Riminild's bower,
and there, sure enough, he found Horn, as Figold had said. "Out of my
land, base foundling!" he cried. "What have you to do with the young
And Horn departed without a word. He went to the stable, saddled his
horse, then he girded on his sword and returned to the palace; he
crossed the hall and entered Riminild's apartments for the last time.
"Lady," he said, "I must go forth to strange lands for seven years; at
the end of that time I will either return or send a messenger; but if I
do neither, you may give yourself to another, nor wait longer for me.
Now kiss me a long farewell."
Riminild promised to be true to him, and she took a gold ring from her
finger, saying, "Wear this above the other which I gave you, or if you
grow weary of them, fling them both away, and watch to see if its two
stones change colour; for if I die, the one will turn pale, and if I am
false, the other will turn red."
"Riminild," said Childe Horn, "I am yours for evermore! There is a pool
of clear water under a tree in the garden—go there daily and look for
my shadow in the water. If you see it not, know that I am unaltered; and
if you see it, know that I no longer love thee."
Then they embraced and kissed each other, and Horn parted from her, and
rode down to the coast, and took passage on a ship bound for Ireland.
When he landed there, two of its King's sons met him, and took him to
their father, good King Thurstan, before whom Horn bowed low, and the
King bade him welcome, and praised his beauty, and asked his name.
"My name is Good Courage," said Horn boldly, and the King was well
Now, at Christmas, King Thurstan made a great feast, and in the midst of
it one rushed in crying, "Guests, O King! We are besieged by five
heathen chiefs, and one of them proclaims himself ready to fight any
three of our knights single handed to-morrow at sunrise."
"That would be but a sorry Christmas service," said King Thurstan; "who
can advise me how best to answer them?" Then Horn spoke up from his seat
at the table, "If these pagans are ready to fight, one against three,
what may not a Christian dare? I will adventure myself against them all,
and one after another they shall go down before my good sword."
Heavy of heart was King Thurstan that night, and little did he sleep.
But "Sir Good Courage" rose early and buckled on his armour. Then he
went to the King and said, "Now, Sir King, come with me to the field,
and I will show you in what coin to pay the demands of these heathen."
So they rode on together in the twilight, till they came to the green
meadow, where a giant was waiting for them. Horn greeted him with a blow
that brought him to the ground at once, and ran another giant through
the heart with his sword; and when their followers saw that their
leaders were slain, they turned and fled back to the shore, but Horn
tried to cut them off from their ships, and in the scrimmage the King's
two sons fell. At this Horn was sore grieved, and he fell upon the
pagans in fury, and slew them right and left, to avenge the King and
Bitterly wept King Thurstan when his sons were brought home to him on
their biers; there was great mourning for the young princes, who were
buried with high honours in the vault under the church. Afterwards the
King called his knights together and said to Horn, "Good Courage, but
for you we were all dead men. I will make you my heir; you shall wed my
daughter Swanhild, who is bright and beautiful as the sunshine, and
shall reign here after me."
So Horn lived there for six years, always under the name of Good
Courage, but he sent no messenger to Riminild, not wishing any man to
know his secret, and consequently Riminild was in great sorrow on his
account, not knowing whether he was true to her or not. Moreover, the
King of a neighbouring country sought her hand in marriage, and her
father now fixed a day for the wedding.
One morning, as Horn was riding to the forest, he saw a stranger
standing in the wayside, who, on being questioned said, "I come from
Westland, and I seek the Knight Sir Horn. Riminild the maiden is in sore
heaviness of spirit, bewailing herself day and night, for on Sunday next
she is to be married to a King."
Then was Horn's grief as great as that of Riminild. His eyes overflowed
with tears. He looked at his ring with its colored stones; the one had
not turned red, but it seemed to him that the other was turning pale.
"Well knew my heart that you would keep your troth with me, Riminild,"
said he to himself, "and that never would that stone grow red; but this
paling one bodes ill. And you doubtless have often looked in the garden
pool for my shadow, and have seen naught there but your own lovely
image. That shadow shall never come, O sweet love, Riminild, to
prove to you that your love is false, but he himself shall come and
drive all shadows away.
"And you, my trusty messenger," he said aloud, "go back to maid Riminild
and tell her that she shall indeed wed a King next Sunday, for before
the church bells ring for service I will be with her."
The Princess Riminild stood on the beach and looked out to sea, hoping
to see Horn coming in his helmet and shield to deliver her; but none
came, save her own messenger, who was washed up on the shore—drowned!
And she wrung her hands in her anguish.
Horn had gone immediately to King Thurstan, and, after saluting him,
told him his real name and his present trouble. "And now, O King," said
he, "I pray you to reward me for all my services by helping me to get
possession of Riminild. Your daughter, Swanhild, will I give to a man
the best and faithfullest ever called to the ranks of knighthood."
Then said the King, "Horn, follow your own counsel"; then he sent for
his knights, and many of them followed Horn, so that he had a thousand
or more at his command. The wind favoured their course, and in a few
hours the ships cast anchor on the shore of Westland. Horn left his
forces in a wood while he went on to learn what was doing. Well did he
know the way, and lightly did he leap over the stones. As he went he met
a pilgrim, and asked him the latest news, who answered, "I come from a
wedding feast—but the bride's true love is far away, and she only
weeps. I could not stay to see her grief."
"May God help me!" said Horn: "but this is sorrowful news. Let us change
garments, good pilgrim. I must go to the feast, and once there I vow. I
will give them something by which to remember Horn!" He blackened his
eyebrows, and took the pilgrim's hat and staff, and when he reached the
gate of the palace, the porter was for turning him back, but Horn took
him up and flung him over the bridge, and then went on to the hall where
the feast was being held. He sat down among the lowest, on the beggar's
bench, and glowered round from under his blackened eyebrows. At a
distance he saw Riminild sitting like one in a dream; then she rose to
pour out mead and wine for the knights and squires, and Horn cried out,
"Fair Queen, if ye would have God's blessing, let the beggar's turn come
She set down the flagon of wine, and poured him out brown beer in a jug,
saying: "There, drink that off at a draught, thou boldest of beggar
men!" But he gave it to the beggars, his companions, saying "I am not
come to drink jugs of beer, but goblets of wine. Fair Queen," he cried,
"thou deemest me a beggar, but I am rather a fisherman, come to haul in
my net, which I left seven years ago hanging from a fair hand here in
Westland." Then was Riminild much troubled within herself, and she
looked hard at Horn. She reached him the goblet and said, "Drink wine
then, fisherman, and tell me who thou art."
He drank from the goblet, and then dropped into it the gold ring, and
said, "Look, O Queen, at what thou findest in the goblet, and ask no
more who I am." The Queen withdrew into her bower with her four maidens,
and when she saw the gold ring that she had given to Horn, she was sore
distressed, and cried out, "Childe Horn must be dead, for this is his
She then sent one of her waiting-maids to command the stranger to her
presence, and Horn, all unrecognised, appeared before her. "Tell me,
honest pilgrim, where thou gottest this ring?" she asked him.
"I took it," said he, "from the finger of a man whom I found lying sick
unto death in a wood. Loudly he was bewailing himself and the lady of
his heart, one Riminild, who should at this time have wedded him." As he
spoke he drew his cap down over his eyes, which were full of tears.
Then Riminild cried, "Break, heart, in my bosom! Horn is no more—he who
hath already caused thee so many tender pangs." She threw herself on her
couch and called for a knife, to kill the bridegroom and herself.
Her maidens shrieked with fear, but Horn flung his arms around her and
pressed her to his heart. Then he cast away hat and staff, and wiped the
brown stain from his face, and stood up before his love in his own fair
countenance, asking, "Dear love, Riminild, know thou me not now? Away
with your grief and kiss me—I am Horn!—Horn, your true lover and born
She gazed into his eyes. At first she could not believe that it was he,
but at last she could doubt no longer; she fell upon his neck, and in
the sweet greetings that followed were two sick hearts made whole.
"Horn, you miscreant! how could you play me such a trick?"
"Have patience, sweet love, maid Riminild, and I will tell you all. Now
let me go and finish my work, and when it is done I will come and rest
at your side."
So he left her, and went back to the forest, and Riminild sent for
Athulf, who met her with a doleful countenance. "Athulf!" she cried,
"rejoice with me! Horn has come—I tell you Horn is here!"
"Alas!" said Athulf, "that cannot be. Who hath brought thee such an idle
tale? Day and night have I stood here watching for him, but he came not,
and much I fear me the noble Horn is dead."
"I tell you he is living," she said—"aye, and more alive than ever. Go
to the forest and find him—he is there with all his faithful
Athulf made haste to the forest, still unbelieving, but soon his heart
bounded for joy, for there rode Horn in his shining armour at the head
of his troops. Athulf rode to his side, and they returned together to
the city, where Riminild was watching them from her turret. And Horn
pointed to her and cried to his company, "Knights, yonder is my
bride—help me to win her!"
Then was there a fierce storming of the gate—the shock of it shook
Riminild's tower—and Horn and his heroes burst, all unheralded, into
the King's hall. Fierce and furious was the bridal dance that followed;
the tumult of it rose up to Riminild, and she prayed, "God preserve my
lover in this wild confusion!"
Right merrily danced her dancer, and all unscathed he flashed through
the hall, thanks to his true love and God's care. King Aylmer and the
bridegroom confronted him and the younger, the bridegroom King, asked
him what he sought there. "I seek my bride," said he, "and if you do not
give her up to me I will have your life."
"Better thou should have the bride than that," said the other; "though I
would sooner be torn in pieces than give thee either." And he defended
himself bravely, but it availed him naught. Horn struck off his head
from his shoulders, so that it bounded across the hall. Then cried Horn
to the other guests, "The dance is over!" after which he proclaimed a
truce, and, throwing himself down on a couch, spake thus to King Aylmer:
"I was born in Southland, of a royal race. The pagan Vikings slew King
Altof, my father, and put me out to sea with my twelve companions. You
did train me for the order of knighthood, and I have dishonoured it by
no unworthy deeds, though you did drive me from your kingdom, thinking I
meant to disgrace you through your daughter. But that which you credited
me with I never contemplated. Accept me then, O King, for your
son-in-law. Yet will I not claim my bride till I have won back my
kingdom of Southland. That will I accomplish quickly, with the help of
my brave knights and such others as I pray you to lend me, leaving in
pledge therefor the fairest jewel in my crown, until King Horn shall be
able to place Queen Riminild beside him on his father's throne."
As he spoke Riminild entered, and Horn took her hand and led her to her
father, and the young couple stood before the old King—a right royal
pair. Then King Aylmer spoke jestingly, "Truly I once did chide a young
knight in my wrath, but never King Horn, whom I now behold for the first
time. Never would I have spoken roughly to King Horn, much less
forbidden him to woo a Princess."
Then all the knights and lords came offering their good wishes to the
happy pair; and the old house-steward, Athelbrus, would have bent the
knee to his former pupil, but Horn took the old man in his arms and
embraced him, thanking him for all the pains he had taken with his
Horn's twelve companions came also, and did him homage as their
sovereign, and he rejoiced to see them all, but especially Athulf the
brave and true. "Athulf," he told him, "thou hast helped me to win my
bride here, now come with me to Southland and help me to make a home for
her. And you, too, shall win a lady—I have already chosen her; her name
is Swanhild, and she will look fair even beside Riminild." Then did
Athulf rejoice, but Figold, the traitor, was ready to sink into the
ground with shame and envy.
Then Horn returned to his ship, taking Athulf with him, but Figold he
left behind. Truly it is ill knowing what to do with a traitor, whether
you take him to the field or leave him at home.
On went the ship before a favouring wind; the voyage lasted but four
days. Horn landed at midnight, and he and Athulf went inland together.
On the way they came upon a noble looking knight asleep under his
shield, upon which a cross was painted, and Horn cried to him, "Awake,
and tell us what they are doing here. Thou seemest to be a Christian, I
trow, else would I have hewn thee in pieces with my sword!"
The good knight sprang up aghast, and said, "Against my will I am
serving the heathen who rule here. I am keeping a place ready for Horn,
the best loved of all heroes. Long I have wondered why he does not
bestir himself to return and fight for his own. God give him power so to
do till he slay every one of these miscreants. They put him out to sea,
a tender boy, with his twelve playmates, one of whom was my only son,
Athulf. Dearly he loved Horn, and was beloved by him. Could I but see
them both once more, I should feel that I could die in peace."
"Then rejoice," they told him, "for Horn and Athulf are here!"
Joyfully did the old man greet the youths; he embraced his son and bent
the knee to Horn, and all three rejoiced together.
"Where is your company?" asked the old knight. "I suppose you two have
come to explore the land. Well, your mother still lives, and if she knew
you to be living would be beside herself with joy."
"Blessed be the day that I and my men landed here," said Horn. "We will
catch these heathen dogs, or else tame them. We will speak to them in
our own language."
Then Horn blew his horn, so that all on board the ship heard it and came
on shore. As the young birds long for the dawn, so Horn longed for the
fight that should free his country from her enemies. From morning to
night the battle raged, till all the heathen, young and old, were slain,
and young King Horn himself slew the pirate King. Then he went to
church, with all his people, and an anthem was sung to the glory of God,
and Horn gave thanks aloud for the restoration of his kingdom, after
which he sought the place where his mother dwelt. How his heart wept for
joy when he saw her! He placed a crown on her head, and arrayed her in
rich robes, and brought her up to the palace. "Thou art glad to have thy
child again," he said to her in the joy of his heart, "but I will make
thee gladder still by bringing thee home a daughter, one who will please
thee well." And he thought of his love, Riminild, with whom, however,
things were just then going very much amiss.
For as son as Horn had departed, the treacherous Figold had collected a
great army of workmen and made them build him a tower in the sea, which
could only be reached when the tide was out. Now about this time Horn
had a dream, in which he saw Riminild on board a ship at sea, which
presently went to pieces, and she tried to swim ashore, steering with
her lily-white hand, while Figold, the traitor, sought to stop her with
the point of his sword. Then he awoke and cried, "Athulf, true friend,
we must away across the sea. Unless we make all speed some evil will
befall us." And in the midst of a storm they set sail.
In the meantime Figold had left his tower and appeared in the presence
of King Aylmer. Cunningly, out of his false heart spoke the traitor,
"King Aylmer, Horn has sent me word that he would have his bride handed
over to my care. He has regained his crown and realm and would fain have
her there to be his Queen."
"Very well," said the King, "let her go with thee."
But Riminild was much displeased at the thought of being put into the
hands of Figold, whom in her soul she would not trust.
"Why comes not Horn for me himself?" she asked. "I know not the way to
his kingdom either by land or by sea."
"But I know it," said Figold, "and I will soon bring thee thither, most
beauteous queen." But his wicked smile made her uneasy at heart.
"If Horn could not come himself," she said, "why did he not send Athulf,
his faithful friend?" But this question pleased the traitor so little
that he gave her no answer.
Her father blessed her, and she set forth, wringing her white hands.
Meanwhile, Horn, sailing from the south, was driven in shore by a storm,
and he beheld Figold's high tower, and asked who had built such an ugly
thing. He thought he heard a low murmuring as his ship flew past it
before the wind, but knew not what it might be. Soon he saw the
battlements of King Aylmer's palace rising in the distance; there
Riminild should be, looking out for him, but all was bare and empty. It
seemed to him as though a star were missing from heaven; and as he
crossed the threshold the ill news was told him how Figold had carried
off Riminild. Horn had no mind to linger with the King. "Come, Athulf,
true friend," said he, "and help me to search for her." So they searched
far and near, in vain, till at last Horn remembered that strange tower
in the sea, and set sail for the lonely fortress where Figold had the
fair princess in his evil keeping. "Now, my eleven companions, and you,
too, Athulf," said he, "abide here while I go up alone with my horn. God
hath shown me how to order this attempt."
He left his sword on the ship, and took only a fishing line with a long
hook. Then round and round the tower he walked, and he blew a loud blast
out into the raging storm, until a head appeared out of a hole in the
wall of the tower—it was that wicked knave Figold's; and Horn cast his
line, and hauled the writhing traitor clean out of the tower. He whirled
round the sea wolf at the end of the line, and swung him over the water
by the sheer force of his arm, so that he was cast over to Athulf in the
ship; and sore afraid was the traitor when the true men on board seized
Then Horn took up his bugle once more and sounded it so loudly that at
the first blast the door was uncovered; at the second he could enter the
tower; the third was heard as he led Riminild forth. Lightly did he
clasp her round the waist and swing her into his boat, and then pulled
for the ship.
He brought Riminild on board his ship, and called to his band, "Ho
there, my trusty eleven! Our voyage is ended, and we will now go merrily
home. And you, Athulf, my chosen and tried friend, shall now have your
guerdon; I will bring you to your bride Swanhild, and Riminild and I
will be wedded at the same time—the same wedding feast shall serve us
"And Riminild, my sweet pearl, whom I have rescued from the deep, not
all that I have suffered on your account grieves me like the perfidy
this false one wrought on you, my loving heart. Through him the goodly
tale of my twelve followers is broken; now when they gather round the
table, one seat will ever be empty. Must it ever be that no dozen of men
can be got together but one will prove a traitor?"
Then he bade them "Set the traitor in the boat and let it drift out to
sea, as we poor children were made to do aforetime. Let the waves bear
away treachery as once they bore innocence—our ship will make better
speed; and as for him, let him drift till he find a land where no
My good blade carves the casques of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.
The shattering trumpet shrilleth high,
The hard brands shiver on the steel,
The splinter'd spear-shafts crack and fly,
The horse and rider reel:
They reel, they roll in changing lists,
And when the tide of combat stands,
Perfume and flowers fall in showers,
That lightly rain from ladies' hands.
How sweet are looks that ladies bend
On whom their favours fall!
For them I battle till the end,
To save from shame and thrall:
But all my heart is drawn above,
My knees are bow'd in crypt and shrine:
I never felt the kiss of love,
Nor maiden's hand in mine.
More bounteous aspects on me beam,
Me mightier transports move and thrill;
So keep I fair thro' faith and prayer
A virgin heart in work and will.
When down the stormy crescent goes,
A light before me swims,
Between dark stems the forest glows,
I hear a noise of hymns:
Then by some secret shrine I ride;
I hear a voice but none are there;
The stalls are void, the doors are wide,
The tapers burning fair.
Fair gleams the snowy altar-cloth,
The silver vessels sparkle clean,
The shrill bell rings, the censer swings,
And solemn chaunts resound between.
Sometimes on lonely mountain-meres
I find a magic bark;
I leap on board: no helmsman steers:
I float till all is dark.
A gentle sound, an awful light!
Three angels bear the Holy Grail:
With folded feet, in stoles of white,
On sleeping wings they sail.
Ah, blessed vision! blood of God!
My spirit beats her mortal bars,
As down dark tides the glory slides,
And star-like mingles with the stars.
When on my goodly charger borne
Thro' dreaming towns I go,
The cock crows ere the Christmas morn,
The streets are dumb with snow.
The tempest crackles on the leads,
And, ringing, spins from brand and mail;
But o'er the dark a glory spreads,
And gilds the driving hail.
I leave the plain, I climb the height;
No branchy thicket shelter yields;
But blessed forms in whistling storms
Fly o'er waste fens and windy fields.
A maiden knight—to me is given
Such hope, I know not fear;
I yearn to breathe the airs of heaven
That often meet me here.
I muse on joy that will not cease,
Pure spaces clothed in living beams,
Pure lilies of eternal peace,
Whose odors haunt my dreams;
And, stricken by an angel's hand,
This mortal armour that I wear,
This weight and size, this heart and eyes,
Are touch'd, are turn'd to finest air.
The clouds are broken in the sky,
And thro' the mountain-walls
A rolling organ-harmony
Swells up, and shakes and falls.
Then move the trees, the copses nod,
Wings flutter, voices hover clear:
"O just and faithful knight of God!
Ride on! the prize is near."
So pass I hostel, hall, and grange;
By bridge and ford, by park and pale,
All-arm'd I ride, whate'er betide,
Until I find the Holy Grail.
RUSTEM AND SOHRAB
Give ear unto the combat of Sohrab against Rustem, though it be a tale
replete with tears.
It came about that on a certain day Rustem arose from his couch, and his
mind was filled with forebodings. He bethought him therefore to go out
to the chase. So he saddled Rakush and made ready his quiver with
arrows. Then he turned him unto the wilds that lie near Turan, even in
the direction of the city of Samengan. And when he was come nigh unto
it, he started a herd of asses and made sport among them till that he
was weary of the hunt. Then he caught one and slew it and roasted it for
his meal, and when he had eaten it and broken the bones for the marrow,
he laid himself down to slumber, and Rakush cropped the pasture beside
Now while the hero was sleeping there passed by seven knights of Turan,
and they beheld Rakush and coveted him. So they threw their cords at him
to ensnare him. But Rakush, when he beheld their design, pawed the
ground in anger, and fell upon them as he had fallen upon the lion. And
of one man he bit off the head, and another he struck down under his
hoofs, and he would have overcome them all, but they were too many. So
they ensnared him and led him into the city, thinking in their hearts,
"Verily a goodly capture have we made." But Rustem when he awoke from
his slumbers was downcast and sore grieved when he saw not his steed,
and he said unto himself:
"How can I stand against the Turks, and how can I traverse the desert
And his heart was full of trouble. Then he sought for the traces of the
horse's hoofs, and followed them, and they led him even unto the gates
of the city. Now when those within beheld Rustem, and that he came
before them on foot, the King and the nobles came forth to greet him,
and inquired of him how this was come about. Then Rustem told them how
Rakush was vanished while he slumbered, and how he had followed his
track even unto these gates. And he sware a great oath, and vowed that
if his courser were not restored unto him many heads should quit their
trunks. Then the King of Samengan, when he saw that Rustem was beside
himself with anger, spoke words of soothing, and said that none of his
people should do wrong unto the hero; and he begged him that he would
enter into his house and abide with him until that search had been made,
"Surely Rakush cannot be hid."
And Rustem was satisfied at these words, and cast suspicion from his
spirit, and entered the house of the King, and feasted with him, and
beguiled the hours with wine. And the King rejoiced in his guest, and
encompassed him with sweet singers and all honour. And when the night
was fallen the King himself led Rustem unto a couch perfumed with musk
and roses, and he bade him slumber sweetly until the morning. And he
declared to him yet again that all was well for him and for his steed.
Now when a portion of the night was spent, and the star of morning stood
high in the arch of heaven, the door of Rustem's chamber was opened, and
a murmur of soft voices came in from the threshold. And there stepped
within a slave bearing a lamp perfumed with amber, and a woman whose
beauty was veiled came after her. And as she moved musk was scattered
from her robes. And the women came nigh unto the bed of the hero heavy
with wine and slumber. And he was amazed when he saw them. And when he
had roused him somewhat he spake and said:
"Who are thou, and what is thy name and thy desire, and what seekest
thou from me in the dark night?"
Then the Peri-faced answered him, saying, "I am Tahmineh, the daughter
of the King of Samengan, the race of the leopard and the lion, and none
of the princes of this earth are worthy of my hand, neither hath any man
seen me unveiled. But my heart is torn with anguish, and my spirit is
tossed with desire, for I have heard of thy deeds of prowess, and how
thou fearest neither Deev nor lion, neither leopard nor crocodile, and
how thy hand is swift to strike, and how thou didst venture alone into
Mazinderan, and how wild asses are devoured of thee, and how the earth
groaneth under the tread of thy feet, and how men perish at thy blows,
and how even the eagle dareth not swoop down upon her prey when she
beholdeth thy sword. These things and more have they told unto me, and
mine eyes have yearned to look upon thy face. And now hath God brought
thee within the gates of my father, and I am come to say unto thee that
I am thine if thou wilt hear me, and if thou wilt not, none other will I
espouse. And consider, O Pehliva, how that love has obscured mine
understanding and withdrawn me from the bosom of discretion, yet
peradventure God will grant unto me a son like to thee for strength and
valour, to whom shall be given the empire of the world. And if thou wilt
listen unto me, I will lead forth before thee Rakush thy steed, and I
will place under thy feet the land of Samengan."
Now while this moon of beauty was yet speaking, Rustem regarded her. And
he saw that she was fair, and that wisdom abode in her mind; and when he
heard of Rakush, his spirit was decided within him, and he held that
this adventure could not end save gloriously. So he sent a Mubid unto
the King and demanded the hand of Tahmineh from her father. And the
King, when he heard the news, was rejoiced, and gave his daughter unto
the Pehliva, and they concluded an alliance according to custom and the
rites. And all men, young and old, within the house and city of the King
were glad at this alliance, and called down blessings upon Rustem.
Now Rustem, when he was alone with the Peri-faced, took from his arm an
onyx that was known unto all the world. And he gave it to her, and said:
"Cherish this jewel, and if Heaven cause thee to give birth unto a
daughter, fasten it within her locks, and it will shield her from evil;
but if it be granted unto thee to bring forth a son, fasten it upon his
arm, that he may wear it like his father. And he shall be strong as
Keriman, of stature like unto Saum the son of Neriman, and of grace of
speech like unto Zal, my father."
The Peri-faced, when she had heard these words, was glad in his
presence. But when the day was passed there came in unto them the King
her father, and he told Rustem how that tidings of Rakush were come unto
his ears, and how that the courser would shortly be within the gates.
And Rustem, when he heard it, was filled with longing after his steed,
and when he knew that he was come he hastened forth to caress him. And
with his own hands he fastened the saddle, and gave thanks unto Ormuzd,
who had restored his joy between his hands. Then he knew that the time
to depart was come. And he opened his arms and took unto his heart
Tahmineh the fair of face, and he bathed her cheek with his tears and
covered her hair with kisses. Then he flung him upon Rakush, and the
swift-footed bare him quickly from out of her sight. And Tahmineh was
sorrowful exceedingly, and Rustem too was filled with thoughts as he
turned him back unto Zaboulistan. And he pondered this adventure in his
heart, but to no man did he speak of what he had seen or done.
Now when nine moons had run their course there was born unto Tahmineh a
son in the likeness of his father, a babe whose mouth was filled with
smiles, wherefore men called him Sohrab. And when he numbered but one
month he was like unto a child of twelve, and when he numbered five
years he was skilled in arms and all the arts of war, and when ten years
were rolled above his head there was none in the land that could resist
him in the games of strength. Then he came before his mother and spake
words of daring. And he said:
"Since I am taller and stouter than my peers, teach unto me my race and
lineage, and what I shall say when men ask me the name of my sire. But
if thou refuse an answer unto my demands, I will strike thee out from
the rolls of the living."
When Tahmineh beheld the ardour of her son, she smiled in her spirit
because that his fire was like to that of his father. And she opened her
mouth and said:
"Hear my words, O my son, and be glad in thine heart, neither give way
in thy spirit to anger. For thou art the offspring of Rustem, thou art
descended from the seed of Saum and Zal, and Neriman was thy forefather.
And since God made the world it hath held none like unto Rustem, thy
Then she showed to him a letter written by the Pehliva, and gave to him
the gold and jewels Rustem had sent at his birth. And she spake and
"Cherish these gifts with gratitude, for it is thy father who hath sent
them. Yet remember, O my son, that thou close thy lips concerning these
things; for Turan groaneth under the hand of Afrasiyab, and he is foe
unto Rustem the glorious. If, therefore, he should learn of thee, he
would seek to destroy the son for hatred of the sire. Moreover, O my
boy, if Rustem learned that thou wert become a mountain of valour,
perchance he would demand thee at my hands, and the sorrow of thy loss
would crush the heart of thy mother."
But Sohrab replied, "Nought can be hidden upon earth for aye. To all men
are known the deeds of Rustem, and since my birth be thus noble,
wherefore hast thou kept it dark from me so long? I will go forth with
an army of brave Turks and lead them unto Iran, I will cast Kai Kaous
from off his throne, I will give to Rustem the crown of the Kaianides,
and together we will subdue the land of Turan, and Afrasiyab shall be
slain by my hands. Then will I mount the throne in his stead. But thou
shalt be called Queen of Iran, for since Rustem is my father and I am
his son no other kings shall rule in this world, for to us alone
behoveth it to wear the crowns of might. And I pant in longing after the
battlefield, and I desire that the world should behold my prowess. But a
horse is needful unto me, a steed tall and strong of power to bear me,
for it beseemeth me not to go on foot before mine enemies."
Now Tahmineh, when she had heard the words of this boy, rejoiced in her
soul at his courage. So she bade the guardians of the flocks lead out
the horses before Sohrab her son. And they did as she had bidden, and
Sohrab surveyed the steeds, and tested their strength like as his father
had done before him of old, and he bowed them under his hand, and he
could not be satisfied. And thus for many days did he seek a worthy
steed. Then one came before him and told of a foal sprung from Rakush,
the swift of foot. When Sohrab heard the tidings he smiled, and bade
that the foal be led before him. And he tested it and found it to be
strong. So he saddled it and sprang upon its back, and cried, saying:
"Now that I own a horse like thee, the world shall be made dark to
Then he made ready for war against Iran, and the nobles and warriors
flocked around him. And when all was in order Sohrab came before his
grandsire and craved his counsel and his aid to go forth into the land
of Iran and seek out his father. And the King of Samengan, when he heard
these wishes, deemed them to be just, and he opened the doors of his
treasures without stint and gave unto Sohrab of his wealth, for he was
filled with pleasure at this boy. And he invested Sohrab with all the
honours of a King, and he bestowed on him all the marks of his good
Meantime a certain man brought news unto Afrasiyab that Sohrab was
making ready an army to fall upon Iran, and to cast Kai Kaous from off
his throne. And he told Afrasiyab how the courage and valour of Sohrab
exceeded words. And Afrasiyab, when he heard this, hid not his
contentment, and he called before him Human and Barman, the doughty.
Then he bade them gather together an army and join the ranks of Sohrab,
and he confided to them his secret purpose, but he enjoined them tell no
man thereof. For he said:
"Into our hands hath it been given to settle the course of the world.
For it is known unto me that Sohrab is sprung from Rustem the Pehliva,
but from Rustem must it be hidden who it is that goeth out against him,
then peradventure he will perish by the hands of this young lion, and
Iran, devoid of Rustem, will fall a prey into my hands. Then we will
subdue Sohrab also, and all the world will be ours. But if it be written
that Sohrab fall under the hand of Tehemten, then the grief he shall
endure when he shall learn that he hath slain his son will bring him to
the grave for sorrow."
So spake Afrasiyab in his guile, and when he had done unveiling his
black heart he bade the warriors depart unto Samengan. And they bare
with them gifts of great price to pour before the face of Sohrab. And
they bare also a letter filled with soft words. And in the letter
Afrasiyab lauded Sohrab for his resolve, and told him how that if Iran
be subdued the world would henceforth know peace, for upon his own head
should he place the crown of the Kaianides; and Turan, Iran, and
Samengan should be as one land.
When Sohrab had read this letter, and saw the gifts and the aid sent out
to him, he rejoiced aloud, for he deemed that now none could withstand
his might. So he caused the cymbals of departure to be clashed, and the
army made them ready to go forth. Then Sohrab led them into the land of
Iran. And their track was marked by desolation and destruction, for they
spared nothing that they passed. And they spread fire and dismay abroad,
and they marched on unstayed until they came unto the White Castle, the
fortress wherein Iran put its trust.
Now the guardian of the castle was named Hujir, and there lived with him
Gustahem the grave, but he was grown old, and could aid no longer save
with his counsels. And there abode also his daughter Gurdafrid, a
warlike maid, firm in the saddle, and practised in the fight. Now when
Hujir beheld from afar a dusky cloud of armed men he came forth to meet
them. And Sohrab, when he saw him, drew his sword, and demanded his
name, and bade him prepare to meet his end. And he taunted him with
rashness that he was come forth thus unaided to stand against a lion.
But Hujir answered Sohrab with taunts again, and vowed that he would
sever his head from his trunk and send it for a trophy unto the Shah.
Yet Sohrab only smiled when he heard these words, and he challenged
Hujir to come near. And they met in combat, and wrestled sore one with
another, and stalwart were their strokes and strong; but Sohrab overcame
Hujir as though he were an infant, and he bound him and sent him captive
But when those within the castle learned that their chief was bound they
raised great lamentation, and their fears were sore. And Gurdafrid, too,
when she learned it, was grieved, but she was ashamed also for the fate
of Hujir. So she took forth burnished mail and clad herself therein, and
she hid her tresses under a helmet of Roum, and she mounted a steed of
battle and came forth before the walls like to a warrior. And she
uttered a cry of thunder, and flung it amid the ranks of Turan, and she
defied the champions to come forth to single combat. And none came, for
they beheld her how she was strong, and they knew not that it was a
woman, and they were afraid. But Sohrab, when he saw it, stepped forth
"I will accept thy challenge, and a second prize will fall into my
Then he girded himself and made ready for the fight. And the maid, when
she saw he was ready, rained arrows upon him with art, and they fell
quick like hail, and whizzed about his head; and Sohrab, when he saw it,
could not defend himself, and was angry and ashamed. Then he covered his
head with his shield and ran at the maid. But she, when she saw him
approach, dropped her bow and couched a lance, and thrust at Sohrab with
vigour, and shook him mightily, and it wanted little and she would have
thrown him from his seat. And Sohrab was amazed, and his wrath knew no
bounds. Then he ran at Gurdafrid with fury, and seized the reins of her
steed, and caught her by the waist, and tore her armour, and threw her
upon the ground. Yet ere he could raise his hand to strike her, she drew
her sword and shivered his lance in twain, and leaped again upon her
steed. And when she saw that the day was hers, she was weary of further
combat, and she sped back unto the fortress. But Sohrab gave rein unto
his horse, and followed after her in his great anger. And he caught her,
and seized her, and tore the helmet off her head, for he desired to look
upon the face of the man who could withstand the son of Rustem. And lo!
when he had done so, there rolled forth from the helmet coils of dusky
hue, and Sohrab beheld it was a woman that had overcome him in the
fight. And he was confounded. But when he had found speech he said:
"If the daughters of Iran are like to thee, and go forth unto battle,
none can stand against this land."
Then he took his cord and threw it about her, and bound her in its
"Seek not to escape me, O moon of beauty, for never hath prey like unto
thee fallen between my hands."
Then Gurdafrid, full of wile, turned unto him her face that was
unveiled, for she beheld no other means of safety, and she said unto
"O hero without flaw, is it well that thou shouldest seek to make me
captive, and show me unto the army? For they have beheld our combat, and
that I overcame thee, and surely now they will gibe when they learn that
thy strength was withstood by a woman. Better would it beseem thee to
hide this adventure, lest thy cheeks have cause to blush because of me.
Therefore let us conclude a peace together. The castle shall be thine,
and all it holds; follow after me then, and take possession of thine
Now Sohrab, when he had listened, was beguiled by her words and her
beauty, and he said:
"Thou dost wisely to make peace with me, for verily these walls could
not resist my might."
And he followed after her unto the heights of the castle, and he stood
with her before its gates. And Gustahem, when he saw them, opened the
portal, and Gurdafrid stepped within the threshold, but when Sohrab
would have followed after her she shut the door upon him. Then Sohrab
saw that she had befooled him, and his fury knew no bounds. But ere he
was recovered from his surprise she came out upon the battlements and
scoffed at him, and counselled him to go back whence he was come; for
surely, since he could not stand against a woman, he would fall an easy
prey before Rustem, when the Pehliva should have learned that robbers
from Turan were broken into the land. And Sohrab was made yet madder for
her words, and he departed from the walls in his wrath, and rode far in
his anger, and spread terror in his path. And he vowed that he would yet
bring the maid into subjection.
In the meantime Gustahem the aged called before him a scribe, and bade
him write unto Kai Kaous all that was come about, and how an army was
come forth from Turan, at whose head rode a chief that was a child in
years, a lion in strength and stature. And he told how Hujir had been
bound, and how the fortress was like to fall into the hands of the
enemy; for there were none to defend it save only his daughter and
himself and he craved the Shah to come to their aid.
Albeit when the day had followed yet again upon the night, Sohrab made
ready his host to fall upon the castle. But when he came near thereto he
found it was empty, and the doors thereof stood open, and no warriors
appeared upon its walls. And he was surprised, for he knew not that in
the darkness the inmates were fled by a passage that was hidden under
the earth. And he searched the building for Gurdafrid, for his heart
yearned after her in love and he cried aloud:
"Woe, woe is me that this moon is vanished behind the clouds!"
Now when Kai Kaous had gotten the writing of Gustahem, he was sore
afflicted and much afraid, and he called about him his nobles and asked
their counsels. And he said:
"Who shall stand against this Turk? For Gustahem doth liken him in power
unto Rustem, and saith he resembleth the seed of Neriman."
Then the warriors cried with one accord, "Unto Rustem alone can we look
in this danger!"
And Kai Kaous hearkened to their voice, and he called for a scribe and
dictated unto him a letter. And he wrote unto his Pehliva, and invoked
the blessings of Heaven upon his head, and he told him all that was come
to pass, and how new dangers threatened Iran, and how to Rustem alone
could he look for help in his trouble. And he recalled unto Tehemten all
that he had done for him in the days that were gone by, and he entreated
him once again to be his refuge. And he said:
"When thou shalt receive this letter, stay not to speak the word that
hangeth upon thy lips; and if thou bearest roses in thy hands, stop not
to smell them, but haste thee to help us in our need."
Then Kai Kaous sent forth Gew with this writing unto Zaboulistan, and
bade him neither rest nor tarry until he should stand before the face of
Rustem. And he said—
"When thou hast done my behest, turn thee again unto me; neither abide
within the courts of the Pehliva, nor linger by the roadside."
And Gew did as the Shah commanded, and took neither food nor rest till
he set foot within the gates of Rustem. And Rustem greeted him kindly,
and asked him of his mission; and when he had read the writing of the
Shah, he questioned Gew concerning Sohrab. For he said:
"I should not marvel if such an hero arose in Iran, but that a warrior
of renown should come forth from amid the Turks, I cannot believe it.
