Part 13 out of 31
These grains of gold are not grains of wheat;
These bars of silver thou canst not eat;
These jewels and pearls and precious stones
Cannot cure the aches in thy bones,
Nor keep the feet of Death one hour
From climbing the stairways of thy tower!'
"Then into his dungeon I locked the drone,
And left him to feed there all alone
In the honey-cells of his golden hive:
Never a prayer, nor a cry, nor a groan
Was heard from those massive walls of stone,
Nor again was the Kalif seen alive!
"When at last we unlocked the door,
We found him dead upon the floor;
The rings had dropped from his withered hands,
His teeth were like bones in the desert sands:
Still clutching his treasure he had died;
And as he lay there, he appeared
A statue of gold with a silver beard,
His arms outstretched as if crucified."
This is the story, strange and true,
That the great captain Alau
Told to his brother the Tartar Khan,
When he rode that day into Kambalu
By the road that leadeth to Ispahan.
"I thought before your tale began,"
The Student murmured, "we should have
Some legend written by Judah Rav
In his Gemara of Babylon;
Or something from the Gulistan,--
The tale of the Cazy of Hamadan,
Or of that King of Khorasan
Who saw in dreams the eyes of one
That had a hundred years been dead
Still moving restless in his head,
Undimmed, and gleaming with the lust
Of power, though all the rest was dust.
"But lo! your glittering caravan
On the road that leadeth to Ispahan
Hath led us farther to the East
Into the regions of Cathay.
Spite of your Kalif and his gold,
Pleasant has been the tale you told,
And full of color; that at least
No one will question or gainsay.
And yet on such a dismal day
We need a merrier tale to clear
The dark and heavy atmosphere.
So listen, Lordlings, while I tell,
Without a preface, what befell
A simple cobbler, in the year --
No matter; it was long ago;
And that is all we need to know."
THE STUDENT'S TALE
THE COBBLER OF HAGENAU
I trust that somewhere and somehow
You all have heard of Hagenau,
A quiet, quaint, and ancient town
Among the green Alsatian hills,
A place of valleys, streams, and mills,
Where Barbarossa's castle, brown
With rust of centuries, still looks down
On the broad, drowsy land below,--
On shadowy forests filled with game,
And the blue river winding slow
Through meadows, where the hedges grow
That give this little town its name.
It happened in the good old times,
While yet the Master-singers filled
The noisy workshop and the guild
With various melodies and rhymes,
That here in Hagenau there dwelt
A cobbler,--one who loved debate,
And, arguing from a postulate,
Would say what others only felt;
A man of forecast and of thrift,
And of a shrewd and careful mind
In this world's business, but inclined
Somewhat to let the next world drift.
Hans Sachs with vast delight he read,
And Regenbogen's rhymes of love,
For their poetic fame had spread
Even to the town of Hagenau;
And some Quick Melody of the Plough,
Or Double Harmony of the Dove,
Was always running in his head.
He kept, moreover, at his side,
Among his leathers and his tools,
Reynard the Fox, the Ship of Fools,
Or Eulenspiegel, open wide;
With these he was much edified:
He thought them wiser than the Schools.
His good wife, full of godly fear,
Liked not these worldly themes to hear;
The Psalter was her book of songs;
The only music to her ear
Was that which to the Church belongs,
When the loud choir on Sunday chanted,
And the two angels carved in wood,
That by the windy organ stood,
Blew on their trumpets loud and clear,
And all the echoes, far and near,
Gibbered as if the church were haunted.
Outside his door, one afternoon,
This humble votary of the muse
Sat in the narrow strip of shade
By a projecting cornice made,
Mending the Burgomaster's shoes,
And singing a familiar tune:--
"Our ingress into the world
Was naked and bare;
Our progress through the world
Is trouble and care;
Our egress from the world
Will be nobody knows where;
But if we do well here
We shall do well there;
And I could tell you no more,
Should I preach a whole year!"
Thus sang the cobbler at his work;
And with his gestures marked the time
Closing together with a jerk
Of his waxed thread the stitch and rhyme.
Meanwhile his quiet little dame
Was leaning o'er the window-sill,
Eager, excited, but mouse-still,
Gazing impatiently to see
What the great throng of folk might be
That onward in procession came,
Along the unfrequented street,
With horns that blew, and drums that beat,
And banners flying, and the flame
Of tapers, and, at times, the sweet
Voices of nuns; and as they sang
Suddenly all the church-bells rang.
In a gay coach, above the crowd,
There sat a monk in ample hood,
Who with his right hand held aloft
A red and ponderous cross of wood,
To which at times he meekly bowed.
In front three horsemen rode, and oft,
With voice and air importunate,
A boisterous herald cried aloud:
"The grace of God is at your gate!"
So onward to the church they passed.
The cobbler slowly tuned his last,
And, wagging his sagacious head,
Unto his kneeling housewife said:
"'Tis the monk Tetzel. I have heard
The cawings of that reverend bird.
Don't let him cheat you of your gold;
Indulgence is not bought and sold."
The church of Hagenau, that night,
Was full of people, full of light;
An odor of incense filled the air,
The priest intoned, the organ groaned
Its inarticulate despair;
The candles on the altar blazed,
And full in front of it upraised
The red cross stood against the glare.
Below, upon the altar-rail
Indulgences were set to sale,
Like ballads at a country fair.
A heavy strong-box, iron-bound
And carved with many a quaint device,
Received, with a melodious sound,
The coin that purchased Paradise.
Then from the pulpit overhead,
Tetzel the monk, with fiery glow,
Thundered upon the crowd below.
"Good people all, draw near!" he said;
"Purchase these letters, signed and sealed,
By which all sins, though unrevealed
And unrepented, are forgiven!
Count but the gain, count not the loss
Your gold and silver are but dross,
And yet they pave the way to heaven.
I hear your mothers and your sires
Cry from their purgatorial fires,
And will ye not their ransom pay?
O senseless people! when the gate
Of heaven is open, will ye wait?
Will ye not enter in to-day?
To-morrow it will be too late;
I shall be gone upon my way.
Make haste! bring money while ye may!'
The women shuddered, and turned pale;
Allured by hope or driven by fear,
With many a sob and many a tear,
All crowded to the altar-rail.
Pieces of silver and of gold
Into the tinkling strong-box fell
Like pebbles dropped into a well;
And soon the ballads were all sold.
The cobbler's wife among the rest
Slipped into the capacious chest
A golden florin; then withdrew,
Hiding the paper in her breast;
And homeward through the darkness went
Comforted, quieted, content;
She did not walk, she rather flew,
A dove that settles to her nest,
When some appalling bird of prey
That scared her has been driven away.
The days went by, the monk was gone,
The summer passed, the winter came;
Though seasons changed, yet still the same
The daily round of life went on;
The daily round of household care,
The narrow life of toil and prayer.
But in her heart the cobbler's dame
Had now a treasure beyond price,
A secret joy without a name,
The certainty of Paradise.
Alas, alas! Dust unto dust!
Before the winter wore away,
Her body in the churchyard lay,
Her patient soul was with the Just!
After her death, among the things
That even the poor preserve with care,--
Some little trinkets and cheap rings,
A locket with her mother's hair,
Her wedding gown, the faded flowers
She wore upon her wedding day,--
Among these memories of past hours,
That so much of the heart reveal,
Carefully kept and put away,
The Letter of Indulgence lay
Folded, with signature and seal.
