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Poems, by Adam Lindsay Gordon

Part 6 out of 6

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To crush them all were an easy task.

That know'st thou not; if it come to war,
They are stronger, perhaps, than we bargain for.

Jarl Osric, thou may'st recall thy words --
Should we meet again.

Osric: Should we meet with swords,
Thou, too, may'st recall them to thy sorrow.

Eric! we dally. Sir Count, good-morrow.

SCENE -- The Guest Chamber of the Convent.


Hugo, their siege we might have tried;
This place would be easier fortified
Than I thought at first; it is now too late,
They have cut off our access to the gate.

I have weigh'd the chances and counted the cost,
And I know by the stars that all is lost
If we take up this quarrel.

Eric: So let it be!
I yield to one who is wiser than me. (Aside.)
Nevertheless, I have seen the day
When the stars would scarcely have bade us stay.

Enter the ABBOT, CYRIL, and other Monks.

Lord Abbot, we greet thee. Good fathers all,
We bring you greeting.

Orion (aside): And comfort small.

God's benediction on you, my sons.

May He save you, too, from Norsemen and Huns!
Since the gates are beleaguer'd and walls begirt
By the forces of Osric and Dagobert;
'Tis a heavy price that the knaves demand.

Were we to mortgage the Church's land
We never could raise what they would extort.

Orion (aside):
The price is too long and the notice too short.

And you know the stern alternative.

If we die we die, if we live we live;
God's will be done; and our trust is sure
In Him, though His chast'nings we endure.
Two messengers rode from here last night,
To Otto they carry news of our plight;
On my swiftest horses I saw them go.

Orion (aside):
Then his swiftest horses are wondrous slow.

One of these is captive and badly hurt;
By the reckless riders of Dagobert
He was overtaken and well-nigh slain,
Not a league from here on the open plain.

But the other escap'd.

Eric: It may be so;
We had no word of him, but we know
That unless you can keep these walls for a day
At least, the Prince is too far away
To afford relief.

Abbot: Then a hopeless case
Is ours, and with death we are face to face.

You have arm'd retainers.

Cyril (a Monk): Aye, some half score;
And some few of the brethren, less or more,
Have in youth the brunt of the battle bided,
Yet our armoury is but ill provided.

We have terms of truce from the robbers in chief,
Though the terms are partial, the truce but brief;
To Abbess, to nuns, and novices all,
And to every woman within your wall,
We can offer escort, and they shall ride
From hence in safety whate'er betide.

What escort, Hugo, canst thou afford?

Some score of riders who call me lord
Bide at the farm not a mile from here,
Till we rejoin them they will not stir;
My page and armourer wait below,
And all our movements are watch'd by the foe.
Strict stipulation was made, of course,
That, except ourselves, neither man nor horse
Should enter your gates -- they were keen to shun
The chance of increasing your garrison.

I hold safe conduct here in my hand,
Signed by the chiefs of that lawless band;
See Rudolph's name, no disgrace to a clerk,
And Dagobert's scrawl, and Osric's mark;
Jarl signed sorely against his will,
With a scratch like the print of a raven's bill;
But the foe have muster'd in sight of the gate.
For another hour they will scarcely wait;
Bid Abbess and dame prepare with haste.

Lord Abbot, I tell thee candidly
There is no great love between thou and I,
As well thou know'st; but, nevertheless,
I would we were more, or thy foes were less.

I will summon the Lady Abbess straight.
[The Abbot and Monks go out.]

'Tis hard to leave these men to their fate,
Norsemen and Hun will never relent;
Their day of grace upon earth is spent.
[Hugo goes out, followed by Orion.]

SCENE -- The Corridor Outside the Guest Chamber.

HUGO pacing up and down. ORION leaning against the wall.

My day of grace with theirs is past.
I might have saved them; 'tis too late --
Too late for both. The die is cast,
And I resign me to my fate.
God's vengeance I await.

