Part 8 out of 11
you not know who this Theseus is? The hero who has cleared the
country from all monsters; but that he came from Troezene, I never
heard before. I must go out and welcome him."
So Ăgeus came out into the hall; and when Theseus saw him, his
heart leapt into his mouth, and he longed to fall on his neck and
welcome him; but he controlled himself, and said, "My father may
not wish for me, after all. I will try him before I discover myself;"
and he bowed low before Ăgeus, and said, "I have delivered the
king's realm from many monsters; therefore I am come to ask a
reward of the king."
And old Ăgeus looked on him, and loved him, as what fond heart
would not have done? But he only sighed, and said,--
"It is little that I can give you, noble lad, and nothing that is
worthy of you; for surely you are no mortal man, or at least no
"All that I ask," said Theseus, "is to eat and drink at your table."
"That I can give you," said Ăgeus, "if at least I am master in
my own hall."
Then he bade them put a seat for Theseus, and set before him the
best of the feast; and Theseus sat and ate so much, that all the
company wondered at him: but always he kept his club by his
But Medeia the dark witch-woman had been watching him all the
while. She saw how Ăgeus turned red and pale, when the lad said
that he came from Troezene. She saw, too, how his heart was opened
toward Theseus; and how Theseus bore himself before all the sons
of Pallas, like a lion among a pack of curs. And she said to herself,
"This youth will be master here; perhaps he is nearer to
Ăgeus already than mere fancy. At least the Pallantids will have
no chance by the side of such as he."
Then she went back into her chamber modestly, while Theseus ate
and drank; and all the servants whispered, "This, then, is the man
who killed the monsters! How noble are his looks, and how huge
his size. Ah, would that he were our master's son."
But presently Medeia came forth, decked in all her jewels, and
her rich Eastern robes, and looking more beautiful than the day;
so that all the guests could look at nothing else. And in her right
hand she held a golden cup, and in her left a flask of gold; and she
came up to Theseus, and spoke in a sweet, soft, winning voice,--
"Hail to the hero, the conqueror, the unconquered, the destroyer
of all evil things! Drink, hero, of my charmed cup, which gives
rest after every toil, which heals all wounds, and pours new life
into the veins. Drink of my cup, for in it sparkles the wine of the
East, and Nepenthe, the comfort of the Immortals."
And as she spoke, she poured the flask into the cup; and the
fragrance of the wine spread through the hall, like the scent of
thyme and roses.
And Theseus looked up in her fair face, and into her deep dark
eyes. And as he looked, he shrank and shuddered; for they were
dry like the eyes of a snake. And he rose and said, "The wine is
rich and fragrant, and the wine-bearer as fair as the Immortals; but
let her pledge me first herself in the cup, that the wine may be
the sweeter from her lips."
Then Medeia turned pale, and stammered, "Forgive me, fair
hero; but I am ill, and dare drink no wine."
And Theseus looked again into her eyes, and cried, "Thou shalt
pledge me in that cup, or die." And he lifted up his brazen club,
while all the guests looked on aghast.
Medeia shrieked a fearful shriek, and dashed the cup to the
ground, and fled; and where the wine flowed over the marble pavement
the stone bubbled, and crumbled, and hissed, under the fierce
venom of the draught.
But Medeia called her dragon chariot, and sprang into it and fled
aloft, away over land and sea; and no man saw her more.
And Ăgeus cried, "What hast thou done?" But Theseus pointed
to the stone,--"I have rid the land of an enchantment: now I will
rid it of one more."
And he came close to Ăgeus, and drew from his bosom the sword
and the sandals, and said the words which his mother bade him.
And Ăgeus stepped back a pace, and looked at the lad till his
eyes grew dim; and then he cast himself on his neck, and wept;
and Theseus wept on his neck, till they had no strength left to
Then Ăgeus turned to all the people, and cried, "Behold my son,
children of Kecrops, a better man than his father was before him."
Who then were mad but the Pallantids, though they had been
mad enough before? And one shouted, "Shall we make room for
an upstart, a pretender, who comes from we know not where?"
And another, "If he be one, we are more than one; and the stronger
can hold his own." And one shouted one thing, and one another,
for they were hot and wild with wine; but all caught swords and
lances off the wall, where the weapons hung around, and sprang
forward to Theseus; and Theseus sprang forward to them.
And he cried, "Go in peace, if you will, my cousins; but if not,
your blood be on your own heads." But they rushed at him; and
then stopped short and railed him, as curs stop and bark when they
rouse a lion from his lair.
But one hurled a lance from the rear rank, which past close by
Theseus' head; and at that Theseus rushed forward, and the fight
began indeed. Twenty against one they fought, and yet Theseus
beat them all; and those who were left fled down into the town,
where the people set on them, and drove them out, till Theseus was
left alone in the palace, with Ăgeus his new-found father. But
before nightfall all the town came up, with victims, and dances, and
songs; and they offered sacrifices to AthenÚ, and rejoiced all the
night long, because their king had found a noble son, and an heir to
his royal house.
So Theseus stayed with his father all the winter; and when the
spring equinox drew near, all the Athenians grew sad and silent, and
Theseus saw it, and asked the reason; but no one would answer
him a word.
Then he went to his father, and asked him: but Ăgeus turned
away his face and wept.
"Do not ask, my son, beforehand, about evils which must happen:
it is enough to have to face them when they come."
And when the spring equinox came, a herald came to Athens, and
stood in the market, and cried, "O people and King of Athens, where
is your yearly tribute?" Then a great lamentation arose throughout
the city. But Theseus stood up to the herald, and cried,--
"And who are you, dog-faced, who dare demand tribute here?
If I did not reverence your herald's staff, I would brain you with
And the herald answered proudly, for he was a grave and ancient
"Fair youth, I am not dog-faced or shameless; but I do my master's
bidding, Minos the King of hundred-citied Crete, the wisest
of all kings on earth. And you must be surely a stranger here, or
you would know why I come, and that I come by right."
"I am a stranger here. Tell me, then, why you come."
"To fetch the tribute which King Ăgeus promised to Minos, and
confirmed his promise with an oath. For Minos conquered all this
land, and Megara which lies to the east, when he came hither with
a great fleet of ships, enraged about the murder of his son. For his
son Androgeos came hither to the Panathenaic games, and overcame
all the Greeks in the sports, so that the people honored him as
a hero. But when Ăgeus saw his valor, he envied him, and feared
lest he should join the sons of Pallas, and take away the scepter from
him. So he plotted against his life, and slew him basely, no man
knows how or where. Some say that he waylaid him by înoe, on
the road which goes to Thebes; and some that he sent him against
the bull of Marathon, that the beast might kill him. But Ăgeus says
that the young men killed him from envy, because he had conquered
them in the games. So Minos came hither and avenged him, and
would not depart till this land had promised him tribute, seven
youths and seven maidens every year, who go with me in a black-sailed
ship, till they come to hundred-citied Crete."
And Theseus ground his teeth together, and said, "Wert thou not
a herald I would kill thee, for saying such things of my father;
but I will go to him, and know the truth." So he went to his father,
and asked him; but he turned away his head and wept, and said,
"Blood was shed in the land unjustly, and by blood it is avenged.
Break not my heart by questions; it is enough to endure in silence."
Then Theseus groaned inwardly, and said, "I will go myself
with these youths and maidens, and kill Minos upon his royal
And Ăgeus shrieked, and cried, "You shall not go, my son, the
light of my old age, to whom alone I look to rule this people, after
I am dead and gone. You shall not go, to die horribly, as those
youths and maidens die; for Minos thrusts them into a labyrinth,
which Daidalos made for him among the rocks,--Daidalos the
renegade, the accursed, the pest of this his native land. From that
labyrinth no one can escape, entangled in its winding ways, before
they meet the Minotaur, the monster, who feeds upon the flesh of
men. There he devours them horribly, and they never see this land
Then Theseus grew red, and his ears tingled, and his heart beat
loud in his bosom. And he stood awhile like a tall stone pillar on
the cliffs above some hero's grave; and at last he spoke,--
"Therefore all the more I will go with them, and slay the
accursed beast. Have I not slain all evil-doers and monsters, that
I might free this land? Where are Periphetes, and Sinis, and Kerkuon,
and Phaia the wild sow? Where are the fifty sons of Pallas?
And this Minotaur shall go on the road which they have gone; and
Minos himself, if he dare stay me."
"But how will you slay him, my son? For you must leave your
club and your armor behind, and be cast to the monster, defenseless
and naked like the rest."
And Theseus said: "Are there no stones in that labyrinth; and
have I not fists and teeth? Did I need my club to kill Kerkuon, the
terror of all mortal men?"
Then Ăgeus clung to his knees, but he would not hear: and at last
he let him go, weeping bitterly, and said only this one word,--
"Promise me but this, if you return in peace, though that may
hardly be: take down the black sail of the ship (for I shall watch
for it all day upon the cliffs) and hoist instead a white sail, that
I may know afar off that you are safe."
And Theseus promised, and went out, and to the market-place
where the herald stood, while they drew lots for the youths and
maidens who were to sail in that doleful crew. And the people stood
wailing and weeping, as the lot fell on this one and on that; but
Theseus strode into the midst, and cried,--
"Here is a youth who needs no lot. I myself will be one of the
And the herald asked in wonder, "Fair youth, know you whither
you are going?"
And Theseus said, "I know. Let us go down to the black-sailed
So they went down to the black-sailed ship, seven maidens and
seven youths, and Theseus before them all, and the people following
them lamenting. But Theseus whispered to his companions,
"Have hope, for the monster is not immortal. Where are Periphetes,
and Sinis, and Sciron, and all whom I have slain?" Then
their hearts were comforted a little; but they wept as they went
on board, and the cliffs of Sunium rang, and all the isles of the
Ăgean Sea, with the voice of their lamentation, as they sailed on
toward their deaths in Crete.
HOW THESEUS SLEW THE MINOTAUR
And at last they came to Crete, and to Cnossus, beneath the peaks
of Ida, and to the palace of Minos the great king, to whom Zeus
himself taught laws. So he was the wisest of all mortal kings,
and conquered all the Ăgean isles; and his ships were as many
as the sea-gulls, and his palace like a marble hill. And he sat among
the pillars of the hall, upon his throne of beaten gold, and around
him stood the speaking statues which Daidalos had made by his
skill. For Daidalos was the most cunning of all Athenians, and he
first invented the plumb-line, and the auger, and glue, and many a
tool with which wood is wrought. And he first set up masts in
ships, and yards, and his son made sails for them: but Perdix his
nephew excelled him; for he first invented the saw and its teeth,
copying it from the back-bone of a fish; and invented, too, the
chisel, and the compasses, and the potter's wheel which molds the
clay. Therefore Daidalos envied him, and hurled him headlong
from the temple of AthenÚ; but the Goddess pitied him (for she loves
the wise) and changed him into a partridge, which flits forever about
the hills. And Daidalos fled to Crete, to Minos, and worked for
him many a year, till he did a shameful deed, at which the sun hid
his face on high.
