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THE SKELETON IN ARMOUR.
PREFATORY NOTE. [The following Ballad was suggested to me while riding on the seashore at Newport. A year or two previous a skeleton had been dug up at Fall River, clad in broken and corroded armour; and the idea occurred to me of connecting it with the Round Tower at Newport, generally known hitherto as the Old Windmill, though now claimed by the Danes as a work of their early ancestors. Professor Rafn, in the Mémoires de la Société Royale des Antiquaires du Nord, for 1838-9, says,
“There is no mistaking in this instance the style in which the more ancient stone edifices of the North were constructed, the style which belongs to the Roman or Ante-Gothic architecture, and which, especially after the time of Charlemagne, diffused itself from Italy over the whole of the West and North of Europe, where it continued to predominate until the close of the twelfth century; that style which some authors have, from one of its most striking characteristics, called the round arch style, the same which in England is denominated Saxon and sometimes Norman architecture.
“On the ancient structure in Newport there are no ornaments remaining which might possibly have served to guide us in assigning the probable date of its erection. That no vestige whatever is found of the pointed arch, nor any approximation to it, is indicative of an earlier rather than of a later period. From such characteristics as remain, however, we can scarcely form any other inference than one, in which I am persuaded that all who are familiar with Old Northern architecture will concur, THAT THIS BUILDING WAS ERECTED AT A PERIOD DECIDEDLY NOT LATER THAN THE TWELFTH CENTURY. This remark applies, of course, to the original building only, and not to the alterations that it subsequently received; for there are several such alterations in the upper part of the building which cannot be mistaken, and which were most likely occasioned by its being adapted in modern times to various uses, for example, as the substructure of a windmill, and latterly as a hay magazine. To the same times may be referred the windows, the fireplace, and the apertures made above the columns. That this building could not have been erected for a windmill is what an architect will easily discern.”
I will not enter into a discussion of the point. It is sufficiently well established for the purpose of a ballad, though doubtless many an honest citizen of Newport, who has passed his days within sight of the Round Tower, will be ready to exclaim with Sancho, “God bless me! did I not warn you to have a care of what you were doing, for that it was nothing but a windmill? and nobody could mistake it but one who had the like in his head.”] “SPEAK! speak! thou fearful guest! And, like the water's flow Who, with thy hollow breast
Under December's snow,
Came a dull voice of woe
From the heart's chamber.
“I was a Viking old ! But with thy fleshless palms
My deeds, though manifold,
No Skald in song has told,
No Saga taught thee!
that in thy verse Pale flashes seemed to rise,
Thou dost the tale rehearse,
Else dread a dead man's curse!
For this I sought thee.
“Far in the Northern land, By the wild Baltic's strand, 1, with my childish hand,
Tamed the ger-falcon;
Trembled to walk on.
Fled like a shadow;
Sang from the meadow.
With the marauders.
By our stern orders.
Set the cocks crowing,
Filled to o'erflowing.
Burning yet tender;
Fell their soft splendour.
Our vows were plighted.
By the hawk frighted.
Chanting his glory;
When of old Hildebrand
To hear my story.
The sea-foam brightly, So the loud laugh of scorn, Out of those lips unshorn, From the deep drinking-horn
Blew the foam lightly.
I was discarded !
Her nest unguarded?
Among the Norsemen !--
With twenty horsemen.
When the wind failed us;
Laugh as he hailed us.
Death without quarter!
Through the black water!
With his prey laden;
Bore I the maiden.
“ Three weeks we westward bore, And when the storm was o'er, Cloud-like we saw the shore
Stretching to leeward;
Stands looking seaward.
She was a mother;
On such another!
The sunlight hateful !
0, death was grateful ! “ Thus, seamed with many scars, Bursting these prison-bars, Up to its native stars
My soul ascended! There from the flowing bowl Deep drinks the warrior's soul, Skoal! to the Northland ! skoal!"*
-Thus the tale ended.
The skipper he stood beside the helm,
His pipe was in his mouth, And he watched how the veering flaw
did blow The smoke now West, row South. Then up and spake an old sailor,
Had sailed the Spanish Main, “I pray thee put into yonder port,
For I fear a hurricane. “ Last night, the moon had a golden
! ” The skipper, he blew a whiff from his
pipe, And a scornful laugh laughed he. Colder and louder blew the wind,
A gale from the North-east; The snow fell hissing in the brine,
And the billows frothed like yeast. Down came the storm, and smote amain
The vessel in its strength; She shuddered and paused, like a
frighted steed, Then leaped her cable's length. “ Come hither! come hither!
little daughter, And do not tremble so; For I can weather the roughest gale
That ever wind did blow." He wrapped her warın in his seaman's
coat Against the stinging blast; He cut a rope from a broken spar,
And bound her to the mast. “O father! I hear the church-bells ring,
O say what may it be?” “ 'Tis a fog-bell on a rock-bound coast!”
And he steered for the open sea. “O father! I hear the sound of guns, O
it be?” “Some ship in distress, that cannot live
In such an angry sea!” “O father! I see a gleaming light,
O say what may it be?” But the father answered never a word,
A frozen corpse was he. Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,
With his face turned to the skies, The lantern gleamed through the
THE WRECK OF THE
That sailed the wintry sea;
daughter, To bear him company. Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax,
Her cheeks like the dawn of day, And her bosom white as the hawthorn
buds That ope
in the month of May.