The boundary 'twixt right and wrong
Is not so easy to discern;
And man is weak, and fate is strong,
And destiny man's hopes will spurn,
Man's schemes will overturn.

Thou liest, thou fiend! Not unawares
The sinner swallows Satan's bait,
Nor pits conceal'd nor hidden snares
Seeks blindly; wherefore dost thou prate
Of destiny and fate?

Who first named fate? But never mind,
Let that pass by -- to Adam's fall
And Adam's curse look back, and find
Iniquity the lot of all,
And sin original.

But I have sinn'd, repented, sinn'd,
Till seven times that sin may be
By seventy multiplied; the wind
Is constant when compared with me,
And stable is the sea!

My hopes are sacrificed, for what?
For days of folly, less or more,
For years to see those dead hopes rot,
Like dead weeds scatter'd on the shore,
Beyond the surfs that roar!

The wiles of Eve are swift to smite;
Aye, swift to smite and not to spare --
Red lips and round limbs sweet and white,
Dark eyes and sunny, silken hair,
Thy betters may ensnare.

Not so; the strife 'twixt hell and heaven
I felt last night, and well I knew
The crisis; but my aid was given
To hell. Thou'st known the crisis too,
For once thou'st spoken true.

Having foretold it, there remains
For grace no time, for hope no room;
Even now I seem to feel the pains
Of hell, that wait beyond the gloom
Of my dishonour'd tomb.

Thou who hast lived and died to save,
Us sinners, Christ of Galilee!
Thy great love pardon'd and forgave
The dying thief upon the tree,
Thou canst not pardon me!

Dear Lord! hear Thou my latest prayer,
For prayer must die since hope is dead;
Thy Father's vengeance let me bear,
Nor let my guilt be visited
Upon a guiltless head!

Ah! God is just! Full sure I am
He never did predestinate
Our souls to hell. Ourselves we damn --
[To Orion, with sudden passion]
Serpent! I know thee now, too late;
Curse thee! Work out thy hate!

I hate thee not; thy grievous plight
Would move my pity, but I bear
A curse to which thy curse seems light!
Thy wrong is better than my right,
My day is darker than thy night;
Beside the whitest hope I share
How white is thy despair!

SCENE -- The Chapel of the Convent.

URSULA, AGATHA, Nuns and Novices.

(Hymn of the Nuns):

Jehovah! we bless Thee,
All works of Thine hand
Extol Thee, confess Thee;
By sea and by land,
By mountain and river,
By forest and glen,
They praise Thee for ever!
And ever! Amen!

The heathen are raging
Against Thee, O Lord!
The ungodly are waging
Rash war against God!
Arise, and deliver
Us, sheep of Thy pen,
Who praise Thee for ever!
And ever! Amen!

Thou Shepherd of Zion!
Thy firstlings didst tear
From jaws of the lion,
From teeth of the bear;
Thy strength to deliver
Is strong now as then.
We praise Thee for ever!
And ever! Amen!

Thine arm hath delivered
Thy servants of old,
Hath scatter'd and shiver'd
The spears of the bold,
Hath emptied the quiver
Of bloodthirsty men.
We praise Thee for ever!
And ever! Amen!

Nathless shall Thy right hand
Those counsels fulfil
Most wise in Thy sight, and
We bow to Thy will;
Thy children quail never
For dungeon or den,
They praise Thee for ever!
And ever! Amen!

Though fierce tribulation
Endure for a space,
Yet God! our salvation!
We gain by Thy grace,
At end of life's fever,
Bliss passing man's ken;
There to praise Thee for ever!
And ever! Amen!

SCENE -- The Guest Room of the Convent.

HUGO, ERIC, and ORION. Enter URSULA, AGATHA, and Nuns.

Hugo, we reject thine offers,
Not that we can buy
Safety from the Church's coffers,
Neither can we fly.
Far too great the price they seek is,
Let their lawless throng
Come, we wait their coming; weak is
Man, but God is strong.

Think again on our proposals:
It will be too late
When the robbers hold carousals
On this side the gate.

