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Title: Early English Hero Tales
Author: Marks, Jeannette Augustus
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                                THROUGH
                             GOLDEN DOORS
                                  TO
                          ENGLISH LITERATURE



                         THROUGH GOLDEN DOORS
                                  TO
                          ENGLISH LITERATURE

                             A NEW SERIES
                          BY JEANNETTE MARKS
                   _Lecturer at Mt. Holyoke College_


The master-stories of English literature told for young readers. The
author, who has been professor of English Literature at Mt. Holyoke
and the author of several successful books for both younger and older
readers, has been occupied for a long time in making a selection of the
best stories from the greatest English writers beginning with "Beowulf"
and the dawn of English letters.

The present volume offers masterpieces chosen from the earliest English
literature from the seventh to the fourteenth century, stories which
are not readily accessible.

The second volume will offer hero tales of the Middle English period,
from Chaucer and others.

In later volumes selections will be made from the masters of modern
English literature.


                       EARLY ENGLISH HERO TALES
                           From 600 to 1340
                      Other books in preparation
             _Each illustrated, 12mo, Cloth, 50 cents net_
                     HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS


[Illustration: MEDIEVAL LONDON
_From Manuscript 16 F. ii in the British Museum_]


[Illustration]


                                 EARLY
                                ENGLISH
                              HERO TALES

                                TOLD BY
                            JEANNETTE MARKS
                            WELLESLEY M.A.
                    LECTURER AT MT. HOLYOKE COLLEGE

                              ILLUSTRATED


                            [Illustration]


                           HARPER & BROTHERS
                           NEW YORK & LONDON



                 COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY HARPER & BROTHERS



                PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
                         PUBLISHED APRIL, 1915



                                  TO
                               H. M. C.



                               CONTENTS


  CHAP.                                                      PAGE

        INTRODUCTION                                          vii

  I.    THE FIRST ENGLISH HERO                                  1

  II.   WELSH MAGIC                                             9

  III.  THE BATTLE AT THE FORD                                 18

  IV.   CÆDMON THE COWHERD                                     30

  V.    THE SHEPHERD OF LAUDERDALE                             41

  VI.   THE BOY WHO WON A PRIZE                                48

  VII.  A FISHERMAN'S BOY                                      57

  VIII. THE WEREWOLF                                           68

  IX.   AT GEOFFREY'S WINDOW                                   75

  X.    A FAMOUS KITCHEN BOY                                   85

        CHRONOLOGY                                            101



                             ILLUSTRATIONS


  MEDIEVAL LONDON                                  _Frontispiece_
    (From Green's _Short History of the English People_.)

  KINGS IN ARMOR                                        _Page_ 27
    (From Green's _Short History of the English People_.)

  HENRY III. SAILING HOME FROM GASCONY, 1243              "    61
    (From Green's _Short History of the English People_.)

  KNIGHT IN ARMOR                                         "    87
    (From Green's _Short History of the English People_.)



                             INTRODUCTION


Supposing you were asked to enter a Great Palace? And within that
palace, you were told, were more than a thousand golden doors? And
those doors opened into rooms and upon gardens and balconies, all of
which were the most beautiful of palace rooms and gardens? And some
were more beautiful than anything the world had ever known before? Do
you think you would go through the gate to that palace?

And if you were told that in the palace were lamps so bright that they
lighted not only the palace, but cast a glow over the whole world?
And that these lamps hung from chains the ends of which you could
not see, just as Pryderi was not able to see the ends of the hanging
golden chains in the palace which he entered? And once within the Great
Palace you were not only better for being there, but also happier and
stronger and more beautiful, and never any more could you be lonely?
It sounds like an Aladdin's lamp, does it not, which, once seen and
touched, could bring so much beauty and power into our lives! Indeed,
it is Aladdin's lamp--the lamp of men's minds and souls. And the Great
Palace is the Palace of English Literature.

Over those doors are many names written--names never to be forgotten
while the English tongue is spoken. And in that palace there is
fairyland; there are giants and monsters; there are warrior heroes
like Beowulf, and saintly heroes like Cuthbert; there are noble boys
like Alfred; there are poets, princes, lovely ladies, little children,
spirited horses, faithful dogs; there are heard the sound of singing,
the playing of the harp, the beat of feet dancing, cries of gladness,
cries of sorrow, the rolling of the organ, the fluting of birds, the
laughter of water, and the whisper of every wind that has blown upon
the fields of the world; there are seen flowers of every marvelous and
starlike shape, of every rainbow hue, and jewels as shining as the
lamps hanging in the Great Palace, and fruits rare and strange filling
the Great Palace with sweet fragrance and color; there are rooms unlike
any rooms we have ever seen before; and the years are there--nearly
two thousand--numbered and made beautiful; there, too, are Wisdom and
Kindness and Courage and Faith and Modesty and Love and Self-Control,
coming and going hither and yon through the wide hallways or on service
bent up and down the narrow corridors.

It is a Palace of Enchantment, is it not? Yes, it is a Palace of
Enchantment, and I can think of no greater happiness, no stronger
assurance that we shall learn how to be our best selves and to rule
ourselves, no greater inspiration to be wise and kind while we are
boys and girls, and when we grow up no fuller promise of a good time
and many kinds of happiness and pleasure, than just to take the gate
into that palace, listen to its songs and poems and stories, taste of
its fruits, hold some of its flowers in our hands, grow warm in its
sunshine, dream in its moonlight, and watch the fairies dance with the
feet that dance there, play with its jewels, listen to the whisper of
the winds that blow around the world, lay our hands in the brave hands
of Love and Courage, Wisdom and Kindness, who dwell there; knock on
those golden doors where we would go in and be alone; and come out
again, knowing that we have won the great enchantment, which is the
companionship of beautiful and imperishable story and poem, song and
play.

It is a wonderful Palace of English Literature in which we shall see
many marvels: the first English hero, Beowulf, and the monster Grendel;
all the fortunes and misfortunes of the little, radiant-browed Welsh
boy called Taliesin, the battle of the friends Cuchulain and Ferdiad,
who were betrayed by the false Irish Queen Maeve; how song came to our
first great English poet, Cædmon, in the cow-stall at the Monastery
of Whitby (670); of the courage of a shepherd lad who had became a
saint, and of even the seals who loved St. Cuthbert (seventh century);
of the young Prince Alfred who won a book as a prize (849-900); of
Havelok, the son of the King of Denmark, who lived with Fisherman Grim
at Grimsby; of a man who was under enchantment as a wolf part of the
week and whom Marie de France called a Werewolf; of all the marvels
that Geoffrey of Monmouth (1147) saw from his window; and especially of
the wonders which King Arthur's magician, Merlin, worked; and of the
red and white dragons that came out of a drained pond; and of a famous
kitchen-boy who became a great knight, and about whom Sir Thomas Malory
tells one exciting adventure in the _Morte d'Arthur_ (1469).

What boys and girls will enter the gate with me? Shall we go into the
Great Palace to-day? And on what golden door shall we rap first that we
may be admitted?

                                                                  J. M.
  SOUTH HADLEY, MASS., _January, 1915_.



                       EARLY ENGLISH HERO TALES



                       EARLY ENGLISH HERO TALES



                                   I

                        THE FIRST ENGLISH HERO


[Illustration]

The first golden door we open in the Great Palace shows us a hero, and
that is as it should be, for the English have always been brave. Yet
probably the poem about this first English hero is not the first poem.
The first is a poem by the name of the "Far Traveller." "Many men and
rulers have I known," says this traveler; "through many strange lands
I have fared throughout the spacious earth." This poem may not be of
great value, but it is a wonderful experience to open this door and
see back, back, back, thousands of years to the very cradle in which
English literature was born. This first Englishman was a wanderer, as
all Englishmen, despite their love of home, have been, or else they
would not hold so many great dominions as they do to-day. Then, too,
there was "Deor's Lament," with its sad refrain,

    _Thas ofer eode, thisses swa maeg_
    (That was overcome, so may this be)

and its grave thought that "The All-wise Lord of the world worketh
many changes." One more poem, or, better, fragment, is spoken of
in _Beowulf_. "The Fight at Finnesburg" is full of the savagery
and fierceness of warfare; it is even more wild and barbarous than
"Beowulf."

Now let us open the door over which is written _Beowulf_. It is one
of the oldest and rudest of the golden doors in the Great Palace of
English Poetry, but also one of the most precious. The pictures we are
to see are beautiful sometimes. More often they are cruel and pitiless.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The sun was shining, the wind was blowing, the air was as
sweet-smelling as if it rose from fields of lilies, and it was the very
springtime of the world some two thousand years ago.

By song little Widsith has seen his master bind all men and all beasts.
Not only the fish and worms forgot their tasks, but even the cattle
stopped grazing, and, where they passed, men and children paused to
listen. They were on their way to the Great Hall to have a sight of
the hero, Beowulf.

Behind them lay the sea and the coast-guard pacing up and down. Before
them, landward, rose a long, high-roofed hall. It had gable ends from
which towered up huge stag-horns. And the roof shone only less brightly
than the sun, for it was covered with metal.

About the Great Hall toward which little Widsith and the master were
traveling was the village made up of tiny houses, each in its own
patch of tilled ground and apple-trees, and with fields in which sheep
and oxen and horses were pastured. Narrow paths wound in and out
everywhere. In front of the Hall was a broad meadow across which the
king and queen and their lords and ladies were used to walk.

There was much going on that day in Heorot. Flocks of children were
playing about the pretty paths. Mothers and aunts and older sisters sat
spinning in the open doorways. Beyond the wide meadow young men and
boys were leading or riding spirited horses up and down to exercise
them.

And all--men, women, and children alike--were talking about Beowulf,
who had come to kill the monster Grendel and free the people of Heorot.

Beowulf had not much more than entered the Hall when the scôp, or
singer, as little Widsith's master was called, entered too. In those
days singers were welcome everywhere. They saw Beowulf stride mightily
across the many-colored floor of Heorot and go up to the old King. And
they heard his voice, which sounded like the rumble of a heavy sea on
their rock-bound coast.

"Hrothgar!" he said to the old King, "across the sea's way have I come
to help thee."

"Of thee, Beowulf, have we need," replied the old King in tears, "for
Heorot has suffered much from the monster."

"I will deliver thee, Hrothgar," said Beowulf, in his great voice;
"thee and all who dwell in Heorot."

"Steep and stony are the sea cliffs, joyless our woods and
wolf-haunted, robbed is our Heorot, for to Grendel can no man do aught.
He breaks the bones of my people. And those of my people he cannot eat
in Heorot he drags away on to the moor and devours alive."

And the old, bald-headed King, seated on his high seat in the Hall
between his pretty daughter and his tired Queen, sighed as he thought
of the approaching night. Yet, now that Beowulf had come, he hoped.

Together they gathered about the banquet. Beowulf sat among the sons
of the old King. The walls inside were as bright as the roof, and
gold-gilded, and the great fires from which smoke poured out through
openings in the roof were cheerful and warm.

Then little Widsith's master was called up, and Widsith placed the harp
for him. Clear rose the song from the scôp's lips, and all the company
was still. For a while they forgot the monster which, even now with
the falling dusk, was striding up from the sea, perhaps by the same
path Beowulf and Widsith and the scôp had come. Already it had grown
dark under heaven and darker in the Hall, and the place was filled with
shadowy shapes.

And now came Grendel stalking from the cloudy cliffs toward the Gold
Hall. It would have been hard for four men to have carried his huge
head, so big it was. The nails of his hands were like iron, and large
as the monstrous claws of a wild beast. And, since there was a spell
upon him, no sword or spear could harm him.

While others slept--even frightened little Widsith, who had thought he
could never sleep--Beowulf lay awake, ready with his naked hands to
fight Grendel.

Suddenly the monster smote the door of Heorot, and it cracked asunder.
In he strode, flame in his eyes, and before Beowulf could spring upon
him or any one awake, he snatched a sleeping warrior and tore him to
pieces.

Beowulf, who had the strength of thirty men in his body, gripped him,
and the dreadful battle and noise began. The benches were overturned,
the walls cracked, the fires were scattered, and dust rose in clouds
from the many-colored floor as Beowulf wrestled with Grendel.

The scôp had seized his harp and was playing a great battle song, but
music has no power over such evil as Grendel's. Beowulf himself, who
was struggling to break the bone-house of the monster in the din of the
mighty battle, did not hear it, either. And the song was lost in the
noise and dust which rose together in Heorot.

Even the warriors, who struck Grendel with their swords, could not help
Beowulf, for neither sword nor spear could injure the monster. Only the
might of the hero, himself, could do aught.

At last, with the strength of thirty men, Beowulf gripped the monster.
And Grendel, with rent sinews and bleeding body, fled away to the
ocean cave where he had lived. And there in the cave, with the sea
blood-stained and boiling above him, he died, outlawed for evil.

                   *       *       *       *       *

In the second part of this poem Beowulf was living as king in his own
land, and ruling like the great and brave king he was. But a huge old
dragon who was guarding a treasure was robbed. So angry was the dragon
that he left his heap of treasure and came down upon the land of King
Beowulf, burning it and terrifying the people. Then Beowulf, who had
become an old man, felt that he must fight to save his people. He went
out and slew the dragon, but was himself scorched to death by the fiery
breath of the dragon.

"Beowulf" is the epic of our old English period. An epic is an
heroic poem. In "Beowulf" the story of Beowulf's great deeds--such
as his struggle with Grendel and Grendel's mother--and of his death
is told. Probably it was sung before the fifth century, when the
English conquered Britain, for England itself is not mentioned in this
wonderful poem. Indeed, the country described is that of the Goths of
Sweden and of the Danes. Your geography will show you where Sweden and
Denmark are. When the English forefathers came to England they brought
this poem with them, perhaps in the form of short poems which were
woven together by a Christian Northumbrian poet in the eighth century
or thereabouts.

It will be interesting to see how this wild moorland, over which
Grendel stalked and over which the dreadful dragon dragged his length,
became, with the cultivation of the land and advancing civilization,
the gentle and beautiful dwelling of the fairies. The fairies will not
live where it is too wild.