But thou sayest none knoweth whence cometh this knight. I have myself a
son in Samengan, but he is yet an infant, and his mother writeth to me
that he rejoiceth in the sports of his age, and though he be like to
become a hero among men, his time is not yet come to lead forth an army.
And that which thou sayest hath been done; surely it is not the work of
a babe. But enter, I pray thee, into my house, and we will confer
together concerning this adventure."
Then Rustem bade his cooks make ready a banquet, and he feasted Gew, and
troubled his head with wine, and caused him to forget cares and time.
But when morn was come Gew remembered the commands of the Shah that he
tarry not, but return with all speed, and he spake thereof to Rustem,
and prayed him to make known his resolve. But Rustem spake, saying:
"Disquiet not thyself, for death will surely fall upon these men of
Turan. Stay with me yet another day and rest, and water thy lips that
are parched. For though this Sohrab be a hero like to Saum and Zal and
Neriman, verily he shall fall by my hands."
And he made ready yet another banquet, and three days they caroused
without ceasing. But on the fourth Gew uprose with resolve, and came
before Rustem girt for departure. And he said:
"It behoveth me to return, O Pehliva, for I bethink me how Kai Kaous is
a man hard and choleric, and the fear of Sohrab weigheth upon his heart,
and his soul burneth with impatience, and he hath lost sleep, and hath
hunger and thirst on this account. And he will be wroth against us if we
delay yet longer to do his behest."
Then Rustem said, "Fear not, for none on earth dare be angered with me."
But he did as Gew desired, and made ready his army, and saddled Rakush,
and set forth from Zaboulistan, and a great train followed after him.
Now when they came nigh unto the courts of the Shah, the nobles came
forth to meet them, and do homage before Rustem. And when they were come
in, Rustem gat him from Rakush and hastened into the presence of his
lord. But Kai Kaous, when he beheld him, was angry, and spake not, and
his brows were knit with fury; and when Rustem had done obeisance before
him, he unlocked the doors of his mouth, and words of folly escaped his
lips. And he said:
"Who is Rustem, that he defieth my power and disregardeth my commands?
If I had a sword within my grasp I would spilt his head like to an
orange. Seize him, I command, and hang him upon the nearest gallows, and
let his name be never spoken in my presence."
When he heard these words Gew trembled in his heart, but he said, "Dost
thou set forth thy hand against Rustem?"
And the Shah when he heard it was beside himself, and he cried with a
loud voice that Gew be hanged together with the other; and he bade Tus
lead them forth. And Tus would have led them out, for he hoped the anger
of the Shah would be appeased; but Rustem broke from his grasp and stood
before Kai Kaous, and all the nobles were filled with fear when they saw
his anger. And he flung reproaches at Kai Kaous, and he recalled to him
his follies, and the march into Mazinderan and Hamaveran, and his flight
into Heaven; and he reminded him how that but for Rustem he would not
now be seated upon the throne of light. And he bade him threaten Sohrab
the Turk with his gallows, and he said:
"I am a free man and no slave, and am servant alone unto God; and
without Rustem Kai Kaous is as nothing, And the world is subject unto
me, and Rakush is my throne, and my sword is my seal, and my helmet my
crown. And but for me, who called forth Kai Kobad, thine eyes had never
looked upon this throne. And had I desired it I could have sat upon its
seat. But now am I weary of thy follies, and I will turn me away from
Iran, and when this Turk shall have put you under his yoke I shall not
Then he turned him and strode from out the presence-chamber. And he
sprang upon Rakush, who waited without, and he was vanished from before
their eyes ere yet the nobles had rallied from their astonishment. And
they were downcast and oppressed with boding cares, and they held
counsel among themselves what to do; for Rustem was their mainstay, and
they knew that, bereft of his arm and counsel, they could not stand
against this Turk. And they blamed Kai Kaous, and counted over the good
deeds that Rustem had done for him, and they pondered and spake long.
And in the end they resolved to send a messenger unto Kai Kaous, and
they chose from their midst Gudarz the aged, and bade him stand before
the Shah. And Gudarz did as they desired, and he spake long and without
fear, and he counted over each deed that had been done by Rustem; and he
reproached the Shah with his ingratitude, and he said how Rustem was the
shepherd, and how the flock could not be led without its leader. And Kai
Kaous heard him unto the end, and he knew that his words were the words
of reason and truth, and he was ashamed of that which he had done, and
confounded when he beheld his acts thus naked before him. And he humbled
himself before Gudarz, and said:
"That which thou sayest, surely it is right."
And he entreated Gudarz to go forth and seek Rustem, and bid him forget
the evil words of his Shah, and bring him back to the succor of Iran.
And Gudarz hastened forth to do as Kai Kaous desired, and he told the
nobles of his mission, and they joined themselves unto him, and all the
chiefs of Iran went forth in quest of Rustem. And when they had found
him, they prostrated themselves into the dust before him, and Gudarz
told him of his mission, and he prayed him to remember that Kai Kaous
was a man devoid of understanding, whose thoughts flowed over like to
new wine that fermenteth. And he said:
"Though Rustem be angered against the King, yet hath the land of Iran
done no wrong that it should perish at his hands. Yet, if Rustem save it
not, surely it will fall under this Turk."
But Rustem said, "My patience hath an end, and I fear none but God. What
is this Kai Kaous that he should anger me? and what am I that I have
need of him? I have not deserved the evil words that he spake unto me,
but now will I think of them no longer, but cast aside all thoughts of
When the nobles heard these words they grew pale, and fear took hold on
their hearts. But Gudarz, full of wisdom, opened his mouth, and said:
"O Pehliva! the land, when it shall learn of this, will deem that Rustem
is fled before the face of this Turk; and when men shall believe that
Tehemten is afraid, they will cease to combat, and Iran will be
downtrodden at his hands. Turn thee not, therefore, at this hour from
thy allegiance to the Shah, and tarnish not thy glory by this retreat,
neither suffer that the downfall of Iran rest upon thy head. Put from
thee, therefore, the words that Kai Kaous spake in his empty anger, and
lead us forth to battle against this Turk. For it must not be spoken
that Rustem feared to fight a beardless boy."
And Rustem listened, and pondered these words in his heart, and knew
that they were good. But he said:
"Fear hath never been known of me, neither hath Rustem shunned the din
of arms, and I depart not because of Sohrab, but because that scorn and
insult have been my recompense."
Yet when he had pondered a while longer, he saw that he must return unto
the Shah. So he did that which he knew to be right, and he rode till he
came unto the gates of Kai Kaous, and he strode with a proud step into
Now when the Shah beheld Rustem from afar, he stepped down from off his
throne and came before Pehliva, and craved his pardon for that which was
come about. And he said how he had been angered because Rustem had
tarried in his coming, and how haste was his birthright, and how he had
forgotten himself in his vexation. But now was his mouth filled with the
dust of repentance. And Rustem said:
"The world is the Shah's, and it behoveth thee to do as beseemeth thee
best with thy servants. And until old age shall my loins be girt in
fealty unto thee. And may power and majesty be thine for ever!"
And Kai Kaous answered and said, "O my Pehliva, may thy days be blessed
unto the end!"
Then he invited him to feast with him, and they drank wine till far into
the night, and held counsel together how they should act; and slaves
poured rich gifts before Rustem, and the nobles rejoiced, and all was
well again within the gates of the King.
Then when the sun had risen and clothed the world with love, the
clarions of war were sounded throughout the city, and men made them
ready to go forth in enmity before the Turks. And the legions of Persia
came forth at the behest of their Shah, and their countless thousands
hid the earth under their feet, and the air was darkened by their
spears. And when they were come unto the plains where stood the fortress
of Hujir, they set up their tents as was their manner. So the watchman
saw them from the battlements, and he set up a great cry. And Sohrab
heard the cry, and questioned the man wherefore he shouted; and when he
learned that the enemy were come, he rejoiced, and demanded a cup of
wine, and drank to their destruction. Then he called forth Human and
showed him the army, and bade him be of good cheer, for he said that he
saw within its ranks no hero of mighty mace who could stand against
himself. So he bade his warriors to a banquet of wine, and he said that
they would feast until the time was come to meet their foes in battle.
And they did as Sohrab said.
Now when night had thrown her mantle over the earth, Rustem came before
the Shah and craved that he would suffer him to go forth beyond the camp
that he might see what manner of man was this stripling. And Kai Kaous
granted his request, and said that it was worthy a Pehliva of renown.
Then Rustem went forth disguised in the garb of a Turk, and he entered
the castle in secret, and he came within the chamber where Sohrab held
his feast. Now when he had looked upon the boy he saw that he was like
to a tall cypress of good sap, and that his arms were sinewy and strong
like to the flanks of a camel, and that his stature was that of a hero.
And he saw that round about him stood brave warriors. And slaves with
golden bugles poured wine before them, and they were all glad, neither
did they dream of sorrow. Then it came about that while Rustem regarded
them, Zindeh changed his seat and came nigh unto the spot where Rustem
was watching. Now Zindeh was brother unto Tahmineh, and she had sent him
forth with her son that he might point out to him his father, whom he
alone knew of all the army, and she did it that harm might not befall if
the heroes should meet in battle. Now Zindeh, when he had changed his
seat, thought that he espied a watcher, and he strode toward the place
where Rustem was hid, and he came before him and said—
"Who art thou? Come forth into the light that I may behold thy face."
But ere he could speak further, Rustem had lifted up his hand and struck
him, and laid him dead upon the ground.
Now Sohrab, when he saw that Zindeh was gone out, was disquieted, and he
asked of his slaves wherefore the hero returned not unto the banquet. So
they went forth to seek him, and when they had found him in his blood,
they came and told Sohrab what they had seen. But Sohrab would not
believe it; so he ran to the spot and bade them bring torches, and all
the warriors and singing girls followed after him. Then when Sohrab saw
that it was true he was sore grieved; but he suffered not that the
banquet be ended, for he would not that the spirits of his men be damped
with pity. So they went back yet again to the feast.
Meanwhile Rustem returned him to the camp, and as he would have entered
the lines he encountered Gew, who went around to see that all was safe.
And Gew, when he saw a tall man clad In the garb of a Turk, drew his
sword and held himself ready for combat. But Rustem smiled and opened
his mouth, and Gew knew his voice, and came to him and questioned him
what he did without in the darkness. And Rustem told him. Then he went
before Kai Kaous also and related what he had seen, and how no man like
unto Sohrab was yet come forth from amid the Turks. And he likened him
unto Saum, the son of Neriman.
Now when the morning was come, Sohrab put on his armour. Then he went
unto a height whence he could look down over the camp of the Iranians.
And he took with him Hujir, and spake to him, saying:
"Seek not to deceive me, nor swerve from the paths of truth. For if thou
reply unto my questions with sincerity, I will loosen thy bonds and give
thee treasures; but if thou deceive me, thou shalt languish till death
in thy chains."
And Hujir said, "I will give answer unto thee according to my
Then Sohrab said, "I am about to question thee concerning the nobles
whose camps are spread beneath our feet, and thou shalt name unto me
those whom I point out. Behold yon tent of gold brocade, adorned with
skins of leopard, before whose doors stand an hundred elephants of war.
Within its gates is a throne of turquoise, and over it floateth a
standard of violet with a moon and sun worked in its centre. Tell unto
me now whose is this pavilion that standeth thus in the midst of the
And Hujir replied, "It pertaineth unto the Shah of Iran."
Then Sohrab said, "I behold on its right hand yet another tent draped in
the colours of mourning, and above it floateth a standard whereon is
worked an elephant."
And Hujir said, "It is the tent of Tus, the son of Nuder, for he beareth
an elephant as his ensign."
Then Sohrab said, "Whose is the camp in which stand many warriors clad
in rich armour? A flag of gold with a lion worked upon it waveth along
And Hujir said, "It belongeth unto Gudarz the brave. And those who stand
about it are his sons, for eighty men of might are sprung from his
Then Sohrab said, "To whom belongeth the tent draped with green tissues?
Before its doors is planted the flag of Kawah. I see upon its throne a
Pehliva, nobler of mien than all his fellows, whose head striketh the
stars. And beside him standeth a steed tall as he, and his standard
showeth a lion and a writhing dragon."
When Hujir heard this question he thought within himself, "If I tell
unto this lion the signs whereby he may know Rustem the Pehliva, surely
he will fall upon him and seek to destroy him. It will beseem me better,
therefore, to keep silent, and to omit his name from the list of the
heroes." So he said unto Sohrab:
"This is some ally who is come unto Kai Kaous from far Cathay, and his
name is not known unto me."
And Sohrab when he heard it was downcast, and his heart was sad that he
could nowhere discover Rustem; and though it seemed unto him that he
beheld the marks whereby his mother said that he would know him, he
could not credit the words of his eyes against the words of Hujir. Still
he asked yet again the name of the warrior, and yet again Hujir denied
it unto him, for it was written that that should come to pass which had
been decreed. But Sohrab ceased not from his questionings. And he asked:
"Who dwelleth beneath the standard with the head of a wolf?"
And Hujir said, "It is Gew, the son of Gudarz, who dwelleth within that
tent, and men call him Gew the valiant."
Then Sohrab said, "Whose is the seat over which are raised awnings and
brocades of Roum, that glisten with gold in the sunlight?"
And Hujir said, "It is the throne of Fraburz, the son of the Shah."
Then Sohrab said, "It beseemeth the son of a Shah to surround himself
with such splendour."
And he pointed unto a tent with trappings of yellow that was encircled
by flags of many colours. And he questioned of its owner.
And Hujir said, "Guraz the lion-hearted is master therein."
Then Sohrab, when he could not learn the tent of his father, questioned
Hujir concerning Rustem, and he asked yet a third time of the green
tent. Yet Hujir ever replied that he knew not the name of its master.
And when Sohrab pressed him concerning Rustem, he said that Rustem
lingered in Zaboulistan, for it was the feast of roses. But Sohrab
refused to give ear unto the thought that Kai Kaous should go forth to
battle without the aid of Rustem, whose might none could match. So he
said unto Hujir:
"And thou show not unto me the tents of Rustem, I will strike thy head
from off thy shoulders, and the world shall fade before thine eyes.
Choose, therefore, the truth or thy life."
And Hujir thought within himself, "Though five score men cannot
withstand Rustem when he be roused to battle-fury, my mind misgiveth me
that he may have found his equal in this boy. And, for that the
stripling is younger, it might come about that he subdue the Pehliva.
What recketh my life against the weal of Iran? I will therefore abandon
me into his hands rather than show unto him the marks of Rustem the
Pehliva. So he said:
"Why seekest thou to know Rustem the Pehliva? Surely thou wilt know him
in battle, and he shall strike thee dumb, and quell thy pride of youth.
Yet I will not show him unto thee."
When Sohrab heard these words he raised his sword and smote Hujir, and
made an end of him with a great blow. Then he made himself ready for
fight, and leaped upon his steed of battle, and he rode till he came
unto the camp of the Iranians, and he broke down the barriers with his
spear, and fear seized upon all men when they beheld his stalwart form
and majesty of mien and action. Then Sohrab opened his mouth, and his
voice of thunder was heard even unto the far ends of the camp. And he
spake words of pride, and called forth the Shah to do battle with him,
and he sware with a loud voice that the blood of Zindeh should be
avenged. Now when Sohrab's voice had run throughout the camp, confusion
spread within its borders, and none of those who stood about the throne
would accept his challenge for the Shah. And with one accord they said
that Rustem was their sole support, and that his sword alone could cause
the sun to weep. And Tus sped him within the courts of Rustem. And
"The hardest tasks doth Kai Kaous ever lay upon me."
But the nobles would not suffer him to linger, neither to waste time in
words, and they buckled upon him his armour, and they threw his
leopard-skin about him, and they saddled Rakush, and made ready the hero
for the strife. And they pushed him forth, and called after him:
"Haste, haste, for no common combat awaiteth thee, for verily Ahriman
standeth before us."
Now when Rustem was come before Sohrab, and beheld the youth, brave and
strong, with a breast like unto Saum, he said to him:
"Let us go apart from hence, and step forth from out the lines of the
For there was a zone between the camps that none might pass. And Sohrab
assented to the demand of Rustem, and they stepped out into it, and made
them ready for single combat. But when Sohrab would have fallen upon
him, the soul of Rustem melted with compassion, and he desired to save a
boy thus fair and valiant. So he said unto him:
"O young man, the air is warm and soft, but the earth is cold. I have
pity upon thee, and would not take from thee the boon of life. Yet if we
combat together, surely thou wilt fall by my hands, for none have
withstood my power, neither men nor Deevs nor dragons. Desist,
therefore, from this enterprise, and quit the ranks of Turan, for Iran
hath need of heroes like unto thee."
Now while Rustem spake thus, the heart of Sohrab went out to him. And he
looked at him wistfully, and said:
"O hero, I am about to put unto thee a question, and I entreat of thee
that thou reply to me according to the truth. Tell unto me thy name,
that my heart may rejoice in thy words, for it seemeth unto me that thou
art none other than Rustem, the son of Zal, the son of Saum, the son of
But Rustem replied, "Thou errest, I am not Rustem, neither am I sprung
from the race of Neriman. Rustem is a Pehliva, but I, I am a slave, and
own neither a crown nor a throne,"
These words spake Rustem that Sohrab might be afraid when he beheld his
prowess, and deem that yet greater might was hidden in the camp of his
enemy. But Sohrab when he heard these words was sad, and his hopes that
were risen so high were shattered, and the day that had looked so bright
was made dark unto his eyes. Then he made him ready for the combat, and
they fought, until their spears were shivered and their swords hacked
like unto saws. And when all their weapons were bent, they betook them
into clubs, and they waged war with these until they were broken. Then
they strove until their mail was torn and their horses spent with
exhaustion, and even then they could not desist, but wrestled with one
another with their hands till that the sweat and blood ran down from
their bodies. And they contended until their throats were parched and
their bodies weary, and to neither was given the victory. They stayed
them a while to rest, and Rustem thought within his mind how all his
days he had not coped with such a hero. And it seemed to him that his
contest with the White Deev had been as nought to this.
Now when they had rested a while they fell to again, and they fought
with arrows, but still none could surpass the other. Then Rustem strove
to hurl Sohrab from his steed, but it availed him naught, and he could
shake him no more than the mountain can be moved from its seat. So they
betook themselves again unto clubs, and Sohrab aimed at Rustem with
might and smote him, and Rustem reeled beneath the stroke, and bit his
lips in agony. Then Sohrab vaunted his advantage, and bade Rustem go and
measure him with his equals; for though his strength be great, he could
not stand against a youth. So they went their ways, and Rustem fell upon
the men of Turan, and spread confusion far and wide among their ranks;
and Sohrab raged along the lines of Iran, and men and horses fell under
his hands. And Rustem was sad in his soul, and he turned with sorrow
into his camp. But when he saw the destruction Sohrab had wrought his
anger was kindled, and he reproached the youth, and challenged him to
come forth yet again to single combat. But because that the day was far
spent they resolved to rest until the morrow.
Then Rustem went before Kai Kaous and told him of this boy of valour,
and he prayed unto Ormuzd that He would give him strength to vanquish
his foe. Yet he made ready also his house lest he should fall in the
fight, and he commanded that a tender message be borne unto Rudabeh, and
he sent words of comfort unto Zal, his father. And Sohrab, too, in his
camp lauded the might of Rustem, and he said how the battle had been
sore, and how his mind had misgiven him of the issue. And he spake unto
"My mind is filled with thoughts of this aged man, mine adversary, for
it would seem unto me that his stature is like unto mine, and that I
behold about him the tokens that my mother recounted unto me. And my
heart goeth out toward him, and I muse if it be Rustem, my father. For
it behoveth me not to combat him. Wherefore, I beseech thee, tell unto
me how this may be."
But Human answered and said, "Oft have I looked upon the face of Rustem
in battle, and mine eyes have beheld his deeds of valour; but this man
in no wise resembleth him, nor is his manner of wielding his club the
These things spake Human in his vileness, because that Afrasiyab had
enjoined him to lead Sohrab into destruction. And Sohrab held his peace,
but he was not wholly satisfied.
Now when the day had begun to lighten the sky and clear away the
shadows, Rustem and Sohrab strode forth unto the midway spot that
stretched between the armies. And Sohrab bare in his hands a mighty
club, and the garb of battle was upon him; but his mouth was full of
smiles, and he asked of Rustem how he had rested, and he said:
"Wherefore hast thou prepared thy heart for battle? Cast from thee, I
beg, this mace and sword of vengeance, and let us doff our armour, and
seat ourselves together in amity, and let wine soften our angry deeds.
For it seemeth unto me that this conflict is impure. And if thou wilt
listen to my desires, my heart shall speak to thee of love, and I will
make the tears of shame spring up into thine eyes. And for this cause I
ask thee yet again, tell me thy name, neither hide it any longer, for I
behold that thou art of noble race. And it would seem unto me that thou
art Rustem, the chosen one, the Lord of Zaboulistan, the son of Zal, the
son of Saum the hero."
But Rustem answered, "O hero of tender age, we are not come forth to
parley but to combat, and mine ears are sealed against thy words of
lure. I am an old man, and thou art young, but we are girded for battle,
and the Master of the world shall decide between us."
Then Sohrab said, "O man of many years, wherefore wilt thou not listen
to the counsel of a stripling? I desired that thy soul should leave thee
upon thy bed, but thou hast elected to perish in the combat. That which
is ordained must be done, therefore let us make ready for the conflict."
So they made them ready, and when they had bound their steeds they fell
upon each other, and the crash of their encounter was heard like thunder
throughout the camps. And they measured their strength from the morning
until the setting of the sun. And when the day was about to vanish,
Sohrab seized upon Rustem by the girdle and threw him upon the ground,
and kneeled upon him, and drew forth his sword from the scabbard, and
would have severed his head from his trunk. Then Rustem knew that only
wile could save him. So he opened his mouth and said:
"O young man, thou knowest not the customs of the combat. It is written
in the laws of honour that he who overthroweth a brave man for the first
time should not destroy him, but preserve him for fight a second time,
then only is it given unto him to kill his adversary."
And Sohrab listened to Rustem's words of craft and stayed his hand, and
he let the warrior go, and because that the day was ended he sought to
fight no more, but turned him aside and chased the deer until the night
was spent. Then came to him Human, and asked of the adventures of the
day. And Sohrab told him how he had vanquished the tall man, and how he
had granted him freedom. And Human reproached him with his folly, and
"Alas! young man, thou didst fall into a snare, for this is not the
custom among the brave. And now perchance thou wilt yet fall under the
hands of this warrior."
Sohrab was abashed when he heard the words of Human, but he said:
"Be not grieved, for in an hour we meet again in battle, and verily he
will not stand a third time against my youthful strength."
Now while Sohrab was thus doing, Rustem was gone beside a running brook,
and laved his limbs, and prayed to God in his distress. And he entreated
of Ormuzd that He would grant him such strength that the victory must be
his. And Ormuzd heard him, and gave to him such strength that the rock
whereon Rustem stood gave way under his feet, because it had not power
to bear him. Then Rustem saw it was too much, and he prayed yet again
that part thereof be taken from him. And once more Ormuzd listened to
his voice. Then when the time for combat was come, Rustem turned him to
the meeting-place, and his heart was full of cares and his face of
fears. But Sohrab came forth like a giant refreshed, and he ran at
Rustem like to a mad elephant, and he cried with a voice of thunder:
"O thou who didst flee from battle, wherefore art thou come out once
more against me? But I say unto thee, this time shall thy words of guile
avail thee naught."
And Rustem, when he heard him, and looked upon him, was seized with
misgiving, and he learned to know fear. So he prayed to Ormuzd that He
would restore to him the power He had taken back. But he suffered not
Sohrab to behold his fears, and they made them ready for the fight. And
he closed upon Sohrab with all his new-found might, and shook him
terribly, and though Sohrab returned his attacks with vigour, the hour
of his overthrow was come. For Rustem took him by the girdle and hurled
him unto the earth, and he broke his back like to a reed, and he drew
forth his sword to sever his body. Then Sohrab knew it was the end, and
he gave a great sigh, and writhed in his agony, and he said:
"That which is come about, it is my fault, and henceforward will my
youth be a theme of derision among the people. But I sped not forth for
empty glory, but I went out to seek my father; for my mother had told me
by what tokens I should know him, and I perish for longing after him.
And now have my pains been fruitless, for it hath not been given unto me
to look upon his face. Yet I say unto thee, if thou shouldest become a
fish that swimmeth in the depths of the ocean, if thou shouldest change
into a star that is concealed in the farthest heaven, my father would
draw thee forth from thy hiding-place, and avenge my death upon thee
when he shall learn that the earth is become my bed. For my father is
Rustem the Pehliva, and it shall be told unto him how that Sohrab his
son perished in the quest after his face."
When Rustem heard these words his sword fell from out of his grasp, and
he was shaken with dismay. And there broke from his heart a groan as of
one whose heart was racked with anguish. And the earth became dark
before his eyes, and he sank down lifeless beside his son. But when he
had opened his eyes once more, he cried unto Sohrab in the agony of his
spirit. And he said:
"Bearest thou about thee a token of Rustem, that I may know that the
words which thou speakest are true? For I am Rustem the unhappy, and may
my name be struck from the lists of men!"
When Sohrab heard these words his misery was boundless, and he cried:
"If thou art indeed my father, then hast thou stained thy sword in the
life-blood of thy son. And thou didst it of thine obstinacy. For I
sought to turn thee unto love, and I implored of thee thy name, for I
thought to behold in thee the tokens recounted of my mother. But I
appealed unto thy heart in vain, and now is the time gone by for
meeting. Yet open, I beseech thee, mine armour and regard the jewel upon
mine arm. For it is an onyx given unto me by my father, as a token
whereby he should know me."
Then Rustem did as Sohrab bade him, and he opened his mail and saw the
onyx; and when he had seen it he tore his clothes in his distress, and
he covered his head with ashes. And the tears of penitence ran from his
eyes, and he roared aloud in his sorrow. But Sohrab said:
"It is in vain, there is no remedy. Weep not, therefore, for doubtless
it was written that this should be."
Now when the sun was set, and Rustem returned not to the camp, the
nobles of Iran were afraid, and they went forth to seek him. And when
they were gone but a little way they came upon Rakush, and when they saw
that he was alone they raised a wailing, for they deemed that of a
surety Rustem was perished. And they went and told Kai Kaous thereof,
and he said:
"Let Tus go forth and see if this indeed be so, and if Rustem be truly
fallen, let the drums call men unto battle that we may avenge him upon
Now Sohrab, when he beheld afar off the men that were come out to seek
Rustem, turned to his father and said:
"I entreat of thee that thou do unto me an act of love. Let not the Shah
fall upon the men of Turan, for they came not forth in enmity to him but
to do my desire, and on my head alone resteth this expedition. Wherefore
I desire not that they should perish when I can defend them no longer.
As for me, I came like the thunder and I vanish like the wind, but
perchance it is given unto us to meet again above."
Then Rustem promised to do the desires of Sohrab. And he went before the
men of Iran, and when they beheld him yet alive they set up a great
shout, but when they saw that his clothes were torn, and that he bare
about him the marks of sorrow, they asked of him what was come to pass.
Then he told them how he had caused a noble son to perish. And they were
grieved for him, and joined in his wailing. Then he bade one among them
to go forth into the camp of Turan, and deliver this message unto Human.
And he sent word unto him, saying:
"The sword of vengeance must slumber in the scabbard. Thou art now
leader of the host; return, therefore, whence thou camest, and depart
across the river ere many days be fallen. As for me, I will fight no
more, yet neither will I speak unto thee again, for thou didst hide from
my son the tokens of his father, of thine iniquity thou didst lead him
into this pit."
Then when he had thus spoken, Rustem turned him yet again to his son.
And the nobles went with him, and they beheld Sohrab, and heard his
groans of pain. And Rustem, when he saw the agony of the boy, was beside
himself, and would have made an end of his own life, but the nobles
suffered it not, and stayed his hand. Then Rustem remembered him that
Kai Kaous had a balm mighty to heal. And he prayed Gudarz go before the
Shah, and bear unto him a message of entreaty from Rustem his servant.
And he said:
"O Shah, if ever I have done that which was good in thy sight, if ever
my hand have been of avail unto thee, recall now my benefits in the hour
of my need, and have pity upon my dire distress. Send unto me, I pray
thee, of the balm that is among thy treasures, that my son may be healed
by thy grace."
And Gudarz outstripped the whirlwind in his speed to bear unto the Shah
this message. But the heart of Kai Kaous was hardened, and he remembered
not the benefits he had received from Rustem, and he recalled only the
proud words that he had spoken before him. And he was afraid lest the
might of Sohrab be joined to that of his father, and that together they
prove mightier than he, and turn upon him. So he shut his ear unto the
cry of his Pehliva. And Gudarz bore back the answer of the Shah, and he
"The heart of Kai Kaous is flinty, and his evil nature is like to a
bitter gourd that ceaseth never to bear fruit. Yet I counsel thee, go
before him thyself, and see if peradventure thou soften this rock."
And Rustem in his grief did as Gudarz counselled, and turned to go
before the Shah, but he was not come before him ere a messenger overtook
him, and told unto him that Sohrab was departed from the world. Then
Rustem set up a wailing such as the earth hath not heard the like of,
and he heaped reproaches upon himself, and he could not cease from
plaining the son that was fallen by his hands. And he cried continually:
"I that am old have killed my son. I that am strong have uprooted this
mighty boy. I have torn the heart of my child, I have laid low the head
of a Pehliva."
Then he made a great fire, and flung into it his tent of many colours,
and his trappings of Roum, his saddle, and his leopard-skin, his armour
well tried in battle, and all the appurtenances of his throne. And he
stood by and looked on to see his pride laid in the dust. And he tore
his flesh, and cried aloud:
"My heart is sick unto death."
Then he commanded that Sohrab be swathed in rich brocades of gold worthy
his body. And when they had enfolded him, and Rustem learned that the
Turanians had quitted the borders, he made ready his army to return unto
Zaboulistan. And the nobles marched before the bier, and their heads
were covered with ashes, and their garments were torn. And the drums of
the war-elephants were shattered, and the cymbals broken, and the tails
of the horses were shorn to the root, and all the signs of mourning were
Now Zal, when he saw the host returning thus in sorrow, marvelled what
was come about; for he beheld Rustem at their head, wherefore he knew
that the wailing was not for his son. And he came before Rustem and
questioned him. And Rustem led him unto the bier and showed unto him the
youth that was like in feature and in might unto Saum the son of
Neriman, and he told him all that was come to pass, and how this was his
son, who in years was but an infant, but a hero in battle. And Rudabeh
too came out to behold the child, and she joined her lamentations unto
theirs. Then they built for Sohrab a tomb like to a horse's hoof, and
Rustem laid him therein in a chamber of gold perfumed with ambergris.
And he covered him with brocades of gold. And when it was done, the
house of Rustem grew like to a grave, and its courts were filled with
the voice of sorrow. And no joy would enter into the heart of Rustem,
and it was long before he held high his head.
Meantime the news spread even unto Turan, and there too did all men
grieve and weep for the child of prowess that was fallen in his bloom.
And the King of Samengan tore his vestments, but when his daughter
learned it she was beside herself with affliction. And Tahmineh cried
after her son, and bewailed the evil fate that had befallen him, and she
heaped black earth upon her head, and tore her hair, and wrung her
hands, and rolled on the ground in her agony. And her mouth was never
weary of plaining. Then she caused the garments of Sohrab to be brought
unto her, and his throne and his steed. And she regarded them, and
stroked the courser and poured tears upon his hoofs, and she cherished
the robes as though they yet contained her boy, and she pressed the head
of the palfrey unto her breast, and she kissed the helmet that Sohrab
had worn. Then with his sword she cut off the tail of his steed and set
fire unto the house of Sohrab, and she gave his gold and jewels unto the
poor. And when a year had thus rolled over her bitterness, the breath
departed from out her body, and her spirit went forth after Sohrab her
THE SEVEN SLEEPERS OF EPHESUS
One of the most picturesque myths of ancient days is that told by
Jacques de Voragine, in his "Legenda Aurea":
"The seven sleepers were natives of Ephesus. The Emperor Decius, who
persecuted the Christians, having come to Ephesus, ordered the erection
of temples in the city, that all might come and sacrifice before him;
and he commanded that the Christians should be sought out and given
their choice, either to worship the idols, or to die. So great was the
consternation in the city, that the friend denounced his friend, the
father his son, and the son his father.
"Now there were in Ephesus seven Christians, Maximian, Malchus, Marcian,
Dionysius, John, Serapion, and Constantine by name. These refused to
sacrifice to the idols, and remained in their houses praying and
fasting. They were accused before Decius, and they confessed themselves
to be Christians. However, the Emperor gave them a little time to
consider what line they would adopt. They took advantage of this
reprieve to dispense their goods among the poor, and they retired, all
seven, to Mount Celion, where they determined to conceal themselves.
"One of their number, Malchus, in the disguise of a physician, went to
the town to obtain victuals. Decius, who had been absent from Ephesus
for a little while, returned, and gave orders for the seven to be
sought. Malchus, having escaped from the town, fled, full of fear, to
his comrades, and told them of the Emperor's fury. They were much
alarmed; and Malchus handed them the loaves he had bought, bidding them
eat, that, fortified by the food, they might have courage in the time of
trial. They ate, and then, as they sat weeping and speaking to one
another, by the will of God they fell asleep.
"The pagans sought everywhere, but could not find them, and Decius was
greatly irritated at their escape. He had their parents brought before
him, and threatened them with death if they did not reveal the place of
concealment; but they could only answer that the seven young men had
distributed their goods to the poor, and that they were quite ignorant
as to their whereabouts.
"Decius, thinking it possible that they might be hiding in a cavern,
blocked up the mouth with stones, that they might perish of hunger."
* * * * *
"Three hundred and sixty years passed, and in the thirtieth year of the
reign of Theodosius, there broke forth a heresy denying the resurrection
of the dead.
"Now, it happened that an Ephesian was building a stable on the side of
Mount Celion, and finding a pile of stones handy, he took them for his
edifice, and thus opened the mouth of the cave. Then the seven sleepers
awoke, and it was to them as if they had slept but a single night. They
began to ask Malchus what decision Decius had given concerning them.
"'He is going to hunt us down, so as to force us to sacrifice to the
idols,' was his reply. 'God knows,' replied Maximian, 'we shall never do
that.' Then exhorting his companions, he urged Malchus to go back to the
town to buy some more bread, and at the same time to obtain fresh
information. Malchus took five coins and left the cavern. On seeing the
stones he was filled with astonishment; however, he went on toward the
city; but what was his bewilderment, on approaching the gate, to see
over it a cross! He went to another gate, and there he beheld the same
sacred sign; and so he observed it over each gate of the city. He
believed that he was suffering from the effects of a dream. Then he
entered Ephesus, rubbing his eyes, and he walked to a baker's shop. He
heard people using our Lord's name, and he was the more perplexed.
'Yesterday, no one dared pronounce the name of Jesus, and now it is on
every one's lips. Wonderful! I can hardly believe myself to be in
Ephesus.' He asked a passer-by the name of the city, and on being told
that it was Ephesus, he was thunderstruck. Now he entered a baker's
shop, and laid down his money. The baker, examining the coin, inquired
whether he had found a treasure, and began to whisper to some others in
the shop. The youth, thinking that he was discovered, and that they were
about to conduct him to the emperor, implored them to let him alone,
offering to leave loaves and money if he might only be suffered to
escape. But the shop-men seizing him, said, 'Whoever you are, you have
found a treasure; show us where it is, that we may share it with you,
and then we will hide you.' Malchus was too frightened to answer. So
they put a rope round his neck, and drew him through the streets into
the marketplace. The news soon spread that the young man had discovered
a great treasure, and there was presently a vast crowd about him. He
stoutly protested his innocence. No one recognised him, and his eyes,
ranging over the faces which surrounded him, could not see one which he
had known, or which was in the slightest degree familiar to him.
"St. Martin, the bishop, and Antipater, the governor, having heard of
the excitement, ordered the young man to be brought before them, along
with the bakers.
"The bishop and the governor asked him where he had found the treasure,
and he replied that he had found none, but that the few coins were from
his own purse. He was next asked whence he came. He replied that he was
a native of Ephesus, 'if this be Ephesus.'
"'Send for your relations—your parents, if they live here,' ordered the
"'They live here certainly,' replied the youth; and he mentioned their
names. No such names were known in the town. Then the governor
exclaimed, 'How dare you say that this money belonged to your parents
when it dates back three hundred and seventy-seven years, and is as old
as the beginning of the reign of Decius, and it is utterly unlike our
modern coinage? Do you think to impose on the old men and sages of
Ephesus? Believe me, I shall make you suffer the severities of the law
till you show where you made the discovery.'
"'I implore you,' cried Malchus, 'in the name of God, answer me a few
questions, and then I will answer yours. Where is the Emperor Decius
"The bishop answered,'My son, there is no emperor of that name; he who
was thus called died long ago.'
"Malchus replied, 'All I hear perplexes me more and more. Follow me, and
I will show you my comrades, fled with me into a cave of Mount Celion,
only yesterday, to escape the cruelty of Decius. I will lead you to
"The bishop turned to the governor. 'The hand of God is here,' he said.
Then they followed, and a great crowd after them. And Malchus entered
first into the cavern to his companions, and the bishop after him. And
there they saw the martyrs seated in the cave, with their faces fresh
and blooming as roses; so all fell down and glorified God. The bishop
and the governor sent notice to Theodosius, and he hurried to Ephesus.