Then he fled from the anger of Minos,--he and Icarus, his son,
having made themselves wings of feathers, and fixed the feathers
with wax. So they flew over the sea toward Sicily; but Icarus flew
too near the sun; and the wax of his wings was melted, and he fell
into the Icarian Sea. But Daidalos came safe to Sicily, and there
wrought many a wondrous work: for he made for King Cocalus a
reservoir, from which a great river watered all the land, and a castle
and a treasury on a mountain, which the giants themselves could not
have stormed; and in Selinos he took the steam which comes up from
the fires of AEtna and made of it a warm bath of vapor, to cure the
pains of mortal men; and he made a honeycomb of gold, in which
the bees came and stored their honey; and in Egypt he made the
fore-court of the temple of Hephaistus, in Memphis, and a statue of
himself within it, and many another wondrous work. And for Minos
he made statues which spoke and moved, and the temple of Britomartis,
and the dancing-hall of Ariadne, which he carved of fair
white stone. And in Sardinia he worked for I÷laos; and in many
a land beside, wandering up and down forever with his cunning,
unlovely and accursed by men.
But Theseus stood before Minos, and they looked each other in
the face. And Minos bade take them to prison, and cast them to the
monster one by one, that the death of Androgeos might be avenged.
Then Theseus cried--
"A boon, O Minos! Let me be thrown first to the beast. For
I came hither for that very purpose, of my own will, and not by lot."
"Who art thou, then, brave youth?"
"I am the son of him whom of all men thou hatest most, Ăgeus
the king of Athens, and I am come here to end this matter."
And Minos pondered awhile, looking steadfastly at him, and he
thought, "The lad means to atone by his own death for his father's
sin;" and he answered at last mildly--
"Go back in peace, my son. It is a pity that one so brave should
But Theseus said, "I have sworn that I will not go back till I
have seen the monster face to face."
And at that Minos frowned, and said, "Then thou shalt see
him; take the madman away."
And they led Theseus away into the prison, with the other youths
But Ariadne, Minos's daughter, saw him, as she came out of her
white stone hall; and she loved him for his courage and his majesty,
and said, "Shame that such a youth should die!" And by night
she went down to the prison, and told him all her heart, and said,--
"Flee down to your ship at once, for I have bribed the guards
before the door. Flee, you and all your friends, and go back in
peace to Greece; and take me, take me with you! for I dare not stay
after you are gone; for my father will kill me miserably, if he
knows what I have done."
And Theseus stood silent awhile; for he was astonished and confounded
by her beauty: but at last he said, "I cannot go home in
peace, till I have seen and slain this Minotaur, and avenged the
deaths of the youths and maidens, and put an end to the terrors of
"And will you kill the Minotaur? How, then?"
"I know not, nor do I care: but he must be strong if he be too
strong for me."
Then she loved him all the more, and said, "But when you have
killed him, how will you find your way out of the labyrinth?"
"I know not, neither do I care: but it must be a strange road,
if I do not find it out before I have eaten up the monster's carcase."
Then she loved him all the more, and said,--
"Fair youth, you are too bold; but I can help you, weak as I am.
I will give you a sword, and with that, perhaps, you may slay the
beast; and a clue of thread, and by that, perhaps, you may find your
way out again. Only promise me, that if you escape safe, you will
take me home with you to Greece; for my father will surely kill me,
if he knows what I have done."
Then Theseus laughed, and said, "Am I not safe enough now?"
And he hid the sword in his bosom, and rolled up the clue in his
hand; and then he swore to Ariadne, and fell down before her,
and kissed her hands and her feet; and she wept over him a long
while, and then went away; and Theseus lay down and slept sweetly.
And when the evening came, the guards came in and led him away
to the labyrinth.
And he went down into that doleful gulf, through winding paths
among the rocks, under caverns, and arches, and galleries, and over
heaps of fallen stone. And he turned on the left hand, and on the
right hand, and went up and down till his head was dizzy; but all the
while he held his clue. For when he went in he had fastened it to
a stone, and left it to unroll out of his hand as he went on; and it
lasted him till he met the Minotaur, in a narrow chasm between
And when he saw him he stopped awhile, for he had never seen
so strange a beast. His body was a man's: but his head was the head
of a bull; and his teeth were the teeth of a lion, and with them he tore
his prey. And when he saw Theseus he roared, and put his head
down, and rushed right at him.
But Theseus stept aside nimbly, and as he passed by, cut him in
the knee; and ere he could turn in the narrow path, he followed
him, and stabbed him again and again from behind, till the monster
fled bellowing wildly; for he never before had felt a wound. And
Theseus followed him at full speed, holding the clue of thread in his
Then on, through cavern after cavern, under dark ribs of sounding
stone, and up rough glens and torrent-beds, among the sunless roots
of Ida, and to the edge of the eternal snow, went they, the hunter and
hunted, while the hills bellowed to the monster's bellow.
And at last Theseus came up with him, where he lay panting on
a slab among the snow, and caught him by the horns, and forced
his head back, and drove the keen sword through his throat.
Then he turned, and went back limping and weary, feeling his
way down by the clue of thread, till he came to the mouth of that
doleful place; and saw waiting for him, whom but Ariadne!
And he whispered, "It is done!" and showed her the sword; and
she laid her finger on her lips, and led him to the prison, and opened
the doors, and set all the prisoners free, while the guards lay sleeping
heavily; for she had silenced them with wine.
Then they fled to their ship together, and leapt on board, and
hoisted up the sail; and the night lay dark around them, so that
they past through Minos's ships, and escaped all safe to Naxos; and
there Ariadne became Theseus's wife.
HOW THESEUS FELL BY HIS PRIDE
But that fair Ariadne never came to Athens with her husband. Some say
that Theseus left her sleeping on Naxos among the Cyclades; and that
Dionusos the wine-king found her, and took her up into the sky, as you
shall see some day in a painting of old Titian's, one of the most
glorious pictures upon earth. And some say that Dionusos drove away
Theseus, and took Ariadne from him by force: but however that may be,
in his haste or in his grief, Theseus forgot to put up the white sail.
Now Ăgeus his father sat and watched on Sunium day after day, and
strained his old eyes across the sea to see the ship afar. And when he
saw the black sail, and not the white one, he gave up Theseus for dead,
and in his grief he fell into the sea, and died; so it is called the
Ăgean to this day.
And now Theseus was king of Athens, and he guarded it and ruled it well.
For he killed the bull of Marathon, which had killed Androgeos, Minos's
son; and he drove back the famous Amazons, the warlike women of the East,
when they came from Asia, and conquered all Hellas, and broke into Athens
itself. But Theseus stopped them there, and conquered them, and took
Hippolyte their queen to be his wife. Then he went out to fight against
the Lapithai, and Peirithoos their famous king: but when the two heroes
came face to face they loved each other, and embraced, and became noble
friends; so that the friendship of Theseus and Peirithoos is a proverb
even now. And he gathered (so the Athenians say) all the boroughs of the
land together, and knit them into one strong people, while before they
were all parted and weak: and many another wise thing he did, so that
his people honored him after he was dead, for many a hundred years, as
the father of their freedom and their laws. And six hundred years after
his death, in the famous fight at Marathon, men said that they saw the
ghost of Theseus, with his mighty brazen club, fighting in the van of
battle against the invading Persians, for the country which he loved.
And twenty years after Marathon, his bones (they say) were found in
Scuros, an isle beyond the sea; and they were bigger than the bones of
mortal man So the Athenians brought them home in triumph; and all the
people came out to welcome them; and they built over them a noble
temple, and adorned it with sculptures and paintings; in which were
told all the noble deeds of Theseus, and the Centaurs, and the Lapithai
and the Amazons; and the ruins of it are standing still.
But why did they find his bones in Scuros? Why did he not die in peace
at Athens, and sleep by his father's side? Because, after his triumph he
grew proud, and broke the laws of God and man. And one thing worst of
all he did, which brought him to his grave with sorrow. For he went down
(they say beneath the earth) with that bold Peirithoos his friend, to
help him to carry off Persephone, the queen of the world below. But
Peirithoos was killed miserably, in the dark fire-kingdoms underground;
and Theseus was chained to a rock in everlasting pain. And there he sat
for years, till Heracles the mighty came down to bring up the three-
headed dog who sits at Pluto's gate. So Heracles loosed him from his
chain, and brought him up to the light once more.
But when he came back his people had forgotten him, and Castor and
Poludeuces, the sons of the wondrous Swan, had invaded his land, and
carried off his mother Aithra for a slave, in revenge for a grievous
So the fair land of Athens was wasted, and another king ruled it, who
drove out Theseus shamefully, and he fled across the sea to Scuros. And
there he lived in sadness, in the house of Lucomedes the king, till
Lucomedes killed him by treachery, and there was an end of all his
So it is still, my children, and so it will be to the end. In those old
Greeks, and in us also, all strength and virtue come from God. But if
men grow proud and self-willed, and misuse God's fair gifts, He lets
them go their own ways, and fall pitifully, that the glory may be His
alone. God help us all, and give us wisdom, and courage to do noble
deeds! but God keep pride from us when we have done them, lest we fall,
and come to shame!
THOR GOES A-FISHING
Hamilton Wright Mabie
Midway between Niflheim and Muspelheim lay Midgard, the home
of men, its round disk everywhere encircled by the ocean, which perpetually
rushed upon it, gently in still summer afternoons, but with
a terrible uproar in winter. Ages ago, when the Midgard-serpent
had grown so vast that even the gods were afraid of him, Odin cast
him into the sea, and he lay flat at the bottom of the ocean, grown
to such monstrous size that his scaly length encircled the whole
world. Holding the end of his tail in his mouth, he sometimes lay
motionless for weeks at a time, and looking across the water no one
would have dreamed that such a monster was asleep in its depths.
But when the Midgard-serpent was aroused his wrath was terrible
to behold. He lashed the ocean into great sheets of foam, he piled
the waves mountain high, he dashed the spray into the very heavens,
and woe to the galleys that were sailing homeward.
