Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Henry the Leper (fair copy, Huntington Library)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of Composition: 1846
Type of Manuscript: draft
Scribe: DGR

The full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.

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Henry the Leper:

A Swabian Miracle-rhyme:

by Hartmann Von Aue, (A.D. 1100-1200).

  • Hartmann von Auë, the fame went,
  • Was a good knight, and well acquent
  • With books in every character.
  • Having sought this many a year,
  • He found at length a record, fit,
  • As far as he apprehendeth it,
  • To smoothe the rugged paths uneven,
  • To glorify God which is in Heaven,
  • And gain kind thoughts from each true heart
  • 10 For himself as also for his art.
  • Unto your ears this song sings he,
  • And begs, and an you hear it patiently,
  • That his reward be held in store;
  • And that whoso, when his days are o'er,
  • Shall read and understand this book,
  • For the writer unto God may look,
  • Praying that God may be his goal
  • And the place of rest to his poor soul.
  • That man his proper shrift shall win
  • 20 Who prayeth for his brother's sin.
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Part I
  • Once on a time, (rhymeth the rhyme)
  • In Swabia-land once on a time,
  • There was a nobleman sojourning,
  • Unto whose nobleness everything
  • Of virtue and high-hearted excellence
  • Worthy his line and his large pretence
  • With plentiful measure was meted out:
  • The land rejoiced in him round about.
  • He was like a prince in his governing,—
  • 10 In his wealth he was like a king;
  • But most of all by the fame far-flown
  • Of his great knightliness was he known,
  • North and south upon land and sea.
  • By his name he was Henry of the Lea.
  • All things whereby the truth grew dim
  • Were held as hateful foes with him:
  • By solemn oath was he bounden fast
  • To shun them while his life should last.
  • In honour all his days went by:
  • 20 Therefore his soul might look up high
  • To honourable authority.
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  • A paragon of all graciousness;
  • A blossoming branch of youthfulness;
  • A looking-glass to the world around,
  • A stainless and priceless diamond;
  • Of gallant 'haviour a beautiful wreath;
  • A home when the tyrant menaceth;
  • A buckler to the breast of his friend,
  • And courteous without measure or end;
  • 30 Whose deeds of arms 'twere long to tell;
  • Of precious wisdom a limpid well;
  • A singer of ladies every one;
  • And very lordly to look upon
  • In feature and bearing and countenance:—
  • Say, failed he in anything, perchance,
  • The summit of all glory to gain
  • And the lasting honour of all men?
  • Alack! the soul that was up so high
  • Dropped down into pitiful misery,—
  • 40 The lofty courage was stricken low,—
  • The steady triumph stumbled in woe,—
  • And the world-joy was hidden in the dust,
  • Even as all such shall be and must.
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  • He whose life in the senses centreth
  • Is already in the shadow of death.
  • The joys, called great, of this under-state
  • Burn up the bosom early and late;
  • And their shining is altogether vain,
  • For it bringeth anguish and trouble and pain.
  • 50 The torch that burns flames for men to see
  • And wasteth to ashes inwardly
  • Is verily but an imaging
  • Of man's own life, the piteous thing.
  • The whole is brittleness and mishap:
  • We sit and dally in Fortune's lap
  • Till tears break in our smiles betwixt,
  • And the shallow honey-draught be mix'd
  • With sorrow's wormwood fathomdeep.
  • Oh! rest not therefore, Man, nor sleep:—
  • 60 In the blossoming of thy flower-crown
  • A sword is raised to smite thee down.
  • Even with Earl Henry it was thus:
  • Though gladsome and very glorious
  • Was the manner of his life, yet God
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  • Upon his spirit's fulness trod.
  • The bar then was heavy that fell on him The curse that fell was heavy and deep,—
  • A thunderbolt in the slow ? hour of sleep.
  • His body, whose beauty was so much,
  • Was turned to a unto loathing and reproach,—
  • 70 Full of foul sores, increasing fast,
  • Which grew into leprosy at last.
  • Ages ago the Lord even so
  • Ordained that Job should be brought low,
  • To prove him if in such distress
  • He would hold fast his righteousness.
  • The great rich Earl, who otherwhile
  • Met but man's praise and woman's smile,
  • Was now no less than out-thrust quite.
  • The day of the world hath a dark night.
  • 80 What time Lord Henry wholly knew
  • The stound that he was come into,
  • And saw folk shun him as he went,
  • And his pains food for merriment,—
  • Then did he, as often it is done
  • By those whom sorrow falleth on—
  • He wrapped not round him as a robe
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  • The patience that was found in Job.
  • For holy Job meet semblance took,
  • And bowed him under God's rebuke,
  • 90 Which had given to him the world's reverse,
  • And the shame, and the anguish, and the curse,
  • Only to snatch away his soul
  • From emptiness and earth's control:
  • Therefore his soul had triumphing
  • Inmostly at the troublous thing.
  • In suchwise Henry bore him not;
  • Its duteousness his heart forgot;
  • His pride waxed hard and kept its place,
  • But the glory departed from his face,
  • 100 And that which was his strength grew weak.
  • The hand that smote him on the cheek
  • Was all too heavy. It was night
  • Now, and his sun withdrew its light.
  • To the pride of his uplifted thought
  • Much woe the weary knowledge brought
  • That all his joys in their best day
    Added TextThat the pleasant way his feet did wend
  • Must have an end and pass away Was all passed o'er and had an end.
  • The day wherein his years had begun
  • Went in his mouth with a malison.
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  • 110 As the ill grew stronger and more strong,
  • There was but hope bore him along:
  • Even yet to hope he was full fain
  • That gold might help him back again
  • Thither whence God had cast him out.
  • Ah! weak to strive and little stout
  • 'Gainst Heaven the strength that he possess'd.
  • North and south and east and west,
  • Far and wide from every side,
  • Mediciners well-proved and tried
  • 120 Came to him at the voice of his woe;
  • But, mused and pondered they everso,
  • They could but say, for all their care,
  • That he must be content to bear
  • The burthen of the anger of God:
  • For him there was none other road.
  • Already was his heart nigh down,
  • When yet to him one chance was shown;
  • For in Salerno liv dwelt (folk said)
  • A leach who still might lend him aid,
  • 130 Albeit unto his body's cure
  • All such had been as nought before.
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  • Up rose fresh-hearted the sick man,
  • And sought the great physician,
  • And told him all, and prayed him hard,
  • With the proffer of a rich reward,
  • To take away his grief's foul cause.
  • Then said the leach without a pause:
  • “There is one means might healing yield,
  • Yet will you ever be unheal'd.”
  • 140 And Henry said, “Say on; define
  • Your thoughts; your words are as thick wine.
  • Some means may bring recovery?—
  • I will recover! Verily,
  • Unto your will my will shall bend,
  • So this mine anguish pass and end.”
  • Then said the leach: “Give ear to me:
  • Thus stands it with your misery.
  • Albeit there be a means of health,
  • From no man shall you win such wealth;
  • 150 Many have it, yet none will give;
  • You shall lack it all the days you shall live;—
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  • Strength gets it not; valour gains it not;
  • Nor with gold nor with silver is it bought.