Much is to be learned from this epic of the customs and the manners of
the men who came to Britain and conquered it. We can see these people
as they lived in their sea-circled settlements, the ships they used to
sail upon the sea, how their villages looked, and the boys and girls
and grown-ups in them; the rocks and hills and ocean waves that made
up their out-of-door world; the good times they had; their games and
amusements. We come to know the respect that was given to their women;
we see the bravery of the men in facing death, and we hear the songs
they sang.

"Beowulf" is a great poem--English literature knows no poem that is
more sacred to it--but it is a sorrowful poem, too. These people
believed in Fate, for Christ had not yet been brought to them with His
message of love and peace and joy. English poetry to-day is much more
joyous--because it is Christian poetry--than it ever could have been if
England had remained a heathen land. Yet English poetry still has much
in common with "Beowulf," in love of the sea and worship of nature, and
a strange sense of Fate.

But we must close this door over which is written _Beowulf_, for the
Great Palace is full of many doors and many stories, and we have only
just begun our journey from golden door to golden door.



                                  II

                              WELSH MAGIC


On the other side of most of the golden doors through which we shall
pass, our own tongue, English, is spoken. Yet in this wonderful palace,
full of beautiful thoughts and beautiful expression, there are two
doors which when thrown open we may enter, but where our English
would not be understood. They both admit us to the poems and prose of
families of the same race--a race called Celtic. Over one door of this
family, however, is written _Cymric_, and all that is Cymric is written
and spoken in Welsh. On the other door is _Gaelic_, and all that is
Gaelic is Irish and Scotch. And the Great Palace of English Literature,
with its innumerable golden doors, would not be at all the same palace
if it were not for these two little doors, for out of them has come
much that is best in poetry and prose.

The Welsh were already in Britain when the so-called "English" landed
on the island, and these English, after one hundred and fifty years,
succeeded in driving the Welsh, or Cymru, back to the mountains and
coast on the west of the island. There they lived among the mountains,
holding fast to their customs and to their songs and poetry. And by
and by, when it was time for this miracle to happen, the little golden
door over which was written _Cymric_, or _Welsh_, opened, and out of it
there passed one of the most beautiful story-cycles the world has ever
known, the tales about King Arthur. But of this great story we shall
hear later.

This little golden door may be the oldest in all the palace, for long
before the Arthur story was born there were other tales which the Cymru
loved. There is a word "prehistoric" which accurately describes some
of these stories known as _Mabinogion_, which means, literally, Tales
for the Children, or Little Ones. This famous book was translated from
Welsh into English by Lady Charlotte Guest in 1838. Among the oldest of
these tales is "Taliesin," which has behind it a prehistoric singer, a
mythic singer.

And now let us open that door over which is written _Cymric_, or
_Welsh_, and look in.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Long ago, at the beginning of King Arthur's time and the famous Round
Table, there lived a man whose name was Tegid Voel. His wife was called
Caridwen. And there was born to them a son, Avagddu, who was the
ugliest boy in all the world.

When Caridwen looked at Avagddu, and knew beyond any doubt that he was
the ugliest boy in all the world, she was much troubled. Therefore she
decided to boil a caldron of Inspiration and Science for her son, so
that Avagddu might hold an honorable position because of his knowledge.

Caridwen filled the caldron and began to boil it, and all knew that it
must not cease boiling for one year and a day--that is, until three
drops of Inspiration had been distilled from it. Gwion Bach she put to
stirring the caldron, and Morda, a blind man, was to keep the caldron
boiling day and night for the whole year. And every day Caridwen
gathered charm-bearing herbs and put them in to boil.

And it was one day toward the close of the year that three drops of the
liquid in the caldron flew out upon the finger of Gwion Bach, who was
stirring the liquid. It burnt him, and he put his finger in his mouth.
Because of the magic of those drops he knew all that was going to
happen. And he was afraid of the wiles of Caridwen, and in fear he ran
away.

All the liquor in the caldron, except the three charm-bearing drops
that had fallen upon the finger of Gwion Bach, was poisonous, and
therefore the caldron burst. When Caridwen saw the work of her whole
year lost, she was angry and seized a stick of wood. With the stick she
struck Morda on the head.

"Thou hast disfigured me wrongfully," he said, "for I am innocent."

"Thou speakest truth," she replied; "it was Gwion Bach robbed me."

And Caridwen went forth after Gwion Bach, running.

When little Gwion saw her coming, because of the magic drops that had
touched his finger, he was able to change himself into a hare. But
thereupon Caridwen changed herself into a greyhound, and there was a
race fleeter almost than the wind. Caridwen was nearly upon him when
little Gwion turned toward the river and became a fish. Then Caridwen
changed herself from a greyhound into an otter, and chased little Gwion
under the water. So close was the chase that he had to turn himself
into a bird of the air. Whereupon Caridwen became a hawk and followed
him and gave him no rest in the sky. She was just swooping down upon
him, and little Gwion thought that the hour of his death had come,
when he saw a heap of winnowed wheat on the floor of the barn, and
he dropped into the wheat and turned himself into one of the grains.
And then what do you think happened? Caridwen changed herself into a
high-crested black hen, hopped into the wheat, scratching it with her
feet, found poor little Gwion Bach, who had once been a boy, then in
turn became a rabbit, a fish, a bird of the air, and was now a grain of
wheat.

Caridwen swallowed him! But so powerful was the magic of those three
drops of Inspiration which had touched his finger, that little Gwion
appeared in the world again, entering it as a beautiful child. And even
Caridwen, because of his beauty, could not bear to kill him, so she
wrapped him in a leathern bag and cast him into the sea. That was on
the twenty-ninth day of April.

Where Caridwen threw little Gwion into the sea was near the
fishing-weir of Gwyddno by Aberstwyth. And even as Caridwen had the
ugliest son in all the world, so had Gwyddno the most unlucky, and his
name was Elphin. This year Gwyddno had told Elphin that he might have
the drawing of the weir on May Eve. Usually the fish they drew from the
weir were worth about one hundred pounds in good English silver. His
father thought that if luck were ever going to come to Elphin, it would
come with the drawing of the weir on May Eve.

But on the next day, when Elphin went to look, there was nothing in the
weir except a leathern bag hanging on a pole.

One of the men by the weir said to Elphin: "Now hast thou destroyed the
virtue of the weir. There is nothing in it but this worthless bag."

"How now," said Elphin, "there may be in this bag the value of an
hundred pounds."

They took the bag down from the pole, and Elphin opened it, and as he
opened it he saw the forehead of a beautiful boy.

"Behold a radiant brow!" cried Elphin. "Taliesin shall he be called."

Although Elphin lamented his bad luck at the weir, yet he carried the
child home gently on his ambling horse. Suddenly the little boy began
to sing a song in which he told Elphin that the day would come when he
would be of more service to him than the value of three hundred salmon.

And this song of comfort was the first poem the little, radiant-browed
Taliesin ever sang. But when Gwyddno, the father of Elphin, asked him
what he was, he sang again and told the story of how he had fled in
many shapes from Caridwen; as a frog, as a crow, as a chain, as a rose
entangled in a thicket, as a wolf cub, as a thrush, as a fox, as a
martin, as a squirrel, as a stag's antler, as iron in glowing fire, as
a spear-head from the hand of one who fights, as a fierce bull, as a
bristly boar, and in many other forms, only to be gobbled up in the end
as a grain of wheat by a black hen.

"What is this?" said Gwyddno to his son Elphin.

"It is a bard--a poet," the son answered.

"Alas! what will he profit thee?"

"I shall profit Elphin more than the weir has ever profited thee,"
answered Taliesin.

And the little, radiant-browed boy began to sing another song:


    "Wherefore should a stone be hard;
     Why should a thorn be sharp-pointed;
     Who is hard like flint;
     Who is salt like brine;
     Who is sweet like honey;
     Who rides in the gale?"


Then bade he Elphin wager the King that he had a horse better and
swifter than any of the King's horses. Thus Elphin did, and the King
set the day and the time for the race at the place called the Marsh of
Rhiannedd. And thither every one followed the King, who took with him
four-and-twenty of his swiftest horses.

The course was marked and the horses were placed for running. Then
in came Taliesin with four-and-twenty twigs of holly, which he had
burned black, and he put them in the belt of the youth who was to ride
Elphin's horse. He told this youth to let all the King's horses get
ahead of him; but as he overtook one horse after the other he was to
take one of the burnt twigs of holly and strike the horse over the
crupper, then let the twig fall. This the youth who rode Elphin's horse
was to do to each of the King's horses as he overtook it, and he was
to watch where his own horse should stumble, and throw down his cap on
that spot.

Thereupon the youth who rode Elphin's horse, and all the King's riders,
pricked forth upon their steeds, their horses with bridles of linked
gold on their heads, and gold saddles upon their backs. And the racing
horses with their shell-formed hoofs cast up sods, so swiftly did they
run, like swallows in the air. Blades of grass bent not beneath the
fleet, light hoofs of the coursers.

Elphin's horse won the race. Taliesin brought Elphin, when the race was
over, to the place where the horse had stumbled and where the youth had
thrown down his cap as he had been told. Elphin did as Taliesin bade
him and put workmen to dig a hole in this spot. And when they had dug
the ground deep enough, there was found a large caldron full of gold.

Then said Taliesin: "Elphin, behold! See what I give thee for having
taken me out of the weir and the leathern bag! Is this not worth more
to thee than three hundred salmon?"

                   *       *       *       *       *

In the _Mabinogion_ stories, first collected and set down some time in
the twelfth century, we live in a world of enchantment and fairies.
Those tales are full of gold--the gold of a wondrous imagination.
It would be nice if we could keep this door, over which is written
_Welsh_, open long enough so that I might tell you the story of
Pryderi, too, and how Pryderi found a castle where no castle had ever
been, how he entered it and saw "In the center of the castle floor
... a fountain with marble-work around it, and on the margin of the
fountain a golden bowl on a marble slab, and chains hanging from the
air, to which he saw no end." What happened to him when he seized
this cup, how the castle faded away, how the heroes of the story were
changed to mice--for none of this can we hold open the golden door any
longer. The ends of the golden chains of many a story are not to be
seen by us.



                                  III

                        THE BATTLE AT THE FORD


It is interesting to think, is it not, that if it had not been for
those two little Celtic doors of gold over one of which was written
_Cymric_, or _Welsh_, and over the other, _Gaelic_, or _Irish_, our
Great Palace of English Literature could not have been the same palace,
nor half so beautiful. It is not only that there would not have been so
many wonderful golden doors leading into story-land, but the stories
themselves would not have been told in the same way. The Scotch, too,
who belong to the Celtic family, are almost as great story-tellers as
the Welsh and Irish.

When the Roman Tacitus wrote about the Welsh and Irish he said, "Their
language differs little." And even their buildings, Cæsar said, were
"almost similar." What was true of their speech and their buildings
was more true of the gifts they have left in the Great Palace. They
have the same delightful way of telling a story; what they have to say
naturally falls into conversations, and they are quick as a wink in the
wit and fun and beauty and sadness of what they do say.

This little golden door and the wonderful room beyond it were, perhaps,
longer in being built than the Welsh. These stories and poems of the
Irish were composed at the time of Cæsar and the Christian era. The
epic cycle of Conchubar and Cuchulain is the first group of tales in
Irish literature. They are made up of prose with occasional verses here
and there. The Irish are very clever at invention, and these stories
are among the most wonderful ever written or sung. Among the best of
these stories is one we shall open a door to listen to--the story of
Ferdiad and Cuchulain in "The Battle at the Ford."

The dialogue in "The Battle at the Ford" shows us plainly how great the
Irish dramatic gift has always been. They were born makers of plays.
Just see how the Irish genius makes Ferdiad and Cuchulain talk, and how
lifelike they are! The story is there, not much changed from what it
was two thousand years ago, and shows all the Irish sense of form. By
sense of form is meant simply the story's way of expressing itself. You
see, a story or poem is like a human being. It has not only thoughts,
but also a body to hold these thoughts. It is because of these two
golden doors, over which are written the words, _Welsh_, _Irish_, that
English Literature is likely to produce most of the great plays which
will be acted, and most of the great novels.

Every Christian and Jewish boy and girl knows the Bible story of David
and Jonathan--that Jonathan who loved David as his soul, and David
who loved Jonathan more than a brother can love. This friendship of a
king's son with the son of a shepherd was very beautiful and tender and
pure. "The Battle at the Ford" is not so gentle a story, but it is,
nevertheless, and despite the treachery of the Queen and the sad end of
Ferdiad, the David and Jonathan story of Irish Literature.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The men of Ireland settled it that Ferdiad and Cuchulain should fight
the next day. But when they sent messengers to fetch Ferdiad he would
not come, for he learned that they wanted him to fight against his
friend Cuchulain.

Then Maeve, the Queen, sent the Druids after him, who by their hurtful
poems about Ferdiad should raise three blisters on his face--the
blisters of Shame, Blemish, and Reproach.

So Ferdiad had to come to answer the Queen, Maeve. She offered him
great riches if he would fight against his friend Cuchulain--speckled
satins and silver and gold, with lands, horses, and bridles.

But to Maeve Ferdiad replied, "If you offered me land and sea I would
not take them without the sun and moon."

For he loved his friend Cuchulain so that there was no wealth which
could tempt Ferdiad to go out against him to wound him.

"But," said Maeve, "you shall have your fill of the jewels of the
earth. Here is my brooch with its hooked pin and my daughter,
Findabair."

"Nay," answered Ferdiad, "these things and all things like unto them
shall remain yours, for there is nothing I would take to go into battle
against my friend Cuchulain. Nothing shall come between him and me--he
who is the half of my heart without fault, and I the half of his own
heart. By my spear, were Cuchulain killed, I would be buried in his
grave--the one grave for the two of us! Misfortune on you, Maeve,
misfortune on you for trying to put your face between us!"

Then Maeve considered how she should stir him up and thus get her own
ends.

Aloud she said to her people, "Is it a true word Cuchulain spoke?"

"What word was that?" asked Ferdiad, sharply.

