"The Wanderers"

The Text

Argument.

 

how certain Knights of Norway, moved
by a dream sailed to find the Earthly Paradise
And how they first came to land in the
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western sea and what happened to them there.
How they came to a land of the blacks
and how they fought with them & how they
escaped out of their hands.
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Of a storm and of the loss of the Fighting Man.
How they came to the valley of the lions
and of the damsels they saw there
How they arrived in the land of ladies
and saw their Queen
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Of the great King whom they fought
with & slew, and how they lived long in
the land of ladies.
How when they were now getting old
they sailed from the land of Ladies on
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their quest
how they came to the city of the stony
men and what happened to them
there.
how they escaped from some men
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and sailing by strange places came
at last to the land where they had
dreamed, and of what kind it was


Oho! oho! whence come ye, Sirs,
    Drifted to usward in such guise,
In ship unfit for mariners,
    Such heavy sorrow in your eyes?

The Wanderers:

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O masters of this outland shore,
    When first we hoisted up our sail
We were all furnished with good store
    Of swords and spears and gilded mail:

Yea then, of minstrels, many an one
    
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Stood on the deck with harp in hand,
And many a dame bright as the sun
    Cried farewell to us from the land.

See now our hair as white as snow
    On head and cheek, and chin and lip;
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Smooth men we were when long ago
    We drew the gangway to the ship.

A summer cruise we went that tide
    To take of merchants toll and tax;
Out from our tops there floated wide
    
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The Lion with the Golden Axe.

Five ships we were; the Fighting Man
    That bore our chiefest in command,
The Boar, the Bear, the Gold-crowned Swan,
    And we last in the Rose Garland.

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Ah, must we tell our tale again
    This once! and still we pray you, Sirs,
Once only now! So had we fain
    Forget it for these last few years

We walk about above the ground.
    
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In few words – that time as I say
We swept both narrow seas and sound
    Of all the ships that came our way.

Our holds were full of bales of goods
    Worth many a florin, so perdie
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Homeward we turned, counting the roods
    Of land we should buy presently.

Alas! The slip ’twixt lip and cup:
    For on a time, as it befell
We wanted water, so brought up
    
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Within a bay we knew full well.

There, when the hawsers were made fast
    Ashore we went, feast did we keep,
Then filled our water-casks; at last
    There in our tents we fell asleep.

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But as it drew to the twilight
    In the grey dawn, we heard a shout
Come from the captain’s tent: forthright
    From the fringed doorway he came out.

Straight ran we to him: “Have no fear
    
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Fellows,” he said; “from a strange dream,
Or something more, as ye shall hear,
    Have I just waked; thus did it seem:

I stood upon a certain land
    Hard by the sea, a white city
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Above; a sea-beat yellow strand
    Furrowed by keels was under me.

And as I stood, it seemed, perdie!
    A yellow lion was I grown;
Of you some forty were with me,
    
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Each as a lion with a crown

Each one of us a great axe had
    In his right paw; and blithe we seemed
And thereat nothing mazed or sad:
    And furthermore, fellows, I dreamed

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That folk kept passing to and fro
    Nor saw us: all were fair and young,
Laughing and merry did they go,
    And many were the songs they sung.

Forth to the city then we went,
    
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The fairest houses there we saw
With walls about green gardens bent,
    And in the midst, without a flaw

Rose up a temple of green stone
    Like glass: therein were images
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As of Diana, burd-alone,
    Trim-shod, with dainty naked knees.

Jupiter saw I, furthermore,
    Without a frown upon his face:
And Pallas with her book of lore
    
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Set in a corner of the place.

There was the Ruler of the Sea,
    And Juno still in wrathful mood,
Bacchus we saw, and Mercury;
    With downcast eyes there Pluto stood.

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And midmost there, with wings that met
    Over his head, was mighty Love,
And there beside was Venus set,
    Fresh, soft, and naked, with her dove

Brushing his wings against her feet.
    
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Now in this temple, Sirs, I say,
I dreamed I saw two fellows meet
    And talk together such a way:

‘Ah!’ said the first, ‘if folk but knew
    The merry days we live in here,
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No longer should we be a few,
    Full many a keel would hither steer.’

‘Yea’ quoth the other, ‘did they know
    That every man grows young again
That underneath our gates doth go,
    
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And never after suffers pain;

No war, no winter, no disease,
    No storm nor famine reach us here,
Ever we live ’mid rest and case
    And no man doth another fear!’

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When this heard, soloud my heart
    ’Gan beat that scarce heard one say:
‘But far this sweet land is apart
    From all the world! Yet is the way

Not altogether hard to find
    
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It still you steer west hardily
Beseeching Venus to be kind.’
    This said, they passed on presently.

No longer was I lion then, straight
    But man again, old, near my death,
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And ye were gone, as oft to men
    In helpless dreams it happeneth.

Down fell I straight upon my knees,
    And holding Venus by the feet,
‘I pray thee give me rest and peace
    
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And fearless life, my lady sweet,’

Said I, and therewithal I wept;
    Nearer and nearer to my death
I grew, yet still my hands I kept
    Upon the image, with weak breath

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Muttering out prayers; till suddenly
    As happed once to Pygmalion
So dreamed I that it happed to me;
    The stone my hands were laid upon

Grew into soft flesh, the fair leg
    
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Drew back a little as she said,
‘My knight, I grant you that you beg,’
    And laid her hands upon my head.

Then shuddering my head I bent
    Before the Goddess, with shut eyes,
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As through my veins the new blood went
    Filling my heart with ecstasies

Forgotten long; within a while
    I raised my eyes and looked and there
Still stood the image with set smile
    
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And colourless with gilded hair.

Then suddenly aware I was
    All was a dream; yet woke I not
But passed from out that house of glass,
    And went again to that same spot

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Where first I found myself, and then
    I woke indeed, but, fellows mine,
Waking, I saw two ancient men
    There in the corners; of gold fine

One wore a crown; about his head
    
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Shone rings of light, all armed was he
And all his raiment was of red;
    He held a great axe handily.

The other man was clad in blue
    One-eyed he was and held a spear:
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Olaf and Odin straight I knew
    And cried the cry that you did hear.

Straightway they vanished, but each one
    Beckoned me westward as he went;
Then to the tent I heard you run –
    
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Say, fellows, what these wonders meant.”

All waited till the mass-priest said:
    “The Devil well such dreams might send,
When one lay helpless on his bed,
    To tempt a man to evil end.”

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Such things were possible to be
    He doubted not, a little while,
“Hell-fire afterwards,” said he;
    I broke in with a certain smile,

“Yea also here St Olaf came.”
    
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He said, “The Devil, oh my son,
Having no body but a flame
    Can just as well be two as one,

Olaf as Odin for the nonce,”
    Said John our mass-priest, “yea, and know
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I heard a tale of men who once
    Sought for this land ye seek of now,

And to some isle far in the West
    Outside the world they came one day
And there they went ashore to rest
    
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But as upon the grass they lay

Devils set on them and to shreds
    Tore many, but some got away
And years thereafter with white heads
    Came broken-hearted to Norway.”

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When he had done Sir Rolf the Old
    Next said: “Captain, it seems to me
You plan a voyage overbold –
    Now such a thing as this might be

If we were sitting poor at home –
    
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But I am rich and old and bent
And think no more at last to roam.
    I think, that westward if ye went,

Many a strange thing might ye sec
    Nor yet come home again, or live
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More than a month or two; for me
    At home henceforth I think to thrive.”

