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The World of Romance - being Contributions to The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, 1856
by William Morris
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That maiden said that she turned round to him wonderingly, as if she had not caught his meaning, and that just for one second, then stretched out over the lists again.

Now till about this time I had made no cry as I jousted. But there came against me a very tall knight, on a great horse, and when we met our spears both shivered, and he howled with vexation, for he wished to slay me, being the brother of that knight I had struck down in the hall the day before.

And they say that when Alys heard his howl sounding faintly through the bars of his great helm, she trembled; but I know not, for I was stronger than that knight, and when we fought with swords, I struck him right out of his saddle, and near slew him with that stroke.

Whereupon I shouted 'Alys' out loud, and she blushed red for pleasure, and Sir Guy took note of it, and rose up in a rage and ran down and armed.

Then presently I saw a great knight come riding in with three black chevrons on a gold shield: and so he began to ride at me, and at first we only broke both our spears, but then he drew his sword, and fought quite in another way to what the other knights had, so that I saw at once that I had no chance against him: nevertheless, for a long time he availed nothing, though he wounded me here and there, but at last drove his sword right through mine, through my shield and my helm, and I fell, and lay like one dead.

And thereat the King cried out to cease, and the degree was given to Sir Guy, because I had overthrown forty knights and he had overthrown me.

Then they told me, I was carried out of the lists and laid in a hostelry near the palace, and Guy went up to the pavilion where Alys was and she crowned him, both of them being very pale, for she doubted if I were slain, and he knew that she did not love him, thinking before that she did; for he was good and true, and had saved her life and honour, and she (poor maid!) wished to please her father, and strove to think that all was right.

But I was by no means slain, for the sword had only cleft my helm, and when I came to myself again I felt despair of all things, because I knew not that she loved me, for how should she, knowing nothing of me? likewise dust had been cast on my gold wings, and she saw it done.

Then I heard a great crying in the street, that sounded strangely in the quiet night, so I sent to ask what it might be: and there came presently into my chamber a man in gilded armour; he was an old man, and his hair and beard were gray, and behind him came six men armed, who carried a dead body of a young man between them, and I said, 'What is it? who is he?' Then the old man, whose head was heavy for grief, said: 'Oh, sir! this is my son; for as we went yesterday with our merchandize some twenty miles from this fair town, we passed by a certain hold, and therefrom came a knight and men at arms, who when my son would have fought with them, overthrew him and bound him, and me and all our men they said they would slay if we did ought; so then they cut out my son's eyes, and cut off his hands, and then said, "The Knight of High Gard takes these for tribute." Therewithal they departed, taking with them my son's eyes and his hands on a platter; and when they were gone I would have followed them, and slain some of them at least, but my own people would not suffer me, and for grief and pain my son's heart burst, and he died, and behold I am here.'

Then I thought I could win glory, and I was much rejoiced thereat, and said to the old man,

'Would you love to be revenged?'

But he set his teeth, and pulled at the skirt of his surcoat, as hardly for his passion he said, 'Yes.'

'Then,' I said, 'I will go and try to slay this knight, if you will show me the way to La Haute Garde.'

And he, taking my hand, said, 'O glorious knight, let us go now!' And he did not ask who I was, or whether I was a good knight, but began to go down the stairs at once, so I put on my armour and followed him.

And we two set forth alone to La Haute Garde, for no man else dared follow us, and I rejoiced in thinking that while Guy was sitting at the King's table feasting, I was riding out to slay the King's enemies, for it never once seemed possible to me that I should be worsted.

It was getting light again by then we came in sight of High Gard; we wound up the hill on foot, for it was very steep; I blew at the gates a great blast which was even as though the stag should blow his own mort, or like the blast that Balen heard.

For in a very short while the gates opened and a great band of armed men, more than thirty I think, and a knight on horseback among them, who was armed in red, stood before us, and on one side of him was a serving man with a silver dish, on the other, one with a butcher's cleaver, a knife, and pincers.

So when the knight saw us he said, 'What, are you come to pay tribute in person, old man, and is this another fair son? Good sir, how is your lady?'

So I said grimly, being in a rage, 'I have a will to slay you.'

But I could scarce say so before the old merchant rushed at the red knight with a yell, who without moving slew his horse with an axe, and then the men at arms speared the old man, slaying him as one would an otter or a rat.

Afterwards they were going to set on me, but the red knight held them back, saying: 'Nay, I am enough,' and we spurred on our horses.

As we met, I felt just as if some one had thrown a dull brown cloth over my eyes, and I felt the wretched spear-point slip off his helm; then I felt a great pain somewhere, that did not seem to be in my body, but in the world, or the sky, or something of that sort.

And I know not how long that pain seemed to last now, but I think years, though really I grew well and sane again in a few weeks.

And when I woke, scarce knowing whether I was in the world or heaven or hell, I heard some one singing.

I tried to listen but could not, because I did not know where I was, and was thinking of that; I missed verse after verse of the song, this song, till at last I saw I must be in the King's palace.

There was a window by my bed, I looked out at it, and saw that I was high up; down in the street the people were going to and fro, and there was a knot of folks gathered about a minstrel, who sat on the edge of a fountain, with his head laid sideways on his shoulder, and nursing one leg on the other; he was singing only, having no instrument, and he sang the song I had tried to listen to, I heard some of it now:

'He was fair and free, At every tourney He wan the degree, Sir Guy the good knight.

'He wan Alys the fair, The King's own daughtere, With all her gold hair, That shone well bright.

'He saved a good Knight, Who also was wight, And had winges bright On a blue shield.

'And he slew the Knight Of the High Gard in fight, In red weed that was dight In the open field.'

I fell back in my bed and wept, for I was weak with my illness; to think of this! truly this man was a perfect knight, and deserved to win Alys. Ah! well! but was this the glory I was to have, and no one believed that I was a King's son.

And so I passed days and nights, thinking of my dishonour and misery, and my utter loneliness; no one cared for me; verily, I think, if any one had spoken to me lovingly, I should have fallen on his neck and died, while I was so weak.

But I grew strong at last, and began to walk about, and in the Palace Pleasaunce, one day, I met Sir Guy walking by himself.

So I told him how that I thanked him with all my heart for my life, but he said it was only what a good knight ought to do; for that hearing the mad enterprise I had ridden on, he had followed me swiftly with a few knights, and so saved me.

He looked stately and grand as he spoke, yet I did not love him, nay, rather hated him, though I tried hard not to do so, for there was some air of pitiless triumph and coldness of heart in him that froze me; so scornfully, too, he said that about 'my mad enterprise,' as though I must be wrong in everything I did. Yet afterwards, as I came to know more, I pitied him instead of hating; but at that time I thought his life was without a shadow, for I did not know that the Lady Alys loved him not.

And now I turned from him, and walked slowly up and down the garden-paths, not exactly thinking, but with some ghosts of former thoughts passing through my mind. The day, too, was most lovely, as it grew towards evening, and I had all the joy of a man lately sick in the flowers and all things; if any bells at that time had begun to chime, I think I should have lain down on the grass and wept; but now there was but the noise of the bees in the yellow musk, and that had not music enough to bring me sorrow.

And as I walked I stooped and picked a great orange lily, and held it in my hand, and lo! down the garden walk, the same fair damozel that had before this given me good counsel in the hall.

Thereat I was very glad, and walked to meet her smiling, but she was very grave, and said:

'Fair sir, the Lady Alys des roses wishes to see you in her chamber.'

I could not answer a word, but turned, and went with her while she walked slowly beside me, thinking deeply, and picking a rose to pieces as she went; and I, too, thought much, what could she want me for? surely, but for one thing; and yet—and yet.

But when we came to the lady's chamber, behold! before the door, stood a tall knight, fair and strong, and in armour, save his head, who seemed to be guarding the door, though not so as to seem so to all men.

He kissed the damozel eagerly, and then she said to me, 'This is Sir William de la Fosse, my true knight;' so the knight took my hand and seemed to have such joy of me, that all the blood came up to my face for pure delight.

But then the damozel Blanche opened the door and bade me go in while she abode still without; so I entered, when I had put aside the heavy silken hangings that filled the doorway.

And there sat Alys; she arose when she saw me, and stood pale, and with her lips apart, and her hands hanging loose by her side.

And then all doubt and sorrow went quite away from me; I did not even feel drunk with joy, but rather felt that I could take it all in, lose no least fragment of it; then at once I felt that I was beautiful, and brave and true; I had no doubt as to what I should do now.

I went up to her, and first kissed her on the forehead, and then on the feet, and then drew her to me, and with my arms round about her, and her arms hanging loose, and her lips dropped, we held our lips together so long that my eyes failed me, and I could not see her, till I looked at her green raiment.

And she had never spoken to me yet; she seemed just then as if she were going to, for she lifted her eyes to mine, and opened her mouth; but she only said, 'Dear Lionel,' and fell forward as though she were faint; and again I held her, and kissed her all over; and then she loosed her hair that it fell to her feet, and when I clipped her next, she threw it over me, that it fell all over my scarlet robes like trickling of some golden well in Paradise.