"He said," answered Maeve, "that there would be no wonder in it did you
fall in the first trial of arms against him."

Then was Ferdiad angry. "That had Cuchulain no right to say! If it be
true he said this thing, then will I fight with him to-morrow!"

At that Fergus left Ferdiad and Maeve, and went out in his chariot to
tell Cuchulain what had happened.

"I give my word," exclaimed Cuchulain, "for my friend to come against
me is not my wish!"

"Ferdiad's anger is stirred up," said Fergus, "and he has no fear of
you."

"Be quiet," replied Cuchulain, "for I can stand against him anywhere!"

"It will go hard with you getting the better of him," answered Fergus,
"for he has the strength of a hundred."

"My word and oath," said Cuchulain, "it is I who will be victorious
over Ferdiad."

Then went Fergus joyfully back to the encampment. But Ferdiad, gloomy
and heavy-hearted, slept only through the early part of the night.
Toward the end of night he told his driver to harness his horses.

"Ferdiad," said the driver, "it would be better for you to stop here,
for grief will come of that meeting with Cuchulain."

Yet the chariot was yoked and they went forward to the ford, and day
and its full light came upon them there. Then Ferdiad slept while he
waited for the coming of Cuchulain.

With the full light of day Cuchulain himself rose up, and said to his
driver, "Laeg, yoke the chariot, for the man who comes to meet us
to-day is an early riser."

"The horses are harnessed," answered Laeg.

With that Cuchulain leaped into the chariot, and about him shouted the
people of the gods of Dana, and the witches and the fairies.

Then Ferdiad's driver heard them coming, the straining of the harness,
the creaking of the chariot, the ringing of the armor and the shields,
and the thunder of the horses' hoofs.

"Good Ferdiad," said the driver, laying his hand upon his master, "rise
up. Cuchulain comes, and he is coming not slowly, but quick as the wind
or as water from a high cliff or like swift thunder."

And they saw Cuchulain coming, swooping down on them like a hawk from a
cliff on a day of hard wind. Cuchulain drew up on the north side of the
ford.

"I am happy at your coming," said Ferdiad.

"Till this day would I have been glad to hear that welcome," answered
Cuchulain; "but now it is no longer the welcome of a friend."

Then each spoke unfriendly words and each began to boast.

"Before the setting of the sun to-night," said Ferdiad, "you will be
fighting as with a mountain, and it is not white that battle will be."

"You are fallen into a gap of danger," answered Cuchulain, "and the end
of your life has come."

"Leave off your boasting," shouted Ferdiad, "you heart of a bird in a
cage, you giggling fellow."

But to this Cuchulain replied, "You were my heart companion, you were
my people, you were my family--I never found one who was dearer."

"What is the use of this talk?" asked Ferdiad.

"Good Ferdiad," answered Cuchulain, "it is not right for you to come
out against me through the meddling of Maeve. Do not break your
oath not to fight with me. Do not break friendship. We were heart
companions, comrades, and sharing one bed."

And Ferdiad answered: "Do not be remembering our companionship, for it
will not protect you this day. It is I will give you your first wounds."

Then began they with their casting weapons--their round-handled spears
and their little quill spears and their ivory-hilted knives and their
ivory-hafted spears, and these weapons were flying to and fro like
bees on the wing on a summer's day. Yet good as the throwing was, the
defense was better, and neither hurt the other. There was no cast that
did not hit the protecting shields, and by noon their weapons were all
blunted against the faces and bosses of the shields.

So they left these weapons and took to their straight spears. And from
the middle of midday till the fall of evening each threw spears at the
other. But good as the defense was, in that time each wounded the other.

"Let us leave this, now," said Ferdiad.

Then each came to the other and put his hands around the neck of the
other and gave him three kisses. And that night one inclosure held
their horses and at one fire sat their chariot-drivers. And of every
healing herb that was put on Cuchulain's wounds Cuchulain sent an equal
share westward across the ford for the wounds of Ferdiad. And of food
and drink Ferdiad sent a fair share northward to Cuchulain and his men.

And in the morning they rose up and came to the ford of battle.

"What weapons shall we use to-day?" asked Cuchulain.

"To-day is your choice, for I made the choice yesterday," answered
Ferdiad.

"Then let us take our great broad spears, for so by the end of evening
shall we be nearer the end of the fight."

From the twilight of the early morning till the fall of evening each
cut at and wounded the other, till, were it the custom of birds in
their flight to pass through the bodies of men, they might have done so
on this day.

"Let us stop from this, now," said Cuchulain, "for our horses and men
are tired and down-hearted. Let us put the quarrel away for a while."

So they threw their spears into the hands of their chariot-drivers,
and each put his hand around the neck of the other and gave him three
kisses. And that night they slept on wounded men's pillows their
chariot-drivers had made for them. A full share of every charm and
spell used to cure the wounds of Cuchulain was sent to Ferdiad. And of
food Ferdiad sent a share.

Again early on the morrow they came to the ford of battle, and there
was a dark look on Ferdiad that day.

"It is bad you are looking to-day," said Cuchulain.

"It is not from fear or dread of you I am looking this way," answered
Ferdiad.

"No one has ever put food to his lips, Ferdiad, and no one has ever
been born for whose sake I would have hurt you."

"Cuchulain," cried Ferdiad, "it was not you, but Maeve, who has
betrayed us, and now my word and my name will be worth nothing if I go
back without doing battle with you."

And that day they fought with their swords, and each hacked at the
other from dawn till evening. When they threw their swords from them
into the hands of their chariot-drivers, their parting that night was
sad and down-hearted.

Early the next morning Ferdiad rose up and went by himself to the ford,
and there clad himself in his shirt of striped silk with its border
of speckled gold, over that a coat of brown leather, and on his head
a crested helmet of battle. Taking his strong spear in his right hand
and sword in his left, he began to show off very cunningly, wonderful
feats that were made up that day by himself against Cuchulain.

[Illustration: KINGS IN ARMOR
_MS. Camb. Univ. Libr. Ee. iii. 59_ C. A.D. 1245]

But when Cuchulain came to the ford, it was his turn to choose the
weapons for the day. And they fought all the morning. By midday the
anger of each was hot upon him, and Cuchulain leaped up onto the bosses
of Ferdiad's shield, but Ferdiad tossed him from him like a bird on
the brink of the ford, or as foam is thrown from a wave. Then did
Cuchulain leap with the quickness of the wind and the lightness of a
swallow, and lit on the boss of Ferdiad's shield. But Ferdiad shook his
shield and cast Cuchulain from him. Cuchulain's anger came on him like
flame; and so close was the fight that their shields were broken and
loosened, that their spears were bent from their points to their hilts;
and so close was the fight that they drove the river from its bed, and
that their horses broke away in fear and madness.

Then Ferdiad gave Cuchulain a stroke of the sword and hid it in his
body. And Cuchulain took his spear, Gae Bulg, cast it at Ferdiad, and
it passed through his body so that the point could be seen.

"O Cuchulain," cried Ferdiad, when Gae Bulg pierced him, "it was not
right that I should fall by your hand! My end is come, my ribs will not
hold my heart. I have not done well in the battle."

Then Cuchulain ran toward him and put his two arms about him, and laid
him by the ford northward. And he began to keen and lament: "What are
joy and shouting to me now? It is to madness I am driven after the
thing I have done. O Ferdiad, there will never be born among the men of
Connaught who will do deeds equal to yours!

"O Ferdiad, you were betrayed to your death! You to die, I to be
living. Our parting for ever is a grief for ever! We gave our word
that to the end of time we would not go against each other.

"Dear to me was your beautiful ruddiness, dear to me your comely form,
dear to me your clear gray eye, dear your wisdom and your talk, and
dear to me our friendship!

"It was not right you to fall by my hand; it was not a friendly ending.
My grief! I loved the friend to whom I have given a drink of red blood.
O Ferdiad, this thing will hang over me for ever! Yesterday you were
strong as a mountain. And now there is nothing but a shadow!"



                                  IV

                          CÆDMON THE COWHERD


A very great modern poet, Coleridge, who wrote "The Ancient Mariner,"
said that prose was words in their best order, but that _poetry was the
best words in their best order_. This is a simple and good definition
of poetry. Yet there is even more than best words in their best order
in the room beyond the door over which is written _Poetry_. Perhaps,
however, beautiful words in their best order would always teach us to
find what is beautiful and to love the good. I do not know. Do you?

Cædmon's poem, written about 670, marks the beginning of English
poetry in Great Britain, for "Beowulf" was first sung in another
land--the land of the conquerors of England--before it was brought
to British soil. The verses of Cædmon's poetry are as stormy as the
sea which beats at the bottom of the cliffs of Whitby, on which rose
the monastery of Streoneshalh. Cædmon was at first a servant in this
monastery, but when the power to sing came to him it lifted not only
Cædmon himself to something better than he had been; it has also lifted
men and women ever since to better ways of thinking and feeling and to
greater happiness than they would ever have had without English poetry.
Bede, who wrote about Cædmon, said, "He did not learn the art of poetry
from men, nor of men, but from God." Cædmon sang many songs, chiefly
songs about stories in the Bible. Our first poetry was religious. "Dark
and true and tender is the north," and true and tender is all great
English poetry since that most precious of all the golden doors was
thrown open in the Great Palace of English Literature.

Almost more interesting than the stories which Cædmon resung for the
world is the story of the way the gift of song came to Cædmon.

                   *       *       *       *       *

One day a little boy stood by a fishing-boat from which he had just
leaped. He dug his toe in the sand and looked up to the edge of the
rocky cliff above him.

"What dost see, lad?" said his uncle, who was tossing his catch of fish
to the sand; "creatures of the mist in the clouds yonder?"

"Nay, uncle," answered Finan, "there is no Grendel in the clouds.
Last night at the Hall a man sang to the harp that Grendel was a
moor-treader. Also he told of the deeds of the hero Beowulf, and he
said that Beowulf had killed Grendel."

Finan's eyes were on the distant moor, which was the color of flame in
the evening light. Already twinkling above were little stars bright as
the sheen of elves. There, he knew, for everybody said so, lived elf
and giant and monster. There in the moor pools lived the water-elves.
Across its flame of heather strode mighty march-gangers like Grendel,
and in the dark places of the mountains lived a dragon, crouched above
his pile of gold and treasure.

There stood the miraculous tree, of great size, on which were carved
the figures of beasts and birds and strange letters which told what
gods the heathen worshiped before the gentle religion of Christ was
brought to England. There lived the Wolf-Man, too, so friendless and
wild that he became the comrade of the wolves which howled in those
dark places. There lived a bear, old and terrible, and the wild boar
rooting up acorns with his huge curved tusks.

Nearer the village was the wolf's-head tree--more terrible tree than
any in the mysteries of forest and fen-land. This was the gallows on
which the village folk hung those who did evil. Finan could see the
tree where it stood alone in the sunset light. And he heard the rough
cawing of ravens as they settled down into its dark branches to roost.

"Caw, caw," croaked one raven, "ba-a-d man, ba-ad man."

"Caw, caw," sang another raven, "ba-ad."

Then they flapped their wings and settled to their sleep.

"Uncle," Finan said, "I will go up the cliffside."

The fisherman looked up. He heard the chanting from the church, and saw
an immense white cross upright on the cliff's edge. But he knew not of
what adventure little Finan was thinking.

"Aye," he said, "go. Perhaps you will see the blessed Hild."

So it came about that little Finan climbed the cliff on that evening
which was to prove a night wonderful in its miracle. There was born
that night that which, like the love of Christ, has made children's
lives better and happier.

Finan reached the top of the cliff by those steps which were cut into
it, and then took the main road, paved and straight, which led toward
the Great Hall. He went along slowly under the apple-trees. He saw a
black-haired Welsh woman draw water. Little children not so big as
Finan were sitting on the steps by their mothers, who were spinning
in their doorways. He passed a dog gnawing a bone flung to it for its
supper.

A cobbler, laying by his tools, looking up, saw Finan and greeted
him. A jeweler was fixing ornaments on a huge horn he had polished.
Carpenters were leaving a little cottage which they were building.
The road was full of men--swineherds and cowherds, plowboys and
wood-choppers from the forests beyond, gardeners and shepherds--all on
their way to the Great Hall. Some men there were in armor, too, their
long hair floating over their shoulders.

Inside the windows, which in those days contained no window-glass,
torches and firelight would soon begin to flame, and mead would be
passed. Already a loud horn was calling all who would to come.

Suddenly something sharp stabbed Finan, and he cried out.

A man, a woman, and a little child came rushing from one of the
household yards, flapping their garments and screaming: "The bees! The
bees!"

They had just found their precious hive empty. The bees had swarmed,
and unless they could find them there would be no more sweet-smelling
mead made from honey in that household that year.

Another bee stung Finan. And there they were clinging to a low apple
bough just above his head. They hung in a great cluster, like a bunch
of dark grapes.

"Dame," said a cowherd, who was in the road, to the people who were
crying out for their bees, "yonder lad knows where the bees are."

Finan rubbed his head and looked up at the angry, humming swarm.

"Aye," he said, and laughed.

"Throw gravel on the swarming bees," called the cowherd, Cædmon.

The man and woman and Finan took handfuls of gravel from the roadside
and flung them over the bees, and sang again and again, "Never to the
wood, fly ye wildly more!"

Then they laughed, and the bees swarmed.

"Now," said Cædmon, who was a wise cowherd, "hang veneria on the hive,
and if ye would have them safe lay on the hive a plant of madder. Then
can naught lure them away."

When they reached the Hall folk were already eating inside. Little
Finan saw Cædmon go in quietly, for Cædmon was attached to the Abbess
Hild's monastery and had a right to go in and eat. Inside they were
singing for the sake of mirth, and the torches and firelight were
flaming.

Through the open window--for windows were always open then, and the
word window meant literally "wind-eye"--Finan saw the harp being passed
from one to another.

They sang many songs as the harp passed from hand to hand, songs of war
and songs of home.

But when the harp was passed to Cædmon, who had charmed the bees, he
shook his head sorrowfully, saying that he could not sing, and got up
sad and ashamed and went out.