For myself I speak and others
Weak and frail as I;
We will not desert our brothers
In adversity.

Hugo (to the Nuns):
Does the Abbess thus advance her
Will before ye all?

A Nun:
We will stay.

Hugo: Is this thine answer,
Agatha? The wall
Is a poor protection truly,
And the gates are weak,
And the Norsemen most unruly.
Come, then.

A Nun (to Agatha): Sister, speak!

Orion (aside to Hugo):
Press her! She her fears dissembling,
Stands irresolute;
She will yield -- her limbs are trembling,
Though her lips are mute.
[A trumpet is heard without.]

Hark! their savage war-horn blowing
Chafes at our delay.

Agatha, we must be going.
Come, girl!

Agatha (clinging to Ursula): Must I stay?

Nay, my child, thou shalt not make me
Judge; I cannot give
Orders to a novice.

Agatha: Take me,
Hugo! Let me live!

Eric (to Nuns):
Foolish women! will ye tarry,
Spite of all we say?

Must we use our strength and carry
You by force away?

Bad enough thou art, Sir Norman,
Yet thou wilt not do
This thing. Shame! -- on men make war, man,
Not on women few.

Heed her not -- her life she barters,
Of her free accord,
For her faith; and, doubtless, martyrs
Have their own reward.

In the Church's cause thy father
Never grudged his blade --
Hugo, did he rue it?

Orion: Rather!
He was poorly paid.

Abbess, this is not my doing;
I have said my say;
How can I avert the ruin,
Even for a day,
Since they count two hundred fairly,
While we count a score;
And thine own retainers barely
Count a dozen more?

Agatha (kneeling to Ursula):
Ah! forgive me, Lady Abbess,
Bless me ere I go;
She who under sod and slab is
Lying, cold and low,
Scarce would turn away in anger
From a child so frail;
Not dear life, but deadly danger,
Makes her daughter quail.

Eric, will those faces tearful
To God's judgment seat
Haunt us?

Eric: Death is not so fearful.

Hugo: No, but life is sweet --
Sweet for once, to me, though sinful.

Orion (to Hugo): Earth is scant of bliss;
Wisest he who takes his skinful
When the chance is his.

(To Ursula):
Lady Abbess! stay and welcome
Osric's savage crew;
Yet when pains of death and hell come,
Thou thy choice may'st rue.

Ursula (to Orion):
What dost thou 'neath roof-trees sacred?
Man or fiend, depart!

Dame, thy tongue is sharp and acrid,
Yet I bear the smart.

Ursula (advancing and raising up a crucifix):
I conjure thee by this symbol
Leave us!
[Orion goes out hastily.]

Hugo: Ha! the knave,
He has made an exit nimble;
Abbess! thou art brave.
Yet once gone, we're past recalling,
Let no blame be mine.
See, thy sisters' tears are falling
Fast, and so are thine.

Fare you well! The teardrop splashes
Vainly on the ice.
Ye will sorrow o'er our ashes
And your cowardice.

Sorry am I, yet my sorrow
Cannot alter fate;
Should Prince Otto come to-morrow,
He will come too late.

Nay, old comrade, she hath spoken
Words we must not hear;
Shall we pause for sign or token --
Taunted twice with fear?
Yonder, hilt to hilt adjusted,
Stand the swords in which we trusted
Years ago. Their blades have rusted,
So, perchance, have we.
Ursula! thy words may shame us,
Yet we once were counted famous,
Morituri, salutamus,
Aut victuri, te! [They go out.]

SCENE -- The Outskirts of Rudolph's Camp.


Lord Hugo! thy speech is madness;
Thou hast tax'd our patience too far;
We offer'd thee peace -- with gladness,
We gladly accept thy war.

And the clemency we extended
To thee and thine we recall;
And the treaty 'twixt us is ended --
We are ready to storm the wall.

Now tear yon parchment to tatters;
Thou shalt make no further use
Of our safeguard; the wind that scatters
The scroll shall scatter the truce.