Meanwhile the Priest, aggrieved and pained,
Waited and wondered that no word
Of mass or requiem he heard,
As by the Holy Church ordained;
Then to the Magistrate complained,
That as this woman had been dead
A week or more, and no mass said,
It was rank heresy, or at least
Contempt of Church; thus said the Priest;
And straight the cobbler was arraigned.
He came, confiding in his cause,
But rather doubtful of the laws.
The Justice from his elbow-chair
Gave him a look that seemed to say:
"Thou standest before a Magistrate,
Therefore do not prevaricate!"
Then asked him in a business way,
Kindly but cold: "Is thy wife dead?"
The cobbler meekly bowed his head;
"She is," came struggling from his throat
Scarce audibly. The Justice wrote
The words down in a book, and then
Continued, as he raised his pen:
"She is; and hath a mass been said
For the salvation of her soul?
Come, speak the truth! confess the whole!"
The cobbler without pause replied:
"Of mass or prayer there was no need;
For at the moment when she died
Her soul was with the glorified!"
And from his pocket with all speed
He drew the priestly title-deed,
And prayed the Justice he would read.
The Justice read, amused, amazed;
And as he read his mirth increased;
At times his shaggy brows he raised,
Now wondering at the cobbler gazed,
Now archly at the angry Priest.
"From all excesses, sins, and crimes
Thou hast committed in past times
Thee I absolve! And furthermore,
Purified from all earthly taints,
To the communion of the Saints
And to the sacraments restore!
All stains of weakness, and all trace
Of shame and censure I efface;
Remit the pains thou shouldst endure,
And make thee innocent and pure,
So that in dying, unto thee
The gates of heaven shall open be!
Though long thou livest, yet this grace
Until the moment of thy death
Then said he to the Priest: "I find
This document is duly signed
Brother John Tetzel, his own hand.
At all tribunals in the land
In evidence it may be used;
Therefore acquitted is the accused."
Then to the cobbler turned: "My friend,
Pray tell me, didst thou ever read
Reynard the Fox?"--"O yes, indeed!"--
"I thought so. Don't forget the end."
"What was the end? I am ashamed
Not to remember Reynard's fate;
I have not read the book of late;
Was he not hanged?" the Poet said.
The Student gravely shook his head,
And answered: "You exaggerate.
There was a tournament proclaimed,
And Reynard fought with Isegrim
The Wolf, and having vanquished him,
Rose to high honor in the State,
And Keeper of the Seals was named!"
At this the gay Sicilian laughed:
"Fight fire with fire, and craft with craft;
Successful cunning seems to be
The moral of your tale," said he.
"Mine had a better, and the Jew's
Had none at all, that I could see;
His aim was only to amuse."
Meanwhile from out its ebon case
His violin the Minstrel drew,
And having tuned its strings anew,
Now held it close in his embrace,
And poising in his outstretched hand
The bow, like a magician's wand,
He paused, and said, with beaming face:
"Last night my story was too long;
To-day I give you but a song,
An old tradition of the North;
But first, to put you in the mood,
I will a little while prelude,
And from this instrument draw forth
Something by way of overture."
He played; at first the tones were pure
And tender as a summer night,
The full moon climbing to her height,
The sob and ripple of the seas,
The flapping of an idle sail;
And then by sudden and sharp degrees
The multiplied, wild harmonies
Freshened and burst into a gale;
A tempest howling through the dark,
A crash as of some shipwrecked bark.
A loud and melancholy wail.
Such was the prelude to the tale
Told by the Minstrel; and at times
He paused amid its varying rhymes,
And at each pause again broke in
The music of his violin,
With tones of sweetness or of fear,
Movements of trouble or of calm,
Creating their own atmosphere;
As sitting in a church we hear
Between the verses of the psalm
The organ playing soft and clear,
Or thundering on the startled ear.
THE MUSICIAN'S TALE
THE BALLAD OF CARMILHAN
At Stralsund, by the Baltic Sea,
Within the sandy bar,
At sunset of a summer's day,
Ready for sea, at anchor lay
The good ship Valdemar.
The sunbeams danced upon the waves,
And played along her side;
And through the cabin windows streamed
In ripples of golden light, that seemed
The ripple of the tide.
There sat the captain with his friends,
Old skippers brown and hale,
Who smoked and grumbled o'er their grog,
And talked of iceberg and of fog,
Of calm and storm and gale.
And one was spinning a sailor's yarn
The Kobold of the sea; a spright
Invisible to mortal sight,
Who o'er the rigging ran.
Sometimes he hammered in the hold,
Sometimes upon the mast,
Sometimes abeam, sometimes abaft,
Or at the bows he sang and laughed,
And made all tight and fast.
He helped the sailors at their work,
And toiled with jovial din;
He helped them hoist and reef the sails,
He helped them stow the casks and bales,
And heave the anchor in.
But woe unto the lazy louts,
The idlers of the crew;
Them to torment was his delight,
And worry them by day and night,
And pinch them black and blue.
And woe to him whose mortal eyes
It is a certain sign of death!--
The cabin-boy here held his breath,
He felt his blood run cold.
The jolly skipper paused awhile,
And then again began;
"There is a Spectre Ship," quoth he,
"A ship of the Dead that sails the sea,
And is called the Carmilhan.
"A ghostly ship, with a ghostly crew,
In tempests she appears;
And before the gale, or against the gale,
She sails without a rag of sail,
Without a helmsman steers.
"She haunts the Atlantic north and south,
But mostly the mid-sea,
Where three great rocks rise bleak and bare
Like furnace-chimneys in the air,
And are called the Chimneys Three.
"And ill betide the luckless ship
That meets the Carmilhan;
Over her decks the seas will leap,
She must go down into the deep,
And perish mouse and man."
The captain of the Valdemar
Laughed loud with merry heart.
"I should like to see this ship," said he;
"I should like to find these Chimneys Three,
That are marked down in the chart.
"I have sailed right over the spot," he said
"With a good stiff breeze behind,
When the sea was blue, and the sky was clear,--
You can follow my course by these pinholes here,--
And never a rock could find."
And then he swore a dreadful oath,
He swore by the Kingdoms Three,
That, should he meet the Carmilhan,
He would run her down, although he ran
Right into Eternity!
All this, while passing to and fro,
The cabin-boy had heard;
He lingered at the door to hear,
And drank in all with greedy ear,
And pondered every word.
He was a simple country lad,
But of a roving mind.
"O, it must be like heaven," thought he,
"Those far-off foreign lands to see,
And fortune seek and find!"
But in the fo'castle, when he heard
The mariners blaspheme,
He thought of home, he thought of God,
And his mother under the churchyard sod,
And wished it were a dream.
One friend on board that ship had he;
'T was the Klaboterman,
Who saw the Bible in his chest,
And made a sign upon his breast,
All evil things to ban.
The cabin windows have grown blank
As eyeballs of the dead;
No more the glancing sunbeams burn
On the gilt letters of the stern,
But on the figure-head;
On Valdemar Victorious,
Who looketh with disdain
To see his image in the tide
Dismembered float from side to side,
And reunite again.
"It is the wind," those skippers said,
"That swings the vessel so;
It is the wind; it freshens fast,
'T is time to say farewell at last
'T is time for us to go."