“Yea too,” quoth one, “the western seas
    Are all alive with fearful things,
Great rolling waves without a breeze
    
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And wingless birds and fish with wings.”

Then I hot-headed and aflame
    To seek new things, at such-like words
Cried, “In that place from whence you came
    Do folk perchance sell spears and swords?

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Or by the loom do men there sit
    Watching the women's shuttle fly
From side to side, not touching it
    With any finger? Do they die

And of that great renown think nought
    
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Our fathers won in other days
Who over strange seas strange things sought,
    Nor bore to die with little praise?

Let whoso will of these go home
    And sit there while the minstrels sing
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Great lies about him, the beer-foam
    Still on their beards, and sea-roving

In words alone: but we will go
    Follow our fortunes to the West,
And leave the winter and the snow
    
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And gain all things that men love best.”

The young men shouted thereupon;
    For through their hearts the thoughts did pass,
Warm days, ripe fruit, the merry sun,
    And sweet fair ladies on the grass,

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Or cinnamon-fires burning bright
    In the cool autumn evening,
And gold-gowns fairer to the sight
    Than raiment of the Greekish king.

But there were old men there, and men
    
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Not old, but fain enow to live
Without risk three score years and ten
    With what delights that land could give;

So there rose up a murmuring
    And earnest talk ’twixt man and man;
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There was said many a foolish thing –
    yea, some of us indeed began

Within our sheaths to loose the swords,
    Until the Captain cried at last,
“O fellows, you have heard my words,
    
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Nor do I bid you on this cast

To venture all but if your hearts
     Are firm thereon as mine today,
Then let those go who for their parts
    Would still live on in their old way.”

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Then with his sword he drew a line
    Deep in the sand and said, “Fellows,
Whoso from henceforth will be mine
    To sail in seas no shipman knows.”

Two hundred of us followed him –
    
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The Captain said: “Good fellows mine,
Sell me two ships for these my men
    And for our gold and cloth your wine,

Stockfish and salt-meat; and farewell,
    God prosper all things to your hand,
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“Which,” said they, “would you have us sell?”
    “The Fighting Man and Rose Garland,”

Said he. So all was straightway done,
    And each man happy thought himself
As we went westward with the sun
    
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And they sailed eastward with their pelf.

Alas! we left that merry shore,
    And never to come back again,
And never see our own folk more,
    And suffer many and many a pain.

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For twenty days we sailed away,
     Due west past many lands we knew,
Till at the last before us lay
    Stretched out, the landless sea and blue.

Still west we went, till the north-wind
    
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Came on us, amid clouds and rain;
And so no longer could we find
    Our true course, therefore were we fain

To strike sail, as we drove before
    The wind that yet kept rising till
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We thought we ne’er should see the shore
    In life again, for good or ill.

Till as it happened the great wind fell
    Even at its highest, and that past
We rode becalmed, and in the swell
    
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Dipping into our yard-arm; then at last

We saw stars, and as the wind
    Rose light and fair, we steered north-west:
Then was the weather sweet and kind
    As unto sailors at the best.

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So passed ten days and it grew warm,
    And warmer ever as we sailed;
And no man yet had come to harm
    Spite of the storm. Now the wind failed

One evening just as the night fell,
    
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And rose again about midnight,
And blew till morning fair and well,
    Then saw we land as it grew light.

A long green coast dipped in the sea,
     A wall of trees behind there was,
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Under our ship’s sides certainly
    Clear showed the water green as glass.

Ah, how we sang and shouted then!
    Never before such joy we had,
We were the happiest of all men,
    
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Never again could we be sad.

Most grievous of all times is this
    For wretches to remember now,
We thought then, Here begins our bliss –
     Alas! for then began sorrow:

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For ever as we coasted there
    The fair young folk we looked to see
Our fellow dreamed of, and the fair
    Long yellow beach and white city:

But we saw nought but trees and grass
    
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And there upon wild things playing
Around the sea as green as glass
    And fish with many a scarlet ring.

Then doubting drew we near to land
     With fainter hearts than heretofore;
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With iron chain and hempen band
    We made the ships fast to the shore.

Then said the Captain: “Good fellows,
    This is a right fair land to see,
Deep grass, sweet streams and trees in rows,
    
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And birds singing in every tree.

And yet no sign of man there is;
    How good the sweet land of my dream
Must be, when such a land as this
    Is left untilled of any team,

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Without a man or house thereon!”
    “Yet in land, Captain, let us go
And seek thereafter,” called out one,
    “And sail at last if it be so

There are no folk. A grievous thing
    
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It would be to sail back again
A year hence for this land seeking;
     And well it might be then in vain.”

Yea, said we all, so it shall he,
    And chose by lot nine of our men,
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And sent them out by three and three
    Well armed and victualled; said we then:

“A month here do we wait for you
    Then sail away whate’er betide,
But that ye light on something new.”
    
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This done we built our camp beside

That warm sea, and there many a day
    We swam among the purple fish
And sported there in every way
    That any man could think or wish.

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Or in the woods went wandering
    And lay beneath outlandish trees,
Heard strange new birds new carols sing
    And thought of coming voyages.

Moreover there we held great feasts
    
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Because the place was furnished well
With deer and goats and such like beasts
    Whereof full many a head there fell;

Thereof also we made good store
     Of salt meat for our voyages.
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So passed the month along the shore
    Nor saw we ought of those same threes.

Until one day, the time being past
    We hauled the ships down to the sea
And broke the camp up, then at last
    
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Three men came running hastily.

Far had they gone, but nothing seen
     But trees and meadows fair enough,
And such beasts as with us had been.
    No lion or bear, and nothing rough,

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Hurtful or evil did they see,
    Nothing but still the quiet land,
But of all fruits right great plenty
     Whereof they carried some in hand.

A great river they came unto
    
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And went along its bank, until
On the fifth day they saw it go
    Into a cavern in a hill

With a great roar, as well might be.
    Then up that hill they clomb and thence
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Looked landward but did nothing see
    But trees and meads until a fence

Of mountains rose against the sky.
    They went thereto for three days more.
Then clomb the mountains easily;
    
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Thence seaward could they see the shore,

Landward a fairer place than all
    They yet had seen, a fair green plain
With trees and streams, yet like a wall
    Far off the mountains rose again.

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Therefore they crossed the plain, but when
    They reached the top of this third range,
And saw no signs of any men
    And saw the land with little change

Spread out beneath them as before,
    
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They thought it good to turn straightway
Back to the ships. So to the shore
    They came upon the thirtieth day.

“Fellows,” they said, “the land is good,
    Nor is there anything to fear.
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We are the first that have spilled blood
    Even of beasts; none dwelleth here.”

But as they spoke a certain one
    Came towards us between bush and bush
Out from the forest to the sun,
    
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Holding a basket made of rush.

Thereto his hair was white as snow
    And bent he walked as if with pain,
Yet as he neared us, did we know
    Our fellow John the Long again

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Who went from us both young and fair
    And merry-hearted, a stout man,
Broad-shouldered and with yellow hair:
    Half-dead he stood there bent and wan.