  • Then, since God heedeth not your plaint,
  • Accept God's will and be content.”
  • “Woe's me!” did Henry's speech begin;
  • “Your pastime do you take herein,
  • To snatch the last hope from my sight?
  • Riches are mine, and mine is might:—
  • 160 Why cast away such golden chance
  • As waiteth on my deliverance?
  • You shall grow rich in succouring me:
  • Tell me the means, what they may be.”
  • Quoth the leach: “Then know them, what they are;
  • Yet still all hope must stand afar.
  • Truly if the cure for your care
  • Might be gotten anyway anywhere,
  • Did it hide in the furthest parts of earth,
  • Thiswise I had not sent you forth.
  • 170 But all my knowledge hath none avail;
  • There is but one thing would not fail:—
  • An innocent virgin for to find,
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  • Chaste, and modest, and pure in mind,
  • Who, to save you from death, might choose
  • Her own young body's life to lose:
  • The heart's blood of the excellent maid,—
  • That and nought else can be your aid.
  • But there is none will be won thereby
  • For the love of another's life to die.”
  • 180 'Twas then poor Henry knew indeed
  • That from his ill he might not be freed,
  • Sith that no woman he might win
  • Of her own will to act herein.
  • Thus gat he but an ill return
  • For the journey he made unto Salerne,
  • And the hope he had upon that day
  • Was snatched from him and rent away.
  • Homeward he hied him back: full fain
  • His limbs in the dust he would have lain.
  • 190 Of his substance—lands and riches both—
  • He rid himself; even as one doth
  • Who the breath of the last life of his hope
  • Once and for ever hath rendered up.
  • To his friends he gave unto and to the poor;
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  • Unto God praying evermore
  • The spirit that was in him to save,
  • And make his bed soft in the grave.
  • What still remained, aside he set
  • For Holy Church's benefit.
  • 200 Of all that heretofore was his
  • Nought held he for himself, I wis,
  • Save one small house, with herd byre and field:
  • There from the world he lived conceal'd,—
  • There lived he, and awaited Death,
  • Who, being awaited, lingereth.
  • Pity and ruth his troubles found
  • Alway through all the country round.
  • Who heard him named, had sorrow deep,
  • And for his piteous sake would weep.

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Part II
  • The little farm, with herd and field,
  • Now, as it had been erst, was till'd
  • By a poor man of simple make
  • Whose heart right seldom had the ache.
  • A happy soul, and well content
  • With every chance that fortune sent,
  • Being equal in fortune's pitch
  • Even unto him that is rich,—
  • For that his master's kindly will
  • 10 Set limit to his labour still,
  • And without cumbrance and in peace
  • He lived upon the field's increase.
  • With him poor Henry trouble-press'd,
  • Dwelt, and to dwell with him was rest.
  • In grateful wise, neglecting nought,
  • Still was the peasant's service wrought:
  • Cheerily both in heart and look,
  • The trouble and the toil he took,
  • Which, new as each day dawned anew,
  • 20 For Henry he must bear and do.
  • With favour which to blessings ran,
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  • God looked upon the worthy man:
  • He gave him strength to aid his life,
  • A sturdy heart, an honest wife,
  • And children such as bring to be
  • That a man's breast is brimmed with glee.
  • Among them was a little maid,
  • Red-cheeked, in yellow locks arrayed;
  • Whose tenth year was just passing her;
  • 30 With eyes most innocently clear,
  • Sweet smiles that ? soothe, sweet tones that lull;
  • Of gracious semblance wonderful.
  • For her sick lord the dear good child
  • Was full of tender thoughts and mild.
  • Rarely from sitting at his feet
  • She rose; because his speech was sweet
  • To serve him she was proud and glad.
  • Great fear her little playmates had
  • At the sight of the loathly wight;
  • 40 But she, as often as she might,
  • Went to him and with him would stay;
  • And her heart unto him alway
  • Clave as a child's heart cleaves: his pain
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  • And grief that ever must remain,
  • With childish grace she soothed the while,
  • And sat her at his feet with a smile.
  • And Henry loved the little one
  • Who had such thought his woes upon,
  • And he would buy her baubles bright
  • 50 Such as to children give delight:
  • Nought else to peace his heart could lift
  • Like her innocent gladness at the gift.
  • A riband sometimes, broad and fair,
  • To twine with the tresses of her hair,
  • Or a looking-glass, or a little ring,
  • Or a girdle-clasp;—at anything
  • She was so thankful, was so pleased,
  • That in some sort his pain was eased,
  • And he would even say jestingly,
  • 60 His own good little wife was she.
  • Seldom she left him long alone,
  • Winning him from his inward moan
  • With love and childish trustfulness;
  • Her joyous seeming ne'er grew less;
  • She was a balm unto his breast,—
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  • Unto his eyes she was shade and rest.
  • Already were three years outwrung,
  • And still his torment o'er him hung,
  • And still in death ceased not his life.
  • 70 It chanced the peasant and his wife,
  • And his two little daughters, sate
  • Together when the day was late,
  • Their talk was all upon their lord,
  • And how the help they could afford
  • Was joy to them, and of the woe
  • They suffered for his sake,—yet how
  • His death, they feared, might bring them worse.
  • They thought that in the universe
  • No lord could be so good as he,
  • 80 And if but once they lived to see
  • Another inherit of their friend,
  • That all their welfare needs must end.
  • Then to his lord the peasant spake:
  • “Question, dear master, I would make,
  • So you permit me, of the cause
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  • Wherefore thus long you have made pause
  • From seeking help from such as win
  • Worship by lore of medicine,
  • And famous are both near and far.
  • 90 One such might yet break down the bar
  • That shuts you from your health's estate.
  • Wherefore, dear master, should you wait?”
  • Then sighs from the soul of the sick man
  • Pressed outward, and his tears began;
  • They were so sore, that when he spake
  • It seemed as though his heart would break.
  • “From God this woful curse,” he said,
  • Wofully have I merited,
  • Whose mind but to world-vanity
  • 100 Looked, and but thought how best to be
  • Wondrous in the thinking of men:
  • Worship I laboured to attain
  • By wealth, which God in His great views
  • Had given me for another use:—
  • God's self I had well-nigh forgot,
  • The moulder of my human lot,
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  • Whose gifts, ill ta'en, though well bestow'd,
  • Hindered me from the Heaven-road;
  • Till I at length, lost here as there,
  • 110 Am chosen unto shame & despair,
  • His wrath's insufferable weight
  • Made me to know Him,—but too late.
  • From bad to worse, from worse to worst,
  • At length I am cast forth and curs'd:
  • The whole world from my side doth flee;
  • The wretchedest insulteth me;
  • Looking on me, each ruffian
  • Accounts himself the better man,
  • And turns his visage from the sight,
  • 120 As though I brought him bane and blight.
  • Therefore may God reward thee, thou
  • Who dost bear with me even now,
  • Not scorning him whose sore distress
  • No more may guerdon faithfulness.
  • And yet, however kind and true
  • The deeds thy goodness bids thee do,—
  • Still, spite of all, it must at heart
  • Rejoice thee when my breath shall part.