Then, within a while, we called in the Lady Blanche and Sir William de la Fosse, and while they talked about what we should do, we sat together and kissed; and what they said, I know not.

But I remember, that that night, quite late, Alys and I rode out side by side from the good city in the midst of a great band of knights and men- at-arms, and other bands drew to us as we went, and in three days we reached Sir William's castle which was called 'La Garde des Chevaliers.'

And straightway he caused toll the great bell, and to hang out from the highest tower a great banner of red and gold, cut into so many points that it seemed as if it were tattered; for this was the custom of his house when they wanted their vassals together.

And Alys and I stood up in the tower by the great bell as they tolled it; I remember now that I had passed my hand underneath her hair, so that the fingers of it folded over and just lay on her cheek; she gazed down on the bell, and at every deafening stroke she drew in her breath and opened her eyes to a wide stare downwards.

But on the very day that we came, they arrayed her in gold and flowers (and there were angels and knights and ladies wrought on her gold raiment), and I waited for an hour in the chapel till she came, listening to the swallows outside, and gazing with parted lips at the pictures on the golden walls; but when she came, I knelt down before the altar, and she knelt down and kissed my lips; and then the priest came in, and the singers and the censer-boys; and that chapel was soon confusedly full of golden raiment, and incense, and ladies and singing; in the midst of which I wedded Alys. And men came into Knights' Gard till we had two thousand men in it, and great store of munitions of war and provisions.

But Alys and I lived happily together in the painted hall and in the fair water-meadows, and as yet no one came against us.

And still her talk was, of deeds of arms, and she was never tired of letting the serpent rings of my mail slip off her wrist and long hand, and she would kiss my shield and helm and the gold wings on my surcoat, my mother's work, and would talk of the ineffable joy that would be when we had fought through all the evil that was coming on us.

Also she would take my sword and lay it on her knees and talk to it, telling it how much she loved me.

Yea in all things, O Lord God, Thou knowest that my love was a very child, like thy angels. Oh! my wise soft-handed love! endless passion! endless longing always satisfied!

Think you that the shouting curses of the trumpet broke off our love, or in any ways lessened it? no, most certainly, but from the time the siege began, her cheeks grew thinner, and her passionate face seemed more and more a part of me; now too, whenever I happened to see her between the grim fighting she would do nothing but kiss me all the time, or wring my hands, or take my head on her breast, being so eagerly passionate that sometimes a pang shot through me that she might die.

Till one day they made a breach in the wall, and when I heard of it for the first time, I sickened, and could not call on God; but Alys cut me a tress of her yellow hair and tied it in my helm, and armed me, and saying no word, led me down to the breach by the hand, and then went back most ghastly pale.

So there on the one side of the breach were the spears of William de la Fosse and Lionel of the gold wings, and on the other the spears of King Gilbert and Sir Guy le bon amant, but the King himself was not there; Sir Guy was.

Well,—what would you have? in this world never yet could two thousand men stand against twenty thousand; we were almost pushed back with their spear-points, they were so close together:—slay six of them and the spears were as thick as ever; but if two of our men fell there was straightway a hole.

Yet just at the end of this we drove them back in one charge two yards beyond the breach, and behold in the front rank, Sir Guy, utterly fearless, cool, and collected; nevertheless, with one stroke I broke his helm, and he fell to the ground before the two armies, even as I fell that day in the lists; and we drove them twenty feet farther, yet they saved Sir Guy.

Well, again,—what would you have? They drove us back again, and they drove us into our inner castle walls. And I was the last to go in, and just as I was entering, the boldest and nearest of the enemy clutched at my love's hair in my helm, shouting out quite loud, 'Whore's hair for John the goldsmith!'

At the hearing of which blasphemy the Lord gave me such strength, that I turned and caught him by the ribs with my left hand, and with my right, by sheer strength, I tore off his helm and part of his nose with it, and then swinging him round about, dashed his brains out against the castle- walls.

Yet thereby was I nearly slain, for they surrounded me, only Sir William and the others charged out and rescued me, but hardly.

May the Lord help all true men! In an hour we were all fighting pell mell on the walls of the castle itself, and some were slain outright, and some were wounded, and some yielded themselves and received mercy; but I had scarce the heart to fight any more, because I thought of Alys lying with her face upon the floor and her agonised hands outspread, trying to clutch something, trying to hold to the cracks of the boarding. So when I had seen William de la Fosse slain by many men, I cast my shield and helm over the battlements, and gazed about for a second, and lo! on one of the flanking towers, my gold wings still floated by the side of William's white lion, and in the other one I knew my poor Love, whom they had left quite alone, was lying.

So then I turned into a dark passage and ran till I reached the tower stairs, up that too I sprang as though a ghost were after me, I did so long to kiss her again before I died, to soothe her too, so that she should not feel this day, when in the aftertimes she thought of it, as wholly miserable to her. For I knew they would neither slay her nor treat her cruelly, for in sooth all loved her, only they would make her marry Sir Guy le bon amant.

In the topmost room I found her, alas! alas! lying on the floor, as I said; I came to her and kissed her head as she lay, then raised her up; and I took all my armour off and broke my sword over my knee.

And then I led her to the window away from the fighting, from whence we only saw the quiet country, and kissed her lips till she wept and looked no longer sad and wretched; then I said to her:

'Now, O Love, we must part for a little, it is time for me to go and die.'

'Why should you go away?' she said, 'they will come here quick enough, no doubt, and I shall have you longer with me if you stay; I do not turn sick at the sight of blood.'

'O my poor Love!' And I could not go because of her praying face; surely God would grant anything to such a face as that.

'Oh!' she said, 'you will let me have you yet a little longer, I see; also let me kiss your feet.'

She threw herself down and kissed them, and then did not get up again at once, but lay there holding my feet.

And while she lay there, behold a sudden tramping that she did not hear, and over the green hangings the gleam of helmets that she did not see, and then one pushed aside the hangings with his spear, and there stood the armed men.

'Will not somebody weep for my darling?'

She sprang up from my feet with a low, bitter moan, most terrible to hear, she kissed me once on the lips, and then stood aside, with her dear head thrown back, and holding her lovely loose hair strained over her outspread arms, as though she were wearied of all things that had been or that might be.

Then one thrust me through the breast with a spear, and another with his sword, which was three inches broad, gave me a stroke across the thighs that hit to the bone; and as I fell forward one cleft me to the teeth with his axe.

And then I heard my darling shriek.



SVEND AND HIS BRETHREN

A king in the olden time ruled over a mighty nation: a proud man he must have been, any man who was king of that nation: hundreds of lords, each a prince over many people, sat about him in the council chamber, under the dim vault, that was blue like the vault of heaven, and shone with innumerable glistenings of golden stars.

North, south, east, and west spread that land of his, the sea did not stop it; his empire clomb the high mountains, and spread abroad its arms over the valleys of them; all along the sea-line shore cities set with their crowns of towers in the midst of broad bays, each fit, it seemed, to be a harbour for the navies of all the world.

Inland the pastures and cornlands lay, chequered much with climbing, over- tumbling grape vines, under the sun that crumbled their clods, and drew up the young wheat in the spring-time, under the rain that made the long grass soft and fine, under all fair fertilising influences: the streams leapt down from the mountain tops, or cleft their way through the ridged ravines; they grew great rivers, like seas each one.

The mountains were cloven, and gave forth from their scarred sides wealth of ore and splendour of marble; all things this people that King Valdemar ruled over could do; they levelled mountains, that over the smooth roads the wains might go, laden with silk and spices from the sea: they drained lakes, that the land might yield more and more, as year by year the serfs, driven like cattle, but worse fed, worse housed, died slowly, scarce knowing that they had souls; they builded them huge ships, and said that they were masters of the sea too; only, I trow the sea was an unruly subject, and often sent them back their ships cut into more pieces than the pines of them were, when the adze first fell upon them; they raised towers, and bridges, and marble palaces with endless corridors rose-scented, and cooled with welling fountains.

They sent great armies and fleets to all the points of heaven that the wind blows from, who took and burned many happy cities, wasted many fields and valleys, blotted out from the memory of men the names of nations, made their men's lives a hopeless shame and misery to them, their women's lives disgrace, and then came home to have flowers thrown on them in showers, to be feasted and called heroes.

Should not then their king be proud of them? Moreover they could fashion stone and brass into the shapes of men; they could write books; they knew the names of the stars, and their number; they knew what moved the passions of men in the hearts of them, and could draw you up cunningly, catalogues of virtues and vices; their wise men could prove to you that any lie was true, that any truth was false, till your head grew dizzy, and your heart sick, and you almost doubted if there were a God.

Should not then their king be proud of them? Their men were strong in body, and moved about gracefully—like dancers; and the purple-black, scented hair of their gold-clothed knights seemed to shoot out rays under the blaze of light that shone like many suns in the king's halls. Their women's faces were very fair in red and white, their skins fair and half- transparent like the marble of their mountains, and their voices sounded like the rising of soft music from step to step of their own white palaces.