We pressed around him, but he said
    
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No word, but stooping opened wide
The rushen basket, then as dead
    Our hearts grew, when we saw inside

The heads of our two fellows lie
     Bloody and cut off at the neck;
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Then straight some cried out angrily
    To have him forthwith to the deck

Of the chief ship and judge him there;
    Some clashed their axes o’er his head;
But then beholding his white hair
    
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And that he stood like one long dead,

Upright, but looking at nothing,
    Their clamour died out suddenly.
For in our ears the words did ring
    The priest spoke, of the isles that lie

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Outside the world where devils be.
    We thought, our fellows have been slain
And damned perchance most piteously,
    And this one has been raised again

And sent to frighten us to death –
    
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And little of that did it fail:
We stood scarce daring to draw breath
    Or look around us, while the sail

Kept flapping in the rising wind,
    And the noon sun was shining fair,
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Till this thought came into my mind,
    What if the night should find us here?

Then gasping to the ship I ran
    And straight the others followed me
As sheep their leader, till no man
    
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Was on the shore but only he.

No heed at all he seemed to take
    As we the hawsers cut, and as
Some way the ships began to make
    Leaving that land of trees and grass

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Inhabited by fiends of Hell;
    Nor did we ever after know
What things the other three befell
    That erewhile with the rest did go.

Three days we sailed that land along
    
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Ever with hearts right sore afraid
Till from the land the wind blew strong
    And so the open sea we made.

This was the first day of those days
    When we were sorry we had come
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Far off from the green land-locked bays
    And white-wood houses of our home.

But whitherward now should we steer,
    What star should lead us now thereto?
Yea though our hearts should die with fear
    
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No way but onward could we go.

Yea call it onward if you will:
    Whereto the wind blew there went we,
There was no use for strength or skill,
    We were as boys blown out to sea.

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Westward so far as we could tell
    With a fair wind twelve days we sailed,
And nothing evil us befell;
    Till as before the sea-breeze failed

At night-fall, therefore watch and ward
    
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We kept with little sleep that night;
The low land, covered with green sward
    We saw at the first streak of light.

Above, the tall trees as before,
    And all about, the goats and deer
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Playing together on the shore –
    Masters, then sunk our hearts with fear.

To leave that evil land behind
    Twelve days to sail upon the sea
Before the merry Eastern wind
    
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And still in the same place to be

As to our eyes it verily seemed:
    Almost we thought to see laid there
Our fellow’s body-had we dreamed
    At sight of that still land so fair

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Those evil things that there befell,
    Or was there such another place
Inhabited by fiends from Hell
    And otherwise in goodly case?

Now as the wind blew on the land
    
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A furlong from the land we rode,
An anchor out on either hand;
    And many an evil we forbode.

This happed: about the dead of night
    The watch gave warning, and we all
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Looked landward, and saw many a light
    Pass to and fro, and therewithal

Strange cries we heard come from the shore,
    And still the lights came one by one,
And kept increasing more and more
    
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Until the rising of the sun.

But in the twilight we saw there
    A multitude of moving things
Black on the green shore: many a prayer
    We muttered hearing their cryings.

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We said, we sought for Heaven on earth
     But now at last have come to Hell;
These things that make such sort of mirth
    With these for ever shall we dwell.

Alas the merry merchant-town,
    
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Alas the farms at home, we said,
The crossed tombs on the grassy down
    Around the church when we [ ] dead.

But now hereafter shall they say
    To those that in our houses dwell,
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Forgetting God they sailed away
    And drove into the mouth of Hell.

Yet God was good to us, fair Sirs;
    As day-light spread we looked to sec
Uncertain forms of great monsters,
    
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And soon within their grip to be;

Nevertheless as the day rose
    With fainting hearts we armed us clean
And saw the faces of our foes,
    Such folk as we had often seen;

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Black men such as our people bring
     With ivory and spices rare,
When southward they go sea-roving,
    Or like the Greek kings’ eunuchs are.

They offered battle by their guise,
    
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As crowding on the grassy strand
They hailed us with outlandish cries
    And shook their weapons in their hand.

Right ugly staves they had with them
    Set round with many a spiky bone,
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Skin coats with gaudy painted hem,
    And axes evil made of stone.

And bows they had but weak enough,
    They had no raiment of defence
But furry skins, and targets rough;
    
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They had no boat to come from thence.

Therefore our hearts again grew light
    And little heeded we their noise,
But that it stirred in us forthright
    Remembrance of old battle Joys.

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And loud the Captain shouted: “Sirs
    Here is a good game to your hand I
Ye are no merchant mariners
    To buy and sell from land to land.

Up anchors, man the oars forthright,
    
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Get ready axes to the hand;
Blow horns, for we shall hear ere night
    New tidings of our promised Land!”

Joyous our hearts grew and merry;
    We cried our cries, while overhead
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Out went the banner suddenly,
    And down the wind went long and red.

Out ran the forty oars like one,
    While from the stern the minstrel men
Struck up The King of England’s Son.
    
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Forgotten were our troubles then,

As towards the shore we drove, singing,
     Amid the stones and sharp arrows –
We counted that a little thing,
    So fain we were to come to blows.

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There in their midst ashore we leapt,
    And great and grim the slaughter was,
In their skin coats their bodies kept,
    The great stone axes broke like glass.

There on the shore in heap on heap
    
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They fell upon the trodden grass,
Or from the beach they fled like sheep
    By such wild ways as they might pass,

And these we followed after straight,
     But left behind some fifty there,
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To guard our passage, if ill fate
    Betid, for still we feared a snare.

But nought within the woods that day
     We saw but dying men and dead,
They had no rede, but, get away,
    
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These strangers may not be bested.

Soon we pressed till at noontide
     We came unto a clearer space
Where stood their town, and there beside
    A little river ran apace.

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A poor place built of reeds and wood
    And no man there to make defence;
Ajar the gates of wattle stood,
    Both men and women had gone thence.

Natheless their beasts were left behind,
    
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And, namely, pigs and beasts like goats
But bigger far than are our kind;
    And geese swam all about their moats.

But iron or silver, brass or gold
    Nor any metal, found we there,
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But stout staves certain flints did hold
    Brought to a sharp edge and a fair.

And nothing woven there we found
    For all their raiment was of skin,
And pots but neither glazed or round
    
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We saw with evil drink therein.

And in the midst we saw a hall
    Wherein their filthy God they keep,
Who had on him, for royal pall,
    The skins of some beast like a sheep,

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Set round with many a coloured shell.
    So there our helmets we did off,’
And on their swine we feasted well
    Then burnt their God with jeer and scoff.

Thereafter all the place we burned,
    
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Then got together some poor spoil,
And back toward our ships returned
    At undern. Now with care and toil

Had we come through the woods before;
    Much more we laboured coming back,
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Driving our cattle us before;
    Nought was it now but hew and hack

And stumble; till the night-fall came
    And found us still deep in the woods
Forewearied with our arms, foot-lame,
    
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And scattered shepherding our goods.

Therefore we made a barrier,
    Wherein we laid us down to sleep
And wait; nor had we any fear
    Of miscreants and such Devil’s sheep.

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But in the dead of night I woke,
    And heard a sharp and bitter cry,
And there saw, struck with a great stroke,
    Lie dead, Sir John of Hederby.

We armed us with what speed we might,
    
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As thick and fast the arrows came,
Nor did we any more lack light,
    For all the woods were red with flame.

Straight we set forward valiantly
    While all about the blacks lay hid,
Who never spared to yell and cry –
    
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A woful night to us befell.