  • How am I lessened outcast and ? forlorn!—
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  • 130 That I, who as thy lord was born,
  • Must now beseech thee of thy grace
  • To suffer me in mine evil case.
  • With a great blessing verily
  • Thou shalt be blest of God through me,
  • Because to me, whom God thus tries,
  • Pity thou grantest, Christianwise.
  • The thing thou askest thou shalt know:—
  • All the physicians long ago
  • Who might bring help in any kind
  • 140 I sought;—but, woe is me! to find
  • That all the help in all the earth
  • Avails not and is nothing worth.
  • One means there is indeed; and yet
  • That means nor gold nor prayers may get:—
  • A leach who is full of lore hath said
  • How it needeth that a virtuous maid
  • For my sake with her life should part,
  • And feel the steel cut to her heart:
  • Only in the blood of such an one
  • 150 My curse may cease beneath the sun.
  • But such an one what hope can show,
  • Who her own life would thus forego
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  • To save my life? Then let despair
  • Bow down within my soul to bear
  • The wrath God's justice doth up-pile.
  • When will death come? Woe, woe the while!”
  • Of these, poor Henry's words, each word
  • The little maiden likewise heard
  • Who at his feet would always sit;
  • 160 And forgot it not, but remembered it.
  • In the hid shrine, her heart's recess,
  • She held his words in silentness.
  • As the mind of an angel was her mind,
  • Grave and holy and Christ-inclin'd.
  • When in their chamber, day being past,
  • Her parents, after toil, slept fast,—
  • Then always with the self-same stir
  • The sighs of her grief troubled her.
  • At the foot of her parents' bed
  • 170 Lying, so many tears she shed
  • (Bitter and many) as to make
  • That they woke up and kept awake.
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  • Her secret grieving once perceived,
  • They made much marvel why she grieved,
  • And questioned her of the evil chance
  • To which she gave sorrowful utterance
  • In her sobbings and in her undercries:
  • But nothing answered she anywise,
  • Until her father bade her tell
  • 180 Openly and truly and well
  • Why night by night within her bed
  • So many bitter tears she shed.
  • “Alack!” quoth she, “what should it be
  • But our kind master's misery,—
  • With thoughts how soon we now must miss
  • Both him and all our happiness?
  • Our solace shall be ours no more:
  • There is no lord alive, be sure,
  • Who, like unto him and of his worth,
  • 190 Shall bless our days with peace thenceforth.”
  • They answering said: “Right words and rare
  • Thou speak'st; but it booteth not an hair
  • That we should make outcry and lament:
  • Brood thou no longer thereanent.
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  • Unto us it is pain, as unto thee,
  • Perchance even more; yet what can we
  • That may avail for succouring?
  • Truly the Lord hath done this thing.”
  • Thus silenced they her speaking; but
  • 200 Her soul's complaint they silenced not.
  • Grief lay with her from hour to hour
  • Through the long night; nor dawn had power
  • To rid her of it; all beside
  • That near and about her might betide
  • Seemed nought. And when sleep covered men,
  • Again and again and yet again,
  • Wakeful and faithful, she would crouch
  • Wearily on her little couch,
  • Tossing in trouble without sign:
  • 210 And from her eyes the scalding brine
  • Flowed through sick grief that wept apart;
  • As steadfastly within her heart
  • She pondered on her heart's sore ache
  • And on those words Earl Henry spake.
  • Long with herself communing so,
  • Her tears were softened in their flow;
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  • Because at length her will was fix'd
  • To stand his fate and him betwixt.
  • Where now should such a child be sought,
  • 220 Thinking even as this one thought,
  • Who, rather than her lord should die,
  • Chose her own death and held thereby?
  • But once her purpose settled fast,
  • All woe went forth from her and pass'd;
  • Her heart sat lightly in her breast,
  • And one thing only gave unrest.
  • Her lord's own hand, she feared, might stay
  • Her footsteps from the terrible way,—
  • She feared her parents strength might lack,
  • 230 And, through much loving, hold her back.
  • By reason of such fears, she fell
  • Into new grief unspeakable,
  • And that night, as the past nights, wept,
  • Waking her father where he slept.
  • “Thou foolish child” (thus did he say,)
  • “Why wilt thou weep thine eyes away
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  • For what no help thou hast can mend?
  • Is not this moan thou mak'st to end?
  • We would sleep; let us sleep in peace.”
  • 240 Thus chidingly he bade her cease,
  • Because his thought conceived in nought
  • The thing she had laid up in her thought.
  • Answered him the excellent maid:
  • “Truly my own dear lord hath said
  • That by one means he may be heal'd.
  • So ye but your consenting yield,
  • It is my blood that he shall have.
  • I, (being virgin-pure,) to save
  • His days, do choose the edge o' the knife,
  • 250 And my death rather than my life.”
  • The young girl's parents lay and heard,
  • And had sore grief of her spoken word;
  • And thus her father said: “How now?
  • What silly wish, child, wishest thou?
  • Thou durst not do it in very truth.
  • What knows a child of these things, forsooth?
  • Ugly Death thou hast never seen:
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  • Were he once to near thee, I ween,—
  • Didst thou view the pit of the sepulchre,—
  • 260 Thy face would change and thy flesh fear,
  • And thy soul within thee would shake,
  • And thy weak hands would toil to break
  • The grasp of the monster foul and grim,
  • Drawing thee from thyself to him.
  • Leave thy words and thy weeping too;
  • What cannot be done, seek not to do.”
  • “Nay, father mine,” replied the child,
  • “Though my words may be counted wild,
  • Well I know that the body's death
  • 270 Is a torture and tortureth.
  • Yet truly this is truth no less:
  • He who is plagued with sharp distress,
  • Who hates his life, having but woe,—
  • To him the end cometh, even so,
  • When, for all the curses that he hath pass'd,
  • He scapes not the curse of death at last.
  • What booteth it him a long-drawn life
  • To have traversed in trouble and in strife,
  • If nothing after all he can win,
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  • 280 Except, being old, to enter in
  • At the self-same door which years ago
  • He might more firmly have passed through?
  • But scantly may the soul see good,—
  • So rough is world-driving and so rude;
  • And, good once ended, hope once lorn,
  • Best it were I had not been born.
  • Therefore my lips give praise to God,
  • Who this great blessing hath bestow'd
  • On me,—by loss of body and limb
  • 290 To have the life that lives with Him.
  • 'Twere ill done, did ye make me loth
  • From what unto me and unto both
  • Bringeth joy and prosperity;
  • Gaining the crown of Christ for me;
  • And you, from every troublous thing
  • That threateneth you, delivering.
  • The generous master ye shall keep
  • Who leaves you undisturbed to reap
  • The fruits our little field doth grow,—
  • 300 Earn'd, father, in the sweat of thy brow.
  • With you, while he liveth, it shall stay;
  • He is good; he will not drive you away.
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  • But if we now should let him die,
  • Our ruining hasteneth thereby:
  • The thought whereof doth make me give
  • My own young life that he may live.
  • To such a choice, which profits all,
  • Meseems your chiding should be small.”
  • Then the mother broke forth at last,
  • 310 Finding her daughter's purpose fast:—
  • “Think, my own child, daughter mine, think
  • Of the bitter cup that I had to drink,
  • Of the pain that I suffered once for thee;
  • And, thinking, turn thyself unto me.