It happened once that the gods were feasting with Ăger, the
sea-god, and the ale gave out, and Ăger had no kettle in which to
brew a new supply.
"Thor," said. Ăger, after he had thought a moment, "will you
get me a kettle?"
Thor was always ready for any hard or dangerous thing.
"Of course I will," was his quick reply, "only tell me where
to get one."
That, however, was no easy thing to do. Kettles big enough to
brew ale for Asgard were not to be picked up at a moment's notice.
Everybody wanted more ale, but nobody could tell Thor where to
find a kettle, until Tyr, the god of courage, spoke up: "East of
the river Elivagar lives my father, Hymer, who has a kettle mar-velously
strong and one mile deep."
That was large enough even for the gods.
"Do you think we can get it?" asked Thor, who always wanted
to succeed in his undertakings.
"If we cannot get it by force, we can by stratagem," answered
Tyr, and they started off at once, Thor taking the disguise of a
young man. The goats drew them swiftly to Egil, with whom Thor
left them while he and Tyr pushed on to finish the journey afoot.
It was rough and perilous traveling, but they reached Hymer's hall
without accident, and there Tyr found his grandmother, a frightfully
ugly giantess, and his mother, a wonderfully beautiful woman, with
fair hair, and a face so radiant that the sun seemed to be always
shining upon it. The latter advised them to hide under the great
kettles in the hall, because when Hymer came home in bad temper
he was sometimes cruel to strangers.
Late in the evening Hymer came home from his fishing. A cold
wind swept through the hall as he entered, his eyes were piercing
as the stars on a winter's night, and his beard was white with frost.
"I welcome you home," said Tyr's beautiful mother; "our son,
for whom we have been looking so long, has come home, bringing
with him the enemy of giants and the protector of Asgard. See how
they hide themselves behind that pillar yonder."
She pointed to a pillar at the farther end of the hall. Hymer
turned, and looked at it with his piercing, icy glance, and in an
instant it snapped into a thousand pieces; the beam overhead broke,
and eight kettles fell with a crash on the stone floor. Only one out
of the eight remained unbroken, and from it Thor and Tyr came
forth. Hymer was not glad to see Thor standing there under his
own roof, but he could not turn him out, so he made the best of it
and ordered three oxen to be served for supper. Thor had traveled
a long distance and was very hungry, and ate two of the oxen before
he was satisfied.
"If you eat like that," said Hymer, "we will have to live on fish
Early the next morning, before the sun was up, Thor heard Hymer
getting ready for a day of fishing. He dressed himself quickly and
went out to the giant. "Good morning, Hymer," he said pleasantly.
"I am fond of fishing; let me row out to sea with you."
"Oho," answered the giant scornfully, not at all pleased with the
idea of having his powerful enemy in the boat with him, "such a
puny young fellow can be of no use to me, and if I go as far out to
sea as I generally do, and stay as long, you will catch a cold that
will be the death of you."
Thor was so angry at this insult that he wanted to let his hammer
ring on the giant's head, but he wisely kept his temper.
"I will row as far from the land as you care to go," was his
answer, "and it is by no means certain that I shall be the first to
want to put in again. What do you bait with?"
"Find a bait for yourself," was the giant's surly reply.
Thor ran up to a herd of Hymer's cattle, seized the largest bull,
wrung off its head without any trouble, and put it in the boat. Then
they both pushed off and were soon rowing seaward. Hymer could
pull a strong oar, but he had never seen such a stroke as Thor's
before. The boat fairly trembled under the force of it. In a few
moments they reached Hymer's fishing-ground, and he called out
to Thor to stop.
"Oh, no, not yet," said Thor, bending steadily over his oars; "we
must go a good distance beyond this."
Thor pulled with such tremendous power that they were soon far
out to sea, and Hymer began to be frightened. "If you don't stop,"
he called out, "we shall be over the Midgard-serpent."
Thor paid no attention, but rowed on until they were far out of
sight of land and about where he thought the great snake was coiled
in the bottom of the sea; then he laid down the oars, as fresh and
strong apparently as when he got into the boat. It was the strangest
fishing party the world ever saw, and the most wonderful fishing.
No sooner had Hymer's bait touched the water than it was seized
by two whales. Thor smiled quietly at the giant's luck, took out
a fishing-line, made with wonderful skill, and so strong that it
could not be broken, fastened the bull's head upon the hook and cast
it into the sea. The Midgard-serpent instantly seized it, and in a
second the hook was fast in its palate. Then came a furious struggle
between the strong god and the terrible monster which was the dread
of the whole earth.
Stung by the pain, the serpent writhed and pulled so hard that
Thor had to brace himself against the side of the boat. When he
found that the snake had taken his hook his wrath rose, and his
divine strength came upon him. He pulled the line with such
tremendous force that his feet went straight through the bottom of
the boat, and he stood on the bed of the ocean while he drew the
snake up to the side of the boat. The monster, convulsed with pain,
reared its terrible head out of the water, its glittering eyes
flashing, its whole vast body writhing and churning the ocean into a
whirlpool of eddying foam. Thor's eyes blazed with wrath, and he
held the serpent in a grasp like a vise. The uproar was like a
terrible storm, and the boat, the fishers, and the snake were hidden
by columns of foam that rose in the air. No one can tell what the end
would have been if Hymer, trembling with fright and seeing the
boat about to sink, had not sprung forward and cut the line just as
Thor was raising his hammer to crush the serpent's head. The
snake sank at once to the bottom of the sea, and Thor, turning upon
the giant, struck him such a blow under the ear that he fell headlong
into the water. The giant got back to the boat, however, and
they rowed to land, taking the two whales with them.
When they reached shore Thor was still filled with rage at the
meddlesome giant, because he had lost him the serpent, but he
quietly picked up the boat and carried it home, Hymer taking the
whales. Once more under his own roof, the giant's courage returned,
and he challenged Thor to show his strength by breaking
his drinking-cup. Thor sat down and, taking the cup, hurled it
against a pillar. It flew through the air, crashed against the stone,
bounded back, and was picked up as whole and perfect as when it
came into Thor's hands. He was puzzled, but Tyr's beautiful
fair-haired mother whispered to him, "Throw it at Hymer's forehead;
it is harder than any drinking-cup."
Thor drew in all his godlike strength and dashed the cup with a
terrific effort at Hymer. The forehead was unharmed, but the cup
was scattered in a thousand pieces over the floor. Hymer had lost a
great treasure by the experiment, but he only said, "That drink was
too hot. Perhaps you will take the kettle off now," he added with
Tyr immediately laid hands on the kettle, but he could not move
it an inch. Then Thor took the great pot in his hands and drew
it up with such a mighty effort that his feet went through the
stone floor of the hall, but he lifted it and, placing it on his head
like a mighty helmet, walked off, the rings of the kettle clanging
about his feet. The two gods walked swiftly away from the hall
where so many troubles and labors had awaited them, and it was
a long time before Thor turned to look back. When he did, it
was not a moment too soon, for Hymer was close behind, with a
multitude of many-headed giants, in hot pursuit.
In one minute Thor had lifted the kettle off his head and put it
on the ground, in another he was swinging the hammer among the
giants, and in another, when the lightnings had gone out and the
thunder had died in awful echoes among the hills, Tyr and Thor
were alone on the field.
They went on to Egil, mounted the chariot and drove the goats
swiftly on to Ăger's, where the gods were impatiently waiting for
the kettle. There was straightway a mighty brewing of ale, Thor
told the story of his adventures in search of the kettle, and the feast
went merrily on.
Annie and Eliza Keary
Upon a summer's afternoon it happened that Baldur the Bright
and Bold, beloved of men and Ăsir, found himself alone in his
palace of Broadblink. Thor was walking low down among the
valleys, his brow heavy with summer heat; Frey and Gerda sported
on still waters in their cloud-leaf ship; Odin, for once, slept on the
top of Air Throne; a noonday stillness pervaded the whole earth;
and Baldur in Broadblink, the wide-glancing, most sunlit of palaces,
dreamed a dream.
The dream of Baldur was troubled. He knew not whence nor
why; but when he awoke he found that a new and weighty care was
within him. It was so heavy that Baldur could scarcely carry it,
and yet he pressed it closely to his heart and said, "Lie there, and
do not fall on any one but me." Then he rose up and walked out
from the splendor of his hall, that he might seek his own mother,
Frigga, and tell her what had happened to him. He found her in
her crystal saloon, calm and kind, waiting to listen, and ready to
sympathize; so he walked up to her, his hands pressed closely on
his heart, and lay down at her feet, sighing.
"What is the matter, dear Baldur?" asked Frigga, gently.
"I do not know, mother," answered he. "I do not know what
the matter is; but I have a shadow in my heart."
"Take it out, then, my son, and let me look at it," replied Frigga.
"But I fear, mother, that if I do it will cover the whole earth."
Then Frigga laid her hand upon the heart of her son that she
might feel the shadow's shape. Her brow became clouded as she
felt it; her parted lips grew pale, and she cried out, "Oh! Baldur,
my beloved son! the shadow is the shadow of death!"
Then said Baldur, "I will die bravely, my mother."
But Frigga answered, "You shall not die at all; for I will not
sleep tonight until everything on earth has sworn to me that it will
neither kill nor harm you."
So Frigga stood up, and called to her everything on earth that had
power to hurt or slay. First she called all metals to her; and heavy
iron-ore came lumbering up the hill into the crystal hall, brass and
gold, copper, silver, lead, and steel, and stood before the Queen,
who lifted her right hand high in the air, saying, "Swear to me
that you will not injure Baldur"; and they all swore, and went.
Then she called to her all stones; and huge granite came, with
crumbling sandstones and white lime, and the round, smooth stones
of the seashore, and Frigga raised her arm, saying, "Swear that
you will not injure Baldur"; and they swore, and went. Then
Frigga called to her the trees; and wide-spreading oak trees, with
tall ash and somber firs, came rushing up the hill, and Frigga raised
her hand, and said, "Swear that you will not hurt Baldur"; and
they said, "We swear," and went. After this Frigga called to her
the diseases, who came blown by poisonous winds on wings of pain,
and to the sound of moaning. Frigga said to them, "Swear"; and
they sighed, "We swear," then flew away. Then Frigga called to
her all beasts, birds, and venomous snakes, who came to her and
swore, and disappeared. After this she stretched out her hand to
Baldur, whilst a smile spread over her face, saying, "And now, my
son, you cannot die."