Little Finan wanted to shout through the window to him to sing about
the bees. He did not dare, for he was afraid of being discovered.
Instead he followed behind Cædmon. He wished to ask him why he could
not sing. This he did not dare to do, either, but he went on to the
fold where the cowherd had gone to care for the cattle. And there
on the edge of the fold the little boy, unseen by the cowherd, fell
asleep. Shortly afterward Cædmon, too, fell asleep.

It must have been near the middle of the night when the stars one and
all were shining and dancing with the sheen of millions and millions of
elves, and the sea down below the cliff was singing a mighty lullabye,
that little Finan started wide awake, hearing a voice speak.

"Cædmon," spoke a man who stood beside the sleeping cowherd, "sing me
something."

Cædmon drowsily answered: "I cannot sing anything. Therefore went I
away from the mirth and came here, for I know not how to sing."

Again the mysterious stranger spoke. "Yet you could sing."

And Finan heard the sleep-bound voice of Cædmon ask, "What shall I
sing?"

"Sing to me," said the stranger, "the beginning of all things."

And at once Cædmon began to sing in a strong voice, and very
beautifully, the praise of God who made this world. And his song had
all the beat of sea waves in it--sometimes little waves that lapped
gently on the shore and bore in beautiful shells and jeweled seaweed.
But more often its rhythm was as mighty as ocean waves that tossed big
ships.

Then the wandering stranger, hearing the beauty of the song, vanished.
Cædmon awoke from his sleep, and he remembered all that he had sung and
the vision that had come to him. And he was glad. He arose and went to
the Abbess Hild to tell her what had happened to him, the least of her
servants.

In the presence of many wise men did Hild bid Cædmon tell his dream and
sing his verses. And he did as he was told, and it was plain to all
that an angel had visited Cædmon. The Abbess Hild took him into the
monastery, and she ordered that everything be done for him. And Cædmon
became the first and one of the greatest of English poets. And even as
Christ was born in a manger in Bethlehem, English poetry was born in a
cattle-fold in a town which was called Streoneshalh, which means "Bay
of the Beacon." And to mankind since Cædmon, the first English poet,
English song has been a beacon to all the world.

                   *       *       *       *       *

If you open a book written in the English of to-day, it is easy to read
it--just as easy as to understand the speech we use among one another.
But the English of fifteen or sixteen hundred years ago would be
difficult to read. There is an illustration of this English in a line
from "Deor's Lament":


    Thas ofer eode, thisses swa maeg.


It is easy to pick this out word for word, and see that it means, "That
was overcome (or overpassed), so may this be." The English in that
Great Palace, some of whose doors are more than twelve hundred years
old, is the same English, just as the oak-tree two hundred years old is
the same oak-tree, though different, that it was when planted. But you
would find it difficult to read the English in which Cædmon wrote his
great poems.

Old English poetry, too, seems as different from the poetry of to-day
as the language we speak seems different from the language they used to
speak. For one thing, old English poetry did not have rhymes.


        Little lamb, who made thee?
        Dost thou know who made thee,
    Gave thee life and bade thee feed
    By the stream and o'er the mead;
    Gave thee clothing of delight,
    Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
    Gave thee such a tender voice,
    Making all the vales rejoice?
        Little lamb, who made thee?
        Dost thou know who made thee?


This poem was written somewhat over a hundred years ago by William
Blake, but it is modern and part of that brightest and most beautiful
room of all English poetry--Nineteenth Century Poetry. What is a rhyme?
You can tell if you will study this stanza from "The Lamb." You will
see that "thee" of the first line rhymes with "thee" of the second,
that "feed" and "mead" rhyme, and that "delight" and "bright" rhyme
just as "voice" and "rejoice." Old English poetry was different, too,
in that it did not count the syllables in a line of poetry. If you drum
on the table and count the syllables of the first and second lines,
you will see that each has six, and the following six lines have seven
syllables each, and the last two six each. Then if you drum a little
more you will see that each of the first two lines has three accents or
stresses, and the following six four accents or stresses each.

Then, you ask, what was this old English poetry like? Even if the
syllables were not counted and there was no rhyme, it had accents just
as our modern poetry has. Every line was divided into half verses by a
pause, as, for example:


    Warriors of winters young       with words spake.


There are two accented syllables in the first half of this line, and
one in the second. And now, instead of rhyme, what do you think the old
English poetry had? Alliteration. That is a big word, but it is not
nearly so difficult as it seems, for it means simply the repetition of
the same letter at the beginning of two or more words. Here it is, the
letter "w" that is repeated. It was poetry with alliteration and stress
which little Finan heard on that night so long ago when the angel came
to Cædmon and commanded him to sing.



                                   V

                      THE SHEPHERD OF LAUDERDALE


After Cædmon's day there were more and more religious poets. Very often
the men who wrote the poetry and prose during the time of Cædmon and
of Cuthbert lived in monasteries, where the life was a religious life.
In the Great Palace of English Literature there is a pretty story told
about Ealdhelm, who was a young man when Cædmon died. This young man
later became the Abbot of Malmesbury. He was not only a religious poet,
but he also made songs and could sing them to music. He traveled from
town to town, and, finding that the men at the fairs did not come to
church as they should, he would stand on the bridge and sing songs to
them in the English tongue, persuading them thus to come to hear the
word of God. Living at this same time--that is, during the latter half
of the seventh century--was St. Cuthbert, not so great a scholar as
Ealdhelm, but as great a wanderer.

                   *       *       *       *       *

There is a little valley between England and Scotland called
Lauderdale--a little valley watered by a river which flows into the
Tweed. There Cuthbert did not keep the flocks of his father as did
David, yet, like David, he was a warrior lad. Day and night Cuthbert
lived in the open, shepherding the sheep of many masters.

There was not among the lads of that time a boy more active, more
daring than Cuthbert. He could walk on his hands, turn somersaults,
fight boldly, and become a victor in almost every race. There was no
other boy so active but that Cuthbert was better at games and sports.
And when all the others were tired he would ask whether there was not
some one who could go on playing. Then suddenly a swelling came on
his knee and the poor little boy could play no longer, and had to be
carried in and out, up and down, by attendants. This continued until
one day a horseman, clothed in white garments and riding a horse of
incomparable beauty, appeared before the sick boy and cured his knee.
Little Cuthbert was now able to walk about once more, but never again
did he play the games he used to play.

Not far from where Cuthbert lived was the monastery of Tiningham, by
the mouth of the river Tyne. Some of the monks were bringing down on
rafts wood which they had spent a long time felling and sawing up. They
were almost opposite the monastery and were just about to draw the wood
to the shore, when a great wind came up from the west and drove the
rafts out toward the sea. There were five of them, and so quickly did
they drift away that it was not more than a few minutes before they
began to look in the distance as small as five little birds. Those
upon the rafts were in much danger of losing their lives. Those in the
monastery came out and prayed upon the shore for them. But the five
rafts that now looked like the tiniest of birds went on drifting out to
sea. And the populace, which had been heathens very lately, began to
jest at the monks because their prayers were in vain.

Then said Cuthbert: "Friends, you do wrong to speak evil of those you
see hurried away to death. Would it not be better to pray for their
safety?"

"No!" shouted the people, angrily. "They took away our old worship, and
you can see that nothing comes of the new."

At this the young Cuthbert began to pray, bowing his head to the
ground. And the winds were turned around and brought the rafts in
safety to the shore of the monastery.

Like David, this boy Cuthbert was very near to God, and one night,
while keeping the sheep of his masters, he saw angels descending from
heaven. Cuthbert was on a remote mountain with other shepherds, and
keeping not only his sheep, but also the vigil of prayer, when a light
streamed down from heaven and broke the thick darkness. Then Cuthbert
made up his mind to serve God by entering a monastery.

One day he was on a journey on horseback when he was not quite fifteen
years old. He turned aside to the farmstead which he saw at some
distance, and entered the house of a very good woman. He wanted to rest
himself. But even more he wanted to get food for his horse. The woman
urged him to let her prepare dinner for him. But Cuthbert would not
eat, for it was a fast-day.

"Consider," said the woman, "that on your journey you will find no
village nor habitation of man; for indeed a long journey is before you,
nor can you possibly accomplish it before sunset. Wherefore, I beg of
you to take some food before setting out, lest you be obliged to fast
all day, or perhaps even until to-morrow."

But Cuthbert would not break his fast. Night came on and he saw that he
could not finish his journey, and there was no house anywhere in which
to take shelter. As he went on, however, he noticed some shepherds'
huts which had been roughly thrown together in the summer. He entered
one of these to pass the night there, tied his horse to the wall, and
set before the horse a bundle of hay to eat. Suddenly Cuthbert noticed
that his horse was raising his head and pulling at the thatching of
the hut. And as the horse drew the thatch down there fell out also a
folded napkin. In the napkin was wrapped the half of a loaf of bread,
yet warm, and a piece of meat--enough for Cuthbert's supper.

At last, followed by his squire, and with his lance in hand, the
youthful shepherd-warrior, then but fifteen years old, appeared before
the gates of the monastery of Melrose. For Cuthbert had decided to
serve God in a religious life rather than upon the battle-field.

There was not a village so far away, or a mountain so steep, or a
cottage so poverty-stricken, but that the boy Cuthbert, strong and
energetic, visited it. Most often he traveled on horseback; but there
were places so rough and wild they were not to be reached on horseback.
These places along the coast he visited in a boat. Cuthbert thought
nothing of hunger and thirst and cold. From the Solway to the Forth
he covered Scotland with his pilgrimages. This, of course, was in the
seventh century--a long time ago--yet stories are still told there of
the wonderful work of Cuthbert.

While he was young in the life of the monastery it was Cuthbert's
good fortune to entertain an angel unawares, as, perhaps, we all do
sometimes. At the monastery Cuthbert, so pleasant and winning were
his manners, was appointed guest-master. Going out one morning from
the inner buildings of the monastery to the guest-chamber, he found
a young man seated there. He welcomed him with the usual forms of
kindness, gave him water to wash his hands, himself bathed his feet and
wiped them with a towel and warmed them. He begged the young man not
to go forward on his journey until the third hour, when he might have
breakfast. He thought the stranger must have been wearied by the night
journey and the snow. But the stranger was very unwilling to stay until
Cuthbert urged him in the Divine Name. Immediately after the prayers
of tierce--or the third hour--were said, Cuthbert laid the table and
offered the stranger food.

"Refresh thyself, master, until I return with some new bread, for I
expect it is ready baked by this time."

But when he returned the guest whom he had left at the table had gone.
Although a recent snowfall had covered the ground, and Cuthbert looked
for his footprints, none were to be found. On entering the room again,
there came to him a very sweet odor, and he saw lying beside him three
loaves of bread, warm and of unwonted whiteness and beauty.

"Lo," said Cuthbert, "this was an angel of God who came to feed and not
to be fed. These are such loaves as the earth cannot produce, for they
surpass lilies in whiteness, roses in smell, and honey in flavor."

By all human beings and creatures was Cuthbert beloved. He usually
spent the greater part of the night in prayer. One night one of the
brothers of the monastery followed him to find out where he went when
he left the monastery. St. Cuthbert went out to the shore and entered
the cold water of the sea till it was up to his arms and neck. And
there in praises, with the sound of the waves in his ears, he spent the
night. When dawn was drawing near he came out of the water and finished
his prayer upon the shore. While he was doing this two seals came from
out of the depths of the sea, warmed his feet with their breath and
dried them with their hair. And when Cuthbert's feet were warm and dry
he stood up and blessed the seals and sent them back into the sea,
wherein these humble creatures swam about praising God.



                                  VI

                        THE BOY WHO WON A PRIZE


You know what sort of stories Bede was fond of telling--of course in
Latin. If you should be asked with whom English prose began, I think it
would be safe to say, "With Bede, who wrote the life of St. Cuthbert
and the Ecclesiastical History." But that is not why you should say
that Bede began English prose, but because at his death he was busy
finishing a book written in English and called _Translation of the
Gospel of St. John_.

When his last day came the good old man called all his scholars about
him.

"There is still a chapter wanting," said the youth who always took down
all of Bede's dictation, "and it is hard for thee to question thyself
longer."

"It is easily done," answered Bede; "take thy pen and write quickly."

And all day long they wrote.

When twilight came the boy cried out, "There is still one sentence
unwritten, dear master."

"Write it quickly," answered the master.

"It is finished now," said the boy.

"Thou sayest truth," came the answer, "all is finished now."

Singing the praise of God, his scholars and the boy scribe about him,
he died. Alas that this English book that he bravely finished has been
lost!

Bede was born about 673 and lived most of his life in the monastery
at Jarrow in Northumbria in the north of England. With Bede's death
the home of English prose literature was changed from the north to the
south, from Northumbria to Wessex, where there lived a noble boy called
Alfred. Asser, the man who was his secretary after the boy grew up, has
written a life of Alfred.

                   *       *       *       *       *

From the very first this little boy was full of promise and very
attractive. This fact is rather hard on some of us, is it not, who find
it difficult to be good and to win the confidence of grown-up people.
But the confidence of others is precisely what the boy Alfred did win,
and it was not because he was a molly-coddle, for no young prince ever
swung a battle-ax more lustily than did Alfred.

When he was a little bit of a chap only five years old, he was taken to
Rome to see the Pope. Alfred was born in 849 at the town of Wantage, so
you know what year it was when he went to Rome. The Pope took a great
fancy to him and hallowed him as his "bishop's son." Just how old this
charming boy was when he began to read we do not know. At that time,
of course, all boys read Latin, for there were no English books to
read. But there is an old English couplet--a couplet is two lines of
verse with a rhyme at the end of each line--which may tell the story of
Alfred's reading:


    At writing he was good enough, and yet as he telleth me,
    He was more than ten years old ere he knew his A B C.


Alfred may have been younger or older than this. We don't know, and the
probability is that we never shall know. This little boy was much loved
by his father, King Ethelwulf, and his mother, Queen Osburh. He had
many brothers and sisters, and was himself the fifth child. But he was
a finer-looking boy than the others, and more graceful in his way of
speaking and in his manners.