Should not then their king be proud of such a people, who seemed to help so in carrying on the world to its consummate perfection, which they even hoped their grandchildren would see?

Alas! alas! they were slaves—king and priest, noble and burgher, just as much as the meanest tasked serf, perhaps more even than he, for they were so willingly, but he unwillingly enough.

They could do everything but justice, and truth, and mercy; therefore God's judgments hung over their heads, not fallen yet, but surely to fall one time or other.

For ages past they had warred against one people only, whom they could not utterly subdue; a feeble people in numbers, dwelling in the very midst of them, among the mountains; yet now they were pressing them close; acre after acre, with seas of blood to purchase each acre, had been wrested from the free people, and their end seemed drawing near; and this time the king, Valdemar, had marched to their land with a great army, to make war on them, he boasted to himself, almost for the last time.

A walled town in the free land; in that town, a house built of rough, splintery stones; and in a great low-browed room of that house, a grey- haired man pacing to and fro impatiently: 'Will she never come?' he says, 'it is two hours since the sun set; news, too, of the enemy's being in the land; how dreadful if she is taken!' His great broad face is marked with many furrows made by the fierce restless energy of the man; but there is a wearied look on it, the look of a man who, having done his best, is yet beaten; he seemed to long to be gone and be at peace: he, the fighter in many battles, who often had seemed with his single arm to roll back the whole tide of fight, felt despairing enough now; this last invasion, he thought, must surely quite settle the matter; wave after wave, wave after wave, had broken on that dear land and been rolled back from it, and still the hungry sea pressed on; they must be finally drowned in that sea; how fearfully they had been tried for their sins. Back again to his anxiety concerning Cissela, his daughter, go his thoughts, and he still paces up and down wearily, stopping now and then to gaze intently on things which he has seen a hundred times; and the night has altogether come on.

At last the blast of a horn from outside, challenge and counter-challenge, and the wicket to the court-yard is swung open; for this house, being in a part of the city where the walls are somewhat weak, is a little fortress in itself, and is very carefully guarded. The old man's face brightened at the sound of the new comers, and he went toward the entrance of the house where he was met by two young knights fully armed, and a maiden. 'Thank God you are come,' he says; but stops when he sees her face, which is quite pale, almost wild with some sorrow. 'The saints! Cissela, what is it?' he says. 'Father, Eric will tell you.' Then suddenly a clang, for Eric has thrown on the ground a richly- jewelled sword, sheathed, and sets his foot on it, crunching the pearls on the sheath; then says, flinging up his head,—'There, father, the enemy is in the land; may that happen to every one of them! but for my part I have accounted for two already.' 'Son Eric, son Eric, you talk for ever about yourself; quick, tell me about Cissela instead: if you go on boasting and talking always about yourself, you will come to no good end, son, after all.' But as he says this, he smiles nevertheless, and his eye glistens.

'Well, father, listen—such a strange thing she tells us, not to be believed, if she did not tell us herself; the enemy has suddenly got generous, one of them at least, which is something of a disappointment to me—ah! pardon, about my self again; and that is about myself too. Well, father, what am I to do?—But Cissela, she wandered some way from her maidens, when—ah! but I never could tell a story properly, let her tell it herself; here, Cissela!—well, well, I see she is better employed, talking namely, how should I know what! with Siur in the window-seat yonder—but she told us that, as she wandered almost by herself, she presently heard shouts and saw many of the enemy's knights riding quickly towards her; whereat she knelt only and prayed to God, who was very gracious to her; for when, as she thought, something dreadful was about to happen, the chief of the knights (a very noble-looking man, she said) rescued her, and, after he had gazed earnestly into her face, told her she might go back again to her own home, and her maids with her, if only she would tell him where she dwelt and her name; and withal he sent three knights to escort her some way toward the city; then he turned and rode away with all his knights but those three, who, when they knew that he had quite gone, she says, began to talk horribly, saying things whereof in her terror she understood the import only: then, before worse came to pass came I and slew two, as I said, and the other ran away 'lustily with a good courage'; and that is the sword of one of the slain knights, or, as one might rather call them, rascally caitiffs.'

The old man's thoughts seemed to have gone wandering after his son had finished; for he said nothing for some time, but at last spoke dejectedly:

'Eric, brave son, when I was your age I too hoped, and my hopes are come to this at last; you are blind in your hopeful youth, Eric, and do not see that this king (for the king it certainly was) will crush us, and not the less surely because he is plainly not ungenerous, but rather a good, courteous knight. Alas! poor old Gunnar, broken down now and ready to die, as your country is! How often, in the olden time, thou used'st to say to thyself, as thou didst ride at the head of our glorious house, 'this charge may finish this matter, this battle must.' They passed away, those gallant fights, and still the foe pressed on, and hope, too, slowly ebbed away, as the boundaries of our land grew less and less: behold this is the last wave but one or two, and then for a sad farewell to name and freedom. Yet, surely the end of the world must come when we are swept off the face of the earth. God waits long, they say, before He avenges his own.'

As he was speaking, Siur and Cissela came nearer to him, and Cissela, all traces of her late terror gone from her face now, raising her lips to his bended forehead, kissed him fondly, and said, with glowing face,

'Father, how can I help our people? Do they want deaths? I will die. Do they want happiness? I will live miserably through years and years, nor ever pray for death.'

Some hope or other seemed growing up in his heart, and showing through his face; and he spoke again, putting back the hair from off her face, and clasping it about with both his hands, while he stooped to kiss her.

'God remember your mother, Cissela! Then it was no dream after all, but true perhaps, as indeed it seemed at the time; but it must come quickly, that woman's deliverance, or not at all. When was it that I heard that old tale, that sounded even then true to my ears? for we have not been punished for nought, my son; that is not God's way. It comes across my memory somehow, mingled in a wonderful manner with the purple of the pines on the hillside, with the fragrance of them borne from far towards me; for know, my children, that in times past, long, long past now, we did an evil deed, for our forefathers, who have been dead now, and forgiven so long ago, once mad with rage at some defeat from their enemies, fired a church, and burned therein many women who had fled thither for refuge; and from that time a curse cleaves to us. Only they say, that at the last we may be saved from utter destruction by a woman; I know not. God grant it may be so.'

Then she said, 'Father, brother, and you, Siur, come with me to the chapel; I wish you to witness me make an oath.'

Her face was pale, her lips were pale, her golden hair was pale; but not pale, it seemed, from any sinking of blood, but from gathering of intensest light from somewhere, her eyes perhaps, for they appeared to burn inwardly.

They followed the sweeping of her purple robe in silence through the low heavy-beamed passages: they entered the little chapel, dimly lighted by the moon that night, as it shone through one of the three arrow-slits of windows at the east end. There was little wealth of marble there, I trow; little time had those fighting men for stone-smoothing. Albeit, one noted many semblances of flowers even in the dim half-light, and here and there the faces of BRAVE men, roughly cut enough, but grand, because the hand of the carver had followed his loving heart. Neither was there gold wanting to the altar and its canopy; and above the low pillars of the nave hung banners, taken from the foe by the men of that house, gallant with gold and jewels.

She walked up to the altar and took the blessed book of the Gospels from the left side of it, then knelt in prayer for a moment or two, while the three men stood behind her reverently. When she rose she made a sign to them, and from their scabbards gleamed three swords in the moonlight; then, while they held them aloft, and pointed toward the altar, she opened the book at the page whereon was painted Christ the Lord dying on the cross, pale against the gleaming gold: she said, in a firm voice, 'Christ God, who diedst for all men, so help me, as I refuse not life, happiness, even honour, for this people whom I love.'

Then she kissed the face so pale against the gold, and knelt again.

But when she had risen, and before she could leave the space by the altar, Siur had stepped up to her, and seized her hurriedly, folding both his arms about her; she let herself be held there, her bosom against his; then he held her away from him a little space, holding her by the arms near the shoulder; then he took her hands and laid them across his shoulders, so that now she held him.

And they said nothing; what could they say? Do you know any word for what they meant?

And the father and brother stood by, looking quite awe-struck, more so they seemed than by her solemn oath. Till Siur, raising his head from where it lay, cried out aloud:

'May God forgive me as I am true to her! hear you, father and brother?'

Then said Cissela: 'May God help me in my need, as I am true to Siur.'

And the others went, and they two were left standing there alone, with no little awe over them, strange and shy as they had never yet been to each other. Cissela shuddered, and said in a quick whisper: 'Siur, on your knees! and pray that these oaths may never clash.'

'Can they, Cissela?' he said.

'O love,' she cried, 'you have loosed my hand; take it again, or I shall die, Siur!'

He took both her hands, he held them fast to his lips, to his forehead; he said: 'No, God does not allow such things: truth does not lie; you are truth; this need not be prayed for.'

She said: 'Oh, forgive me! yet—yet this old chapel is damp and cold even in the burning summer weather. O knight Siur, something strikes through me; I pray you kneel and pray.'

He looked steadily at her for a long time without answering, as if he were trying once for all to become indeed one with her; then said: 'Yes, it is possible; in no other way could you give up everything.'