  • Is this the guerdon thou dost give
  • Even to the womb that bade thee live?
  • Her in pain must I lose again
  • Whom I bore and brought forth in pain?
  • Wouldst leave thy parents for thy lord?
  • 320 This were hatred of God and of His word.
  • Clean from thy mind is the word gone
  • Which God pronounced? Ponder thereon:
  • “Listen,” (it is written) “to their command,
  • That thy days may be long in the land.”
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  • Lo! how corrupt must be thine heart,—
  • It hath striven the will of God to thwart.
  • And sayest thou, —if thou losest thus
  • Thy life, good hap shall come to us?
  • Oh no! in us thou wilt give birth
  • 330 To weariness and to scorn of earth.
  • In the whole world thou art alone
  • That which our joy is set upon.
  • Yes, little daughter, always dear,
  • 'Tis thou shouldst make our gladness here;
  • Thou shouldst be a lamp to our life,
  • Our aim in the troublesome hard strife,
  • And a staff our falling steps to save:
  • In place whereof, thine own black grave
  • With thine own hand thou digg'st, and sad
  • 340 Grows the hope and the comfort that we had,
  • And I must weep at thy tomb all day
  • Till in plague and torment I pass away.
  • Yet whatsoever oh! whate'er our ills may be,
  • So much and more shall God do to thee.”
  • Then the pious maid answered and said:—
  • “O mother, that in my soul art laid,
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  • How should I not at all times here
  • See the path of my duty clear,
  • When at all times my thankful mind
  • 350 Meeteth thy love, tender and kind,
  • That kindly and tenderly ministers?
  • Of a verity I am young in years;
  • Yet this I know: what is mine, to wit,
  • Is mine but since thou gavest it.
  • And if the people grant me praise
  • And look with favour in my face,
  • Yet my heart's tale is continual
  • That only thee must I thank for all
  • Which it pleaseth them to perceive in me;
  • 360 And that ne'er a thing should be brought to be
  • By myself on myself, save such
  • As thou wouldst permit without reproach.
  • Mother, it was thou that didst give
  • These limbs and the life wherewith I live,—
  • And is it thou wouldst grudge my soul
  • Its white robe and its aureole?
  • The knowledge of evil in my breast
  • Hath not yet been, nor sin's unrest;
  • Therefore, the road being overtrod,
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  • 370 I know I shall have portion with God.
  • Say not that this is foolishness;
  • No hand but God's hand is in this:
  • Him must thou thank, Whose grace doth cleanse
  • My heart from earth's desire, till hence
  • It longs with a great longing mighty will to go
  • Ere sin be known that's yet to know.
  • Well it needs that the joys of earth
  • (Deemed oftentimes of a priceless worth)
  • By man should be counted excellent:
  • 380 How otherwise might he rest content
  • With anything but Christ's perfecting?
  • Oh! to such reeds let me not cling!
  • God knows how vain seem to my sight
  • The bliss of this world and the delight;
  • For the delight turneth amiss,
  • And soul's tribulation hath the bliss.
  • What is their life?—a gasp for breath;
  • And their guerdon?—but the burthen of death.
  • Nothing is sure, save this One thing alone is sure:—should peace
  • 390 Come to-day, with tomorrow it shall cease;
  • And that Till the last evil thing at last
  • Shall find us out, and our days be past.
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  • Nor birth nor wealth succoureth then,
  • Nor strength, nor the courage of strong men,
  • Nor honour, nor fealty, nor truth.
  • Out and alack! Our life, our youth,
  • Are but dust only and empty smoke:
  • We are laden branches that the winds rock.
  • Woe to the fool who layeth hold
  • 400 On earth's vanities which are vain shadows manifold!
  • The marsh-fire gleam as it hath shone
  • Still shines, luring his footsteps on;
  • But he is dead ere he reach the goal,
  • And with his flesh dieth his soul.
  • Therefore, dear mother, be at rest,
  • And labour not to make manifest
  • That for my sake thou wouldest hold'st me here:
  • And in thy silence it shall be clear
    Added TextBut let one silence make it clear
  • That my father's will joineth is joined with thine.
  • 410 Alas! though I kept this life of mine
  • 'Tis verily but a little while
  • That ye may smile, or that I may smile.
  • Two years perchance, perchance even three,
  • In happiness I shall keep with ye:
  • Then must our lord be surely dead,
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  • And sorrow and sighing find us instead;
  • And your want shall your will withhold
  • From giving me any dowry-gold,
  • And no man will take me for his wife;
  • 420 And my life shall be trouble-rife,
  • And very hateful, and worse than death.
  • Or though this thing that threateneth
  • Were 'scaped, and ere our good lord died
  • Some bridegroom chose me for his bride,—
  • Though then, ye think, all is made smooth,
  • Yet the bad is but made worse, forsooth;
  • For even with love, woes should not cease,
  • And not to love were the end of peace.
  • Thus through ill and grief I struggle still,
  • 430 What to attain? Even grief and ill.
  • In this strait, One would set me free,
  • My soul and my body asking of me,
  • That I may be with him where He is.
  • Hold me not; I would make myself His.
  • He only is the true husbandman;
  • The labour ends well which He began;
  • Ever His plough goeth aright;
  • His barns fill; for His fields there is no blight;
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  • In His lands life dies not anywhere;
  • 440 Never a child sorroweth there;
  • There heat is not, neither is cold;
  • There the lapse of years maketh not old;
  • But peace hath its dwelling there for aye,
  • And abideth, and shall not pass away.
  • Thither, yea, thither let me go,
  • And be rid of this shadow-place below,—
  • This place laid waste like a waste plain,
  • Where nothing is but torment and pain,
  • Where a day's blight falleth upon
  • 450 The work of a year, and it is gone;
  • Where ruinous thunder lifts its voice,
  • And where the harvest may not rejoice.
  • You love me? Oh, let your love be seen;
  • And labour no more to circumvene
  • My heart's desire for the happy place.
  • To the Lord let me lift my face,—
  • Even unto Jesus Christ my Friend,
  • Whose gracious mercies have no end,
  • In whose name Love is the world's dear Lord,
  • 460 And by whom not the vilest is abhorr'd.
  • Alike with Him is man's estate,—
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  • As the rich the poor, the small as the great:
  • Were I a queen, be sure that He
  • With more joy could not welcome me.
  • Yet from your hearts do I turn my heart?
  • Nay, from your love I will not part,
  • But rejoice to be subject unto you.
  • Then count not my thought to be untrue
  • Because I deem, if I do this thing,
  • 470 It is your weal I am furthering.
  • Whoso (men say) another's pelf
  • Heaping, pulls want upon himself,—
  • Whoso his neighbour's fame would crown
  • By bringing ruin upon his own,—
  • His friendship is surely overmuch.
  • But this my purpose is none such:
  • For though ye too shall gain relief,
  • It is myself I would serve in chief.
  • O mother dear, weep not, nor mourn:
  • 480 My duty is this; let it be borne.