From the time that he was a tiny child he loved to know things. And yet
his parents and nurses allowed him to remain untaught in reading and
writing until he was quite a big boy. But at night, when the gleemen
sang songs to the harp in the royal villa, Alfred listened attentively.
He had memorized very early some splendid old English songs, such as
"Beowulf." He knew all about Grendel, and all about the death of the
warrior Beowulf after his battle with the dragon. And he had listened
to gentler songs, like the one of the cowherd, Cædmon. He listened
to the singing of poems which were full of the sea and full of war.
Saints, warriors, and pirates were the chief heroes. A Roman poet,
thinking of the warriors and pirates, called the English people "sea
wolves." All their poetry was full of the sea, and it is still true
that the English love the sea.

                   *       *       *       *       *

But you must not think of these people, in the midst of whom Alfred
was born, as just warriors. They loved their homes, and their poetry
is full of love for their families and for the dear old home-place,
wherever it happened to be. Besides home-loving poetry, the gleemen
sang many religious poems to which the little Alfred listened. Among
them was the story of Cædmon, as I have said. We hear, too, of warrior
saints, good men who did not go out to slay a fire-spewing dragon lying
on a heap of gold, as did Beowulf, but who taught them how to fight the
dragon of evil which lurks somewhere near or within us all the time.

It is this sort of golden and every-day victory that not only Cædmon,
the cowherd, sings, but also Cynewulf, who lived during the last half
of the eighth century. Cynewulf was a minstrel at the court of one
of the Northumbrian kings--just such a minstrel or gleeman as Alfred
sometimes listened to on many a night when he was committing to memory
some stirring or beautiful Anglo-Saxon poem. This poet-singer loved
the sea with all his heart, and his poetry is full of this love. And
in our own day, eleven centuries later, Tennyson wrote poems in their
spirit not unlike Old English poems. There is one called "The Sailor
Boy" which resembles an Anglo-Saxon poem called "The Seafarer." It is a
spirited little poem and begins:


    He rose at dawn and, fired with hope,
      Shot o'er the sultry harbour-bar,
    And reached the ship and caught the rope,
      And whistled to the morning star.

    God help me! save I take my part
      Of danger on the roaring sea,
    A devil rises in my heart,
      Far worse than any death to me.


That devil is, of course, the devil of idleness, of uselessness.
These stanzas are worth memorizing. You can see the spirit of a poet
sometimes has a very long life. Here is one of the Old English riddles:


    On the sand I stayed, by the sea-wall near,
    All beside the surge-inflowing! Firm I sojourned there,
    Where I first was fastened. Only few of men
    Watched among the waste where I wonned on the earth.
    But the brown-backed billow, at each break of day,
    With its water-arms enwrapt me! Little weened I then,
    That I e'er should speak, in the after-days,
    Mouthless o'er the mead-bench....


What do you think that meant? A reed flute--a little flute on which one
played a song.

When Christianity came to England, as it did in 597 with St. Augustine,
almost three hundred years before little Alfred was born, it made men
care less for warfare and more for Christ. It is difficult to do what
Christ told us to do--love one another, and at the same time fight one
another. And that we should love one another was the great new message
of Christianity. Christ was in men's minds, however, in those olden
days, not only our gentle Saviour, but also a hero who went forth to
war.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Alfred knew all about warfare, but it was not for warfare that this
gentle boy and brave man cared most. One day his noble mother, Osburh,
showed him and his brothers a book of poetry written in English.

"Whichever of you," she said, "shall the soonest learn this volume
shall have it for his own."

This book was a very beautiful book with an illuminated letter at the
beginning of the volume. An illuminated letter is usually bright with
gold as well as with other colors. Of course the boy Alfred wanted this
wonderful book.

He said before all his brothers, who were older than he, "Will you
really give that book to one of us, that is to say to him who can first
understand and repeat it to you?"

"Yes," answered his mother, smiling, and assuring him that it was so.

Alfred thereupon took the book from her hand and went to his master to
read it. And it was not so very long before he had it all by heart.
Then one day he brought the book to his mother and recited it. And so
well did he do that he received the gift as his mother had promised him
he should.

We have taken a look through the golden door over which is written _Old
English Poetry_. We know something of what the boy Alfred learned from
the book his mother gave him.

By that time he had grown to be a large boy. When he was still a little
boy he had been taken from his nurses and taught the use of arms and
how to ride. All his training was teaching him how to be a soldier. Yet
there was something for which Alfred cared even more. All about them in
those days were the Danes, the fiercest of fighting-men. Government,
the gentle religion of Christ, peace, had been almost dislodged by
these fierce, heathen Danes. Yet in the midst of the war-filled years
of his boyhood and young manhood Alfred was dreaming of what English
books, of what education in their own tongue, might do for his people.

And even in war times they were very busy just getting things together
in order to live. They had to have food, they had to be warm, they had
to have houses and clothes. In the woods they had pigs--wild-looking
swine with tusks. In the fields they had cattle and sheep and chickens.
From the sea they took fish. They made butter and cheese, ale and mead,
candles, leather from skins, and they wove cloth and silk. They kept
bees, too, as you know from what happened to little Finan in the story
of Cædmon. Besides all these things they had their carpenter's work,
their blacksmith's, their baker's, hunting, woodcutting, the making of
weapons, and a hundred and one other employments.

Still, despite all the warfare and the work, Alfred, when he became
king in 871, had time to do a great deal for the education of the boys
and girls of those stirring days. The young king wrote in English and
translated from Latin into English so that the people might have books
in their own tongue. And since Bede's translation of the Gospel of
St. John was lost, Alfred must be called the true "father of English
prose." Just as Whitby and the stall in which Cædmon saw the vision and
learned how to sing was the cradle of English poetry, so was Winchester
the cradle of English prose. To accomplish this work the good king
brought scholars from all over the world. Asser, his secretary and
biographer, has compared Alfred to a most productive bee which flew
here and there asking questions as he went. He made it possible for
every free-born youth to learn to read and write English perfectly.
Indeed, this wonderful king made himself into a schoolmaster and took
on the direction of a school in his own court. He translated from
well-known books into English, among others Bede's _History_ and Pope
Gregory's _Pastoral Care_. Although he freed his people from the fierce
Danes, through his love for a book he did more for his own times and
for all times--more, almost, than any other English boy has ever grown
up to do.



                                  VII

                           A FISHERMAN'S BOY


When we say that we are English-speaking, it seems as if it were not
necessary to say more than that. But the more we wander about in the
Great Palace of English Literature opening golden doors, the more do we
realize that we cannot say that this palace was built by English hands
alone. No, the men who built it were not only English, they were, as
you know already, Welsh, Irish, Scotch. Indeed, the very word "English"
was brought to England by an invader, just as the word "America" was
brought to the North American continent by a discoverer. Not only was
this Palace of English Literature built by those who were Welsh, Irish,
and Scotch, as well as English, but also by Danes and Normans.

The English came to Britain in 449. About three hundred and fifty years
later (790) the Danes began to ravage Northumbria, which you have come
to know through the story of Cædmon the cowherd. But the Danes were of
English stock, so to speak, and they neither changed the language nor
altered things in the life of boys and girls and men and women. After
all it was much the same life after they came as it was before. They
brought with them some stories--just as the English "Beowulf." Among
the Danish-English stories were "Havelok the Dane" and "King Horn,"
both written down about 1280, but told and sung much before that time.

In her early days before she became a great world power, England had
many conquerors. Not only the English and the Danes, but also the
Normans were her conquerors in 1066 under William the Conqueror.
English story-telling, as, for example, Malory's "Morte d'Arthur,"
could never have been the same without the Norman or French influence.
If we pick up a handful of so-called English words, we shall see that
some of these words are English, others are French, and still others
Latin in their origin. But the Norman spoke French only for a while in
England. He soon left the speaking and writing of French for that of
English. However, there are many beautiful words, many strong words,
many words of customs and manners which we should not find in the Great
Palace of English Literature but for the conquerors who came to England.

There are several manuscripts in which the story of Havelok is found.
But the one which is written in an English dialect shows best how old
the story is.

                   *       *       *       *       *

There was a King whose name was Aethelwold, whose only heir was a tiny
little girl. And the little girl's name was Goldborough. Alas, the King
found he must die and leave his little girl fatherless! So he called to
him the wisest and mightiest of his earls. The name of this Earl was
Godrich. And the King made the Earl promise that he would guard his
little girl until she was twenty years old, and that then he would give
her in marriage to the fairest and strongest man alive.

But when the Earl Godrich saw how lovely little Goldborough was going
to be, and knew that he would have to give up the kingdom to her before
long, he was angry, and took her from Winchester to Dover on the
English seacoast and shut little Goldborough up in a castle so that she
could not get out.

In Denmark, just about this time, there lived a King whose name was
Birkabeyn who had one boy and two sweet little girls. He, too, realized
that he had to die. So he called to him his wisest Earl, a man by the
name of Godard, and charged him to care for his children until Havelok,
the boy, was old enough to rule the land. But this wicked Earl shut
little Swanborow and Helfled up in a castle and had them killed.

And Godard was just about to kill Havelok, too, when he bethought him
he would have somebody else do this terrible deed. The wicked Earl sent
for a fisherman who would, he knew, do his will.

"Grim," said the wicked Earl, "to-morrow I will make thee rich if thou
wilt take this child and throw him into the sea to-night."

Grim took the boy Havelok and bound him and gagged him and took him
home in a black bag. When Grim carried the sack into his cottage, Dame
Leve, his wife, was so frightened that she dropped the sack her husband
had handed to her, and cracked poor little Havelok's head against a
stone.

They let the boy lie this way until midnight, when it would be dark
enough for Grim to drown Havelok in the sea. Leve was just bringing
Grim some clothes that he might put on to go out and drown the King's
son, when they saw a light shining about the child.

"What is this light?" cried Dame Leve. "Rise up, Grim."

In haste the fisherman rose and they went over to the child, about
whose head shone a clear light, from whose mouth came rays of light
like sunbeams. It was as if many candles were burning in that tiny
fisherman's hut. They unbound the boy and they found on his right
shoulder a king's mark, bright and fair like the lights.

They were overcome by what Godard had done and had almost led them to
do. They fell upon their knees before the little boy and promised to
feed and clothe him. And so they did, and they were very good to him
and kept him from all harm. But Grim and his wife became frightened,
for fear that Godard would discover that they had not drowned the
child and would hang them. Thereupon Grim sold all that he had, sheep,
cow, horse, pigs, goat, geese, hens--everything, in short, that was
his. Taking his money, he put his wife, his three little sons, and two
pretty little girls and Havelok into his fishing-boat and they set sail
for England.


[Illustration: HENRY III. SAILING HOME FROM GASCONY,
1243 Drawn by Matthew Paris _MS. Roy. 14 C. vii_]


The north wind blew and drove them down upon the coast of England near
the river Humber, and there Grim landed, and the place is called
Grimsby to this day. Then Grim set himself to his old occupation of
fishing, and he caught sturgeon, whale, turbot, salmon, seal, porpoise,
mackerel, flounder, plaice, and thornback. And he and his sons carried
the fish about in baskets and sold them.

Yet while Grim fed his family well, Havelok lay at home and did naught.
And when Havelok stopped to think about that, he was ashamed, for he
was a fine, strong boy.

"Work is no shame," said the King's son to himself.

And the next day he carried to market as much fish as four men could.
And every bit of fish did he sell and brought back the money, keeping
not a farthing for himself. Alas! there came a famine about this time,
and Grim had great fear on Havelok's account lest the boy starve.

"Havelok," said Grim, "our meat is long since gone. For myself it does
not matter, but I fear for thee. Thou knowest how to get to Lincoln,
and there they will give thee a chance to earn thy food. Since thou art
naked, I will make thee a coat from my sail."

This he did, and with the coat on and barefoot the King's son found his
way to Lincoln. For two days the lad had no food. On the third day he
heard some one crying, "Bearing-men, bearing-men, come here!" Havelok
leaped forward to the Earl's cook and bore the food to the castle.
Another time he lifted a whole cart-load of fish and bore it to the
castle.

The cook looked him over and said: "Wilt thou work for me? I will feed
thee gladly."

"Feed me," answered Havelok, "and I will make thy fire burn and wash
thy dishes."

And because Havelok was a strong lad and a good boy, as all kings' sons
are not, he worked hard from that day forth. He bore all the food in
and carried all the wood and the water, and worked as hard as if he
were a beast. And he was a merry lad, too, for he knew how to hide his
griefs. And the old story says that all who saw him loved him, for he
was meek and strong and fair. But still he had nothing but the wretched
coat to wear. So the cook took pity on him and bought him span-new
clothes and gave him stockings and shoes. And when he had put them on
he looked the King's son he was. At the Lincoln games he was "like a
mast," taller and straighter than any youth there. In wrestling he
overcame every one. Yet he was known for his gentleness. Never before
had Havelok seen stone-putting, but when his master told him to try,
Havelok threw the stone twelve feet beyond what any one else could do.

The story of the stone-putting was being told in castle and hall when
Earl Godrich heard it, and said to himself that here was the tallest,
strongest, and fairest man alive, and he would fulfil his promise and
get rid of Goldborough, the King's daughter, by giving her to Havelok,
whom he thought to be just a cook's boy. Now Havelok did not wish to
marry any more than did Goldborough, but they were forced to. And when
they were married Havelok knew not whither they could go, for he saw
that Godrich hated them and that their lives were not safe.

Therefore they went on foot to Grimsby, and royal was their welcome.
Grim, the fisherman, had died.

But his five children fell on their knees and said: "Welcome, dear
lord. Stay here and all is thine."

And that night as they lay on their bed in the fisherman's hut,
Goldborough discovered, because of the bright light which came from the
mouth of Havelok, that he was a King's son. And it was not long after
this they all set sail for Denmark, so that Havelok, with the help of
Grim's sons and many others, might win back the kingdom of Denmark.

It was in the house of Bernard Brown, the magistrate of the Danish
town, that sixty strong thieves, clad in wide sleeves and closed capes,
attacked him. Bernard Brown seized an ax and leaped to the door to
defend his home.