Jarl Osric, to save the spilling
Of blood, and the waste of life,
I am willing, if thou art willing,
With thee to decide this strife;
Let thy comrades draw their force back;
I defy thee to single fight,
I will meet thee on foot or horseback,
And God shall defend the right.

No single combat shall settle
This strife; thou art overbold --
Thou hast put us all on our mettle,
Now the game in our hands we hold.

Our lances round thee have hover'd,
Have seen where thy fellows bide;
Thy weakness we have discover'd,
Thy nakedness we have spied.

And hearken, knight, to my story --
When sack'd are the convent shrines,
When the convent thresholds are gory,
And quaff'd are the convent wines:
When our beasts with pillage are laden,
And the clouds of our black smoke rise
From yon tower, one fair-haired maiden
Is singled as Osric's prize.
I will fit her with chain and collar
Of red gold, studded with pearls;
With bracelet of gold, Sir Scholar,
The queen of my captive girls.

Hugo (savagely):
May the Most High God of battles
The Lord and Ruler of fights,
Who breaketh the shield that rattles,
Who snappeth the sword that smites,
In whose hands are footmen and horsemen,
At whose breath they conquer or flee,
Never show me His mercy, Norseman!
If I show mercy to thee.

What, ho! art thou drunk, Sir Norman?
Has the wine made thy pale cheek red?
Now, I swear by Odin and Thor, man,
Already I count thee dead.

I crave thy pardon for baulking
The flood of thine eloquence,
But thou canst not scare us with talking,
I therefore pray thee go hence.

Though I may not take up thy gauntlet,
Should we meet where the steel strikes fire,
'Twixt thy casque and thy charger's frontlet
The choice will perplex thy squire.

When the Norman rowels are goading,
When glitters the Norman glaive,
Thou shalt call upon Thor and Odin:
They shall not hear thee nor save.
"Should we meet!" Aye, the chance may fall so,
In the furious battle drive,
So may God deal with me -- more, also!
If we separate, both alive!

SCENE -- The Court-yard of the Old Farm.

EUSTACE and other followers of HUGO and ERIC lounging about.
Enter THURSTON hastily, with swords under his arm.

Now saddle your horses and girth them tight,
And see that your weapons are sharp and bright.
Come, lads, get ready as fast as you can.

Why, what's this bustle about, old man?

Well, it seems Lord Hugo has changed his mind,
As the weathercock veers with the shifting wind;
He has gone in person to Osric's camp,
To tell him to pack up his tents and tramp!
But I guess he won't.

Eustace: Then I hope he will,
They are plenty to eat us, as well as to kill.

And I hope he won't -- I begin to feel
A longing to moisten my thirsty steel.
[They begin to saddle and make preparations
for a skirmish.]

I've a couple of blades to look to here.
In their scabbards I scarcely could make them stir
At first, but I'll sharpen them both ere long.

A Man-at-arms:
Hurrah for a skirmish! Who'll give us a song?

Thurston (sings, cleaning and sharpening):
Hurrah! for the sword! I hold one here,
And I scour at the rust and say,
'Tis the umpire this, and the arbiter,
That settles in the fairest way;
For it stays false tongues and it cools hot blood,
And it lowers the proud one's crest;
And the law of the land is sometimes good,
But the law of the sword is best.
In all disputes 'tis the shortest plan,
The surest and best appeal; --
What else can decide between man and man?

(Chorus of all):
Hurrah! for the bright blue steel!

Thurston (sings):
Hurrah! for the sword of Hugo, our lord!
'Tis a trusty friend and a true;
It has held its own on a grassy sward,
When its blade shone bright and blue,
Though it never has stricken in anger hard,
And has scarcely been cleansed from rust,
Since the day when it broke through Harold's guard
With our favourite cut and thrust;
Yet Osric's crown will look somewhat red,
And his brain will be apt to reel,
Should the trenchant blade come down on his head --

(Chorus of all):
Hurrah! for the bright blue steel!

