Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 5/King Dyring
(TRANSLATED AND VERSIFIED FROM THE PROSE OF EMILE SOUVESTRE.)
Over the main to an island home Dyring the prince has sped,
And there a lovely maiden took, in blessed troth to his bed.
Seven years the wild fowl come and go, and round the princess stand
Six little blooming children, fair as an angel band.
And then this lily ladye bowed down her gentle head,
And Dyring and his orphans wept, both wife and mother dead.
Ere long, all sad with loneliness, he sought a second bride,
And from an isle across the sea, he brought one to his side;
He brought her to his palace home, but she was cold of heart,
And there she found—with tear-worn eyes, and lips that were apart
With bitter sob and wailing—the orphans three and three.
They bade her welcome through their tears—she spurned them from her knee.
“Nor bread nor beer shall be your cheer—hunger and thirst ye may,
Give up, give up, those cushions blue, on straw I bid ye lay,
No waxen tapers, blazing bright, for you shall shed their ray.”
Weeping they laid them on the straw, all in the frightening gloom,
Those trembling, tender orphans—but in her lonely tomb
Under the dank and heavy sod, thro’ coffin and thro’ shroud,
To mother’s ear, to mother’s heart, their plaint reached piercing loud.
She rose before Lord Jesu’s throne—“Good Lord, I do implore,
Oh! let me pass from out my grave, and stand before my door.”
And Jesus—who had loved well His mother here below—
Had pity on the sorrowing heart, and loos’d her till cock-crow.
Then gathered she her crampèd limbs out of her grave so strait,
Nor was she stayed by coffin stone, coped wall, or barred lych-gate.
Fleet thro’ the sleeping town she sped, across the moon-lit square,
Fleet by the sculptured fountain, to Dyring’s palace fair;
All still and soundless were the streets, no foot-fall as she sped,
And yet the watch-dogs bayed with fear, with knowledge of the dead!
Upon the palace threshold sat, with head bowed on her knee,
A gentle child—with dolor bowed—her eldest daughter she.
“Dear daughter, say,” the mother spake, in anxious, solemn strain,
“Where are thy little brothers three, where are thy sisters twain?”
“Dear daughter, sayest thou?” cried the child. “No mother mine art thou,
She had soft cheeks of rose and white, whilst pale as death thy brow.”
“Oh! how can I be fair and young—from old death’s realm am I!
Oh! how can I be rose and white—so long since did I die!”
Then passed the death-pale ladye thorough the open door,
And sliding up the marble stairs, stood on her chamber floor.
Half-scared, half-joyous, round about her sleepless children press,
With gentle hand she washes one, another’s hair doth tress,
Breathes mother’s comfort unto these, and to her blanched breast
Presses her last-born little one, to lull him into rest.
Then bade she to her eldest child—who from the threshold stone
Had followed, in despite of fear, drawn by her love alone—
“Go rouse thy father Dyring, and charge him quickly come:”
And he stood within the chamber, with dread and awe struck dumb.
Then cried with angry warning voice, the spectre of his bride,
With her trembling children round her, and crouching at her side:
“Before I left this treacherous world, I left good bread and beer,
For these our tender little ones—now starving without cheer—
Soft cushions blue to rest upon, bright tapers burning round,
But now, all in the dark they lie, on straw upon the ground.
Beware! beware! for should it fare that I need come once more,
For your thrice guilty father’s soul—God’s vengeance is in store.
“But now the red cock calleth me back to my grave so cold;
But now the black cock calls, and lo! the gates of heaven unfold;
And now the white cock calls, and I, no longer must withhold.”
And ever since that night of fear, when startled in his lair,
With angry bark the watchful hound bays on the sleeping air,
Both Dyring and his princess haste to spread the board with fare.
And ever since that night of dread, when howls the scarèd hound,
Lest on their gaze the spectre come from the lone burial ground,
King Dyring and the princess both, in panic hide their head,
Good Lord! give rest to that poor soul, and all the Christian dead!
- Translator’s Note.—I am afraid “beer” may be considered “low” and unpoetical by some of my readers, but “pain et bière” are “in the bond,” and so I stand by them.