Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 8/The Count of Vendel's daughter

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THE COUNT OF VENDEL’S DAUGHTER.
FROM THE ANCIENT DANISH.

 

Within a bower the womb I left,
’Midst dames and maids who stood to aid;
They wrapp’d me first in silken weft,
And next in scarlet red array’d.

But a stepdame soon ’twas my lot to get,
And fierce and wild she prov’d to me;
Within a coffer me she set,
And push’d it out upon the sea.

By one wave I was borne to land,
And by the next away was ta’en;
But God on High, it seems, had plann’d,
That I should footing there obtain.

The tide it drove me to the shore,
And in its backward course retook;
Sure ne’er had child of king before
Such buffeting on sea to brook.

But God He help’d me, so that I
Was cast above the billows’ reach;
And soon a savage wolf drew nigh,
Was prowling on the sandy beach.

Soon prowling came a wolf so gray,
And me up-taking in his jaws,
He carried me with care away
Deep, deep into the forest shaws.

That self-same wolf he was so kind
That me beneath a tree he laid;
And then came running a nimble hind,
And me unto its lair convey’d.

There me for winter one she nurs’d—
She nurs’d me for two winters’ space.
To creep, to creep, I learnt at first,
And next I learnt to pace, to pace.

And I was full eight years, I wot,
Within the quiet, green retreat.
Close couch’d beside the hind I got
Full many a slumber calm and sweet.

I had clothes and shelter of no kind,
Except the linden green alone;
And, save the gentle forest hind,
Had nurse and foster-mother none.

But forth on courser reeking hot
There rush’d a knight of bearing bold,
And he my foster-mother shot
With arrow on the verdant wold.

He pierc’d the hind with mortal wound,
And all our fond connection cut;
Then wrapp’d his cloak my frame around,
And me within his buckler put.

That self-same knight, so bold and strong,
Within his bower the foundling bred
He tended me both well and long,
And finally his bride he made.

He had by long inquiry found
My father was a noble count
In Vendel’s land, who castles own’d,
And rul’d o’er many a plain and mount.

The first night we together slept
Was fraught with woe of darkest hue;
Foes, whom he long at bay had kept,
Broke in on us, and him they slew.

The night we lay together first
A deed of horror was fulfill’d;
The bride-house door his foemen burst,
And in my arms my husband kill’d.

Soon, soon, my friends to counsel go,
A husband new they chose for me;
The cloister’s prior of mitred brow—
The good Sir Nilaus[1] styl’d was he.

But soon as I the threshold cross’d,
The nuns could not their fury smother;
They vow’d by God and all His Host,
The Prior Nilaus was my brother.

Forth from the cloyster him they drew,
They pelted him to death with stones;
I stood close by, and all could view:
I scarce could bear his piteous moans.

Once more my friends to counsel hied,
For me another spouse they get—
Son of the King of England wide
Was he, and hight Sir Engelbret.

Nine winters with that princely youth
I liv’d; of joy we had no dearth,
I tell to ye, for sooth and truth,
To ten fair sons that I gave birth.

But pirate crews the land beset,
No one, no one, my grief could tell;

They slew with sword Sir Engelbret,
And nine of my fair sons as well.

My husband and my sons with brand
They slew. How I bewail their case!
My tenth son bore they from the land—
I never more shall see his face.

Now is my care as complicate
As golden threads which maidens spin;
God crown with bliss Sir Engelbret,
He ever was so free from sin.

But now I’ll take the holy vows,
Within the cloyster under Ey;
I’ll ne’er become another’s spouse,
But in religion I will die.

But first to all the country side
I will declare my bosom’s grief;
I find, the more my grief I hide,
The less, the less, is my relief.

Geo. Borrow.

 

  1. From this stanza it has been deemed probable that the ballad was composed at the time when spiritual persons were permitted to marry.