Then he took from off his finger a thin golden ring, and broke it in two, and gave her the one half, saying: 'When will they come together?'

Then within a while they left the chapel, and walked as in a dream between the dazzling lights of the hall, where the knights sat now, and between those lights sat down together, dreaming still the same dream each of them; while all the knights shouted for Siur and Cissela. Even if a man had spent all his life looking for sorrowful things, even if he sought for them with all his heart and soul, and even though he had grown grey in that quest, yet would he have found nothing in all the world, or perhaps in all the stars either, so sorrowful as Cissela.

They had accepted her sacrifice after long deliberation, they had arrayed her in purple and scarlet, they had crowned her with gold wrought about with jewels, they had spread abroad the veil of her golden hair; yet now, as they led her forth in the midst of the band of knights, her brother Eric holding fast her hand, each man felt like a murderer when he beheld her face, whereon was no tear, wherein was no writhing of muscle, twitching of nerve, wherein was no sorrow-mark of her own, but only the sorrow-mark which God sent her, and which she must perforce wear.

Yet they had not caught eagerly at her offer, they had said at first almost to a man: 'Nay, this thing shall not be, let us die altogether rather than this.' Yet as they sat, and said this, to each man of the council came floating dim memories of that curse of the burned women, and its remedy; to many it ran rhythmically, an old song better known by the music than the words, heard once and again, long ago, when the gusty wind overmastered the chesnut-boughs and strewed the smooth sward with their star-leaves.

Withal came thoughts to each man, partly selfish, partly wise and just, concerning his own wife and children, concerning children yet unborn; thoughts too of the glory of the old name; all that had been suffered and done that the glorious free land might yet be a nation.

And the spirit of hope, never dead but sleeping only, woke up within their hearts: 'We may yet be a people,' they said to themselves, 'if we can but get breathing time.'

And as they thought these things, and doubted, Siur rose up in the midst of them and said: 'You are right in what you think, countrymen, and she is right; she is altogether good and noble; send her forth.'

Then, with one look of utter despair at her as she stood statue-like, he left the council, lest he should fall down and die in the midst of them, he said; yet he died not then, but lived for many years afterwards.

But they rose from their seats, and when they were armed, and she royally arrayed, they went with her, leading her through the dear streets, whence you always saw the great pine-shadowed mountains; she went away from all that was dear to her, to go and sit a crowned queen in the dreary marble palace, whose outer walls rose right up from the weary-hearted sea. She could not think, she durst not; she feared, if she did, that she would curse her beauty, almost curse the name of love, curse Siur, though she knew he was right, for not slaying her; she feared that she might curse God.

So she thought not at all, steeping her senses utterly in forgetfulness of the happy past, destroying all anticipation of the future: yet, as they left the city amid the tears of women, and fixed sorrowful gaze of men, she turned round once, and stretched her arms out involuntarily, like a dumb senseless thing, towards the place where she was born, and where her life grew happier day by day, and where his arms first crept round about her.

She turned away and thought, but in a cold speculative manner, how it was possible that she was bearing this sorrow; as she often before had wondered, when slight things vexed her overmuch, how people had such sorrows and lived, and almost doubted if the pain was so much greater in great sorrows than in small troubles, or whether the nobleness only was greater, the pain not sharper, but more lingering.

Halfway toward the camp the king's people met her; and over the trampled ground, where they had fought so fiercely but a little time before, they spread breadth of golden cloth, that her feet might not touch the arms of her dead countrymen, or their brave bodies.

And so they came at last with many trumpet-blasts to the king's tent, who stood at the door of it, to welcome his bride that was to be: a noble man truly to look on, kindly, and genial-eyed; the red blood sprang up over his face when she came near; and she looked back no more, but bowed before him almost to the ground, and would have knelt, but that he caught her in his arms and kissed her; she was pale no more now; and the king, as he gazed delightedly at her, did not notice that sorrow-mark, which was plain enough to her own people.

So the trumpets sounded again one long peal that seemed to make all the air reel and quiver, and the soldiers and lords shouted: 'Hurrah for the Peace-Queen, Cissela.'

* * * * *

'Come, Harald,' said a beautiful golden-haired boy to one who was plainly his younger brother, 'Come, and let us leave Robert here by the forge, and show our lady-mother this beautiful thing. Sweet master armourer, farewell.'

'Are you going to the queen then?' said the armourer.

'Yea,' said the boy, looking wonderingly at the strong craftsman's eager face.

'But, nay; let me look at you awhile longer, you remind me so much of one I loved long ago in my own land. Stay awhile till your other brother goes with you.'

'Well, I will stay, and think of what you have been telling me; I do not feel as it I should ever think of anything else for long together, as long as I live.'

So he sat down again on an old battered anvil, and seemed with his bright eyes to be beholding something in the land of dreams. A gallant dream it was he dreamed; for he saw himself with his brothers and friends about him, seated on a throne, the justest king in all the earth, his people the lovingest of all people: he saw the ambassadors of the restored nation, that had been unjustly dealt with long ago; everywhere love, and peace if possible, justice and truth at all events.

Alas! he knew not that vengeance, so long delayed, must fall at last in his life-time; he knew not that it takes longer to restore that whose growth has been through age and age, than the few years of a life-time; yet was the reality good, if not as good as the dream.

Presently his twin-brother Robert woke him from that dream, calling out: 'Now, brother Svend, are we really ready; see here! but stop, kneel first; there, now am I the Bishop.'

And he pulled his brother down on to his knees, and put on his head, where it fitted loosely enough now, hanging down from left to right, an iron crown fantastically wrought, which he himself, having just finished it, had taken out of the water, cool and dripping.

Robert and Harald laughed loud when they saw the crown hanging all askew, and the great drops rolling from it into Svend's eyes and down his cheeks, looking like tears: not so Svend; he rose, holding the crown level on his head, holding it back, so that it pressed against his brow hard, and, first dashing the drops to right and left, caught his brother by the hand, and said:

'May I keep it, Robert? I shall wear it some day.'

'Yea,' said the other; 'but it is a poor thing; better let Siur put it in the furnace again and make it into sword hilts.'

Thereupon they began to go, Svend holding the crown in his hand: but as they were going, Siur called out: 'Yet will I sell my dagger at a price, Prince Svend, even as you wished at first, rather than give it you for nothing.'

'Well, for what?' said Svend, somewhat shortly, for he thought Siur was going back from his promise, which was ugly to him.

'Nay, be not angry, prince,' said the armourer, 'only I pray you to satisfy this whim of mine; it is the first favour I have asked of you: will you ask the fair, noble lady, your mother, from Siur the smith, if she is happy now?'

'Willingly, sweet master Siur, if it pleases you; farewell.'

And with happy young faces they went away; and when they were gone, Siur from a secret place drew out various weapons and armour, and began to work at them, having first drawn bolt and bar of his workshop carefully.

Svend, with Harald and Robert his two brethren, went their ways to the queen, and found her sitting alone in a fair court of the palace full of flowers, with a marble cloister round about it; and when she saw them coming, she rose up to meet them, her three fair sons.

Truly as that right royal woman bent over them lovingly, there seemed little need of Siur's question.

So Svend showed her his dagger, but not the crown; and she asked many questions concerning Siur the smith, about his way of talking and his face, the colour of his hair even, till the boys wondered, she questioned them so closely, with beaming eyes and glowing cheeks, so that Svend thought he had never before seen his mother look so beautiful.

Then Svend said: 'And, mother, don't be angry with Siur, will you? because he sent a message to you by me.'

'Angry!' and straightway her soul was wandering where her body could not come, and for a moment or two she was living as before, with him close by her, in the old mountain land.

'Well, mother, he wanted me to ask you if you were happy now.'

'Did he, Svend, this man with brown hair, grizzled as you say it is now? Is his hair soft then, this Siur, going down on to his shoulders in waves? and his eyes, do they glow steadily, as if lighted up from his heart? and how does he speak? Did you not tell me that his words led you, whether you would or no, into dreamland? Ah well! tell him I am happy, but not so happy as we shall be, as we were. And so you, son Robert, are getting to be quite a cunning smith; but do you think you will ever beat Siur?'

'Ah, mother, no,' he said, 'there is something with him that makes him seem quite infinitely beyond all other workmen I ever heard of.'

Some memory coming from that dreamland smote upon her heart more than the others; she blushed like a young girl, and said hesitatingly:

'Does he work with his left hand, son Robert; for I have heard that some men do so?' But in her heart she remembered how once, long ago in the old mountain country, in her father's house, some one had said that only men who were born so, could do cunningly with the left hand; and how Siur, then quite a boy, had said, 'Well, I will try': and how, in a month or two, he had come to her with an armlet of silver, very curiously wrought, which he had done with his own left hand.

So Robert said: 'Yea, mother, he works with his left hand almost as much as with his right, and sometimes I have seen him change the hammer suddenly from his right hand to his left, with a kind of half smile, as one who would say, 'Cannot I then?' and this more when he does smith's work in metal than when he works in marble; and once I heard him say when he did so, 'I wonder where my first left hand work is; ah! I bide my time.' I wonder also, mother, what he meant by that.'