All the inhabitants met him and conducted him to the cavern. As soon as
the saints beheld the Emperor, their faces shone like the sun, and the
Emperor gave thanks unto God, and embraced them, and said, 'I see you,
as though I saw the Saviour restoring Lazarus.' Maximian replied,
'Believe us! for the faith's sake, God has resuscitated us before the
great resurrection day, in order that you may believe firmly in the
resurrection of the dead. For as the child is in its mother's womb
living and not suffering, so have we lived without suffering, fast
asleep.' And having thus spoken, they bowed their heads, and their souls
returned to their Maker. The Emperor, rising, bent over them and
embraced them weeping. He gave them orders for golden reliquaries to be
made, but that night they appeared to him in a dream, and said that
hitherto they had slept in the earth, and that in the earth they desired
to sleep on till God should raise them again."
GUY OF WARWICK
Of all the nobles of Britain none was so strong as Rohand, Earl of
Warwick, Rockingham, and Oxford. He made just laws, and made them to be
obeyed; nor king nor baron in the land could buy his favour with fine
words or gold, or shield the wrong-doer from his punishment. Passing
fair was Felice, his daughter, like some stately marble shaft of perfect
mould; haughty was she as the great gerfalcon which spurns the earth and
towers up into the noon to look the burning sun in the face. Wise
masters, hoar with learning, came out from Toulouse to teach her the
seven arts and sciences, until there was not her like for wisdom
Earl Rohand had a favourite page, named Guy, son of his just and upright
steward, Segard of Wallingford; a brave and fearless youth, of strong
and well-knit frame, whom Heraud of Ardenne, his tutor, taught betimes
to just with lance and sword, and how to hunt with hawk and hound by
wood and river side.
It was the feast of Pentecost, when by old custom every maiden chose her
love and every knight his leman. Guy, clad in a new silken dress, being
made cup-bearer at the banquet table, saw for the first time the
beautiful Felice, as, kneeling, he offered the golden ewer and basin and
demask napkin to wash her finger-tips before the banquet. Thenceforward
he became so love-stricken with her beauty that he heard not the music
of the glee-men, saw neither games nor tourneys, but dured in a dream,
like one crazed, all through the fourteen days festival. Knights and
fair dames praised his handsome figure and well grown sinewy limbs; he
heeded not—but once Felice gave him a courteous word as he offered her
the wine-cup; he blushed and stammered and spilled the wine, and was
rebuked for awkwardness.
The feast being over, Guy went away to his chamber, and there fell into
a great love-sickness. Hopeless it seemed for a vassal to love one so
far above him as his sovereign's daughter; so he gave himself up to
despair, and his disease grew so sore that the most skilful leeches of
Earl Rohand's court were unable to cure his complaint. In vain they let
him of blood or gave him salve or potion. "There is no medicine of any
avail," the leeches said. Guy murmured, "Felice: if one might find and
bring Felice to me, I yet might live." "Felice?" the leeches said among
themselves, and shook their heads, "It is not in the herbal. Felice?
Felix? No, there is no plant of that name."
"No herb is Felice," sighing answered Guy, "but a flower—the fairest
flower that grows."
"He is light-headed," they said. "The flower Felice? He seeks perchance
the flower of happiness, growing in the garden of the blessed, away in
Paradise. He is surely near his end."
"It is truly Paradise where Felice is," Guy answered,
"You hear? You see," the leeches whispered one to another. "Come, let us
go; for we can be of no more good."
Night came, and being left alone Guy thought to rise up from his bed and
drag himself into the presence of his mistress, there to die at her
feet. So weak was he become, he scarce could stand, but fainted many
times upon the way.
Now Felice had heard many whisperings how Guy was dying for love of her,
since her handmaidens had compassion on the youth, and sought to turn
her heart toward him; but Felice was in no mind to have a page for a
lover. Howbeit on this very night she had a dream, wherein being
straitly enjoined to entreat the youth with kindness as the only way to
save a life which would hereafter be of great service to the world, she
arose and came to a bower in the garden where Guy lay swooning on the
floor. Felice would not stoop to help him, but her maids having restored
him to his senses, Guy fell at her feet and poured out all his love
before her. Never a word answered Felice, but stood calmly regarding him
with haughty coldness. Then said one of her maids, "O lady! were I the
richest king's daughter in the land, I could not turn away from love so
strong and true." Felice rebuked her, saying, "Could not? Silly child,
see that your soft heart do not prove your shame." So with a tingling
cheek the maid withdrew abashed. Then said Felice to Guy, "Why kneel
there weeping like a girl? Get up, and show if there is the making of a
man in you. Hear what I have to say. The swan mates not with the
swallow, and I will never wed beneath me. Prove that your love is not
presumption. Show yourself my peer. For I could love a brave and valiant
knight before whose spear men bowed as to a king, nor would I ask his
parentage, prouder far to know that my children took their nobleness
from a self-made nobleman. But a weeping, love-sick page! No! Go, fight
and battle—show me something that you do that I can love. Meantime I
look for such a lover, and I care not if his name be Guy the page."
Then Guy took heart and said, "Lady, I ask no better boon than to have
you for witness of what love for you can do."
Felice answered, "Deeds, not words. Be strong and valiant. I will watch
and I will wait."
Then Guy took leave of his mistress and in the course of a few days
regained his health, to the surprise of all the court, but more
especially of the leeches who had given him over for dead, and coming to
Earl Rohand, entreated him to make him a knight. To this Earl Rohand
having agreed, Guy was knighted at the next feast of Holy Trinity with a
dubbing worthy a king's son; and they brought him rich armour, and a
good sword and spear and shield, and a noble steed with costly
trappings, together with rich silken cloaks and mantles fur-trimmed, and
of great price. Then bidding farewell to Segard his father, Sir Guy left
Warwick with Heraud his tutor, and Sir Thorold and Sir Urry for company,
and having reached the nearest seaport, set sail for Normandy in search
of adventures wherein to prove his valour.
They came to Rouen, and whilst they tarried at an inn a tournament was
proclaimed in honour of the fair Blancheflor, daughter to Regnier,
Emperor of Germany, and the prize was the hand of the Princess, a white
horse, two white hounds, and a white falcon. So Sir Guy and his
companions rode into the lists, where was a great company of proven
knights and champions. Three days they tourneyed, but none could
withstand Sir Guy's strong arm. He overthrew Otho Duke of Pavia, Sir
Garie the Emperor's son, Regnier Duke of Sessoyne, the Duke of Lowayne,
and many more, till not a man was left who dared encounter him; and
being master of the field, he was adjudged the prize. The horse and
hounds and falcon he sent by two messengers to Felice in England as
trophies of his valour. Then he knelt before the beautiful Princess
Blancheflor and said, "Lady, I battle in honour of my mistress, the
peerless Felice, and am her servant," whereat the Emperor and his
daughter, admiring his constancy, loaded him with rich presents and
allowed him to depart.
Sir Guy then travelled through Spain, Lombardy, and Almayne, into far
lands; and wheresoever a tournament was held, there he went and justed,
coming out victor from them all; till the fame of his exploits spread
over Christendom. So a year passed, and he returned to England
unconquered, and renowned as the most valiant knight of his time. A
while he sojourned in London with King Athelstan, who rejoiced to do him
honour; then he came to Warwick, where he received from Earl Rohand a
princely welcome. Then Sir Guy hastened to Felice.
"Fair mistress," said he, "have I now won your love? You have heard my
deeds, how I have travelled all through Christendom, and have yet found
no man stand against my spear. I have been faithful in my love, Felice,
as well as strong in fight. I might have wedded with the best. King's
daughters and princesses were prizes in the tournaments; but I had no
mind for any prize but thee. Say, is it mine, sweet mistress?"
Then Felice kissed her knight and answered, "Right nobly have you won my
love and worship, brave Sir Guy. You are more than my peer; you are
become my sovereign; and my love pays willing homage to its lord. But
for this same cause I will not wed you yet. I will not have men point at
me and say, 'There is a woman who for selfish love's sake, wedded the
knight of most renown in Christendom ere yet he did his bravest
deeds-drew him from his level to her own-made him lay by his sword and
spear for the slothful pleasures of a wedded life, and dwarfed a brave
man down to a soft gentleman.' Nay, dear one, I can wait, and very
proudly, knowing myself your chiefest prize. But seek not to possess the
prize too soon, lest your strivings for renown, being aimless, should
wax feeble. It is because I love you that I hold your fame far dearer
than my love. Go rather forth again, travel through heathen lands,
defend the weak against the strong; go, battle for the right, show
yourself the matchless knight you are; and God and my love go with
Then Sir Guy got him ready for his new quest. Earl Rohand tried to
persuade him to remain at home, as likewise did his father Segard; and
his mother, weeping, prayed him stay. She said, "Another year it may not
fare so well with thee, my son. Leave well alone. Felice is cold and
proud and cares not for thee, else she would not risk thy life again.
What is it to her? If thou wert slain she would get another lover; we
have no more sons."
Yet would not Sir Guy be turned from his purpose, but embarked with his
companions, Sir Heraud, Sir Thorold, and Sir Urry, for Flanders. Thence
he rode through Spain, Germany, and Lombardy, and bore away the prize at
every tournament. But coming into Italy, he got a bad wound jousting at
Beneventum, which greatly weakened him.
Duke Otho of Pavia, whom Sir Guy overthrew in his first tournament at
Rouen, thought now to be avenged on him. So he set a chosen knight, Earl
Lombard, with fifteen other knights to lie in ambush in a wood and slay
Sir Guy; and as Sir Guy, with his three companions, came ambling slowly
through the wood, he smarting and well-nigh faint with his wound, the
men in ambush broke out from their concealment and called on him to
yield. The danger made him forget his pain, and straightway he dressed
his shield and spurred among them.
Sir Heraud, Sir Thorold, and Sir Urry killed the three first knights
they rode against. Then Earl Lombard slew Sir Urry; and at the same time
Hugo, nephew to Duke Otho, laid Sir Thorold dead at his horse's feet.
Then only Sir Guy and Sir Heraud being left to fight, Sir Guy attacked
Earl Lombard and smote him to the heart, whilst Sir Heraud chased Hugo,
fleeing like a hound, and drove his spear throughout his body. Thus were
Sir Urry and Sir Thorold avenged. But one of the felon knights, called
Sir Gunter, smote Sir Heraud a mighty stroke when he was off his guard,
and hewed his shield and coat of mail in pieces, and Sir Heraud fell to
the earth covered with blood and lay as dead.
Thereupon Sir Guy's anger waxed furious at his master's death; and he
spurred his horse so that fire rose from under its feet, and with one
blow of his sword cleft Sir Gunter from his helmet to the pummel of his
saddle. As for the other knights he slew them all except Sir Guichard,
who fled on his swift steed to Pavia, and got back to Duke Otho.
Heavily Sir Guy grieved for the loss of his three friends, but most of
all for his dear master Sir Heraud. He sought about the wood until he
found a hermit. To him he gave a good steed, charging him to bury the
bodies of Sir Urry and Sir Thorold. From Sir Heraud's body he would not
part. Lifting the old knight to his arms, he laid him across his horse,
and led the steed by the bridle-rein till they came to an abbey, where
he left the body with the abbot, promising rich presents in return for
giving it sumptuous burial with masses and chants. But Sir Guy departed
and hid himself in a hermit's cave away from the malice of Duke Otho,
until his wound should be healed.
Now there was in the abbey whither Heraud's body was taken, a monk well
skilled in leech-craft, who knew the virtues of all manner of grasses
and herbs. And this monk, finding by his craft that life still flickered
in the body, nursed and tended it; and after a long while Sir Heraud was
well enough to travel. Disguised as a palmer he came into Burgundy, and
there, to his great joy, found Sir Guy, who had come thither meaning to
take his way back to England. But they lingered still, till Heraud
should grow stronger, and so it fell out that they came to St. Omers.
There they heard how the Emperor Regnier had come up against Segwin,
Duke of Lavayne, laid waste his land, and besieged him in his strong
city Seysone, because he had slain Sadoc, the Emperor's cousin, in a
tournament. But when Sir Guy learned that Sadoc had first provoked Duke
Segwin, and brought his death upon himself, he determined to help Segwin
against his sovereign the Emperor Regnier. He therefore gathered fifty
knights together with Heraud, and coming secretly at night to the city
of Seysone, was let in at a postern gate without the enemy being aware.
In the morning after mass they made a sally against their foes, which
numbered thirty thousand strong, and routed them, taking many noble
prisoners. Three times the Emperor came against the Greeks, each time
with a new army larger than before. Twice did Sir Guy vanquish the host,
and drive them from the walls. The third time he took Sir Gaire, the
Emperor's son, prisoner, and carried him into the city. Then the Emperor
Regnier determined, since he could not take the place by assault, to
beleaguer it, and starve the town into surrender. And it was so that,
while his army was set down before the walls, the Emperor hunted alone
in a wood hard by, and Sir Guy, meeting him there, gathered a branch of
olive tree, and came bending to the Emperor, saying, "God save you,
gentle sire. Duke Segwin sendeth me to make his peace with you. He will
yield you all his lands and castles in burg and city, and hold them of
you henceforth in vassalage, but he now would have your presence in the
city to a feast." So the Emperor was forced to go with him into the city
as a prisoner, albeit he was served with the humility due to a sovereign
both by Sir Guy and Duke Segwin's knights. Sir Gaire and the other
captive nobles came also and prayed for peace with Duke Segwin, for they
had been so well treated that they felt nothing but the truest
friendship for their captor. So it befell when the Emperor found himself
feasting in the enemy's castle, surrounded by the flower of his own
knights and nobles, and Duke Segwin and his band serving them humbly at
table as though they had been servants in place of masters, he was
touched by their generosity, and willingly agreed to a free and friendly
peace. And this was celebrated by the Emperor giving Duke Segwin his
niece to wife, whilst the Duke of Saxony wedded Duke Segwin's sister
amid great rejoicings.
Now after this, learning that Ernis, Emperor of Greece, was besieged in
Constantinople his capital by the Saracens, Sir Guy levied an army of a
thousand knights and went to his assistance. Well pleased was Ernis at
so timely a succor, and he promised to reward Sir Guy by making him heir
to the throne and giving him the hand of his only daughter the beautiful
Loret. Then Sir Guy led the army forth from the city against the Soudan
and his host, and defeated them so badly that for some days they were
unable to rally their men for another encounter.
In the meantime, one of Sir Guy's knights named Sir Morgadour fell in
love with the Princess Loret, and being envious of Sir Guy's
achievements as well as jealous of such a rival, he sought how to
embroil him with the Emperor and compass his disgrace. Wherefore one day
when the Emperor Ernis was gone a-rivering with his hawks, Sir Morgadour
challenged Sir Guy to play a game of chess in the Princess Loret's
chamber. They played there, Sir Guy not thinking of treachery. But
by-and-by the Princess entered, and Sir Morgadour after greeting her
took his leave quickly and came to the Emperor Ernis, telling him how
Sir Guy was alone in the chamber with his daughter. Ernis, however, paid
little heed to the tale, for he said: "Well, and what of it? Loret is
his promised bride, and Sir Guy is a good true knight. Away with your
tales!" But Sir Morgadour was not to be baffled, so he went to Sir Guy
and said: "Behold how little trust is to be placed in a king! Here is
the Emperor Ernis mad wroth to hear you were alone with the Princess
Loret, and swears he will have your life." Then Sir Guy in great anger
summoned his knights, and was going over to the Saracens, when, on his
way, he met the Emperor, who told him of the malice of Sir Morgadour and
all was made plain.
But now the Saracens coming anew against the city, Sir Guy went forth to
meet them with many engines upon wheels which threw great stones
quarried from a hill. Sir Guy and his army again defeated the Saracens,
insomuch that a space of fifteen acres was covered so thick with dead
that a man might not walk between, whilst the pile of slain around Sir
Guy reached breast high. So the Soudan and his host withdrew to their
Then Sir Morgadour bethought him of another wile. The Soudan had sworn
to kill every Christian found in his camp, without regard to flag of
truce or ambassage. So Sir Morgadour persuaded Ernis to send Sir Guy to
the Soudan saying, that, since the war seemed likely to come to no
speedy issue, it should be settled by single combat between two
champions chosen from the Christian and the Saracen hosts. The counsel
seemed good to Ernis, but yet he liked not to risk his son-in-law's
life; wherefore he called his Parliament together and asked for some
bold knight to go and bear this message. When all the others held their
peace, Sir Guy demanded to be sent upon the business, neither could the
prayers and entreaties of Ernis cause him to forego the enterprise. He
clad himself in iron hose and a trusty hauberk, set a helm of steel,
gold-circled, on his head, and having girt his sword about him, leapt on
his steed without so much as touching stirrup, and rode up to the
Soudan's pavilion. He well knew it from the rest, since on the top
thereof flashed a great carbuncle stone.
There were feasting the Soudan, ten kings, and many barons, when Sir Guy
walked into the pavilion and delivered his message with great roughness
of speech. "Seize him and slay him!" cried the Soudan. But Sir Guy cut
his way through his assailants and rushing on the Soudan cut off his
head; and while he stooped to pick up the trophy with his left hand,
with his right he slew six Saracens, then fought his passage past them
all to the tent door, and leapt upon his horse. But the whole Saracen
host being roused he never would have got back for all his bravery, but
that Heraud within the city saw in a dream the danger he was in, and
assembling the Greek army and Sir Guy's knights, came to his rescue and
put the Saracens to flight. Then after the battle, Sir Guy came in
triumph to Constantinople and laid the Soudan's head at the feet of the
Ernis now, being at peace from his enemies, would take Sir Guy through
his realms. On their way they saw a dragon fighting a lion, and the lion
having much the worst of the combat, Sir Guy must needs go and fight the
dragon. After a hard battle he laid the monster dead at his feet, and
the lion came and licked the hands of his deliverer, and would in no
wise depart from his side.
Soon afterward the Emperor Ernis gathered a great company of princes,
dukes, earls, barons, bishops, abbots, and priors to the wedding feast,
and in presence of them all he gave Sir Guy to be ruler over half the
kingdom, and led forth the Princess Loret to be his bride.
But when Sir Guy saw the wedding-ring, his old love came to his mind,
and he bethought him of Felice. "Alas!" he cried, "Felice the bright and
beautiful, my heart misgives me of forgetting thee. None other maid
shall ever have my love." Then he fell into a swoon and when he came to
himself he pleaded sudden sickness. So the marriage was put off, to the
great distress of Ernis and his daughter Loret, and Sir Guy gat him to
an Inn. Heraud tended him there, and learned how it was for the sake of
Felice that Guy renounced so fair a bride, dowered with so rich a
kingdom. But after a fortnight, when he could no longer feign illness
because of the watchfullness of the Emperor and the Princess after his
health, he was forced to return to court, and delay his marriage from
day to day by one excuse and another, until at length fortune delivered
him from the strait. The lion which Sir Guy had tamed was used to roam
about the palace, and grew so gentle that none feared him and none
sought him harm. But Sir Morgadour, being sore vexed to think that all
his plans against Sir Guy had failed, determined to wreak his spite upon
the lion. He therefore watched until he found the lion asleep within an
arbour, and then wounded him to death with his sword. The faithful beast
dragged himself so far as Sir Guy's chamber, licked his master's hands,
and fell dead at his feet. But a little maid which had espied Sir
Morgadour told Sir Guy who had slain his lion. Then Sir Guy went forth
in quest of Sir Morgadour, and fought with him and slew him. He had
forgiven the wrongs against himself, since he outwitted them; but he was
fain to avenge his faithful favourite. Now Sir Morgadour was steward to
the German Emperor Regnier. So Sir Guy showed Ernis that if he remained
longer at his court, Regnier would surely make war on Greece to avenge
his steward's death. Wherefore with this excuse he took his departure
and set sail with Heraud in the first ship he could find. They landed in
Germany, and visited the Emperor Regnier without telling anything about
his steward's death. Then they came to Lorraine.
As Sir Guy took his way alone through a forest, having sent his servants
on to prepare a place for him at an inn, he heard the groaning of a man
in pain, and turning his horse that way, found a knight sore wounded,
and like to die. This knight was named Sir Thierry, and served the Duke
of Lorraine. He told how he was riding through the wood with his lady,
Osile, when fifteen armed men beset him, and forcibly carried off the
lady to take her to Duke Otho of Pavia, his rival Then said Sir Guy, "I
also have a score to settle with Otho, the felon duke." Then he took Sir
Thierry's arms and armour, and went in pursuit of the ravishers whom he
soon overtook, and having slain every one, he set the lady on his steed
and returned to the place where he had left the wounded knight. But now
Sir Thierry was gone; for four knights of Duke Otho's band had come and
carried him off. So Sir Guy set down the lady, and started to find the
four knights. Having fought and vanquished them, he set Sir Thierry on
his horse and returned. But now Osile was gone. He searched for many
hours to find her, but in vain. So as nightfall drew on he took Sir
Thierry to the inn. There by good fortune they found the lady, Sir Guy's
servants having met her in the wood and brought her with them to await
his coming. A leech soon came and dressed Sir Thierry's wounds, and by
the careful tending of Osile and Sir Guy, he got well Then Sir Guy and
Sir Thierry swore brotherhood in arms.
Soon there came a messenger, saying that Duke Otho, hotly wroth at
losing the fair Osile, had gone to lay waste the lands of Aubry, Sir
Thierry's father; the Duke of Lorraine was likewise helping him.
Thereupon Sir Guy equipped five hundred knights and came with Sir
Thierry to the city of Gurmoise where Aubry dwelt. It was a well
ramparted city, and after being beaten in two battles with Sir Guy, Duke
Otho found, despite the larger numbers of his host, that he could not
stand against the courage of the little army and the valour of its
leader. Thinking therefore to gain Osile by treachery, he sent an
archbishop to Aubry, offering peace and pledging himself to confirm the
marriage of Sir Thierry and Osile, provided only that the lovers would
go and kneel in homage to their sovereign Duke of Lorraine. Thereon Sir
Thierry and his bride, together with Sir Guy and Sir Heraud, set out
unarmed, and after wending a day's journey out of Gurmoise, they met the
Duke of Lorraine, who embraced and kissed them in token of peace. But
Otho coming forward as if to do the like, made a sign to a band of men
whom he had in waiting to seize them. These quickly surrounded Sir
Heraud and Sir Thierry and carried them off; but Sir Guy with only his
fists slew many of his assailants, and broke away to where a countryman
stood with a staff in his hand. Snatching this for a weapon, Sir Guy
beat down the quickest of his pursuers, and made his escape. Duke Otho
cast Sir Thierry into a deep dungeon in Pavia, and meanwhile gave Osile
a respite of forty days wherein to consent to be his bride. But the Duke
of Lorraine carried off Sir Heraud.
Weary and hungered, and vexed at the loss of his friends, Sir Guy came
to a castle where he sought harbour for the night. Sir Amys of the
Mountain, who dwelt there, welcomed him with a good will, and hearing
his adventures, offered to raise an army of fifteen hundred men to help
him against Duke Otho. But to this Sir Guy said nay, because it would
take too long. So, after a day or two, having hit upon a plan, he
disguised, himself by staining his face and darkening his hair and beard
and eyebrows; and setting out alone, came to Duke Otho with a present of
a war-horse of great price, and said, "You have in your keeping a
dastard knight by name Sir Thierry, who has done me much despite, and I
would fain be avenged upon him." Then Duke Otho, falling into the trap,
appointed him jailor of Sir Thierry.
The dungeon wherein Sir Thierry was prisoned was a pit of forty fathoms
deep, and very soon Sir Guy spake from the pit's mouth bidding him be of
good cheer, for he would certainly deliver him. But a false Lombard
overheard these words, and thereby knowing that it was Sir Guy, ran off
straightway to tell Duke Otho. Sir Guy followed quickly and sought to
bribe the man with money to hold his peace, but without avail, for he
would go into the palace where the Duke was, and opened his mouth to
tell the tale. Then with one blow Sir Guy slew him at Duke Otho's feet.
But Otho, very wroth, would have killed Sir Guy then and there, only
that he averred that this was a certain traitor whom he found carrying
food to the prisoner. Thus having appeased the Duke's anger, he gat away
secretly to Osile, and bade her change her manner to Duke Otho, and make
as though she was willing to have his love. The night before the day
fixed for the wedding, Sir Guy let down a rope to Thierry in his pit,
and having drawn him up, the two made all speed to the castle of Sir
Amys. There, getting equipped with arms and armour, they leaped to horse
on the morrow, and riding back to Pavia, met the wedding procession.
Rushing into the midst Sir Guy slew Otho and Sir Thierry carried off
Osile, whereupon they returned to Sir Amys with light hearts. And when
the Duke of Lorraine had tidings of what had befallen Otho he had great
fear of Sir Guy, and sent Sir Heraud back with costly gifts to make his
peace. So Sir Thierry and Osile were wed, and a sumptuous banquet was
held in their honour, with game, and hunting, and hawking, and justing,
and singing of glee-men, more than can be told.
Now as Sir Guy went a-hunting one day, he rode away from his party to
pursue a boar of great size. And this boar, being very nimble and fleet
of foot, led him a long chase till he came into Flanders. And when he
killed the boar he blew upon his horn the prize. Florentine, King of
Flanders, hearing it in his palace, said, "Who is this that slays the
tall game on my lands?" And he bade his son go forth and bring him in.
The young prince coming with a haughty message to Sir Guy, the knight
struck him with his hunting-horn, meaning no more than chastisement for
his discourtesy. But by misadventure the prince fell dead at his feet.
Thinking no more of the mishap, and knowing not who it was whom he had
slain, Sir Guy rode on to the palace, and was received with good cheer
at the King's table. But presently the prince's body being brought in,
and Guy owning that he had done this deed, King Florentine took up an
axe, and aimed a mighty blow at the slayer of his son. This Sir Guy
quickly avoided, and when all arose to seize him, he smote them down on
either hand, and fought his way through the hall till he reached his
steed, whereon lightly leaping he hasted back to Sir Thierry.
Then after a short while he took leave of Sir Thierry, and came with Sir
Heraud to England, to the court of King Athelstan at York. Scarce had he
arrived there when tidings came that a great black and winged dragon was
ravaging Northumberland, and had destroyed whole troops of men which
went against him. Sir Guy at once armed himself in his best proven
armour, and rode off in quest of the monster. He battled with the dragon
from prime till undern, and on from undern until evensong, but for all
the dragon was so strong and his hide so flinty Sir Guy overcame him,
and thrust his sword down the dragon's throat, and having cut off his
head brought it to King Athelstan. Then while all England rang with this
great exploit, he took his journey to Wallingford to see his parents.
But they were dead; so after grieving many days for them he gave his
inheritance to Sir Heraud, and hasted to Felice at Warwick.
Proudly she welcomed her true knight, and listened to the story of his
deeds. Then laughingly Sir Guy asked, should he go another quest before
they two were wed?
"Nay, dear one," said Felice, "my heart misgives me I was wrong to peril
your life so long for fame's sake and my pride in you. A great
love-longing I have borne to have you home beside me. But now you shall
go no more forth. My pride it was that made me wish you great and
famous, and for that I bade you go; but now, beside your greatness and
your fame, I am become so little and so unworthy that I grow jealous
lest you seek a worthier mate. We will not part again, dear lord Sir
Guy." Then he kissed her tenderly and said, "Felice, whatever of fame
and renown I may have gained, I owe it all to you. It was won for you,
and but for you it had not been—and so I lay it at your feet in loving
homage, owning that I hold it all of you."
So they were wed amid the joy of all the town of Warwick; for the
spousings were of right royal sort, and Earl Rohand held a great
tournament, and kept open court to all Warwick, Rockingham, and Oxford
for fourteen days.
Forty days they had been wed, when it happened that as Sir Guy lay by a
window of his tower, looking out upon the landscape, he fell to musing
on his life. He thought, "How many men I have slain, how many battles I
have fought, how many lands I have taken and destroyed! All for a
woman's love; and not one single deed done for my God!" Then he thought,
"I will go a pilgrimage for the sake of the Holy Cross." And when Felice
knew what he meditated she wept, and with many bitter tears besought him
not to leave her. But he sighed and said, "Not yet one single deed for
God above!" and held fast to his intent. So he clad himself in palmer's
dress, and having taken a gold ring from his wife's hand and placed upon
his own, he set out without any companion for the Holy Land.
But Felice fell into a great wan-hope at his departure, and grieved
continually, neither would be comforted; for she said, "I have brought
this on myself by sending him such perilous journeys heretofore, and now
I cannot bear to part from him." But that she bore his child she would
have taken her own life for very trouble of heart; only for that child's
sake she was fain to live and mature it when it should be born.
Now after Sir Guy had made his toilsome pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and
shrived him of his life, and done his prayers and penances about the
holy places, he took his way to Antioch.
Beside a well he met a certain Earl Jonas, whose fifteen sons were held
in prison till he should find a champion to deliver the Saracen Sir
Triamour from the hands of a fierce and terrible Ethiopian giant named
Amiraunt. So Sir Guy took arms again, and rode into the lists, and
fought with Amiraunt and slew him; thus both Sir Triamour was delivered
from his enemy, and the sons of Earl Jonas were restored to him. After
this, Sir Guy travelled many years as a pilgrim of the Cross, till in
his wanderings, chancing to come into Almayne, he there fell in with Sir
Thierry, who, dressed in palmer's weeds, made sorry complaint. Sir
Thierry told how a knight named Barnard inherited Pavia in the room of
his cousin Duke Otho; and how Barnard, being at enmity with him because
of the slaying of Duke Otho, had never rested from doing him mischief
with his sovereign, until the Duke of Lorraine dispossessed him from his
lands and brought him into poverty. Howbeit Sir Guy would not reveal
himself, and Sir Thierry being faint and weary, laid his head upon Sir
Guy's knees, and so great a heaviness came over him that he fell asleep.
As he slept, Sir Guy, watching him, saw a small white weasel creep out
from the mouth of the sleeping man, and run to a little rivulet that was
hard by, going to and fro beside the bank, not seeming wistful how to
get across. Then Sir Guy rose gently and laid his sword athwart the
stream from bank to bank; so the weasel passed over the sword, as it had
been a bridge, and having made his way to a hole at the foot of the hill
on the other side, went in thereat. But presently the weasel came out,
and crossing the stream in the same manner as before jumped into the
sleeper's mouth again. Then Sir Thierry woke and told his dream. "I
dreamed," said he, "that I came beside a mighty torrent which I knew not
how to pass, until I found a bridge of shining steel, over which I went,
and came into a cavern underground, and therein I found a palace full of
gold and jewels. I pray thee, brother palmer, read to me this dream."
Then Sir Guy said that without doubt it betokened a fair treasure hid by
a waterside, and with that showed him the hole under the hill whereat he
had seen the weasel go in. There they digged and found the treasure,
which was very great; yet Sir Guy would have no share therein, but took
leave of Sir Thierry without ever making himself known, and came to
Lorraine the duke that was Sir Thierry's sovereign.
Seeing a palmer the Duke of Lorraine asked tidings of his travels.
"Sir," said the palmer, "men in all lands speak of Sir Thierry, and much
do blame you for taking away his heritage at the bidding of so false a
knight as Sir Barnard. And palmer though I be, I yet will prove Sir
Barnard recreant and traitor upon his body, and thereto I cast down my
glove." Then Sir Barnard took up the glove, and Sir Guy being furnished
with armour and a sword and shield and spear, they did battle together.
And in the end Sir Guy overcame and slew Sir Barnard, and demanded of
the duke to restore Sir Thierry to his possessions, which being granted,
he went in search of the banished man, and having found him in a church
making his prayer, brought him straightway to the duke, and thus they
were made friends. And when Sir Thierry found who his deliverer was he
was exceeding glad and would willingly have divided all his inheritance
with him. But Sir Guy would receive neither fee nor reward, and after he
had abode some time with him at the court, he took his way to England.
Now Athelstan was besieged in Winchester by Anlaf King of Denmark, and
could not come out of the city for the great host that was arrayed
against him, whilst all the folk within the city walls were famishing
for want of food and thought of nothing but surrender. Moreover King
Anlaf had proclaimed a challenge, giving them seven days' grace wherein
either to deliver up the city keys, or to find a champion who should
fight against the great and terrible Danish giant Colbrand; and every
day for seven days' the giant came before the walls and cried for a man
to fight with him. But there was found no man so hardy to do battle with
Colbrand. Then King Athelstan, as he walked to and fro in his city and
saw the distress of his people, was suddenly aware of a light that shone
about him very brightly, and he heard a voice which charged him to
intrust his cause to the first poor palmer he should meet. Soon after he
met a palmer in the city, and weening not that it was Sir Guy, kneeled
humbly to him, in sure faith in the heavenly voice, and asked his help.
"I am an old man," said the palmer, "with little strength except what
Heaven might give me for a people's need beset by enemies. But yet for
England's sake and with Heaven's help I will undertake this battle."
They then clothed him in the richest armour that the city could furnish,
with a good hauberk of steel, and a helmet whose gold circle sparkled
with precious stones, and on the top whereof stood a flower wrought of
divers colours in rare gems. Gloves of mail he wore, and greaves upon
his legs, and a shirt of ring-mail upon his body, with a quilted
gambeson beneath: sharp was the sword, and richly carved the heavy spear
he bare; his threefold shield was overlaid with gold. They led forth to
him a swift steed; but before he mounted he went down upon his knees and
meekly told his beads, praying God to succor him that day. And the two
kings held a parley for an hour, Anlaf promising on his part that if his
champion fell he would go back with all his host to Denmark and never
more make war on Britain, whilst Athelstan agreed, if his knight were
vanquished, to make Anlaf King of England, and henceforth to be his
vassal and pay tribute both of gold and silver money.
Then Colbrand stode forth to the battle. So great was he of stature that
no horse could bear him, nor indeed could any man make a cart wherein to
carry him. He was armed with black armour of so great weight that a
score of men could scarce bear up his hauberk only, and it took three to
carry his helmet. He bare a great dart within his hand, and slung around
his body were swords and battle-axes more than two hundred in number.
Sir Guy rode boldly at him, but his spear shivered into pieces against
the giant's armour. Then Colbrand threw three darts. The first two
passed wide, but the third crashed through Sir Guy's shield, and glided
betwixt his arm and side, nor fell to ground till it had sped over a
good acre of the field. Then a blow from the giant's sword just missed
the knight, but lighting on his saddle at the back of him hewed horse
and saddle clean in two; so Sir Guy was brought to ground. Yet lightly
sprang he to his feet, and though seemingly but a child beside the
monster man, he laid on hotly with his sword upon the giant's armour,
until the sword brake in his hands. Then Colbrand called on him to
yield, since he had no longer a weapon wherewith to fight. "Nay,"
answered Sir Guy, "but I will have one are of thine," and with that ran
deftly to the giant's side and wrenched away a battle-axe wherewith he
maintained the combat. Right well Sir Guy endured while Colbrand's
mighty strokes shattered his armour all about him, until his shield
being broke in pieces it seemed he could no longer make defence, and the
Danes raised a great shout at their champion's triumph. Then Colbrand
aimed a last stroke at the knight to lay him low, but Sir Guy lightly
avoiding it, the giant's sword smote into the earth a foot or more, and
before he could withdraw it or free his hand, Sir Guy hewed off the arm
with his battle-axe; and since Colbrand's weight leaned on that arm, he
fell to the ground. So Sir Guy cut off his head, and triumphed over the
giant Colbrand, and the Danes withdrew to their own country.
Then without so much as telling who he was, Sir Guy doffed his armour
and put on his palmer's weeds again, and secretly withdrawing himself
from all the feasts and games they held in honour of him in the city of
Winchester, passed out alone and took his journey toward Warwick on
Many a year had gone since he had left his wife and home. The boy whom
Felice had borne him, named Raynburn, he had never seen; nor, as it
befell, did he ever see his son. For Raynburn in his childhood had been
stolen away by Saracens and carried to a far heathen country, where King
Aragus brought him up and made him first his page, then chamberlain, and
as he grew to manhood, knighted him. And now he fought the battles of
King Aragus with a strong arm like his father Guy's, neither could any
endure against his spear. But all these years Felice had passed in
prayer and charity, entertaining pilgrims and tired wayfarers, and
comforting the sick and the distressed. And it was so that Sir Guy, all
travel-worn and with his pilgrim's staff in hand, came to her house and
craved an alms. She took him in and washed his feet and ministered to
him, asking oftentimes if in his travels he had seen her lord Sir Guy.
But when he watched her gentleness to the poor and to the children at
her gate, he feared to break in upon her holy life, and so refrained
himself before her and would not reveal himself, but with a heavy heart
came out from the lady's door and gat him to a hermit's cell. There he
abode in fasting and in penitence many weeks, till feeling his end draw
near, he took the ring from his finger and sent it by a herdsman to
Felice. "Where got you this token?" cried Felice, all trembling with her
wonderment and fear. "From a poor beggar-man that lives in yonder cell,"
the herdsman answered. "From a beggar? Nay, but from a kingly man," said
Felice, "for he is my husband, Guy of Warwick!" and gave the herdsman a
hundred marks. Then she hasted and came to Sir Guy in his hermit's cell,
and for a long space they wept in each other's arms and neither spake a
Weaker and fainter waxed Sir Guy. In a little while he died, and Felice
closed his tired eyes. Fifteen weary days she lingered sore in grief,
and then God's angel came and closed her own.
God prosper long our noble king,
Our lives and safeties all;
A woeful hunting once there did
In Chevy Chase befall.
To drive the deer with hound and horn
Earl Percy took the way;
The child may rue that is unborn
The hunting of that day.
The stout earl of Northumberland
A vow to God did make,
His pleasure in the Scottish woods
Three summer days to take—
The chiefest harts in Chevy Chase
To kill and bear away.
These tidings to Earl Douglas came
In Scotland where he lay;
Who sent Earl Percy present word
He would prevent his sport.
The English earl not fearing that,
Did to the woods resort.