One of the thieves shouted at him, "We will go in at this door despite
thee."

And he broke the door asunder with a boulder. Whereupon Havelok took
the great bar from across the door. And with the bar he slew several,
yet the thieves had wounded him in many places, when Grim's sons came
upon the scene to defend their lord and saw the thieves treating
Havelok as a smith does his anvil. Like madmen the three sons of Grim
leaped into the fight, and they fought until not one of the thieves was
left alive.

When Earl Ubbe heard of this he rode down to Bernard Brown's. Then he
heard the story of Havelok's bravery and of the terrible wounds he had
received, so that Bernard Brown feared he might die because of them.

"Fetch Havelok quickly," commanded Ubbe. "If he can be healed, I myself
will dub him knight."

When a leech saw the wounds of Havelok he told Ubbe that they could be
cured.

"Come forth now," said Ubbe to Havelok, "thou and Goldborough and thy
three servants."

And with rejoicing did Ubbe bring them to his city. And about the
middle of the night Ubbe saw a great light in the tower where Havelok
was sleeping. He peered through a crack and he saw that the "sunny
gleam" came from Havelok's mouth. It was as if a hundred and seven
candles were burning, and on Havelok's shoulder was a clear, shining
cross.

"He is Birkabeyn's heir," said Ubbe, "for never in Denmark was brother
so like to brother as this fair man is like the dead King."

And Earl Ubbe and his men fell at Havelok's feet and awoke him. And
very happy was Havelok, and thankful to God. And then came barons and
warriors and thanes and knights and common men, and all swore fealty to
Havelok. With a bright sword Ubbe dubbed Havelok knight and made him
King. And the three sons of Grim were also made knights. Thereat were
all men happy, and they wrestled and played, played the harp and the
pipe, read romances from a book, and sang old tales. There was every
sort of sport and plenty of food.

Finally they all, a thousand knights and five thousand men, set forth
that Havelok might take vengeance on the wicked Earl Godard. There was
a hard fight, but at last they caught and bound Earl Godard. And he
was hung on the gallows and died there. Such was the end of one who
betrayed his trust.

The wicked Earl Godrich in England, who had robbed Goldborough of her
kingdom, heard that Havelok was become King of Denmark and also that
he was come to Grimsby. So he gathered all his army together and there
was a great battle. And the battle was going against Havelok, when the
wicked hand of Godrich was struck off. After that Havelok and his men
were victorious. Then did they condemn the Earl Godrich to death. And
he was bound to an ass and led through London and burned at the stake.
Such was the end of one who betrayed his trust.

And after that Havelok and Goldborough reigned in England for sixty
years. So great was the love of the King and Queen for each other that
all marveled at it. Neither was happy away from the other. And never
were they angry, for their love for each other was always new.



                                 VIII

                             THE WEREWOLF


In the Great Palace of English Literature over one of the golden doors
hangs a horn of ivory, and a sword of which the name is Durendal.
Above that door is written _Chanson de Roland_, which means the Song
of Roland. Often in the stillness of the early morning or at dusk the
Great Palace rings faintly with the music from that ivory horn which
belonged to Roland, and which he sounded for the last time in the Pass
of Roncevaux. Or there is heard the clinking of Durendal against the
stone of the palace walls--no doubt the wind stirring it where it hangs
beside the door it guards.

"Chanson de Roland!" You see the story is French. The Normans brought
it with them when they came to conquer Britain in 1066 under William of
Normandy. Before the soldiers of William, the minstrel, Taillefer, rode
singing of "Charlemagne, and of Roland, and of Oliver, and the vassals
who fell at Roncevaux."

"Roland, comrade," said Oliver, "blow thy horn of ivory, and Charles
shall hear it and bring hither again his army, and ... succor us."

"Nay, first will I lay on with Durendal, the good sword girded at my
side."

"Roland, comrade," urged Oliver, "blow thy horn of ivory, that Charles
may hear it."

"God forbid that they should say I sounded my horn for dread of the
heathen."

"Prithee look!" begged Oliver. "They are close upon us. Thou wouldst
not deign to sound thy horn of ivory. Were the King here we should
suffer no hurt."

Oliver was wise and Roland was brave, and the song that the minstrel
Taillefer chanted before the conquering hosts of William of Normandy
was a wonderful, stirring song. No doubt there flows in English veins
to-day much of the courage of Roland and the wisdom of Oliver. Although
the English continued English, yet for a long time following the
conquest of England by the Normans songs were sung in French rather
than in English. And ready and witty was all that was written down in
French, for the literature of the Normans was as brightly colored as
a jewel and not grand and melancholy as was that of the Anglo-Saxons.
"Beowulf" was the battle song of the Anglo-Saxons, the "Song of Roland"
that of the Normans. Melancholy was the poem of "Beowulf." White
and clear, stirring and flashing in the sunshine was the "Chanson
de Roland," even as Roland's beloved sword Durendal, which is heard
clinking against the stone of the Great Palace of English Literature.

But "Roland" represented only a fraction of the story-telling in
the French poetry of that time. The most exquisite and delightful
story-teller of that twelfth century collected and wrote here charming
stories on English soil and dedicated them to Henry II., who died in
1189. Her name was Marie de France, and of her lays a rival poet wrote:


    All love them much and hold them dear,
    Baron, count and chevalier,
    Applaud their form and take delight
    To hear them told by day and night.
    In chief, these tales the ladies please;
    They listen glad their hearts to ease.


Marie de France's lays are based on British tradition. There are many
of these delightful stories. Among the most interesting of them is "The
Werewolf."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Once upon a time in the days of King Arthur--for later there are some
lines in Malory's "Morte d'Arthur" which tells us that this story
must have been true--there lived a man who for part of the week was a
wolf--that is, he had the form and the appetite of a wolf, and was
called a werewolf. But nobody knew that he was a werewolf for three
days in the week. Not even his wife, whom he loved well and devotedly,
knew what happened to her husband while he was away from her these
three days every week.

It vexed the wife very much that she did not know, but she was afraid
to question her husband, lest he be angry. At last one day she did
question him.

"Ask me no more," replied the husband, "for if I answered you you would
cease to love me."

Nevertheless she gave him no peace until he had told her that three
days in the week, because of a spell which was over him, he was forced
to be a werewolf, and that when he felt the change coming over him he
hid himself in the very thickest part of the forest.

Then the wife demanded to know what became of his clothes, and he
answered that he laid them aside. The wife asked where he put them. He
begged her not to ask him, for only the garments made it possible for
him to return to human shape again. But the wife cried and begged until
the knight, her husband, had told her all.

"Wife," he said, "inside the forest on a crossroad is a chapel. Near
the chapel under a shrub is a stone. Beneath the stone is a hole,
and in that hole do I hide my clothes until the enchantment makes it
possible for me to take my human shape again."

Now the wife was not a good wife. Instead of trying to help her husband
to get free from the wolf shape he had to assume three days in every
week, thereafter she loathed him and was afraid of him. And what is
worse still, she betrayed him to another knight. She took this other
knight into her confidence and told him where her husband hid his
clothes when the spell came upon him and he took the form of a wolf.
Thereupon the knight to whom she had told this dreadful secret stole
the clothes, and they hid them where the poor wolf could never find
them again. After that these two wicked people were married, while the
poor wolf wandered about in the forest, grieving, for he had loved his
wife well and truly.

Some time after this the King was hunting one day in the forest, and
his hounds gave chase to a wolf. At last, when the wretched beast was
in danger of being overtaken by the hounds and torn into a thousand
pieces, he fled to the King, seized him by the stirrup, and licked his
foot submissively.

The King was astonished. He called his companions, and they drove off
the dogs, for the King would not have the wolf harmed. But when they
started to leave the forest the wolf followed the King and would not be
driven away. The King was much pleased, for he had taken a great liking
to the wolf. He therefore made a pet of the lonely beast, and at night
he slept in the King's own chamber. All the courtiers came to love the
wolf, too, for he was a gentle wolf and did no one any harm.

A long time had passed when one day the King had occasion to hold a
court. His barons came from far and near, and among them the knight
who had betrayed the werewolf. No sooner did the wolf see him than he
sprang at him to kill him. And had the King not called the wolf off he
would have torn the false knight to pieces. Every one was astonished
that this gentle beast should show such rage. But after the court was
over and as time went on they forgot the beast's savage act.

At length the King decided to make a tour throughout his kingdom. And
he took the wolf with him, for that was his custom. Now the werewolf's
false wife heard that the King was to spend some time in the part of
the country where she lived. So she begged for an audience. But no
sooner did she enter the presence-chamber than the wolf sprang at her
and bit off her nose.

The courtiers were going to slay the beast, but a wise man stayed their
weapons.

"Sire," said the councilor, "we have all caressed this wolf and he has
never done us any harm. This lady was the wife of a man you held dear,
but of whose fate we none of us know anything. Take my counsel and make
this lady answer your questions, so shall we come to know why the wolf
sprang at her."

This was done. The false knight who had married her was brought also,
and they told all the wickedness they had done to the poor wolf. Then
the King caused the wolf's stolen clothes to be fetched. But the wolf
acted as if he did not see the clothes.

"Sire," said the councilor, "if this beast is a werewolf he will not
change back into his human shape until he is alone."

They left him alone in the King's chamber, and put the clothes beside
him. Then they waited for a long time. Lo, when they entered the
chamber again, there lay the long-lost knight in a deep sleep on the
King's bed! Quickly did the King run to him and embrace him, and
after that he restored to him all his lost lands, and he banished
the false wife and her second husband from the country. And they who
were banished lived in a strange land, and all the girls among their
children and grandchildren were without noses.

                   *       *       *       *       *

So close we this little golden door--not the less precious because
little--over which is written in letters all boys and girls should
love: _Marie de France_, who wrote "The Werewolf."



                                  IX

                         AT GEOFFREY'S WINDOW


Among all the golden doors in the Great Palace of English Literature
about which we are coming to know something, and through some of which
we have already passed, there was one golden window on the stairway
of the palace. This window on the stairway of the palace looked out
upon a busy town and down upon the windings of the river Wye, and off
upon hills and upon the ruins of a wonderful old abbey called Tintern
Abbey, about which, some six hundred years later, an English poet
called William Wordsworth was to write a poem called "Tintern Abbey."
Wordsworth wrote "We Are Seven," and also this little poem about a
butterfly:


    I've watched you now a full half-hour,
    Self-poised upon that yellow flower;
    And, little Butterfly! indeed
    I know not if you sleep or feed.
    How motionless! Not frozen seas
    More motionless! and then
    What joy awaits you, when the breeze
    Hath found you out among the trees
    And calls you forth again.
    This plot of orchard ground is ours;
    My trees they are, my Sister's flowers;
    Here rest your wings when they are weary;
    Here lodge as in a sanctuary!
    Come often to us, fear no wrong;
    Sit near us on the bough!
    We'll talk of sunshine and of song,
    And summer days when we were young;
    Sweet childish days that were as long
    As twenty days are now.


But the golden window at which Geoffrey sat was in Monmouth, and he was
called Geoffrey of Monmouth. That was some seven hundred years ago. No
doubt the little town was very busy even in 1137 when Geoffrey sat at
his window and wrote his famous chronicle called _British History_.

Before Geoffrey began to write down his marvelous stories, other
stories and poems were written. In King Alfred's time, when the home of
English literature was shifted from the north to the south, two fine
battle songs were written. They were the "Song of Brunanburh" and the
"Song of the Fight at Maldon." These were written in the tenth century.
"The Charge of the Light Brigade," composed some eight hundred years
later by the poet Tennyson, is like these old songs in its short, rapid
lines and in its thought. Every one should learn these lines from the
poem Alfred Tennyson wrote:


    Half a league, half a league,
      Half a league onward,
    All in the valley of Death
      Rode the six hundred.
    "Forward the Light Brigade!
    Charge for the guns!" he said:
    Into the valley of Death
      Rode the six hundred.

    "Forward the Light Brigade!"
      Was there a man dismayed?
    Not tho' the soldier knew
      Some one had blunder'd:
    Theirs not to make reply,
    Theirs not to reason why,
    Theirs but to do and die:
    Into the valley of Death
      Rode the six hundred.


But we have been long enough away from that golden window by which
Geoffrey of Monmouth sat and wrote his immortal stories. Geoffrey
was called a chronicler. And what he was supposed to be doing was
jotting down accurately historical events year after year. Some of the
chronicles written in this way have become the chief sources of English
history. Among the men who wrote these chronicles were William of
Malmesbury and Matthew Paris. And between them came Geoffrey himself.

It will never be known, unless it should prove possible to roll time
back some seven hundred years, just what Geoffrey did see from his
window as he looked out upon the busy town of Monmouth, or all that
went on in his nimble mind. In any event it is plain that he had the
best of good times inventing or retelling stories in his chronicle.
There is to be found the story of King Lear and his three daughters,
Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia--Lear, the hero of Shakespeare's play,
"King Lear," written over four hundred years later. There, too, is
the story of Ferrex and Porrex. Geoffrey had a nimble quill pen with
which to follow his nimble wit. He writes of Julius Cæsar and of
how he came to Great Britain. What Geoffrey of Monmouth says may be
ridiculous enough in the light of history, but there it is, and there
is Cæsar himself, not only looking upon the coast of Britain but
actually standing upon it. We become familiar, too, with many names
known in stories about King Arthur. Perceval is one of these. And Uther
Pendragon, who was the father of King Arthur, is another.

One of the marvelous facts about Geoffrey is that when he looked out
of that golden window he could see so much farther than just Monmouth.
He could see all the way to the sea, and on its shores that beautiful
city Tintagel, where Queen Igraine, the mother of Arthur, lived. But in
Geoffrey's chronicle she was called Igerna. A name is sometimes like a
long, long journey, not only in its romance, but also because it takes
you to other lands and other people, and passes, even as the road upon
a long journey, through many changes.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Geoffrey saw from his golden window not only Tintagel, that beautiful
South Welsh city by the sea, but also a little village in North Wales
called Beddgelert. This little village is set down in the midst of
mountains like a lump of sugar in the bottom of a deep cup. Outside
this little village is a hill called Dinas Emrys. Geoffrey looked
northward out of his golden window in Monmouth, and what do you think
he saw? He saw the magician, Merlin, the youth who had never had a
father. And this lad was quarreling with another lad in Caernarvon, a
Welsh city thirteen miles away from the little village of Beddgelert.