She answered no word, but shook her arm free from its broad sleeve, and something glittered on it, near her wrist, something wrought out of silver set with quaint and uncouthly-cut stones of little value.

* * * * *

In the council-chamber, among the lords, sat Svend with his six brethren; he chief of all in the wielding of sword or axe, in the government of people, in drawing the love of men and women to him; perfect in face and body, in wisdom and strength was Svend: next to him sat Robert, cunning in working of marble, or wood, or brass; all things could he make to look as if they lived, from the sweep of an angel's wings down to the slipping of a little field-mouse from under the sheaves in the harvest-time. Then there was Harald, who knew concerning all the stars of heaven and flowers of earth: Richard, who drew men's hearts from their bodies, with the words that swung to and fro in his glorious rhymes: William, to whom the air of heaven seemed a servant when the harp-strings quivered underneath his fingers: there were the two sailor-brothers, who the year before, young though they were, had come back from a long, perilous voyage, with news of an island they had found long and long away to the west, larger than any that this people knew of, but very fair and good, though uninhabited.

But now over all this noble brotherhood, with its various gifts hung one cloud of sorrow; their mother, the Peace-Queen Cissela was dead, she who had taught them truth and nobleness so well; she was never to see the beginning of the end that they would work; truly it seemed sad.

There sat the seven brothers in the council chamber, waiting for the king, speaking no word, only thinking drearily; and under the pavement of the great church Cissela lay, and by the side of her tomb stood two men, old men both, Valdemar the king, and Siur.

So the king, after that he had gazed awhile on the carven face of her he had loved well, said at last:

'And now, Sir Carver, must you carve me also to lie there.' And he pointed to the vacant space by the side of the fair alabaster figure.

'O king,' said Siur, 'except for a very few strokes on steel, I have done work now, having carved the queen there; I cannot do this thing for you.'

What was it sent a sharp pang of bitterest suspicion through the very heart of the poor old man? he looked steadfastly at him for a moment or two, as if he would know all secrets; he could not, he had not strength of life enough to get to the bottom of things; doubt vanished soon from his heart and his face under Siur's pitying gaze; he said, 'Then perhaps I shall be my own statue,' and therewithal he sat down on the edge of the low marble tomb, and laid his right arm across her breast; he fixed his eyes on the eastern belt of windows, and sat quite motionless and silent; and he never knew that she loved him not.

But Siur, when he had gazed at him for awhile, stole away quietly, as we do when we fear to waken a sleeper; and the king never turned his head, but still sat there, never moving, scarce breathing, it seemed.

Siur stood in his own great hall (for his house was large), he stood before the dais, and saw a fair sight, the work of his own hands.

For, fronting him, against the wall were seven thrones, and behind them a cloth of samite of purple wrought with golden stars, and barred across from right to left with long bars of silver and crimson, and edged below with melancholy, fading green, like a September sunset; and opposite each throne was a glittering suit of armour wrought wonderfully in bright steel, except that on the breast of each suit was a face worked marvellously in enamel, the face of Cissela in a glory of golden hair; and the glory of that gold spread away from the breast on all sides, and ran cunningly along with the steel rings, in such a way as it is hard even to imagine: moreover, on the crest of each helm was wrought the phoenix, the never-dying bird, the only creature that knows the sun; and by each suit lay a gleaming sword terrible to look at, steel from pommel to point, but wrought along the blade in burnished gold that outflashed the gleam of the steel, was written in fantastic letters the word 'Westward.'

So Siur gazed till he heard footsteps coming; then he turned to meet them. And Svend and his brethren sat silent in the council chamber, till they heard a great noise and clamour of the people arise through all the streets; and then they rose to see what it might be. Meanwhile on the low marble tomb, under the dim sweeping vault sat, or rather lay, the king; for, though his right arm still lay over her breast, his head had fallen forward, and rested now on the shoulder of the marble queen. There he lay, with strange confusion of his scarlet, gold-wrought robes; silent, motionless, and dead. The seven brethren stood together on a marble terrace of the royal palace, that was dotted about on the baluster of it with white statues: they were helmetted, and armed to the teeth, only over their armour great black cloaks were thrown.

Now the whole great terrace was a-sway with the crowd of nobles and princes, and others that were neither nobles or princes, but true men only; and these were helmetted and wrapped in black cloaks even as the princes were, only the crests of the princes' helms were wrought wonderfully with that bird, the phoenix, all flaming with new power, dying because its old body is not strong enough for its new-found power: and those on that terrace who were unarmed had anxious faces, some fearful, some stormy with Devil's rage at disappointment; but among the faces of those helmed ones, though here and there you might see a pale face, there was no fear or rage, scarcely even any anxiety, but calm, brave joy seemed to be on all.

Above the heads of all men on that terrace shone out Svend's brave face, the golden hair flowing from out of his helmet: a smile of quiet confidence overflowing from his mighty heart, in the depths of which it was dwelling, just showed a very little on his eyes and lips.

While all the vast square, and all the windows and roofs even of the houses over against the palace, were alive with an innumerable sea of troubled raging faces, showing white, upturned from the under-sea of their many-coloured raiment; the murmur from them was like the sough of the first tempest-wind among the pines, and the gleam of spears here and there like the last few gleams of the sun through the woods when the black thunder-clouds come up over all, soon to be shone through, those woods, by the gleam of the deep lightning.

Also sometimes the murmur would swell, and from the heart of it would come a fierce, hoarse, tearing, shattering roar, strangely discordant, of 'War! War! give us war, O king!'

Then Svend stepping forward, his arms hidden under his long cloak as they hung down quietly, the smile on his face broadening somewhat, sent from his chest a mighty, effortless voice over all the raging:

'Hear, O ye people! War with all that is ugly and base; peace with all that is fair and good.—NO WAR with my brother's people.'

Just then one of those unhelmetted, creeping round about stealthily to the place where Svend stood, lifted his arm and smote at him with a dagger; whereupon Svend clearing his right arm from his cloak with his left, lifted up his glittering right hand, and the traitor fell to the earth groaning with a broken jaw, for Svend had smitten him on the mouth a backward blow with his open hand.

One shouted from the crowd, 'Ay, murderer Svend, slay our good nobles, as you poisoned the king your father, that you and your false brethren might oppress us with the memory of that Devil's witch, your mother!'

The smile left Svend's face and heart now, he looked very stern as he said:

'Hear, O ye people! In years past when I was a boy my dream of dreams was ever this, how I should make you good, and because good, happy, when I should become king over you; but as year by year passed I saw my dream flitting; the deep colours of it changed, faded, grew grey in the light of coming manhood; nevertheless, God be my witness, that I have ever striven to make you just and true, hoping against hope continually; and I had even determined to bear everything and stay with you, even though you should remain unjust and liars, for the sake of the few who really love me; but now, seeing that God has made you mad, and that his vengeance will speedily fall, take heed how you cast out from you all that is good and true-hearted! Once more—which choose you—Peace or War?'

Between the good and the base, in the midst of the passionate faces and changing colours stood the great terrace, cold, and calm, and white, with its changeless statues; and for a while there was silence.

Broken through at last by a yell, and the sharp whirr of arrows, and the cling, clang, from the armour of the terrace as Prince Harald staggered through unhurt, struck by the broad point on the helmet.

'What, War?' shouted Svend wrathfully, and his voice sounded like a clap of thunder following the lightning flash when a tower is struck. 'What! war? swords for Svend! round about the king, good men and true! Sons of the golden-haired, show these men WAR.'

As he spoke he let his black cloak fall, and up from their sheaths sprang seven swords, steel from pommel to point only; on the blades of them in fantastic letters of gold, shone the word WESTWARD.

Then all the terrace gleamed with steel, and amid the hurtling of stones and whizz of arrows they began to go westward.

* * * * *

The streets ran with blood, the air was filled with groans and curses, the low waves nearest the granite pier were edged with blood, because they first caught the drippings of the blood.

Then those of the people who durst stay on the pier saw the ships of Svend's little fleet leaving one by one; for he had taken aboard those ten ships whosoever had prayed to go, even at the last moment, wounded, or dying even; better so, for in their last moments came thoughts of good things to many of them, and it was good to be among the true.

But those haughty ones left behind, sullen and untamed, but with a horrible indefinable dread on them that was worse than death, or mere pain, howsoever fierce—these saw all the ships go out of the harbour merrily with swelling sail and dashing oar, and with joyous singing of those aboard; and Svend's was the last of all.

Whom they saw kneel down on the deck unhelmed, then all sheathed their swords that were about him; and the Prince Robert took from Svend's hand an iron crown fantastically wrought, and placed it on his head as he knelt; then he continued kneeling still, till, as the ship drew further and further away from the harbour, all things aboard of her became indistinct.

And they never saw Svend and his brethren again.

* * * * *

Here ends what William the Englishman wrote; but afterwards (in the night- time) he found the book of a certain chronicler which saith:

'In the spring-time, in May, the 550th year from the death of Svend the wonderful king, the good knights, sailing due eastward, came to a harbour of a land they knew not: wherein they saw many goodly ships, but of a strange fashion like the ships of the ancients, and destitute of any mariners: besides they saw no beacons for the guidance of seamen, nor was there any sound of bells or singing, though the city was vast, with many goodly towers and palaces. So when they landed they found that which is hardly to be believed but which is nevertheless true: for about the quays and about the streets lay many people dead, or stood, but quite without motion, and they were all white or about the colour of new-hewn freestone, yet were they not statues but real men, for they had, some of them, ghastly wounds which showed their entrails, and the structure of their flesh, and veins, and bones.

'Moreover the streets were red and wet with blood, and the harbour waves were red with it, because it dipped in great drops slowly from the quays.

'Then when the good knights saw this, they doubted not but that it was a fearful punishment on this people for sins of theirs; thereupon they entered into a church of that city and prayed God to pardon them; afterwards, going back to their ships, sailed away marvelling.

'And I John who wrote this history saw all this with mine own eyes.'



THE CHURCHES OF NORTH FRANCE

I—SHADOWS OF AMIENS

Not long ago I saw for the first time some of the churches of North France; still more recently I saw them for the second time; and, remembering the love I have for them and the longing that was in me to see them, during the time that came between the first and second visit, I thought I should like to tell people of some of those things I felt when I was there;—there among those mighty tombs of the long-dead ages.

And I thought that even if I could say nothing else about these grand churches, I could at least tell men how much I loved them; so that though they might laugh at me for my foolish and confused words, they might yet be moved to see what there was that made me speak my love, though I could give no reason for it.

For I will say here that I think those same churches of North France the grandest, the most beautiful, the kindest and most loving of all the buildings that the earth has ever borne; and, thinking of their past-away builders, can I see through them, very faintly, dimly, some little of the mediaeval times, else dead, and gone from me for ever—voiceless for ever.

And those same builders, still surely living, still real men, and capable of receiving love, I love no less than the great men, poets and painters and such like, who are on earth now, no less than my breathing friends whom I can see looking kindly on me now. Ah! do I not love them with just cause, who certainly loved me, thinking of me sometimes between the strokes of their chisels; and for this love of all men that they had, and moreover for the great love of God, which they certainly had too; for this, and for this work of theirs, the upraising of the great cathedral front with its beating heart of the thoughts of men, wrought into the leaves and flowers of the fair earth; wrought into the faces of good men and true, fighters against the wrong, of angels who upheld them, of God who rules all things; wrought through the lapse of years, and years, and years, by the dint of chisel, and stroke of hammer, into stories of life and death, the second life, the second death, stories of God's dealing in love and wrath with the nations of the earth, stories of the faith and love of man that dies not: for their love, and the deeds through which it worked, I think they will not lose their reward.

So I will say what I can of their works, and I have to speak of Amiens first, and how it seemed to me in the hot August weather.

I know how wonderful it would look, if you were to mount one of the steeples of the town, or were even to mount up to the roof of one of the houses westward of the cathedral; for it rises up from the ground, grey from the paving of the street, the cavernous porches of the west front opening wide, and marvellous with the shadows of the carving you can only guess at; and above stand the kings, and above that you would see the twined mystery of the great flamboyant rose window with its thousand openings, and the shadows of the flower-work carved round it, then the grey towers and gable, grey against the blue of the August sky, and behind them all, rising high into the quivering air, the tall spire over the crossing.

But from the hot Place Royale here with its stunted pollard acacias, and statue of some one, I know not whom, but some citizen of Amiens I suppose, you can see nothing but the graceful spire; it is of wood covered over with lead, and was built quite at the end of the flamboyant times. Once it was gilt all over, and used to shine out there, getting duller and duller, as the bad years grew worse and worse; but the gold is all gone now; when it finally disappeared I know not, but perhaps it was in 1771, when the chapter got them the inside of their cathedral whitewashed from vaulting to pavement.

The spire has two octagonal stages above the roof, formed of trefoiled arches, and slim buttresses capped by leaded figures; from these stages the sloping spire springs with crocketted ribs at the angles, the lead being arranged in a quaint herring-bone pattern; at the base of the spire too is a crown of open-work and figures, making a third stage; finally, near the top of the spire the crockets swell, till you come to the rose that holds the great spire-cross of metal-work, such metal-work as the French alone knew how to make; it is all beautiful, though so late.

From one of the streets leading out of the Place Royale you can see the cathedral, and as you come nearer you see that it is clear enough of houses or such like things; the great apse rises over you, with its belt of eastern chapels; first the long slim windows of these chapels, which are each of them little apses, the Lady Chapel projecting a good way beyond the rest, and then, running under the cornice of the chapels and outer aisles all round the church, a cornice of great noble leaves; then the parapets in changing flamboyant patterns, then the conical roofs of the chapels hiding the exterior tracery of the triforium, then the great clerestory windows, very long, of four lights, and stilted, the tracery beginning a long way below the springing of their arches; and the buttresses are so thick, and their arms spread so here, that each of the clerestory windows looks down its own space between them, as if between walls: above the windows rise their canopies running through the parapet, and above all the great mountainous roof, and all below it, and around the windows and walls of the choir and apse, stand the mighty army of the buttresses, holding up the weight of the stone roof within with their strong arms for ever.

We go round under their shadows, past the sacristies, past the southern transept, only glancing just now at the sculpture there, past the chapels of the nave, and enter the church by the small door hard by the west front, with that figure of huge St. Christopher quite close over our heads; thereby we enter the church, as I said, and are in its western bay. I think I felt inclined to shout when I first entered Amiens cathedral; it is so free and vast and noble, I did not feel in the least awe-struck, or humbled by its size and grandeur. I have not often felt thus when looking on architecture, but have felt, at all events, at first, intense exultation at the beauty of it; that, and a certain kind of satisfaction in looking on the geometrical tracery of the windows, on the sweeping of the huge arches, were, I think, my first feelings in Amiens Cathedral.

We go down the nave, glancing the while at the traceried windows of the chapels, which are later than the windows above them; we come to the transepts, and from either side the stained glass, in their huge windows, burns out on us; and, then, first we begin to appreciate somewhat the scale of the church, by looking up, along the ropes hanging from the vaulting to the pavement, for the tolling of the bells in the spire.

There is a hideous renaissance screen, of solid stone or marble, between choir and nave, with more hideous iron gates to it, through which, however, we, walking up the choir steps, can look and see the gorgeous carving of the canopied stalls; and then, alas! 'the concentration of flattened sacks, rising forty feet above the altar;' but, above that, the belt of the apse windows, rich with sweet mellowed stained glass, under the dome-like roof.

The stalls in the choir are very rich, as people know, carved in wood, in the early sixteenth century, with high twisted canopies, and histories, from the Old Testament mostly, wrought about them. The history of Joseph I remember best among these. Some of the scenes in it I thought very delightful; the story told in such a gloriously quaint, straightforward manner. Pharaoh's dream, how splendid that was! the king lying asleep on his elbow, and the kine coming up to him in two companies. I think the lean kine was about the best bit of wood-carving I have seen yet. There they were, a writhing heap, crushing and crowding one another, drooping heads and starting eyes, and strange angular bodies; altogether the most wonderful symbol of famine ever conceived. I never fairly understood Pharaoh's dream till I saw the stalls at Amiens.

There is nothing else to see in the choir; all the rest of the fittings being as bad as possible. So we will go out again, and walk round the choir-aisles. The screen round the choir is solid, the upper part of it carved (in the flamboyant times), with the history of St. John the Baptist, on the north side; with that of St. Firmin on the south. I remember very little of the sculptures relative to St. John, but I know that I did not like them much. Those about St. Firmin, who evangelised Picardy, I remember much better, and some of them especially I thought very beautiful; they are painted too, and at any rate one cannot help looking at them.

I do not remember, in the least, the order in which they come, but some of them are fixed well enough in my memory; and, principally, a bishop, (St. Firmin), preaching, rising out of a pulpit from the midst of the crowd, in his jewelled cope and mitre, and with a beautiful sweet face. Then another, the baptising of the king and his lords, was very quaint and lifelike. I remember, too, something about the finding of St. Firmin's relics, and the translation of the same relics when found; the many bishops, with their earnest faces, in the first, and the priests, bearing the reliquaries, in the second; with their long vestments girded at the waist and falling over their feet, painted too, in light colours, with golden flowers on them. I wish I remembered these carvings better, I liked them so much. Just about this place, in the lower part of the screen, I remember the tomb of a priest, very gorgeous, with gold and colours; he lay in a deep niche, under a broad segmental arch, which is painted with angels; and, outside this niche, angels were drawing back painted curtains, I am sorry to say. But the priest lay there in cope and alb, and the gentle colour lay over him, as his calm face gazed ever at the angels painted in his resting place. I have dim recollection of seeing, when I was at Amiens before, not this last time, a tomb, which I liked much, a bishop, I think it was, lying under a small round arch, but I forget the figure now. This was in a chapel on the other side of the choir. It is very hard to describe the interior of a great church like this, especially since the whitewash (applied, as I said, on this scale in 1771) lies on everything so; before that time, some book says, the church was painted from end to end with patterns of flowers and stars, and histories: think—I might have been able to say something about it then, with that solemn glow of colour all about me, as I walked there from sunrise to sunset; and yet, perhaps, it would have filled my heart too full for speaking, all that beauty; I know not.

Up into the triforium, and other galleries, sometimes in the church, sometimes in narrow passages of close-fitting stone, sometimes out in the open air; up into the forest of beams between the slates and the real stone roof: one can look down through a hole in the vaulting and see the people walking and praying on the pavement below, looking very small from that height, and strangely foreshortened. A strange sense of oppression came over me at that time, when, as we were in one of the galleries of the west front, we looked into the church, and found the vaulting but a foot or two (or it seemed so) above our heads; also, while I was in the galleries, now out of the church, now in it, the canons had begun to sing complines, and the sound of their singing floated dimly up the winding stair-cases and half-shut doors.

The sun was setting when we were in the roof, and a beam of it, striking through the small window up in the gable, fell in blood-red spots on the beams of the great dim roof. We came out from the roof on to the parapet in the blaze of the sun, and then going to the crossing, mounted as high as we could into the spire, and stood there a while looking down on the beautiful country, with its many water-meadows, and feathering trees.

And here let me say something about the way in which I have taken this description upon me; for I did not write it at Amiens; moreover, if I had described it from the bare reminiscences of the church, I should have been able to say little enough about the most interesting part of all, the sculptures, namely; so, though remembering well enough the general effect of the whole, and, very distinctly, statues and faces, nay, leaves and flower-knots, here and there; yet, the external sculpture I am describing as well as I can from such photographs as I have; and these, as everybody knows, though very distinct and faithful, when they show anything at all, yet, in some places, where the shadows are deep, show simply nothing. They tell me, too, nothing whatever of the colour of the building; in fact, their brown and yellow is as unlike as possible to the grey of Amiens. So, for the facts of form, I have to look at my photographs; for facts of colour I have to try and remember the day or two I spent at Amiens, and the reference to the former has considerably dulled my memory of the latter. I have something else to say, too; it will seem considerably ridiculous, no doubt, to many people who are well acquainted with the iconography of the French churches, when I talk about the stories of some of the carvings; both from my want of knowledge as to their meaning, and also from my telling people things which everybody may be supposed to know; for which I pray forgiveness, and so go on to speak of the carvings about the south transept door.

It is divided in the midst by a pillar, whereon stands the Virgin, holding our Lord. She is crowned, and has a smile upon her face now for ever; and in the canopy above her head are three angels, bearing up the aureole there; and about these angels, and the aureole and head of the Virgin, there is still some gold and vermilion left. The Holy Child, held in His mother's left arm, is draped from His throat to His feet, and between His hands He holds the orb of the world. About on a level with the Virgin, along the sides of the doorway, are four figures on each side, the innermost one on either side being an angel holding a censer; the others are ecclesiastics, and (some book says) benefactors to the church. They have solemn faces, stern, with firm close-set lips, and eyes deep-set under their brows, almost frowning, and all but one or two are beardless, though evidently not young; the square door valves are carved with deep-twined leaf-mouldings, and the capitals of the door-shafts are carved with varying knots of leaves and flowers. Above the Virgin, up in the tympanum of the doorway, are carved the Twelve Apostles, divided into two bands of six, by the canopy over the Virgin's head. They are standing in groups of two, but I do not know for certain which they are, except, I think, two, St. James and St. John; the two first in the eastern division. James has the pilgrim's hat and staff, and John is the only beardless one among them; his face is rather sad, and exceedingly lovely, as, indeed are all those faces, being somewhat alike; and all, in some degree like the type of face received as the likeness of Christ himself. They have all long hair falling in rippled bands on each side of their faces, on to their shoulders. Their drapery, too, is lovely; they are very beautiful and solemn. Above their heads runs a cornice of trefoiled arches, one arch over the head of each apostle; from out of the deep shade of the trefoils flashes a grand leaf cornice, one leaf again to each apostle; and so we come to the next compartment, which contains three scenes from the life of St. Honore, an early French bishop. The first scene is, I think, the election of a bishop, the monks or priests talking the matter over in chapter first, then going to tell the bishop-elect. Gloriously-draped figures the monks are, with genial faces full of good wisdom, drawn into quaint expressions by the joy of argument. This one old, and has seen much of the world; he is trying, I think, to get his objections answered by the young man there, who is talking to him so earnestly; he is listening, with a half- smile on his face, as if he had made up his mind, after all. These other two, one very energetic indeed, with his head and shoulders swung back a little, and his right arm forward, and the other listening to him, and but half-convinced yet. Then the two next, turning to go with him who is bearing to the new-chosen bishop the book of the Gospels and pastoral staff; they look satisfied and happy. Then comes he with the pastoral staff and Gospels; then, finally, the man who is announcing the news to the bishop himself, the most beautiful figure in the whole scene, perhaps, in the whole doorway; he is stooping down, lovingly, to the man they have chosen, with his left hand laid on his arm, and his long robe falls to his feet from his shoulder all along his left side, moulded a little to the shape of his body, but falling heavily and with scarce a fold in it, to the ground: the chosen one sitting there, with his book held between his two hands, looks up to him with his brave face, and he will be bishop, and rule well, I think. So, by the next scene he is bishop, I suppose, and is sitting there ordering the building of a church; for he is sitting under a trefoiled canopy, with his mitre on his head, his right hand on a reading-desk by his side. His book is lying open, his head turned toward what is going forwards. It is a splendid head and face. In the photograph I have of this subject, the mitre, short and simple, is in full light but for a little touch of shade on one side; the face is shaded, but the crown of short crisp curls hanging over it, about half in light, half in shade. Beyond the trefoil canopy comes a wood of quaint conventional trees, full of stone, with a man working at it with a long pick: I cannot see his face, as it is altogether in shade, the light falling on his head however. He is dressed in a long robe, quite down to his feet, not a very convenient dress, one would think, for working in. I like the trees here very much; they are meant for hawthorns and oaks. There are a very few leaves on each tree, but at the top they are all twisted about, and are thicker, as if the wind were blowing them. The little capitals of the canopy, under which the bishop is sitting, are very delightful, and are common enough in larger work of this time (thirteenth century) in France. Four bunches of leaves spring from long stiff stalks, and support the square abacus, one under each corner. The next scene, in the division above, is some miracle or other, which took place at mass, it seems. The bishop is saying mass before an altar; behind him are four assistants; and, as the bishop stands there with his hand raised, a hand coming from somewhere by the altar, holds down towards him the consecrated wafer. The thing is gloriously carved, whatever it is. The assistant immediately behind the bishop, holding in his hands a candle-stick, somewhat slantwise towards the altar, is, especially in the drapery, one of the most beautiful in the upper part of this tympanum; his head is a little bent, and the line made from the back of it over the heavy hair, down along the heavy-swinging robe, is very beautiful.

The next scene is the shrine of some Saint. This same bishop, I suppose, dead now, after all his building and ruling, and hard fighting, possibly, with the powers that be; often to be fought with righteously in those times. Over the shrine sits the effigy of the bishop, with his hand raised to bless. On the western side are two worshippers; on the eastern, a blind and a deaf man are being healed, by the touch of the dead bishop's robe. The deaf man is leaning forward, and the servant of the shrine holds to his ear the bishop's robe. The deaf man has a very deaf face, not very anxious though; not even showing very much hope, but faithful only. The blind one is coming up behind him with a crutch in his right hand, and led by a dog; the face was either in its first estate, very ugly and crabbed, or by the action of the weather or some such thing, has been changed so.

So the bishop being dead and miracles being wrought at his tomb, in the division above comes the translation of his remains; a long procession taking up the whole of the division, which is shorter than the others, however, being higher up towards the top of the arch. An acolyte bearing a cross, heads the procession, then two choristers; then priests bearing relics and books; long vestments they have, and stoles crossed underneath their girdles; then comes the reliquary borne by one at each end, the two finest figures in this division, the first especially; his head raised and his body leaning forward to the weight of the reliquary, as people nearly always do walk when they carry burdens and are going slowly; which this procession certainly is doing, for some of the figures are even turning round. Three men are kneeling or bending down beneath the shrine as it passes; cripples, they are, all three have beautiful faces, the one who is apparently the worst cripple of the three, (his legs and feet are horribly twisted), has especially a wonderfully delicate face, timid and shrinking, though faithful: behind the shrine come the people, walking slowly together with reverent faces; a woman with a little child holding her hand are the last figures in this history of St. Honore: they both have their faces turned full south, the woman has not a beautiful face, but a happy good-natured genial one.

The cornice below this division is of plain round-headed trefoils very wide, and the spandrel of each arch is pierced with a small round trefoil, very sharply cut, looking, in fact, as if it were cut with a punch: this cornice, simple though it is, I think, very beautiful, and in my photograph the broad trefoils of it throw sharp black shadows on the stone behind the worshipping figures, and square-cut altars.