Thurston (sings):
Hurrah! for the sword of our ally bold,
It has done good service to him;
It has held its own on an open wold,
When its edge was in keener trim.
It may baffle the plots of the wisest skull,
It may slacken the strongest limb,
Make the brains full of forethought void and null,
And the eyes full of far-sight dim;
And the hasty hands are content to wait,
And the knees are compelled to kneel,
Where it falls with the weight of a downstroke straight --

(Chorus of all):
Hurrah! for the bright blue steel!

Thurston (sings):
Hurrah! for the sword -- I've one of my own;
And I think I may safely say,
Give my enemy his, let us stand alone,
And our quarrel shall end one way;
One way or the other -- it matters not much,
So the question be fairly tried.
Oh! peacemaker good, bringing peace with a touch,
Thy clients will be satisfied.
As a judge, thou dost judge -- as a witness, attest,
And thou settest thy hand and seal,
And the winner is blest, and the loser at rest --

(Chorus of all):
Hurrah! for the bright blue steel!
[Hugo and Eric enter during the last verse
of the song.]

Boot and saddle, old friend,
Their defiance they send;
Time is short -- make an end
Of thy song.
Let the sword in this fight
Strike as hard for the right
As it once struck for might
Leagued with wrong.

Ha! Rollo, thou champest
Thy bridle and stampest,
For the rush of the tempest
Dost long?
Ho! the kites will grow fatter
On the corpses we scatter,
In the paths where we shatter
Their throng.

Where Osric, the craven,
Hath reared the black raven
'Gainst monks that are shaven
And cowl'd:
Where the Teuton and Hun sit,
In the track of our onset,
Will the wolves, ere the sunset,
Have howl'd.

Retribution is good,
They have revell'd in blood,
Like the wolves of the wood
They have prowl'd.
Birds of prey they have been,
And of carrion unclean,
And their own nests (I ween)
They have foul'd.

Two messengers since
Yestermorn have gone hence,
And ere long will the Prince
Bring relief.
Shall we pause? -- they are ten
To our one, but their men
Are ill-arm'd, and scarce ken
Their own chief;
And for this we give thanks:
Their disorderly ranks,
If assail'd in the flanks,
Will as lief
Run as fight -- loons and lords.

Mount your steeds! draw your swords!
Take your places! My words
Shall be brief:
Ride round by the valley,
Through pass and gorge sally --
The linden trees rally
Then, Eric and Thurston,
Their ranks while we burst on,
Try which will be first on
The heath.

Look again, mother mine,
Through the happy starshine,
For my sins dost thou pine?
With my breath,
See! thy pangs are all done,
For the life of thy son:
Thou shalt never feel one
For his death.

[They all go out but Hugo, who lingers to tighten
his girths. Orion appears suddenly in the gateway.]

Stay, friend! I keep guard on
Thy soul's gates; hold hard on
Thy horse. Hope of pardon
Hath fled!
Bethink once, I crave thee,
Can recklessness save thee?
Hell sooner will have thee

Back! My soul, tempest-toss'd,
Hath her Rubicon cross'd,
She shall fly -- saved or lost!
Void of dread!
Sharper pang than the steel,
Thou, oh, serpent! shalt feel,
Should I set the bruised heel
On thy head.
[He rides out.]

SCENE -- A Room in the Convent Tower Overlooking the Gate.

URSULA at the window. AGATHA and Nuns crouching or kneeling in a corner.

