I ope my brass-embossed book,
Portrayd with many a holy deed
Of martyrs crownd with heavenly meed;
Then, as my taper waxes dim,
Chant, ere I sleep, my measured hymn.
Who but would cast his pomp away,
And to the worlds tumultuous stage,
Prefer the peaceful Hermitage?
Notwithstanding the prescription of the genial hermit, with which his guest willingly complied, he found it no easy matter to bring the harp to harmony.
Methinks, holy father, said he, the instrument wants one string, and the rest have been somewhat misused.
Ay, markst thou that? replied the hermit; that shows thee a master of the craft. Wine and wassail, he added gravely, casting up his eyesall the fault of wine and wassail !I told Allan-a-Dale, the northern minstrel, that he would damage the harp if he touched it after the seventh cup, but he would not be controlled.Friend, I drink to thy successful performance.
So saying, he took off his cup with much gravity, at the same time shaking his head at the intemperance of the Scottish harper.
The knight in the meantime had brought the strings into some order, and, after a short prelude, asked his host whether he would choose a sirvente in the language of oc, or a lai in the language of oui, or a virelai, or a ballad in the vulgar English.1
A ballad, a ballad, said the hermit, against all the ocs and ouis of France. Downright English am I, Sir Knight, and downright English was my patron St. Dunstan, and scorned oc and oui, as he would have scorned the parings of the devils hoofdownright English alone shall be sung in this cell.
I will essay, then, said the knight, a ballad composed by a Saxon gleeman, whom I knew in Holy Land.
It speedily appeared that if the knight was not a complete master of the minstrel art, his taste for it had at least been cultivated under the best instructors. Art had taught him to soften the faults of a voice which had little compass, and was naturally rough rather than mellow, and, in short, had done all that culture can do in supplying natural deficiencies. His performance, therefore, might have been termed very respectable by abler judges than the hermit, especially as the knight threw into the notes now a degree of spirit, and now of plaintive enthusiasm, which gave force and energy to the verses which he sung.
The Crusaders Return.
1.High deeds achieved of knightly fame,
From Palestine the champion came;
The cross upon his shoulders borne,
Battle and blast had dimmd and torn.
Each dint upon his batterd shield
Was token of a foughten field;
And thus, beneath his ladys bower,
He sung, as fell the twilight hour:
2.Joy to the fair!thy knight behold,
Returnd from yonder land of gold;
No wealth he brings, nor wealth can need,
Save his good arms and battle-steed;
His spurs, to dash against a foe,
His lance and sword to lay him low;
Such all the trophies of his toil,
Suchand the hope of Teklas smile!
3.Joy to the fair! whose constant knight
Her favour fired to feats of might;
Unnoted shall she not remain,
Where meet the bright and noble train;
Minstrel shall sing and herald tell
Mark yonder maid of beauty well,
Tis she for whose bright eyes were won
The listed field at Askalon!
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