With fifteen hundred bowmen bold,
All chosen men of might,
Who knew full well in time of need
To aim their shafts aright.
The gallant greyhound swiftly ran
To chase the fallow deer;
On Monday they began to hunt
Ere daylight did appear;
And long before high noon they had
A hundred fat bucks slain;
Then having dined, the drovers went
To rouse the deer again.
The bowmen mustered on the hills,
Well able to endure;
Their backsides all with special care
That day were guarded sure.
The hounds ran swiftly through the woods,
The nimble deer to take,
That with their cries the hills and dales
An echo shrill did make.
Lord Percy to the quarry went
To view the tender deer;
Quoth he, "Earl Douglas promised once
This day to meet me here."
"But if I thought he would not come,
No longer would I stay";
With that a brave young gentleman
Thus to the earl did say:
"Lo, yonder doth Earl Douglas come,
His men in armour bright;
Full twenty hundred Scottish spears
All marching in our sight;
"All men of pleasant Teviotdale,
Fast by the River Tweed."
"O cease your sports," Earl Percy said,
"And take your bows with speed;
"And now with me, my countrymen,
Your courage forth advance,
For there was never champion yet,
In Scotland or in France,
"That ever did on horseback come,
And if my hap it were,
I durst encounter man for man
With him to break a spear."
Earl Douglas on his milk white steed,
Most like a baron bold,
Rode foremost of his company,
Whose armour shone like gold.
"Show me," said he, "whose men you be,
That hunt so boldly here,
That, without my consent, do chase
And kill my fallow deer."
The first man that did answer make,
Was noble Percy he,
Who said, "We list not to declare
Nor show whose men we be:
"Yet will we spend our dearest blood
Thy chiefest harts to slay."
Then Douglas swore a solemn oath,
And thus in rage did say:
"Ere thus I will out-braved be,
One of us two shall die;
I know thee well, an earl thou art—
Lord Percy, so am I.
"But trust me, Percy, pity it were,
And great offence, to kill
Any of these our guiltless men,
For they have done none ill.
"Let thou and I the battle try,
And set our men aside."
"Accurst be he," Earl Percy said,
"By whom it is denied."
Then stept a gallant squire forth—
Witherington was his name—
Who said, "I would not have it told
To Henry, our king, for shame,
"That e'er my captain fought on foot,
And I stood looking on.
You be two earls," quoth Witherington,
"And I a squire alone;
"I'll do the best that do I may,
While I have power to stand;
While I have power to wield my sword,
I'll fight with heart and hand."
Our English archers bent their bows—
Their hearts were good and true;
At the first flight of arrows sent,
Full four score Scots they slew.
To drive the deer with hound and horn,
Douglas bade on the bent,
Two captains moved with mickle might,
Their spears to shivers went.
They closed full fast on every side,
No slackness there was found,
But many a gallant gentleman
Lay gasping on the ground.
O Christ! it was great grief to see
How each man chose his spear,
And how the blood out of their breasts
Did gush like water clear.
At last these two stout earls did meet
Like captains of great might;
Like lions wode, they laid on lode;
They made a cruel fight.
They fought until they both did sweat,
With swords of tempered steel,
Till blood down their cheeks like rain
They trickling down did feel.
"O yield thee, Percy!" Douglas said,
"And in faith I will thee bring
Where thou shalt high advanced be
By James, our Scottish king.
"Thy ransom I will freely give,
And this report of thee,
Thou art the most courageous knight
That ever I did see."
"No, Douglas," quoth Earl Percy then,
"Thy proffer I do scorn;
I will not yield to any Scot
That ever yet was born."
With that there came an arrow keen,
Out of an English bow,
Which struck Earl Douglas on the breast
A deep and deadly blow.
Who never said more words than these:
"Fight on, my merry men all!
For why, my life is at an end,
Lord Percy sees my fall."
Then leaving life, Earl Percy took
The dead man by the hand;
Who said, "Earl Douglas, for thy life
Would I had lost my land!
"O Christ! my very heart doth bleed
For sorrow for thy sake,
For sure a more redoubted knight
Mischance could never take."
A knight amongst the Scots there was
Which saw Earl Douglas die,
Who straight in heart did vow revenge
Upon the Lord Percy.
Sir Hugh Montgomery was he called,
Who, with a spear full bright,
Well mounted on a gallant steed,
Ran fiercely through the fight,
And past the English archers all,
Without all dread or fear,
And through Earl Percy's body then
He thrust his hateful spear.
With such a vehement force and might
His body he did gore,
The staff ran through the other side
A large cloth-yard, and more.
Thus did both those nobles die,
Whose courage none could stain;
An English archer then perceived
The noble earl was slain.
He had a good bow in his hand
Made of a trusty tree;
An arrow of a cloth-yard long
To the hard head haled he.
Against Sir Hugh Montgomery
His shaft full right he set;
The gray-goose-wing that was thereon
In his heart's blood was wet.
This fight from break of day did last
Till setting of the sun,
For when they rang the evening-bell
The battle scarce was done.
With stout Earl Percy there was slain
Sir John of Egerton,
Sir Robert Harcliff and Sir William,
Sir James, that bold baron.
And with Sir George and Sir James,
Both knights of good account,
Good Sir Ralph Raby there was slain,
Whose prowess did surmount.
For Witherington needs must I wail
As one in doleful dumps.
For when his legs were smitten off,
He fought upon his stumps.
And with Earl Douglas there was slain
Sir Hugh Montgomery,
And Sir Charles Morrell, that from field
One foot would never flee;
Sir Roger Heuer of Harcliff, too,
His sister's son was he;
Sir David Lambwell, well esteemed,
But saved he could not be.
And the Lord Maxwell, in like case,
With Douglas he did die;
Of twenty hundred Scottish spears,
Scarce fifty-five did fly.
Of fifteen hundred Englishmen
Went home but fifty-three;
The rest in Chevy Chase were slain,
Under the greenwood tree.
Next day did many widows come
Their husbands to bewail;
They washed their wounds in brinish sears.
But all would not prevail.
Their bodies, bathed in purple blood,
They bore with them away;
They kissed them dead a thousand times
Ere they were clad in clay.
The news was brought to Edinburgh,
Where Scotland's king did reign,
That brave Earl Douglas suddenly
Was with an arrow slain.
"O heavy news!" King James can say,
"Scotland may witness be
I have not any captain more
Of such account as he."
Like tidings to King Henry came
Within as short a space,
That Percy of Northumberland
Was slain at Chevy Chase.
"Now God be with him!" said our king,
"Since it will no better be;
I trust I have within my realm
Five hundred as good as he."
"Yet shall not Scots nor Scotland say
But I will vengeance take,
And be revenged on them all
For brave Earl Percy's sake."
This vow the king did well perform
After on Humble-down;
In one day fifty knights were slain
With lords of great renown.
And of the rest, of small account,
Did many hundreds die:
Thus endeth the hunting in Chevy Chase
Made by the Earl Percy.
God save our king, and bless this land
With plenty, joy, and peace,
And grant henceforth that foul debate
Twixt noble men may cease!
THE FATE OF THE CHILDREN OF LIR
Now at the time when the Tuatha de Danaan chose a king for themselves
after the battle of Tailltin, and Lir heard the kingship was given to
Bodb Dearg, it did not please him, and he left the gathering without
leave and with no word to any one; for he thought it was he himself had
a right to be made king. But if he went away himself, Bodb was given the
kingship none the less, for not one of the five begrudged it to him but
only Lir. And it is what they determined, to follow after Lir, and to
burn down his house, and to attack himself with spear and sword, on
account of his not giving obedience to the king they had chosen. "We
will not do that," said Bodb Dearg, "for that man would defend any place
he is in; and besides that," he said, "I am none the less king over the
Tuatha de Danaan, although he does not submit to me."
All went on like that for a good while, but at last a great misfortune
came on Lir, for his wife died from him after a sickness of three
nights. And that came very hard on Lir, and there was heaviness on his
mind after her. And there was great talk of the death of that woman in
her own time.
And the news of it was told all through Ireland, and it came to the
house of Bodb, and the best of the Men of Dea were with him at that
time. And Bodb said: "If Lir had a mind for it," he said, "my help and
my friendship would be good for him now, since his wife is not living to
him. For I have here with me the three young girls of the best shape,
and the best appearance, and the best name in all Ireland, Aobh, Aoife,
and Aihbhe, the three daughters of Oilell of Aran, my own three
nurselings." The Men of Dea said then it was a good thought he had, and
that what he said was true.
Messages and messengers were sent then from Bodb Dearg to the place Lir
was, to say that if he had a mind to join with the Son of the Dagda and
to acknowledge his lordship, he would give him a foster-child of his
foster-children. And Lir thought well of the offer, and he set out on
the morrow with fifty chariots from Sidhe Fionna-chaidh; and he went by
every short way till he came to Bodb's dwelling-place at Loch Dearg, and
there was a welcome before him there, and all the people were merry and
pleasant before him, and he and his people got good attendance that
And the three daughters of Oilell of Aran were sitting on the one seat
with Bodb Dearg's wife, the queen of the Tuatha de Danaan, that was
their foster-mother. And Bodb said: "You may have your choice of the
three young girls, Lir." "I cannot say," said Lir, "which one of them is
my choice, but whichever of them is the eldest, she is the noblest, and
it is better for me to take her." "If that is so," said Bodb, "it is
Aobh is the eldest, and she will be given to you, if it is your wish."
"It is my wish," he said. And he took Aobh for his wife that night, and
he stopped there for a fortnight, and then he brought her away to his
own house, till he would make a great wedding-feast.
And in the course of time Aobh brought forth two children, a daughter
and a son, Fionnuala and Aodh their names were. And after a while she
was brought to bed again, and this time she gave birth to two sons, and
they called them Fiachra and Conn. And she herself died at their birth.
And that weighed very heavy on Lir, and only for the way his mind was
set on his four children he would have gone near to die of grief.
The news came to Bodb Dearg's place, and all the people gave out three
loud, high cries, keening their nursling. And after they had keened her
it is what Bodb Dearg said: "It is a fret to us our daughter to have
died, for her own sake and for the sake of the good man we gave her to,
for we are thankful for his friendship and his faithfulness. However,"
he said, "our friendship with one another will not be broken, for I will
give him for a wife her sister Aoife."
When Lir heard that he came for the girl and married her, and brought
her home to his house. And there was honour and affection with Aoife for
her sister's children; and indeed no person at all could see those four
children without giving them the heart's love.
And Bodb Dearg used often to be going to Lir's house for the sake of
those children; and he used to bring them to his own place for a good
length of time, and then he would let them go back to their own place
again. And the Men of Dea were at that time using the Feast of Age in
every hill of the Sidhe in turn; and when they came to Lir's hill those
four children were their joy and delight for the beauty of their
appearance; and it is where they used to sleep, in beds in sight of
their father Lir. And he used to rise up at the break of every morning,
and to lie down among his children.
But it is what came of all this, that a fire of jealousy was kindled in
Aoife, and she got to have a dislike and a hatred of her sister's
Then she let on to have a sickness, that lasted through nearly the
length of a year. And the end of that time she did a deed of jealousy
and cruel treachery against the children of Lir.
And one day she got her chariot yoked, and she took the four children in
it, and they went forward toward the house of Bodb Dearg; but Fionnuala
had no mind to go with her, for she knew by her she had some plan for
their death or their destruction, and she had seen in a dream that there
was treachery against them in Aoife's mind. But all the same she was not
able to escape from what was before her.
And when they were on their way Aoife said to her people: "Let you kill
now," she said, "the four children of Lir, for whose sake their father
has given up my love, and I will give you your own choice of a reward
out of all the good things of the world." "We will not do that indeed,"
said they; "and it is a bad deed you have thought of, and harm will come
to you out of it."
And when they would not do as she bade them, she took out a sword
herself to put an end to the children with; but she being a woman and
with no good courage, and with no great strength in her mind, she was
not able to do it.
They went on then west to Loch Dairbhreach, the Lake of the Oaks, and
the horses were stopped there. And Aoife bade the children of Lir to go
out and bathe in the lake, and they did as she bade them. And as soon as
Aoife saw them out in the lake she struck them with a Druid rod, and put
on them the shape of four swans, white and beautiful. And it is what she
said: "Out with you, children of the king, your luck is taken away from
you forever; it is sorrowful the story will be to your friends it is
with flocks of birds your cries will be heard for ever."
And Fionnuala said: "Witch, we know now what your name is, you have
struck us down with no hope of relief; but although you put us from wave
to wave, there are times when we will touch the land. We shall get help
when we are seen; help, and all that is best for us; even though we have
to sleep upon the lake, it is our minds will be going abroad early."
And then the four children of Lir turned toward Aoife, and this is what
Fionnuala said: "It is a bad deed you have done, Aoife, and it is a bad
fulfilling of friendship, you to destroy us without cause; and vengeance
for it will come upon you, and you will fall in satisfaction for it, for
your power for our destruction is not greater than the power of our
friends to avenge it on you; and put some bounds now," she said, "to the
time this enchantment is to stop on us." "I will do that," said Aoife,
"and it is worse for you, you to have asked it of me. And the bounds I I
set to your time are this, till the Woman from the South and the Man
from the North will come together. And since you ask to hear it of me,"
she said, "no friends and no power that you have will be able to bring
you out of these shapes you are in through the length of your lives,
until you have been three hundred years on Loch Dairbhreach, and three
hundred years on Sruth na Maoile between Ireland and Alban, and three
hundred years at Irrus Domnann and Inis Gluaire; and these are to be
your journeys from this out," she said.
But then repentance came on Aoife, and she said: "Since there is no
other help for me to give you now, you may keep your own speech; and you
will be singing sweet music in the Sidhe, that would put the men of the
earth to sleep, and there will be no music in the world equal to it; and
your own sense and your own nobility will stay with you, the way it will
not weigh so heavy on you to be in the shape of birds. And go away out
of my sight now, children of Lir," she said, "with your white faces,
with your stammering Irish. It is a great curse on tender lads, they to
be driven out on the rough wind. Nine hundred years to be on the water,
it is a long time for any one to be in pain; it is I put this on you
through treachery, it is best for you to do as I tell you now.
"Lir, that got victory with so many a good cast, his heart is a kernel
of death in him now; the groaning of the great hero is a sickness to me,
though it is I that have well earned his anger."
And then the horses were caught for Aoife, and the chariot yoked for
her, and she went on to the palace of Bodb Dearg, and there was a
welcome before her from the chief people of the place. And the son of
the Dagda asked her why she did not bring the children of Lir with her.
"I will tell you that," she said. "It is because Lir has no liking for
you, and he will not trust you with his children, from fear you might
keep them from him altogether."
"I wonder at that," said Bodb Dearg, "for those children are dearer to
me than my own children." And he thought in his own mind it was deceit
the woman was doing on him, and it is what he did, he sent messengers to
the North to Sidhe Fionnachaidh. And Lir asked them what did they come
for. "On the head of your children," said they. "Are they not gone to
you along with Aoife?" he said. "They are not," said they; "and Aoife
said it was yourself would not let them come."
It is downhearted and sorrowful Lir was at that news, for he understood
well it was Aoife had destroyed or made an end of his children. And
early in the morning of the morrow his horses were caught, and he set
out on the road to the Southwest. And when he was as far as the shore of
Loch Dairbhreach, the four children saw the horses coming toward them,
and it is what Fionnuala said: "A welcome to the troop of horses I see
coming near to the lake; the people they are bringing are strong, there
is sadness on them; it is us they are following, it is for us they are
looking; let us move over to the shore, Aodh, Fiachra, and comely Conn.
Those that are coming can be no others in the world but only Lir and his
Then Lir came to the edge of the lake, and he took notice of the swans
having the voice of living people, and he asked them why was it they had
"I will tell you that, Lir," said Fionnuala. "We are your own four
children, that are after being destroyed by your wife, and by the sister
of our own mother, through the dint of her jealousy." "Is there any way
to put you into your own shapes again?" said Lir. "There is no way,"
said Fionnuala, "for all the men of the world could not help us till we
have gone through our time, and that will not be," she said, "till the
end of nine hundred years."
When Lir and his people heard that, they gave out three great heavy
shouts of grief and sorrow and crying.
"Is there a mind with you," said Lir, "to come to us on the land, since
you have not your own sense and your memory yet?" "We have not the
power," said Fionnuala, "to live with any person at all from this time;
but we have our own language, the Irish, and we have the power to sing
sweet music, and it is enough to satisfy the whole race of men to be
listening to that music. And let you stop here to-night," she said, "and
we will be making music for you."
So Lir and his people stopped there listening to the music of the swans,
and they slept there quietly that night. And Lir rose up early on the
morning of the morrow and he made this complaint:
"It is time to go out from this place. I do not sleep though I am in my
lying down. To be parted from my dear children, it is that is tormenting
"It is a bad net I put over you, bringing Aoife, daughter of Oilell of
Aran, to the house. I would never have followed that advice if I had
known what it would bring upon me.
"O Fionnuala, and comely Conn, O Aodh, O Fiachra of the beautiful arms;
it is not ready I am to go away from you, from the border of the harbour
where you are."
Then Lir went on to the palace of Bodb Dearg, and there was a welcome
before him there; and he got a reproach from Bodb Dearg for not bringing
his children along with him. "My grief!" said Lir. "It is not I that
would not bring my children along with me; it was Aoife there beyond,
your own foster-child and the sister of their mother, that put them in
the shape of four white swans on Loch Dairbhreach, in the sight of the
whole of the men of Ireland; but they have their sense with them yet,
and their reason, and their voice, and their Irish."
Bodb Dearg gave a great start when he heard that, and he knew what Lir
said was true, and he gave a very sharp reproach to Aoife, and he said:
"This treachery will be worse for yourself in the end, Aoife, than to
the children of Lir. And what shape would you yourself think worst of
being in?" he said.
"I would think worst of being a witch of the air," she said. "It is into
that shape I will put you now." said Bodb. And with that he struck her
with a Druid wand, and she was turned into a witch of the air there and
then, and she went away on the wind in that shape, and she is in it yet,
and will be in it to the end of life and time.
As to Bodb Dearg and the Tuatha de Danaan they came to the shore of Loch
Dairbhreach, and they made their camp there to be listening to the music
of the swans.
And the Sons of the Gael used to be coming no less than the Men of Dea
to hear them from every part of Ireland, for there never was any music
or any delight, heard in Ireland to compare with that music of the
swans. And they used to be telling stories, and to be talking with the
men of Ireland every day, and with their teachers and their
fellow-pupils and their friends. And every night they used to sing very
sweet music of the Sidhe; and every one that heard that music would
sleep sound and quiet whatever trouble or long sickness might be on him;
for every one that heard the music of the birds, it is happy and
contented he would be after it.
These two gatherings now of the Tuatha de Danaan and of the Sons of the
Gael stopped there around Loch Dairbhreach through the length of three
hundred years. And it is then Fionnuala said to her brothers: "Do you
know," she said, "we have spent all we have to spend of our time here,
but this one night only."
And there was great sorrow on the sons of Lir when they heard that, for
they thought it the same as to be living people again, to be talking
with their friends and their companions on Loch Dairbhreach, in
comparison with going on the cold, fretful sea of the Maoil in the
And they came early on the morrow to speak with their father and with
their foster-father, and they bade them farewell, and Fionnuala made
"Farewell to you, Bodb Dearg, the man with whom all knowledge is in
pledge. And farewell to our father along with you, Lir of the Hill of
the White Field.
"The time is come, as I think, for us to part from you, O pleasant
company; my grief it is not on a visit we are going to you.
"From this day out, O friends of our heart, our comrades, it is on the
tormented course of the Maoil we will be, without the voice of any
person near us.
"There hundred years there, and three hundred years in the bay of the
men of Domnann, it is a pity for the four comely children of Lir, the
salt waves of the sea to be their covering by night.
"O three brothers, with the ruddy faces gone from you, let them all
leave the lake now, the great troop that loved us, it is sorrowful our
After that complaint they took to flight, lightly, airily, till they
came to Sruth na Maoile between Ireland and Alban. And that was a grief
to the men of Ireland, and they gave out an order no swan was to be
killed from that out, whatever chance there might be of killing one, all
It was a bad dwelling-place for the children of Lir they to be on Sruth
na Maoile. When they saw the wide coast about them, they were filled
with cold and with sorrow, and they thought nothing of all they had gone
through before, in comparison to what they were going through on that
Now one night while they were there a great storm came on them, and it
is what Fionnuala said: "My dear brothers," she said, "it is a pity for
us not to be making ready for this night, for it is certain the storm
will separate us from one another. And let us," she said, "settle on
some place where we can meet afterward, if we are driven from one
another in the night."
"Let us settle," said the others, "to meet one another at Carraig na
Ron, the Rock of the Seals, for we all have knowledge of it."
And when midnight came, the wind came on them with it, and the noise of
the waves increased, and the lightning was flashing, and a rough storm
came sweeping down; the way the children of Lir were scattered over the
great sea, and the wideness of it set them astray, so that no one of
them could know what way the others went. But after that storm a great
quiet came on the sea, and Fionnuala was alone on Sruth na Maoile; and
when she took notice that her brothers were wanting she was lamenting
after them greatly, and she made this complaint:
"It is a pity for me to be alive in the state I am; it is frozen to my
sides my wings are; it is little that the wind has not broken my heart
in my body, with the loss of Aodh.
"To be three hundred years on Loch Dairbhreach without going into my own
shape, it is worse to me the time I am on Sruth na Maoile.
"The three I loved, Och! the three I loved, that slept under the shelter
of my feathers; till the dead come back to the living I will see them no
more for ever.
"It is a pity I to stay after Fiachra, and after Aodh, and after comely
Conn, and with no account of them; my grief I to be here to face every
hardship this night."
She stopped all night there upon the Rock of the Seals until the rising
of the sun, looking out over the sea on every side till at last she saw
Conn coming to her, his feathers wet through and his head hanging, and
her heart gave him a great welcome; and then Fiachra came wet and
perished and worn out, and he could not say a word they could understand
with the dint of the cold and the hardship he had gone through. And
Fionnuala put him under her wings, and she said: "We would be well off
now if Aodh would but come to us."
It was not long after that, they saw Aodh coming, his head dry and his
feathers beautiful, and Fionnuala gave him a great welcome, and she put
him in under the feathers of her breast, and Fiachra under her right
wing and Conn under her left wing, the way she could put her feathers
over them all. "And Och! my brothers," she said, "this was a bad night
to us, and it is many of its like are before us from this out."
They stayed there a long time after that, suffering cold and misery on
the Maoil, till at last a night came on them they had never known the
like of before, for frost and snow and wind and cold. And they were
crying and lamenting the hardship of their life, and the cold of the
night and the greatness of the snow and the hardness of the wind. And
after they had suffered cold to the end of a year, a worse night again
came on them, in the middle of winter. And they were on Carraig na Ron,
and the water froze about them, and as they rested on the rock, their
feet and their wings and their feathers froze to the rock, the way they
were not able to move from it. And they made such a hard struggle to get
away, that they left the skin of their feet and their feathers and the
tops of their wings on the rock after them.
"My grief, children of Lir," said Fionnuala, "it is bad our state is
now, for we cannot bear the salt water to touch us, and there are bonds
on us not to leave it; and if the salt water goes into our sores," she
said, "we will get our death." And she made this complaint:
"It is keening we are to-night; without feathers to cover our bodies; it
is cold the rough, uneven rocks are under our bare feet.
"It is bad our stepmother was to us the time she played enchantments on
us, sending us out like swans upon the sea.
"Our washing place is on the ridge of the bay, in the foam of flying
manes of the sea; our share of the ale feast is the salt water of the
"One daughter and three sons; it is in the clefts of the rocks we are;
it is on the hard rocks we are, it is a pity the way we are."
However, they came on to the course of the Maoil again, and the salt
water was sharp and rough and bitter to them, but if it was itself, they
were not able to avoid it or to get shelter from it. And they were there
by the shore under that hardship till such time as their feathers grew
again, and their wings, and till their sores were entirely healed. And
then they used to go every day to the shore of Ireland or of Alhan, but
they had to come back to Sruth na Maoile every night.
Now they came one day to the mouth of the Banna, to the north of
Ireland, and they saw a troop of riders, beautiful, of the one colour,
with well-trained pure white horses under them, and they travelling the
road straight from the Southwest.
"Do you know who those riders are, sons of Lir?" said Fionnuala.
"We do not," they said; "but it is likely they might be some troop of
the Sons of the Gael, or of the Tuatha de Danaan."
They moved over closer to the shore then, that they might know who they
were, and when the riders saw them they came to meet them until they
were able to hold talk together.
And the chief men among them were two sons of Bodb Dearg, Aodh
Aithfhiosach, of the quick wits, and Fergus Fithchiollach, of the chess,
and a third part of the Riders of the Sidhe along with them, and it was
for the swans they had been looking for a long while before that, and
when they came together they wished one another a kind and loving
And the children of Lir asked for news of all the men of Dea, and above
all of Lir, and Bodb Dearg and their people.
"They are well, and they are in the one place together," said they, "in
your father's house at Sidhe Fionnachaidh, using the Feast of Age
pleasantly and happily, and with no uneasiness on them, only for being
without yourselves, and without knowledge of what happened you from the
day you left Loch Dairbhreach."
"That has not been the way with us," said Fionnuala, "for we have gone
through great hardship and uneasiness and misery on the tides of the sea
until this day."
And she made this complaint:
"There is delight to-night with the household of Lir! Plenty of ale with
them and of wine, although it is in a cold dwelling-place this night are
the four children of the King.
"It is without a spot our bedclothes are, our bodies covered over with
curved feathers; but it is often we were dressed in purple, and we
drinking pleasant mead.
"It is what our food is and our drink, the white sand and the bitter
water of the sea; it is often we drank mead of hazel nuts from round
four-lipped drinking cups.
"It is what our beds are, bare rocks out of the power of the waves; it
is often there used to be spread out for us beds of the breast feathers
"Though it is our work now to be swimming through the frost and through
the noise of the waves, it is often a company of the sons of kings were
riding after us to the Hill of Bodb.
"It is what wasted my strength, to be going and coming over the current
of the Maoil the way I never was used to, and never to be in the
sunshine on the soft grass.
"Fiachra's bed and Conn's bed is to come under the cover of my wings on
the sea. Aodh has his place under the feathers of my breast, the four of
us side by side.
"The teaching of Manannan without deceit, the talk of Bodb Dearg on the
pleasant ridge; the voice of Angus, his sweet kisses; it is by their
side I used to be without grief."
After that the riders went on to Lir's house, and they told the chief
men of the Tuatha de Danaan all the birds had gone through, and the
state they were in. "We have no power over them," the chief men said,
"but we are glad they are living yet, for they will get help in the end
As to the children of Lir, they went back toward their old place in the
Maoil, and they stopped there till the time they had to spend in it, was
spent. And then Fionnuala said: "The time is come for us to leave this
place. And it is to Irrus Domnann we must go now," she said, "after our
three hundred years here. And indeed there will be no rest for us there,
or any standing ground, or any shelter from the storms. But since it is
time for us to go, let us set out on the cold wind, the way we will not
So they set out in that way, and left Sruth na Maoile behind them, and
went to the point of Irrus Domnann, and there they stopped, and it is a
life of misery and a cold life they led there. And one time the sea
froze about them that they could not move at all, and the brothers were
lamenting, and Fionnuala was comforting them, for she knew there would
help come to them in the end.
And they stayed at Irrus Domnann till the time they had to spend there
was spent. And then Fionnuala said: "The time is come for us to go back
to Sidhe Fionnachaidh, where our father is with his household and with
all our own people."
"It pleases us well to hear that," they said.
So they set out flying through the air lightly till they came to Sidhe
Fionnachaidh; and it is how they found the place, empty before them, and
nothing in it but green hillocks and thickets of nettles, without a
house, without a fire, without a hearthstone. And the four pressed close
to one another then, and they gave out three sorrowful cries, and
Fionnuala made this complaint:
"It is a wonder to me this place is, and it without a house, without a
dwelling-place. To see it the way it is now, Ochonel it is bitterness to
"Without dogs, without hounds for hunting, without women, without great
kings; we never knew it to be like this when our father was in it,
"Without horns, without cups, without drinking in the lighted house;
without young men, without riders; the way it is to-night is a
foretelling of sorrow.
"The people of the place to be as they are now, Ochone! it is grief to
my heart! It is plain to my mind to-night the lord of the house is not
"Och, house where we used to see music and playing and the gathering of
people! I think it is a great change to see it lonely the way it is
"The greatness of the hardships we have gone through going from one wave
to another of the sea, we never heard of the like of them coming on any
"It is seldom this place had its part with grass and bushes; the man is
not living that would know us, it would be a wonder to him to see us
However, the children of Lir stopped that night in their father's place
and their grandfather's, where they had been reared, and they were
singing very sweet music of the Sidhe. And they rose up early on the
morning of the morrow and went to Inis Gluarie, and all the birds of the
country gathered near them on Loch na-n Ean, the Lake of the Birds. And
they used to go out to feed every day to the far parts of the country,
to Inis Geadh and to Accuill, the place Donn, son of Miled, and his
people that were drowned were buried, and to all the western islands of
Connacht, and they used to go back to Inis Gluaire every night.
It was about that time it happened them to meet with a young man of good
race, and his name was Aibric; and he often took notice of the birds,
and their singing was sweet to him and he loved them greatly, and they
loved him. And it is this young man that told the whole story of all
that had happened them, and put it in order.
And the story he told of what happened them in the end is this.
It was after the faith of Christ and blessed Patrick came into Ireland,
that Saint Mochaomhog came to Inis Gluaire. And the first night he came
to the island, the children of Lir heard the voice of his bell, ringing
near them. And the brothers started up with fright when they heard it.
"We do not know," they said, "what is that weak, unpleasing voice we
"That is the voice of the bell of Mochaomhog," said Fionnuala; "and it
is through that bell," she said, "you will be set free from pain and
They listened to that music of the bell till the matins were done, and
then they began to sing the low, sweet music of the Sidhe.
And Mochaomhog was listening to them, and he prayed to God to show him
who was singing that music, and it was showed to him that the children
of Lir were singing it. And on the morning of the morrow he went forward
to the Lake of the Birds, and he saw the swans before him on the lake,
and he went down to them at the brink of the shore. "Are you the
children of Lir?" he said.
"We are indeed," said they.
"I give thanks to God for that," said he, "for it is for your sakes I am
come to this island beyond any other island, and let you come to land
now," he said, "and give your trust to me, that you may do good deeds
and part from your sins."
They came to the land after that, and they put trust in Mochaomhog, and
he brought them to his own dwelling-place, and they used to be hearing
Mass with him. And he got a good smith and bade him make chains of
bright silver for them, and he put a chain between Aodh and Fionnuala,
and a chain between Conn and Fachra, And the four of them were raising
his heart and gladdening his mind, and no danger and no distress that
was on the swans before put any trouble on them now.
Now the king of Connacht at that time was Lairgnen, son of Colman, son
of Colman, son of Cobthach, and Deoch, daughter of Finghin, was his
wife. And that was the coming together of the Man from the North and the
Woman from the South, that Aoife had spoken of.
And the woman heard talk of the birds, and a great desire came on her to
get them, and she bade Lairgnen to bring them to her, and he said he
would ask them of Mochaomhog.
And she gave her word she would not stop another night with him unless
he would bring them to her. And she set out from the house there and
then. And Lairgnen sent messengers after her to bring her back, and they
did not overtake her till she was at Cill Dun. She went back home with
them then, and Lairgnen sent messengers to ask the birds of Mochaomhog,
and he did not get them.
There was great anger on Lairgnen then, and he went himself to the place
Mochaomhog was, and he asked was it true he had refused him the birds.
"It is true indeed," said he. At that Lairgnen rose up, and he took hold
of the swans, and pulled them off the altar, two birds in each hand, to
bring them away to Deoch. But no sooner had he laid his hand on them
than their bird skins fell off, and what was in their place was three
lean, withered old men and a thin withered old woman, without blood or
And Lairgnen gave a great start at that, and he went out from the place.
It is then Fionnuala said to Mochaomhog: "Come and baptise us now, for
it is short till our death comes; and it is certain you do not think
worse of parting with us than we do of parting with you. And make our
grave afterward," she said, "and lay Conn on my right side and Fiachra
on my left side, and Aodh before my face, between my two arms. And pray
to the God of Heaven," she said, "that you may he able to baptise us."
The children of Lir were baptised then, and they died and were buried as
Fionnuala had desired; Fiachra and Conn one at each side of her, and
Aohd before her face. And a stone was put over them, and their names
were written in Ogham, and they were keened there, and heaven was gained
for their souls.
And that is the fate of the children of Lir.
THE BELEAGUERED CITY
I have read, in some old marvellous tale
Some legend strange and vague,
That a midnight host of spectres 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 mist-like 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 alarmed 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 marvellous 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.
About the middle of the twelfth century, a rumour circulated through
Europe that there reigned in Asia a powerful Christian Emperor,
Presbyter Johannes. In a bloody fight he had broken the power of the
Mussulmans, and was ready to come to the assistance of the Crusaders.
Great was the exultation in Europe, for of late the news from the East
had been gloomy and depressing, the power of the infidel had increased,
overwhelming masses of men had been brought into the field against the
chivalry of Christendom, and it was felt that the cross must yield
before the odious crescent.
The news of the success of the Priest-King opened a door of hope to the
desponding Christian world. Pope Alexander III. determined at once to
effect a union with this mysterious personage, and on the 27th of
September, 1177, wrote him a letter, which he intrusted to his
physician, Philip, to deliver in person.
Philip started on his embassy, but never returned. The conquests of
Tschengis-Khan again attracted the eyes of Christian Europe to the East.
The Mongol hordes were rushing in upon the West with devastating
ferocity; Russia, Poland, Hungary, and the Eastern provinces of Germany
had succumbed, or suffered grievously; and the fears of other nations
were roused lest they too should taste the misery of a Mongolian
invasion. It was Gog and Magog come to slaughter, and the times of
Antichrist were dawning. But the battle of Liegnitz stayed them in their
onward career, and Europe was saved.
Pope Innocent IV. determined to convert these wild hordes of barbarians,
and subject them to the cross of Christ; he therefore sent among them a
number of Dominican and Franciscan missioners, and embassies of peace
passed between the Pope, the King of France, and the Mogul Khan,
The result of these communications with the East was, that the
travellers learned how false were the prevalent notions of a mighty
Christian empire existing in Central Asia. Vulgar superstition or
conviction is not, however, to be upset by evidence, and the locality of
the monarchy was merely transferred by the people to Africa, and they
fixed upon Abyssinia, with a show of truth, as the seat of the famous
Priest-King. However, still some doubted. John de Piano Carpini and
Marco Polo, though they acknowledged the existence of a Christian
monarch in Abyssinia, yet stoutly maintained as well that Prester John
of popular belief reigned in splendour somewhere in the dim Orient.
But before proceeding with the history of this strange fable, it will be
well to extract the different accounts given of the Priest-King and his
realm by early writers; and we shall then be better able to judge of the
influence the myth obtained in Europe.
Otto of Freisingen is the first author to mention the monarchy of
Prester John, with whom we are acquainted. Otto wrote a chronicle up to
the date 1156, and he relates that in 1145 the Catholic Bishop of Cabala
visited Europe to lay certain complaints before the Pope. He mentioned
the fall of Edessa, and also "he stated that a few years ago a certain
King and Priest called John, who lives on the farther side of Persia and
Armenia, in the remote East, and who, with all his people, were
Christians, though belonging to the Nestorian Church, had overcome the
royal brothers Samiardi, kings of the Medes and Persians, and had
captured Ecbatana, their capital and residence. The said kings had met
with their Persian, Median, and Assyrian troops, and had fought for
three consecutive days, each side having determined to die rather than
take to flight. Prester John, for so they are wont to call him, at
length routed the Persians, and after a bloody battle, remained
victorious. After which victory the said John was hastening to the
assistance of the Church at Jerusalem, but his host, on reaching the
Tigris, was hindered from passing, through a deficiency in boats, and he
directed his march North, since he had heard that the river was there
covered with ice. In that place he had waited many years, expecting
severe cold; but the winters having proved unpropitious, and the
severity of the climate having carried off many soldiers, he had been
forced to retreat to his own land. This king belongs to the family of
the Magi, mentioned in the Gospel, and he rules over the very people
formerly governed by the Magi; moreover, his fame and his wealth are so
great, that he uses an emerald sceptre only.
"Excited by the example of his ancestors, who came to worship Christ in
his cradle, he had proposed to go to Jerusalem, but had been impeded by
the above-mentioned causes."
At the same time the story crops up in other quarters; so that we cannot
look upon Otto as the inventor of the myth. The celebrated Maimonides
alludes to it in a passage quoted by Joshua Lorki, a Jewish physician to
Benedict XIII. Maimonides lived from 1135 to 1204. The passage is as
follows: "It is evident both from the letters of Rambam (Maimonides),
whose memory be blessed, and from the narration of merchants who have
visited the ends of the earth, that at this time the root of our faith
is to be found in the lands of Babel and Teman, where long ago Jerusalem
was an exile; not reckoning those who live in the land of Paras and
Madai, of the exiles of Schomrom, the number of which people is as the
sand: of these some are still under the yoke of Paras, who is called the
Great-Chief Sultan by the Arabs; others live in a place under the yoke
of a strange people … governed by a Christian chief, Preste-Cuan by
name. With him they have made a compact, and he with them; and this is a
matter concerning which there can be no manner of doubt."