For some within the fire fell,
    And some with shafts were smitten dead,
Neither could any see right well
    Which side to guard, nor by my head

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Did we strike stroke at all that night,
    Forever onward as we drew
So drew they back from out our sight;
    Thus we went on as men might do

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In evil dreams, until we felt
    The sea-breeze push the smoke away,
And of the sea the savour smelt
    Sweeter than roses by my fay!

Now when we were all met, some bade
    
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To turn again and smite these thieves,
Yet were the more part now afraid
    Nor list to die like shrivelled leaves.

Soon we should all be more than kings,
    Nor was there anything to gain
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From these but hogs and such-like things,
    And folly was it to be slain

Upon the eve of Paradise.
    Therefore we put again to sea
Leaving a land that might entice
    
660
More wary travellers than we.

We coasted by cape after cape
    Until the wind blew easterly,
Then due west we our course did shape,
    Withal was but a gentle sea.

665
Our hearts upon the end were set
    As fair we sailed before the wind,
All things behind did we forget
    In sweet hope happy life to find.

The third day came Sir Nicholas,
    
670
Our Captain, to the Rose Garland.
And coming up to where I was,
    Spoke to me, holding up his hand:

“Sir Rafe, I deem you wise and true
    Nor given unto babbling words,
675
Which spoken we may not undo
    And make worse wounds than grinded swords.

Now I am heavy in my heart,
    And all my hope is fallen to nought,
Fain would I you should have a part
    
680
Of this my burden: I am brought

Night after night in lifelike dreams
    To that land where we wish to go;
Alas none ever happy seems
    Of all the folk I meet there now.

685
And tombs are in the fair church set,
    No man adores the Goddesses,
The palace steps with blood are wet,
    And weeds grow up between the trees.

Last night I saw my father there,
    
690
My mother whom I left alive
In Norway, and my daughter fair,
    No one of them did seem to thrive

At last this question came from me,
    That long unto my tongue did cling:
695
‘Do folk die here?’ Then piteously
    They answered me with sore weeping.

‘Alas! fair son,’ my father said,
    ‘None comes to this unhappy place
Unless for ever they are dead;
    
700
And therewith he lift up his face.

O, well do I remember, Rafe,
    My father, when from sea we came,
And thought to see our homestead safe,
    And saw, instead, its last thin flame

Die out above my dead mother;
705

    His face was not so wretched then
As that the shade did show me there –
    O, Rafe, we are but ruined men!

A dream has sent us on this quest,
    And certain half-forgotten tales:
710

To live for ever is the best
    That haps to us; but if all fails

What is the worst of all?” Said I,
    “It is well seen, friend, by my head,
We shall find some good way to die;
715

    Then are we, as our fathers, dead,

Who fell upon the English shore,
    Or sunk below the sandy Seine,
Or back from Russia came no more,
    Or got no mercy from the Dane.
720

Yea, also, ere we come to this
    Doubt not that we shall find some way
To pass our life in worldly bliss
    In some sweet isle with game and play.

And shall we now curse God and die
725

    If following some minstrels’ dream,
As boys a painted butterfly,
    We find it lead us down the stream

Of circumstance, to a strange life
    Wherein more wonders we shall see
730

Than if we lived at home in strife
    Thirty men’s lives, as men now be?

I say a dream has brought us here,
    Let us now go where it may lead,
For no dream shall we ever steer
735

    Back eastward, Captain, by my rede.

Yea, are we now as like to find
    This very Earthly Paradise,
As any land I bear in mind.
    Needs must we on in any wise –
740

Or will the wind that ever blew
    From some point east, as we came here,
Be unto us so and true
    As back at our command to steer?”

“I would the wind would rise,” said he,
745

    “And blow us to some Christian shore
Through howsoever wild a sea,
    Thence would I never wander more.

There should we find some fair abbey
    Where long in penance should I dwell
750

And ever to the great God pray,
    And say my psalter fair and well.

For now have we sinned Adam’s sin,
    To make us Gods who are but men,
To find a heaven and dwell therein
755

    Whose years are but three score and ten.

Yea, almost are we fain to have
    Such Gods as we ourselves have made,
For if they be not strong to save
    Of them is no man much afraid.
760

This is the thing I fear therefore,
    That we our journey end too well,
And reach the much desired shore,
    And without dying come to Hell.

I pray rather that God may stay
765

    Our ship in the mid-ocean now,
Until our flesh fall all away;
    Or else that some great wind may blow,

And drive us underneath the sea –
    There shall [ ] do what seemeth best
770

Unto our bodies, that shall be
    Until the Day of Doom at rest.”

Now even as he spake to me,
    Dead fell the wind, the sails did flap,
And all our way stopped suddenly,
775

    Just as he wished that it might hap.

Thereat a terror seized my heart
    He was foredoomed: and I was wise
And wished a long life for my part
    Should we fail of our paradise
780

With joyous tilts and ladies’ love,
    Fair things, and flower-crowned revelry:
And were we never hence to move,
    God’s martyrs in the middle sea.

The Captain looked up in my face
785

    Amazed and blank, then slunk away
And went about from place to place
    Nor spoke to me again that day.

The next day twice he passed me by
    Then turned, and said, “My words were nought:
790

Why do you look so bitterly
    As if some evil I had wrought?

This is a calm such as might chance
    In any sea that you could find.”
Yet here withal he looked askance
795

    Eastward, as though he prayed for wind.

I said, “They say that God hears prayer,
    And, by the Saints I deem it true;
You asked a small thing, and a fair:
    Suppose that God has given it you.
800

To die in war, when all is said,
    You and your fellows, this you asked:
God is a great God, by my head,
    And is not lightly overtasked.

Pray again, Captain, as before
805

    And we shall see that abbey fair
Clean standing on some grassy shore;
    And well I wish that I was there.

O for another draught of life
    I would endure their lazy hum
810

And snatch some flower from their strife –
    Cucullus non facit monachum.”

He said no more but slouched his hat
    And went, and soon I heard him sing,
And saw his flushed face, as he sat
815

    With our fellows, carolling.

Within a while they sang no more,
    For many a day we hung there still,
And want of water grieved us sore,
    To cat our meat we had no will.
820

And now Sir Nicholas sat silent,
    Although his lips were still moving,
So that men deemed a spell he meant
    To call up some unholy thing.

Thus lay we till the twentieth night,
825

    Which was with moon and clear enow,
The Fighting Man lay in our sight
    Some half a furlong from our bow.

Between her masts in the moonlight
    We saw a small black cloud arise;
830

We were as joyous at that sight
    As we had found our paradise.

Straightway the Captain cried aloud,
    “Man oars and sails I here cometh wind!”
But so increased on us that cloud,
835

    His words we had no time to mind,

When no man now could see his hand,
    And the green seas rolling in;
Then neither had we place to stand,
    And but if one some hope could win
840

Straight were his troubles at an end.
    In rags the sails went, weak and strong,
The masts like withy twigs did bend
    And through the dark we went headlong.

At night we drove before the gale,
845

    And fain we were, that tide, of light;
The leaden day came dull and pale
    And little clearer than the night.

Four days the Rose Garland was cast
    From hill to hill of inky sea,
850

And then the wind gave out at last
    And from the west blew easily.

And we, storm-tossed and battered men,
    Could count our losses, who were now
But threescore rusty folk, and ten,
855

    Who were two hundred, brave enow

Of gold and silver – What betid
    That night unto the Fighting Man
From us for ever will be hid;
    The dying moon with mist was wan,
860

Across that light we saw her men
    Run hurrying to sail and oar,
We saw her sails flap downward; when
    The dark came and we saw no more.