But just then Odin came in, and when he had heard from Frigga
the whole story, he looked even more mournful than she had done;
neither did the cloud pass from his face when he was told of the
oaths that had been taken.
"Why do you still look so grave, my lord?" demanded Frigga
at last. "Baldur cannot now die."
But Odin asked very gravely, "Is the shadow gone out of our
son's heart, or is it still there?"
"It cannot be there," said Frigga, turning away her head resolutely,
and folding her hands before her.
But Odin looked at Baldur, and saw how it was, the hands
pressed to the heavy heart, the beautiful brow grown dim. Then
immediately he rose, saddled Sleipnir, his eight-footed steed,
mounted him, and, turning to Frigga said, "I know of a dead Vala,
Frigga, who, when she was alive, could tell what was going to
happen; her grave lies on the east side of Helheim, and I am going
there to awake her, and ask whether any terrible grief is really
coming upon us."
So saying, Odin shook the bridle in his hand, and the Eight-footed,
with a bound, leaped forth, rushed like a whirlwind down the mountain
of Asgard, and then dashed into a narrow defile between rocks.
Sleipnir went on through the defile a long way, until he came
to a place where the earth opened her mouth. There Odin rode in
and down a broad, steep, slanting road which led him to the cavern
Gnipa, and the mouth of the cavern Gnipa yawned upon Niflheim.
Then thought Odin to himself, "My journey is already done."
But just as Sleipnir was about to leap through the jaws of the pit,
Garm, the voracious dog who was chained to the rock, sprang forward,
and tried to fasten himself upon Odin. Three times Odin
shook him off, and still Garm, as fierce as ever, went on with the
fight. At last Sleipnir leaped, and Odin thrust just at the same
moment; then horse and rider cleared the entrance, and turned
eastward towards the dead Vala's grave, dripping blood along the
road as they went; while the beaten Garm stood baying in the
When Odin came to the grave he got off his horse, and stood with
his face northward, looking through barred inclosures into the city
of Helheim itself. The servants of Hela were very busy there making
preparations for some new guest--hanging gilded couches with
curtains of anguish and splendid misery upon the walls. Then
Odin's heart died within him, and he began to repeat mournful runes
in a low tone to himself.
The dead Vala turned heavily in her grave at the sound of his voice,
and, as he went on, sat bolt upright. "What man is this," she asked,
"who dares disturb my sleep?"
Then Odin, for the first time in his life, said what was not true;
the shadow of Baldur dead fell upon his lips, and he made answer,
"My name is Vegtam, the son of Valtam."
"And what do you want from me?" asked the Vala.
"I want to know," replied Odin, "for whom Hela is making ready that
gilded couch in Helheim?"
"That is for Baldur the Beloved," answered the dead Vala.
"Now go away and let me sleep again, for my eyes are heavy."
But Odin said: "Only one word more. Is Baldur going to Helheim?"
"Yes, I've told you that he is," answered the Vala.
"Will he never come back to Asgard again?"
"If everything on earth should weep for him," answered she,
"he will go back; if not, he will remain in Helheim."
Then Odin covered his face with his hands and looked into
"Do go away," said the Vala, "I'm so sleepy; I cannot keep my
eyes open any longer."
But Odin raised his head and said again: "Only tell me this one
thing. Just now, as I looked into darkness, it seemed to me as if
I saw one on earth who would not weep for Baldur. Who was it?"
At this the Vala grew very angry and said: "How couldst thou
see in darkness? I know of only one who, by giving away his eye,
gained light. No Vegtam art thou, but Odin, chief of men."
At her angry words Odin became angry, too, and called out as
loudly as ever he could, "No Vala art thou, nor wise woman, but
rather the mother of three giants!"
"Go, go!" answered the Vala, falling back in her grave; "no
man shall waken me again until Loki have burst his chains and
Ragnarok be come." After this Odin mounted the Eight-footed
once more and rode thoughtfully towards home.
When Odin came back to Asgard, Hermod took the bridle from
his father's hand and told him that the rest of the Aesir were gone
to the Peacestead--a broad, green plain which lay just outside
the city. This was the playground of the Aesir, where they practiced
trials of skill one with another, and held tournaments and
sham fights. These last were always conducted in the gentlest and
most honorable manner; for the strongest law of the Peacestead was,
that no angry blow should be struck, or spiteful word spoken,
upon the sacred field; and for this reason some have thought it
might be well if children also had a Peacestead to play in.
Odin was too much tired by his journey from Helheim to go to
the Peacestead that afternoon; so he turned away and shut himself
up in his palace of Gladsheim. But when he was gone, Loki came
into the city by another way, and hearing from Hermod where the
Aesir were, set off to join them.
When he got to the Peacestead, Loki found that the Aesir were
standing round in a circle shooting at something, and he peeped
between the shoulders of two of them to find out what it was. To
his surprise he saw Baldur standing in the midst, erect and calm,
whilst his friends and brothers were aiming their weapons at him.
Some hewed at him with their swords,--others threw stones at him,
--some shot arrows pointed with steel, and Thor continually swung
Miolnir at his head. "Well," said Loki to himself, "if this is the
sport of Asgard, what must that of Jotunheim be? I wonder what
Father Odin and Mother Frigga would say if they were here?"
But as Loki still looked, he became even more surprised, for the
sport went on, and Baldur was not hurt. Arrows aimed at his very
heart glanced back again untinged with blood. The stones fell
down from his broad, bright brow, and left no bruises there.
Swords clave, but did not wound him; Mi÷lnir struck him, and he
was not crushed. At this Loki grew perfectly furious with envy and
hatred. "And why is Baldur to be so honored," said he, "that even
steel and stone shall not hurt him?" Then Loki changed himself
into a little, dark, bent old woman, with a stick in his hand, and
hobbled away from the Peacestead to Frigga's cool saloon. At
the door he knocked with his stick.
"Come in!" said the kind voice of Frigga, and Loki lifted the
Now when Frigga saw, from the other end of the hall, a little,
bent, crippled old woman come hobbling up her crystal floor, she
got up with true queenliness and met her halfway, holding out her
hand and saying in the kindest manner, "Pray sit down, my poor
old friend; for it seems to me that you have come from a great
"That I have, indeed," answered Loki in a tremulous, squeaking
"And did you happen to see anything of the Ăsir," asked Frigga,
"as you came?"
"Just now I passed by the Peacestead and saw them at play."
"What were they doing?"
"Shooting at Baldur."
Then Frigga bent over her work with a pleased smile on her
face. "And nothing hurt him?" she said.
"Nothing," answered Loki, looking keenly at her.
"No, nothing," murmured Frigga, still looking down and speaking
half musingly to herself; "for all things have sworn to me that
they will not."
"Sworn!" exclaimed Loki, eagerly; "what is that you say?
Has everything sworn then?"
"Everything," answered she, "excepting, indeed, the little shrub
mistletoe, which grows, you know, on the west side of Valhalla, and
to which I said nothing, because I thought it was too young to swear."
"Excellent!" thought Loki, and then he got up.
"You're not going yet, are you?" said Frigga, stretching out her
hand and looking up at last into the eyes of the old woman.
"I'm quite rested now, thank you," answered Loki in his squeaky
voice, and then he hobbled out at the door, which clapped after
him, and sent a cold gust into the room. Frigga shuddered, and
thought that a serpent was gliding down the back of her neck.
When Loki had left the presence of Frigga, he changed himself
back to his proper shape and went straight to the west side of
Valhalla, where the mistletoe grew. Then he opened his knife and
cut off a large branch, saying these words, "Too young for Frigga's
oaths, but not too weak for Loki's work." After which he set off
for the Peacestead once more, the mistletoe in his hand. When he
got there he found that the AEsir were still at their sport,
standing round, taking aim, and talking eagerly, and Baldur did
not seem tired.
But there was one who stood alone, leaning against a tree, and
who took no part in what was going on. This was Hodur, Baldur's
blind twin-brother; he stood with his head bent downwards, silent
whilst the others were speaking, doing nothing when they were most
eager; and Loki thought that there was a discontented expression
on his face, just as if he were saying to himself, "Nobody takes any
notice of me." So Loki went up to him and put his hand upon his
"And why are you standing here all alone, my brave friend?"
said he. "Why don't you throw something at Baldur? Hew at
him with a sword, or show him some attention of that sort."
"I haven't a sword," answered Hodur, with an impatient gesture;
"and you know as well as I do, Loki, that Father Odin does not
approve of my wearing warlike weapons, or joining in sham fights,
because I am blind."
"Oh! is that it?" said Loki. "Well, I only know I shouldn't
like to be left out of everything. However, I've got a twig of
mistletoe here which I'll lend you if you like; a harmless little
twig enough, but I shall be happy to guide your arm if you would
like to throw it, and Baldur might take it as a compliment from
"Let me feel it," said Hodur, stretching out his uncertain hands.
"This way, this way, my dear friend," said Loki, giving him the
twig. "Now, as hard as ever you can, to do him honor; throw!"
Hodur threw--Baldur fell, and the shadow of death covered
the whole earth.
One after another they turned and left the Peacestead, those
friends and brothers of the slain. One after another they turned
and went towards the city; crushed hearts, heavy footsteps, no word
amongst them, a shadow upon all. The shadow was in Asgard, too
--had walked through Frigga's hall and seated itself upon the
threshold of Gladsheim. Odin had just come out to look at it, and
Frigga stood by in mute despair as the Ăsir came up.
"Loki did it! Loki did it!" they said at last in confused, hoarse
whispers, and they looked from one to another,--upon Odin, upon
Frigga, upon the shadow which they saw before them, and which
they felt within. "Loki did it! Loki, Loki!" they went on saying;
but it was no use repeating the name of Loki over and over
again when there was another name they were too sad to utter
which yet filled all their hearts--Baldur. Frigga said it first,
and then they all went to look at him lying down so peacefully on the
"Carry him to the funeral pyre!" said Odin, at length; and four
of the Ăsir stooped down and lifted their dead brother.
With scarcely any sound they carried the body tenderly to the
seashore and laid it upon the deck of that majestic ship called
Ringhorn, which had been _his_. Then they stood round waiting to
see who would come to the funeral. Odin came, and on his shoulder?
sat his two ravens, whose croaking drew clouds down over the
Asa's face, for Thought and Memory sang one sad song that day.