They shook the captain by the hand,
"Goodluck! goodluck!" they cried;
Each face was like the setting sun,
As, broad and red, they one by one
Went o'er the vessel's side.
The sun went down, the full moon rose,
Serene o'er field and flood;
And all the winding creeks and bays
And broad sea-meadows seemed ablaze,
The sky was red as blood.
The southwest wind blew fresh and fair,
As fair as wind could be;
Bound for Odessa, o'er the bar,
With all sail set, the Valdemar
Went proudly out to sea.
The lovely moon climbs up the sky
As one who walks in dreams;
A tower of marble in her light,
A wall of black, a wall of white,
The stately vessel seems.
Low down upon the sandy coast
The lights begin to burn;
And now, uplifted high in air,
They kindle with a fiercer glare,
And now drop far astern.
The dawn appears, the land is gone,
The sea is all around;
Then on each hand low hills of sand
Emerge and form another land;
She steereth through the Sound.
Through Kattegat and Skager-rack
She flitteth like a ghost;
By day and night, by night and day,
She bounds, she flies upon her way
Along the English coast.
Cape Finisterre is drawing near,
Cape Finisterre is past;
Into the open ocean stream
She floats, the vision of a dream
Too beautiful to last.
Suns rise and set, and rise, and yet
There is no land in sight;
The liquid planets overhead
Burn brighter now the moon is dead,
And longer stays the night.
And now along the horizon's edge
Mountains of cloud uprose,
Black as with forests underneath,
Above their sharp and jagged teeth
Were white as drifted snows.
Unseen behind them sank the sun,
But flushed each snowy peak
A little while with rosy light
That faded slowly from the sight
As blushes from the cheek.
Black grew the sky,--all black, all black;
The clouds were everywhere;
There was a feeling of suspense
In nature, a mysterious sense
Of terror in the air.
And all on board the Valdemar
Was still as still could be;
Save when the dismal ship-bell tolled,
As ever and anon she rolled,
And lurched into the sea.
The captain up and down the deck
Went striding to and fro;
Now watched the compass at the wheel,
Now lifted up his hand to feel
Which way the wind might blow.
And now he looked up at the sails,
And now upon the deep;
In every fibre of his frame
He felt the storm before it came,
He had no thought of sleep.
Eight bells! and suddenly abaft,
With a great rush of rain,
Making the ocean white with spume,
In darkness like the day of doom,
On came the hurricane.
The lightning flashed from cloud to cloud,
And rent the sky in two;
A jagged flame, a single jet
Of white fire, like a bayonet
That pierced the eyeballs through.
Then all around was dark again,
And blacker than before;
But in that single flash of light
He had beheld a fearful sight,
And thought of the oath he swore.
For right ahead lay the Ship of the Dead,
The ghostly Carmilhan!
Her masts were stripped, her yards were bare,
And on her bowsprit, poised in air,
Sat the Klaboterman.
Her crew of ghosts was all on deck
Or clambering up the shrouds;
The boatswain's whistle, the captain's hail,
Were like the piping of the gale,
And thunder in the clouds.
And close behind the Carmilhan
There rose up from the sea,
As from a foundered ship of stone,
Three bare and splintered masts alone:
They were the Chimneys Three.
And onward dashed the Valdemar
And leaped into the dark;
A denser mist, a colder blast,
A little shudder, and she had passed
Right through the Phantom Bark.
She cleft in twain the shadowy hulk,
But cleft it unaware;
As when, careering to her nest,
The sea-gull severs with her breast
The unresisting air.
Again the lightning flashed; again
They saw the Carmilhan,
Whole as before in hull and spar;
But now on board of the Valdemar
Stood the Klaboterman.
And they all knew their doom was sealed;
They knew that death was near;
Some prayed who never prayed before,
And some they wept, and some they swore,
And some were mute with fear.
Then suddenly there came a shock,
And louder than wind or sea
A cry burst from the crew on deck,
As she dashed and crashed, a hopeless wreck,
Upon the Chimneys Three.
The storm and night were passed, the light
To streak the east began;
The cabin-boy, picked up at sea,
Survived the wreck, and only he,
To tell of the Carmilhan.
When the long murmur of applause
That greeted the Musician's lay
Had slowly buzzed itself away,
And the long talk of Spectre Ships
That followed died upon their lips
And came unto a natural pause,
"These tales you tell are one and all
Of the Old World," the Poet said,
"Flowers gathered from a crumbling wall,
Dead leaves that rustle as they fall;
Let me present you in their stead
Something of our New England earth,
A tale which, though of no great worth,
Has still this merit, that it yields
A certain freshness of the fields,
A sweetness as of home-made bread."
The Student answered: "Be discreet;
For if the flour be fresh and sound,
And if the bread be light and sweet,
Who careth in what mill 't was ground,
Or of what oven felt the heat,
Unless, as old Cervantes said,
You are looking after better bread
Than any that is made of wheat?
You know that people nowadays
To what is old give little praise;
All must be new in prose and verse:
They want hot bread, or something worse,
Fresh every morning, and half baked;
The wholesome bread of yesterday,
Too stale for them, is thrown away,
Nor is their thirst with water slaked.
As oft we see the sky in May
Threaten to rain, and yet not rain,
The Poet's face, before so gay,
Was clouded with a look of pain,
But suddenly brightened up again;
And without further let or stay
He told his tale of yesterday.
THE POET'S TALE
One hundred years ago, and something more,
In Queen Street, Portsmouth, at her tavern door,
Neat as a pin, and blooming as a rose,
Stood Mistress Stavers in her furbelows,
Just as her cuckoo-clock was striking nine.
Above her head, resplendent on the sign,
The portrait of the Earl of Halifax,
In scarlet coat and periwig of flax,
Surveyed at leisure all her varied charms,
Her cap, her bodice, her white folded arms,
And half resolved, though he was past his prime,
And rather damaged by the lapse of time,
To fall down at her feet and to declare
The passion that had driven him to despair.
For from his lofty station he had seen
Stavers, her husband, dressed in bottle-green,
Drive his new Flying Stage-coach, four in hand,
Down the long lane, and out into the land,
And knew that he was far upon the way
To Ipswich and to Boston on the Bay!
Just then the meditations of the Earl
Were interrupted by a little girl,
Barefooted, ragged, with neglected hair,
Eyes full of laughter, neck and shoulders bare,
A thin slip of a girl, like a new moon,
Sure to be rounded into beauty soon,
A creature men would worship and adore,
Though now in mean habiliments she bore
A pail of water, dripping, through the street
And bathing, as she went her naked feet.
It was a pretty picture, full of grace,--
The slender form, the delicate, thin face;
The swaying motion, as she hurried by;
The shining feet, the laughter in her eye,
That o'er her face in ripples gleamed and glanced,
As in her pail the shifting sunbeam danced:
And with uncommon feelings of delight
The Earl of Halifax beheld the sight.
Not so Dame Stavers, for he heard her say
These words, or thought he did, as plain as day:
"O Martha Hilton! Fie! how dare you go
About the town half dressed, and looking so!"
At which the gypsy laughed, and straight replied:
"No matter how I look; I yet shall ride
In my own chariot, ma'am." And on the child
The Earl of Halifax benignly smiled,
As with her heavy burden she passed on,
Looked back, then turned the corner, and was gone.