We came unto another land
865

    With gentle winds in two days more;
But all unlike the fair green strand,
    This was a brown and dreadful shore.

Natheless of water were we fain
    So sent some twenty fellows tall
870

To fetch it at whatever pain
    And what flesh they might meet withal.

Of flesh indeed we had some store
    So cared the less: in half a day
Back came our hunters to the shore,
875

    Two less than they had gone away.

Water they had with them enow,
    For flesh two lions dead they bore
Smitten with many a stab and blow,
    And somewhere had the fight been sore
880

For many of our folk were torn:
    Thus said they, that the land was bad,
Never was land so foul, forlorn
    And crossed and evil, dull and sad,

Until a small vale fair and green
885

    Betwixt two rugged hills they found,
As fair a place as man has seen
    Where streams and wells did much abound,

Set all about with orange trees
    And heavy-hung pomegranates fair;
890

They shouted, setting eyes on these,
    And made haste to be quickly there.

But as they stooped by the full brook
    And drank great draughts upon their knees,
Or down from off the fair trees shook
895

    Pomegranates, and great oranges,

Lions set on them, two were slain
    At unawares, and many a wound
The others had, but with great pain
    They slew two, chased the rest, and bound
900

The slain beasts upon boughs. This tale
    Set all of us afire to go
And see this dangerous and fair vale
    And slay the beasts that plagued it so.

We chose a twenty men to stay
905

    And guard the ship, that now lay hid
Under a ness; then went away
    All armed; and strange things straight betid.

For as we came just at the head
    Of that rough pass that reached the place,
910

The foremost man stopped short and said,
    Turning on us a mazed face,

“Hold! hold! for many well-armed men
     Be in the valley, by God’s blood!”
Softly enough we crawled on then
915

    Unto a rock near where we stood,

Behind which many a man might hide
     Then through the valley in our sight
Five hundred soldiers straight did ride,
     All featly armed in armour bright,
920

Not loathly black men, by my head,
     But white and fair as men might be;
And soon two ways they opened
     And then a new thing did we see.

There in the midst of carven stone
925

     An altar, built in ancient wise,
A white bull that did stamp and moan,
    And two priests dight for sacrifice;

Behind ten damsels who were clad
    More richly than the tongue can say,
930

Gold crowns upon their heads they had,
    Gold copes their kirtles overlay.

So delicate their beauty was
    With open mouths we lay and stared;
But with a frown Sir Nicholas
935

    His trenchant shining sword half bared,

Muttering,” Some Moloch’s sacrifice!”
     But I thought, well with one of these
Could I make me a paradise
     Among these flowers and sweet trees.
940

Natheless their eyes were full of woe,
     And heavily they hung the head;
So that I deemed it might be so
     Even as Sir Nicholas had said.

Now did the priests move presently
945

    And slew the white bull where he stood,
And on the people standing by
    Threw up in showers the dark red blood.

Then came the maidens up, and cast
    White lilies on the altar stone,
950

Then to the other side they passed,
     Towards us and there stood alone

And seemed half-fainting with some grief
    But none said ought; and then there came
An armed man crowned with oaken leaf,
955

    And underneath the bull set flame

When on the altar it was laid,
     Then as the flames shot up on high
Outlandish horns and trumpets made
     A strange and solemn melody.
960

And this being done, there came again
    The priests to where the maids did stand,
And seemed in words we heard not plain
    To give to them some straight command

The meaning whereof soon we knew,
965

    For forthwith all their golden crowns
And gold copes on the ground they threw,
    Then set their fair hands to their gowns,

Then on the green grass piteously
     The silken garments down did rain,
970

The soft smocks slipped from breast and thigh
    They never now should hide again.

And if for shame and sore trembling
    A little while a damsel stayed
The priest cried out at that fair thing
975

    Till mother-naked she was made.

So mid their raiment there a space
    Naked they stood nor word did say,
Nor of those men asked any grace
    Knowing full well the bitter play
980

That should be played: for thither drew
    The priest and with cold sour face
Set them in order two and two
    And moved them slowly from that place.

Led by the priests and minstrelsy
985

    To a huge rock they came at last,
Over against where we did lie.
    Then to each side the minstrels passed

Adown the vale, and the wind sent
    This way and that their golden hair
990

About their bodies as they went
    With fainting feet through flowers fair.

And then came forth four sturdy men
    With brazen chains that foot and hand
They did upon the damsels ten;
995

     And when so bound they all did stand

Unto the rock they made them fast.
    And when we saw them side by side
Wailing and naked, then at last
    Scarce in our place could we abide.
1000

But Nicholas said: “Bide, fair fellows,
    And see some further felony
Before we come to handy blows
    And die like men if needs must be.

For this I think to be their case,
1005

    And with the thought is my soul sick,
That chaining them in this wild place
    They leave them to be eaten quick

Of those same beasts that fell on you.
    Now if things be thus as I say,
1010

Since they are many we are few;
     Bide here until they go away,

Which needs they must ere the beasts come –
    Small help shall we be being rash!”
Straightway we heard the burr and hum
1015

    Of their great horns and cymbals’ clash,

That drowned the poor lost maids’ wailing.
     Then turned the felons hastily,
And got them gone with horns sounding
    From out the vale; yet abode we
1020

Behind the rock, lest, to our cost
    Some one might turn upon his tracks
To seek some thing he might have lost,
    And bring the others on our backs.

But as we waited, with dull roar
1025

    We saw steal forth a yellow beast,
And then another, then three more,
    Then many flocked toward the feast.

Judge if we griped the sword hilt then
    Or of the axe the plated haft,
1030

Or if those few that were bowmen
    Drew to the head of the long shaft.

And out we broke with a great shout,
    And ran toward the rock with speed;
There did we ring those maids about,
1035

     And unto our defence took heed.

And soothly there was a grim fight,
    So many were the beasts and fell
That we had liefer men of might
    Had been before us; truth to tell
1040

Here was no talk of ransoming,
    The fallen man to shreds was rent.
There happed full many a grievous thing,
    But in the end the beasts were shent,

And all were slain; yet did they tear
1045

    Ten of our folk, so stout they fought.
Fain were they of the feast so fair
    The felons for their maws had brought.

Then from the rock all tenderly
    We loosed those ladies; and full oft
1050

Deliciously our hearts beat high
    At touching the round limbs so soft,

The dainty hands and naked feet.
    Long was it doing, but at last
An end it had; then as was meet
1055

    We brought them all the raiment cast

Down by the altar: and all mazed
    They decked themselves in these again,
And in their country tongue they praised,
    Or so we deemed, our care and pain.
1060

Then said one, “This is the Greek tongue
    That erst at Micklegarth I heard
By the Greek king when I was young,
     Yet lacks it something, by my beard.”

Then by our fellow that knew Greek
1065

     We bade them have no fear at all,
For we their proper land would seek,
    Being masters of a dromond tall.

Thereto they said, that in short space
     Their country folk would thither come
1070

To take their crushed bones from that place
     And bury them with tears at home;

That overland their country lay,
    Our dromond was no skill therefore;
But prayed us with them still to stay
1075

    And with them leave this cursed shore.

