The Musicians Tale - The Wayside Inn - Part Third



    Svend Dyring he rideth adown the glade;
         I myself was young!
    There he hath wooed him so winsome a maid;
         Fair words gladden so many a heart.

    Together were they for seven years,
    And together children six were theirs.

    Then came Death abroad through the land,
    And blighted the beautiful lily-wand.

    Svend Dyring he rideth adown the glade,
    And again hath he wooed him another maid,

    He hath wooed him a maid and brought home a bride,
    But she was bitter and full of pride.

    When she came driving into the yard,
    There stood the six children weeping so hard.

    There stood the small children with sorrowful heart;
    From before her feet she thrust them apart.

    She gave to them neither ale nor bread;
    "Ye shall suffer hunger and hate," she said.

    She took from them their quilts of blue,
    And said: "Ye shall lie on the straw we strew."

    She took from them the great waxlight;
    "Now ye shall lie in the dark at night."

    In the evening late they cried with cold;
    The mother heard it under the mould.

    The woman heard it the earth below:
    "To my little children I must go."

    She standeth before the Lord of all:
    "And may I go to my children small?"

    She prayed him so long, and would not cease,
    Until he bade her depart in peace.

    "At cock-crow thou shalt return again;
    Longer thou shalt not there remain!"

    She girded up her sorrowful bones,
    And rifted the walls and the marble stones.

    As through the village she flitted by,
    The watch-dogs howled aloud to the sky.

    When she came to the castle gate,
    There stood her eldest daughter in wait.

    "Why standest thou here, dear daughter mine?
    How fares it with brothers and sisters thine?"

    "Never art thou mother of mine,
    For my mother was both fair and fine.

    "My mother was white, with cheeks of red,
    But thou art pale, and like to the dead."

    "How should I be fair and fine?
    I have been dead; pale cheeks are mine.

    "How should I be white and red,
    So long, so long have I been dead?"

    When she came in at the chamber door,
    There stood the small children weeping sore.

    One she braided, another she brushed,
    The third she lifted, the fourth she hushed.

    The fifth she took on her lap and pressed,
    As if she would suckle it at her breast.

    Then to her eldest daughter said she,
    "Do thou bid Svend Dyring come hither to me."

    Into the chamber when he came
    She spake to him in anger and shame.

    "I left behind me both ale and bread;
    My children hunger and are not fed.

    "I left behind me quilts of blue;
    My children lie on the straw ye strew.

    "I left behind me the great waxlight;
    My children lie in the dark at night.

    "If I come again unto your hall,
    As cruel a fate shall you befall!

    "Now crows the cock with feathers red;
    Back to the earth must all the dead.

    "Now crows the cock with feathers swart;
    The gates of heaven fly wide apart.

    "Now crows the cock with feathers white;
    I can abide no longer to-night."

    Whenever they heard the watch-dogs wail,
    They gave the children bread and ale.

    Whenever they heard the watch-dogs bay,
    They feared lest the dead were on their way.

    Whenever they heard the watch-dogs bark;
         I myself was young!
    They feared the dead out there in the dark.
         Fair words gladden so many a heart.


    Touched by the pathos of these rhymes,
    The Theologian said: "All praise
    Be to the ballads of old times
    And to the bards of simple ways,
    Who walked with Nature hand in hand,
    Whose country was their Holy Land,
    Whose singing robes were homespun brown
    From looms of their own native town,
    Which they were not ashamed to wear,
    And not of silk or sendal gay,
    Nor decked with fanciful array
    Of cockle-shells from Outre-Mer."

    To whom the Student answered: "Yes;
    All praise and honor!    I confess
    That bread and ale, home-baked, home-brewed,
    Are wholesome and nutritious food,
    But not enough for all our needs;
    Poets--the best of them--are birds
    Of passage; where their instinct leads
    They range abroad for thoughts and words,
    And from all climes bring home the seeds
    That germinate in flowers or weeds.
    They are not fowls in barnyards born
    To cackle o'er a grain of corn;
    And, if you shut the horizon down
    To the small limits of their town,
    What do you but degrade your bard
    Till he at last becomes as one
    Who thinks the all-encircling sun
    Rises and sets in his back yard?"

    The Theologian said again:
    "It may be so; yet I maintain
    That what is native still is best,
    And little care I for the rest.
    'T is a long story; time would fail
    To tell it, and the hour is late;
    We will not waste it in debate,
    But listen to our Landlord's tale."

    And thus the sword of Damocles
    Descending not by slow degrees,
    But suddenly, on the Landlord fell,
    Who blushing, and with much demur
    And many vain apologies,
    Plucking up heart, began to tell
    The Rhyme of one Sir Christopher.


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