Now Vortigern had been attempting to build a tower on Dinas Emrys, but
whatever the workmen did one day was swallowed up the next.

Then some wise men said to Vortigern: "You must find a youth who has
never had a father. You must sacrifice him and sprinkle the foundations
with his blood."

So Vortigern sent men to find a boy who had never had a father and
who should be brought him that they might kill him. When Vortigern's
messenger reached Caernarvon, thirteen miles away from Beddgelert and
the hill Dinas Emrys, they found two boys playing games and quarreling
about their parentage. And one of them, Dabutius, was accusing the
other, Merlin, of having no father. They took him to Vortigern.

And Vortigern said, "My magicians told me to seek out a lad who had
no father, with whose blood the foundations of my building are to be
sprinkled to make it stand."

"Order your magicians," answered Merlin, "to come before me and I will
convict them of a lie."

It is a terrible thing to be convicted of a lie, and of course the
magicians did not wish to come. But King Vortigern made them come and
ordered them to sit down before Merlin.

Merlin spoke to them after this manner: "Because you are ignorant what
it is that hinders the foundations of the tower, you have told the King
to kill me and to cement the stones with my blood. But tell me now,
what is there under the foundations that will not suffer it to stand?"

To this they gave no answer, for they were frightened.

Then said Merlin, "I entreat your Majesty would command your workmen
to dig into the ground, and you will find a pond which causes the
foundations to sink."

This the King had done, and a pond was found there.

Then said Merlin to the King's magicians, "Tell me, ye false men, what
is there under the pond?"

But they were afraid to answer.

Merlin turned to King Vortigern and said, "Command the pond to be
drained, and at the bottom you will see two hollow stones, and in them
are two dragons asleep."

The King had the pond drained, and he found all just as Merlin said it
would be. And as the King sat on the edge of the drained pond out came
the two dragons, one red and one white, and, approaching each other,
they began to fight, blowing forth fire from their nostrils. At last
the white dragon got the advantage and made the red dragon fly to the
other end of the drained pond.

When King Vortigern asked Merlin to explain what this meant, Merlin
burst into tears.

Then commanding his voice, he spoke: "In the days that are to come
gold shall be squeezed from the lily and the nettle, and silver shall
flow from the hoofs of bellowing cattle. The teeth of wolves shall be
blunted and the lion's whelps shall be transformed into sea-fishes."

And unto this day nobody knows exactly what Merlin meant, or what
Geoffrey thought he meant, although there has been much guessing.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Geoffrey must have been very fond of looking out of his window and
seeing Merlin, for many a story he tells about him. There is the story
of how Merlin helped to remove the stones of the Giants' Dance from
Ireland. Giants of old had brought them from the farthest coast of
Africa. They were mystical stones and had value to heal and cure men.
When these stones were found too heavy to be lifted by human hands,
Merlin found a way, nevertheless, to lift them. Then the stones of the
Giants' Dance were carried across the sea and placed in England at
Stonehenge. It is an exciting story Geoffrey tells about the Giants'
Dance, yet I fear we know no more really how the big stones got to
Stonehenge than we know about the ribs of our solid earth. Certainly
those stones were set up in Stonehenge even before men began recording
history or Geoffrey of Monmouth sat in his golden window.

And there is the story of the 40,060 kings who never existed--which is
more almost than ever did exist. And of the coming of St. Augustine to
England, bringing with him the gentle religion of Christ.

It would be very nice if all this about Merlin and the dragons and the
Giants' Dance were what might be called true history. Alas, it is not!
In the first place, Geoffrey tells stories which vary greatly from what
was actually known to be history. Then, too, this chronicle is full, as
you have seen, of miraculous stories of one sort or another. And there
are other reasons, also, why these delightful stories of Geoffrey of
Monmouth must be taken with a pinch of salt.

But it is because Geoffrey did sit at his window in the little town
of Monmouth, writing these stories which have to be taken with a
pinch of salt, that English story-telling began to grow. Geoffrey's
imagination was to English story-telling what the sunlight is in
making a tulip grow. Story-telling grew out of the Chronicles, the
so-called historical literature. The men of Geoffrey's time said that
"he had lied saucily and shamelessly." No doubt he had. Yet these
same men could not help reading the stories he told, for they were
so interesting that all men read them. What he had done was to take
several Welsh legends, put them together cleverly, as a carpenter joins
a delicate bit of woodwork, translate these Welsh legends into Latin
and call the work a Chronicle. Not only was it read in England, but it
was read all over the continent of Europe, too. It had great success.

Geoffrey Gaimer put these stories into French. The stories traveled
to France. Once there, other legends were added, and when Geoffrey's
Chronicle turned up again in England it came back as the work of Wace,
a Norman trouveur, or ballad-singer. But Geoffrey's stories were too
good to let drop even after they had been through so many hands. An
English priest in Worcestershire by the name of Layamon, translating
the French poem which Wace had made out of Geoffrey's prose stories,
retold the stories in English poetry. That was in 1205, after Geoffrey
had died.

Geoffrey of Monmouth must have been very happy as he sat in his sunny,
golden window and heard about the tales he had written there. He must
have chuckled many a time over what the world had made out of his
nimble story-telling wits. English literature could not be at all the
same, in either prose or poetry, if it were not for that golden palace
door over which was written _Welsh_ or that window upon the stairway
where Geoffrey sat.

But it was the Normans who brought the taste for history with them
to England in 1066, when they conquered the land which had been King
Alfred's land. It was some time before the Normans became what we call
English in their feeling. Probably the Normans would never have become
so strongly English in feeling if English patriotism, even after the
conquest of 1066, had not remained very much alive. The English had
written down in English some of the proverbs of their former King
Alfred. The parents of the chronicler, William of Malmesbury, were both
English and Norman. And, strangely enough, Layamon's "Brut" is not
unlike the poetry of the cowherd Cædmon, the first of the great English
singers, the first of English poets.

Perhaps this very hour the sun is shining down upon that golden window
of Geoffrey of Monmouth, and laughing for joy because the man who "lied
so saucily" was the first of the great English story-tellers.



                                   X

                         A FAMOUS KITCHEN BOY


Geoffrey's window is a very fascinating place to be--possibly the most
interesting window the world has ever seen. It is not just one lifetime
which has found that window interesting, but more lifetimes than we can
count comfortably. Sir Thomas Malory, who wrote his _Morte d'Arthur_
in 1469, fairly lived in that window; so did Shakespeare when he wrote
"King Lear" in 1605, and even the modern poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson,
who wrote "The Charge of the Light Brigade," composed a series of poems
called "Idylls of the King," which return for their sources through
Malory to Geoffrey at his window.

There is one story, however, which Geoffrey did not see as he looked
out of his golden window--the story of the famous kitchen boy, or
"Gareth and Linet." This tale is found in Sir Thomas Malory's _Morte
d'Arthur_, which was not completed until 1469, many years after the
writing of Geoffrey's Chronicle in 1147. Clear and sunshiny is the
English of this wonderful book of Malory's, and nowhere in the world
can more beautiful, exciting, and marvelous stories be found than
between the covers of the _Morte d'Arthur_. The _Morte d'Arthur_ was
written about twenty years after the invention of printing by Coster
and Gutenberg. Sixteen years after the completion of the book by
Malory, Caxton printed it in black letter in English. There is only one
perfect copy of this book by Caxton, the first of the English printers,
and that is in Brooklyn, New York. In the preface which Caxton wrote
for the _Morte d'Arthur_, he says that in this book will be found "many
joyous and pleasant histories, and noble and renowned acts of humanity,
gentleness and chivalries.... Do after the good and leave the evil, and
it shall bring you good fame and renown." Certainly that is what the
kitchen boy did, and it brought him to good fame.

                   *       *       *       *       *

It was one day when King Arthur was holding a Round Table court at
Kynke Kenadonne by the sea. And they were at their meat, three hundred
and fifty knights, when there came into the hall two men well clad
and fine-looking. And, as the old story says, there leaned upon their
shoulders "the goodliest young man and the fairest that ever they all
saw, and he was large and long and broad in the shoulders, and well
visaged, and the fairest and the largest-handed that ever man saw,
but he fared as if he might not go or bear himself--"


[Illustration: KNIGHT IN ARMOR
_MS. Roy. 2 A. xxii_
Late Thirteenth Century]


The two men supported the young man up to the high dais upon which
Arthur was feasting. When the young man that was being helped forward
was seen there was silence. Then the young man stretched up straight
and besought Arthur that he would give him three gifts.

"The first gift I will ask now," he said, "but the other two gifts I
will ask this day twelve months wheresoever you hold your high feast."

"Ask," replied Arthur, "and you shall have your asking."

"Sir, this is my petition for this feast: that you will give me meat
and drink enough for this twelvemonth, and at that day I will ask mine
other two gifts."

"My fair son," said Arthur, "ask better. This is but simple asking."

But the young man would ask no more. And when the King, who had taken a
great liking to him, asked him for his name, the young man said that he
could not tell him.

The King took him to Sir Kay, the steward, and charged him to give the
young man the best of all the meats and drinks and to treat him as a
lord's son.

But Sir Kay was angry, and said: "An he had come of gentlemen, he would
have asked of you horse and armor, but such as he is, so he asketh.
And since he hath no name, I shall give him a name that shall be
Beaumains, that is Fair-hands, and into the kitchen shall I bring him,
and there he shall have fat brose every day, that he shall be as fat by
the twelvemonth's end as a pork hog."

And Sir Kay scorned him and mocked at him. On hearing this both Sir
Launcelot, the greatest of the Knights of the Round Table, and Sir
Gawaine were wroth and bade Sir Kay leave his mocking.

"I dare lay my head," said Sir Launcelot, "he shall prove a man of
great worship."

"It may not be by no reason," replied Sir Kay, "for as he is so hath he
asked."

Beaumains, or Fair-hands, was put into the kitchen, and lay there
nightly as the boys of the kitchen did. The old book says: "He endured
all that twelvemonth, and never displeased man nor child, but always he
was meek and mild. But ever when he saw any jousting of knights, that
would he see an he might."

Sir Launcelot gave him gold to spend, and clothes, and whenever the boy
went where there were games or feats of strength he excelled in them
all.

But always Sir Kay would taunt him with these words spoken to others,
"How like you my boy of the kitchen?"

And so Fair-hands, the kitchen boy, continued in service for a year.
At the close of the year came a lady to the court and told about her
sister who was besieged in a castle by a tyrant who was called the
Red Knight of the Red Laundes. But she would not tell her name, and
therefore the King would not permit any of his knights to go with her
to rescue her sister from the Red Knight, who was one of the worst
knights in the world.

But at the King's refusal, Beaumains, or Fair-hands, as he was called,
spoke, "Sir King, God thank you, I have been this twelvemonth in your
kitchen, and have had my full sustenance, and now I will ask my two
gifts that be behind."

"Ask, upon my peril," said the King.

"Sir, this shall be my two gifts: first, that you will permit me to go
with this maiden that I may rescue her sister. And second, that Sir
Launcelot shall ride after me and make me knight when I require it of
him."

And both these requests the King granted. But the maiden was angry
because, she said, he had given her naught but his kitchen page.

Then came one to Fair-hands and told him that his horse and armor were
come for him. And there was a dwarf with everything that Beaumains
needed, and all of it the richest and best it was possible for man to
have. But though he was horsed and trapped in cloth of gold, he had
neither shield nor spear.

Then said Sir Kay openly before all, "I will ride after my boy of the
kitchen."

Just as Beaumains overtook the maiden, so did Sir Kay overtake his
former kitchen page.

"Sir, know you not me?" he demanded.

"Yea," said Beaumains, "I know you for an ungentle knight of the court.
Therefore beware of me."

Thereupon Sir Kay put his spear in the rest and ran straight upon
him, and Beaumains came fast upon him with his sword in his hand. And
Beaumains knocked the spear out of the knight's hand and Sir Kay fell
down as he had been dead. Beaumains took Sir Kay's shield and spear and
rode away upon his own horse. The dwarf took Sir Kay's horse.

Just then along came Sir Launcelot, and Beaumains challenged him to
a joust. And so they fought for the better part of an hour, rushing
together like infuriated boars. And Sir Launcelot marveled at the young
man's strength, for he fought more like a giant than like a knight. At
last he said, "Fight not so sore; your quarrel and mine is not so great
but we may leave off."

"Truly that is truth," said Beaumains, "but it doth me good to feel
your strength, and yet, my lord, I showed not the most I could do."

Then Sir Launcelot confessed to Beaumains that he had much ado to
save himself, and that Beaumains need fear no earthly knight. And
then Beaumains confessed to Sir Launcelot that he was the brother of
Sir Gawaine and the youngest son of King Lot; that his mother, Dame
Morgawse, was sister to King Arthur, and that his name was Gareth.

After that Launcelot knighted Gareth, and Gareth rode on after the
maiden whose sister was kept a prisoner by the Red Knight.

When he overtook her she turned upon him and said: "Get away from me,
for thou smellest all of the kitchen. Thy clothes are dirty with grease
and tallow. What art thou but a ladle-washer?"

"Damosel," replied Beaumains, "say to me what you will, I will not go
from you whatsoever you say, for I have undertaken to King Arthur for
to achieve your adventure, and so shall I finish it to the end or I
shall die therefor."

Then came a man thereby calling for help, for six thieves were after
him. Even when Beaumains had slain all the six thieves and set the man
free from his fears, then the maiden used him despicably, calling him
kitchen boy and other shameful names.

On the next day Beaumains slew two knights who would not allow him and
the maiden to cross a great river.

But all the maiden did was to taunt him. "Alas," she said, "that ever
a kitchen page should have that fortune to destroy even two doughty
knights; but it was not rightly force, for the first knight stumbled
and he was drowned in the water, and by mishap thou earnest up behind
the last knight and thus happily slew him."