At home ye shall be kings,” they said,
    “When that they know your noble deed
And nothing, by Diana’s Head,
     Shall be denied that ye may need.”
1080

Then did we ask them whence we came
    And how they were in such a case
And if their country was of fame
    And if they were of Grecian race

1085

Sirs of the ladies land we be
    They said and such-like are our folk
That ladies there have sovreignty
And men be underneath the yoke
Now of the race whereof ye speak

1090

Our country was of noble fame
Yet know we not this word of Greek
And have not even heard the name
Needs must we say our country was
For now are we in servage base

1095

Being but poor conquered folk alas
Therefore are we in bitter case
For now this tribute must he pay
Each year unto the Emperor
Ten maids of us must die this year

1100

In honour of his ancestor
Who was a God called Hercules
Yea Sirs & even now we fear
His wrath not lightly to appease
When of this slaughter he shall hear

1105

have no fear fair maidens we said
“We do not greatly doubt his might
And for his God now is he dead
And hidden up from all men’s sight
And some of us have fought in France

1110

And some in wild Prussia have been
And some in Spain have led the dance
And unafraid the moors have seen
Or else to some isle will we flee
And there our bodies from him hide

1115

And live long lives there if so be
That our should prove the weaker side
Now as we spoke together thus
We heard a great horn sound afar
With a long wail & piteous

1120

And blown unlike a point of war
And then we saw where came riding
Folk all in black but armed nobly
A sad song did their music sing
And ever went they heavily.

1125

Over their heads a great banner
Wherein was painted royally
Diana with her snooded hair
And fair legs naked to the knee

And in the midst a great black bier
1130
All wrought about with cypress trees
And ever as they drew anear
We saw that they were all ladies

Now when they saw us still they stood
Amazed a while then spurred forward
1135
And leaping down amid the blood
Of men & beasts upon the sward

And caught in arms those maidens fair
Weeping aloud, and kissed them oft
Upon the lips & yellow hair
1140
And nestled in their bosoms soft

Then in a while they turned to us
And seeing the dead men who lay
All rent & torn & piteous
They said we thought to take away

1145

Some little bones of poor damsels
Therefore at home a tomb there is
Well built mid trees and sounding wells
Unto your dead men will we give this.

And unto you that be alive
1150
Will we give whatsoeer ye ask
And evermore Sirs will we strive
To be your handmaidens no task

Shall be too much for our good will
Now come with us to our country
1155
For soothly would we gaze our fill
On such men if no Gods ye be

We have some fair fellows we said
Left in our ship, these would we bring
And other matters – by Gods head
1160
There have we many a full fair thing

May be to you both strange & new
Thus said we and went all away
Toward the ship except we few
Who with the ladies there did stay

1165

There when we met our fellows we
From out the ship did quickly take
What we could carry easily
And chiefly for the ladies sake

As for ourselves we thought that there
1170
Of nothing would there be a lack
So needed nought but some poor fare
And the good armour on the back

There did we leave the Rose Garland
God wot if she were borne away
1175
A fair spoil to some Heathen land
Or slowly rotted where she lay!

So when we were all met again
The dead men on the bier we laid
And crossed the desert with much pain
1180
Nor were we any more afraid

Of anything that we might meet
Being now a goodly company
All armed for every maiden sweet
Rode girt with sword about the thigh

1185

The land was desolate & rough
And waterless till the 4th day
Then came a green plain fair enough
Where many a head of neat did play.

For two days more we travelled on
1190
And rich & fair the land was still
The third at early morn we won
The top of a round-headed hill

Then showed the ladies how their town
Lay in the valley & thereby
1195
A river toward the sea ran down
Where many a keel we did espy

Then did we send a messenger
One of the ladies from that place
Off to their Queen upon the spur
1200
To show her lightly all the case

And as we drew anigh thereto
The folk came thronging thick & fast
Or out upon the walls they drew
Until through the great gate we past

1205

Great was the town & built nobly
And all with black was hung about
Which down they tore as we went by
And hung rich golden carpets out.

Soon to a mighty hall we came
1210
And there upon a throne of gold
In raiment a noble dame
Ancient & grey we did behold

Then on their knees the ladies fell
And fain we would have done the same
1215
And shown her reverence full
But there from off her throne she came

And took us by the hands & said
Which is your lord that I may give
My crown to him from off my head
1220
And make him king while he shall live

And you Sirs ask for heaps of gold
And lands & houses do not fear
In anything to be too bold –
Now when this saying I did hear

1225

And saw our knights with wild eyes gaze
Upon those maids fit to entice
A wise man into foolish ways
I thought here ends our paradise

Then spoke Sir Nicholas & said
1230
0 Queen it seemeth unto me
I ask a great gift by my head
The body of this fair lady

Therewith the leader of the band
Who came that day into the vale
1235
Did he lead forward by the hand
And she by turns both red & pale

Her head upon his shoulder leant
And of the other maidens some
blushing their dear eyes downward bent
1240
While from our knights there rose a humm

And some stood all pale & upright
Looking aloof with troubled eyes
Sirs there can be no fairer sight
In any hall of paradise

1245

Then did the Queen laugh out & say
O Sir your boon seems small enow
To ancient folk like me and grey
Have here this crown upon your brow

Yea no light thing therewith ye have
1250
For ye shall lead us all in the war
And from our foes this city save
Many & grievous foes they are

Then answered Nicholas again
O Queen ye make too much of this
1255
We were well paid for all our pain
With no more guerdon than a kiss

But if of us ye please to make
Your knight & soldiers will we then
Do noble battle for your sake
1260
For neither are we borel men

From Harald fair hair am I sprung
And thence from Odin in right line
Who was a God as skalds have sung
Ye see this jewelled collar shine

1265

About my armour this to me
The King of England with his hand
Did give me in his own galley
By Sleuse town in the Flemish land

And these are knights & gentlemen
1270
That know not fear well skilled in war
And each a worthy match for ten
Of such folk as your foemen are

With these men and your country folk
Will I well guard this fair walled town
1275
And save you from this false king’s yoke
But never will I wear your crown

For of your law I know not ought
And ye are old and ripe in wit
On many a hard thing have ye thought
1280
And have been used long time to sit

Judging the people day by day
Sir said the Queen so be it then
Yet am I bondwoman alway
To you & to your noble men

1285

And for your ancestor Odin
A noble temple shall he have
And a gold altar set therein
That many a skillful man shall grave

Lady he said by no dead man
1290
Were we brought to the lions jaws
Through many waters wild & wan
I read you learn our holy laws

And learn to know the Trinity
The Mother of God and all Hallows
1295
And leave your false Gods – silently
She stood and listened with bent brows

While our mass priest took up the word
And showed her much about our faith
And many things about the Lord
1300
And what the holy Gospel saith

At last she said Sir Holy Man
Too many things at once ye show
I will believe all that I can
But pray you cease for a while now

1305

Truly it makes the senses reel
To hear all this all so suddenly
The Gods we sought in woe & weal
Devils or else a painted lie.