What next, upon that memorable day,
Arrested his attention was a gay
And brilliant equipage, that flashed and spun,
The silver harness glittering in the sun,
Outriders with red jackets, lithe and lank,
Pounding the saddles as they rose and sank,
While all alone within the chariot sat
A portly person with three-cornered hat,
A crimson velvet coat, head high in air,
Gold-headed cane, and nicely powdered hair,
And diamond buckles sparkling at his knees,
Dignified, stately, florid, much at ease.
Onward the pageant swept, and as it passed,
Fair Mistress Stavers courtesied low and fast;
For this was Governor Wentworth, driving down
To Little Harbor, just beyond the town,
Where his Great House stood looking out to sea,
A goodly place, where it was good to be.
It was a pleasant mansion, an abode
Near and yet hidden from the great high-road,
Sequestered among trees, a noble pile,
Baronial and colonial in its style;
Gables and dormer-windows everywhere,
And stacks of chimneys rising high in air,--
Pandaean pipes, on which all winds that blew
Made mournful music the whole winter through.
Within, unwonted splendors met the eye,
Panels, and floors of oak, and tapestry;
Carved chimney-pieces, where on brazen dogs
Revelled and roared the Christmas fires of logs;
Doors opening into darkness unawares,
Mysterious passages, and flights of stairs;
And on the walls, in heavy gilded frames,
The ancestral Wentworths with Old-Scripture names.
Such was the mansion where the great man dwelt.
A widower and childless; and he felt
The loneliness, the uncongenial gloom,
That like a presence haunted ever room;
For though not given to weakness, he could feel
The pain of wounds, that ache because they heal.
The years came and the years went,--seven in all,
And passed in cloud and sunshine o'er the Hall;
The dawns their splendor through its chambers shed,
The sunsets flushed its western windows red;
The snow was on its roofs, the wind, the rain;
Its woodlands were in leaf and bare again;
Moons waxed and waned, the lilacs bloomed and died,
In the broad river ebbed and flowed the tide,
Ships went to sea, and ships came home from sea,
And the slow years sailed by and ceased to be.
And all these years had Martha Hilton served
In the Great House, not wholly unobserved:
By day, by night, the silver crescent grew,
Though hidden by clouds, her light still shining through;
A maid of all work, whether coarse or fine,
A servant who made service seem divine!
Through her each room was fair to look upon;
The mirrors glistened, and the brasses shone,
The very knocker on the outer door,
If she but passed, was brighter than before.
And now the ceaseless turning of the mill
Of Time, that never for an hour stands still,
Ground out the Governor's sixtieth birthday,
And powdered his brown hair with silver-gray.
The robin, the forerunner of the spring,
The bluebird with his jocund carolling,
The restless swallows building in the eaves,
The golden buttercups, the grass, the leaves,
The lilacs tossing in the winds of May,
All welcomed this majestic holiday!
He gave a splendid banquet served on plate,
Such as became the Governor of the State,
Who represented England and the King,
And was magnificent in everything.
He had invited all his friends and peers,--
The Pepperels, the Langdons, and the Lears,
The Sparhawks, the Penhallows, and the rest;
For why repeat the name of every guest?
But I must mention one, in bands and gown,
The rector there, the Reverend Arthur Brown
Of the Established Church; with smiling face
He sat beside the Governor and said grace;
And then the feast went on, as others do,
But ended as none other I e'er knew.
When they had drunk the King, with many a cheer,
The Governor whispered in a servant's ear,
Who disappeared and presently there stood
Within the room, in perfect womanhood,
A maiden, modest and yet self-possessed,
Youthful and beautiful, and simply dressed.
Can this be Martha Hilton? It must be!
Yes, Martha Hilton, and no other she!
Dowered with the beauty of her twenty years,
How ladylike, how queenlike she appears;
The pale, thin crescent of the days gone by
Is Dian now in all her majesty!
Yet scarce a guest perceived that she was there,
Until the Governor, rising from his chair,
Played slightly with his ruffles, then looked down,
And said unto the Reverend Arthur Brown:
"This is my birthday: it shall likewise be
My wedding-day; and you shall marry me!"
The listening guests were greatly mystified,
None more so than the rector, who replied:
"Marry you? Yes, that were a pleasant task,
Your Excellency; but to whom? I ask."
The Governor answered: "To this lady here"
And beckoned Martha Hilton to draw near.
She came and stood, all blushes, at his side.
The rector paused. The impatient Governor cried:
"This is the lady; do you hesitate?
Then I command you as Chief Magistrate."
The rector read the service loud and clear:
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here,"
And so on to the end. At his command
On the fourth finger of her fair left hand
The Governor placed the ring; and that was all:
Martha was Lady Wentworth of the Hall!
Well pleased the audience heard the tale.
The Theologian said: "Indeed,
To praise you there is little need;
One almost hears the farmers flail
Thresh out your wheat, nor does there fail
A certain freshness, as you said,
And sweetness as of home-made bread.
But not less sweet and not less fresh
Are many legends that I know,
Writ by the monks of long-ago,
Who loved to mortify the flesh,
So that the soul might purer grow,
And rise to a diviner state;
And one of these--perhaps of all
Most beautiful--I now recall,
And with permission will narrate;
Hoping thereby to make amends
For that grim tragedy of mine,
As strong and black as Spanish wine,
I told last night, and wish almost
It had remained untold, my friends;
For Torquemada's awful ghost
Came to me in the dreams I dreamed,
And in the darkness glared and gleamed
Like a great lighthouse on the coast."
The Student laughing said: "Far more
Like to some dismal fire of bale
Flaring portentous on a hill;
Or torches lighted on a shore
By wreckers in a midnight gale.
No matter; be it as you will,
Only go forward with your tale."
THE THEOLOGIAN'S TALE
THE LEGEND BEAUTIFUL
"Hads't thou stayed, I must have fled!"
That is what the Vision said.
In his chamber all alone,
Kneeling on the floor of stone,
Prayed the Monk in deep contrition
For his sins of indecision,
Prayed for greater self-denial
In temptation and in trial;
It was noonday by the dial,
And the Monk was all alone.
Suddenly, as if it lightened,
An unwonted splendor brightened
All within him and without him
In that narrow cell of stone;
And he saw the Blessed Vision
Of our Lord, with light Elysian
Like a vesture wrapped about him,
Like a garment round him thrown.
Not as crucified and slain,
Not in agonies of pain,
Not with bleeding hands and feet,
Did the Monk his Master see;
But as in the village street,
In the house or harvest-field,
Halt and lame and blind he healed,
When he walked in Galilee.
In an attitude imploring,
Hands upon his bosom crossed,
Wondering, worshipping, adoring,
Knelt the Monk in rapture lost.
Lord, he thought, in heaven that reignest,
Who am I, that thus thou deignest
To reveal thyself to me?
Who am I, that from the centre
Of thy glory thou shouldst enter
This poor cell, my guest to be?
Then amid his exaltation,
Loud the convent bell appalling,
From its belfry calling, calling,
Rang through court and corridor
With persistent iteration
He had never heard before.