  • Take heart,—thou hast other children left;
  • In theirs thy life shall ever be less bereft;
  • They shall comfort thee for the loss of me:
  • Then my own gain let me bring to be,
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  • And my lord's; for to him upon the earth
  • This only can be of any worth.
  • Nor think that thou shalt look on my grave;
  • That pain at least thou canst never have;
  • Very far away is the land
  • 490 Where that must be done which I have plann'd.
  • God guerdoneth; in God is my faith;
  • He shall loosen me from the bonds of Death.”

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Part III
  • All trembling had the parents heard
  • Death by their daughter thus preferr'd
  • With a language so very marvellous
  • (Surely no child reasoneth thus,)
  • Whose words between her lips made stir,
  • As though the Spirit were poured on her
  • Which giveth knowledge of tongues unknown.
  • So strange was every word and tone,
  • They knew not how they might answer it,
  • 10 Except by striving to submit
  • To Him who had made the child's heart rife
  • With the love of death and the scorn of life.
  • Therefore they said silently still:
  • “All-perfect One, it is Thy will.”
  • With great fear and doubt's most bitter ban
  • They were a-cold; so the poor man
  • And the poor woman sat alway
  • In their bed, without yea or nay.
  • Ever alack! they had no speech
  • 20 The new dawn of their thought to reach.
  • With a wild sorrow unrepress'd
  • The mother caught the child to her breast:
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  • But the father after long interval
  • Said, though his soul smote him withal:
  • “Daughter, if God is in thine heart,
  • Heed not our grieving, but depart.”
  • Then the sweet maid smiled quietly;
  • And soon i' the morning hastened she
  • To the room where the sick man slept.
  • 30 Up to his bed she softly stepp'd,
  • Saying, “Do you sleep, my dear lord?”
  • “No, little wife,” was his first word,
  • But why art thou so early to-day?”
  • “Grief made that I could not keep away,—
  • The great grief that I have for you.”
  • “God be with thee, faithful and true!
  • Often to ease my suffering
  • Thou hast done many a gracious thing.
  • But it lasteth; it shall be always so.”
  • 40 Then said the girl: “On my troth, no!
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  • Take courage and comfort; —it will turn.
  • The fire that in your flesh doth burn,
  • One means, you know, would quench at once.
  • My mind climbs to conclusions.
  • Not a day will I make delay,
  • Now I am 'ware of the one way.
  • Dear lord, I have heard yourself expound,
  • How, if only a maiden could be found
  • To lose her life for you willingly,
  • 50 From all your pains you might yet be free.
  • God He knoweth, I will do this:
  • My worth is not as yours, I wis.”
  • Wondering and sore astonièd,
  • The poor sick man looked at the maid
  • Whose face smiled down unto his face,
  • While the tears gave each other chase
  • Over his cheeks from his weary eyes,
  • Till he made answer in this wise:—
  • “Trust me, this Death is not, my child,
  • 60 So tender a trouble and so mild
  • As thou, in thy reckoning, reckonest.
  • Thou didst keep madness from my breast,
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  • And help me when other help was none:
  • I thank thee for all that thou hast done.
  • (May God unto thee be merciful
  • For thy tenderness in the day of dule!)
  • I know thy mind, childlike and chaste,
  • And the innocent spirit that thou hast;
  • But nothing more will I ask of thee
  • 70 Than thou without wrong mayst do for me.
  • Long ago have I given up
  • The strife for deliverance and the hope;
  • So that now in thy faithfulness
  • I pleasure me with a soul at peace,
  • Wishing not thy sweet life withdrawn
  • Sith my own life I have foregone.
  • Too suddenly, little wife, beside,
  • Like a child's, doth thine heart decide
  • On this which hath entered into it,—
  • 80 Unsure if thou shalt have benefit.
  • In little space sore were thy case
  • If once with Death thou wert face to face;
  • And heavy and dark would the thing seem
  • Which thou hast desirèd in thy dream.
  • Therefore, good child, go in again:
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  • Soon, I know, thou wilt count as vain
  • This thing to which thy mind is wrought,
  • When once thou hast pondered in thy thought
  • How hard a thing it is to remove
  • 90 From the world and from the home of one's love.
  • And think too what a grievous smart
  • Hereby must come to thy parents' heart,
  • And how bitter to them must would be the stroke.
  • Shall I bring this thing on the honest folk
  • By whose pity my woes have been beguil'd?
  • To thy parents' counselling, my child,
  • For evermore look that thou incline:
  • So sorrow of heart shall not be thine.”
  • When thus he had answer'd tenderly,
  • 100 Forth came the parents, who hard by
  • Had hearken'd to the speech that he spake.
  • Albeit his heart was nigh to break
  • With the load under which it bowed,
  • The father spake these words aloud:
  • “God knows,” said he, “we do willingly,
  • Dear master, aught that may vantage thee
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  • Who hast been so good to us and so kind.
  • If God have in very truth design'd
  • That this young child should for thee atone,—
  • 110 Then, being God's will, let it be done.
  • Yea, through His power she hath been brought
  • To count the years of her youth for nought;
  • And by no childish whim is she led
  • To her grave, as thou hast imaginèd.
  • To-day, alack! is the third day
  • That with prayers we might not put away
  • She hath sorely entreated us that we
  • Would grant her the grace to die for thee.
  • By her words exceeding wonderful,
  • 120 Our sharp resistance hath waxed dull,
  • Till now we may no longer dare
  • To pause from the granting of her prayer.”
  • When the sick man thus found that each
  • Spoke with good faith the selfsame speech,
  • And that in earnest the young maid
  • Proffered her life for his body's aid,—
  • There rose, the little room within,
  • Of sobbing and sorrow a great din,
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  • And a strange dispute, that side and this,
  • 130 In manner as there seldom is.
  • The Earl, at length winning unto
  • The means of health, raised much ado,
  • Loudly lamenting that his cure
  • From sickness should be thus made sure.
  • The parents grieved with a bitter woe
  • That their dear child should leave them so,
  • While yet they prayed of him constantly
  • To grant her prayer that she should die.
  • And she meanwhile, whose life-long years
  • 140 It was to cost, shed sorrowful tears
  • For dread lest he whom she would save
  • Should deny to her the boon of the grave.
  • Thus they who, in pure faith's control
  • And in the strength of a godly soul,
  • Vied one with the other, sat there now,
  • Their eyes all wet with the bitter flow,
  • Each urging of what he had to say,
  • None yielding at all nor giving way.
  • The sick man sat in thought a space,
  • 150 Between his hands bowing his face,
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  • While the others, with supplicating tone,
  • Softly besought him one by one.
  • Then his head at last he lifted up,
  • And let his tears fall without stop,
  • And said finally: “So let it be.
  • Shall I, who m am one, stand against three?
  • Now know I surely that God's word,
  • Which speaks in silence, ye have heard;
  • And that this thing must be very fit,
  • 160 And even as God hath appointed it.
  • He, seeing my heart, doth read thereon
  • That I yield but to Him alone,—
  • Not to the wish that for my sake
  • Her grave this gracious child should make.”