And many things we must believe
1310
That now for the first time we know
And from you by mere chance receive
Or lie in endless fiery woe

Sirs ye are noble & we think
Ye would not bid us trust a lie
1315
Or from a muddied river well head drink
Your God has served you faithfully

So in some fountain wash away
if so ye please our forebear’s sin
Who stole the apple as ye say
1320
Faith an ill deed he did therein-

And that good Lord of whom you tell
Who all his days did nought but good
And loved the people passing well
And whom upon a cross of wood

1325

For his reward they foully hung
Would God I had been there that day
Another song ye might have sung
Your faith been turned another way

Now for a while let these things be
1330
And for the rest I dare well say
That whoso choses foolishly
As your chief none will say him nay

And therewithal Sirs will we give
Some house and goods & needful weed
1335
To each that while with us ye
Such common things ye may not need

Then from the presence did we go
And over my shoulder as we went
I looked full oft that I might know
1340
If my maids eyes were on me bent

But she held ever down her head
Toward the ground & smiled gently
Moving her lips as if she said
Some little ballad inwardly

1345

Then to a chamber did we come
Where being unarmed on us they did
Such gowns as there were none in Rome
Ere of the Cesars they were rid

Then came we to another hall
1350
Spread for a feast and hung around
With histories where ladies -~all
In strife with men full many a wound

Both gave & took and there we met
Unarmed & gay the ladies sweet
1355
With gems in white bosoms set
And naked arms and naked feet

Not half so sweet the west wind smells
That blows in spring through the may bush
Sweeter their voice than he that tells
1360
The coming summer or the thrush

Or Philomela that bewails
The wrongs of many hundred years
And fills our hearts with speechless tales
Our eyes with-sweet & causeless tears

1365

Softly they bid us to the feast
Which was full noble & withal
Was many a pageant & strange beast
Brought for our pleasure through the hall

There saw we how that Theseus slew
1370
The bea’st by aid of a poor may
To whom not long abode he true
There saw we the Knight Perseus slay

The evil thing by the sea side
There was the noble story told
1375
Of those good knights that wandered wide
With Jason for the fleece of gold

O love wither do you go
Spear in hand & belted so
I go to win a crown my love
1380
To put your golden hair above
I go to fight & travail sore
That you may cling to-me the more
I will wear a crown of green
With red roses set between
1385
If it be not rich enow
Then sweet kisses shall you sow
In between the flowers red
Round about my golden head
I will cling so hardily
1390
You shall never go from me
O my love soon goes the day
O my Love soon comes the night
All my glory goes away
Comes my hour of delight

1395

Thereafter all the feast being done
We wandered in a garden green
And I for my part went alone
With her that was my joy & Queen

Sweet follies there we said & did
1400
I list not tell off now being old
Only I know her face half hid
Among her rippled hair of gold

She burst out singing suddenly
While I was telling of our quest
1405
And of the land we thought to see
In some far ocean of the west

O God how sweet the kisses were
Upon her lips & breast & brow
Amid the glory of her hair

1410

Ah folly to remember now
When I am old and soon to die
Sirs to my tale. So went away
The golden days most happily
In many a quaint disport and play

1415

For there were tiltings with the spear
Music in gardens & in halls
Sweet converse with our ladies dear &
Dancing between gilded walls

And beautiful old tales were sung
1420
By minstrels that were well beseen
On fair long wooden stages hung.
With palaces & gardens green

And soon the maids were christened
With much pomp in the great church, then
1425
Full richly were we fellows wed
And were the happiest of all

And amid all these pleasant days
Sir Nicholas went to & fro
Strengthening the city by all ways
1430
Lest the Great King should come thereto

In time indeed for on a day
His Herald to the city came
With a foul message by my fay
Whose best word was but blood & flame

1435

That he would sow the place with salt
And yoke young maidens to his plough
And take such vengeance for their fault
That no grass any more should grow

In all the land that those that fell
1440
By the sharp sword should fare the best
That when the scourge & had torn them well
Fierce fire should burn up the rest

But first a great drove would he drive
Unto his country that his men
1445
Might see them naked, and alive
Into the fire send them then

That for the strangers who had come
By water when their eyes were out
By water he would send them home
1450
With great stones tied their necks about

Now we when this thief we had heard
Went near to slay him evilly
But at the last his hair & beard
We shaved, and ugly devils three

1455

Upon his tabard did we paint
And sent him back, and by my head
Now was no time for us to faint
For then were we as good as dead

If my tale here could have an end
1460
1460 O my masters I might say now
That though our lives we well might mend
Yet were we happy men enough

Further afield our story goes
And drags us through most evil ways
1465
And woes past all our other woes
Unbearable & heavy days

For there we all lived happily
Until our youth was wholly gone
And wives & friends began to die
1470
Then on a day I walked alone

And as I walked there all about
The merry children at their play
Ran by with many an earnest shout
And there went singing many a may

1475

Thereby a house was built richly
Behind a garden walled with stone
Therein upon the grass did lie
A fair maid singing all alone

In the white-flowered hawthorn brake
1480
Sweet be merry for my sake
Twine the flowers in my hair
Kiss me where I am most fair
Ah kiss me love for who knoweth
What thing cometh after death
1485
Love hold back the golden hair
That hides you where you are most fair

1479-1502 In ... death? [The original version of this song was written as Helen’s arming song for Paris in “Helen’s Chamber” from “Scenes from the Fall of Troy” (1856-61)]. Its four quatrains roughly correspond to the twenty-four lines written for “The Wanderers” and as “Song” in the “Ogier the Dane” tale in volume 1 of The Earthly Paradise (1868; revised by Morris, resulting in two variants in punctuation, for his Kelmscott edition in 1896) and “Love and Death” in A Book of Verse 1870]. There are two manuscripts of “Helen’s Chamber,” the first is on paper watermarked “1856”; similar to the second copy, its variants are cited beneath this second copy:

Love, within the hawthorn brake
Pray you be merry for my sake
While I last, for who knoweth
4
How near I may be my death.
Sweet, be long in growing old
Life and love in age grow cold,
Hold fast to life, for who knoweth
8
What thing cometh after death.
Trouble must be kept afar
Therefore go I to the war;
Less trouble, love, among the spears
12
Than with harsh words about your ears.
Love me then, my sweet and fair
And curse the folk that drive me there,
Kiss me sweet, for who knoweth
16
What thing cometh after death. SFT2

Let me kiss the rose tinged snow
Ah! the time goes fast or slow
Kiss me sweet for who knoweth
1490
What thing cometh after death
Shall we weep for a dead days
Or set sorrow in our way
Will you weep that the days wear
Hidden in my golden hair
1495
Kiss me love etc
O Love weep that the days flit
As on my neck I feel your breath
That I may then remember it
1500
When I am old & near my death
Kiss me sweet &ce

Whether with music or with pain
Of moody thought touched to the quick
1505
I know not but like summer rain
My tears upon the dust fell thick

And far away my thoughts were brought
When I was but a boy at play
Nor yet on life or death had thought
1510
But only on some coming day

The great hall where the people ate
The church half hidden by the hill
The pier where in the evening late
The covered ship lay grim & still

1515

The gold coped chanters in the quire
My mothers hand upon my head
The stories round the big yule fire
The snow upon the tower lead

The rough old vassels cap in hand
1520
Unto the master of the house,
The steward with his silver wand
Yea even many a bird or mouse

Rose up before my swimming eyes
And still that maid sang loud & clear
1525
Like some lark in her extasies
That half pierced to my muffled ear

But from the house’came suddenly
An old crone propped with crutches tied
With many a bandage that with high
1530
And shrill voice did the damsel chide

Till she arose & entered in
She and her singing gone away
My dreams fled as-a saint flees sin
And all the sunlight left the day

1535

Then on I went distraught moody
Doubtful unhappy in my heart
Counting the few years left to me
The fair things death would from me part