It was now the appointed hour
When alike in shine or shower,
Winter's cold or summer's heat,
To the convent portals came
All the blind and halt and lame,
All the beggars of the street,
For their daily dole of food
Dealt them by the brotherhood;
And their almoner was he
Who upon his bended knee,
Rapt in silent ecstasy
Of divinest self-surrender,
Saw the Vision and the Splendor.
Deep distress and hesitation
Mingled with his adoration;
Should he go, or should he stay?
Should he leave the poor to wait
Hungry at the convent gate,
Till the Vision passed away?
Should he slight his radiant guest,
Slight this visitant celestial,
For a crowd of ragged, bestial
Beggars at the convent gate?
Would the Vision there remain?
Would the Vision come again?
Then a voice within his breast
Whispered, audible and clear
As if to the outward ear:
"Do thy duty; that is best;
Leave unto thy Lord the rest!"
Straightway to his feet he started,
And with longing look intent
On the Blessed Vision bent,
Slowly from his cell departed,
Slowly on his errand went.
At the gate the poor were waiting,
Looking through the iron grating,
With that terror in the eye
That is only seen in those
Who amid their wants and woes
Hear the sound of doors that close,
And of feet that pass them by;
Grown familiar with disfavor,
Grown familiar with the savor
Of the bread by which men die!
But to-day, they knew not why,
Like the gate of Paradise
Seemed the convent sate to rise,
Like a sacrament divine
Seemed to them the bread and wine.
In his heart the Monk was praying,
Thinking of the homeless poor,
What they suffer and endure;
What we see not, what we see;
And the inward voice was saying:
"Whatsoever thing thou doest
To the least of mine and lowest,
That thou doest unto me!"
Unto me! but had the Vision
Come to him in beggar's clothing,
Come a mendicant imploring,
Would he then have knelt adoring,
Or have listened with derision,
And have turned away with loathing.
Thus his conscience put the question,
Full of troublesome suggestion,
As at length, with hurried pace,
Towards his cell he turned his face,
And beheld the convent bright
With a supernatural light,
Like a luminous cloud expanding
Over floor and wall and ceiling.
But he paused with awe-struck feeling
At the threshold of his door,
For the Vision still was standing
As he left it there before,
When the convent bell appalling,
From its belfry calling, calling,
Summoned him to feed the poor.
Through the long hour intervening
It had waited his return,
And he felt his bosom burn,
Comprehending all the meaning,
When the Blessed Vision said,
"Hadst thou stayed, I must have fled!"
All praised the Legend more or less;
Some liked the moral, some the verse;
Some thought it better, and some worse
Than other legends of the past;
Until, with ill-concealed distress
At all their cavilling, at last
The Theologian gravely said:
"The Spanish proverb, then, is right;
Consult your friends on what you do,
And one will say that it is white,
And others say that it is red."
And "Amen!" quoth the Spanish Jew.
"Six stories told! We must have seven,
A cluster like the Pleiades,
And lo! it happens, as with these,
That one is missing from our heaven.
Where is the Landlord? Bring him here;
Let the Lost Pleiad reappear."
Thus the Sicilian cried, and went
Forthwith to seek his missing star,
But did not find him in the bar,
A place that landlords most frequent,
Nor yet beside the kitchen fire,
Nor up the stairs, nor in the hall;
It was in vain to ask or call,
There were no tidings of the Squire.
So he came back with downcast head,
Exclaiming: "Well, our bashful host
Hath surely given up the ghost.
Another proverb says the dead
Can tell no tales; and that is true.
It follows, then, that one of you
Must tell a story in his stead.
You must," he to the Student said,
"Who know so many of the best,
And tell them better than the rest."
Straight by these flattering words beguiled,
The Student, happy as a child
When he is called a little man,
Assumed the double task imposed,
And without more ado unclosed
His smiling lips, and thus began.
THE STUDENT'S SECOND TALE
THE BARON OF ST. CASTINE
Baron Castine of St. Castine
Has left his chateau in the Pyrenees,
And sailed across the western seas.
When he went away from his fair demesne
The birds were building, the woods were green;
And now the winds of winter blow
Round the turrets of the old chateau,
The birds are silent and unseen,
The leaves lie dead in the ravine,
And the Pyrenees are white with snow.
His father, lonely, old, and gray,
Sits by the fireside day by day,
Thinking ever one thought of care;
Through the southern windows, narrow and tall,
The sun shines into the ancient hall,
And makes a glory round his hair.
The house-dog, stretched beneath his chair,
Groans in his sleep as if in pain
Then wakes, and yawns, and sleeps again,
So silent is it everywhere,--
So silent you can hear the mouse
Run and rummage along the beams
Behind the wainscot of the wall;
And the old man rouses from his dreams,
And wanders restless through the house,
As if he heard strange voices call.
His footsteps echo along the floor
Of a distant passage, and pause awhile;
He is standing by an open door
Looking long, with a sad, sweet smile,
Into the room of his absent son.
There is the bed on which he lay,
There are the pictures bright and gay,
Horses and hounds and sun-lit seas;
There are his powder-flask and gun,
And his hunting-knives in shape of a fan;
The chair by the window where he sat,
With the clouded tiger-skin for a mat,
Looking out on the Pyrenees,
Looking out on Mount Marbore
And the Seven Valleys of Lavedan.
Ah me! he turns away and sighs;
There is a mist before his eyes.
At night whatever the weather be,
Wind or rain or starry heaven,
Just as the clock is striking seven,
Those who look from the windows see
The village Curate, with lantern and maid,
Come through the gateway from the park
And cross the courtyard damp and dark,--
A ring of light in a ring of shade.
And now at the old man's side he stands,
His voice is cheery, his heart expands,
He gossips pleasantly, by the blaze
Of the fire of fagots, about old days,
And Cardinal Mazarin and the Fronde,
And the Cardinal's nieces fair and fond,
And what they did, and what they said,
When they heard his Eminence was dead.
And after a pause the old man says,
His mind still coming back again
To the one sad thought that haunts his brain,
"Are there any tidings from over sea?
Ah, why has that wild boy gone from me?"
And the Curate answers, looking down,
Harmless and docile as a lamb,
"Young blood! young blood! It must so be!"
And draws from the pocket of his gown
A handkerchief like an oriflamb,
And wipes his spectacles, and they play
Their little game of lansquenet
In silence for an hour or so,
Till the clock at nine strikes loud and clear
From the village lying asleep below,
And across the courtyard, into the dark
Of the winding pathway in the park,
Curate and lantern disappear,
And darkness reigns in the old chateau.
The ship has come back from over sea,
She has been signalled from below,
And into the harbor of Bordeaux
She sails with her gallant company.
But among them is nowhere seen
The brave young Baron of St. Castine;
He hath tarried behind, I ween,
In the beautiful land of Acadie!
And the father paces to and fro
Through the chambers of the old chateau,
Waiting, waiting to hear the hum
Of wheels on the road that runs below,
Of servants hurrying here and there,
The voice in the courtyard, the step on the stair,
Waiting for some one who doth not come!
But letters there are, which the old man reads
To the Curate, when he comes at night
Word by word, as an acolyte
Repeats his prayers and tells his beads;
Letters full of the rolling sea,
Full of a young man's joy to be
Abroad in the world, alone and free;
Full of adventures and wonderful scenes
Of hunting the deer through forests vast
In the royal grant of Pierre du Gast;
Of nights in the tents of the Tarratines;
Of Madocawando the Indian chief,
And his daughters, glorious as queens,
And beautiful beyond belief;
And so soft the tones of their native tongue,
The words are not spoken, they are sung!