  • Then the maid sprang to him full fain,
  • As though she had gotten a great gain;
  • And both his feet clasp'd and would kiss,—
  • Not for sorrow sobbing now, but for bliss:
  • The while her sorrowing parents went
  • 170 Forth from that room to make lament,
  • And weep apart for the heavy load
  • Which yet they knew was the will of God.
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  • Then a kirtle was given unto the maid,
  • Broidered all with the silken braid,
  • Such as never before she had put on;
  • With sables the border was bedone,
  • And with jewels bound about and around:
  • On her so fair they were fairer found
  • Than song of mine can make discourse.
  • 180 And they mounted her on a goodly horse:
  • That horse was to carry her very far,—
  • Even to the place where the dead are.
  • In the taking of these gifts she smil'd.
  • Not any longer a silly child
  • She seemed, but a worshipful damozel,
  • Well begotten and nurtured well.
  • And her face had a quiet earnestness;
  • And while she made ready, none the less
  • Did she comfort the trouble-stricken pair,
  • 190 Who in awestruck wise looked on her there,
  • As a saintly being superior
  • And no daughter unto them any more.
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  • Yet when the bitter moment came
  • Wherein their child must depart from them,
  • In sooth it was hard to separate.
  • The mother's grief was heavy and great,
  • Seeing that child lost to her, whom,
  • Years since, she had carried in her womb.
  • And the father was sorely shaken too,
  • 200 Now nought remained but to bid adieu
  • To that young life, full of the Spring,
  • Which must wither before the blossoming.
  • What made the twain more strong at length
  • Was the young girl's wonderful strength,
  • Whose calm look and whose gentle word
  • Blunted the sharp point of the sword.
  • With her mouth she was eloquent,
  • As if to her ear an angel bent,
  • Whispering her that she might say
  • 210 The word which wipes all tears away.
  • Thus, with her parents' benison
  • Upon her head, forth is she gone:—
  • She is gone forth like to a bride,
  • Lifted and inwardly glorified;
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  • She seemed not as one that journeyeth
  • To the door of the house of death.
  • So they rode without stop or turn
  • By the paths that take unto Salerne.
  • Lo! he is riding to new life
  • 220 Whose countenance is laden and rife
  • With sorrow and care and great dismay.
  • But for her who rides the charnel-way—
  • Oh! up in her eyes sits the bright look
  • Which tells of a joy without rebuke.
  • With friendly speech, with cheerful jest,
  • She toils to give his sorrow rest,
  • To lighten the heavy road time for him,
  • And soften shorten the road that was long & grim.
  • Thus on their way they still did wend
  • 230 Till they were come to their journey's end.
  • Then prayed she of him that they might reach
  • That day the dwelling of the wise leach
  • Who had shown how his ill might be allay'd.
  • And it was done even as she said.
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  • His arm in hers, went the sick man
  • Unto the great physician,
  • And brought again to his mind the thing
  • Whereof they had erst made questioning.
  • “This maid” (he said) “holds purpose now
  • 240 To work my cure, as thy speech did show.”
  • But the leach held silence, as one doth
  • Whose heart to believe is well-nigh loth,
  • Even though his eyes witness a thing.
  • At length he said: “By whose counselling
  • Comes this, my child? Hast thou thought well
  • On that whereof this lord doth tell,
  • Or art thou led perforce thereto?”
  • “Nay,” quoth the maid, “that which I do,
  • I do willingly; none persuadeth me;
  • 250 It is, because I choose it should be.”
  • He took her hand, silently all,
  • And led her through a door in the wall
  • Into another room that was there,
  • Wherein he was quite alone with her.
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  • Then thus: “Thou poor ill-guided child,
  • What is it that maketh thee so wild,
  • Thy short life and thy little breath
  • Suddenly to yield up to death?
  • An' thou art constrained, e'en say 'tis so,
  • 260 And I swear to thee thou art free to go.
  • Remember this;—how that thy blood
  • Unto the Earl can bring no good
  • If thou sheddest it with an inward strife.
  • Vain it were to bleed out thy life,
  • If still, when the whole hath come to pass,
  • Thy lord should be even as he was.
  • Bethink thee,—and consider thereof,—
  • How the pains thou tempt'st are hard & rough.
  • First, with thy limbs naked and bare
  • 270 Before mine eyes thou must appear,—
  • So needs must shall thy maiden shame be sore:
  • Yet still must the woe be more and more,
  • What time thou art bound by heel & arm,
  • And with sharp hurt and with grievous harm
  • I cut from out thy breast the part
  • That is most alive—even thine heart.
  • With thine eyes thou shalt surely see
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  • The knife ere it enter into thee,—
  • Thou shalt feel worse than death's worst sting
  • 280 Ere the heart be drawn forth quivering.
  • How deemest thou? Canst thou suffer this?
  • Alack, poor wretch! there is dreadfulness
  • Even in the thought. If only once
  • Thou do blench or shrink when the blood runs,—
  • If thou do repent but by an hair,—
  • It is bootless all,—in vain the care,
  • In vain the scathe, in vain the death.
  • Now what is the word thy free choice saith?”
  • She looked at him as at a friend,
  • 290 And answered: “Sir, unto that end—
  • To wit, my choice,—I had pondered hard
  • Long ere I was borne hitherward.
  • I thank you, sir, that of your heart's ruth
  • You have warned me thus; and of a truth,
  • By all the words that you have said
  • I well might feel dispirited,—
  • The more that th even yourself, meseems,
  • Are frightened by these idle dreams
  • From the work you should perform for the Earl.
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  • 300 Oh! it might hardly grace a girl
  • Such cowardly reasoning to use!
  • Pardon me, sir; I cannot choose
  • But laugh, that you, with your mastership,
  • Should have a courage less firm and deep
  • Than a pitiful maiden without lore
  • Whose life even now ends and is o'er.
  • The part that is yours dare but to do,—
  • As for me, I have trust to undergo.
  • Methinks the dule and the drearihead
  • 310 You tell me of, must be sharp indeed,
  • Sith the mere thought is so troublesome.
  • Believe me, I never should have come,
  • Had I not known of myself alone
  • What the thing was to be undergone,—
  • Were I not sure that, abashed no whit,
  • This soul of mine could go through with it.
  • Yea, verily; by your sorrowing,
  • My poor heart's courage you can bring
  • Just to such sorrowful circumstance
  • 320 As though I were going to the dance.
  • Worshipful sir, there nothing is
  • That can last alway without cease,—
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  • Nought that one day's remitted doom
  • Can save the feeble body from.
  • Thus then, you see, it is cheerfully
  • That I do all this; and that while he
  • (My lord), you willing, shall not die,—
  • The endless life shall be mine thereby.
  • Resolve you, and so it shall be said
  • 330 That the fame you have is well merited.
  • This brings me joy that I undertake,
  • Even for my dear kind master's sake,
  • And for what we two shall gain also,—
  • I, there above,—and you, here below.
  • Sir, in as much as the work is hard,
  • So much the more is our great reward.”
  • Then the leach said nothing, but was dumb;
  • And, marvelling much, he sought the room
  • Where the sick man sat in expectancy.
  • 340 “New courage may be yours,” quoth he;
  • “For your sake she casts her life behind,
  • Not from empty fantasy of the mind;
  • And the parting of her body and soul
  • Shall cleanse your limbs and make you whole.”