Frigga came,--Frey, Gerda, Freyja, Thor, Hťnir, Bragi, and
Iduna. Heimdall came sweeping over the tops of the mountains on
Golden Mane, his swift, bright steed. Ăgir the Old groaned from
under the deep, and sent his daughters up to mourn around the
dead. Frost-giants and mountain-giants came crowding round the
rimy shores of Jotunheim to look across the sea upon the funeral
of an Asa. Nanna came, Baldur's fair young wife; but when she
saw the dead body of her husband, her own heart broke with grief,
and the Ăsir laid her beside him on the stately ship. After this
Odin stepped forward and placed a ring on the breast of his son,
whispering something at the same time in his ear; but when he and
the rest of the Ăsir tried to push Ringhorn into the sea before
setting fire to it, they found that their hearts were so heavy they
could lift nothing. So they beckoned to the giantess Hyrrokin to
come over from J÷tunheim and help them. She, with a single
push, set the ship floating, and then, whilst Thor stood up holding
Mi÷lnir high in the air, Odin lighted the funeral pile of Baldur and
So Ringhorn went out floating towards the deep, and the funeral
fire burnt on. Its broad red flame burst forth towards heaven; but
when the smoke would have gone upward too, the winds came
sobbing and carried it away.
When at last the ship Ringhorn had floated out so far to sea that
it looked like a dull red lamp on the horizon, Frigga turned round
and said, "Does any one of you, my children, wish to perform a
noble action and win my love forever?"
"I do," cried Hermod, before any one else had time to open his
"Go then, Hermod," answered Frigga, "saddle Sleipnir with all
speed and ride down to Helheim; there seek out Hela, the stern
mistress of the dead, and entreat her to send our beloved back to us
Hermod was gone in the twinkling of an eye, not in at the mouth
of the earth and through the steep cavern down which Odin went
to the dead Vala's grave; he chose another way, though not a better
one; for, go to Helheim how you will, the best is but a downward
road, and so Hermod found it--downward, slanting, slippery, dark,
and very cold. At last he came to the Giallar Bru--that sounding
river which flows between the living and the dead, and the bridge
over which is paved with stones of glittering gold. Hermod was
surprised to see gold in such a place; but as he rode over the bridge,
and looked down carefully at the stones, he saw that they were only
tears which had been shed round the beds of the dying--only tears,
and yet they made the way seem brighter. But when Hermod
reached the other end of the bridge, he found the courageous woman
who, for ages and ages, had been sitting there to watch the dead go
by, and she stopped him, saying:
"What a noise you make! Who are you? Yesterday five troops
of dead men went over the Giallar Bridge and did not shake it
so much as you have done. Besides," she added, looking more
closely at Hermod, "you are not a dead man at all. Your lips are
neither cold not blue. Why, then, do you ride on the way to
"I seek Baldur," answered Hermod. "Tell me, have you seen
"Baldur," she said, "has ridden over the bridge; but there below,
towards the north, lies the way to the Abodes of Death."
So Hermod went on the way until he came to the barred gates
of Helheim itself. There he alighted, tightened his saddle-girths,
remounted, clapped both spurs to his horse, and cleared the gate by
one tremendous leap. Then Hermod found himself in a place where
no living man had ever been before--the City of the Dead. Perhaps
you think there is a great silence there, but you are mistaken.
Hermod thought he had never in his life heard so much noise; for
the echoes of all words were speaking together--words, some newly
uttered and some ages old; but the dead men did not hear who flitted
up and down the dark streets, for their ears had been stunned
and become cold long since. Hermod rode on through the city until
he came to the palace of Hela, which stood in the midst. Precipice
was its threshold, the entrance hall, Wide Storm, and yet Hermod
was not too much afraid to seek the innermost rooms; so he went
on to the banqueting hall, where Hela sat at the head of her table
and served her newest guests. Baldur, alas! sat at her right hand,
and on her left his pale young wife. When Hela saw Hermod coming
up the hall she smiled grimly, but beckoned to him at the same
time to sit down, and told him that he might sup that night with
her. It was a strange supper for a living man to sit down to.
Hunger was the table; Starvation, Hela's knife; Delay, her man;
Slowness, her maid; and Burning Thirst, her wine. After supper
Hela led the way to the sleeping apartments. "You see," she said,
turning to Hermod, "I am very anxious about the comfort of my
guests. Here are beds of unrest provided for all, hung with curtains
of weariness, and look how all the walls are furnished with
So saying she strode away, leaving Hermod and Baldur together.
The whole night they sat on those unquiet couches and talked.
Hermod could speak of nothing but the past, and as he looked
anxiously round the room his eyes became dim with tears. But
Baldur seemed to see a light far off, and he spoke of what was to
The next morning Hermod went to Hela, and entreated her to let
Baldur return to Asgard. He even offered to take his place in Helhelm
if she pleased; but Hela only laughed at this and said: "You talk a
great deal about Baldur, and boast how much every one loves him; I
will prove now if what you have told me be true. Let everything on
earth, living or dead, weep for Baldur, and he shall go home again;
but if one thing only refuse to weep, then let Helheim hold its own;
he shall not go."
"Every one will weep willingly," said Hermod, as he mounted
Sleipnir and rode towards the entrance of the city. Baldur went
with him as far as the gate and began to send messages to all his
friends in Asgard, but Hermod would not listen to many of them.
"You will so soon come back to us," he said, "there is no use
in sending messages."
So Hermod darted homewards, and Baldur watched him through
the bars of Helheim's gateway as he flew along.
"Not soon, not soon," said the dead Asa; but still he saw the light
far off, and thought of what was to come.
"Well, Hermod, what did she say?" asked the AEsir from the
top of the hill as they saw him coming; "make haste and tell us
what she said." And Hermod came up.
"Oh! is that all?" they cried, as soon as he had delivered his
message. "Nothing can be more easy," and then they all hurried
off to tell Frigga. She was weeping already, and in five minutes
there was not a tearless eye in Asgard.
"But this is not enough," said Odin; "the whole earth must
know of our grief that it may weep with us."
Then the father of the AEsir called to him his messenger maidens
--the beautiful Valkyrior--and sent them out into all worlds with
these three words on their lips, "Baldur is dead!" But the words
were so dreadful that at first the messenger maidens could only
whisper them in low tones as they went along, "Baldur is dead!"
The dull, sad sounds flowed back on Asgard like a new river of
grief, and it seemed to the AEsir as if they now wept for the first
time-"Baldur is dead!"
"What is that the Valkyrior are saying?" asked the men and
women in all the country round, and when they heard rightly, men
left their labor and lay down to weep--women dropped the buckets
they were carrying to the well, and, leaning their faces over them,
filled them with tears. The children crowded upon the doorsteps,
or sat down at the corners of the streets, crying as if their own
mothers were dead.
The Valkyrior passed on. "Baldur is dead!" they said to the
empty fields; and straightway the grass and the wild field-flowers
"Baldur is dead!" said the messenger maidens to the rocks and
stones; and the very stones began to weep. "Baldur is dead!" the
Valkyrior cried; and even the old mammoth's bones, which had lain
for centuries under the hills, burst into tears, so that small rivers
gushed forth from every mountain's side. "Baldur is dead!" said
the messenger maidens as they swept over silent sands; and all the
shells wept pearls. "Baldur is dead!" they cried to the sea, and
to Jotunheim across the sea; and when the giants understood it,
even they wept, whilst the sea rained spray to heaven. After this
the Valkyrior stepped from one stone to another until they reached
a rock that stood alone in the middle of the sea; then, all together,
they bent forward over the edge of it, stooped down and peeped
over, that they might tell the monsters of the deep. "Baldur is
dead!" they said, and the sea monsters and the fish wept. Then the
messenger maidens looked at one another and said, "Surely our
work is done." So they twined their arms round one another's
waists, and set forth on the downward road to Helheim, there to
claim Baldur from among the dead.
After he had sent forth his messenger maidens, Odin had seated
himself on the top of Air Throne that he might see how the earth
received his message. At first he watched the Valkyrior as they
stepped forth north and south, and east and west; but soon the whole
earth's steaming tears rose up like a great cloud and hid everything
from him. Then he looked down through the cloud and said, "Are
you all weeping?" The Valkyrior heard the sound of his voice
as they went all together down the slippery road, and they turned
round, stretching out their arms towards Air Throne, their long hair
falling back, whilst, with choked voices and streaming eyes, they
answered, "The world weeps, Father Odin; the world and we."
After this they went on their way until they came to the end of
the cave Gnipa, where Garm was chained, and which yawned over
Niflheim. "The world weeps," they said one to another by way
of encouragement, for here the road was so dreadful; but just as
they were about to pass through the mouth of Gnipa they came
upon a haggard witch named Thaukt, who sat in the entrance with
her back to them, and her face toward the abyss. "Baldur is dead!
Weep, weep!" said the messenger maidens, as they tried to pass
her; but Thaukt made answer:
"What she doth hold,
Let Hela keep;
For naught care I,
Though the world weep,
O'er Baldur's bale.
Live he or die
With tearless eye,
Old Thaukt shall wail."
And with these words leaped into Niflheim with a yell of triumph.
"Surely that cry was the cry of Loki," said one of the maidens;
but another pointed towards the city of Helheim, and there they
saw the stern face of Hela looking over the wall.
"One has not wept," said the grim Queen, "and Helheim holds
its own." So saying she motioned the maidens away with her long,
Then the Valkyrior turned and fled up the steep way to the foot
of Odin's throne, like a pale snowdrift that flies before the storm.
THE HERO STORY
SIR WILLIAM WALLACE
I told you, my dear Hugh, that Edward I of England had reduced Scotland
almost entirely to the condition of a conquered country, although he
had obtained possession of the kingdom less by his bravery, than by
cunningly taking advantage of the disputes and divisions that followed
amongst the Scots themselves after the death of Alexander III.
The English, however, had in point of fact obtained possession of the
country, and governed it with much rigor. The Lord High Justice Ormesby
called all men to account, who would not take the oath of allegiance to
King Edward. Many of the Scots refused this, as what the English king
had no right to demand from them. Such persons were called into the
courts of justice, fined, deprived of their estates, and otherwise
severely punished. Then Hugh Cressingham, the English treasurer,
tormented the Scottish nation, by collecting money from them under
various pretexts. The Scots were always a poor people, and their native
kings had treated them with much kindness, and seldom required them to
pay any taxes. They were, therefore, extremely enraged at finding
themselves obliged to pay to the English treasurer much larger sums of
money than their own good kings had ever demanded from them; and they
became exceedingly dissatisfied.