In the triangular space at the top of the arch is a representation of our Lord on the cross; St. Mary and St. John standing on either side of him, and, kneeling on one knee under the sloping sides of the arch, two angels, one on each side. I very much wish I could say something more about this piece of carving than I can do, because it seems to me that the French thirteenth century sculptors failed less in their representations of the crucifixion than almost any set of artists; though it was certainly an easier thing to do in stone than on canvas, especially in such a case as this where the representation is so highly abstract; nevertheless, I wish I could say something more about it; failing which, I will say something about my photograph of it.

I cannot see the Virgin's face at all, it is in the shade so much; St. John's I cannot see very well; I do not think it is a remarkable face, though there is sweet expression in it; our Lord's face is very grand and solemn, as fine as I remember seeing it anywhere in sculpture. The shadow of the body hanging on the cross there, falls strangely and weirdly on the stone behind—both the kneeling angels (who, by the way, are holding censers), are beautiful. Did I say above that one of the faces of the twelve Apostles was the most beautiful in the tympanum? if I did, I retract that saying, certainly, looking on the westernmost of these two angels. I keep using the word beautiful so often that I feel half inclined to apologise for it; but I cannot help it, though it is often quite inadequate to express the loveliness of some of the figures carved here; and so it happens surely with the face of this angel. The face is not of a man, I should think; it is rather like a very fair woman's face; but fairer than any woman's face I ever saw or thought of: it is in profile and easy to be seen in the photograph, though somewhat in the shade. I am utterly at a loss how to describe it, or to give any idea of the exquisite lines of the cheek and the rippled hair sweeping back from it, just faintly touched by the light from the south-east. I cannot say more about it. So I have gone through the carvings in the lower part of this doorway, and those of the tympanum. Now, besides these, all the arching-over of the door is filled with figures under canopies, about which I can say little, partly from want of adequate photographs, partly from ignorance of their import.

But the first of the cavettos wherein these figures are, is at any rate filled with figures of angels, some swinging censers, some bearing crowns, and other things which I cannot distinguish. Most of the niches in the next cavetto seem to hold subjects; but the square camera of the photographer clips some, many others are in shadow, in fact the niches throw heavy shadows over the faces of nearly all; and without the photograph I remember nothing but much fretted grey stone above the line of the capitals of the doorway shafts; grey stone with something carved in it, and the swallows flying in and out of it. Yet now there are three niches I can say something about at all events. A stately figure with a king's crown on his head, and hair falling in three waves over his shoulders, a very kingly face looking straight onward; a great jewelled collar falling heavily to his elbows: his right hand holding a heavy sceptre formed of many budding flowers, and his left just touching in front the folds of his raiment that falls heavily, very heavily to the ground over his feet. Saul, King of Israel.—A bending figure with covered head, pouring, with his right hand, oil on the head of a youth, not a child plainly, but dwarfed to a young child's stature before the bending of the solemn figure with the covered head. Samuel anointing David.—A king again, with face hidden in deep shade, holding a naked sword in his right hand, and a living infant in the other; and two women before him, one with a mocking smile on her face, the other with her head turned up in passionate entreaty, grown women they are plainly, but dwarfed to the stature of young girls before the hidden face of the King. The judgment of Solomon.—An old man with drawn sword in right hand, with left hand on a fair youth dwarfed, though no child, to the stature of a child; the old man's head is turned somewhat towards the presence of an angel behind him, who points downward to something unseen. Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac.—Noah too, working diligently that the ark may be finished before the flood comes.—Adam tilling the ground, and clothed in the skins of beasts.—There is Jacob's stolen blessing, that was yet in some sort to be a blessing though it was stolen.—There is old Jacob whose pilgrimage is just finished now, after all his doings and sufferings, all those deceits inflicted upon him, that made him remember, perforce, the lie he said and acted long ago,—old Jacob blessing the sons of Joseph. And many more which I remember not, know not, mingled too with other things which I dimly see have to do with the daily occupations of the men who lived in the dim, far-off thirteenth century.

I remember as I came out by the north door of the west front, how tremendous the porches seemed to me, which impression of greatness and solemnity, the photographs, square-cut and brown-coloured do not keep at all; still however I can recall whenever I please the wonder I felt before that great triple porch; I remember best in this way the porch into which I first entered, namely the northernmost, probably because I saw most of it, coming in and out often by it, yet perhaps the fact that I have seen no photograph of this doorway somewhat assists the impression.

Yet I do not remember even of this anything more than the fact that the tympanum represented the life and death of some early French bishop; it seemed very interesting. I remember, too, that in the door-jambs were standing figures of bishops in two long rows, their mitred heads bowed forward solemnly, and I remember nothing further.

Concerning the southernmost porch of the west front.—The doorway of this porch also has on the centre pillar of it a statue of the Virgin standing, holding the Divine Child in her arms. Both the faces of the Virgin Mother and of her Son, are very beautiful; I like them much better than those in the south transept already spoken of; indeed I think them the grandest of all the faces of the Madonna and Child that I have seen carved by the French architects. I have seen many, the faces of which I do not like, though the drapery is always beautiful; their faces I do not like at all events, as faces of the Virgin and Child, though as faces of other people even if not beautiful they would be interesting. The Child is, as in the transept, draped down to the feet; draped too, how exquisitely I know not how to say. His right arm and hand is stretched out across His mother's breast, His left hangs down so that His wrist as His hand is a little curved upwards, rests upon His knee; His mother holds Him slightly with her left arm, with her right she holds a fold of her robe on which His feet rest. His figure is not by any means that of an infant, for it is slim and slender, too slender for even a young boy, yet too soft, too much rounded for a youth, and the head also is too large; I suppose some people would object to this way of carving One who is supposed to be an infant; yet I have no doubt that the old sculptors were right in doing so, and to my help in this matter comes the remembrance of Ruskin's answer to what Lord Lindsay says concerning the inability of Giotto and his school to paint young children: for he says that it might very well happen that Giotto could paint children, but yet did not choose to in this instance, (the Presentation of the Virgin), for the sake of the much greater dignity to be obtained by using the more fully developed figure and face; {156} and surely, whatever could be said about Giotto's paintings, no one who was at all acquainted with Early French sculpture could doubt that the carvers of this figure here, could have carved an infant if they had thought fit so to do, men who again and again grasped eagerly common everyday things when in any way they would tell their story. To return to the statues themselves. The face of the young Christ is of the same character as His figure, such a face as Elizabeth Browning tells of, the face of One 'who never sinned or smiled'; at least if the sculptor fell below his ideal somewhat, yet for all that, through that face which he failed in a little, we can see when we look, that his ideal was such an one. The Virgin's face is calm and very sweet, full of rest,—indeed the two figures are very full of rest; everything about them expresses it from the broad forehead of the Virgin, to the resting of the feet of the Child (who is almost self-balanced) in the fold of the robe that she holds gently, to the falling of the quiet lines of her robe over her feet, to the resting of its folds between them.

The square heads of the door-valves, and a flat moulding above them which runs up also into the first division of the tympanum, is covered with faintly cut diaper-work of four-leaved flowers.

Along the jambs of the doorway on the north side stand six kings, all bearded men but one, who is young apparently; I do not know who these are, but think they must be French kings; one, the farthest toward the outside of the porch, has taken his crown off, and holds it in his hand: the figures on the other side of the door-jambs are invisible in the photograph except one, the nearest to the door, young, sad, and earnest to look at—I know not who he is. Five figures outside the porch, and on the angles of the door-jambs, are I suppose prophets, perhaps those who have prophesied of the birth of our Lord, as this door is apportioned to the Virgin.

The first division of the tympanum has six sitting figures in it; on each side of the canopy over the Virgin's head, Moses and Aaron; Moses with the tables of the law, and Aaron with great blossomed staff: with them again, two on either side, sit the four greater prophets, their heads veiled, and a scroll lying along between them, over their knees; old they look, very old, old and passionate and fierce, sitting there for so long.

The next division has in it the death and burial of the Virgin,—the twelve Apostles clustering round the deathbed of the Virgin. I wish my photograph were on a larger scale, for this indeed seems to me one of the most beautiful pieces of carving about this church, those earnest faces expressing so many things mingled with their regret that she will be no more with them; and she, the Virgin-Mother, in whom all those prophecies were fulfilled, lying so quiet there, with her hands crossed downwards, dead at last. Ah! and where will she go now? whose face will she see always? Oh! that we might be there too! Oh! those faces so full of all tender regret, which even They must feel for Her; full of all yearning, and longing that they too might finish the long fight, that they might be with the happy dead: there is a wonder on their faces too, when they see what the mighty power of Death is. The foremost is bending down, with his left hand laid upon her breast, and he is gazing there so long, so very long; one looking there too, over his shoulder, rests his hand on him; there is one at the head, one at the foot of the bed; and he at the head is turning round his head, that he may see her face, while he holds in his hands the long vestment on which her head rests.

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