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  • But Henry was full of troublous thought;
  • Peradventure he hearkened not,
  • For he answer'd not that which was sain.
  • So the leach turned, and went out again.
  • Again to the maid did he repair,
  • 350 And straightway locked the doors with care,
  • That Henry might not see or know
  • What she for his sake must undergo.
  • And the leach said, “Take thy raiment off.”
  • Then was her heart joyous enough,
  • And she obeyed, and in little space
  • Stood up before the old man's face
  • As naked as God had fashioned her:
  • Only her innocence clothèd her:
  • She feared not, and was not ashamed,
  • 360 In the sight of God standing unblamed,
  • To whom her dear life without price
  • She offered up for a sacrifice.
  • When thus she was beheld of the leach,
  • His soul spake with an inward speech,
  • Saying that beauty so excellent
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  • Had scarce been known since the world went.
  • And he conceived for the poor thing
  • Such an unspeakable pitying,
  • And such a fear on his purpose lit,
  • 370 That he scarce dared to accomplish it.
  • Slowly he gave her his command
  • To lie down on a table hard at hand,
  • To the which he bound her with strong cords:
  • Then he reached his hand forth afterwards,
  • And took a broad long knife, and tried
  • The edge of the same on either side.
  • It was sharp, yet not as it should be:
  • (He looked to its sharpness heedfully,—
  • Having sore grief for the piteous scathe,
  • 380 And desiring to shorten her death.)
  • Therefore it was he took a stone,
  • And ground the knife finely thereon.
  • Earl Henry heard in bitterest woe
  • The blade, a-whetting, come and go.
  • Forward he sprang; a sudden start
  • Of grief for the maid struck to his heart.
  • He thought what a peerless soul she bore,—
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  • And made a great haste unto the door,
  • And would have gone in, but it was shut.
  • 390 Then his eyes burned, as he stood without,
  • In scalding tears; transfigurèd
  • He felt himself; and in the stead
  • Of his feebleness there was mightiness.
  • “Shall she,” he thought, “who my life doth bless,—
  • The gracious, righteous, virtuous maid,—
  • To this end be thrust down to the shade?
  • Wilt thou, thou fool, force the Most High,
  • That thy desire may come thereby?
  • Deem'st thou that any, for good or ill,
  • 400 Can live but a day against His will?
  • And if by His will thou yet shalt live,
  • What more of help can her dying give?
  • Sith all then is as God ordereth,
  • Rest evermore in the hand of faith.
  • As in past time, anger not now
  • The All-powerful; seeing that thou
  • Canst anger Him only. 'Tis the ways
  • Of penitence lead unto grace.”
  • He was determined immediately,
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  • 410 And smote on the door powerfully,
  • And cried to the leach: “Open to me!”
  • But the leach answered: “It may not be:
  • I have something of weight that I must do.”
  • Then Henry urged back upon him, “No!
  • Come quickly, and open, and give o'er.”
  • Quoth the other: “Say your say through the door.”
  • “Not so, not so; let me enter in:
  • It is my soul's rest I would win.”
  • Then the door drew back, widely and well;
  • 420 And Henry looked on the damozel,
  • Where she lay bound, body and limb,
  • Waiting Death's stroke, to conquer him.
  • “Hear me,” said he, “worshipful sir;
  • It is horrible thus to look on her:
  • Rather the burthen of God's might
  • I choose to suffer, than this sight.
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  • What I have said, that will I give;
  • But let thou the brave maiden live.”

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Part IV
  • When the maiden learned assuredly
  • That by that death she sought was not to die,
  • And when she was loosed from the strong bands,
  • A sore moan made she. With her hands
  • She rent her hair; and such were her tears
  • That it seemed a great wrong had been hers.
  • “Woe worth the weary time!” she cried;
  • “There is no pity on any side.
  • Woe is me! It fades from my view—
  • 10 The recompense I was chosen to,—
  • The magnificent heaven-crown
  • That I hoped with such a hope to put on.
  • Now it is I am truly dead,—
  • Now it is I am truly ruinèd.
  • O shame and sorrowing on me!
  • And shame and sorrowing on thee,
  • Who the guerdon from my spirit hast riven,
  • And by whose hands I am snatched from Heaven!
  • Lo! he chooseth his own calamity,
  • 20 That so my crown may be reft from me!”
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  • Then with sharp prayer she prayed them there
  • That still the death might be given her
  • For the which she had journeyed many a mile.
  • But being assured in a brief while
  • That the thing she sought would be denied,
  • She gazed with a piteous mien, and cried,
  • Rebuking her heart-beloved lord:—
  • “Is all then lost that my soul implor'd?
  • How faint art thou, how little brave,
  • 30 To load me with this load that I have!
  • How have I been cheated with lies,
  • And cozened with fair-seeming falsities!
  • They told me thou wast honest, and good,
  • And valiant, and full of noble blood,—
  • The which, so help me God! was false.
  • Thou art one the world strangely miscalls.
  • Thou art but a weak timorous man,
  • Whose soul affrighted fails to scan
  • The strength of a woman's sufferance.
  • 40 Have I injured thee anyway, perchance?
  • Say, how didst thou hear, sitting without?
  • And yet meseems the wall was stout
  • Betwixt us. Nay, but thou must know
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  • That it is to be—that it will be so.
  • Take heed,—there is no second one
  • Who yet for thy life will lose her own.
  • O turn to me and be pitiful,
  • And grudge not death to my poor soul.”
  • But though her sueing was hard and hot,
  • 50 His firmness never failed him a jot;
  • So that at length, against her will,
  • She needs must end her cries and be still,—
  • Yielding her to the loathed decree
  • That made her life a necessity.
  • Lord Henry to one will was wrought,
  • Fast settled in his steadfast thought:
  • He clothed her again with his own hand,
  • And again set forth to his native land,
  • Having given large reward to the leach.
  • 60 He knew the shame and the evil speech
  • And the insult he must bear,—yet bow'd
  • Meekly thereto; knowing that God
  • Had willed, in his regard, each thing
  • That wrought for him weal or suffering.
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  • Thus by the damsel's help indeed
  • From a foul sickness he was freed,—
  • Not from his body's sore and smart,
  • But from hardness & stubbornness of heart.
  • Then first was all that pride of his
  • 70 Quite overthrown; a better bliss
  • Came to his soul and dwelt with him
  • Than the bliss he had in the first time,—
  • To wit, a blithe heart's priceless gain
  • That looks to God through the tears of pain.
  • But as they rode, the righteous maid
  • Mourned and might not be comforted.
  • Her soul was aghast, her heart was waste,
  • Her wits were all confused and displac'd:
  • Herseemed that the leaning on God's might
  • 80 Was turned for her to shame and despite:
  • So her pure heart ceased not to pray
  • That the woe she had might be ta'en away.
  • Thus came the girl and the sick wight
  • To an hostel at the fall of the night.
  • Each in a little chamber alone,
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  • They watched till many hours were gone.
  • The nobleman gave thanks to God
  • Who had turned him from the profitless road,
  • And cleansed him, by care and suffering,
  • 90 From his loftiness and vain-glorying.