* In Scandinavia this is the customary salutation when drinking a health. I have slightly changed the orthography of the word, in order to preserve the correct pronunciation.
Then the maiden clasped her hands THE LUCK OF EDENHALL. and prayed
FROM THE GERMAN OF UHLAND. That saved she might be; And she thought of Christ, who stilled
[The tradition upon which this ballad the wave
is founded, and the "shards of the Luck On the Lake of Galilee.
of Edenhall," still exist in England.
The goblet is in the possession of Sir And fast through the midnight dark Christopher Musgrave, Bart. of Eden and drear,
Hall, Cumberland ; and is not so entirely Through the whistling sleet and shattered as the ballad leaves it.]
snow, Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept
OF Edenhall, the youthful Lord
Bids sound the festal trumpet's call; Towards the reef of Norman's Woe.
He rises at the banquet board, And ever the fitful gusts between And cries, 'mid the drunken revellers A sound came from the land;
all, It was the sound of the trampling surf, “Now bring me the Luck of EdenOn the rocks and the hard sea-sand.
hall!” The breakers were right beneath her
The butler hears the words with pain, bows,
The house's oldest seneschal, She drifted a dreary wreck,
Takes slow from its silken cloth again And a whooping billow swept the crew
The drinking glass of crystal tall; Like icicles from her deck.
They call it the Luck of Edenhall. She struck where the white and fleecy
Then said the Lord; "This glass to
praise, Looked soft as carded wool,
Fill with red wine from Portugal !” But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
The gray-beard with trembling hand Like the horns of an angry bull.
A purple light shines over all, Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice, It beams from the Luck of Edenhall. With the masts went by the board ;
Then speaks the Lord, and waves it Like a vessel of glass, she stove and
light, sank, Ho! ho! the breakers roared!
“ This glass of flashing crystal tall
Gave to my sires the Fountain-Sprite; At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach, She wrote in it: If this glass doth fall, A fisherman stood aghast,
Farewell then, 0 Luck of Edenhall ! To see the form of a maiden fair,
“ 'Twas right a goblet the Fate should Lashed close to a drifting mast.
be The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
Of the joyous race of Edenhall ! The salt tears in her eyes;
Deep draughts drink we right willingly; And he saw her hair, like the brown
And willingly ring, with merry call, sea-weed,
Kling! klang! to the Luck of EdenOn the billows fall and rise.
hall !” Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
First rings it deep, and full, and mild,
Like to the song of a nightingale ; In the midnight and the snow!
Then like the roar of a torrent wild ; Christ save us all from a death like this,
Then mutters at last like the thunder's On the reef of Norman's Woe!
fall, The glorious Luck of Edenhall. “ For its keeper takes a race of might, The fragile goblet of crystal tall; It has lasted longer than is right;
Kling! klang !-with a harder blow His steed was black, his helm was than all
barred; Will I try the Luck of Edenhall !”
He was riding at full speed. As the goblet ringing flies apart, He wore upon his spurs Suddenly cracks the vaulted hall ;
Twelve little golden birds; And through the rift, the wild flames
Anon he spurred his steed with a clang, start;
And there sat all the birds and sang. The guests in dust are scattered all, With the Breaking Luck of Edenhall ! He wore upon his mail
Twelve little golden wheels; In storms the foe, with fire and sword;
Anon in eddies the wild wind blew, He in the night had scaled the wall, Slain by the sword lies the youthful
And round and round the wheels they
A lance that was poised in rest; On the morrow the butler gropes alone,
And it was sharper than diamond-stone,
It made Sir Olur's heart to groan. The gray-beard in the desert hall, He seeks his Lord's burnt skeleton, He wore upon his helm He seeks in the dismal ruin's fall
A wreath of ruddy gold; The shards of the Luck of Edenhall. And that gave him the Maidens Three, “ The stone wall,” saith he,“ doth fall The youngest was fair to behold. aside,
Sir Oluf questioned the Knight eftsoon Down must the stately columns fall; If he were come from heaven down; Glass is this earth's Luck and Pride; “ Art thou Christof Heaven," quoth he, In atoms shall fall this earthly ball “ So will I yield me unto thee.” One day like the Luck of Edenhall!”
I am not Christ the Great,
Thou shalt not yield thee yet; THE ELECTED KNIGHT.
I am an Unknown Knight,
Three modest Maidens have me be. FROM THE DANISH.
dight.” [The following strange and somewhat
“ Art thou a Knight elected, mystical ballad is from Nyerup and Rahbek's Danske Viser of the Middle
And have three Maiders thee be. Ages. It seems to refer to the first
dight; preaching of Christianity in the North,
So shalt thou ride a tilt this day, and to the institution of Knight-Erran
For all the Maidens' honour! try. The three maidens I suppose to be The first tilt they together rode Faith, Hope, and Charity. The irre- They put their steeds to the test; gularities of the original have been care- The second tilt they together rode, fully preserved in the translation.]
They proved their manhood best; Sir Oluf he rideth over the plain, The third tilt they together rode, Full seven miles broad and seven Neither of them would yield; miles wide,
The fourth tilt they together rode, But never, ah never can meet with the They both fell on the field. man
Now lie the lords upon the plain, A tilt with him dare ride.
And their blood runs unto death; He saw under the hill-side
Now sit the Maidens in the high tower, A Knight full well equipped;
The youngest sorrows till death.