Benjamin of Tudela, another Jew, travelled in the East between the years
1159 and 1173, the last being the date of his death. He wrote an account
of his travels, and gives in it some information with regard to a
mythical Jew king, who reigned in the utmost splendour over a realm
inhabited by Jews alone, situate somewhere in the midst of a desert of
vast extent. About this period there appeared a document which produced
intense excitement throughout Europe—a letter, yes! a letter from the
mysterious personage himself to Manuel Comnenus, Errmeror of
Constantinople (1143-1180). The exact date of this extraordinary epistle
cannot be fixed with any certainty, but it certainly appeared before
1241, the date of the conclusion of the chronicle of Albericus Trium
Fontium. This Albericus relates that in the year 1165 "Presbyter
Johannes, the Indian king, sent his wonderful letter to various
Christian princes, and especially to Manuel of Constantinople, and
Frederic the Roman Emperor." Similar letters were sent to Alexander
III, to Louis VII of France, and to the King of Portugal, which are
alluded to in chronicles and romances, and which were indeed turned into
rhyme, and sung all over Europe by minstrels and trouveres. The letter
is as follows:
"John, Priest by the Almighty power of God and the Might of our Lord
Jesus Christ, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, to his friend Emanuel,
Prince of Constantinople, greeting, wishing him health, prosperity, and
the continuance of Divine favour.
"Our Majesty has been informed that you hold our Excellency in love, and
that the report of our greatness has reached you. Moreover, we have
heard through our treasurer that you have been pleased to send to us
some objects of art and interest, that our Exaltedness might be
"Being human, I receive it in good part, and we have ordered our
treasurer to send you some of our articles in return.
"Now we desire to be made certain that you hold the right faith, and in
all things cleave to Jesus Christ, our Lord, for we have heard that your
court regard you as a god, though we know that you are mortal, and
subject to human infirmities….Should you desire to learn the greatness
and excellency of our Exaltedness and of the land subject to our
sceptre, then hear and believe: I, Presbyter Johannes, the Lord of
Lords, surpass all under heaven in virtue, in riches, and in power;
seventy-two kings pay us tribute….In the three Indies our Magnificence
rules, and our land extends beyond India, where rests the body of the
holy Apostle Thomas; it reaches toward the sunrise over the wastes, and
it trends toward deserted Babylon near the tower of Babel. Seventy-two
provinces, of which only a few are Christian, serve us. Each has its own
king, but all are tributary to us.
"Our land is the home of elephants, dromedaries, camels, crocodiles,
meta-collinarum, cametennus, ten-sevetes, wild asses, white and red
lions, white bears, white merules, crickets, griffins, tigers, lamias,
hyenas, wild horses, wild oxen and wild men, men with horns, one-eyed,
men with eyes before and behind, centaurs, fauns, satyrs, pygmies,
forty-ell-high giants, Cyclopses, and similar women; it is the home,
too, of the phoenix, and of nearly all living animals. We have some
people subject to us who feed on the flesh of men and of prematurely
born animals, and who never fear death. When any of these people die,
their friends and relations eat them ravenously, for they regard it as a
main duty to munch human flesh. Their names are Gog and Magog, Anie,
Agit, Azenach, Fommeperi, Befari, Conei-Samante, Agrimandri, Vintefolei,
Casbei, Alanei. These and similar nations were shut in behind lofty
mountains by Alexander the Great, toward the North. We lead them at our
pleasure against our foes, and neither man nor beast is left undevoured,
if our Majesty gives the requisite permission. And when all our foes are
eaten, then we return with our hosts home again. These accursed fifteen
nations will burst forth from the four quarters of the earth at the end
of the world, in the times of Antichrist, and overrun all the abodes of
the Saints as well as the great city Rome, which, by the way, we are
prepared to give to our son who will be born, along with all Italy,
Germany, the two Gauls, Britain and Scotland. We shall also give him
Spain and all the land as far as the icy sea. The nations to which I
have alluded, according to the words of the prophet, shall not stand in
the judgment, on account of their offensive practices, but will be
consumed to ashes by a fire which will fall on them from heaven.
"Our land streams with honey, and is overflowing with milk. In one
region grows no poisonous herb, nor does a querulous frog ever quack in
it; no scorpion exists, nor does the serpent glide amongst the grass,
nor can any poisonous animals exist in it, or injure any one.
"Among the heathen, flows through a certain province the River Indus;
encircling Paradise, it spreads its arms in manifold windings through
the entire province. Here are found the emeralds, sapphires, carbuncles,
topazes, chrysolites, onyxes, beryls, sardius, and other costly stones.
Here grows the plant Assidos, which, when worn by any one, protects him
from the evil spirit, forcing it to state its business and name;
consequently the foul spirits keep out of the way there. In a certain
land subject to us, all kinds of pepper is gathered, and is exchanged
for corn and bread, leather and cloth….At the foot of Mount Olympus
bubbles up a spring which changes its flavour hour by hour, night and
day, and the spring is scarcely three days' journey from Paradise, out
of which Adam was driven. If any one has tasted thrice of the fountain,
from that day he will feel no fatigue, but will, as long as he lives, be
as a man of thirty years. Here are found the small stones called
Nudiosi, which, if borne about the body, prevent the sight from waxing
feeble, and restore it where it is lost. The more the stone is looked
at, the keener becomes the sight. In our territory is a certain
waterless sea, consisting of tumbling billows of sand never at rest.
None have crossed this sea; it lacks water altogether, yet fish are cast
up upon the beach of various kinds, very tasty, and the like are nowhere
else to be seen. Three days' journey from this sea are mountains from
which rolls down a stony, waterless river, which opens into the sandy
sea. As soon as the stream reaches the sea, its stones vanish in it, and
are never seen again. As long as the river is in motion, it cannot be
crossed; only four days a week is it possible to traverse it. Between
the sandy sea and the said mountains, in a certain plain is a fountain
of singular virtue, which purges Christians and would-be Christians from
all transgressions. The water stands four inches high in a hollow stone
shaped like a musselsheil. Two saintly old men watch by it, and ask the
comers whether they are Christians, or are about to become Christians,
then whether they desire healing with all their hearts. If they have
answered well, they are bidden to lay aside their clothes, and to step
into the mussel. If what they said be true, then the water begins to
rise and gush over their heads; thrice does the water thus lift itself,
and every one who has entered the mussel leaves it cured of every
"Near the wilderness trickles between barren mountains a subterranean
rill, which can only by chance be reached, for only occasionally the
earth gapes, and he who would descend must do it with precipitation, ere
the earth closes again. All that is gathered under the ground there is
gem and precious stone. The brook pours into another river, and the
inhabitants of the neighbourhood obtain thence abundance of precious
stones. Yet they never venture to sell them without having first offered
them to us for our private use: should we decline them, they are at
liberty to dispose of them to strangers. Boys there are trained to
remain three or four days under water, diving after the stones.
"Beyond the stone river are the ten tribes of the Jews, which, though
subject to their own kings, are, for all that, our slaves and tributary
to our Majesty. In one of our lands, hight Zone, are worms called in our
tongue Salamanders. These worms can only live in fire, and they build
cocoons like silk-worms, which are unwound by the ladies of our palace,
and spun into cloth and dresses, which are worn by our Exaltedness.
These dresses, in order to be cleaned and washed, are cast into
flames…. When we go to war, we have fourteen golden and bejewelled
crosses borne before us instead of banners; each of these crosses is
followed by 10,000 horsemen, and 100,000 foot soldiers fully armed,
without reckoning those in charge of the luggage and provision.
"When we ride abroad plainly, we have a wooden, unadorned cross, without
gold or gem about it, borne before us, in order that we may meditate on
the sufferings of Our Lord Jesus Christ; also a golden bowl filled with
earth, to remind us of that whence we sprung, and that to which we must
return; but besides these there is borne a silver bowl full of gold, as
a token to all that we are the Lord of Lords.
"All riches, such as are upon the world, our Magnificence possesses in
superabundance. With us no one lies, for he who speaks a lie is
thenceforth regarded as dead; he is no more thought of, or honoured by
us. No vice is tolerated by us. Every year we undertake a pilgrimage,
with retinue of war, to the body of the holy prophet Daniel, which is
near the desolated site of Babylon. In our realm fishes are caught, the
blood of which dyes purple. The Amazons and the Brahmins are subject to
us. The palace in which our Super-eminency resides, is built after the
pattern of the castle built by the Apostle Thomas for the Indian king
Gundoforus. Ceilings, joists, and architrave are of Sethym wood, the
roof of ebony, which can never catch fire. Over the gable of the palace
are, at the extremities, two golden apples, in each of which are two
carbuncles, so that the gold may shine by day, and the carbuncles by
night. The greater gates of the palace are of sardius, with the horn of
the horned snake inwrought, so that no one can bring poison within.
"The other portals are of ebony. The windows are of crystal; the tables
are partly of gold, partly of amethyst, and the columns supporting the
tables are partly of ivory, partly of amethyst. The court in which we
watch the jousting is floored with onyx in order to increase the courage
of the combatants. In the palace, at night, nothing is burned for light
but wicks supplied with balsam….Before our palace stands a mirror, the
ascent to which consists of five and twenty steps of porphyry and
serpentine." After a description of the gems adorning this mirror, which
is guarded night and day by three thousand armed men, he explains its
use: "We look therein and behold all that is taking place in every
province and region subject to our sceptre.
"Seven kings wait upon us monthly, in turn, with sixty-two dukes, two
hundred and fifty-six counts and marquises: and twelve archbishops sit
at table with us on our right, and twenty bishops on the left, besides
the patriarch of St. Thomas, the Sarmatian Protopope, and the Archpope
of Susa….Our lord high steward is a primate and king, our cup-bearer
is an archbishop and king, our chamberlain a bishop and king, our
marshal king and abbot."
THE WANDERING JEW
The year 1228, "a certain Archbishop of Armenia the Greater came on a
pilgrimage to England to see the relics of the saints, and visit the
sacred places in the kingdom, as he had done in others; he also produced
letters of recommendation from his Holiness the Pope, to the religious
and the prelates of the churches, in which they were enjoined to receive
and entertain him with due reverence and honour. On his arrival, he came
to St. Albans, where he was received with all respect by the abbot and
the monks; and at this place, being fatigued with his journey, he
remained some days to rest himself and his followers, and a conversation
took place between him and the inhabitants of the convent, by means of
their interpreters, during which he made many inquiries relating to the
religion and religious observances of this country, and told many
strange things concerning the countries of the East. In the course of
conversation he was asked whether he had ever seen or heard any thing of
Joseph, a man of whom there was much talk in the world, who, when our
Lord suffered, was present and spoke to Him, and who is still alive, in
evidence of the Christian faith; in reply to which, a knight in his
retinue, who was his interpreter, replied, speaking in French, 'My lord
well knows that man, and a little before he took his way to the western
countries, the said Joseph ate at the table of my lord the Archbishop of
Armenia, and he has often seen and conversed with him.'
"He was then asked about what had passed between Christ and the said
Joseph; to which he replied, 'At the time of the passion of Jesus
Christ, He was seized by the Jews, and led into the hall of judgment
before Pilate, the governor, that He might be judged by him on the
accusation of the Jews; and Pilate, finding no fault for which he might
sentence Him to death, said unto them, "Take Him and judge Him according
to your law"; the shouts of the Jews, however, increasing, he, at their
request, released unto them Barabbas, and delivered Jesus to them to be
crucified. When, therefore, the Jews were dragging Jesus forth, and had
reached the door, Cartaphilus, a porter of the hall in Pilate's service,
as Jesus was going out of the door, impiously struck Him on the back
with his hand, and said in mockery, "Go quicker, Jesus, go quicker; why
do you loiter?" and Jesus, looking back on him with a severe
countenance, said to him, "I am going, and you shall wait till I
return." And according as our Lord said, this Cartaphilus is still
awaiting His return. At the time of our Lord's suffering he was thirty
years old, and when he attains the age of a hundred years, he always
returns to the same age as he was when our Lord suffered. After Christ's
death, when the Catholic faith gained ground, this Cartaphilus was
baptised by Ananias (who also baptised the Apostle Paul), and was called
Joseph. He dwells in one or other divisions of Armenia, and in divers
Eastern countries, passing his time amongst the bishops and other
prelates of the Church; he is a man of holy conversation, and religious;
a man of few words, and very circumspect in his behaviour; for he does
not speak at all unless when questioned by the bishops and religious;
and then he relates the events of olden times, and speaks of things
which occurred at the suffering and resurrection of our Lord, and of the
witnesses of the resurrection, namely, of those who rose with Christ,
and went into the holy city, and appeared unto men. He also tells of the
creed of the Apostles, and of their separation and preaching. And all
this he relates without smiling, or levity of conversation, as one who
is well practised in sorrow and the fear of God, always looking forward
with dread to the coming of Jesus Christ, lest at the Last Judgment he
should find Him in anger whom, when on His way to death, he had provoked
to just vengeance. Numbers came to him from different parts of the
world, enjoying his society and conversation; and to them, if they are
men of authority, he explains all doubts on the matters on which he is
questioned. He refuses all gifts that are offered him, being content
with slight food and clothing.'"
Much about the same date, Philip Mouskes, afterward Bishop of Tournay,
wrote his rhymed chronicle (1242), which contains a similar account of
the Jew, derived from the same Armenian prelate:
"Adonques vint un arceveskes
De ca mer, plains de bonnes teques
Par samblant, et fut d'Armenie,"
and this man, having visited the shrine of "St. Tumas de Kantobire," and
then having paid his devotions at "Monsigour St. Jake," he went on to
Cologne to see the heads of the three kings. The version told in the
Netherlands much resembled that related at St. Albans, only that the
Jew, seeing the people dragging Christ to his death, exclaims:
"Atendes moi! g'i vois,
S'iert mis le faus profete en crois."
"Le vrais Dieux se regarda,
Et li a dit qu'e n'i tarda,
Icist ne t'atenderont pas,
Mais saces, tu m'atenderas."
We hear no more of the wandering Jew till the sixteenth century, when we
hear first of him in a casual manner, as assisting a weaver, Kokot, at
the royal palace in Bohemia (1505), to find a treasure which had been
secreted by the great-grandfather of Kokot, sixty years before, at which
time the Jew was present. He then had the appearance of being a man of
Curiously enough, we next hear of him in the East, where he is
confounded with the prophet Elijah. Early in the century he appeared to
Fadhilah, under peculiar circumstances.
After the Arabs had captured the city of Elvan, Fadhilah, at the head of
three hundred horsemen, pitched his tents, late in the evening, between
two mountains. Fadhilah, having begun his evening prayer with a loud
voice, heard the words "Allah akbar" (God is great) repeated distinctly,
and each word of his prayer was followed in a similar manner. Fadhilah,
not believing this to be the result of an echo, was much astonished, and
cried out, "O thou! whether thou art of the angel ranks, or whether thou
art of some other order of spirits, it is well; the power of God be with
thee; but if thou art a man, then let mine eyes light upon thee, that I
may rejoice in thy presence and society." Scarcely had he spoken these
words, before an aged man, with bald head, stood before him, holding a
staff In his hand, and much resembling a dervish in appearance. After
having courteously saluted him, Fadhilah asked the old man who he was.
Thereupon the stranger answered, "Bassi Hadhret Issa, I am here by
command of the Lord Jesus, who has left me in this world, that I may
live therein until he come a second time to earth. I wait for this Lord,
who is the Fountain of Happiness, and in obedience to his command I
dwell behind yon mountain." When Fadhilah heard these words, he asked
when the Lord Jesus would appear; and the old man replied that his
appearing would be at the end of the world, at the Last Judgment. But
this only increased Fadhilah's curiosity, so that he inquired the signs
of the approach of the end of all things, whereupon Zerib Bar Elia gave
him an account of general, social, and moral dissolution, which would be
the climax of this world's history.
In 1547 he was seen in Europe, if we are to believe the following
"Paul von Eitzen, Doctor of the Holy Scriptures, and Bishop of
Schleswig, [Footnote: Paul v. Eitzen was born January 25, 1522, at
Hamburg; in 1562 he was appointed chief preacher for Schleswig, and died
February 25, 1598.] related as true for some years past, that when he
was young, having studied at Wittemberg, he returned home to his parents
in Hamburg in the winter of the year 1547, and that on the following
Sunday, in church, he observed a tall man, with his hair hanging over
his shoulders, standing barefoot, during the sermon, over against the
pulpit, listening with deepest attention to the discourse, and, whenever
the name of Jesus was mentioned, bowing himself profoundly and humbly,
with sighs and beating of the breast. He had no other clothing, in the
bitter cold of the winter, except a pair of hose which were in tatters
about his feet, and a coat with a girdle which reached to his feet; and
his general appearance was that of a man of fifty years. And many
people, some of high degree and title, have seen this same man in
England, France, Italy, Hungary, Persia, Spain, Poland, Moscow, Lapland,
Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, and other places.
"Every one wondered over the man. Now, after the sermon, the said Doctor
inquired diligently where the stranger was to be found; and when he had
sought him out, he inquired of him privately whence he came, and how
long that winter he had been in the place. Thereupon he replied,
modestly, that he was a Jew by birth, a native of Jerusalem, by name
Aliasverus, by trade a shoemaker; he had been present at the crucifixion
of Christ, and had lived ever since, travelling through various lands
and cities, the which he substantiated by accounts he gave; he related
also the circumstances of Christ's transference from Pilate to Herod,
and the final crucifixion, together with other details not recorded in
the Evangelists and historians; he gave accounts of the changes of
government in many countries, especially of the East, through several
centuries; and moreover he detailed the labours and deaths of the holy
Apostles of Christ most circumstantially.
"Now when Doctor Paul v. Eitzen heard this with profound astonishment,
on account of its incredible novelty, he inquired further, in order that
he might obtain more accurate information. Then the man answered, that
he had lived in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion of Christ, whom
he had regarded as a deceiver of the people, and a heretic; he had seen
Him with his own eyes, and had done his best, along with others, to
bring this deceiver, as he regarded Him, to justice, and to have Him put
out of the way. When the sentence had been pronounced by Pilate, Christ
was about to be dragged past his house; then he ran home, and called
together his household to have a look at Christ, and see what sort of a
person He was.
"This having been done, he had his little child on his arm, and was
standing in his doorway, to have a sight of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"As, then, Christ was led by, bowed under the weight of the heavy cross,
He tried to rest a little, and stood still a moment; but the shoemaker,
in zeal and rage, and for the sake of obtaining credit among the other
Jews, drove the Lord Christ forward, and told Him to hasten on His way.
Jesus, obeying, looked at him, and said, 'I shall stand and rest, but
thou shalt go till the last day.' At these words the man set down the
child; and, unable to remain where he was, he followed Christ, and saw
how cruelly He was crucified, how He suffered, how He died. As soon as
this had taken place, it came upon him suddenly that he could no more
return to Jerusalem, nor see again his wife and child, but must go forth
into foreign lands, one after another, like a mournful pilgrim. Now,
when, years after, he returned to Jerusalem, he found it ruined and
utterly razed, so that not one stone was left standing on another; and
he could not recognise former localities.
"He believes that it is God's purpose, in thus driving him about in
miserable life, and preserving him undying, to present him before the
Jews at the end, as a living token, so that the godless and unbelieving
may remember the death of Christ, and be turned to repentance. For his
part he would well rejoice were God in heaven to release him from this
vale of tears. After this conversation, Doctor Paul v. Eitzen, along
with the rector of the school of Hamburg, who was well read in history,
and a traveller, questioned him about events which had taken place in
the East since the death of Christ, and he was able to give them much
information on many ancient matters; so that it was impossible not to be
convinced of the truth of his story, and to see that what seems
impossible with men is, after all, possible with God.
"Since the Jew has had his life extended, he has become silent and
reserved, and only answers direct questions. When invited to become any
one's guest, he eats little, and drinks in great moderation; then
hurries on, never remaining long in one place. When at Hamburg, Dantzig,
and elsewhere, money has been offered him, he never took more than two
shillings (fourpence, one farthing), and at once distributed it to the
poor, as token that he needed no money, for God would provide for him,
as he rued the sins he had committed in ignorance.
"During the period of his stay in Hamburg and Dantzig he was never seen
to laugh. In whatever land he travelled he spoke its language, and when
he spoke Saxon, it was like a native Saxon. Many people came from
different places to Hamburg and Dantzig in order to see and hear this
man, and were convinced that the providence of God was exercised in this
individual in a very remarkable manner. He gladly listened to God's
word, or heard it spoken of always with great gravity and compunction,
and he ever reverenced with sighs the pronunciation of the name of God,
or of Jesus Christ, and could not endure to hear curses; but whenever he
heard any one swear by God's death or pains, he waxed indignant, and
exclaimed, with vehemence and with sighs, 'Wretched man and miserable
creature, thus to misuse the name of thy Lord and God, and His bitter
sufferings and passion. Hadst thou seen, as I have, how heavy and bitter
were the pangs and wounds of thy Lord, endured for thee and for me, thou
wouldst rather undergo great pain thyself than thus take His sacred name
"Such is the account given to me by Doctor Paul von Eitzen, with many
circumstantial proofs, and corroborated by certain of my own old
acquaintances who saw this same individual with their own eyes in
"In the year 1575 the Secretary Christopher Krause, and Master Jacob von
Holstein, legates to the Court of Spain, and afterward sent into the
Netherlands to pay the soldiers serving his Majesty in that country,
related on their return home to Schleswig, and confirmed with solemn
oaths, that they had come across the same mysterious individual at
Madrid in Spain, in appearance, manner of life, habits, clothing, just
the same as he had appeared in Hamburg. They said that they had spoken
with him, and that many people of all classes had conversed with him,
and found him to speak good Spanish. In the year 1599, in December, a
reliable person wrote from Brunswick to Strasburg that the same
mentioned strange person had been seen alive at Vienna in Austria, and
that he had started for Poland and Dantzig; and that he purposed going
on to Moscow. This Ahasverus was at Lubeck in 1601, also about the same
date in Revel in Livonia, and in Cracow in Poland. In Moscow he was seen
of many and spoken to by many.
"What thoughtful, God-fearing persons are to think of the said person,
is at their option. God's works are wondrous and past finding out, and
are manifested day by day, only to be revealed in full at the last great
day of account.
"Dated, Revel, August 1st, 1613.
* * * * *
In 1604 he seems to have appeared in Paris. Rudolph Botoreus says, under
this date, "I fear lest I be accused of giving ear to old wives' fables,
if I insert in these pages what is reported all over Europe of the Jew,
coeval with the Saviour Christ; however, nothing is more common, and our
popular histories have not scrupled to assert it. Following the lead of
those who wrote our annals, I may say that he who appeared not in one
century only, in Spain, Italy, and Germany, was also in this year seen
and recognised as the same individual who had appeared in Hamburg, anno
MDLXVI. The common people, bold in spreading reports, relate many things
of him; and this I allude to, lest anything should be left unsaid."
J. C. Bulenger puts the date of the Hamburg visit earlier. "It was
reported at this time that a Jew of the time of Christ was wandering
without food and drink, having for a thousand and odd years been a
vagabond and outcast, condemned by God to rove, because he, of that
generation of vipers, was the first to cry out for the crucifixion of
Christ and the release of Barabbas; and also because soon after, when
Christ, panting under the burden of the rood, sought to rest before his
workshop (he was a cobbler), the fellow ordered Him off with acerbity.
Thereupon Christ replied, 'Because thou grudgest Me such a moment of
rest, I shall enter into My rest, but thou shalt wander restless.' At
once, frantic and agitated, he fled through the whole earth, and on the
same account to this day he journeys through the world. It was this
person who was seen in Hamburg in MDLXIV. Credat Judaeus Apella! I did
not see him, or hear anything authentic concerning him, at that time
when I was in Paris."
A curious little book, written against the quackery of Paracelsus, by
Leonard Doldius, a Nurnberg physician, and translated into Latin and
augmented, by Andreas Libavius, doctor and physician of Rotenburg,
alludes to the same story, and gives the Jew a new name nowhere else met
with. After having referred to a report that Paracelsus was not dead,
but was seated alive, asleep or napping, in his sepulchre at Strasburg,
preserved from death by some of his specifics, Labavius declares that he
would sooner believe in the old man, the Jew, Ahasverus, wandering over
the world, called by some Buttadaeus, and otherwise, again, by others.
He is said to have appeared in Naumburg, but the date is not given; he
was noticed in church, listening to the sermon. After the service he was
questioned, and he related his story. On this occasion he received
presents from the burgers. In 1633 he was again in Hamburg. In the year
1640, two citizens, living in the Gerberstrasse, in Brussels, were
walking in the Sonian wood, when they encountered an aged man, whose
clothes were in tatters and of an antiquated appearance. They invited
him to go with them to a house of refreshment, and he went with them,
but would not seat himself, remaining on foot to drink. When he came
before the doors with the two burgers, he told them a great deal; but
they were mostly stories of events which had happened many hundred years
before. Hence the burgers gathered that their companion was Isaac
Laquedem, the Jew who had refused to permit our Blessed Lord to rest for
a moment at his door-step, and they left him full of terror. In 1642 he
is reported to have visited Leipzig. On the 22d July, 1721, he appeared
at the gates of the city of Munich. About the end of the seventeenth
century or the beginning of the eighteenth, an impostor, calling himself
the Wandering Jew, attracted attention in England, and was listened to
by the ignorant, and despised by the educated. He, however, managed to
thrust himself into the notice of the nobility, who, half in jest, half
in curiosity, questioned him, and paid him as they might a juggler. He
declared that he had been an officer of the Sanhedrim, and that he had
struck Christ as he left the judgment hall of Pilate. He remembered all
the Apostles, and described their personal appearance, their clothes,
and their peculiarities. He spoke many languages, claimed the power of
healing the sick and asserted that he had travelled nearly all over the
world. Those who heard him were perplexed by his familiarity with
foreign tongues and places. Oxford and Cambridge sent professors to
question him, and to discover the imposition, if any. An English
nobleman conversed with him in Arabic. The mysterious stranger told his
questioner in that language that historical works were not to be relied
upon. And on being asked his opinion of Mahomet, he replied that he had
been acquainted with the father of the prophet, and that he dwelt at
Ormuz. As for Mahomet, he believed him to have been a man of
intelligence; once when he heard the prophet deny that Christ was
crucified, he answered abruptly by telling him he was a witness to the
truth of that event. He related also that he was in Rome when Nero set
it on fire; he had known Saladin, Tamerlane, Bajazeth, Eterlane, and
could give minute details of the history of the Crusades.
Whether this wandering Jew was found out in London or not, we cannot
tell, but he shortly after appeared in Denmark, thence travelled into
Sweden, and vanished.
KING ROBERT OF SICILY
Robert of Sicily, brother of Pope Urbane
And Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine,
Apparelled in magnificent attire,
With retinue of many a knight and squire,
On St. John's eve, at vespers, proudly sat
And heard the priests chant the Magnificat.
And as he listened, o'er and o'er again
Repeated, like a burden or refrain,
He caught the words, "Deposuit potentes
De sede, et exaltavit humiles";
And slowly lifting up his kingly head
He to a learned clerk beside him said,
"What mean these words?" The clerk made answer meet,
"He has put down the mighty from their seat,
And has exalted them of low degree."
Thereat King Robert muttered scornfully,
"'T is well that such seditious words are sung
Only by priests and in the Latin tongue;
For unto priests and people be it known,
There is no power can push me from my throne!"
And leaning back, he yawned and fell asleep,
Lulled by the chant monotonous and deep.
When he awoke, it was already night;
The church was empty, and there was no light,
Save where the lamps, that glimmered few and faint,
Lighted a little space before some saint.
He started from his seat and gazed around,
But saw no living thing and heard no sound.
He groped toward the door, but it was locked;
He cried aloud, and listened, and knocked,
And uttered awful threatenings and complaints,
And imprecations upon men and saints.
The sounds reechoed from the roof and walls
As if dead priests were laughing in their stalls.
At length the sexton, hearing from without
The tumult of the knocking and the shout,
And thinking thieves were in the house or prayer,
Came with his lantern, asking, "Who is there?"
Half choked with rage, King Robert fiercely said,
"Open:'tis I, the King! Art thou afraid?"
The frightened sexton, muttering, with a curse,
"This is some drunken vagabond, or worse!"
Turned the great key and flung the portal wide;
A man rushed by him at a single stride,
Haggard, half naked, without hat or cloak,
Who neither turned, nor looked at him, nor spoke,
But leaped into the blackness of the night,
And vanished like a spectre from his sight.
Robert of Sicily, brother of Pope Urbane
And Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine,
Despoiled of his magnificent attire,
Bareheaded, breathless, and besprent with mire,
With sense of wrong and outrage desperate,
Strode on and thundered at the palace gate;
Rushed through the courtyard, thrusting in his rage
To right and left each seneschal and page,
And hurried up the broad and sounding stair,
His white face ghastly in the torches' glare.
From hall to hall he passed with breathless speed;
Voices and cries he heard, but did not heed,
Until at last he reached the banquet-room,
Blazing with light, and breathing with perfume.
There on the dais sat another king,
Wearing his robes, his crown, his signet-ring,
King Robert's self in features, form, and height,
But all transfigured with angelic light!
It was an Angel; and his presence there
With a divine effulgence rilled the air,
An exaltation, piercing the disguise,
Though none the hidden Angel recognised.
A moment speechless, motionless, amazed,
The throneless monarch on the Angel gazed,
Who met his look of anger and surprise
With the divine compassion of his eyes;
Then said, "Who art thou? and why com'st thou here?"
To which King Robert answered with a sneer,
"I am the King, and come to claim my own
From an impostor, who usurps my throne!"
And suddenly, at these audacious words,
Up sprang the angry guests, and drew their swords;
The Angel answered, with unruffled brow,
"Nay, not the King, but the King's Jester, thou
Henceforth shalt wear the bells and scalloped cape,
And for thy counsellor shalt lead an ape;
Thou shalt obey my servants when they call,
And wait upon my henchmen in the hall!"
Deaf to King Robert's threats and cries and prayers,
They thrust him from the hall and down the stairs;
A group of tittering pages ran before,
And as they opened wide the folding-door,
His heart failed, for he heard, with strange alarms,
The boisterous laughter of the men-at-arms,
And all the vaulted chamber roar and ring
With the mock plaudits of "Long live the King!"
Next morning, waking with the day's first beam,
He said within himself, "It was a dream!"
But the straw rustled as he turned his head,
There were the cap and bells beside his bed,
Around him rose the bare, discolored walls,
Close by, the steeds were champing in their stalls,
And in the corner, a revolting shape,
Shivering and chattering sat the wretched ape.
It was no dream; the world he loved so much
Had turned to dust and ashes at his touch!
Days came and went; and now returned again
To Sicily the old Saturnian reign;
Under the Angel's governance benign
The happy island danced with corn and wine,
And deep within the mountain's burning breast
Enceladus, the giant, was at rest.
Meanwhile King Robert yielded to his fate,
Sullen and silent and disconsolate.
Dressed in the motley garb that Jesters wear,
With look bewildered and a vacant stare,
Close shaven above the ears, as monks are shorn,
By courtiers mocked, by pages laughed to scorn,
His only friend the ape, his only food
What others left—he still was unsubdued.
And when the Angel met him on his way,
And half in earnest, half in jest, would say,
Sternly, though tenderly, that he might feel
The velvet scabbard held a sword of steel,
"Art thou the King?" the passion of his woe
Burst from him in resistless overflow
And, lifting high his forehead he, would fling
The haughty answer back, "I am, I am the King!"
Almost three years were ended; when there came
Ambassadors of great repute and name
From Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine,
Unto King Robert, saying that Pope Urbane
By letter summoned them forthwith to come
On Holy Thursday to his city of Rome.
The Angel with great joy received his guests,
And gave them presents of embroidered vests,
And velvet mantles with rich ermine lined,
And rings and jewels of the rarest kind.
Then he departed with them o'er the sea
Into the lovely land of Italy,
Whose loveliness was more resplendent made
By the mere passing of that cavalcade,
With plumes, and cloaks, and housings, and the stir
Of jewelled bridle and of golden spur.
And lo! among the menials, in mock state,
Upon a piebald steed, with shambling gait,
His cloak of fox-tails flapping in the wind,
The solemn ape demurely perched behind,
King Robert rode, making huge merriment
In all the country towns through which they went.
The Pope received them with great pomp and blare
Of bannered trumpets, on Saint Peter's square,
Giving his benediction and embrace,
Fervent, and full of apostolic grace.
While with congratulations and with prayers
He entertained the Angel unawares,
Robert, the Jester, bursting through the crowd,
Into their presence rushed, and cried aloud,
"I am the King! Look, and behold in me
Robert, your brother, King of Sicily!
This man, who wears my semblance to your eyes,
Is an impostor in a king's disguise.
Do you not know me? does no voice within
Answer my cry, and say we are akin?"
The Pope in silence, but with troubled mien,
Gazed at the Angel's countenance serene;
The Emperor, laughing, said, "It is strange sport
To keep a madman for thy Fool at court!"
And the poor, baffled Jester in disgrace
Was hustled back among the populace.
In solemn state the Holy Week went by,
And Easter Sunday gleamed upon the sky;
The presence of the Angel, with its light,
Before the sun rose, made the city bright,
And with new fervour filled the hearts of men,
Who felt that Christ indeed had risen again.
Even the Jester, on his bed of straw,
With haggard eyes the unwonted splendour saw,
He felt within a power unfelt before,
And, kneeling humbly on his chamber-floor,
He heard the rushing garments of the Lord
Sweep through the silent air, ascending heavenward.
And now the visit ending, and once more
Valmond returning to the Danube's shore,
Homeward the Angel journeyed, and again
The land was made resplendent with his train,
Flashing along the towns of Italy
Unto Salerno, and from thence by sea.
And when once more within Palermo's wall,
And, seated on the throne in his great hall,
He heard the Angelus from convent towers,
As if the better world conversed with ours,
He beckoned to King Robert to draw nigher,
And with a gesture bade the rest retire;
And when they were alone, the Angel said,
"Art thou the King?" Then, bowing down his head,
King Robert crossed both hands upon his breast,
And meekly answered him: "Thou knowest best!
My sins as scarlet are; let me go hence,
And in some cloister's school of penitence,
Across those stones, that pave the way to heaven,
Walk barefoot, till my guilty soul be shriven!"
The Angel smiled, and from his radiant face
A holy light illumined all the place,
And through the open window, loud and clear,
They heard the monks chant in the chapel near,
Above the stir and tumult of the street:
"He has put down the mighty from their seat,
And has exalted them of low degree!"
And through the chant a second melody
Rose like the throbbing of a single string:
"I am an Angel, and thou art the King!"
King Robert, who was standing near the throne,
Lifted his eyes, and lo! he was alone!
But all apparelled as in days of old,
With ermined mantle and with cloth of gold;
And when his courtiers came, they found him there
Kneeling upon the floor, absorbed in silent prayer.
And then the blue-eyed Norseman told
A Saga of the days of old.
"There is," said he, "a wondrous book
Of Legends in the old Norse tongue,
Of the dead kings of Norroway—
Legends that once were told or sung
In many a smoky fireside nook
Of Iceland, in the ancient day,
By wandering Saga-man or Scald;
'Heimskringla' is the volume called;
And he who looks may find therein
The story that I now begin."
And in each pause the story made
Upon his violin he played,
As an appropriate interlude,
Fragments of old Norwegian tunes
That bound in one the separate runes,
And held the mind in perfect mood,
Entwining and encircling all
The strange and antiquated rhymes
With melodies of olden times;
As over some half-ruined wall,
Disjointed and about to fall,
Fresh woodbines climb and interlace,
And keep the loosened stones in place.
THE BEATO TORELLO DA POPPI
In that time in which the portion of Tuscany called Casentino was not
yet subject to the Florentines, but was ruled by its own counts, in the
lands of Poppi, an important place in that valley through which runs the
river Arno, and not far from its source, a son was born to a certain
good man named Paolo, to whom he gave the name of Torello, and whom,
when a suitable age, he not only taught to fear God, and to lead a
Christian life, but sent to school, that he might learn the first
principles of letters—which he soon did—and to avoid evil companions
and imitate the good. The young Torello, being accustomed to this life,
and his father dying, for some time proceeded from good to better.
But that not pleasing our common enemy, who always goes about seeking
whom he may devour, he so tempted Torello—God permitting it, for future
and greater good—that he abandoned a virtuous life, and gave himself to
the pursuit of the pleasures of the world; so that instead of being
praised for his blameless and religious life, he was censured by all,
and had become the very opposite of what he had at first been.
But the blessed Lord—who had never abandoned him, though He had left
him to wander, in order to permit him to become a true mirror of
penitence—called him to himself in this manner; as he was one day
wandering and seeking amusement with his idle companions, a cock that
was on a perch outside a window suddenly fell, and alighted on his
shoulder, and crowed three times, and then flew back to the perch.
Torello, calling to mind how the Apostle Peter had in a similar manner
been made to gee his guilt, awaked from his sleep of vice and sin in a
state of wonder and fear; and thinking that this could have happened
only by divine Providence, and to show him that he was in the power of
the devil, left his companions instantly, and in penitence and tears
sought the Abbot of Poppi, of the order of Vallombrosa; and commending
himself to his prayers, threw himself at his feet, humbly begging for
the robe of a mendicant friar, since he desired to serve God in the
humblest manner. The abbot wondered much, knowing by common report
Torello to be a youth of most incorrect life, to see him thus kneeling
in contrition before him, and endeavoured, together with the monks, to
persuade him to take their habit of St. John Gualberto. But at last,
seeing he had no heart for it, and remained constant to his first
request, he at last granted it; and he became a poor brother, and almost
a desert hermit, for having received the benediction of the abbot,
without communicating with either his family or friends, he left that
country and took his way toward the most desert and savage places of the
mountains, wandering among them for eight days, and passing the night
wherever it chanced to overtake him. But having at last come to a great
rock, near a place called Avellanato, he remained there, adopting it for
a cell eight days more, weeping for his sins, praying, and imploring God
to pardon him; living all this time on three small loaves, which he had
brought with him, and on wild herbs like the animals; and being much
pleased with the place, he determined to make a cell under that great
rock, and there spend all the days of this life, serving God with fasts,
vigils, discipline, and prayers, and bitterly lamenting his past sins
and evil life.