Besides these modes of oppression, the English soldiers, who, I told
you, had been placed in garrison in the different castles of Scotland,
thought themselves masters of the country, treated the Scots with great
contempt, took from them by main force whatever they had a fancy to,
and if the owners offered to resist, abused them, beat and wounded, and
sometimes killed them; for which acts of violence the English officers
did not check or punish their soldiers. Scotland was, therefore, in
great distress, and the inhabitants, exceedingly enraged, only wanted
some leader to command them, to rise up in a body against the English
or _Southern_ men, as they called them, and recover the liberty
and independence of their country, which had been destroyed by Edward
Such a leader arose in the person of WILLIAM WALLACE, whose name is
still so often mentioned in Scotland. It is a great pity we do not know
exactly the history of this brave man; for at the time when he lived,
every one was so busy fighting, that there was no person to write down
the history of what took place; and afterwards, when there was more
leisure for composition, the truths that were collected were greatly
mingled with falsehood. What I shall tell you of him is generally
believed to be true.
William Wallace was none of the high nobles of Scotland, but the son of
a private gentleman, called Wallace of Ellerslie, in Renfrewshire, near
Paisley. He was very tall and handsome, and one of the strongest and
bravest men that ever lived. He had a very fine countenance, with a
quantity of fair hair, and was particularly dexterous in the use of all
weapons which were then employed in battle. Wallace, like all Scotsmen
of high spirit, had looked with great indignation upon the usurpation
of the crown by Edward, and upon the insolencies which the English
soldiers committed on his countrymen. It is said, that when he was very
young, he went a-fishing for sport in the river of Irvine, near Ayr. He
had caught a good many trouts, which were carried by a boy, who
attended him with a fishing-basket, as is usual with anglers. Two or
three English soldiers, who belonged to the garrison of Ayr, came up to
Wallace, and insisted, with their usual insolence, on taking the fish
from the boy. Wallace was contented to allow them a part of the trouts,
but he refused to part with the whole basketful. The soldiers insisted,
and from words came to blows. Wallace had no better weapon than the
butt-end of his fishing-rod; but he struck the foremost of the
Englishmen so hard under the ear with it that he killed him on the spot;
and getting possession of the slain man's sword, he fought with so much
fury that he put the others to flight, and brought home his fish safe
and sound. The English governor of Ayr sought for him, to punish him
with death for this action; but Wallace lay concealed among the hills
and great woods till the matter was forgotten, and then appeared in
another part of the country. He is said to have had other adventures of
the same kind, in which he gallantly defended himself, sometimes when
alone, sometimes with very few companions, against superior numbers of
the English, until at last his name became generally known as a terror
But the action which occasioned his finally rising in arms, is believed
to have happened in the town of Lanark. Wallace was at this time married
to a lady of that place, and residing there with his wife. It chanced,
as he walked in the market place, dressed in a green garment, with a
rich dagger by his side, that an Englishman came up and insulted him on
account of his finery, saying, a Scotsman had no business to wear so
gay a dress, or carry so handsome a weapon. It soon came to a quarrel,
as on many former occasions; and Wallace, having killed the Englishman,
fled to his own house, which was speedily assaulted by all the English
soldiers. While they were endeavoring to force their way in at the
front of the house, Wallace escaped by a back door, and got in safety
to a rugged and rocky glen, near Lanark, called the Cartland crags, all
covered with bushes and trees, and full of high precipices, where he
knew he should be safe from the pursuit of the English soldiers.
[Footnote: In the western face of the chasm of Cartland Crags, a few
yards above the new bridge, a cave in the rock is pointed out by
tradition as having been the hiding-place of Wallace.] In the meantime,
the governor of Lanark, whose name was Hazelrigg, burned Wallace's
house, and put his wife and servants to death; and by committing this
cruelty increased to the highest pitch, as you may well believe, the
hatred which the champion had always borne against the English usurper.
Hazelrigg also proclaimed Wallace an outlaw, and offered a reward to
any one who should bring him to an English garrison, alive or dead.
On the other hand, Wallace soon collected a body of men, outlawed like
himself, or willing to become so, rather than any longer endure the
oppression of the English. One of his earliest expeditions was directed
against Hazelrigg, whom he killed, and thus avenged the death of his
wife. He fought skirmishes with the soldiers who were sent against him,
and often defeated them; and in time became so well known and so
formidable, that multitudes began to resort to his standard, until at
length he was at the head of a considerable army, with which he
proposed to restore his country to independence.
About this time is said to have taken place a memorable event, which
the Scottish people called the "Barns of Ayr." It is alleged that the
English governor of Ayr had invited the greater part of the Scottish
nobility and gentry in the western parts to meet him at some large
buildings called the Barns of Ayr, for the purpose of friendly
conference upon the affairs of the nation. But the English earl
entertained the treacherous purpose of putting the Scottish gentlemen
to death. The English soldiers had halters with running nooses ready
prepared, and hung upon the beams which supported the roof; and, as the
Scottish gentlemen were admitted by two and two at a time, the nooses
were thrown over their heads, and they were pulled up by the neck, and
thus hanged or strangled to death. Among those who were slain in this
base and treacherous manner was, it is said, Sir Reginald Crawford,
Sheriff of the county of Ayr, and uncle to William Wallace.
When Wallace heard of what had befallen he was dreadfully enraged, and
collecting his men in a wood near the town of Ayr, he resolved to be
revenged on the authors of this great crime. The English in the
meanwhile made much feasting, and when they had eaten and drunk
plentifully, they lay down to sleep in the same large barns in which
they had murdered the Scottish gentlemen. But Wallace, learning that
they kept no guard or watch, not suspecting there were any enemies so
near them, directed a woman who knew the place, to mark with chalk the
doors of the lodgings where the Englishmen lay. Then he sent a party of
men, who, with strong ropes, made all the doors so fast on the outside,
that those within could not open them. On the outside the Scots had
prepared heaps of straw, to which they set fire, and the barns of Ayr,
being themselves made of wood, were soon burning in a bright flame.
Then the English were awakened, and endeavored to get out to save their
lives. But the doors, as I told you, were secured on the outside, and
bound fast with ropes; and, besides, the blazing houses were surrounded
by the Scots, who forced those who got out to run back into the fire,
or else put them to death on the spot; and thus great numbers perished
miserably. Many of the English were lodged in a convent, but they had
no better fortune than the others; for the prior of the convent caused
all the friars to arm themselves, and, attacking the English guests,
they put most of them to the sword. This was called the "Friar of Ayr's
blessing." We cannot tell if this story of the "Barns of Ayr" be
exactly true; but it is probable there is some foundation for it, as it
is universally believed in that country.
Thus Wallace's party grew daily stronger and stronger, and many of the
Scottish nobles joined with him. Among these were Sir William Douglas,
the Lord of Douglas-dale, and the head of a great family often
mentioned in Scottish history. There was also Sir John the Grahame,
who became Wallace's bosom friend and greatest confidant. Many of
these great noblemen, however, deserted the cause of the country on
the approach of John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, the English
governor, at the head of a numerous and well-appointed army. They
thought that Wallace would be unable to withstand the attack of so
many disciplined soldiers, and hastened to submit themselves to the
English, for fear of losing their estates. Wallace, however, remained
undismayed, and at the head of a considerable army. He had taken up
his camp upon the northern side of the river Forth, near the town of
Stirling. The river was there crossed by a long wooden bridge, about
a mile above the spot where the present bridge is situated.
The English general approached the banks of the river on the southern
side. He sent two clergymen to offer a pardon to Wallace and his
followers, on condition that they should lay down their arms. But such
was not the purpose of the high-minded champion of Scotland.
"Go back to Warenne," said Wallace, "and tell him we value not the
pardon of the king of England. We are not here for the purpose of
treating of peace, but of abiding battle, and restoring freedom to our
country. Let the English come on;--we defy them to their very beards!"
The English, upon hearing this haughty answer, called loudly to be led
to the attack. Their leader, Sir Richard Lundin, a Scottish knight,
who had gone over to the enemy at Irvine, hesitated, for he was a
skillful soldier, and he saw that, to approach the Scottish army, his
troops must pass over the long, narrow wooden bridge; so that those
who should get over first might be attacked by Wallace with all his
forces, before those who remained behind could possibly come to their
assistance. He therefore inclined to delay the battle. But Cressingham
the treasurer, who was ignorant and presumptuous, insisted that it was
their duty to fight, and put an end to the war at once; and Lundin
gave way to his opinion, although Cressingham, being a churchman,
could not be so good a judge of what was fitting as he himself, an
The English army began to cross the bridge, Cressingham leading the
van, or foremost division of the army; for, in those military days,
even clergymen wore armor and fought in battle. That took place which
Lundin had foreseen. Wallace suffered a considerable part of the
English army to pass the bridge, without offering any opposition; but
when about one half were over, and the bridge was crowded with those
who were following, he charged those who had crossed with his whole
strength, slew a very great number, and drove the rest into the river
Forth, where the greater part were drowned. The remainder of the
English army, who were left on the southern bank of the river, fled in
great confusion, having first set fire to the wooden bridge that the
Scots might not pursue them. Cressingham was killed in the very
beginning of the battle; and the Scots detested him so much, that they
flayed the skin from his dead body, and kept pieces of it, in memory
of the revenge they had taken upon the English treasurer. Some say
they made saddle girths of this same skin; a purpose for which I do
not think it could be very fit. It must be owned to have been a
dishonorable thing of the Scots to insult thus the dead body of their
enemy, and shows that they must have been then a ferocious and
The remains of Surrey's great army fled out of Scotland after this
defeat; and the Scots, taking arms on all sides, attacked the castles
in which the English soldiers continued to shelter themselves, and
took most of them by force or stratagem. Many wonderful stories are
told of Wallace's exploits on these occasions; some of which are no
doubt true, while others are either invented, or very much
exaggerated. It seems certain, however, that he defeated the English
in several combats, chased them almost entirely out of Scotland,
regained the towns and castles of which they had possessed themselves,
and recovered for a time the complete freedom of the country. He even
marched into England, and laid Cumberland and Northumberland waste,
where the Scottish soldiers, in revenge for the mischief which the
English had done in their country, committed great cruelties. Wallace
did not approve of their killing the people who were not in arms, and
he endeavored to protect the clergymen and others, who were not able
to defend themselves. "Remain with me," he said to the priests of
Hexham, a large town in Northumberland, "for I cannot protect you from
my soldiers when you are out of my presence." The troops who followed
Wallace received no pay, because he had no money to give them; and
that was one great reason why he could not keep them under restraint,
or prevent their doing much harm to the defenseless country people. He
remained in England more than three weeks, and did a great deal of
mischief to the country.
