Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Jan Van Hunks (Duke University Library)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of Composition: 1846; 1881-2
Type of Manuscript: draft
Scribe: DGR

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

Image of page [1] page: [1]
Note: DGR began the poem on the right half of the page, leaving the left half blank initially. The epigraph was an early addition at the top right. At the bottom right DGR added the ballad's conclusion at a much later date when he had returned to the poem to revise it.
The Dutchman's Wager—

Jan Van Hunks

“Well, well,” said the Major resu-

-ming his pipe, whence the vapour

issued like a sign for human in-

-credulity, “you need not believe

it, but it has all the elements

of belief. For it was it not told to some one

who told it to me; and I have have I not now

told it to you; and will not you in your

turn will tell it again?”

  • Full of smoke was the queer old room
  • And of pleasant winter-heat;
  • Whence you might hear the hall-doors slap,
  • And the wary shuffling of feet
  • Which from the carpeted floor stept out
  • Into the ice-paved street.
  • Van Hunks was laughing in his paunch:
  • Five silver pieces fair
  • Lay in his hand. With neighbour Spratz
  • 10 He had smoked for a wager there;
  • He laughed, and from his neighbour's pipe
  • He looked to his neighbour's chair.
  • And while he laughed, the evening shades
  • Grew stealthily and spread;
  • Till the smoky clouds walled up the sun
  • And hid his shiny old head,
  • As though he too had his evening pipe
  • Before he tumbled to bed.
  • Then And once more from the bowl the smoke
  • 20 Blew in a Twisted a silver chain,
  • Just like the thoughts a drowsy poet's thoughts
  • That jostle in his brain,
  • Quarreling each for the precedence,
  • And none to be found again.
Manuscript Addition: (For the End)
Editorial Description: DGR's note written just above the two final stanzas of the ballad
  • Ah! I forgot Aha he said! my pipe's worn out—
  • You're seasoned—you'll just do.”
  • Then He flung him into a gang of fiends,
  • Black, yellow, red & blue:
  • Here's a pi I've brought a pipe for my private use,
  • Just trim it, some of you!”
  • They've sliced the very crown from his head,
  • (Worse shaving than a monk's),
  • Lopped arms & legs, stuck a red-hot tube
  • In his wretchedest of trunks;
  • And when the Devil wants a pipe
  • They bring him Jan Van Hunks.
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  • One by one the hours went on
  • As the clock gave them out,
  • Till the tongue of the midnight bell was loosed
  • With a timid kind of shout,
  • As knowing it would be bullied and jeered
  • 30 By the echoes thereabout.
  • Van Hunks was fond of the mid-night bell,
  • It caused him a secret grin,
  • When shutter and blind shook in the wind
  • With that teeth-chattering din,
  • To fancy the many that froze without
  • While he sat was thawing within.
  • “These thirty years,” then said Van Hunks,
  • “I have smoked both night & day;
  • But of all the wagers on my pipe
  • 40 Had never a doit to pay,
  • For still in the end my vapouring foe
  • Has sickly sneaked away.
  • “Ah! could I still find any one
  • Who knew me not too well
  • And worthy o try his chance with me
  • After the midnight bell,
  • He should be welcome, though he come
  • From the smoking-crib of Hell!”
  • His words had scarcely ceased,—his breath
  • 50 Still mingling with the smoke,—
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Manuscript Addition: 1
Editorial Description: pagination in upper right corner
Note: The fourth stanza on this page is an addition in the margin, in pencil.
  • The chamber-window stood to the street,
  • With shutters strongly barred:
  • There came a timid knock without
  • And another afterward;
  • But both so low & faint & weak
  • That the casement never jarred.
  • And weak the voice that came with the knock:—
  • “My father, lend your ear!
  • 'Twas store of gold that you bade me wed,
  • 60 But the wife I chose was dear;
  • Now she & my babes crave only bread.
  • O father, pity & hear!”
  • Van Hunks looked after the feathered smoke:—
  • “What thing so slight and vain
  • As pride whose plume is torn in the wind
  • And joy's rash flight to pain?”
  • Then loud: “Thou minds't when I bade thee hence,—
  • Poor fool go hence again!”
  • There came a moan to the lighted room,
  • 70 A moan to the frosty sky:—
  • “O father, my loves are dying now,
  • Father, you too must die.
  • Oh! on your soul, by God's good grace,
  • Let not this dread hour lie!”
  • “Gossip, well done!” quoth the little old man;
  • And in a silvery spire,
  • Like a spider's web up leaped his smoke
  • A-twisting higher and higher;
  • And still through the veil his watchful eye
  • 80 Burned with a fell desire.
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Manuscript Addition: 2
Editorial Description: pagination in upper right corner
  • A woman's voice came next to the wall:
  • “Father, my mother died,
  • 'Twas three months since that you drove her forth
  • At bitter Christmastide:
  • How could I care for your proffered gold
  • And quit my mother's side?
  • “For two months now I have begged my bread;
  • Father, I can no more:
  • My mother's blind & deaf in her grave,