In this mood came I to the quay
1540
Where lay the ships both great & small
Some just at point to go away
Some just letting their anchors fall

There did I find Sir Nicholas
Whose wife was dead now for this year
1545
Yet moody of speech he was
He saw me not as I drew near

For at a ship he was gazing
Whose folk were loosening her prow
From the great: cable of the ring
1550
That bound her to the shore but now

At my touch round he turned to me
And for awhile along the quay
We walked together silently
Till I found heart at last to say

1555

Now was it but a word and blow
For the 3rd day we saw the smoke
Of the burnt homesteads upward go
All round the city & poor folk

Came hurrying within the gates
1560
Men ancient folks and maids weeping
Then did we arm us with our mates
And go to look upon the King

Soon met we certain of his folk
Burning a village & at first
1565
We slew some 100 in the smoke
And afterwards put to the worse

Another band more orderly
And as the foe came thicker then
We gat us’ back to the city
1570  
Leaving but two of all our men

And at our heels a rabble came
At whom so well the archers shot
They scattered with no little shame
And with our walls they meddled not

1575 

Whom straight as afterwards we learned
The Great King met as fast they fled
And caused some of them to be burned
Some to be scourged till they were dead

Then soon with much folk & great show
1580
 And cymbals and great horns sounding
There came one whom the maids did know
By his apparel for the King.

Who having sacrificed a bull
To some dead dog gave straightly word

1585   

That they should take that city full
Of living souls & to the sword

Put all the men and old women
But take the young women alive
And shut them fettered in a pen
1590
A fierce assault then did they give

But nothing won but loss & harm
So past the next day & the next
Nor any day without alarm
With all day long their camp we vext

1595

With flights & arrows and of stones
And oft they shot wild fire forth
That burnt the marrow & bones
At last Sir Nicholas grew wrath,

And swore to end the thing or die
1600
So the tenth night from a small gate
We issued out we fellows only
When moonless was the night & late

Then to the Kings tent did we go
And found him drunk amid his men


The People of the Shore

Alas! my masters, by my head
    
2460
Your hope was but a rotten reed.
What I and are not our fathers dead
     Who battled once against the Mede

Yet overlived it? Coming here,
     Through many and many a woe they passed,
2465
Oft were their hearts fulfilled of fear,
     Yet found they rest and ease at last

Here in this land; great deeds they did
    As many an ancient story saith;
Yet these also the earth has hid,
    
2470
No man among them but found death.

No doubt the Gods have sent you then
    To a fair land and plenteous;
Of all the gifts they give to men
     Not one have they withheld from us.

2475
No doubt our gardens might entice
    The very Gods themselves to leave
The happy woods of Paradise,
     Nor once again thereafter grieve.

Their fields bright with unchanging May,
    
2480
Pressed by the feet of Goddesses,
Arc scarce more fair than are today
    Our meadows set about with trees.

Here fields of corn and pleasant hills
    Dotted with orchards shall ye see,
2485
And sweet streams turning many mills,
    And of all fruits right great plenty.

By our fair-painted palaces
    The green white-flowered rivers pass;
About our coasts the summer seas
    
2490
Run bubbling up the slopes of grass.

Oxen and sheep and horses go
    About the merry water-meads,
Where herons, and long cranes thereto,
    Lie hidden in the whispering reeds.

2495
Among all these the maidens play;
    The fair white Goddess of the sea
Is little fairer made than they
     In all her members certainly.

Like you, Sirs, am I chilled with eld
    
2500
Yet still I look on them with joy,
As Priam’s Lord erewhile beheld
    Fair Helen on the walls of Troy.

Thereto our men are strong and brave
    And hale and seldom wanting wit,
2505
Many a good archer we have,
    A little mark who well can hit,

And cunning folk to make for us
    The images of Gods and men,
And painted walls right beauteous,
    
2510
And men to make us music, when

Our hearts are full, and men to write
    The stories of the past again,
And grave philosophers in white,
    Leeches to heal us of our pain.

2515
Thus under gentle laws we live
    Well guarded, and in rest and peace,
And ever more and more we thrive,
     And ever do our goods increase.

All things the Gods give to our hands,
    
2520
Wisdom and strength, skill, great beauty,
A land that is the crown of lands –
    Yet, there withal, at last to die.

O masters, here as everywhere,
    All things begin, grow old, decay;
2525
That groweth ugly that was fair,
     The storm blots out the summer day.

The merry shepherd’s lazy song
    Breaks off before the lion’s roar;
The bathing girls, white-limbed and long,
    
2530
Half-dead with fear splash toward the shore

At rumour of the deadly shark;
    Over the corn, ripe and yellow
The hobby stoops upon the lark,
    The kestrel eyes the shrew below.

2535
The green snake in the apple-tree
    Sits watching, as the shadows pass,
The feet of some Eurydice
    Half-hidden by caressing grass.

The hoar frosts cut the flowers down,
    
2540
The cold north wind dries up the blood;
The glassy streams grow dull and brown,
    Tormented by the winter food.

And friends fall off and pleasures cease
    As grey hairs grow upon the head,
2545
And weariness doth so increase
    We have the heart to wish us dead –

Masters, your hope that this could be,
    To live forever anywhere
Has brought sad longings strange to me,
    
2550
Sad thoughts, my heart can hardly bear.

And sad words from my lips have gone
    Unmeet for ancient folk to say;
Pray you forget them, ye have won
    Life sweet and peaceful from today.

2555
The Gods have sent you here to us -
    The land you sought for, did you know,
A fair land and a plenteous:
    Henceforth ye shall not reap nor sow,

Nor spin nor weave, nor labour aught,
    
2560
But ever all things shall ye have
That can by any man be sought;
    And may the Gods your dear lives save

Many a year yet; and as priests
    Of some revered God shall ye be,
2565
And sit with us at all our feasts,
    And houses have in our city

With most fair gardens. Ye shall tell
     What lore ye have of your country,
And other things ye know as well;
    
2570
And how lands great are grown to be

Our fathers knew not, when they fled
    Before the face of the Great King:
And what lands are become as dead
    That in their time were flourishing.

2575
Yea, and fair Sirs, we fain would know
    Who is your God of whom ye speak;
And of the Romans shall ye show,
    And ye shall tell us of the Greek

Who reigns at Byzant, as ye say;
    
2580
And what of Sparta is become
And Athens, and the lands that lay
    In ancient days about our home.

And then in answer will we tell
    Of countries that ye never knew,
2585
Of towns, that having long stood well,
     The Gods in anger overthrew;

Of kings, who in their tyranny
    Were mighty once, but fell at last;
Of merchants rich as men could be,
    
2590
And yet one day their wealth was past.

The voyage for the Golden Fleece,
    The Doom of King Acrisius
And how the Gods gave Psyche peace –
    These stories shall ye hear from us;

2595
And many another, that shall make
    Your life seem but a story too,
So that no more your hearts shall ache
    With thought of all ye might not do.

Ye shall be shown how vain it is
    
2600
To strive against the Gods and Fate,
And that no man may look for bliss
    Without an ending soon or late.

But what is in our hands to give
    That shall ye have: and now again
2605
We pray the Gods, long may ye live,
    And fall asleep with little pain.

Now, Sirs, go rest you from the sea,
    And soon a great feast will we hold,
Whereat some pleasant history
    
2610
Such as ye wot of, shall be told.

 

 




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