"Say what you will," said Beaumains, "but with whomsoever I have ado
withall, I trust to God to serve him or he depart."

"Fie, fie, foul kitchen knave," answered the maiden, "thou shalt see
knights that shall abate thy boast."

And so she continued to scold him and would not rest therefrom. And
they came to a black land, and there was a black hawthorn, and thereon
hung a black banner, and on the other side there hung a black shield,
and by it stood a black spear great and long, and a great black horse
covered with silk, and a black stone fast by.

And before the Knight of the Black Lands the maiden used Beaumains
despicably, calling him kitchen knave and other such names. And the
Black Knight and Beaumains came together for battle as if it had been
thunder. After hard struggle Beaumains killed the Black Knight and rode
on after the damosel.

"Away, kitchen boy, out of the wind," she cried, "for the smell of thy
clothes grieves me."

And so ever despitefully she used him. Yet he overcame the Green
Knight, who was the brother of the Black Knight, and spared his life at
the maiden's request.

And it was after the vanquishing of the Green Knight that they saw
a tower as white as any snow, and all around the castle it was
double-diked. Over the tower gate there hung fifty shields of divers
colors, and under that tower was a fair meadow. And the lord of the
tower looked out of his window and beheld Beaumains, the maiden, and
the dwarf coming.

"With that knight will I joust," called the lord of the tower, "for I
see that he is a knight errant."

And before the knight the maiden used him despitefully.

And ever he replied, patiently, "Damosel, you are uncourteous so to
rebuke me, for meseemeth I have done you good service." Then did the
heart of the maiden soften a little.

"I marvel what manner of man you be," she said, "for it may never be
otherwise but that you come of a noble blood, for so shamefully did
woman never rule a knight as I have done you, and ever courteously you
have suffered me, and that comes never but of gentle blood."

"Damosel," answered Beaumains, "a knight may little do that may not
suffer a damosel. And whether I be gentleman born or not, I let you
wit, fair damosel, I have done you gentleman's service."

She begged him to forgive her, and this Beaumains did with all his
heart.

Then they met Sir Persant of Inde, who was dwelling only seven miles
from the siege, and the maiden besought Beaumains to flee while there
was yet time. But he refused.

And when Sir Persant and Beaumains met they met with all that ever
their horses might run, and broke their spears either into three
pieces, and their horses rushed so together that both their horses fell
dead to the earth. And they got off their horses and fought for more
than two hours. And Beaumains spared his life only at the maiden's
request.

Then Beaumains told Sir Persant that his name was Sir Gareth. And
the maiden said that hers was Linet, and that she was sister to Dame
Lionesse, who was besieged.

Then the dwarf took word to the lady who was besieged, and the others
came on after.

"How escaped he," said the lady, Dame Lionesse, "from the brethren of
Sir Persant?"

"Madam," said the dwarf, "as a noble knight should."

"Ah," said Dame Lionesse, "commend me unto your gentle knight, and pray
him to eat and drink and make him strong. Also pray him that he be of
good heart and courage, for he shall meet with a knight who is neither
of bounty, courtesy, nor gentleness; for he attendeth unto nothing but
murder, and that is the cause I cannot praise him nor love him."

All that night Beaumains lay in an hermitage, and upon the morn he and
the damosel Linet broke their fast and heard mass. Then took they their
horses, and, riding through a fair forest, they came out upon a plain
where there were many pavilions and tents and a castle and much smoke
and a great noise. When they came near the siege Beaumains espied upon
great trees goodly knights hanging by the neck, their shields about
their necks with their swords, and gilt spurs upon their heels. There
hung high forty knights.

"What meanest this?" said Sir Beaumains.

"Fair sir, "answered the damosel, "these knights came hither to this
siege to rescue my sister, Dame Lionesse, and when the Red Knight of
the Red Lands had overcome them he put them to this shameful death."

Then rode they to the dikes, and saw them double-diked with full
warlike walls; and there were lodged many great lords nigh the walls;
and there was great noise of minstrelsy; and the sea beat upon the side
of the walls, where there were many ships and mariners' noise. And also
there was fast by a sycamore-tree, and there hung a horn, the greatest
that ever they saw, of an elephant's bone. Therewith Beaumains spurred
his horse straight to the sycamore-tree, and blew so eagerly the horn
that all the siege and the castle rang thereof. And then there leaped
out knights out of their tents and pavilions, and they within the
castle looked over the walls and out of windows. Then the Red Knight of
the Red Lands armed him hastily, and two barons set on his spurs upon
his heels, and all was blood red, his armor, spear, and shield.

"Sir," said the damosel Linet, "look you be glad and light, for yonder
is your deadly enemy, and at yonder window is my sister, Dame Lionesse."

Then Beaumains and the Red Knight put their spears in their rests,
and came together with all their might, and either smote the other in
the middle of their shields, that the surcingles and cruppers broke
and fell to the earth both, and the two knights lay stunned upon the
ground. But soon they got to their feet and drew their swords and ran
together like two fierce lions. And then they fought until it was past
noon, tracing, racing, and foining as two boars. Thus they endured
until evensong time, and their armor was so hewn to pieces that men
might see their naked sides. Then the Red Knight gave Beaumains a
buffet upon the helm, so that he fell groveling to the earth.

Then cried the maiden Linet on high: "Oh, Sir Beaumains, where is thy
courage? Alas! my sister beholdeth thee and she sobbeth and weepeth."

When Beaumains heard this he lifted himself up with great effort and
got upon his feet, and lightly he leaped to his sword and gripped it in
his hand. And he smote so thick that he smote the sword out of the Red
Knight's hand. Sir Beaumains fell upon him and unlaced his helm to have
slain him. But at the request of the lords he saved his life and made
him yield him to the lady.

And so it was that Beaumains, or Sir Gareth, as his real name was, came
into the presence of his lady and won her love through his meekness and
gentleness and courtesy and courage, as every true knight should win
the love of his lady.

                   *       *       *       *       *

So ends happily one of the charming stories of adventure and knighthood
in one of the greatest Cycles of Romance the world has ever known.
Indeed, in that Great Palace we have entered, and some of whose golden
doors we have been opening, there is no door more loved by human beings
than the one over which is written _Romance_, for boys and girls and
their elders have always loved a romantic story, and always will.

There are four great romantic stories in the Palace of English
Literature. The first is _King Arthur and the Round Table_, which
Geoffrey of Monmouth discovered for us by his golden window. The second
great romance is the story of Charlemagne. This was in the twelfth
century, and the most valiant story which grew out of the Charlemagne
Cycle was that of Roland. Every one should know the story of Roland and
his famous sword, Durendal. The third is the _Life_ _of Alexander_,
which came to England from the east. And the fourth is the _Siege of
Troy_, composed in the thirteenth century and written in Latin.

It takes many, many stories to satisfy our love of Romance. As we pass
through the golden door over which is written _Romance_, one whole
wall is filled with the names of lesser romances forgotten long, long
ago. But the stories which Sir Thomas Malory gave us in his _Morte
d'Arthur_, written in 1469, will never be forgotten as long as the
English language is spoken.



                              CHRONOLOGY


  -------+----------------------+----------------------+---------------------
         |        HISTORY       |       LITERATURE     |   SCIENCE AND ART
  -------+----------------------+----------------------+---------------------
         | Romans leave         | St. Augustine,       | Galen, the great
         |   Britain, 409-420.  |   354-430.           |   doctor, d. 200.
         | Coming of Angles and | Earliest Gaelic lays,| Baths of Caracalla,
  200-600|   Saxons, 449.       |   200-300.           |   215.
         | King Arthur, d. 520. | St. Patrick, d. 465. | Great Roman Roads.
         |                      | Merlin, 475-575.     | Underground churches
         |                      | Taliesin, 500-560.   |   for Christians,
         |                      | "Traveller's Song,"  |   250-260.
         |                      |   Widsith.           | Glass used in
         |                      |                      |   cathedral
         |                      |                      |   windows, 300.
         |                      |                      | First bells in
         |                      |                      |   Europe.
         |                      |                      | The first clock,
         |                      |                      |   a water-clock,
         |                      |                      |   5th century.
  -------+----------------------+----------------------+---------------------
         | Charlemagne,         | Beowulf, 7th century,| The first stone
         |   742-814.           |   formative period.  |   English churches,
         | First landing of     | Cædmon, late 7th     |   680.
         |   Danes, 787.        |   century.           | The organ used in a
         | Alfred, 871-900.     | Judith.              |   church, 757.
         | Battle of            | The Fight at         | Worms Cathedral
         |   Brunanburh, 937.   |   Finnesburg.        |   commenced, 996.
         | Canute, 1016-1035.   | St. Cuthbert, d.686. |
         | Macbeth, 1040-1057.  | Aldhelm, 655-709.    |
         | Edward the           | _Arabian Nights_     |
         |   Confessor, 1042.   |   (Traditions of),   |
  600-   | Harold, 1066.        |   c. 700.            |
    1066 |                      | "Deor's Lament."     |
         |                      | Bede, 670?-735.      |
         |                      | Cynewulf, c.         |
         |                      |   725-800.           |
         |                      | Old German           |
         |                      |   alliterative       |
         |                      |   poetry, 8th        |
         |                      |   century.           |
         |                      | Nennius, Historia    |
         |                      |   Britonum, probl.   |
         |                      |   9th century.       |
         |                      | Alfred's             |
         |                      |   translations,      |
         |                      |   after 871.         |
         |                      | Anglo-Saxon          |
         |                      |   Chronicle,         |
         |                      |   875-1154.          |
         |                      | _Asser's Life of     |
         |                      |   Alfred_, 910.      |
         |                      | Poems "Battle of     |
         |                      |   Brunanburh," 937;  |
         |                      |   "Battle of         |
         |                      |   Maldon," 994.        |
         |                      | First medieval       |
         |                      |   drama, 980.        |
         |                      | Aelfric's Homilies,  |
         |                      |   995.               |
         |                      | Early Chanson de     |
         |                      |   Gestes and         |
         |                      |   Fabliaux, 1000     |
         |                      |   and later.         |
  -------+----------------------+----------------------+---------------------
         | William the          | "Chanson de Roland," | Striking clocks with
         |   Conqueror,         |   composed           |    wheels, late
         |   1066-1087.         |   1066-1097?         |    11th century.
         | The Crusades,        | Archbishop Anselm,   | Westminster Hall and
         |   1095-1270.         |   1093-1109.         |   London Bridge
         | Feudal system        | William of Guienne,  |   built, late 11th
         |   in England.        |   the first          |   century.
         | _Domesday Book_,     |   troubadour,        | Wool manufactured
         |   1086.              |   late 11th          |   in England, early
         | William II.,         |   century.           |   12th century.
         |   1087-1100.         | William of           | Silk cultivated in
         | Henry I., 1100-1135. |   Malmesbury,        |   Sicily, 1146.
         | Stephen, 1135-1154.  |   1095-1142.         | Leaning Tower of
         | Civil War,           | Chansons             |   Pisa commenced,
  1066-  |   1139-1142.         |   d'Alexandre,       |   1174.
    1200 | Henry II.,           |   1050-1150.         |
         |   1154-1189.         | Chronicle of         |
         | Thomas à Becket,     |   Geoffrey of        |
         |   d. 1170.           |   Monmouth, 1137.    |
         | Richard I.,          | Nibelungen Lied,     |
         |   1189-1199.         |   c. 1140.           |
         | John, 1199-1216.     | Wace's "Brut         |
         |                      |   d'Angleterre,"     |
         |                      |   1155.              |
         |                      | Minnesingers.        |
         |                      | Arthurian legends,   |
         |                      |   12th century.      |
         |                      | Giraldus Cambrensis, |
         |                      |   1147-1216.         |
         |                      | Crestien de Troyes,  |
         |                      |   1140-1227.         |
         |                      | Gottfried von        |
         |                      |   Strasburg.         |
         |                      | Marie de France,     |
         |                      |   Lais, late 12th    |
         |                      |   century.           |
  -------+----------------------+----------------------+---------------------
         | Magna Charta, 1215.  | Walther von der      | University of Paris
         | Henry III.,          |   Vogelweide, c.     |   Charter, c. 1200.
         |   1216-1272.         |   1170-1235.         | The University of
         | The Barons' War,     | St. Francis of       |   Oxford Charter,
         |   1262-1266.         |   Assisi, 1182-1226. |   c. 1200.
         | Edward I.,           | Wolfram von          | The University of
         |   1272-1307.         |   Eschenbach's       |   Cambridge
         | Wales subdued, 1282. |   "Parzival," early  |   Charter, c. 1231.
         | William Wallace, fl. |   13th century.      | Roger Bacon,
         |   1296-1298.         | The Bestiary, early  |   1214-1292.
         | Edward II.,          |   13th century.      |   (Reference to
         |   1307-1327.         | Romance of the Rose, |   gunpowder.)
         | Robert Bruce,        |   13th and 14th      | Cologne Cathedral
         |   1306-1329.         |   centuries.         |   commenced, 1249.
  1200-  | Battle of            | Havelok (English     | First rag paper, c.
    1350 |   Bannockburn, 1314, |   version), 1300.    |   1300.
         | Edward III.,         | Bevis of Hampton     | First apothecaries
         |   1327-1377.         |   (English version), |   in England, 1345.
         | Scotland             |   c. 1300.           | Glass windows in
         |   reorganized, 1328. | Guy of Warwick       |   general use,
         | Opening of Hundred   |   (English version), |   1345.
         |   Years' War         |   c. 1300.           |
         |   with France, 1337. | Mabinogion,          |
         |                      |   1250-1290.         |
         |                      | King Horn (English   |
         |                      |   version), 1250.    |
         |                      | Dante, 1265-1321.    |
         |                      | Jean de Meung, b.    |
         |                      |   1280.              |
  -------+----------------------+----------------------+---------------------



  Transcriber's Note:

  Italics are indicated by _underscores_. Small capitals have been
  rendered in full capitals.
  A number of minor spelling errors have been corrected without note.





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