  • 90 But her soul is at Heaven's door;
  • And though we're parted on this side death,
  • We may meet on the other further shore.”
  • Van Hunks laughed up at the scudding smoke:—
  • “Ay, go what way you will!
  • Of folly and pride, in life or death,
  • Let a woman take her fill!
  • And girl, even choose this road or that,
  • So we be asunder still!”
  • “Gossip, well said!” the old man shrieked,
  • 100 “And mark how the words come true!”
  • The smoke soared swiftly wildly around his head
  • In snakes of knotted blue;
  • And ever at heart of the inmost coil,
  • Two fiery eyes shot through.
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Manuscript Addition: 3
Editorial Description: pagination in upper right corner
  • Above the hearth was a carven frame
  • Where seven small mirrors shone;
  • There six bright moon-shapes circled round
  • A centre rayed like a sun;
  • And ever the reflex image dwelt
  • 110 Alike in every one.
  • No smokers' faces appeared there in now,
  • But there lo! by magic art,
  • Seven times one squalid chamber showed
  • The dull grave's counterpart;
  • For there two starving parents lay
  • With their starved babes heart to heart.
  • Then changed the scene. In the watered street,
  • 'Twixt houses dark dim and tall,
  • Like shaggy dogs the pollards shake
  • 120 Above the dark canal;
  • And a girl's thin form gleamed through the air night,
  • And sank; and that was all.
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Manuscript Addition: 4
Editorial Description: pagination in upper right corner
  • And then the smoker beheld once more more
  • Seven times his own hard face;
  • Half-dazed it seemed with the sudden sights,
  • But showed no sign of grace;
  • And seven times flashed those two fiery eyes
  • In the mirror's narrow space.
  • The hours wore on and still they sat
  • 130 'Mid the vapour's stifling cloud;
  • The one tow'rd towards sudden stupor sank,
  • And While the other laughed aloud!
  • Alas for the shrinking blinking owl,
  • With the vulture over him bowed!
  • 'Twas the second night of the wager now,
  • And the midnight hour was near,
  • That glance like a kindled cresset blazed:—
  • “Ho! gossip of mine, what cheer?”
  • But the smoke from the Dutchman's pipe pipe arose
  • 140 No longer swift and clear.
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Manuscript Addition: 5
Editorial Description: pagination in upper right corner
  • The door-bell rang: “Peace to this house!”—
  • 'Twas the pastor's voice that spoke.
  • Above Van Hunks's head still curled
  • A fitful flickering smoke,
  • As the last half-hour ere full midnight
  • From the booming clock-tower broke.
  • The old man doffed his bonnet & bowed cringed
  • As he opened the chamber door:
  • The priest cast never a glance his way,
  • 150 But crossed the polished floor
  • To where the Dutchman's head on his breast
  • Lolled with a torpid snore.
  • “Mynheer, your servant sought me out;
  • He says that day and night
  • You have sat——.” He shook the smoker's arm,
  • But shrank in sudden fright;
  • The arm dropped down like a weight of lead,
  • The face was dull and white.
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  • And now the old man stood astride,
  • 160 And taller he seemed to grow:
  • The pipe sat firm in his sneering lips,
  • And with victorious glow
  • Like dancing figures around its bowl
  • Did the smoke-wreaths come & go.
  • “Nay, nay,” he said, “our gossip sits
  • To contemplation bent;
  • On son and daughter afar, his mind
  • Is doubtless all intent;
  • Haply his silence breathes a prayer
  • 170 Ere the midnight hour be spent.”
  • “And who art thou?” the pastor cried
  • With a quaking countenance.
  • —“A smoke-dried crony of our good friend
  • Here rapt in pious trance.”
  • And his chuckle shook the vaporous sprites
  • To a madder, merrier dance.
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  • “Hence, mocking fiend, for I know thee now.
  • The pastor signed the cross.
  • Then the old man laughed & shrieked at once,
  • 180 As over turret and fosse
  • The midnight hour in the sleeping town
  • From bell to bell did toss.
  • “Too late, Poor Sir poor priest!” In the pastor's ear
  • So rang the scornful croak.
  • With that, a swoon fell over his sense;
  • And when at length he woke,
  • Two pipes lay shattered upon the floor,
  • The room was ful of smoke.

  • That hour a direful Master sped
  • 190 Home to his fiery place;
  • A shrieking wretch hung over his back
  • As he sank through nether space.
  • Of such a rider on such a steed
  • What tongue the flight shall trace?
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  • The bearer shook his burthen off
  • As he reached his retinue;
  • He has flung him into a knot of fiends,
  • Red, yellow, green and blue:
  • “I've brought a pipe for my private use,
  • 200 Go trim it, some of you!”
  • They've sliced the very crown from his head,—
  • Worse tonsure than a monk's—
  • Lopped arms and legs, stuck a red-hot tube
  • In his wretchedest of trunks;
  • And when the Devil wants his pipe
  • They bring him Jan Van Hunks.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 3-1846.dukems.rad.xml
Copyright: By permission of the Special Collections Library, Duke University