See, Ellinor! Agatha! Anna!
While yet for the ladders they wait,
Jarl Osric hath rear'd the black banner
Within a few yards of the gate;
It faces our window, the raven,
The badge of the cruel sea-kings,
That has carried to harbour and haven
Destruction and death on its wings.
Beneath us they throng, the fierce Norsemen,
The pikemen of Rudolph behind
Are mustered, and Dagobert's horsemen
With faces to rearward inclined;
Come last, on their coursers broad-chested,
Rough-coated, short-pastern'd and strong,
Their casques with white plumes thickly crested,
Their lances barb-headed and long:
They come through the shades of the linden,
Fleet riders and war-horses hot:
The Normans, our friends -- we have sinn'd in
Our selfishness, sisters, I wot --
They come to add slaughter to slaughter,
Their handful can ne'er stem the tide
Of our foes, and our fate were but shorter
Without them. How fiercely they ride!
And "Hugo of Normandy!" "Hugo!"
"A rescue! a rescue!" rings loud,
And right on the many the few go!
A sway and a swerve of the crowd!
A springing and sparkling of sword-blades!
A crashing and 'countering of steeds!
And the white feathers fly 'neath their broad blades
Like foam-flakes! the spear-shafts like reeds!

A Nun (to Agatha):
Pray, sister!

Agatha: Alas! I have striven
To pray, but the lips move in vain
When the heart with such terror is riven.
Look again, Lady Abbess! Look again!

As leaves fall by wintry gusts scatter'd,
As fall by the sickle ripe ears,
As the pines by the whirlwind fall shatter'd,
As shatter'd by bolt fall the firs --
To the right hand they fall, to the left hand
They yield! They go down! they give back!
And their ranks are divided and cleft, and
Dispers'd and destroy'd in the track!
Where, stirrup to stirrup, and bridle
To bridle, down-trampling the slain!
Our friends, wielding swords never idle,
Hew bloody and desperate lane
Through pikemen, so crowded together
They scarce for their pikes can find room,
Led by Hugo's gilt crest, the tall feather
Of Thurston, and Eric's black plume!

A Nun (to Agatha):
Pray, sister!

Agatha: First pray thou that heaven
Will lift this dull weight from my brain,
That crushes like crime unforgiven.
Look again, Lady Abbess! Look again!

Close under the gates men are fighting
On foot where the raven is rear'd!
'Neath that sword-stroke, through helm and skull smiting,
Jarl Osric falls, cloven to the beard!
And Hugo, the hilt firmly grasping,
His heel on the throat of his foe,
Wrenches back. I can hear the dull rasping,
The steel through the bone grating low!
And the raven rocks! Thurston has landed
Two strokes, well directed and hard,
On the standard pole, wielding, two-handed,
A blade crimson'd up to the guard.
Like the mast cut in two by the lightning,
The black banner topples and falls!
Bewildering! back-scattering! affright'ning!
It clears a wide space next the walls.

A Nun (to Agatha):
Pray, sister!

Agatha: Does the sinner unshriven,
With naught beyond this life to gain,
Pray for mercy on earth or in heaven?
Look again, Lady Abbess! Look again!

The gates are flung open, and straightway,
By Ambrose and Cyril led on,
Our own men rush out through the gateway;
One charge, and the entrance is won!
No! our foes block the gate and endeavour
To force their way in! Oath and yell,
Shout and war-cry wax wilder than ever!
Those children of Odin fight well;
And my ears are confused by the crashing,
The jarring, the discord, the din;
And mine eyes are perplex'd by the flashing
Of fierce lights that ceaselessly spin;
So when thunder to thunder is calling,
Quick flash follows flash in the shade,
So leaping and flashing and falling,
Blade flashes and follows on blade!
While the sward, newly plough'd, freshly painted,
Grows purple with blood of the slain,
And slippery! Has Agatha fainted?

Not so, Lady Abbess! Look again!

No more from the window; in the old years
I have look'd upon strife. Now I go
To the court-yard to rally our soldiers
As I may -- face to face with the foe.
[She goes out.]

SCENE -- A Room in the Convent.

THURSTON seated near a small fire.


We have come through this skirmish with hardly a scratch.

And without us, I fancy, they have a full batch
Of sick men to look to. Those robbers accurs'd
Will soon put our soundest on terms with our worst.
Nathless I'd have bartered, with never a frown,
Ten years for those seconds when Osric went down.
Where's Ethelwolf?

Eustace: Dying.

Thurston: And Reginald?