Indeed, it appears that, though Wallace disapproved of slaying
priests, women, and children, he partook of the ferocity of the times
so much, as to put to death without quarter all whom he found in arms.
In the north of Scotland the English had placed a garrison in the
strong Castle of Dunnottar, which, built on a large and precipitous
rock, overhangs the raging sea. Though the place is almost
inaccessible, Wallace and his followers found their way into the
castle, while the garrison in great terror fled into the church or
chapel, which was built on the very verge of the precipice. This did
not save them, for Wallace caused the church to be set on fire. The
terrified garrison, involved in the flames, ran some of them upon the
points of the Scottish swords, while others threw themselves from the
precipice into the sea and swam along to the cliffs, where they hung
like sea-fowl, screaming in vain for mercy and assistance.
The followers of Wallace were frightened at this dreadful scene, and
falling on their knees before the priests who chanced to be in the
army, they asked forgiveness for having committed so much slaughter
within the limits of a church dedicated to the service of God. But
Wallace had so deep a sense of the injuries which the English had done
to his country that he only laughed at the contrition of his soldiers.
"I will absolve you all myself," he said. "Are you Scottish soldiers,
and do you repent for a trifle like this, which is not half what the
invaders deserved at our hands?" So deep-seated was Wallace's feeling
of national resentment that it seems to have overcome, in such
instances, the scruples of a temper which was naturally humane.
Edward I was in Flanders when all these events took place. You may
suppose he was very angry when he learned that Scotland, which he
thought completely subdued, had risen into a great insurrection
against him, defeated his armies, killed his treasurer, chased his
soldiers out of their country, and invaded England with a great force.
He came back from Flanders in a mighty rage, and determined not to
leave that rebellious country until it was finally conquered, for
which purpose he assembled a very fine army, and marched into
In the meantime the Scots prepared to defend themselves, and chose
Wallace to be Governor, or Protector, of the kingdom, because they had
no king at the time. He was now titled Sir William Wallace, Protector,
or Governor, of the Scottish nation. But although Wallace, as we have
seen, was the best soldier and bravest man in Scotland, and therefore
the most fit to be placed in command at this critical period, when the
king of England was coming against them with such great forces, yet
the nobles of Scotland envied him this important situation, because he
was not a man born in high rank, or enjoying a large estate. So great
was their jealousy of Sir William Wallace, that many of these great
barons did not seem very willing to bring forward their forces, or
fight against the English, because they would not have a man of
inferior condition to be general. This was base and mean conduct, and
it was attended with great disasters to Scotland. [Footnote: "These
mean and selfish jealousies were increased by the terror, of Edward's
military renown, and in many by the fear of losing their English
estates; so that at the very time when an honest love of liberty, and
a simultaneous spirit of resistance, could alone have saved Scotland,
its nobility deserted it at its utmost need, and refused to act with
the only man whose military talents and prosperity were equal to the
emergency."--TYTLER'S _History of Scotland._] Yet,
notwithstanding this unwillingness of the great nobility to support
him, Wallace assembled a large army; for the middling, but especially
the lower classes, were very much attached to him. He marched boldly
against the King of England, and met him near the town of Falkirk.
Most of the Scottish army were on foot, because, as I already told
you, in those days only the nobility and great men of Scotland fought
on horseback. The English king, on the contrary, had a very large body
of the finest cavalry in the world, Normans and English, all clothed
in complete armor. He had also the celebrated archers of England, each
of whom was said to carry twelve Scotsmen's lives under his girdle;
because every archer had twelve arrows stuck in his belt, and was
expected to kill a man with every arrow.
The Scots had some good archers from the Forest of Ettrick, who fought
under command of Sir John Stewart of Bonkill; but they were not nearly
equal in number to the English. The greater part of the Scottish army
were on foot, armed with long spears; they were placed thick and close
together, and laid all their spears so close, point over point, that
it seemed as difficult to break through them, as through the wall of a
strong castle. When the two armies were drawn up facing each other,
Wallace said to his soldiers, "I have brought you to the ring, let me
see how you can dance;" meaning, I have brought you to the decisive
field of battle, let me see how bravely you can fight.
The English made the attack. King Edward, though he saw the close
ranks, and undaunted appearance, of the Scottish infantry, resolved
nevertheless to try whether he could not ride them down with his fine
cavalry. He therefore gave his horsemen orders to advance. They
charged accordingly, at full gallop. It must have been a terrible
thing to have seen these fine horses riding as hard as they could
against the long lances, which were held out by the Scots to keep them
back; and a dreadful cry arose when they came against each other.
The first line of cavalry was commanded by the Earl Marshal of
England, whose progress was checked by a morass. The second line of
English horse was commanded by Antony Beck, the Bishop of Durham, who,
nevertheless, wore armor, and fought like a lay baron. He wheeled
round the morass; but when he saw the deep and firm order of the
Scots, his heart failed, and he proposed to Sir Ralph Basset of
Drayton, who commanded under him, to halt till Edward himself brought
up the reserve. "Go say your mass, bishop," answered Basset
contemptuously, and advanced at full gallop with the second line.
However, the Scots stood their ground with their long spears; many of
the foremost of the English horses were thrown down, and the riders
were killed as they lay rolling, unable to rise, owing to the weight
of their heavy armor. But the Scottish horse did not come to the
assistance of their infantry, but on the contrary, fled away from the
battle. It is supposed that this was owing to the treachery or ill-
will of the nobility, who were jealous of Wallace. But it must be
considered that the Scottish cavalry were few in number; and that they
had much worse arms, and weaker horses, than their enemies. The
English cavalry attempted again and again to disperse the deep and
solid ranks in which Wallace had stationed his foot soldiers. But they
were repeatedly beaten off with loss, nor could they make their way
through that wood of spears, as it is called by one of the English
historians. King Edward then commanded his archers to advance; and
these approaching within arrow-shot of the Scottish ranks, poured on
them such close and dreadful volleys of arrows, that it was impossible
to sustain the discharge. It happened at the same time, that Sir John
Stewart was killed by a fall from his horse; and the archers of
Ettrick Forest, whom he was bringing forward to oppose those of King
Edward, were slain in great numbers around him. Their bodies were
afterwards distinguished among the slain, as being the tallest and
handsomest men of the army.
The Scottish spearmen being thus thrown into some degree of confusion,
by the loss of those who were slain by the arrows of the English, the
heavy cavalry of Edward again charged with more success than formerly,
and broke through the ranks, which were already disordered. Sir John
Grahame, Wallace's great friend and companion, was slain, with many
other brave soldiers; and the Scots, having lost a very great number
of men, were at length obliged to take to flight.
This fatal battle was fought upon the 22d of July, 1298: Sir John the
Grahame lies buried in the churchyard of Falkirk. A tombstone was laid
over him, which has been three times renewed since his death. The
inscription bears, "That Sir John the Grahame, equally remarkable for
wisdom and courage, and the faithful friend of Wallace, being slain in
battle by the English, lies buried in this place." A large oak tree in
the adjoining forests was long shown as marking the spot where Wallace
slept before the battle, or, as others said, in which he hid himself
after the defeat. Nearly forty years ago, Grandpa saw some of its
roots; but the body of the tree was even then entirely decayed, and
there is not now, and has not been for many years, the least vestige
of it to be seen.
After this fatal defeat of Falkirk, Sir William Wallace seems to have
resigned his office of Governor of Scotland. Several nobles were named
guardians in his place, and continued to make resistance to the
English armies; and they gained some advantages, particularly near
Roslin, where a body of Scots, commanded by John Comyn of Badenoch,
who was one of the guardians of the kingdom, and another distinguished
commander, called Simon Fraser, defeated three armies, or detachments,
of English in one day.
Nevertheless, the king of England possessed so much wealth, and so
many means of raising soldiers, that he sent army after army into the
poor oppressed country of Scotland, and obliged all its nobles and
great men, one after another, to submit themselves once more to his
yoke. Sir William Wallace, alone, or with a very small band of
followers, refused either to acknowledge the usurper Edward, or to lay
down his arms. He continued to maintain himself among the woods and
mountains of his native country for no less than seven years after his
defeat at Falkirk, and for more than one year after all the other
defenders of Scottish liberty had laid down their arms. Many
proclamations were sent out against him by the English, and a great
reward was set upon his head; for Edward did not think he could have
any secure possession of his usurped kingdom of Scotland while Wallace
lived. At length he was taken prisoner; and, shame it is to say, a
Scotsman, called Sir John Menteith, was the person by whom he was
seized and delivered to the English. It is generally said that he was
made prisoner at Robroyston, near Glasgow; and the tradition of the
country bears, that the signal made for rushing upon him and taking
him at unawares, was, when one of his pretended friends, who betrayed
him, should turn a loaf, which was placed upon the table, with its
bottom or flat side uppermost. And in after times it was reckoned ill-
breeding to turn a loaf in that manner, if there was a person named
Menteith in company; since it was as much as to remind him, that his
namesake had betrayed Sir William Wallace, the Champion of Scotland.
Whether Sir John Menteith was actually the person by whom Wallace was
betrayed, is not perfectly certain. He was, however, the individual by
whom the patriot was made prisoner, and delivered up to the English,
for which his name and his memory have been long loaded with disgrace.
Edward, having thus obtained possession of the person whom he
considered as the greatest obstacle to his complete conquest of
Scotland, resolved to make Wallace an example to all Scottish patriots
who should in future venture to oppose his ambitious projects. He
caused this gallant defender of his country to be brought to trial in
Westminster hall, before the English judges, and produced him there,
crowned in mockery, with a green garland, because they said he had
been king of outlaws and robbers among the Scottish woods. Wallace was
accused of having been a traitor to the English crown; to which he
answered, "I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his
subject." He was then charged with having taken and burnt towns and
castles, with having killed many men and done much violence. He
replied, with the same calm resolution, "that it was true he had
killed very many Englishmen, but it was because they had come to
subdue and oppress his native country of Scotland; and far from
repenting what he had done, he declared he was only sorry that he had
not put to death many more of them."
Notwithstanding that Wallace's defense was a good one, both in law and
in common sense, (for surely every one has not only a right to fight
in defense of his native country, but is bound in duty to do so,) the
English judges condemned him to be executed. So this brave patriot was
dragged upon a sledge to the place of execution, where his head was
struck off, and his body divided into four quarters, which, according
to the cruel custom of the time, were exposed upon spikes of iron on
London Bridge, and were termed the limbs of a traitor.