Having taken this resolution, he went to his own country to put his
affairs in order; and all his relatives and friends came about him,
praying him with much earnestness, if he sought to serve God, to leave
this life of a wild beast and join some order, living like other monks.
But all was of no avail; and selling all his goods, he gave the price to
the poor, reserving to himself only a small sum of money to build a
cell. And he returned to his solitude with a mason, who made for him a
miserable cell under that same rock; and he bought near it enough land
for a small garden, and there established himself, practising the most
Having now spoken of the penitence and life of the Beato Torello, we
must make mention of the great gifts and grace which he received from
God during his life, and which were often granted to him in behalf of
those who commended themselves to him in faith and devotion.
A poor woman of Poppi, who had only one son, three years old, going to
the spring to wash her clothes, took him with her; and he having strayed
from her a little way while she was washing, a savage wolf seized him
and carried him away, and the poor woman's shrieks could be heard almost
at Poppi, while she could do nothing but commend the child to God. While
the wolf was escaping with his prey between his teeth, he came, as it
pleased God—who thus began to make known the reward of his service—to
the cell of the Beato Torello; who, when he saw this, instantly ordered
the wolf, in God's name, to lay the child on the ground, safe and sound;
which command the wolf no sooner heard than he came to him immediately,
and laid the child at his feet. And after he had, with evident humility,
received the directions of the holy father, that neither he, nor any of
the wolves his companions, should do any harm to any person of that
country, he departed, and returned to the forest; and the servant of God
took the half-dead child into his cell, where he made a prayer to the
Lord, and he was immediately healed of the wounds the wolf's teeth had
made in his throat. And when his mother came seeking him with great
lamentation and sorrow, he graciously restored him to her alive and
well, but with the command that while he lived she should never reveal
Carlo, Count of Poppi, being very fond of the Beato Torello, sent him by
his steward, one evening in Carnival, a basket full of provisions,
praying the good father to accept it for love of him. The steward also
carried him many other gifts, which some good ladies, knowing where he
was going, took the opportunity to send by his hand.
Having arrived at the cell, he presented them all to the padre, who
thanked him much, and returned him the empty baskets; when he took
occasion to enquire, how he, being alone, could possibly eat so much in
one evening. And Torello, seeing that the steward thought him a great
eater, answered: "I am not alone, as you suppose; my companion will come
from the woods before long, who has a great appetite, and he will help
me." And the steward, hearing this, hid himself in the wood not far from
the hermitage, to see who this could be who the padre said had such a
fine appetite. He had not waited long when he saw a great wolf go
straight to the door of the saint's cell, who opened it for him, and fed
him until he had devoured everything that the steward had brought; and
he then began to caress the saint, as a faithful and affectionate dog
would his master; and this he continued to do until Torello gave him
permission to go, and reminded him that neither he, nor any of his
companions, should do any harm to the people of that place until they
were at such a distance as to be out of hearing of the bell of the
monastery, which the wolf promised to do and obey, by bowing his head.
The servant, having seen and heard this, returned home, and related it
to the count and the others, to their great amazement.
There was a lady of Bologna, named Vittoriana, who made a pilgrimage to
the holy place in Vernia, where the glorious St. Francis received the
stigmata; and there her two children fell ill with a violent and
dangerous fever; and being, in consequence, much distressed and
afflicted, she consulted with some ladies from Poppi, whose devotion had
also brought them to the same place, who advised her to take her
children, as soon as possible, to the blessed Torello, and commend them
to him, that by means of his prayers God would restore their health. And
going to him, she commended them to him with faith and tears and hope
beyond the power of words to describe. And truly it was not in vain; for
the holy man, who was most pitiful, kneeled down and prayed to the Lord
for her and her children as only the true servants of God pray; and
having so done, he took some water from the spring of which he usually
drank and gave it to the children, and they were entirely cured and
delivered from that fever. And what is more, the water of that fountain
is to this day called the fountain of St. Torello, and is a sovereign
remedy against every kind of fever to those who drink of it, as
experience has testified and still testifies.
But at last, in the year of our salvation twelve hundred and eighty-two,
the saint having reached the eightieth year of his life, and spent them
all in the service of God—many of his good works being unknown—an
angel brought him this message: "Rejoice, Torello, for the time is come
when thou shalt receive the crown of glory thou hast so long desired,
and the reward in paradise of ail thy labour in the service of God; for
thirty days from this time, on the sixteenth of March, thou shalt be
delivered from the prison of this world."
The blessed Torello, having heard this, continued all his devout
exercises until the end, which approaching, he went to the abbot and
confessed his sins for the last time, and received the holy communion
from his hands; and they embraced each other, and he returned to his
hermitage. And he took leave of one of his disciples, named Pietro, and
exhorted him to persevere in God's service; and having with many
affectionate prayers recommended his country and the people of it to the
blessing of God, praying especially that it should not be ravaged by
wolves, he departed in peace.
And all the people of the parishes around, hearing of his death,
hastened to the hermitage; and all desiring that his holy body should
repose in their church, a great controversy arose, and much scandal
would have ensued, had not the Abbot of Poppi passed into the midst of
them and convinced them it was the will of God it should be laid in his
monastery; to which they all finally agreed. And a wonderful and
miraculous event occurred; for while they were all standing around the
holy body, a wolf came in with a little pig in his mouth, and passing
through them without fear, placed it at the foot of the bier, and went
I know not whence it rises,
This thought so full of woe:
But a tale of the times departed
Haunts me—and will not go.
The air is cool, and it darkens,
And calmly flows the Rhine;
The mountain peaks are sparkling
In the sunny evening-shine.
And yonder sits a maiden,
The fairest of the fair;
With gold is her garment glittering,
And she combs her golden hair.
With a golden comb she combs it,
And a wild song singeth she,
That melts the heart with a wondrous
And powerful melody.
The boatman feels his bosom
With a nameless longing move;
He sees not the gulfs before him,
His gaze is fixed above.
Till over boat and boatman
The Rhine's deep waters run;
And this with her magic singing
The Lorelei hath done!
THE PASSING OF ARTHUR
So all day long the noise of battle roll'd
Among the mountains by the winter sea.
Until King Arthur's Table, man by man,
Had fall'n in Lyonnesse about their Lord,
King Arthur. Then, because his wound was deep,
The bold Sir Bedivere uplifted him,
And bore him to a chapel nigh the field,
A broken chancel with a broken cross.
That stood on a dark strait of barren land:
On one side lay the Ocean, and on one
Lay a great water, and the moon was full.
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere:
"The sequel of to-day unsolders all
The goodliest fellowship of famous knights
Whereof this world holds record. Such a sleep
They sleep—the men I loved. I think that we
Shall never more, at any future time,
Delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds,
Walking about the gardens and the halls
Of Camelot, as in the days that were.
I perish by this people which I made—
Tho' Merlin sware that I should come again
To rule once more; but, let what will be, be,
I am so deeply smitten thro' the helm
That without help I cannot last till morn.
Thou therefore take my brand Excalibur,
Which was my pride: for thou rememberest how
In those old days, one summer noon, an arm
Rose up from out the bosom of the lake,
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
Holding the sword—and how I row'd across
And took it, and have worn it, like a king;
And, wheresoever I am sung or told
In aftertime, this also shall be known:
But now delay not: take Excalibur,
And fling him far into the middle mere:
Watch what thou seest and lightly bring me word."
To him replied the bold Sir Bedivere:
"It is not meet, Sir King, to leave thee thus,
Aidless, alone, and smitten thro' the helm—
A little thing may harm a wounded man;
Yet I thy hest will all perform at full,
Watch what I see, and lightly bring thee word."
So saying, from the ruin'd shrine he stept,
And in the moon athwart the place of tombs,
Where lay the mighty bones of ancient men,
Old knights, and over them the sea-wind sang
Shrill, chill, with flakes of foam. He, stepping down
By zigzag paths, and juts of pointed rock,
Came on the shining levels of the lake.
There drew he forth the brand Excalibur,
And o'er him, drawing it, the winter moon,
Brightening the skirts of a long cloud, ran forth
And sparkled keen with frost against the hilt:
For all the haft twinkled with diamond sparks,
Myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth-work
Of subtlest jewellery. He gazed so long
That both his eyes were dazzled, as he stood,
This way and that dividing the swift mind,
In act to throw: but at the last it seem'd
Better to leave Excalibur conceal'd
There in the many-knotted water flags,
That whistled stiff and dry about the marge.
So strode he back slow to the wounded King.
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere:
"Hast thou perform'd my mission which I gave?
What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard?"
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:
"I heard the ripple washing in the reeds,
And the wild water lapping on the crag."
To whom replied King Arthur, faint and pale:
"Thou hast betray'd thy nature and thy name,
Not rendering true answer, as beseem'd
Thy fealty, nor like a noble knight:
For surer sign had followed either hand,
Or voice, or else a motion of the mere.
This is a shameful thing for men to lie.
Yet now, I charge thee, quickly go again,
As thou art lief and dear, and do the thing
I bade thee, watch, and lightly bring me word."
Then went Sir Bedivere the second time
Across the ridge, and paced beside the mere,
Counting the dewy pebbles, fix'd in thought;
But when he saw the wonder of the hilt,
How curiously and strangely chased, he smote
His palms together, and he cried aloud:
"And if indeed I cast the brand away,
Surely a precious thing, one worthy note,
Should thus be lost forever from the earth,
Which might have pleased the eyes of many men.
What good should follow this, if this were done?
What harm, undone? Deep harm to disobey,
Seeing obedience is the bond of rule.
Were it well to obey then, if a king demand
An act unprofitable, against himself?
The King is sick, and knows not what he does.
What record, or what relic of my lord
Should be to aftertime, but empty breath
And rumours of a doubt? but were this kept,
Stored in some treasure-house of mighty kings,
Some one might show it at a joust of arms,
Saying, 'King Arthur's sword, Excalibur,
Wrought by the lonely maiden of the Lake.
Nine years she wrought it, sitting in the deeps
Upon the hidden bases of the hills.'
So might some old man speak in the aftertime
To all the people, winning reverence.
But now much honour and much fame were lost."
So spake he, clouded with his own conceit,
And hid Excalibur the second time,
And so strode back slow to the wounded King.
Then spoke King Arthur, breathing heavily:
"What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard?"
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:
"I heard the water lapping on the crag,
And the long ripple washing in the reeds."
To whom replied King Arthur, much in wrath:
"Ah, miserable and unkind, untrue,
Unknightly, traitor-hearted! Woe is me!
Authority forgets a dying king,
Laid widow'd of the power in his eye
That bow'd the will. I see thee what thou art,
For thou, the latest-left of all my knights,
In whom should meet the offices of all,
Thou wouldst betray me for the precious hilt;
Either from lust of gold, or like a girl
Valuing the giddy pleasure of the eyes.
Yet, for a man may fail in duty twice,
And the third time may prosper, get thee hence:
But, if thou spare to fling Excalibur,
I will arise and slay thee with my hands."
Then quickly rose Sir Bedivere, and ran,
And, leaping down the ridges lightly, plunged
Among the bulrush beds, and clutch'd the sword,
And strongly wheel'd and threw it. The great brand
Made lightings in the splendour of the moon,
And flashing round and round, and whirl'd in an arch,
Shot like a streamer of the northern morn,
Seen where the moving isles of winter shock
By night with noises of the Northern Sea.
So flashed and fell the brand Excalibur:
But ere he dipt the surface, rose an arm
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
And caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him
Three times, and drew him under in the mere.
And lightly went the other to the King.
Then spoke King Arthur, drawing thicker breath:
"Now see I by thine eyes that this is done.
Speak out: what is it thou hast heard, or seen?"
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:
"Sir King, I closed mine eyelids, lest the gems
Should blind my purpose, for I never saw,
Nor shall see, here or elsewhere, till I die,
Not tho' I live three lives of mortal men,
So great a miracle as yonder hilt.
Then with both hands I flung him, wheeling him;
But when I look'd again, beheld an arm,
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful.
That caught him by the hilt, and brandished him
Three times, and drew him under In the mere."
And answer made King Arthur, breathing hard:
"My end draws nigh;'tis time that I were gone.
Make broad thy shoulders to receive my weight,
And bear me to the margin; yet I fear
My wound hath taken cold, and I shall die."
So saying, from the pavement he half rose,
Slowly, with pain, reclining on his arm,
And looking wistfully with wide blue eyes
As in a picture. Him Sir Bedivere
Remorsefully regarded thro' his tears,
And would have spoken, but he found not word;
Then took with care, and kneeling on one knee,
O'er both his shoulders drew the languid hands,
And rising bore him thro' the place of tombs.
But, as he walk'd, King Arthur panted hard,
Like one that feels a nightmare on his bed
When all the house is mute. So sigh'd the King,
Muttering and murmuring at his ear, "Quick, quick!
I fear it is too late, and I shall die."
But the other swiftly strode from ridge to ridge,
Clothed with his breath, and looking, as he walk'd,
Larger than human on the frozen hills.
He heard the deep behind him, and a cry
Before. His own thought drove him like a goad.
Dry clashed his harness in the icy caves
And barren chasms, and all to left and right
The bare black cliff clang'd round him, as he based
His feet on juts of slippery crag that rang
Sharp-smitten with the dint of armed heels—
And on a sudden, lo! the level lake,
And the long glories of the winter moon.
Then saw they how there hove a dusky barge,
Dark as a funeral scarf from stern to stern,
Beneath them; and descending they were ware
That all the decks were dense with stately forms,
Black-stoled, black-hooded, like a dream—by these
Three Queens with crowns of gold: and from them rose
A cry that shiver'd to the tingling stars,
And, as it were one voice, an agony
Of lamentation, like a wind that shrills
All night in a waste land, where no one comes
Or hath come, since the making of the world.
Then murmur'd Arthur, "Place me in the barge."
So to the barge they came. There those three Queens
Put forth their hands, and took the King, and wept.
But she, that rose the tallest of them all
And fairest, laid his head upon her lap,
And loosed the shatter'd casque, and chafed his hands,
And call'd him by his name, complaining loud,
And dropping bitter tears against a brow
Striped with dark blood: for all his face was white
And colourless, and like the withered moon
Smote by the fresh beam of the springing east;
And all his greaves and cuisses dash'd with drops
Of onset; and the light and lustrous curls—
That made his forehead like a rising sun
High from the dias-throne—were parch'd with dust;
Or, clotted into points and hanging loose,
Mix'd with the knightly growth that fringed his lips.
So like a shatter'd column lay the King;
Not like that Arthur who, with lance in rest,
From spur to plume a star of tournament,
Shot thro' the lists of Camelot, and charged
Before the eyes of ladles and of kings,
Then loudly cried the bold Sir Bedivere:
"Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go?
Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?
For now I see the true old times are dead,
When every morning brought a noble chance,
And every chance brought out a noble knight.
Such times have been not since the light that led
The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.
But now the whole Round Table is dissolved
Which was an image of the mighty world,
And, I the last, go forth companionless,
And the days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds."
And slowly answered Arthur from the barge:
"The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
But now farewell. I am going a long way
With these thou seest-if indeed I go
(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)
To the island-valley of Avilion;
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard lawns
And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea.
Where I will heal me of my grievous wound."
So said he, and the barge with oar and sail
Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan
That, fluting a wild carol ere her death,
Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood
With swarthy webs. Long stood Sir Bedivere
Revolving many memories, till the hull
Look'd one black dot against the verge of dawn,
And on the mere the wailing died away.
But when that moan had past for evermore,
The stillness of the dead world's winter dawn
Amazed him, and he groan'd, "The King is gone."
And therewithal came on him the weird rhyme,
"From the great deep to the great deep he goes"
Whereat he slowly turn'd and slowly clomb
The last hard footstep of that iron crag;
Thence mark'd the black hull moving yet, and cried,
"He passes to be King among the dead,
And after healing of his grievous wound
He comes again; but—if he come no more—
O me, be yon dark Queens in yon black boat,
Who shriek'd and wail'd, the three whereat we gazed
On that high day, when, clothed with living light,
They stood before his throne in silence, friends
Of Arthur, who should help him at his need?"
Then from the dawn it seem'd there came, but faint
As from beyond the limit of the world,
Like the last echo born of a great cry,
Sounds, as if some fair city were one voice
Around a king returning from his wars.
Thereat once more he moved about, and clomb
Ev'n to the highest he could climb, and saw,
Straining his eyes beneath an arch of hand,
Or thought he saw, the speck that bare the King,
Down that long water opening on the deep
Somewhere far off, pass on and on, and go
From less to less and vanish into light.
And the new sun rose bringing the new year.
RIP VAN WINKLE
The following tale was found among the papers of the late Diedrich
Knickerbocker, an old gentleman of New York, who was very curious in the
Dutch history of the province, and the manners of the descendants from
its primitive settlers. His historical researches, however, did not lie
so much among books as among men; for the former are lamentably scanty
on his favourite topics; whereas he found the old burghers, and still
more their wives, rich in that legendary lore so invaluable to true
history. Whenever, therefore, he happened upon a genuine Dutch family,
snugly shut up in its low-roofed farmhouse under a spreading sycamore,
he looked upon it as a little clasped volume of black-letter, and
studied it with the zeal of a book worm.
The result of all these researches was a history of the province during
the reign of the Dutch governors, which he published some years since.
There have been various opinions as to the literary character of his
work, and, to tell the truth, it is not a whit better than it should be.
Its chief merit is its scrupulous accuracy, which indeed was a little
questioned on its first appearance, but has since been completely
established; and it is now admitted into all historical collections, as
a book of unquestionable authority.
The old gentleman died shortly after the publication of his work, and
now that he is dead and gone, it cannot do much harm to his memory to
say that his time might have been much better employed in weightier
labours. He, however, was apt to ride his hobby his own way; and though
it did now and then kick up the dust a little in the eyes of his
neighbours, and grieve the spirit of some friends, for whom he felt the
truest deference and affection; yet his errors and follies are
remembered "more in sorrow than in anger," and it begins to be suspected
that he never intended to injure or offend. But however his memory may
be appreciated by critics, it is still held dear by many folk, whose
good opinion is worth having; particularly by certain biscuit-bakers,
who have gone so far as to imprint his likeness on their new-year cakes;
and have thus given him a chance for immortality, almost equal to the
being stamped on a Waterloo Medal, or a Queen Anne's farthing.
Whoever has made a voyage up the Hudson must remember the Kaatskill
Mountains. They are a dismembered branch of the great Appalachian
family, and are seen away to the west of the river, swelling up to a
noble height, and lording it over the surrounding country. Every change
of season, every change of weather, indeed, every hour of the day,
produces some change in the magical hues and shapes of these mountains,
and they are regarded by all the good wives, far and near, as perfect
barometers. When the weather is fair and settled, they are clothed in
blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clear evening sky;
but sometimes when the rest of the landscape is cloudless they will
gather a hood of gray vapours about their summits, which, in the last
rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory.
At the foot of these fairy mountains, the voyager may have descried the
light smoke curling up from a village, whose shingle-roofs gleam among
the trees, just where the blue tints of the upland melt away into the
fresh green of the nearer landscape. It is a little village of great
antiquity, having been founded by some of the Dutch colonists in the
early time of the province, just about the beginning of the government
of the good Peter Stuyvesant (may he rest in peace!) and there were some
of the houses of the original settlers standing within a few years,
built of small yellow bricks brought from Holland, having latticed
windows and gable fronts, surmounted with weathercocks.
In that same village, and in one of these very houses (which, to tell
the precise truth, was sadly time-worn and weather-beaten), there lived
many years since, while the country was yet a province of Great Britain,
a simple, good-natured fellow, of the name of Rip Van Winkle. He was a
descendant of the Van Winkles who figured so gallantly in the chivalrous
days of Peter Stuyvesant, and accompanied him to the siege of Fort
Christina. He inherited, however, but little of the martial character of
his ancestors. I have observed that he was a simple, good-natured man;
he was, moreover, a kind neighbour, and an obedient hen-pecked husband.
Indeed, to the latter circumstance might be owing that meekness of
spirit which gained him such universal popularity; for those men are
most apt to be obsequious and conciliating abroad, who are under the
discipline of shrews at home. Their tempers, doubtless, are rendered
pliant and malleable in the fiery furnace of domestic tribulation; and a
curtain lecture is worth all the sermons in the world for teaching the
virtues of patience and long-suffering. A termagant wife may, therefore,
in some respects be considered a tolerable blessing, and if so, Rip Van
Winkle was thrice blessed.
Certain it is, that he was a great favourite among all the good wives of
the village, who, as usual with the amiable sex, took his part in all
family squabbles; and never failed, whenever they talked those matters
over in their evening gossipings, to lay all the blame on Dame Van
Winkle. The children of the village, too, would shout with joy whenever
he approached. He assisted at their sports, made their playthings,
taught them to fly kites and shoot marbles, and told them long stories
of ghosts, witches, and Indians. Whenever he went dodging about the
village, he was surrounded by a troop of them, hanging on his skirts,
clambering on his back, and playing a thousand tricks on him, with
impunity; and not a dog would bark at him throughout the neighbourhood.
The great error in Rip's composition was an insuperable aversion to all
kinds of profitable labour. It could not be from the want of assiduity
or perseverance; for he would sit on a wet rock, with a rod as long and
heavy as a Tartar's lance, and fish all day without a murmur, even
though he should not be encouraged by a single nibble. He would carry a
fowling-piece on his shoulder for hours together, trudging through woods
and swamps, and up hill and down dale, to shoot a few squirrels or wild
pigeons. He would never refuse to assist a neighbour, even in the
roughest toil, and was a foremost man at all country frolics for husking
Indian corn, or building stone-fences; the women of the village, too,
used to employ him to run their errands, and to do such little odd jobs
as their less obliging husband^ would not do for them. In a word, Rip
was ready to attend to anybody's business but his own; but as to doing
family duty, and keeping his farm in order, he found it impossible.
In fact, he declared it was of no use to work on his farm; it was the
most pestilent little piece of ground in the whole country; everything
about it went wrong, and would go wrong, in spite of him. His fences
were continually falling to pieces; his cow would either go astray or
get among the cabbages; weeds were sure to grow quicker in his fields
than any where else; the rain always made a point of setting in just as
he had some out-door work to do; so that though his patrimonial estate
had dwindled away under his management, acre by acre, until there was
little more left than a mere patch of Indian corn and potatoes, yet it
was the worst-conditioned farm in the neighbourhood.
His children, too, were as ragged and wild as if they belonged to
nobody. His son Rip, an urchin begotten in his own likeness, promised to
inherit the habits, with the old clothes of his father. He was generally
seen trooping like a colt at his mother's heels, equipped in a pair of
his father's cast-off galligaskins, which he had much ado to hold up
with one hand, as a fine lady does her train in bad weather.
Rip Van Winkle, however, was one of those happy mortals, of foolish,
well-oiled dispositions, who take the world easy, eat white bread or
brown, whichever can be got with least thought or trouble, and would
rather starve on a penny than work for a pound. If left to himself; he
would have whistled life away in perfect contentment; but his wife kept
continually dinning in his ears about his idleness, his carelessness,
and the ruin he was bringing on his family. Morning, noon, and night her
tongue was incessantly going, and everything he said or did was sure to
produce a torrent of household eloquence. Rip had but one way of
replying to all lectures of the kind, and that, by frequent use, had
grown into a habit. He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, cast up
his eyes, but said nothing. This, however, always provoked a fresh
volley from his wife; so that he was fain to draw off his forces, and
take to the outside of the house—the only side which, in truth,
belongs to a henpecked husband.
Rip's sole domestic adherent was his dog Wolf, who was as much henpecked
as his master; for Dame Van Winkle regarded them as companions in
idleness, and even looked upon Wolf with an evil eye, as the cause of
his master's going so often astray. True it is, in all points of spirit
befitting an honourable dog, he was as courageous an animal as ever
scoured the woods—but what courage can withstand the ever-during and
all-besetting terrors of a woman's tongue? The moment Wolf entered the
house his crest fell, his tail drooped to the ground, or curled between
his legs, he sneaked about with a gallows air, casting many a sidelong
glance at Dame Van Winkle, and at the least flourish of a broomstick or
ladle he would fly to the door with yelping precipitation.
Times grew worse and worse with Rip Van Winkle as years of matrimony
rolled on; a tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is
the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use. For a long
while he used to console himself, when driven from home, by frequenting
a kind of perpetual club of the sages, philosophers, and other idle
personages of the village; which held its sessions on a bench before a
small inn, designated by a rubicund portrait of His Majesty George the
Third. Here they used to sit in the shade through a long lazy summer's
day, talking listlessly over village gossip, or telling endless, sleepy
stories about nothing. But it would have been worth any statesman's
money to have heard the profound discussions that sometimes took place,
when by chance an old newspaper fell into their hands from some passing
traveller. How solemnly they would listen to the contents, as drawled
out by Derrick Van Bummel, the school-master, a dapper learned little
man, who was not to be daunted by the most gigantic word in the
dictionary; and how sagely they would deliberate upon public events some
months after they had taken place.
The opinions of this junto were completely controlled by Nicholas
Vedder, a patriarch of the village, and landlord of the inn, at the door
of which he took his seat from morning till night, just moving
sufficiently to avoid the sun and keep in the shade of a large tree; so
that the neighbours could tell the hour by his movements as accurately
as by a sun-dial. It is true he was rarely heard to speak, but smoked
his pipe incessantly. His adherents however (for every great man has his
adherents), perfectly understood him, and knew how to gather his
opinions. When anything that was read or related displeased him, he was
observed to smoke his pipe vehemently, and to send forth short, frequent
and angry puffs; but when pleased, he would inhale the smoke slowly and
tranquilly, and emit it in light and placid clouds; and sometimes,
taking the pipe from his mouth, and letting the fragrant vapour curl
about his nose, would gravely nod his head in token of perfect
From even this stronghold the unlucky Rip was at length routed by his
termagant wife, who would suddenly break in upon the tranquillity of the
assemblage and call the members all to naught; nor was that august
personage, Nicholas Vedder himself, sacred from the daring tongue of
this terrible virago, who charged him outright with encouraging her
husband in habits of idleness.
Poor Rip was at last reduced almost to despair; and his only
alternative, to escape from the labour of the farm and clamour of his
wife, was to take gun in hand and stroll away into the woods. Here he
would sometimes seat himself at the foot of a tree, and share the
contents of his wallet with Wolf, with whom he sympathised as a
fellow-sufferer in persecution. "Poor Wolf," he would say, "thy mistress
leads thee a dog's life of it; but never mind, my lad, whilst I live
thou shalt never want a friend to stand by thee!" Wolf would wag his
tail, look wistfully in his master's face, and if dogs can feel pity I
verily believe he reciprocated the sentiment with all his heart.
In a long ramble of the kind on a fine autumnal day, Rip had
unconsciously scrambled to one of the highest parts of the Kaatskill
Mountains. He was after his favourite sport squirrel shooting, and the
still solitudes had echoed and reechoed with the reports of his gun.
Panting and fatigued, he threw himself, late in the afternoon, on a
green knoll, covered with mountain herbage, that crowned the brow of a
precipice. From an opening between the trees he could overlook all the
lower country for many a mile of rich woodland. He saw at a distance the
lordly Hudson, far, far below him, moving on its silent but majestic
course, with the reflection of a purple cloud, or the sail of a lagging
bark, here and there sleeping on its glassy bosom, and at last losing
itself in the blue highlands.
On the other side he looked down into a deep mountain glen, wild,
lonely, and shagged, the bottom filled with fragments from the impending
cliffs, and scarcely lighted by the reflected rays of the setting sun.
For some time Rip lay musing on this scene; evening was gradually
advancing; the mountains began to throw their long blue shadows over the
valleys; he saw that it would be dark long before he could reach the
village, and he heaved a heavy sigh when he thought of encountering the
terrors of Dame Van Winkle.
As he was about to descend, he heard a voice from a distance, hallooing,
"Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle!" He looked round, but could see nothing
but a crow winging its solitary flight across the mountain. He thought
his fancy must have deceived him, and turned again to descend, when he
heard the same cry ring through the still evening air: "Rip Van Winkle!
Rip Van Winkle!"—at the same time Wolf bristled up his back, and giving
a low growl, skulked to his master's side, looking fearfully down into
the glen. Rip now felt a vague apprehension stealing over him; he looked
anxiously in the same direction, and perceived a strange figure slowly
toiling up the rocks, and bending under the weight of something he
carried on his back. He was surprised to see any human being in this
lonely and unfrequented place; but supposing it to be some one of the
neighbourhood in need of his assistance, he hastened down to yield it.
On nearer approach he was still more surprised at the singularity of the
stranger's appearance. He was a short, square-built old fellow, with
thick bushy hair, and a grizzled beard. His dress was of the antique
Dutch fashion: a cloth jerkin strapped round the waist, several pair of
breeches, the outer one of ample volume, decorated with rows of buttons
down the sides, and bunches at the knees. He bore on his shoulder a
stout keg, that seemed full of liquor, and made signs for Rip to
approach and assist him with the load. Though rather shy and distrustful
of this new acquaintance, Rip complied with his usual alacrity; and
mutually relieving one another, they clambered up a narrow gully,
apparently the dry bed of a mountain torrent. As they ascended, Rip
every now and then heard long rolling peals like distant thunder, that
seemed to issue out of a deep ravine, or rather cleft, between lofty
rocks, toward which their rugged path conducted. He paused for a moment,
but supposing it to be the muttering of one of those transient
thunder-showers which often take place in mountain heights, he
proceeded. Passing through the ravine, they came to a hollow, like a
small amphitheatre, surrounded by perpendicular precipices, over the
brinks of which impending trees shot their branches, so that you only
caught glimpses of the azure sky and the bright evening cloud. During
the whole time Rip and his companion had laboured on in silence; for
though the former marvelled greatly what could be the object of carrying
a keg of liquor up this wild mountain, yet there was something strange
and incomprehensible about the unknown, that inspired awe and checked
On entering the amphitheatre, new objects of wonder presented
themselves. On a level spot in the centre was a company of odd-looking
personages playing at nine-pins. They were dressed in a quaint
outlandish fashion; some wore short doublets, others jerkins, with long
knives in their belts, and most of them had enormous breeches of similar
style with that of the guide's. Their visages, too, were peculiar; one
had a large beard, broad face, and small piggish eyes; the face of
another seemed to consist entirely of nose, and was surmounted by a
white sugar-loaf hat, set off with a little red cock's tail. They all
had beards, of various shapes and colours. There was one who seemed to
be the commander. He was a stout old gentleman, with a weather-beaten
countenance; he wore a laced doublet, broad belt and hanger,
high-crowned hat and feather, red stockings, and high-heeled shoes, with
roses in them. The whole group reminded Rip of the figures in an old
Flemish painting in the parlour of Dominie Van Shaick, the village
parson, which had been brought over from Holland at the time of the
What seemed particularly odd to Rip was, that though these folks were
evidently amusing themselves, yet they maintained the gravest faces, the
most mysterious silence, and were, withal, the most melancholy party of
pleasure he had ever witnessed. Nothing interrupted the stillness of the
scene but the noise of the balls, which, whenever they were rolled,
echoed along the mountains like rumbling peals of thunder.
As Rip and his companion approached them, they suddenly desisted from
their play, and stared at him with such fixed, statue-like gaze, and
such strange, uncouth, lack-lustre countenances that his heart turned
within him, and his knees smote together. His companion now emptied the
contents of the keg into large flagons, and made signs to him to wait
upon the company. He obeyed with fear and trembling; they quaffed the
liquor in profound silence, and then returned to their game.
By degrees Rip's awe and apprehension subsided. He even ventured, when
no eye was fixed upon him, to taste the beverage, which he found had
much of the flavour of excellent Hollands. He was naturally a thirsty
soul, and was soon tempted to repeat the draught. One taste provoked
another; and he reiterated his visits to the flagon so often that at
length his senses were overpowered, his eyes swam in his head, his head
gradually declined, and he fell into a deep sleep.
On waking, he found himself on the green knoll whence he had first seen
the old man of the glen. He rubbed his eyes—it was a bright, sunny
morning. The birds were hopping and twittering among the bushes, and the
eagle was wheeling aloft, and breasting the pure mountain breeze.
"Surely," thought Rip, "I have not slept here all night." He recalled
the occurrences before he fell asleep. The strange man with a keg of
liquor—the mountain ravine—the wild retreat among the rocks—the
woe-begone party at nine-pins—the flagon—"Oh! that flagon! that
wicked flagon!" thought Rip—"what excuse shall I make to Dame Van
He looked round for his gun, but in place of the clean, well-oiled
fowling-piece, he found an old firelock lying by him, the barrel
incrusted with rust, the lock falling off, and the stock worm-eaten. He
now suspected that the grave roisters of the mountain had put a trick
upon him, and, having dosed him with liquor, had robbed him of his gun.
Wolf, too, had disappeared, but he might have strayed away after a
squirrel or partridge. He whistled after him, and shouted his name, but
all in vain; the echoes repeated his whistle and shout, but no dog was
to be seen.
He determined to revisit the scene of the last evening's gambol, and if
he met with any of the party, to demand his dog and gun. As he rose to
walk, he found himself stiff in the joints, and wanting in his usual
activity. "These mountain beds do not agree with me," thought Rip, "and
if this frolic should lay me up with a fit of the rheumatism, I shall
have a blessed time with Dame Van Winkle." With some difficulty he got
down into the glen; he found the gully up which he and his companion had
ascended the preceding evening; but to his astonishment a mountain
stream was now foaming down it, leaping from rock to rock and filling
the glen with babbling murmurs. He, however, made shift to scramble up
its sides, working his toilsome way through thickets of birch,
sassafras, and witch-hazel, and sometimes tripped up or entangled by the
wild grapevines that twisted their coils or tendrils from tree to tree,
and spread a kind of network in his path.
At length he reached to where the ravine had opened through the cliffs
to the amphitheatre; but no traces of such opening remained. The rocks
presented a high, impenetrable wall, over which the torrent come
tumbling in a sheet of feathery foam, and fell into a broad, deep basin,
black from the shadows of the surrounding forest. Here, then, poor Rip
was brought to a stand. He again called and whistled after his dog; he
was only answered by the cawing of a flock of idle crows, sporting high
in air about a dry tree that overhung a sunny precipice; and who, secure
in their elevation, seemed to look down and scoff at the poor man's
perplexities. What was to be done? the morning was passing away, and Rip
felt famished for want of his breakfast. He grieved to give up his dog
and gun; he dreaded to meet his wife; but it would not do to starve
among the mountains. He shook his head, shouldered the rusty firelock,
and, with a heart full of trouble and anxiety, turned his steps
As he approached the village he met a number of people, but none whom he
knew, which somewhat surprised him, for he had thought himself
acquainted with every one in the country round. Their dress, too, was of
a different fashion from that to which he was accustomed. They all
stared at him with equal marks of surprise, and whenever they cast their
eyes upon him, invariably stroked their chins. The constant recurrence
of this gesture induced Rip, involuntarily, to do the same, when, to his
astonishment, he found his beard had grown a foot long!
He had now entered the skirts of the village. A troop of strange
children ran at his heels, hooting after him, and pointing at his gray
beard. The dogs, too, not one of which he recognised for an old
acquaintance, barked at him as he passed. The very village was altered;
it was larger and more populous. There were rows of houses which he had
never seen before, and those which had been his familiar haunts had
disappeared. Strange names were over the doors—strange faces at the
windows—everything was strange. His mind now misgave him; he began to
doubt whether both he and the world around him were not bewitched.
Surely this was his native village, which he had left but the day
before. There stood the Kaatskill Mountains—there ran the silver Hudson
at a distance—there was every hill and dale precisely as it had always
been—Rip was sorely perplexed—"That flagon last night," thought he,
"has addled my poor head sadly!"
It was with some difficulty that he found the way to his own house,
which he approached with silent awe, expecting every moment to hear the
shrill voice of Dame Van Winkle. He found the house gone to decay—the
roof fallen in, the windows shattered, and the doors off the hinges. A
half-starved dog that looked like Wolf was skulking about it. Rip called
him by name, but the cur snarled, showed his teeth, and passed on. This
was an unkind cut indeed—"My very dog," sighed poor Rip, "has forgotten
He entered the house, which, to tell the truth, Dame Van Winkle had
always kept in neat order. It was empty, forlorn, and apparently
abandoned. This desolateness overcame all his connubial fears—he called
loudly for his wife and children—the lonely chambers rang for a moment
with his voice, and then again all was silence.
He now hurried forth, and hastened to his old resort, the village
inn—but it, too, was gone. A large, rickety wooden building stood in
its place, with great gaping windows, some of them broken and mended
with old hats and petticoats, and over the door was painted, "The Union
Hotel, by Jonathan Doolittle." Instead of the great tree that used to
shelter the quiet little Dutch inn of yore, there now was reared a tall
naked pole, with something on the top that looked like a red night-cap,
and from it was fluttering a flag, on which was a singular assemblage of
stars and stripes—all this was strange and incomprehensible. He
recognised on the sign, however, the ruby face of King George, under
which he had smoked so many a peaceful pipe; but even this was
singularly metamorphosed. The red coat was changed for one of blue and
buff, a sword was held in the hand instead of a sceptre, the head was
decorated with a cocked hat, and underneath was painted in large
characters, GENERAL WASHINGTON.