Eustace: Dead.
And Ralph is disabled, and Rudolph is sped.
He may last till midnight -- not longer. Nor Tyrrel,
Nor Brian will ever see sunrise.

Thurston: That Cyril,
The monk, is a very respectable fighter.

Not bad for a monk. Yet our loss had been lighter
Had he and his fellows thrown open the gate
A little more quickly. And now, spite of fate,
With thirty picked soldiers their siege we might weather,
But the Abbess is worth all the rest put together.
[Enter Ursula.]

Here she comes.

Ursula: Can I speak with your lord?

Eustace: 'Tis too late,
He was dead when we carried him in at the gate.

Nay, he spoke after that, for I heard him myself;
But he won't speak again, he must lie on his shelf.

Alas! is he dead, then?

Thurston: As dead as St. Paul.
And what then? to-morrow we, too, one and all,
Die, to fatten these ravenous carrion birds.
I knelt down by Hugo and heard his last words:
"How heavy the night hangs -- how wild the waves dash;
Say a mass for my soul -- and give Rollo a mash."

Nay, Thurston, thou jestest.

Thurston: Ask Eric. I swear
We listened and caught every syllable clear.

Why, his horse was slain, too.

Thurston: 'Neath the linden trees grey,
Ere the onset, young Henry rode Rollo away;
He will hasten the Prince, and they may reach your gate
To-morrow -- though to-morrow for us is too late.
Hugo rode the boy's mare, and she's dead -- if you like --
Disembowel'd by the thrust of a freebooter's pike.

Neither Henry nor Rollo we ever shall see.

But we may hold the walls till to-morrow.

Thurston: Not we.
In an hour or less, having rallied their force,
They'll storm your old building -- and take it, of course,
Since of us, who alone in war's science are skill'd,
One-third are disabled, and two-thirds are kill'd.

Art thou hurt?

Thurston: At present I feel well enough,
But your water is brackish, unwholesome and rough;
Bring a flask of your wine, dame, for Eustace and I,
Let us gaily give battle and merrily die.
[Enter Eric, with arm in sling.]

Thou art safe, Lady Abbess! The convent is safe!
To be robbed of their prey how the ravens will chafe!
The vanguard of Otto is looming in sight!
At the sheen of their spears, see! thy foemen take flight,
Their foremost are scarce half a mile from the wall.

Bring the wine, lest those Germans should swallow it all.

SCENE -- The Chapel of the Convent.

Dirge of the Monks:
Earth to earth, and dust to dust,
Ashes unto ashes go.
Judge not. He who judgeth just,
Judgeth merciful also.
Earthly penitence hath fled,
Earthly sin hath ceased to be;
Pile the sods on heart and head,
Miserere Domine!

Hominum et angelorum,
Domine! precamur te
Ut immemor sis malorum --
Miserere Domine!

Will the fruits of life brought forth,
Pride and greed, and wrath and lust,
Profit in the day of wrath,
When the dust returns to dust?
Evil flower and thorny fruit
Load the wild and worthless tree.
Lo! the axe is at the root,
Miserere Domine!

Spes, fidesque, caritasque,
Frustra fatigant per se,
Frustra virtus, forsque, fasque,
Miserere Domine!

Fair without and foul within,
When the honey'd husks are reft
From the bitter sweets of sin,
Bitterness alone is left;
Yet the wayward soul hath striven
Mostly hell's ally to be,
In the strife 'twixt hell and heaven,
Miserere Domine!

Heu! heu! herba latet anguis --
Caro herba -- carni vae --
Solum purgat, Christi sanguis,
Miserere Domine!

Pray that in the doubtful fight
Man may win through sore distress,
By His goodness infinite,
And His mercy fathomless.
Pray for one more of the weary,
Head bow'd down and bended knee,
Swell the requiem, Miserere!
Miserere Domine!

Bonum, malum, qui fecisti
Mali imploramus te,
Salve fratrem, causa Christi,
Miserere Domine!

[End of Ashtaroth.]

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