  • The damsel went down on her knees
  • And spake to God such words as these:—
  • Why thus He had put aside, and left
  • Out of His grace, her and her gift,—
  • Seeing how she had nothing more
  • To give but her one life bare and poor.
  • She prayed: “Am I not good enough,
  • Thou Holy One, to partake thereof?
  • Then, O my God! cleanse Thou mine heart;
  • 100 Let me not thus cease and depart:
  • Give me a sign, Father of mine,
  • That the absolving grace divine
  • By seeking may at length be found
  • While yet this earth shall hold me round.”
  • And God, who lifts souls from the dust,
  • Nor turns from the spirit that hath trust,—
  • The same look'd down with looks unloth
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  • On the troublesome sorrow of them both,
  • Both whose hearts and whose life-long days
  • 110 He had won to Him for glory and praise,—
  • Who had passed through the fire and come forth
  • And proved themselves salvation-worth.
  • The Father—He who comforteth
  • His patient children that have faith—
  • At length released these steadfast ones
  • From their manifold tribulations.
  • In wondrous wise the Earl was stripp'd
  • Of all his sickness while he slept;
  • And when, as the sunrise smote his e'en,
  • 120 He found him once more whole and clean,
  • He rose from his couch and sought the maid.
  • On the sight for which she long had prayed,
  • She gazed and gazed some speechless space;
  • And then knelt down with lifted face,
  • And said: “The Lord God hath done this:
  • His was the deed,—the praise be His.
  • With solemn thinking let me take
  • The life which He hath given me back.”

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Part V
  • The Earl returned in joyful case
  • Unto his fathers' dwelling-place.
  • Every day brought back to him
  • A part of his joy, which had waxed dim;
  • And he grew now, of face and mien,
  • More comely than ever he had been.
  • And unto all who in former years
  • Had been his friends and his comforters,
  • He told how God's Allmercifulness
  • 10 Had delivered him out of his distress.
  • And they rejoiced, giving the praise
  • To God and His unsearchable ways.
  • They Then thitherward full many a road
  • Men came, a gladsome multitude;
  • They came in haste, they rode and they ran,
  • To welcome the gallant gentleman;
  • Their own eyes they could scarce believe,
  • Beholding him in health and alive.
  • A strange sight, it may well be said,
  • 20 When one revives that was counted dead.
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  • The worthy peasant, who so long
  • Had tended him when the curse was strong,
  • In the good time stayed not away,
  • Nor his wife could be brought to stay.
  • 'Twas then that after long suspense
  • Their labour gat its recompense.
  • They who had hoped no other thing
  • Than the sight of their lord, on entering
  • Saw the sweet damsel by his side,
  • 30 In perfect measure satisfied,
  • Who caught them round with either arm,
  • And clave to them closely and warm.
  • Longtime they kissed her, in good sooth,—
  • They kissed her on her cheeks and mouth.
  • Within their breasts their hearts were light;
  • And eyes which first laughed & were bright
  • Soon overbrimmed with many tears,
  • The tokens of the joy that was theirs.
  • Then the good honest Swabians
  • 40 Who erst had shared the inheritance
  • Of the sick lord, gave back the land,
  • Unasked, which they had ta'en at his hand.
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  • Him did they wholly reinstate
  • In every title and estate
  • That heretofore he had possess'd.
  • But ever he pondered in his breast
  • Upon those wondrous things which once
  • God wrought on his flesh and in his bones.
  • Nor did he in anywise forget
  • 50 The friendly pair whose help, ere yet
  • His hours of pain were overpast,
  • Had stood him in such stead. The taste
  • Of bitter grief he had brought on them
  • Found such reward as best became.
  • He gave the little farm and the field,
  • With the cattle whereby they were till'd,
  • With servants eke, to the honest twain;
  • So that no fears plagued them again
  • Lest any other lord should come
  • 60 At length and turn them from their home.
  • Also his thankful favour stay'd
  • Evermore with the pious maid:
  • Many a day with her he spent,
  • And gave her many an ornament,
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  • Because of what is said in my rhyme
  • And the love he bore her from old time.
  • Thus, it may be, a year went o'er:
  • Then all his kinsfolk urged him sore
  • Some worthy woman for to woo,
  • 70 And bring her as his wife thereto.
  • And he answer'd, “Truly as I live,
  • This is good counsel that ye give.”
  • So he summoned every lord his friend,
  • That so to this matter they might bend
  • Such help as honest friends can bring.
  • And they all came at his summoning,
  • Everywhence, both far and near;
  • And eke his whole vassalage was there,—
  • Not a single man but was come:
  • 80 It made, good sooth, a mighty sum.
  • And the earl stepp'd forward in their sight,
  • Saying, “Sirs, my mind is fixed aright
  • To wed even as your wills decide:
  • Take counsel then, and choose me a bride.”
  • So they got together and began;
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  • But there was a mind for every man.
  • Both ways they wrangled, aye and no,
  • As counsellors are sure to do.
  • Then again he spake to them and cried:
  • 90 “Dear friends, now let alone the bride,
  • And rede me a thing. All of ye know,
  • Doubtless, that I, a while ago,
  • With a most loathsome ill was cross'd,
  • And appear'd to be altogether lost,
  • So that all people avoided me
  • With cursings and cruel mockery.
  • And yet no man scorneth me now,
  • Nor woman neither; seeing how
  • God's mercy hath made me whole again.
  • 100 Then tell me, I pray of ye full fain,
  • What I may do to His honouring
  • Who to mine aid hath done this thing.”
  • And they all answered immediately:
  • “By word and deed it behoveth thee
  • To offer thyself to the Most High,
  • And work for Him good works thereby,
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  • That the life He spared may be made His.”
  • “Then,” quoth the Earl, “hearken me this.
  • The damozel who standeth here,—
  • 110 And whom I embrace, being most dear,—
  • She it is unto whom I owe
  • The grace it hath pleased God to bestow.
  • He saw the simple-spirited
  • Earnestness of the holy maid,
  • And even in guerdon of her truth
  • Gave back to me the joys of my youth,
  • Which seemed to be lost beyond all doubt.
  • And therefore I have chosen her out
  • To wed with me, knowing her free.
  • 120 I think that God will let this be.
  • But now if I fail, and not obtain,
  • I will never embrace woman again;
  • For all I am and all I have
  • Is but a gift, Sirs, that she gave.
  • Lo! I enjoin ye, with God's will,
  • That this my longing ye fulfil:
  • I pray ye all, have but one voice,
  • And let your choice go with my choice.”
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  • Then the cries ceased, and the counter-cries,
  • 130 And all the battle of advice,
  • And every lord, being content
  • With Henry's choice, granted assent.
  • Then the priests came, to bind as one
  • Two lives in bridal unison.
  • Into his hand they folded hers,
  • Not to be loosed in coming years,
  • And uttered between man and wife
  • God's blessing on the road of their life.
  • Many a bright and pleasant day
  • 140 The twain pursued their steadfast way,
  • Till, hand in hand, at length they trod
  • Upward to the Kingdom of God.
  • Even as it was with them, even thus,
  • And quickly, it must be with us.
  • To such reward as theirs was then,
  • God help us in His hour. Amen.

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