There was, as usual, a crowd of folk about the door, but none that Rip
recollected. The very character of the people seemed changed. There was
a busy, bustling, disputatious tone about it, instead of the accustomed
phlegm and drowsy tranquillity. He looked in vain for the sage Nicholas
Vedder, with his broad face, double chin, and fair long pipe, uttering
clouds of tobacco-smoke instead of idle speeches; or Van Bummel, the
school-master, doling forth the contents of an ancient newspaper. In
place of these, a lean, bilious-looking fellow, with his pockets full
of handbills, was haranguing vehemently about rights of
citizens—elections—members of Congress—liberty—Bunker's Hill—heroes
of seventy-six—and other words, which were a perfect Babylonish jargon
to the bewildered Van Winkle.
The appearance of Rip, with his long grizzled beard, his rusty
fowling-piece, his uncouth dress, and an army of women and children at
his heels, soon attracted the attention of the tavern-politicians. They
crowded round him, eying him from head to foot with great curiosity. The
orator bustled up to him, and, drawing him partly aside, inquired "on
which side he voted?" Rip started in vacant stupidity. Another short but
busy little fellow pulled him by the arm, and, rising on tiptoe,
inquired in his ear, "Whether he was Federal or Democrat?" Rip was
equally at a loss to comprehend the question; when a knowing,
self-important old gentleman, in a sharp cocked hat, made his way
through the crowd, putting them to the right and left with his elbows as
he passed, and planting himself before Van Winkle, with one arm akimbo,
the other resting on his cane, his keen eyes and sharp hat penetrating,
as it were, into his very soul, demanded in an austere tone, "what
brought him to the election with a gun on his shoulder, and a mob at his
heels, and whether he meant to breed a riot in the village?"—"Alas!
gentlemen," cried Rip, somewhat dismayed, "I am a poor quiet man, a
native of the place, and a loyal subject of the king, God bless him!"
Here a general shout burst from the bystanders—"A tory! a tory! a spy!
a refugee! hustle him! away with him!" It was with great difficulty that
the self-important man in the cocked hat restored order; and having
assumed a tenfold austerity of brow, demanded again of the unknown
culprit what he came there for, and whom he was seeking? The poor man
humbly assured him that he meant no harm, but merely came there in
search of some of his neighbours, who used to keep about the tavern.
"Well—who are they?—name them."
Rip bethought himself a moment, and inquired, "Where's Nicholas Vedder?"
There was a silence for a little while, when an old man replied, in a
thin, piping voice: "Nicholas Vedder! why, he is dead and gone these
eighteen years! There was a wooden tombstone in the church yard that
used to tell all about him, but that's rotten and gone too."
"Where's Brom Butcher?"
"Oh, he went off to the army in the beginning of the war; some say he
was killed at the storming of Stony Point—others say he was drowned in
a squall at the foot of Antony's Nose. I don't know—he never came back
"Where's Van Bummel, the school-master?"
"He went off to the wars too, was a great militia general, and is now in
Rip's heart died away at hearing of these sad changes in his home and
friends, and finding himself thus alone in the world. Every answer
puzzled him too, by treating of such enormous lapses of time, and of
matters which he could not understand: war—Congress—Stony Point; he
had no courage to ask after any more friends, but cried out in dispair,
"Does nobody here know Rip Van Winkle?"
"Oh, Rip Van Winkle!" exclaimed two or three, "Oh, to be sure! that's
Rip Van Winkle yonder, leaning against the tree."
Rip looked, and beheld a precise counterpart of himself, as he went up
the mountain: apparently as lazy, and certainly as ragged. The poor
fellow was now completely confounded. He doubted his own identity, and
whether he was himself or another man. In the midst of his bewilderment,
the man in the cocked hat demanded who he was, and what was his name?
"God knows," exclaimed he, at his wit's end; "I'm not myself—I'm
somebody else—that's me yonder—no—that's somebody else got into my
shoes—I was myself last night, but fell asleep on the mountain, and
they've changed my gun, and everything's changed, and I'm changed, and I
can't tell what's my name, or who I am!"
The bystanders began now to look at each other, nod, wink significantly,
and tap their fingers against their foreheads. There was a whisper,
also, about securing the gun, and keeping the old fellow from doing
mischief, at the very suggestion of which the self-important man in the
cocked hat retired with some precipitation. At this critical moment a
fresh, comely women pressed through the throng to get a peep at the
gray-bearded man. She had a chubby child in her arms, which, frightened
at his looks, began to cry. "Hush, Rip," cried she, "hush, you little
fool; the old man won't hurt you." The name of the child, the air of the
mother, the tone of her voice, all awakened a train of recollections in
his mind. "What is your name, my good woman?" asked he.
"And your father's name?"
"Ah, poor man, Rip Van Winkle was his name, but it's twenty years since
he went away from home with his gun, and never has been heard of
since,—his dog came home without him; but whether he shot himself, or
was carried away by the Indians, nobody can tell. I was then but a
Rip had but one question more to ask; and he put it with a faltering
"Where's your mother?"
"Oh, she too had died but a short time since; she broke a blood-vessel
in a fit of passion at a New England peddler."
There was a drop of comfort at least, in this intelligence. The honest
man could contain himself no longer. He caught his daughter and her
child in his arms. "I am your father!" cried he—"Young Rip Van Winkle
once—old Rip Van Winkle now! Does nobody know poor Rip Van Winkle?"
All stood amazed, until an old woman, tottering out from among the
crowd, put her hand to her brow, and peering under it in his face for a
moment, exclaimed, "Sure enough it is Rip Van Winkle—it is himself!
Welcome home again, old neighbour—Why, where have you been these twenty
Rip's story was soon told, for the whole twenty years had been to him
but as one night. The neighbours stared when they heard it; some were
seen to wink at each other, and put their tongues in their cheeks; and
the self-important man in the cocked hat, who, when the alarm was over,
had returned to the field, screwed down the corners of his mouth, and
shook his head—upon which there was a general shaking of the head
throughout the assemblage.
It was determined, however, to take the opinion of old Peter Vanderdonk,
who was seen slowly advancing up the road. He was a descendant of the
historian of the that name, who wrote one of the earliest accounts of
the province. Peter was the most ancient inhabitant of the village, and
well versed in all the wonderful events and traditions of the
neighbourhood. He recollected Rip at once, and corroborated his story in
the most satisfactory manner. He assured the company that it was a fact,
handed down from his ancestor the historian, that the Kaatskill
Mountains had always been haunted by strange beings. That it was
affirmed that the great Hendrick Hudson, the first discoverer of the
river and country, kept a kind of vigil there every twenty years, with
his crew of the Half-moon; being permitted in this way to revisit the
scenes of his enterprise, and keep a guardian eye upon the river and the
great city called by his name. That his father had once seen them in
their old Dutch dresses playing at nine-pins in a hollow of the
mountain; and that he himself had heard, one summer afternoon, the sound
of their balls like distant peals of thunder.
To make a long story short, the company broke up, and returned to the
more important concerns of the election. Rip's daughter took him home to
live with her; she had a snug well-furnished house, and a stout cheery
farmer for a husband, whom Rip recollected for one of the urchins that
used to climb upon his back. As to Rip's son and heir, who was the ditto
of himself, seen leaning against the tree, he was employed to work on
the farm; but evinced an hereditary disposition to attend to anything
else but his business.
Rip now resumed his old walks and habits; he soon found many of his
former cronies, though all rather the worse for the wear and tear of
time; and preferred making friends among the rising generation, with
whom he soon grew into great favour.
Having nothing to do at home, and being arrived at that happy age when a
man can be idle with impunity, he took his place once more on the bench
at the inn door, and was reverenced as one of the patriarchs of the
village, and a chronicle of the old times "before the war." It was some
time before he could get into the regular track of gossip, or could be
made to comprehend the strange events that had taken place during his
torpor. How that there had been a revolutionary war—that the country
had thrown off the yoke of old England—and that, instead of being a
subject of his Majesty George the Third, he was now a free citizen of
the United States. Rip, in fact, was no politician; the changes of states
and empires made but little impression on him; but there was one species
of despotism under which he had long groaned, and that was—petticoat
government. Happily that was at an end; he had got his neck out of the
yoke of matrimony, and could go in and out whenever he pleased, without
dreading the tyranny of Dame Van Winkle. Whenever her name was
mentioned, however, he shook his head, shrugged his shoulders, and cast
up his eyes, which might pass either for an expression of resignation to
his fate, or joy at his deliverance.
He used to tell his story to every stranger that arrived at Mr.
Doolittle's hotel. He was observed, at first, to vary on some points
every time he told it, which was, doubtless, owing to his having so
recently awaked. It at last settled down precisely to the tale I have
related, and not a man, woman, or child in the neighbourhood but knew it
by heart. Some always pretended to doubt the reality of it, and insisted
that Rip had been out of his head, and that this was one point on which
he always remained flighty. The old Dutch inhabitants, however, almost
universally gave it full credit. Even to this day they never hear a
thunder-storm of a summer afternoon about the Kaatskill, but they say
Hendrick Hudson and his crew are at their game of nine-pins; and it is a
common wish of all henpecked husbands in the neighbourhood, when life
hangs heavy on their hands, that they might have a quieting draught out
of Rip Van Wrinkle's flagon.
THE GRAY CHAMPION
There was once a time when New England groaned under the actual pressure
of heavier wrongs than those threatened ones which brought on the
Revolution. James II, the bigoted successor of Charles the Voluptuous,
had annulled the charters of all the colonies, and sent a harsh and
unprincipled soldier to take away our liberites and endanger our
religion. The administration of Sir Edmund Andros lacked scarcely a
single characteristic of tyranny: a Governor and Council, holding office
from the King, and wholly independent of the country; laws made and
taxes levied without concurrence of the people immediate or by their
representatives; the rights of private citizens violated, and the titles
of all landed property declared void; the voice of complaint stifled by
restrictions on the press; and, finally, disaffection overawed by the
first band of mercenary troops that ever marched on our free soil. For
two years our ancestors were kept in sullen submission by that filial
love which had invariably secured their allegiance to the mother
country, whether its head chanced to be a Parliament, Protector, or
Popish Monarch. Till these evil times, however, such allegiance had been
merely nominal, and the colonists had ruled themselves, enjoying far
more freedom than is even yet the privilege of the native subjects of
At length a rumour reached our shores that the Prince of Orange had
ventured on an enterprise, the success of which would be the triumph of
civil and religious rights and the salvation of New England. It was but
a doubtful whisper; it might be false, or the attempt might fail; and,
in either case, the man that stirred against King Tames would lose his
head. Still the intelligence produced a marked effect. The people smiled
mysteriously in the streets, and threw bold glances at their oppressors;
while far and wide there was a subdued and silent agitation, as if the
slightest signal would rouse the whole land from its sluggish
despondency. Aware of their danger, the rulers resolved to avert it by
an imposing display of strength, and perhaps to confirm their despotism
by yet harsher measures. One afternoon in April, 1689, Sir Edmund Andros
and his favourite councillors, being warm with wine, assembled the
red-coats of the Governor's Guard, and made their appearance in the
streets of Boston. The sun was near setting when the march commenced.
The roll of the drum at that unquiet crisis seemed to go through the
streets, less as the martial music of the soldiers, than as a
muster-call to the inhabitants themselves. A multitude, by various
avenues, assembled in King Street, which was destined to be the scene,
nearly a century afterward, of another encounter between the troops of
Britain, and a people struggling against her tyranny. Though more than
sixty years had elapsed since the pilgrims came, this crowd of their
descendants still showed the strong and sombre features of their
character perhaps more strikingly in such a stern emergency than on
happier occasions. There were the sober garb, the general severity of
mien, the gloomy but undismayed expression, the scriptural forms of
speech, and the confidence in Heaven's blessing on a righteous cause,
which would have marked a band of the original Puritans, when threatened
by some peril of the wilderness. Indeed, it was not yet time for the old
spirit to be extinct; since there were men in the street that day who
had worshipped there beneath the trees, before a house was reared to the
God for whom they had become exiles. Old soldiers of the Parliament were
here, too, smiling grimly at the thought that their aged arms might
strike another blow against the house of Stuart. Here, also, were the
veterans of King Philip's war, who had burned villages and slaughtered
young and old, with pious fierceness, while the godly souls throughout
the land were helping them with prayer. Several ministers were scattered
among the crowd, which, unlike all other mobs, regarded them with such
reverence, as if there were sanctity in their very garments. These holy
men exerted their influence to quiet the people, but not to disperse
them. Meantime, the purpose of the Governor, in disturbing the peace of
the town at a period when the slightest commotion might throw the
country into a ferment, was almost the universal subject of inquiry, and
"Satan will strike his master-stroke presently," cried some, "because he
knoweth that his time is short. All our godly pastors are to be dragged
to prison! We shall see them at a Smithfield fire in King Street!"
Hereupon the people of each parish gathered closer round their minister,
who looked calmly upward and assumed a more apostolic dignity, as well
befitted a candidate for the highest honour of his profession, the crown
of martyrdom. It was actually fancied, at that period, that New England
might have a John Rogers of her own to take the place of that worthy in
"The Pope of Rome has given orders for a new St. Bartholomew!" cried
others. "We are to be massacred, man and male child!"
Neither was this rumour wholly discredited, although the wiser class
believed the Governor's object somewhat less atrocious. His predecessor
under the old charter, Bradstreet, a venerable companion of the first
settlers, was known to be in town. There were grounds for conjecturing,
that Sir Edmund Andros intended at once to strike terror by a parade of
military force, and to confound the opposite faction by possessing
himself of their chief.
"Stand firm for the old charter Governor!" shouted the crowd, seizing
upon the idea. "The good old Governor Bradstreet!"
While this cry was at the loudest, the people were surprised by the
well-known figure of Governor Bradstreet himself, a patriarch of nearly
ninety, who appeared on the elevated steps of a door, and, with
characteristic mildness, besought them to submit to the constituted
"My children," concluded this venerable person, "do nothing rashly. Cry
not aloud, but pray for the welfare of New England, and expect patiently
what the Lord will do in this matter!"
The event was soon to be decided. All this time, the roll of the drum
had been approaching through Cornhill, louder and deeper, till with
reverberations from house to house, and the regular tramp of martial
footsteps, it burst into the street. A double rank of soldiers made
their appearance, occupying the whole breadth of the passage, with
shouldered matchlocks, and matches burning, so as to present a row of
fires in the dusk. Their steady march was like the progress of a
machine, that would roll irresistibly over everything in its way. Next,
moving slowly, with a confused clatter of hoofs on the pavement, rode a
party of mounted gentlemen, the central figure being Sir Edmund Andros,
elderly, but erect and soldier-like. Those around him were his favourite
councillors, and the bitterest foes of New England. At his right hand
rode Edward Randolph, our arch-enemy, that "blasted wretch," as Cotton
Mather calls him, who achieved the downfall of our ancient government,
and was followed with a sensible curse through life and to his grave. On
the other side was Bullivant, scattering jests and mockery as he rode
along. Dudley came behind, with a downcast look, dreading, as well he
might, to meet the indignant gaze of the people, who beheld him, their
only countryman by birth, among the oppressors of his native land. The
captain of a frigate in the harbour, and two or three civil officers
under the Crown, were also there. But the figure which most attracted
the public eye, and stirred up the deepest feeling, was the Episcopal
clergyman of King's Chapel, riding haughtily among the magistrates in
his priestly vestments, the fitting representative of prelacy and
persecution, the union of church and state, and all those abominations
which had driven the Puritans to the wilderness. Another guard of
soldiers, in double rank, brought up the rear.
The whole scene was a picture of the condition of New England, and its
moral, the deformity of any government that does not grow out of the
nature of things and the character of the people. On one side the
religious multitude, with their sad visages and dark attire, and on the
other, the group of despotic rulers, with the high churchman in the
midst, and here and there a crucifix at their bosoms, all magnificently
clad, flushed with wine, proud of unjust authority, and scoffing at the
universal groan. And the mercenary soldiers, waiting but the word to
deluge the street with blood, showed the only means by which obedience
could be secured.
"O Lord of Hosts," cried a voice among the crowd, "provide a Champion
for thy people!"
This ejaculation was loudly uttered, and served as a herald's cry, to
introduce a remarkable personage. The crowd had rolled back, and were
now huddled together nearly at the extremity of the street, while the
soldiers had advanced no more than a third of its length. The
intervening space was empty—a paved solitude, between lofty edifices,
which threw almost a twilight shadow over it. Suddenly, there was seen
the figure of an ancient man, who seemed to have emerged from among the
people, and was walking by himself along the centre of the street, to
confront the armed band. He wore the old Puritan dress, a dark cloak and
a steeple-crowned hat, in the fashion of at least fifty years before,
with a heavy sword upon his thigh, but a staff in his hand to assist the
tremulous gait of age.
When at some distance from the multitude, the old man turned slowly
round, displaying a face of antique majesty, rendered doubly venerable
by the hoary beard that descended on his breast. He made a gesture at
once of encouragement and warning, then turned again, and resumed his
"Who is this gray patriarch?" asked the young men of their sires.
"Who is this venerable brother?" asked the old men among themselves.
But none could make reply. The fathers of the people, those of
four-score years and upwards, were disturbed, deeming it strange that
they should forget one of such evident authority, whom they must have
known in their early days, the associate of Winthrop, and all the old
councillors, giving laws, and making prayers, and leading them against
the savage. The elderly men ought to have remembered him, too, with
locks as gray in their youth, as their own were now. And the young! How
could he have passed so utterly from their memories—that hoary sire,
the relic of long-departed times, whose awful benediction had surely
been bestowed on their uncovered heads, in childhood?
"Whence did he come? What is his purpose? Who can this old man be?"
whispered the wondering crowd.
Meanwhile, the venerable stranger, staff in hand, was pursuing his
solitary walk along the centre of the street. As he drew near the
advancing soldiers, and as the roll of their drum came full upon his
ear, the old man raised himself to a loftier mien, while the decrepitude
of age seemed to fall from his shoulders, leaving him in gray but
unbroken dignity. Now, he marched onward with a warrior's step, keeping
time to the military music. Thus the aged form advanced on one side, and
the whole parade of soldiers and magistrates on the other, till, when
scarcely twenty yards remained between, the old man grasped his staff by
the middle, and held it before him like a leader's truncheon.
"Stand!" cried he.
The eye, the face, and attitude of command; the solemn, yet warlike peal
of that voice, fit either to rule a host in the battle-field or be
raised to God in prayer, were irresistible. At the old man's word and
outstretched arm, the roll of the drum was hushed at once, and the
advancing line stood still. A tremulous enthusiasm seized upon the
multitude. That stately form, combining the leader and the saint, so
gray, so dimly seen, in such an ancient garb, could only belong to some
old champion of the righteous cause, whom the oppressor's drum had
summoned from his grave. They raised a shout of awe and exultation, and
looked for the deliverance of New England.
The Governor, and the gentlemen of his party, perceiving themselves
brought to an unexpected stand, rode hastily forward, as if they would
have pressed their snorting and affrighted horses right against the
hoary apparition. He, however, blenched not a step, but glancing his
severe eye round the group, which half encompassed him, at last bent it
sternly on Sir Edmund Andros. One would have thought that the dark old
man was chief ruler there, and that the Governor and Council, with
soldiers at their back, representing the whole power and authority of
the Crown, had no alternative but obedience.
"What does this old fellow here?" cried Edward Randolph, fiercely. "On,
Sir Edmund! Bid the soldiers forward, and give the dotard the same
choice that you give all his countrymen—to stand aside or be trampled
"Nay, nay, let us show respect to the good grandsire," said Bullivant,
laughing. "See you not, he is some old round-headed dignitary, who hath
lain asleep these thirty years, and knows nothing of the change of
times? Doubtless, he thinks to put us down with a proclamation in Old
"Are you mad, old man?" demanded Sir Edmund Andros, in loud and harsh
tones. "How dare you stay the march of King James's Governor?"
"I have stayed the march of a King himself, ere now," replied the gray
figure, with stern composure, "I am here, Sir Governor, because the cry
of an oppressed people hath disturbed me in my secret place; and
beseeching this favour earnestly of the Lord, it was vouchsafed me to
appear once again on earth, in the good old cause of his saints. And
what speak ye of James? There is no longer a Popish tyrant on the throne
of England, and by to-morrow noon, his name shall be a byword in this
very street, where ye would make it a word of terror. Back, thou that
wast a Governor, back! With this night thy power is ended—to-morrow,
the prison!—back, lest I foretell the scaffold!"
The people had been drawing nearer and nearer, and drinking in the words
of their champion, who spoke in accents long disused, like one
unaccustomed to converse, except with the dead of many years ago. But
his voice stirred their souls. They confronted the soldiers, not wholly
without arms, and ready to convert the very stones of the street into
deadly weapons. Sir Edmund Andros looked at the old man; then he cast
his hard and cruel eye over the multitude, and beheld them burning with
that lurid wrath, so difficult to kindle or to quench; and again he
fixed his gaze on the aged form, which stood obscurely in an open space,
where neither friend nor foe had thrust himself. What were his thoughts,
he uttered no word which might discover. But whether the oppressor were
averawed by the Gray Champion's look, or perceived his peril in the
threatening attitude of the people, it is certain that he gave back, and
ordered his soldiers to commence a slow and guarded retreat. Before
another sunset, the Governor, and all that rode so proudly with him,
were prisoners, and long ere it was known that James had abdicated, King
William was proclaimed throughout New England.
But where was the Gray Champion? Some reported that, when the troops had
gone from King Street, and the people were thronging tumultuously in
their rear, Bradstreet, the aged Governor, was seen to embrace a form
more aged than his own. Others soberly affirmed, that while they
marvelled at the venerable grandeur of his aspect, the old man had faded
from their eyes, melting slowly into the hues of twilight, till, where
he stood, there was an empty space. But all agreed that the hoary shape
was gone. The men of that generation watched for his reappearance, in
sunshine and in twilight, but never saw him more, nor knew when his
funeral passed, nor where his gravestone was.
And who was the Gray Champion? Perhaps his name might be found in the
records of that stern Court of Justice, which passed a sentence, too
mighty for the age, but glorious in all after-times, for its humbling
lesson to the monarch and its high example to the subject. I have heard,
that whenever the descendants of the Puritans are to show the spirit of
their sires, the old man appears again. When eighty years had passed, he
walked once more in King Street. Five years later, in the twilight of an
April morning, he stood on the green, beside the meeting-house, at
Lexington, where now the obelisk of granite, with a slab of slate
inlaid, commemorates the first fallen of the Revolution. And when our
fathers were toiling at the breastwork on Bunker's Hill, all through
that night the old warrior walked his rounds. Long, long may it be, ere
he comes again! His hour is one of darkness, and adversity, and peril.
But should domestic tyranny oppress us, or the invader's step pollute
our soil, still may the Gray Champion come, for he is the type of New
England's hereditary spirit; and his shadowy march, on the eve of
danger, must ever be the pledge, that New England's sons will vindicate
THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
FOUND AMONG THE PAPERS OF THE LATE DIEDRICH KNICKERBOCKER
IN THE bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern
shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by
the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and where they always
prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of St. Nicholas
when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which
by some is called Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly
known by the name of Tarry Town. This name was given, we are told, in
former days, by the good housewives of the adjacent country, from the
inveterate propensity of their husbands to linger about the village
tavern on market days. Be that as it may, I do not vouch for the fact,
but merely advert to it, for the sake of being precise and authentic.
Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little
valley or rather lap of land among high hills, which is one of the
quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it,
with just murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional
whistle of a quail or tapping of a woodpecker is almost the only sound
that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquillity.
I recollect that, when a stripling, my first exploit in
squirrel-shooting was in a grove of tall walnut trees that shades one
side of the valley. I had wandered into it at noontime, when all nature
is peculiarly quiet, and was startled by the roar of my own gun, as it
broke the Sabbath stillness around and was prolonged and reverberated by
the angry echoes. If ever I should wish for a retreat whither I might
steal from the world and its distractions, and dream quietly away the
remnant of a troubled life, I know of none more promising than this
From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its
inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this
sequestered glen has long been known by the name of Sleepy Hollow, and
its rustic lads are called the Sleepy Hollow Boys throughout all the
neighbouring country. A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the
land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was
bewitched by a High German doctor, during the early days of the
settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of
his tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by
Master Hendrick Hudson. Certain it is, the place still continues under
the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of
the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are
given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs; are subject to trances and
visions, and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in
the air. The whole neighbourhood abounds with local tales, haunted
spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener
across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the
nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it the favourite scene
of her gambols.
The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and
seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the
apparition of a figure on horseback, without a head. It is said by some
to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away
by a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War,
and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk hurrying along in the
gloom of night, as if on the wings of the wind. His haunts are not
confined to the valley, but extend at times to the adjacent roads, and
especially to the vicinity of a church at no great distance. Indeed,
certain of the most authentic historians of those parts, who have been
careful in collecting and collating the floating facts concerning this
spectre, allege that the body of the trooper having been buried in the
churchyard, the ghost rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly
quest of his head, and that the rushing speed with which he sometimes
passes along the Hollow, like a midnight blast, is owing to his being
belated, and in a hurry to get back to the churchyard before daybreak.
Such is the general purport of this legendary superstition, which has
furnished materials for many a wild story in that region of shadows; and
the spectre is known at all the country firesides, by the name of the
Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.
It is remarkable that the visionary propensity I have mentioned is not
confined to the native inhabitants of the valley, but is unconsciously
imbibed by every one who resides there for a time. However wide awake
they may have been before they entered that sleepy region, they are
sure, in a little time, to inhale the witching influence of the air, and
begin to grow imaginative, to dream dreams, and see apparitions.
I mention this peaceful spot with all possible laud; for it is in such
little retired Dutch valleys, found here and there embosomed in the
great state of New York, that population, manners, and customs remain
fixed, while the great torrent of migration and improvement, which is
making such incessant changes in other parts of this restless country,
sweeps by them unobserved. They are like those little nooks of still
water, which border a rapid stream, where we may see the straw and
bubble riding quietly at anchor, or slowly revolving in their mimic
harbour, undisturbed by the brush of the passing current. Though many
years have elapsed since I trod the drowsy shades of Sleepy Hollow, yet
I question whether I should not still find the same trees and the same
families vegetating in its sheltered bosom.
In this by-place of nature there abode, in a remote period of American
history, that is to say, some thirty years since, a worthy wight of the
name of Ichabod Crane, who sojourned, or, as he expressed it, "tarried,"
in Sleepy Hollow, for the purpose of instructing the children of the
vicinity. He was a native of Connecticut, a state which supplies the
Union with pioneers for the mind as well as for the forest, and sends
forth yearly its legions of frontier woodmen and country schoolmasters.
The cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable to his person. He was tall,
but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands
that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for
shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was
small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a
long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weathercock perched upon his
spindle neck to tell which way the wind blew. To see him striding along
the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and
fluttering about him, one might have mistaken him for the genius of
famine descending upon the earth, or some scarecrow eloped from a
His schoolhouse was a low building of one large room, rudely constructed
of logs; the windows partly glazed, and partly patched with leaves of
old copybooks. It was most ingeniously secured at vacant hours, by a
withe twisted in the handle of the door, and stakes set against the
window shutters; so that though a thief might get in with perfect ease,
he would find some embarrassment in getting out—an idea most probably
borrowed by the architect, Yost Van Houten, from the mystery of an
eelpot. The schoolhouse stood in a rather lonely but pleasant situation,
just at the foot of a woody hill, with a brook running close by, and a
formidable birch tree growing at one end of it. From hence the low
murmur of his pupils' voices, conning over their lessons, might be heard
in a drowsy summer's day, like the hum of a beehive; interrupted now and
then by the authoritative voice of the master, in the tone of menace or
command; or, peradventure, by the appalling sound of the birch, as he
urged some tardy loiterer along the flowery path of knowledge. Truth to
say, he was a conscientious man, and ever bore in mind the golden maxim,
"Spare the rod and spoil the child." Ichabod Crane's scholars certainly
were not spoiled.
I would not have it imagined, however, that he was one of those cruel
potentates of the school who joy in the smart of their subjects; on the
contrary, he administered justice with discrimination rather than
severity; taking the burden off the backs of the weak, and laying it on
those of the strong. Your mere puny stripling, that winced at the least
flourish of the rod, was passed by with indulgence; but the claims of
justice were satisfied by inflicting a double portion on some little
tough, wrong-headed, broad-skirted Dutch urchin, who sulked and swelled
and grew dogged and sullen beneath the birch. All this he called "doing
his duty by their parents"; and he never inflicted a chastisement
without following it by the assurance, so consolatory to the smarting
urchin, that "he would remember it and thank him for it the longest day
he had to live."
When school hours were over, he was even the companion and playmate of
the larger boys; and on holiday afternoons would convoy some of the
smaller ones home, who happened to have pretty sisters, or good
housewives for mothers, noted for the comforts of the cupboard. Indeed,
it behooved him to keep on good terms with his pupils. The revenue
arising from his school was small, and would have been scarcely
sufficient to furnish him with daily bread, for he was a huge feeder,
and, though lank, had the dilating powers of an anaconda; but to help
out his maintenance, he was, according to country custom in those parts,
boarded and lodged at the houses of the farmers whose children he
instructed. With these he lived successively a week at a time, thus
going the rounds of the neighbourhood, with all his worldly effects tied
up in a cotton handkerchief.
That all this might not be too onerous on the purses of his rustic
patrons, who are apt to consider the costs of schooling a grievous
burden, and schoolmasters as mere drones, he had various ways of
rendering himself both useful and agreeable. He assisted the farmers
occasionally in the lighter labours of their farms, helped to make hay,
mended the fences, took the horses to water, drove the cows from
pasture, and cut wood for the winter fire. He laid aside, too, all the
dominant dignity and absolute sway with which he lorded it in his little
empire, the school, and became wonderfully gentle and ingratiating. He
found favour in the eyes of the mothers by petting the children,
particularly the youngest; and like the lion bold, which whilom so
magnanimously the lamb did hold, he would sit with a child on one knee,
and rock a cradle with his foot for whole hours together.
In addition to his other vocations, he was the singing-master of the
neighbourhood, and picked up many bright shillings by instructing the
young folks in psalmody. It was a matter of no little vanity to him on
Sundays, to take his station in front of the church gallery, with a band
of chosen singers; where, in his own mind, he completely carried away
the palm from the parson. Certain it is, his voice resounded far above
all the rest of the congregation; and there are peculiar quavers still
to be heard in that church, and which may even be heard half a mile off,
quite to the opposite side of the mill-pond, on a still Sunday morning,
which are said to be legitimately descended from the nose of Ichabod
Crane. Thus, by divers little makeshifts, in that ingenious way which is
commonly denominated "by hook and by crook," the worthy pedagogue got on
tolerably enough, and was thought, by all who understood nothing of the
labour of headwork, to have a wonderfully easy life of it.
The schoolmaster is generally a man of some importance in the female
circle of a rural neighbourhood; being considered a kind of idle,
gentlemanlike personage, of vastly superior taste and accomplishments to
the rough country swains, and, indeed, inferior in learning only to the
parson. His appearance, therefore, is apt to occasion some little stir
at the tea-table of a farmhouse, and the addition of a supernumerary
dish of cakes or sweetmeats, or, peradventure, the parade of a silver
teapot. Our man of letters, therefore, was peculiarly happy in the
smiles of all the country damsels. How he would figure among them in the
churchyard, between services on Sundays! gathering grapes for them from
the wild vines that overran the surrounding trees; reciting for their
amusement all the epitaphs on the tombstones; or sauntering, with a
whole bevy of them, along the banks of the adjacent mill-pond; while the
more bashful country bumpkins hung sheepishly back, envying his superior
elegance and address.
From his half itinerant life, also, he was a kind of travelling gazette,
carrying the whole budget of local gossip from house to house, so that
his appearance was always greeted with satisfaction. He was, moreover,
esteemed by the women as a man of great erudition, for he had read
several books quite through, and was a perfect master of Cotton Mather's
"History of New England Witchcraft," in which, by the way, he most
firmly and potently believed.
He was, in fact, an odd mixture of small shrewdness and simple
credulity. His appetite for the marvellous, and his powers of digesting
it, were equally extraordinary; and both had been increased by his
residence in this spellbound region. No tale was too gross or monstrous
for his capacious swallow. It was often his delight, after his school
was dismissed in the afternoon, to stretch himself on the rich bed of
clover bordering the little brook that whimpered by his schoolhouse, and
there con over old Mather's direful tales, until the gathering dusk of
evening made the printed page a mere mist before his eyes. Then, as he
wended his way by swamp and stream and awful woodland, to the farmhouse
where he happened to be quartered, every sound of nature, at that
witching hour, fluttered his excited imagination—the moan of the
whip-poor-will from the hillside, the boding cry of the tree toad, that
harbinger of storm, the dreary hooting of the screech owl, to the sudden
rustling in the thicket of birds frightened from their roost. The
fireflies, too, which sparkled most vividly in the darkest places, now
and then startled him, as one of uncommon brightness would stream across
his path; and if, by chance, a huge blockhead of a beetle came winging
his blundering flight against him, the poor varlet was ready to give up
the ghost, with the idea that he was struck with a witch's token. His
only resource on such occasions, either to drown thought or drive away
evil spirits, was to sing psalm tunes; and the good people of Sleepy
Hollow, as they sat by their doors of an evening, were often filled with
awe at hearing his nasal melody, "in linked sweetness long drawn out,"
floating from the distant hill, or along the dusky road.
Another of his sources of fearful pleasure was to pass long winter
evenings with the old Dutch wives, as they sat spinning by the fire,
with a row of apples roasting and spluttering along the hearth, and
listen to their marvellous tales of ghosts and goblins, and haunted
fields, and haunted brooks, and haunted bridges, and haunted houses, and
particularly of the headless horseman, or Galloping Hessian of the
Hollow, as they sometimes called him. He would delight them equally by
his anecdotes of witchcraft, and of the direful omens and portentous
sights and sounds in the air, which prevailed in the earlier times of
Connecticut; and would frighten them woefully with speculations upon
comets and shooting stars; and with the alarming fact that the world did
absolutely turn round, and that they were half the time topsy-turvy!
But if there was a pleasure in all this, while snugly cuddling in the
chimney corner of a chamber that was all of a ruddy glow from the
crackling wood fire, and where, of course, no spectre dared to show its
face, it was dearly purchased by the terrors of his subsequent walk
homewards. What fearful shapes and shadows beset his path, amidst the
dim and ghastly glare of a snowy night! With what wistful look did he
eye every trembling ray of light streaming across the waste fields from
some distant window! How often was he appalled by some shrub covered
with snow, which, like a sheeted spectre, beset his very path! How often
did he shrink with curdling awe at the sound of his own steps on the
frosty crust beneath his feet; and dread to look over his shoulder, lest
he should behold some uncouth being tramping close behind him! and how
often was he thrown into complete dismay by some rushing blast, howling
among the trees, in the idea that it was the Galloping Hessian on one of
his nightly scourings!
All these, however, were mere terrors of the night, phantoms of the mind
that walk in darkness; and though he had seen many spectres in his time,
and been more than once beset by Satan in divers shapes, in his lonely
perambulations, yet daylight put an end to all these evils; and he would
have passed a pleasant life of it, in despite of the Devil and all his
works, if his path had not been crossed by a being that causes more
perplexity to mortal man than ghosts, goblins, and the whole race of
witches put together, and that was—a woman.
Among the musical disciples who assembled, one evening in each week, to
receive his instructions in psalmody, was Katrina Van Tassel, the
daughter and only child of a substantial Dutch farmer. She was a
blooming lass of fresh eighteen; plump as a partridge; ripe and melting
and rosy-cheeked as one of her father's peaches, and universally famed,
not merely for her beauty, but her vast expectations. She was withal a
little or a coquette, as might be perceived even in her dress, which was
a mixture of ancient and modern fashions, as most suited to set off her
charms. She wore the ornaments of pure yellow gold, which her
great-great-grandmother had brought over from Saardam; the tempting
stomacher of the olden time, and withal a provokingly short petticoat,
to display the prettiest foot and ankle in the country round.
Ichabod Crane had a soft and foolish heart toward the sex; and it is not
to be wondered at, that so tempting a morsel soon found favour in his
eyes, more especially after he had visited her in her paternal mansion.
Old Baltus Van Tassel was a perfect picture of a thriving, contented,
liberal hearted farmer. He seldom, it is true, sent either his eyes or
his thoughts beyond the boundaries of his own farm; but within those
everything was snug, happy and well-conditioned. He was satisfied with
his wealth, but not proud of it; and piqued himself upon the hearty
abundance, rather than the style in which he lived. His stronghold was
situated on the banks of the Hudson, in one of those green, sheltered,
fertile nooks in which the Dutch farmers are so fond of nestling. A
great elm tree spread its broad branches over it, at the foot of which
bubbled up a spring of the softest and sweetest water, in a little well
formed of a barrel; and then stole sparkling away through the grass, to
a neighbouring brook, that babbled along among alders and dwarf willows.
Hard by the farmhouse was a vast barn, that might have served for a
church; every window and crevice of which seemed bursting forth with the
treasures of the farm; the flail was busily resounding within it from
morning to night; swallows and martins skimmed twittering about the
eaves; and rows of pigeons, some with one eye turned up, as if watching
the weather, some with their heads under their wings or buried in their
bosoms, and others swelling, and cooing, and bowing about their dames,
were enjoying the sunshine on the roof. Sleek unwieldy porkers were
grunting in the repose and abundance of their pens, from whence sallied
forth, now and then, troops of sucking pigs, as if to snuff the air. A
stately squadron of snowy geese were riding in an adjoining pond,
convoying whole fleets of ducks; regiments of turkeys were gobbling
through the farmyard, and Guinea fowls fretting about it, like
ill-tempered housewives, with their peevish, discontented cry. Before
the barn door strutted the gallant cock, that pattern of a husband, a
warrior and a fine gentleman, clapping his burnished wings and crowing
in the pride and gladness of his heart—sometimes tearing up the earth
with his feet, and then generously calling his ever-hungry family of
wives and children to enjoy the rich morsel which he had discovered.