No doubt King Edward thought, that by exercising this great severity
towards so distinguished a patriot as Sir William Wallace, he should
terrify all the Scots into obedience, and so be able in future to
reign over their country without resistance. But though Edward was a
powerful, a brave, and a wise king, and though he took the most
cautious, as well as the most strict measures, to preserve the
obedience of Scotland, yet his claim being founded on injustice and
usurpation, was not permitted by Providence to be lished in security
or peace. Sir William Wallace, that immortal supporter of the
independence of his country, was no sooner deprived of his life, in
the cruel and unjust manner I have told you, than other patriots arose
to assert the cause of Scottish liberty.
Charles and Mary Lamb
There was a certain island in the sea, the only inhabitants of
which were an old man, whose name was Prospero, and his daughter
Miranda, a very beautiful young lady. She came to this island
so young, that she had no memory of having seen any other human
face than her father's.
They lived in a cave or cell, made out of a rock; it was divided
into several apartments, one of which Prospero called his study;
there he kept his books, which chiefly treated of magic, a study
at that time much affected by all learned men; and the knowledge of
this art he found very useful to him; for being thrown by a strange
chance upon this island, which had been enchanted by a witch
called Sycorax, who died there a short time before his arrival,
Prospero, by virtue of his art, released many good spirits that
Sycorax had imprisoned in the bodies of large trees, because they
had refused to execute her wicked demands. These gentle spirits
were ever after obedient to the will of Prospero. Of these Ariel was
The lively little sprite Ariel had nothing mischievous in his
nature, except that he took rather too much pleasure in tormenting
an ugly monster called Caliban, for he owed him a grudge,
because he was the son of his old enemy Sycorax. This Caliban,
Prospero found in the woods, a strange misshapen thing, far less
human in form than an ape; he took him home to his cell, and
taught him to speak; and Prospero would have been very kind to
him, but the bad nature which Caliban inherited from his mother
Sycorax would not let him learn anything good or useful: therefore
he was employed like a slave, to fetch wood and do the most laborious
offices; and Ariel had the charge of compelling him to these
When Caliban was lazy and neglected his work, Ariel (who was invisible
to all eyes but Prospero's) would come slyly and pinch him,
and sometimes tumble him down in the mire; and then Ariel, in the
likeness of an ape, would make mouths at him. Then swiftly changing
his shape, in the likeness of a hedgehog, he would lie tumbling
in Caliban's way, who feared the hedgehog's sharp quills would
prick his bare feet. With a variety of such like vexatious tricks
Ariel would often torment him, whenever Caliban neglected the work
which Prospero commanded him to do.
Having these powerful spirits obedient to his will, Prospero could
by their means command the winds, and the waves of the sea. By his
orders they raised a violent storm, in the midst of which, and
struggling with the wild sea-waves that every moment threatened
to swallow it up, he showed his daughter a fine large ship, which
he told her was full of living beings like themselves. "O my dear
father," said she, "if by your art you have raised this dreadful
storm, have pity on their sad distress. See! the vessel will be
dashed to pieces. Poor souls! they will all perish. If I had power,
I would sink the ship beneath the earth, rather than the good ship
should be destroyed, with all the precious souls within her.
"Be not so amazed, daughter Miranda," said Prospero; "there is
no harm done. I have so ordered it that no person in the ship shall
receive any hurt. What I have done has been in care of you, my
dear child. You are ignorant who you are, or where you came from,
and you know no more of me, but that I am your father, and live
in this poor cave. Can you remember a time before you came to
this cell? I think you cannot, for you were not then three years of
"Certainly I can, sir," replied Miranda.
"By what?" asked Prospero; "by any other house or person?
Tell me what you can remember, my child."
Miranda said, "It seems to me like the recollection of a dream.
But had I not once four or five women who attended upon me?"
Prospero answered, "You had, and more. How is it that this still
lives in your mind? Do you remember how you came here?"
"No, sir," said Miranda, "I remember nothing more."
"Twelve years ago, Miranda," continued Prospero, "I was duke
of Milan, and you were a princess, and my only heir. I had a
younger brother, whose name was Antonio, to whom I trusted
everything; and as I was fond of retirement and deep study, I
commonly left the management of my state affairs to your uncle,
my false brother (for so indeed he proved). I, neglecting all
worldly ends, buried among my books, did dedicate my whole time
to the bettering of my mind. My brother Antonio being thus in
possession of my power, began to think himself the duke indeed.
The opportunity I gave him of making himself popular among my
subjects awakened in his bad nature a proud ambition to deprive
me of my dukedom: this he soon effected with the aid of the king
of Naples, a powerful prince, who was my enemy."
"Wherefore," said Miranda, "did they not that hour destroy us?"
"My child," answered her father, "they durst not, so dear
was the love that my people bore me. Antonio carried us on board
a ship, and when we were some leagues out at sea he forced us
into a small boat, without either tackle, sail, or mast; there
he left us, as he thought, to perish. But a kind lord of my
court, one Gonzalo, who loved me, had privately placed in the
boat, water, provisions, apparel, and some books which I prize
above my dukedom."
"O my father," said Miranda, "what a trouble must I have been
to you then!"
"No, my love," said Prospero, "you were a little cherub that did
preserve me. Your innocent smiles made me to bear up against my
misfortunes. Our food lasted until we landed on this desert
island, since which time my chief delight has been in teaching
you, Miranda, and well have you profited by my instructions."
"Heaven thank you, my dear father," said Miranda. "Now
pray tell me, sir, your reason for raising this sea storm!"
"Know then," said her father, "that by means of this storm, my
enemies, the king of Naples and my cruel brother, are cast ashore
upon this island."
Having so said, Prospero gently touched his daughter with his
magic wand, and she fell fast asleep; for the spirit Ariel just
then presented himself before his master, to give an account of
the tempest, and how he had disposed of the ship's company; and
though the spirits were always invisible to Miranda, Prospero did
not choose that she should hear him holding converse (as would
seem to her) with the empty air.
"Well, my brave spirit," said Prospero to Ariel, "how have you
performed your task?"
Ariel gave a lively description of the storm, and of the terrors
of the mariners; and how the king's son, Ferdinand, was the first
who leaped into the sea; and his father thought he saw this dear
son swallowed up by the waves and lost. "But he is safe," said
Ariel, "in a corner of the isle, sitting with his arms folded,
sadly lamenting the loss of the king his father, whom he concludes
drowned. Not a hair of his head is injured, and his princely
garments, though drenched in the sea-waves, look fresher than
"That's my delicate Ariel," said Prospero. "Bring him hither: my
daughter must see this young prince. Where is the king, and my
"I left them," answered Ariel, "searching for Ferdinand, whom
they have little hopes of finding, thinking they saw him perish. Of
the ship's crew, not one is missing; though each one thinks himself
the only one saved: and the ship, though invisible to them, is safe in
"Ariel," said Prospero, "thy charge is faithfully performed: but
there is more work yet."
"Is there more work?" said Ariel. "Let me remind you, master,
you have promised me my liberty. I pray, remember, I have
done you worthy service, told you no lies, made no mistakes,
served you without grudge or grumbling."
"How now!" said Prospero. "You do not recollect what a
torment I freed you from. Have you forgot the wicked witch Sycorax,
who with age and envy was almost bent double? Where was
she born? Speak; tell me."
"Sir, in Algiers," said Ariel.
"O was she so?" said Prospero. "I must recount what you
have been, which I find you do not remember. This bad witch,
Sycorax, for her witchcrafts, too terrible to enter human hearing,
was banished from Algiers, and here left by sailors; and because
you were a spirit too delicate to execute her wicked commands, she
shut you up in a tree, where I found you howling. This torment,
remember, I did free you from."
"Pardon me, dear master," said Ariel, ashamed to seem ungrateful;
"I will obey your commands."
"Do so," said Prospero, "and I will set you free." He then
gave orders what further he would have him do; and away went
Ariel, first to where he had left Ferdinand, and found him still
sitting on the grass in the same melancholy position.
"O my young gentleman!" said Ariel, when he saw him, "I
will soon move you. You must be brought, I find, for the Lady
Miranda to have a sight of your pretty person. Come, sir, follow
He then began singing,--
"Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange,
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark, now I hear them, ding-dong-bell."
This strange news of his lost father soon roused the prince from
the stupid fit into which he had fallen. He followed in amazement
the sound of Ariel's voice, till it led him to Prospero and Miranda,
who were sitting under the shade of a large tree. Now Miranda
had never seen a man before, except her own father.
"Miranda," said Prospero, "tell me what you are looking at yonder."
"O father!" said Miranda, in a strange surprise, "surely that
is a spirit. Lord! how it looks about! Believe me sir, it is a
beautiful creature. Is it not a spirit?"
"No, girl," answered the father; "it eats, and sleeps, and has
senses such as we have. This young man you see was in the ship.
He is somewhat altered by grief, or you might call him a handsome
person. He has lost his companions, and is wandering about to find
Miranda, who thought all men had grave faces and gray beards
like her father, was delighted with the appearance of this beautiful
young prince; and Ferdinand, seeing such a lovely lady in this desert
place, and from the strange sounds he had heard, expecting nothing
but wonders, thought he was upon an enchanted island, and that
Miranda was the goddess of the place, and as such he began to
She timidly answered she was no goddess, but a simple maid, and
was going to give him an account of herself, when Prospero interrupted
her. He was well pleased to find they admired each other,
for he plainly perceived they had (as we say) fallen in love at first
sight; but to try Ferdinand's constancy, he resolved to throw some
difficulties in their way; therefore, advancing forward, he addressed
the prince with a stern air, telling him, he came to the island as a
spy, to take it from him who was the lord of it. "Follow me," said
he, "I will tie you neck and feet together. You shall drink seawater;
shell-fish, withered roots, and husks of acorns shall be your
food." "No," said Ferdinand, "I will resist such entertainment,
till I see a more powerful enemy," and drew his sword; but Prospero,
waving his magic wand, fixed him to the spot where he stood, so that
he had no power to move.
Miranda hung upon her father, saying, "Why are you so ungentle?
Have pity, sir; I will be his surety. This is the second man
I ever saw, and to me he seems a true one."
"Silence," said the father, "one word more will make me chide
you, girl! What! an advocate for an impostor! You think there
are no more such fine men, having seen only him and Caliban.
I tell you, foolish girl, most men as far excel this as he does
Caliban." This he said to prove his daughter's constancy; and she
replied," My affections are most humble. I have no wish to see
a goodlier man."
"Come on, young man," said Prospero to the prince, "you have