And the Curate listens, and smiling says:
"Ah yes, dear friend! in our young days
We should have liked to hunt the deer
All day amid those forest scenes,
And to sleep in the tents of the Tarratines;
But now it is better sitting here
Within four walls, and without the fear
Of losing our hearts to Indian queens;
For man is fire and woman is tow,
And the Somebody comes and begins to blow."
Then a gleam of distrust and vague surmise
Shines in the father's gentle eyes,
As fire-light on a window-pane
Glimmers and vanishes again;
But naught he answers; he only sighs,
And for a moment bows his head;
Then, as their custom is, they play
Their little gain of lansquenet,
And another day is with the dead.
Another day, and many a day
And many a week and month depart,
When a fatal letter wings its way
Across the sea, like a bird of prey,
And strikes and tears the old man's heart.
Lo! the young Baron of St. Castine,
Swift as the wind is, and as wild,
Has married a dusky Tarratine,
Has married Madocawando's child!
The letter drops from the father's hand;
Though the sinews of his heart are wrung,
He utters no cry, he breathes no prayer,
No malediction falls from his tongue;
But his stately figure, erect and grand,
Bends and sinks like a column of sand
In the whirlwind of his great despair.
Dying, yes, dying! His latest breath
Of parley at the door of death
Is a blessing on his wayward son.
Lower and lower on his breast
Sinks his gray head; he is at rest;
No longer he waits for any one;
For many a year the old chateau
Lies tenantless and desolate;
Rank grasses in the courtyard grow,
About its gables caws the crow;
Only the porter at the gate
Is left to guard it, and to wait
The coming of the rightful heir;
No other life or sound is there;
No more the Curate comes at night,
No more is seen the unsteady light,
Threading the alleys of the park;
The windows of the hall are dark,
The chambers dreary, cold, and bare!
At length, at last, when the winter is past,
And birds are building, and woods are green,
With flying skirts is the Curate seen
Speeding along the woodland way,
Humming gayly, "No day is so long
But it comes at last to vesper-song."
He stops at the porter's lodge to say
That at last the Baron of St. Castine
Is coming home with his Indian queen,
Is coming without a week's delay;
And all the house must be swept and clean,
And all things set in good array!
And the solemn porter shakes his head;
And the answer he makes is: "Lackaday!
We will see, as the blind man said!"
Alert since first the day began,
The cock upon the village church
Looks northward from his airy perch,
As if beyond the ken of man
To see the ships come sailing on,
And pass the isle of Oleron,
And pass the Tower of Cordouan.
In the church below is cold in clay
The heart that would have leaped for joy--
O tender heart of truth and trust!--
To see the coming of that day;
In the church below the lips are dust;
Dust are the hands, and dust the feet,
That would have been so swift to meet
The coming of that wayward boy.
At night the front of the old chateau
Is a blaze of light above and below;
There's a sound of wheels and hoofs in the street,
A cracking of whips, and scamper of feet,
Bells are ringing, and horns are blown,
And the Baron hath come again to his own.
The Curate is waiting in the hall,
Most eager and alive of all
To welcome the Baron and Baroness;
But his mind is full of vague distress,
For he hath read in Jesuit books
Of those children of the wilderness,
And now, good, simple man! he looks
To see a painted savage stride
Into the room, with shoulders bare,
And eagle feathers in her hair,
And around her a robe of panther's hide.
Instead, he beholds with secret shame
A form of beauty undefined,
A loveliness with out a name,
Not of degree, but more of kind;
Nor bold nor shy, nor short nor tall,
But a new mingling of them all.
Yes, beautiful beyond belief,
Transfigured and transfused, he sees
The lady of the Pyrenees,
The daughter of the Indian chief.
Beneath the shadow of her hair
The gold-bronze color of the skin
Seems lighted by a fire within,
As when a burst of sunlight shines
Beneath a sombre grove of pines,--
A dusky splendor in the air.
The two small hands, that now are pressed
In his, seem made to be caressed,
They lie so warm and soft and still,
Like birds half hidden in a nest,
Trustful, and innocent of ill.
And ah! he cannot believe his ears
When her melodious voice he hears
Speaking his native Gascon tongue;
The words she utters seem to be
Part of some poem of Goudouli,
They are not spoken, they are sung!
And the Baron smiles, and says, "You see,
I told you but the simple truth;
Ah, you may trust the eyes of youth!"
Down in the village day by day
The people gossip in their way,
And stare to see the Baroness pass
On Sunday morning to early Mass;
And when she kneeleth down to pray,
They wonder, and whisper together, and say,
"Surely this is no heathen lass!"
And in course of time they learn to bless
The Baron and the Baroness.
And in course of time the Curate learns
A secret so dreadful, that by turns
He is ice and fire, he freezes and burns.
The Baron at confession hath said,
That though this woman be his wife,
He bath wed her as the Indians wed,
He hath bought her for a gun and a knife!
And the Curate replies: "O profligate,
O Prodigal Son! return once more
To the open arms and the open door
Of the Church, or ever it be too late.
Thank God, thy father did not live
To see what he could not forgive;
On thee, so reckless and perverse,
He left his blessing, not his curse.
But the nearer the dawn the darker the night,
And by going wrong all things come right;
Things have been mended that were worse,
And the worse, the nearer they are to mend.
For the sake of the living and the dead,
Thou shalt be wed as Christians wed,
And all things come to a happy end."
O sun, that followest the night,
In yon blue sky, serene and pure,
And pourest thine impartial light
Alike on mountain and on moor,
Pause for a moment in thy course,
And bless the bridegroom and the bride!
O Gave, that from thy hidden source
In you mysterious mountain-side
Pursuest thy wandering way alone,
And leaping down its steps of stone,
Along the meadow-lands demure
Stealest away to the Adour,
Pause for a moment in thy course
To bless the bridegroom and the bride!
The choir is singing the matin song,
The doors of the church are opened wide,
The people crowd, and press, and throng
To see the bridegroom and the bride.
They enter and pass along the nave;
They stand upon the father's grave;
The bells are ringing soft and slow;
The living above and the dead below
Give their blessing on one and twain;
The warm wind blows from the hills of Spain,
The birds are building, the leaves are green,
And Baron Castine of St. Castine
Hath come at last to his own again.
"Nunc plaudite!" the Student cried,
When he had finished; "now applaud,
As Roman actors used to say
At the conclusion of a play";
And rose, and spread his hands abroad,
And smiling bowed from side to side,
As one who bears the palm away.
And generous was the applause and loud,
But less for him than for the sun,
That even as the tale was done
Burst from its canopy of cloud,
And lit the landscape with the blaze
Of afternoon on autumn days,
And filled the room with light, and made
The fire of logs a painted shade.
A sudden wind from out the west
Blew all its trumpets loud and shrill;
The windows rattled with the blast,
The oak-trees shouted as it passed,
And straight, as if by fear possessed,
The cloud encampment on the hill
Broke up, and fluttering flag and tent
Vanished into the firmament,
And down the valley fled amain
The rear of the retreating rain.
Only far up in the blue sky
A mass of clouds, like drifted snow
Suffused with a faint Alpine glow,
Was heaped together, vast and high,
On which a shattered rainbow hung,
Not rising like the ruined arch
Of some aerial aqueduct,
But like a roseate garland plucked
From an Olympian god, and flung
Aside in his triumphal march.
Like prisoners from their dungeon gloom,
Like birds escaping from a snare,
Like school-boys at the hour of play,
All left at once the pent-up room,
And rushed into the open air;
And no more tales were told that day.
The evening came; the golden vane
A moment in the sunset glanced,
Then darkened, and then gleamed again,
As from the east the moon advanced
And touched it with a softer light;
While underneath, with flowing mane,
Upon the sign the Red Horse pranced,
And galloped forth into the night.
But brighter than the afternoon
That followed the dark day of rain,
And brighter than the golden vane
That glistened in the rising moon,
Within the ruddy fire-light gleamed;
And every separate window-pane,
Backed by the outer darkness, showed
A mirror, where the flamelets gleamed
And flickered to and fro, and seemed
A bonfire lighted in the road.
Amid the hospitable glow,
Like an old actor on the stage,
With the uncertain voice of age,
The singing chimney chanted low
The homely songs of long ago.
The voice that Ossian heard of yore,
When midnight winds were in his hall;
A ghostly and appealing call,
A sound of days that are no more!
And dark as Ossian sat the Jew,
And listened to the sound, and knew
The passing of the airy hosts,
The gray and misty cloud of ghosts
In their interminable flight;
And listening muttered in his beard,
With accent indistinct and weird,
"Who are ye, children of the Night?"
Beholding his mysterious face,
"Tell me," the gay Sicilian said,
"Why was it that in breaking bread
At supper, you bent down your head
And, musing, paused a little space,
As one who says a silent grace?"
The Jew replied, with solemn air,
"I said the Manichaean's prayer.
It was his faith,--perhaps is mine,--
That life in all its forms is one,
And that its secret conduits run
Unseen, but in unbroken line,
From the great fountain-head divine
Through man and beast, through grain and grass.
Howe'er we struggle, strive, and cry,
From death there can be no escape,
And no escape from life, alas
Because we cannot die, but pass
From one into another shape:
It is but into life we die.
"Therefore the Manichaean said
This simple prayer on breaking bread,
Lest he with hasty hand or knife
Might wound the incarcerated life,
The soul in things that we call dead:
'I did not reap thee, did not bind thee,
I did not thrash thee, did not grind thee,
Nor did I in the oven bake thee!
It was not I, it was another
Did these things unto thee, O brother;
I only have thee, hold thee, break thee!'"
"That birds have souls I can concede,"
The poet cried, with glowing cheeks;
"The flocks that from their beds of reed
Uprising north or southward fly,
And flying write upon the sky
The biforked letter of the Greeks,
As hath been said by Rucellai;
All birds that sing or chirp or cry,
Even those migratory bands,
The minor poets of the air,
The plover, peep, and sanderling,
That hardly can be said to sing,
But pipe along the barren sands,--
All these have souls akin to ours;
So hath the lovely race of flowers:
Thus much I grant, but nothing more.
The rusty hinges of a door
Are not alive because they creak;
This chimney, with its dreary roar,
These rattling windows, do not speak!"
"To me they speak," the Jew replied;
"And in the sounds that sink and soar,
I hear the voices of a tide
That breaks upon an unknown shore!"
Here the Sicilian interfered:
"That was your dream, then, as you dozed
A moment since, with eyes half-closed,
And murmured something in your beard."
The Hebrew smiled, and answered, "Nay;
Not that, but something very near;
Like, and yet not the same, may seem
The vision of my waking dream;
Before it wholly dies away,
Listen to me, and you shall hear."
THE SPANISH JEW'S TALE
King Solomon, before his palace gate
At evening, on the pavement tessellate
Was walking with a stranger from the East,
Arrayed in rich attire as for a feast,
The mighty Runjeet-Sing, a learned man,
And Rajah of the realms of Hindostan.
And as they walked the guest became aware
Of a white figure in the twilight air,
Gazing intent, as one who with surprise
His form and features seemed to recognize;
And in a whisper to the king he said:
"What is yon shape, that, pallid as the dead,
Is watching me, as if he sought to trace
In the dim light the features of my face?"
The king looked, and replied: "I know him well;
It is the Angel men call Azrael,
'T is the Death Angel; what hast thou to fear?"
And the guest answered: "Lest he should come near,
And speak to me, and take away my breath!
Save me from Azrael, save me from death!
O king, that hast dominion o'er the wind,
Bid it arise and bear me hence to Ind."
The king gazed upward at the cloudless sky,
Whispered a word, and raised his hand on high,
And lo! the signet-ring of chrysoprase
On his uplifted finger seemed to blaze
With hidden fire, and rushing from the west
There came a mighty wind, and seized the guest
And lifted him from earth, and on they passed,
His shining garments streaming in the blast,
A silken banner o'er the walls upreared,
A purple cloud, that gleamed and disappeared.
Then said the Angel, smiling: "If this man
Be Rajah Runjeet-Sing of Hindostan,
Thou hast done well in listening to his prayer;
I was upon my way to seek him there."
"O Edrehi, forbear to-night
Your ghostly legends of affright,
And let the Talmud rest in peace;
Spare us your dismal tales of death
That almost take away one's breath;
So doing, may your tribe increase."
Thus the Sicilian said; then went
And on the spinet's rattling keys
Played Marianina, like a breeze
From Naples and the Southern seas,
That brings us the delicious scent
Of citron and of orange trees,
And memories of soft days of ease
At Capri and Amalfi spent.
"Not so," the eager Poet said;
"At least, not so before I tell
The story of my Azrael,
An angel mortal as ourselves,
Which in an ancient tome I found
Upon a convent's dusty shelves,
Chained with an iron chain, and bound
In parchment, and with clasps of brass,
Lest from its prison, some dark day,
It might be stolen or steal away,
While the good friars were singing mass.
"It is a tale of Charlemagne,
When like a thunder-cloud, that lowers
And sweeps from mountain-crest to coast,
With lightning flaming through its showers,
He swept across the Lombard plain,
Beleaguering with his warlike train
Pavia, the country's pride and boast,
The City of the Hundred Towers."
Thus heralded the tale began,
And thus in sober measure ran.
THE POET'S TALE
Olger the Dane and Desiderio,
King of the Lombards, on a lofty tower
Stood gazing northward o'er the rolling plains,
League after league of harvests, to the foot
Of the snow-crested Alps, and saw approach
A mighty army, thronging all the roads
That led into the city. And the King
Said unto Olger, who had passed his youth
As hostage at the court of France, and knew
The Emperor's form and face "Is Charlemagne
Among that host?" And Olger answered: "No."
And still the innumerable multitude
Flowed onward and increased, until the King
Cried in amazement: "Surely Charlemagne
Is coming in the midst of all these knights!"
And Olger answered slowly: "No; not yet;
He will not come so soon." Then much disturbed
King Desiderio asked: "What shall we do,
if he approach with a still greater army!"
And Olger answered: "When he shall appear,
You will behold what manner of man he is;
But what will then befall us I know not."
Then came the guard that never knew repose,
The Paladins of France; and at the sight
The Lombard King o'ercome with terror cried:
"This must be Charlemagne!" and as before
Did Olger answer: "No; not yet, not yet."
And then appeared in panoply complete
The Bishops and the Abbots and the Priests
Of the imperial chapel, and the Counts
And Desiderio could no more endure
The light of day, nor yet encounter death,
But sobbed aloud and said: "Let us go down
And hide us in the bosom of the earth,
Far from the sight and anger of a foe
So terrible as this!" And Olger said:
"When you behold the harvests in the fields
Shaking with fear, the Po and the Ticino
Lashing the city walls with iron waves,
Then may you know that Charlemagne is come.
And even as he spake, in the northwest,
Lo! there uprose a black and threatening cloud,
Out of whose bosom flashed the light of arms
Upon the people pent up in the city;
A light more terrible than any darkness;
And Charlemagne appeared;--a Man of Iron!
His helmet was of iron, and his gloves
Of iron, and his breastplate and his greaves
And tassets were of iron, and his shield.
In his left hand he held an iron spear,
In his right hand his sword invincible.
The horse he rode on had the strength of iron,
And color of iron. All who went before him
Beside him and behind him, his whole host,
Were armed with iron, and their hearts within them
Were stronger than the armor that they wore.
The fields and all the roads were filled with iron,
And points of iron glistened in the sun
And shed a terror through the city streets.
This at a single glance Olger the Dane
Saw from the tower, and turning to the King
Exclaimed in haste: "Behold! this is the man
You looked for with such eagerness!" and then
Fell as one dead at Desiderio's feet.
Well pleased all listened to the tale,
That drew, the Student said, its pith
And marrow from the ancient myth
Of some one with an iron flail;
Or that portentous Man of Brass
Hephaestus made in days of yore,
Who stalked about the Cretan shore,
And saw the ships appear and pass,
And threw stones at the Argonauts,
Being filled with indiscriminate ire
That tangled and perplexed his thoughts;
But, like a hospitable host,
When strangers landed on the coast,
Heated himself red-hot with fire,
And hugged them in his arms, and pressed
Their bodies to his burning breast.
The Poet answered: "No, not thus
The legend rose; it sprang at first
Out of the hunger and the thirst
In all men for the marvellous.
And thus it filled and satisfied
The imagination of mankind,
And this ideal to the mind
Was truer than historic fact.
Fancy enlarged and multiplied
The tenors of the awful name
Of Charlemagne, till he became
Armipotent in every act,
And, clothed in mystery, appeared
Not what men saw, but what they feared.
Besides, unless my memory fail,
Your some one with an iron flail
Is not an ancient myth at all,
But comes much later on the scene
As Talus in the Faerie Queene,
The iron groom of Artegall,
Who threshed out falsehood and deceit,
And truth upheld, and righted wrong,
As was, as is the swallow, fleet,
And as the lion is, was strong."
The Theologian said: "Perchance
Your chronicler in writing this
Had in his mind the Anabasis,
Where Xenophon describes the advance
Of Artaxerxes to the fight;
At first the low gray cloud of dust,
And then a blackness o'er the fields
As of a passing thunder-gust,
Then flash of brazen armor bright,
And ranks of men, and spears up-thrust,
Bowmen and troops with wicker shields,
And cavalry equipped in white,
And chariots ranged in front of these
With scythes upon their axle-trees."
To this the Student answered: "Well,
I also have a tale to tell
Of Charlemagne; a tale that throws
A softer light, more tinged with rose,
Than your grim apparition cast
Upon the darkness of the past.
Listen, and hear in English rhyme
What the good Monk of Lauresheim
Gives as the gossip of his time,
In mediaeval Latin prose."
THE STUDENT'S TALE
EMMA AND EGINHARD
When Alcuin taught the sons of Charlemagne,
In the free schools of Aix, how kings should reign,
And with them taught the children of the poor
How subjects should be patient and endure,
He touched the lips of some, as best befit,
With honey from the hives of Holy Writ;
Others intoxicated with the wine
Of ancient history, sweet but less divine;
Some with the wholesome fruits of grammar fed;
Others with mysteries of the stars o'er-head,
That hang suspended in the vaulted sky
Like lamps in some fair palace vast and high.
In sooth, it was a pleasant sight to see
That Saxon monk, with hood and rosary,
With inkhorn at his belt, and pen and book,
And mingled lore and reverence in his look,
Or hear the cloister and the court repeat
The measured footfalls of his sandaled feet,
Or watch him with the pupils of his school,
Gentle of speech, but absolute of rule.
Among them, always earliest in his place.
Was Eginhard, a youth of Frankish race,
Whose face was bright with flashes that forerun
The splendors of a yet unrisen sun.
To him all things were possible, and seemed
Not what he had accomplished, but had dreamed,
And what were tasks to others were his play,
The pastime of an idle holiday.
Smaragdo, Abbot of St. Michael's, said,
With many a shrug and shaking of the head,
Surely some demon must possess the lad,
Who showed more wit than ever schoolboy had,
And learned his Trivium thus without the rod;
But Alcuin said it was the grace of God.
Thus he grew up, in Logic point-device,
Perfect in Grammar, and in Rhetoric nice;
Science of Numbers, Geometric art,
And lore of Stars, and Music knew by heart;
A Minnesinger, long before the times
Of those who sang their love in Suabian rhymes.
The Emperor, when he heard this good report
Of Eginhard much buzzed about the court,
Said to himself, "This stripling seems to be
Purposely sent into the world for me;
He shall become my scribe, and shall be schooled
In all the arts whereby the world is ruled."
Thus did the gentle Eginhard attain
To honor in the court of Charlemagne;
Became the sovereign's favorite, his right hand,
So that his fame was great in all the land,
And all men loved him for his modest grace
And comeliness of figure and of face.
An inmate of the palace, yet recluse,
A man of books, yet sacred from abuse
Among the armed knights with spur on heel,
The tramp of horses and the clang of steel;
And as the Emperor promised he was schooled
In all the arts by which the world is ruled.
But the one art supreme, whose law is fate,
The Emperor never dreamed of till too late.
Home from her convent to the palace came
The lovely Princess Emma, whose sweet name,
Whispered by seneschal or sung by bard,
Had often touched the soul of Eginhard.
He saw her from his window, as in state
She came, by knights attended through the gate;
He saw her at the banquet of that day,
Fresh as the morn, and beautiful as May;
He saw her in the garden, as she strayed
Among the flowers of summer with her maid,
And said to him, "O Eginhard, disclose
The meaning and the mystery of the rose";
And trembling he made answer: "In good sooth,
Its mystery is love, its meaning youth!"
How can I tell the signals and the signs
By which one heart another heart divines?
How can I tell the many thousand ways
By which it keeps the secret it betrays?
O mystery of love! O strange romance!
Among the Peers and Paladins of France,
Shining in steel, and prancing on gay steeds,
Noble by birth, yet nobler by great deeds,
The Princess Emma had no words nor looks
But for this clerk, this man of thought and books.
The summer passed, the autumn came; the stalks
Of lilies blackened in the garden walks;
The leaves fell, russet-golden and blood-red,
Love-letters thought the poet fancy-led,
Or Jove descending in a shower of gold
Into the lap of Danae of old;
For poets cherish many a strange conceit,
And love transmutes all nature by its heat.
No more the garden lessons, nor the dark
And hurried meetings in the twilight park;
But now the studious lamp, and the delights