The pedagogue's mouth watered as he looked upon this sumptuous promise
of luxurious winter fare. In his devouring mind's eye, he pictured to
himself every roasting-pig running about with a pudding in his belly,
and an apple in his mouth; the pigeons were snugly put to bed in a
comfortable pie, and tucked in with a coverlet of crust; the geese were
swimming in their own gravy; and the ducks pairing cosily in dishes,
like snug married couples, with a decent competency of onion sauce. In
the porkers he saw carved out the future sleek side of bacon, and juicy
relishing ham; not a turkey but he beheld daintily trussed up, with its
gizzard under its wing, and, peradventure, a necklace of savoury
sausages; and even bright chanticleer himself lay sprawling on his back,
in a side dish, with uplifted claws, as if craving that quarter which
his chivalrous spirit disdained to ask while living.
As the enraptured Ichabod fancied all this, and as he rolled his great
green eyes over the fat meadow lands, the rich fields of wheat, of rye,
of buckwheat, and Indian corn, and the orchards burdened with ruddy
fruit, which surrounded the warm tenement of Van Tassel, his heart
yearned after the damsel who was to inherit these domains, and his
imagination expanded with the idea, how they might be readily turned
into cash, and the money invested in immense tracts of wild land, and
shingle palaces in the wilderness. Nay, his busy fancy already realised
his hopes, and presented to him the blooming Katrina, with a whole
family of children, mounted on the top of a wagon loaded with household
trumpery, with pots and kettles dangling beneath; and he beheld himself
bestriding a pacing mare, with a colt at her heels, setting out for
Kentucky, Tennessee—or the Lord knows where!
When he entered the house, the conquest of his heart was complete. It
was one, of those spacious farmhouses, with high ridged but lowly
sloping roofs, built in the style handed down from the first Dutch
settlers; the low projecting eaves forming a piazza along the front,
capable of being closed up in bad weather. Under this were hung flails,
harness, various utensils of husbandry, and nets for fishing in the
neighbouring river. Benches were built along the sides for summer use;
and a great spinning-wheel at one end, and a churn at the other, showed
the various uses to which this important porch might be devoted. From
this piazza the wondering Ichabod entered the hall, which formed the
centre of the mansion, and the place of usual residence. Here rows of
resplendent pewter, ranged on a long dresser, dazzled his eyes. In one
corner stood a huge bag of wool, ready to be spun; in another, a
quantity of linsey-woolsey just from the loom; ears of Indian corn, and
strings of dried apples and peaches, hung in gay festoons along the
walls, mingled with the gaud of red peppers; and a door left ajar gave
him a peep into the best parlour, where the claw footed chairs and dark
mahogany tables shone like mirrors; andirons, with their accompanying
shovel and tongs, glistened from their covert of asparagus tops;
mock-oranges and conch-shells decorated the mantle-piece; strings of
various coloured birds' eggs were suspended above it; a great ostrich
egg was hung from the centre of the room, and a corner cupboard,
knowingly left open, displayed immense treasures of old silver and well
From the moment Ichabod laid his eyes upon these regions of delight, the
peace of his mind was at an end, and his only study was how to gain the
affections of the peerless daughter of Van Tassel. In this enterprise,
however, he had more real difficulties than generally fell to the lot of
a knight-errant of yore, who seldom had anything but giants, enchanters,
fiery dragons, and such like easily conquered adversaries, to contend
with, and had to make his way merely through gates of iron and brass,
and walls of adamant to the castle keep, where the lady of his heart was
confined; all which he achieved as easily as a man would carve his way
to the centre of a Christmas pie; and then the lady gave him her hand as
a matter of course. Ichabod, on the contrary, had to win his way to the
heart of a country coquette, beset with a labyrinth of whims and
caprices, which were forever presenting new difficulties and
impediments; and he had to encounter a host of fearful adversaries of
real flesh and blood, the numerous rustic admirers, who beset every
portal to her heart, keeping a watchful and angry eye upon each other,
but ready to fly out in the common cause against any new competitor.
Among these, the most formidable was a burly, roaring, roystering blade,
of the name of Abraham, or, according to the Dutch abbreviation, Brom
Van Brunt, the hero of the country round, which rang with his feats of
strength and hardihood. He was broad-shouldered and double-jointed, with
short curly black hair, and a bluff but not unpleasant countenance,
having a mingled air of fun and arrogance. From his Herculean frame and
great powers of limb, he had received the nickname of Brom Bones, by
which he was universally known. He was famed for great knowledge and
skill in horsemanship, being as dexterous on horseback as a Tartar. He
was foremost at all races and cock-fights; and, with the ascendancy
which bodily strength always acquires in rustic life, was the umpire in
all disputes, setting his hat on one side, and giving his decisions with
an air and tone that admitted of no gainsay or appeal. He was always
ready for either a fight or a frolic; but had more mischief than
ill-will in his composition; and with all his overbearing roughness,
there was a strong clash of waggish good humour at bottom. He had three
or four boon companions, who regarded him as their model, and at the
head of whom he scoured the country, attending every scene of feud or
merriment for miles round. In cold weather he was distinguished by a fur
cap, surmounted with a flaunting fox's tail; and when the folks at a
country gathering descried this well-known crest at a distance, whisking
about among a squad of hard riders, they always stood by for a squall.
Sometimes his crew would be heard dashing along past the farmhouses at
midnight, with whoop and halloo, like a troop of Don Cossacks; and the
old dames, startled out of their sleep, would listen for a moment till
the hurry-scurry had clattered by, and then exclaim, "Ay, there goes
Brom Bones and his gang!" The neighbours looked upon him with a mixture
of awe, admiration, and good-will; and, when any madcap prank or rustic
brawl occurred in the vicinity, always shook their heads, and warranted
Brom Bones was at the bottom of it.
This rantipole hero had for some time singled out the blooming Katrina
for the object of his uncouth gallantries, and though his amorous
toyings were something like the gentle caresses and endearments of a
bear, yet it was whispered that she did not altogether discourage his
hopes. Certain it is, his advances were signals for rival candidates to
retire, who felt no inclination to cross a lion in his amours; insomuch,
that when his horse was seen tied to Van Tassel's paling, on a Sunday
night, a sure sign that his master was courting, or, as it is termed,
"sparking," within, all other suitors passed by in despair, and carried
the war into other quarters.
Such was the formidable rival with whom Ichabod Crane had to contend,
and, considering all things, a stouter man than he would have shrunk
from the competition, and a wiser man would have despaired. He had,
however, a happy mixture of pliability and perseverance in his nature;
he was in form and spirit like a supple-jack—yielding, but tough;
though he bent, he never broke; and though he bowed beneath the
slightest pressure, yet, the moment it was away—jerk!—he was as erect,
and carried his head as high as ever.
To have taken the field openly against his rival would have been
madness; for he was not a man to be thwarted in his amours, any more
than that stormy lover, Achilles. Ichabod, therefore, made his advances
in a quiet and gently insinuating manner. Under cover of his character
of singing-master, he made frequent visits at the farmhouse; not that he
had anything to apprehend from the meddlesome interference of parents,
which is so often a stumbling block in the path of lovers. Balt Van
Tassel was an easy, indulgent soul; he loved his daughter better even
than his pipe, and, like a reasonable man and an excellent father, let
her have her way in everything. His notable little wife, too, had enough
to do to attend to her housekeeping and manage her poultry; for, as she
sagely observed, ducks and geese are foolish things, and must be looked
after, but girls can take care of themselves. Thus, while the busy dame
bustled about the house, or plied her spinning-wheel at one end of the
piazza, honest Balt would sit smoking his evening pipe at the other,
watching the achievements of a little wooden warrior, who, armed with a
sword in each hand, was most valiantly fighting the wind on the pinnacle
of the barn. In the meantime, Ichabod would carry on his suit with the
daughter by the side of the spring under the great elm, or sauntering
along in the twilight, that hour so favourable to the lover's eloquence.
I profess not to know how women's hearts are wooed and won. To me they
have always been matters of riddle and admiration. Some seem to have but
one vulnerable point, or door of access; while others have a thousand
avenues, and may be captured in a thousand different ways. It is a great
triumph of skill to gain the former, but a still greater proof of
generalship to maintain possession of the latter, for a man must battle
for his fortress at every door and window. He who wins a thousand common
hearts is therefore entitled to some renown; but he who keeps undisputed
sway over the heart of a coquette is indeed a hero. Certain it is, this
was not the case with the redoubtable Brom Bones; and from the moment
Ichabod Crane made his advances, the interests of the former evidently
declined: his horse was no longer seen tied to the palings on Sunday
nights, and a deadly feud gradually arose between him and the preceptor
of Sleepy Hollow.
Brom, who had a degree of rough chivalry in his nature, would fain have
carried matters to open warfare and have settled their pretensions to
the lady, according to the mode of those most concise and simple
reasoners, the knights-errant of yore—by single combat; but Ichabod was
too conscious of the superior might of his adversary to enter the lists
against him; he had overheard a boast of Bones, that he would "double
the schoolmaster up, and lay him on a shelf of his own schoolhouse"; and
he was too wary to give him an opportunity. There was something
extremely provoking in this obstinately pacific system; it left Brom no
alternative but to draw upon the funds of rustic waggery in his
disposition, and to play off boorish practical jokes upon his rival.
Ichabod became the object of whimsical persecution to Bones and his gang
of rough riders. They harried his hitherto peaceful domains, smoked out
his singing-school by stopping up the chimney, broke into the
schoolhouse at night, in spite of its formidable fastenings of withe and
window stakes, and turned everything topsy-turvy, so that the poor
schoolmaster began to think all the witches in the country held their
meetings there. But what was still more annoying, Brom took all
opportunities of turning him into ridicule in presence of his mistress,
and had a scoundrel dog whom he taught to whine in the most ludicrous
manner, and introduced as a rival of Ichabod's, to instruct her in
In this way matters went on for some time, without producing any
material effect on the relative situations of the contending powers. On
a fine autumnal afternoon, Ichabod, in pensive mood, sat enthroned on
the lofty stool from whence he usually watched all the concerns of his
little literary realm. In his hand he swayed a ferule, that sceptre of
despotic power; the birch of justice reposed on three nails behind the
throne, a constant terror to evil doers; while on the desk before him
might be seen sundry contraband articles and prohibited weapons detected
upon the persons of idle urchins, such as half-munched apples, popguns,
whirligigs, fly-cages, and whole legions of rampant little paper
game-cocks. Apparently there had been some appalling act of justice
recently inflicted, for his scholars were all busily intent upon their
books, or slyly whispering behind them with one eye kept upon the
master; and a kind of buzzing stillness reigned throughout the
schoolroom. It was suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a negro in
tow-cloth jacket and trousers, a round-crowned fragment of a hat, like
the cap of Mercury, and mounted on the back of a ragged, wild,
half-broken colt, which he managed with a rope by way of halter. He came
clattering up to the school door with an invitation to Ichabod to attend
a merry-making or "quilting-frolic," to be held that evening at Mynheer
Van Tassel's; and having delivered his message with that air of
importance and effort at fine language which a negro is apt to display
on petty embassies of the kind, he dashed over the brook, and was seen
scampering away up the Hollow, full of the importance and hurry of his
All was now bustle and hubbub in the late quiet schoolroom. The scholars
were hurried through their lessons without stopping at trifles; those
who were nimble skipped over half with impunity, and those who were
tardy had a smart application now and then in the rear, to quicken their
speed or help them over a tall word. Books were flung aside without
being put away on the shelves, inkstands were overturned, benches thrown
down, and the whole school was turned loose an hour before the usual
time, bursting forth like a legion of young imps, yelping and racketing
about the green in joy at their early emancipation.
The gallant Ichabod now spent at least an extra half hour at his toilet,
brushing and furbishing up his best, and indeed only suit of rusty
black, and arranging his locks by a bit of broken looking-glass that
hung up in the schoolhouse. That he might make his appearance before his
mistress in the true style of a cavalier, he borrowed a horse from the
farmer with whom he was domiciliated, a choleric old Dutchman of the
name of Hans Van Ripper, and, thus gallantly mounted, issued forth like
a knight-errant in quest of adventures. But it is meet I should, in the
true spirit of romantic story, give some account of the looks and
equipments of my hero and his steed. The animal he bestrode was a broken
down plow-horse, that had outlived almost everything but its
viciousness. He was gaunt and shagged, with a ewe neck, and a head like
a hammer; his rusty mane and tail were tangled and knotted with burs;
one eye had lost its pupil, and was glaring and spectral, but the other
had the gleam of a genuine devil in it. Still he must have had fire and
mettle in his day, if we may judge from the name he bore of Gunpowder.
He had, in fact, been a favourite steed of his master's, the choleric
Van Ripper, who was a furious rider, and had infused, very probably,
some of his own spirit into the animal; for, old and broken down as he
looked, there was more of the lurking devil in him than in any young
filly in the country.
Ichabod was a suitable figure for such a steed. He rode with short
stirrups, which brought his knees nearly up to the pommel of the saddle;
his sharp elbows stuck out like grasshoppers'; he carried his whip
perpendicularly in his hand, like a sceptre, and as his horse jogged on,
the motion of his arms was not unlike the flapping of a pair of wings. A
small wool hat rested on the top of his nose, for so his scanty strip of
forehead might be called, and the skirts of his black coat fluttered out
almost to the horse's tail. Such was the appearance of Ichabod and his
steed as they shambled out of the gate of Hans Van Ripper, and it was
altogether such an apparition as is seldom to be met with in broad
It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and
serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always
associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober
brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped
by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet.
Streaming files of wild ducks began to make their appearance high in the
air; the bark of the squirrel might be heard from the groves of beech
and hickory nuts, and the pensive whistle of the quail at intervals from
the neighbouring stubble field.
The small birds were taking their farewell banquets. In the fullness of
their revelry, they fluttered, chirping and frolicking from bush to
bush, and tree to tree, capricious from the very profusion and variety
around them. There was the honest cockrobin, the favourite game of
stripling sportsmen, with its loud querulous note; and the twittering
blackbirds flying in sable clouds; and the golden-winged woodpecker,
with his crimson crest, his broad black gorget, and splendid plumage;
and the cedar-bird, with its red-tipt wings and yellow-tipt tail and its
little monteiro cap of feathers; and the blue jay, that noisy coxcomb,
in his gay light blue coat and white underclothes, screaming and
chattering, nodding and bobbing and bowing, and pretending to be on good
terms with every songster of the grove.
As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye, ever open to every symptom
of culinary abundance, ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly
autumn. On all sides he beheld vast store of apples: some hanging in
oppressive opulence on the trees; some gathered into baskets and barrels
for the market; others heaped up in rich piles for the cider-press.
Farther on he beheld great fields of Indian corn, with its golden ears
peeping from their leafy coverts, and holding out the promise of cakes
and hasty-pudding; and the yellow pumpkins lying beneath them, turning
up their fair round bellies to the sun, and giving ample prospects of
the most luxurious of pies; and anon he passed the fragrant buckwheat
fields breathing the odour of the beehive, and as he beheld them, soft
anticipations stole over his mind of dainty slap-jacks, well buttered,
and garnished with honey or treacle, by the delicate little dimpled hand
of Katrina Van Tassel.
Thus feeding his mind with many sweet thoughts and "sugared
suppositions," he journeyed along the sides of a range of hills which
look out upon some of the goodliest scenes of the mighty Hudson. The sun
gradually wheeled his broad disk down in the west. The wide bosom of the
Tappen Zee lay motionless and glassy, excepting that here and there a
gentle undulation waved and prolonged the blue shadow of the distant
mountain. A few amber clouds floated in the sky, without a breath of air
to move them. The horizon was of a fine golden tint, changing gradually
into a pure apple green, and from that into the deep blue of the
mid-heaven. A slanting ray lingered on the woody crests of the
precipices that overhung some parts of the river, giving greater depth
to the dark gray and purple of the rocky sides. A sloop was loitering in
the distance, dropping slowly down with the tide, her sail hanging
uselessly against the mast; and as the reflection of the sky gleamed
along the still water, it seemed as if the vessel was suspended in the
It was toward evening that Ichabod arrived at the castle of the Heer Van
Tassel, which he found thronged with the pride and flower of the
adjacent country. Old farmers, a spare leathern-faced race, in homespun
coats and breeches, blue stockings, huge shoes, and magnificent pewter
buckles. Their brisk, withered little dames, in close crimped caps, long
waisted short-gowns, homespun petticoats, with scissors and pincushions,
and gay calico pockets hanging on the outside. Buxom lasses, almost as
antiquated as their mothers, excepting where a straw hat, a fine ribbon,
or perhaps a white frock, gave symptoms of city innovation. The sons, in
short square skirted coats, with rows of stupendous brass buttons, and
their hair generally queued in the fashion of the times, especially if
they could procure an eelskin for the purpose, it being esteemed
throughout the country as a potent nourisher and strengthener of the
Brom Bones, however, was the hero of the scene, having come to the
gathering on his favourite steed Daredevil, a creature, like himself,
full of mettle and mischief, and which no one but himself could manage.
He was, in fact, noted for preferring vicious animals, given to all
kinds of tricks which kept the rider in constant risk of his neck, for
he held a tractable, well broken horse as unworthy of a lad of spirit.
Fain would I pause to dwell upon the world of charms that burst upon the
enraptured gaze of my hero, as he entered the state parlour of Van
Tassel's mansion. Not those of the bevy of buxom lasses, with their
luxurious display of red and white; but the ample charms of a genuine
Dutch country tea-table, in the sumptuous time of autumn. Such heaped-up
platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds, known only
to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the
tender olykoek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and
short cakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family of
cakes. And then there were apple pies, and peach pies, and pumpkin pies;
besides slices of ham and smoked beef: and moreover delectable dishes of
preserved plums, and peaches, and pears, and quinces; not to mention
broiled shad and roasted chickens; together with bowls of milk and
cream, all mingled higgledy-piggledy, pretty much as I have enumerated
them, with the motherly teapot sending up its clouds of vapour from the
midst—Heaven bless the mark! I want breath and time to discuss this
banquet as it deserves, and am too eager to get on with my story.
Happily, Ichabod Crane was not in so great a hurry as his historian, but
did ample justice to every dainty.
He was a kind and thankful creature, whose heart dilated in proportion
as his skin was filled with good cheer, and whose spirits rose with
eating, as some men's do with drink. He could not help, too, rolling his
large eyes round him as he ate, and chuckling with the possibility that
he might one day be lord of all this scene of almost unimaginable luxury
and splendour. Then he, thought, how soon he'd turn his back upon the
old school-house; snap his fingers in the face of Hans Van Ripper, and
every other niggardly patron, and kick any itinerant pedagogue out of
doors that should dare to call him comrade!
Old Baltus Van Tassel moved about among his guests with a face dilated
with content and good humour, round and jolly as the harvest moon. His
hospitable attentions were brief, but expressive, being confined to a
shake of the hand, a slap on the shoulder, a loud laugh and a pressing
invitation to "fall to, and help themselves."
And now the sound of the music from the common room, or hall, summoned
to the dance. The musician was an old gray-headed negro, who had been
the itinerant orchestra of the neighbourhood for more than half a
century. His instrument was as old and battered as himself. The greater
part of the time he scraped on two or three strings, accompanying every
movement of the bow with a motion of the head; bowing almost to the
ground, and stamping with his foot whenever a fresh couple were to
Ichabod prided himself upon his dancing as much as upon his vocal
powers. Not a limb, not a fibre about him was idle; and to have seen his
loosely hung frame in full motion, and clattering about the room, you
would have thought St. Vitus himself, that blessed patron of the dance,
was figuring before you in person. He was the admiration of all the
negroes; who, having gathered, of all ages and sizes, from the farm and
the neighbourhood, stood forming a pyramid of shining black faces at
every door and window; gazing with delight at the scene; rolling their
white eye-balls, and showing grinning rows of ivory from ear to ear. How
could the flogger of urchins be otherwise than animated and joyous? the
lady of his heart was his partner in the dance, and smiling graciously
in reply to all his amorous oglings; while Brom Bones, sorely smitten
with love and jealousy, sat brooding by himself in one corner.
When the dance was at an end, Ichabod was attracted to a knot of the
sager folks, who, with Old Van Tassel, sat smoking at one end of the
piazza, gossiping over former times, and drawing out long stories about
This neighbourhood, at the time of which I am speaking, was one of those
highly favoured places which abound with chronicle and great men. The
British and American line had run near it during the war; it had,
therefore, been the scene of marauding, and infested with refugees,
cow-boys, and all kinds of border chivalry. Just sufficient time had
elapsed to enable each story-teller to dress up his tale with a little
becoming fiction, and, in the indistinctness of his recollection, to
make himself the hero of every exploit.
There was the story of Doffue Martling, a large blue-bearded Dutchman,
who had nearly taken a British frigate with an old iron nine-pounder
from a mud breast work, only that his gun burst at the sixth discharge.
And there was an old gentleman who shall be nameless, being too rich a
mynheer to be lightly mentioned, who, in the battle of White Plains,
being an excellent master of defence, parried a musket-ball with a
small-sword, insomuch that he absolutely felt it whiz round the blade,
and glance off at the hilt; in proof of which he was ready at any time
to show the sword, with the hilt a little bent. There were several more
that had been equally great in the field, not one of whom but was
persuaded that he had a considerable hand in bringing the war to a happy
But all these were nothing to the tales of ghosts and apparitions that
succeeded. The neighbourhood is rich in legendary treasures of the kind.
Local tales and superstitions thrive best in these sheltered,
long-settled retreats; but are trampled under foot by the shifting
throng that forms the population of most of our country places. Besides,
there is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages, for they
have scarcely had time to finish their first nap and turn themselves in
their graves, before their surviving friends have travelled away from
the neighbourhood; so that when they turn out at night to walk their
rounds, they have no acquaintance left to call upon. This is perhaps the
reason why we so seldom hear of ghosts except in our long established
The immediate cause, however, of the prevalence of supernatural stories
in these parts, was doubtless owing to the vicinity of Sleepy Hollow.
There was a contagion in the very air that blew from that haunted
region; it breathed forth an atmosphere of dreams and fancies infecting
all the land. Several of the Sleepy Hollow people were present at Van
Tassel's, and, as usual, were doling out their wild and wonderful
legends. Many dismal tales were told about funeral trains, and mourning
cries and wailings heard and seen about the great tree where the
unfortunate Major Andre was taken, and which stood in the neighbourhood.
Some mention was made also of the woman in white, that haunted the dark
glen at Raven Rock, and was often heard to shriek on winter nights
before a storm, having perished there in the snow. The chief part of the
stories, however, turned upon the favourite spectre of Sleepy Hollow,
the Headless Horseman, who had been heard several times of late,
patrolling the country; and, it was said, tethered his horse nightly
among the graves in the churchyard.
The sequestered situation of the church seems always to have made it a
favourite haunt of troubled spirits. It stands on a knoll, surrounded by
locust trees and lofty elms from among which its decent, whitewashed
walls shine modestly forth, like Christian purity beaming through the
shades of retirement. A gentle slope descends from it to a silver sheet
of water, bordered by high trees, between which, peeps may be caught at
the blue hills of the Hudson. To look upon its grass-grown yard, where
the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one would think that there at
least the dead might rest in peace. On one side of the church extends a
wide woody dell, along which raves a large brook among broken rocks and
trunks of fallen trees. Over a deep black part of the stream, not far
from the church, was formerly thrown a wooden bridge; the road that led
to it, and the bridge itself, were thickly shaded by overhanging trees,
which cast a gloom about it, even in the daytime; but occasioned a
fearful darkness at night. Such was one of the favourite haunts of the
Headless Horseman, and the place where he was most frequently
encountered. The tale was told of old Brouwer, a most heretical
disbeliever in ghosts, how he met the Horseman returning from his foray
into Sleepy Hollow, and was obliged to get up behind him; how they
galloped over bush and brake, over hill and swamp, until they reached
the bridge; when the Horseman suddenly turned into a skeleton, threw old
Brouwer into the brook, and sprang away over the tree-tops with a clap
This story was immediately matched by a thrice marvellous adventure of
Brom Bones, who made light of the Galloping Hessian as an arrant jockey.
He affirmed that on returning one night from the neighbouring village of
Sing Sing, he had been overtaken by this midnight trooper; that the had
offered to race with him for a bowl of punch, and should have won it
too, for Daredevil beat the goblin horse all hollow, but just as they
came to the church bridge, the Hessian bolted, and vanished in a flash
All these tales, told in that drowsy undertone with which men talk in
the dark, the countenances of the listeners only now and then receiving
a casual gleam from the glare of a pipe, sank deep in the mind of
Ichabod. He repaid them in kind with large extracts from his invaluable
author, Cotton Mather, and added many marvellous events that had taken
place in his native state of Connecticut, and fearful sights which he
had seen in his nightly walks about Sleepy Hollow.
The revel now gradually broke up. The old farmers gathered together
their families in their wagons, and were heard for some time rattling
along the hollow roads, and over the distant hills. Some of the damsels
mounted on pillions behind their favourite swains, and their
light-hearted laughter, mingling with the clatter of hoofs, echoed along
the silent woodlands, sounding fainter and fainter, until they gradually
died away—and the late scene of noise and frolic was all silent and
deserted. Ichabod only lingered behind, according to the custom of
country lovers, to have a tete-a-tete with the heiress; fully convinced
that he was now on the high road to success. What passed at this
interview I will not pretend to say, for in fact I do not know.
Something, however, I fear me, must have gone wrong, for he certainly
sallied forth, after no very great interval, with an air quite desolate
and chapfallen. Oh, these women! these women! Could that girl have been
playing off any of her coquettish tricks? Was her encouragement of the
poor pedagogue all a mere sham to secure her conquest of his rival?
Heaven only knows, not I! Let it suffice to say, Ichabod stole forth
with the air of one who had been sacking a henroost, rather than a fair
lady's heart. Without looking to the right or left to notice the scene
of rural wealth, on which he had so often gloated, he went straight to
the stable, and with several hearty cuffs and kicks roused his steed
most uncourteously from the comfortable quarters in which he was soundly
sleeping, dreaming of mountains of corn and oats, and whole valleys of
timothy and clover.
It was the very witching time of night that Ichabod, heavy-hearted and
crest-fallen, pursued his travels homewards, along the sides of the
lofty hills which rise above Tarry Town, and which he had traversed so
cheerily in the afternoon. The hour was as dismal as himself. Far below
him the Tappen Zee spread its dusky and indistinct waste of waters, with
here and there the tall mast of a sloop, riding quietly at anchor under
the land. In the dead hush of midnight, he could even hear the barking
of the watchdog from the opposite shore of the Hudson; but it was so
vague and faint as only to give an idea of his distance from this
faithful companion of man. Now and then, too, the long-drawn crowing of
a cock, accidentally awakened, would sound far, far off, from some
farmhouse away among the hills—but it was like a dreaming sound in his
ear. No signs of life occurred near him, but occasionally the melancholy
chirp of a cricket, or perhaps the guttural twang of a bull-frog from a
neighbouring marsh, as if sleeping uncomfortably and turning suddenly in
All the stories of ghosts and goblins that he had heard in the afternoon
now came crowding upon his recollection. The night grew darker and
darker; the stars seemed to sink deeper in the sky, and driving clouds
occasionally hid them from his sight. He had never felt so lonely and
dismal. He was, moreover, approaching the very place where many of the
scenes of the ghost stories had been laid. In the centre of the road
stood an enormous tulip-tree, which towered like a giant above all the
other trees of the neighbourhood, and formed a kind of landmark. Its
limbs were gnarled and fantastic, large enough to form trunks for
ordinary trees, twisting down almost to the earth, and rising again into
the air. It was connected with the tragical story of the unfortunate
Andre, who had been taken prisoner hard by, and was universally known by
the name of Major Andre's tree. The common people regarded it with a
mixture of respect and superstition, partly out of sympathy for the fate
of its ill-starred namesake, and partly from the tales of strange
sights, and doleful lamentations, told concerning it.
As Ichabod approached this fearful tree, he began to whistle; he thought
his whistle was answered; it was but a blast sweeping sharply through
the dry branches. As he approached a little nearer, he thought he saw
something white, hanging in the midst of the tree: he paused, and ceased
whistling; but, on looking more narrowly, perceived that it was a place
where the tree had been scathed by lightning, and the white wood laid
bare. Suddenly he heard a groan—his teeth chattered, and his knees
smote against the saddle: it was but the rubbing of one huge bough upon
another, as they were swayed about by the breeze. He passed the tree in
safety, but new perils lay before him.
About two hundred yards from the tree, a small brook crossed the road,
and ran into a marshy and thickly-wooded glen, known by the name of
Wiley's Swamp. A few rough logs, laid side by side, served for a bridge
over this stream. On that side of the road where the brook entered the
wood, a group of oaks and chestnuts, matted thick with wild grape-vines,
threw a cavernous gloom over it. To pass this bridge was the severest
trial. It was at this identical spot that the unfortunate Andre was
captured, and under the covert of those chestnuts and vines were the
sturdy yeomen concealed who surprised him. This has ever since been
considered a haunted stream, and fearful are the feelings of the
schoolboy who has to pass it alone after dark.
As he approached the stream, his heart began to thump; he summoned up,
however, all his resolution, gave his horse half a score of kicks in the
ribs, and attempted to dash briskly across the bridge; but instead of
starting forward, the perverse old animal made a lateral movement, and
ran broadside against the fence. Ichabod, whose fears increased with the
delay, jerked the reins on the other side, and kicked lustily with the
contrary foot: it was all in vain; his steed started, it is true, but it
was only to plunge to the opposite side of the road into a thicket of
brambles and alder-bushes. The schoolmaster now bestowed both whip and
heel upon the starveling ribs of old Gunpowder, who dashed forward,
snuffling and snorting, but came to a stand just by the bridge, with a
suddenness that had nearly sent his rider sprawling over his head. Just
at this moment a plashy tramp by the side of the bridge caught the
sensitive ear of Ichabod. In the dark shadow of the grove, on the margin
of the brook, he beheld something huge, misshapen, and towering. It
stirred not, but seemed gathered up in the gloom, like some gigantic
monster ready to spring upon the traveller.
The hair of the affrighted pedagogue rose upon his head with terror.
What was to be done? To turn and fly was now too late; and besides, what
chance was there of escaping ghost or goblin, if such it was, which
could ride upon the wings of the wind? Summoning up, therefore, a show
of courage, he demanded in stammering accents, "Who are you?" He
received no reply. He repeated his demand in a still more agitated
voice. Still there was no answer. Once more he cudgelled the sides of
the inflexible Gunpowder, and, shutting his eyes, broke forth with
involuntary fervour into a psalm tune. Just then the shadowy object of
alarm put itself in motion, and with a scramble and a bound stood at
once in the middle of the road. Though the night was dark and dismal,
yet the form of the unknown might now in some degree be ascertained. He
appeared to be a horseman of large dimensions, and mounted on a black
horse of powerful frame. He made no offer of molestation or sociability,
but kept aloof on one side of the road, jogging along on the blind side
of old Gunpowder, who had now got over his fright and waywardness.
Ichabod, who had no relish for this strange midnight companion, and
bethought himself of the adventure of Brom Bones with the Galloping
Hessian, now quickened his steed in hopes of leaving him behind. The
stranger, however, quickened his horse to an equal pace. Ichabod pulled
up, and fell into a walk, thinking to lag behind—the other did the
same. His heart began to sink within him; he endeavoured to resume his
psalm tune, but his parched tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, and
he could not utter a stave. There was something in the moody and dogged
silence of this pertinacious companion that was mysterious and
appalling. It was soon fearfully accounted for. On mounting a rising
ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveller in relief
against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was
horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless! but his horror was
still more increased on observing that the head, which should have
rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of his
saddle! His terror rose to desperation; he rained a shower of kicks and
blows upon Gunpowder, hoping by a sudden movement to give his companion
the slip; but the spectre started full jump with him. Away, then, they
dashed through thick and thin; stones flying and sparks flashing at
every bound. Ichabod's flimsy garments fluttered in the air, as he
stretched his long lank body away over his horse's head, in the
eagerness of his flight.
They had now reached the road which turns off to Sleepy Hollow; but
Gunpowder, who seemed possessed with a demon, instead of keeping up it,
made an opposite turn, and plunged headlong down hill to the left. This
road leads through a sandy hollow, shaded by trees for about a quarter
of a mile, where it crosses the bridge famous in goblin story; and just
beyond swells the green knoll on which stands the whitewashed church.
As yet the panic of the steed had given his unskilful rider an apparent
advantage in the chase; but just as he had got half way through the
hollow, the girths of the saddle gave way, and he felt it slipping from
under him. He seized it by the pommel, and endeavoured to hold it firm,
but in vain; and had just time to save himself by clasping old Gunpowder
round the neck, when the saddle fell to the earth, and he heard it
trampled under foot by his pursuer. For a moment the terror of Hans Van
Ripper's wrath passed across his mind—for it was his Sunday saddle; but
this was no time for petty fears; the goblin was hard on his haunches;
and (unskilful rider that he was!) he had much ado to maintain his seat;
sometimes slipping on one side, sometimes on another, and sometimes
jolted on the high ridge of his horse's backbone, with a violence that
he verily feared would cleave him asunder.
An opening in the trees now cheered him with the hopes that the church
bridge was at hand. The wavering reflection of a silver star in the
bosom of the brook told him that he was not mistaken. He saw the walls
of the church dimly glaring under the trees beyond. He recollected the
place where Brom Bones's ghostly competitor had disappeared. "If I can
but reach that bridge," thought Ichabod, "I am safe." Just then he heard
the black steed panting and blowing close behind him; he even fancied
that he felt his hot breath. Another convulsive kick in the ribs, and
old Gunpowder sprang upon the bridge; he thundered over the resounding
planks; he gained the opposite side; and now Ichabod cast a look behind
to see if his pursuer should vanish, according to rule, in a flash of
fire and brimstone. Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups,
and in the very act of hurling his head at him. Ichabod endeavoured to
dodge the horrible missile, but too late. It encountered his cranium
with a tremendous crash—he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and
Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin rider, passed by like a
The next morning the old horse was found without his saddle, and with
the bridle under his feet, soberly cropping the grass at his master's
gate. Ichabod did not make his appearance at breakfast; dinner-hour
came, but no Ichabod. The boys assembled at the schoolhouse, and
strolled idly about the banks of the brook; but no schoolmaster. Hans
Van Ripper now began to feel some uneasiness about the fate of poor
Ichabod, and his saddle. An inquiry was set on foot, and after diligent
investigation they came upon his traces. In one part of the road leading
to the church was found the saddle trampled in the dirt; the tracks of
horses' hoofs deeply dented in the road, and evidently at furious speed,
were traced to the bridge, beyond which, on the dank of a broad part of
the brook, where the water ran deep and black, was found the hat of the
unfortunate Ichabod, and close beside it a shattered pumpkin.
The brook was searched, but the body of the schoolmaster was not to be
discovered. Hans Van Ripper, as executor of his estate, examined the
bundle which contained all his worldly effects. They consisted of two
shirts and a half; two stocks for the neck; a pair or two of worsted
stockings; an old pair of corduroy small-clothes; a rusty razor; a book
of psalm tunes full of dog's-ears; and a broken pitch-pipe. As to the
books and furniture of the schoolhouse, they belonged to the community,
excepting Cotton Mather's History of Witchcraft, a New England Almanac,
and a book of dreams and fortune-telling; in which last was a sheet of
foolscap much scribbled and blotted in several fruitless attempts to
make a copy of verses in honour of the heiress of Van Tassel. These
magic books and the poetic scrawl were forthwith consigned to the flames
by Hans Van Ripper; who, from that time forward, determined to send his
children no more to school; observing that he never knew any good come
of this same reading and writing. Whatever money the schoolmaster
possessed, and he had received his quarter's pay but a day or two
before, he must have had about his person at the time of his
The mysterious event caused much speculation at the church on the
following Sunday. Knots of gazers and gossips were collected in the
churchyard, at the bridge, and at the spot where the hat and pumpkin had
been found. The stories of Brouwer, of Bones, and a whole budget of
others were called to mind; and when they had diligently considered them
all, and compared them with the symptoms of the present case, they shook
their heads, and came to the conclusion that Ichabod had been carried
off by the Galloping Hessian. As he was a bachelor, and in nobody's
debt, nobody troubled his head any more about him; the school was
removed to a different quarter of the Hollow, and another pedagogue
reigned in his stead.
It is true, an old farmer, who had been down to New York on a visit
several years after, and from whom this account of the ghostly adventure
was received, brought home the intelligence that Ichabod Crane was still
alive; that he had left the neighbourhood partly through fear of the
goblin and Hans Van Ripper, and partly in mortification at having been
suddenly dismissed by the heiress; that he had changed his quarters to a
distant part of the country; had kept school and studied law at the same
time; had been admitted to the bar; turned politician; electioneered;
written for the newspapers; and finally had been made a justice of the
ten pound court. Brom Bones, too, who, shortly after his rival's
disappearance conducted the blooming Katrina in triumph to the altar,
was observed to look exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod
was related, and always burst into a hearty laugh at the mention of the
pumpkin; which led some to suspect that he knew more about the matter
than he chose to tell.
The old country wives, however, who are the best judges of these
matters, maintain to this day that Ichabod was spirited away by
supernatural means; and it is a favourite story often told about the
neighbourhood round the winter evening fire. The bridge became more than
ever an object of superstitious awe; and that may be the reason why the
road has been altered of late years, so as to approach the church by the
border of the mill-pond. The schoolhouse being deserted soon fell to
decay, and was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate
pedagogue; and the plough-boy, loitering homeward of a still summer
evening, has often fancied his voice at a distance, chanting a
melancholy psalm tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow.