Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
Sir Pavon and St. Pavon
By Sarah Hammond Palfrey (1823–1914)

ST. MARK’S hushed abbey heard,
  Through prayers, a roar and din;
A brawling voice did shout,
  “Knave shaveling, let me in!”
The cagèd porter peeped,        5
  All fluttering, through the grate,
Like birds that hear a mew.
  A knight was at the gate.
His left hand reined his steed,
  Still smoking from the ford;        10
His crimson right, that dangled, clutched
  Half of his broken sword.
His broken plume flapped low;
  His charger’s mane with mud
Was clogged; he wavered in his seat;        15
  His mail dropped drops of blood.
“Who cometh in such haste?”
  “Sir Pavon, late, I hight,
Of all the land around
  The stanchest, mightiest knight.        20
“My foes—they dared not face—
  Beset me at my back
In ambush. Fast and hard
  They follow on my track.
“Now wilt thou let me in,        25
  Or shall I burst the door?”
The grating bolts ground back; the knight
  Lay swooning in his gore.
As children, half afraid,
  Draw near a crushèd wasp,        30
Look, touch, and twitch away
  Their hands, then lightly grasp,—
Him to their spital soon
  The summoned brethren bore,
And searched his wounds. He woke,        35
  And roundly cursed and swore.
The younger friar stopped his ears;
  The elder chid. He flung
His gummy plasters at his mouth,
  And bade him hold his tongue.        40
But, faint and weak, when, left
  Upon his couch alone,
He viewed the valley, framed within
  His window’s carven stone,
He learned anew to weep,        45
  All as he lay along,
To see the smoke-wreaths from his towers
  Climb up the clouds among.
The abbot came to bring
  A balsam to his guest,        50
On soft feet tutored long
  To break no sufferer’s rest,
And heard his sobbing heart
  Drink deep in draughts of woe;
Then “Benedicite, my son,”        55
  He breathed, in murmurs low.
Right sharply turned the knight
  Upon the unwelcome spy;
But changed his shaggy face, as when,
  Down through a stormy sky,        60
The quiet autumn sun
  Looks on a landscape grim.
He crossed himself before the priest,
  And speechless gazed on him.
His brow was large and grand,        65
  And meet for governing;
The beauty of his holiness
  Did crown him like a king.
His mien was high, yet mild;
  His deep and reverent eye        70
Seemed o’er a peaceful past to gaze,—
  A blest futurity.
His stainless earthy shell
  Was worn so pure and thin,
That through the callow angel showed,        75
  Half-hatched that stirred within.
The cloisters when he paced
  At eve, the brethren said,
E’en then a shimmering halo dawned
  Around his saintly head.        80
If forth he went, the street
  Became a hallowed aisle.
Men knelt; and children ran to seek
  The blessing of his smile;
And mothers on each side came out,        85
  And stood at every door,
And held their babies up, and put
  The weanlings forth before.
As pure white lambs unto
  Men sickening unto death        90
Their sweet infectious health give out,
  And heal them with their breath,
His white and thriving soul,
  In heavenly pastures fed,
Still somewhat of its innocence        95
  On all around him shed.
Sir Pavon’s scarce-stanched wounds
  He bound with fearless skill,
Who lay and watched him, meek and mute,
  And let him work his will,        100
While in his fevered brain
  Thus mused his fancy quaint:
“My grandam told me once of saints,
  And this is, sure, a saint!
“(I was a new-breeched boy,        105
  And sat upon her knee,
Less mindful of the story than
  Of cates she gave to me.)
“But then I thought a flood
  Came down to drown them all,        110
And that they only now in stone
  Stood on the minster wall,
“Or painted in the glass
  Upon the window high,
Where, swelled with spring-tides, breaks the sea        115
  Beneath, and leaves them dry,
“Quite out of danger’s way,
  And breathed and walked no more
Upon the muddy earth, to do
  The deeds they did of yore,        120
“When still the sick were healed
  Where e’en their shadows fell;
But here is one that’s living yet,
  And he shall make me well.”
The patient priest benign        125
  His watch beside him kept,
Until he dropped his burning lids,
  And like an infant slept.

Some weary weeks were spent
  In tossing and in pain,        130
Before the knight’s huge frame was braced
  With strength and steel again.
(He had his armor brought
  The day he left his bed,
And fitted on by novice hands,        135
  “To prop him up,” he said.)
Soon jangling then he stamped,
  Amazed with all he saw,
Through cell and through refectory,
  With little grace or awe.        140
Unbidden at the board
  He sat, a mouthful took,
And shot it spattering through his beard,
  Sprang up, and cursed the cook.
If some bowed friar passèd by,        145
  He chucked him ’neath the chin,
And cried, “What cheer?” or, “Dost thou find
  That hair-cloth pricks the skin?”
Or if he came on one
  In meditation meet,        150
Or penance, mute, he kindly vowed
  To cheer his lone retreat.
“Poor palsied sire,” he cried,
  “How fares thy stiffened tongue?
Let mine suffice for both,”—and trolled        155
  A lusty drinking-song.
One softly in his cell
  Did scourge his meagre hide,
When Pavon on his rounds came in,
  And stood, well pleased, beside:        160
“What, man! Lay on! lay on!
  Nay, hast thou tired thine arm?
Give me thy hempen bunch of cords,
  And I will make thee warm.”
With doubtful thanks agreed        165
  The monk. Him Pavon whipped
Right deftly, through the cloister, till
  For aid he cried and skipped.
In brief, within the house
  Of holy Quiet, all        170
Where’er Sir Pavon went or came
  Was outcry, noise, and brawl;
Until the abbot said,
  “Anon this coil must cease.
To-morrow is the Truce of God;        175
  Then let him go in peace.
“But call him hither first,
  To render thanks to-night
For life restored; for now we go
  To do our vesper rite.”        180
With tamèd mien abashed,
  The wild, unruly guest
His hest obeyed, and mutely moved
  Beside the solemn priest.
Unto a noiseless pace        185
  He strove to curb his stride,
And blushed to hear his jack-boots’ clang
  Amid the sandals’ slide.
The censer waved around
  Its misty, sweet perfume,        190
As over him the minster great
  Came with its awful gloom.
Through shadowy aisle, ’neath vaulted roof,
  His faltering steps were led;
Beside him was the living saint,        195
  Beneath, the sainted dead.
Bespread with nun-wrought tapestry,
  The holy altar stood;
Above it, carved by martyr hands,
  Arose the Holy Rood;        200
Burned round it, tipped with tongues of flame,
  Vowed candles white and tall;
And frosted cup and patine, clear,
  In silver, painted all.
The prisoned giant Music in        205
  The rumbling organ rolled,
And roared sweet thunders up to heaven,
  Through all its pipes of gold.
He started. ’Mid the prostrate throng
  Upright, he heard the hymn        210
With fallen chin and lifted eye
  That searched the arches dim;
For in the lurking echoes there
  Responding, tone and word,
A choir of answering seraphim        215
  Above he deemed he heard.
They saw him thus when all was done,
  Still rapt and pale as death;
So passed he through the banging gate,
  Then drew a long-drawn breath,        220
As to the priest he turned:
  “I cannot ‘go in peace,’
Nor find elsewhere a man like thee,
  Nor hear such strains as these!”
“This is no place for knights.”        225
  “Then I a monk will be.” 1
“Kneel down upon thy knee, fair son,
  And tell thy sins to me.”
“My knee is stiff with steel,
  And will not bend it well.        230
‘My sins!’ A peerless knight like me,
  What should he have to tell?
“I never turned in fight
  Till treason wrought my harm,
Nor then, before my shattered sword        235
  Weighed down my shattered arm.
“I never broke mine oath,
  Forgot my friend or foe,
Nor left a benefit unpaid
  With weal, or wrong with woe.        240
“‘Keep thee from me!’ 2 I said,
  Still, ere my blows began,
Nor gashed mine unarmed enemy, 3
  Nor smote a fellèd man,
“Observing every rule        245
  Of generous chivalry;
And maid and matron ever found
  A champion leal in me.
“What gallantly I won
  In war, I did not hoard,        250
But spent as gallantly in peace,
  With neighbors round my board.”
“Thy neighbors, son? The serfs
  For miles who tilled thy ground?”
“Tush, father, nay! The high-born knights        255
  For many a league around.
“They were my brethren sworn,
  In battle and in sport.
’Twere wondrous shame, should one like me
  With beggar kernes consort!        260
“Clean have I made my shrift,”
  He said; and so he ceased,
And bore a blithe and guileless cheer,
  That sore perplexed the priest.
With words both soft and keen,        265
  He searched his breast within.
Still said he, “So I sinnèd not,”
  Or, “That is, sure, no sin.”
The abbot beat his breast:
  “Alack, the man is lost!        270
Erewhile he must have grieved away
  The warning Holy Ghost!
“His guardian angel he
  Hath scared from him to heaven!
Who cannot mourn, nor see, his sin,        275
  How can he be forgiven?
“E’en Patmos’ gentle seer,
  Doth he not say, in sooth,
He lies who saith, I have no sin,
  Quite empty of the truth!        280
“Search thou this sacred tome.”
  “’Sblood!—Saints!—A knight to read!”
The abbot read. The novice strove,
  With duteous face, to heed,
But heard a hunt sweep by,        285
  And to the door did leap,
Cried, “Holla, ho!” and then, abashed,
  Sat down and dropped asleep.
“Such novice ne’er I saw!
  Sweet Mary be my speed!        290
For sure the sorer is my task,
  The sorer is his need.”
He gazed upon him long,
  With pondering, pitying eyes,
As the leech on the sick whose hidden ail        295
  All herbs and drugs defies;
And, “Hath thy heart might,” at last, “to-night,”
  He to Sir Pavon said,
“When all men sleep, thy vigil to keep,
  In the crypt among the dead?        300
“Night hath many a tongue, her black hours among,
  Less false than the tongues of Day,
While Mercy the prayer hath full leisure to hear,
  Of all who wake to pray.
“The mute swart queen hides many a sin,        305
  But oft to the sinner’s heart
Remorse, with the tale, she sends to wail,
  And thus atones in part.”
Well-nigh laughed the knight, “Ay, and many a night,
  Good father, do not spare.        310
Ne’er yet have I found, on or under the ground,
  The venture I could not dare.
“Ten years I’ve quelled in war lively warriors, near and far;
  Shall I shun a dead clerk’s bones to see?
Ne’er till now I pledged my hand to serve in the band        315
  Of captain I loved like thee.”

Sir Pavon sat upon his shield,
  And breathed the earthy damp,
And strained his empty ear to hear
  The simmering of his lamp.        320
It made a little tent of light,
  Hung round with shadows dim,
That drooped as if the low-groined roof
  Did crouch to fall on him.
The stunted columns, thick and short,        325
  Like sentry gnomes stood round;
And lettered slabs, that roofed the dead,
  Lay thickly on the ground.
He watched to hear the midnight lauds,
  But heard them not until        330
He deemed it dawn. They swelled at last,
  And ceased; and all was still.
The Future towards him marched no more;
  The Past was dead and gone;
Time dwindled to a single point;        335
  The convent-clock toiled One.
Then the door was oped and closed,
  But by no human hand;
And there entered in a Cry,
  And before him seemed to stand,—        340
A viewless, bodiless Cry,
  That lifted the hair on his head;—
’Twas small as a new-born babe’s at first,
  But straightway it rose and spread,
Till it knocked against the roof,        345
  And his ears they rang and beat;
The hard walls throbbed around, above,
  And the stones crept under his feet;
And when it fell away,
  He reeled and almost fell;        350
And fast for aid he gasped and prayed,
  Till he heard the matin-bell.
The monk who came to let him out
  Scarce knew him. In that night,
His nut-brown beard and crispèd hair        355
  Had turned to snowy white.

Like to a hunted beast,
  To Abbot Urban’s cell
He rushed; and with a foamy lip
  Down at his feet he fell:        360
“I heard a voice,—a voice!—
  O father, help! It said
That I the Lord of life
  Had scourged and buffeted,
“Spit in his face, and mocked,        365
  And sold him to his foes;
Then, through the hollow earth,
  In dreary triumph rose
“Up, till the words I snatched,
  A fiendish chorus dim,        370
‘He did it unto one of HIS!
  He did it unto HIM!’”
“My son, what meaneth this?”
  “My father, on my word,
In court or camp, abroad, at home,        375
  I never knew the Lord!
“I do remember once
  I had a hunchback slave,
Who to the beggars round my door
  From his own trencher gave,        380
“And made them swarm the more,
  Despite the porter’s blows,
And broke into my banquet-hall,
  With tidings of their woes.
“Him I chastised and sold,        385
  But thought no harm, nor knew
The Lord so squalid minions had,
  Among his chosen few;
“But if the man was his,
  I’ll freely give thee thrice,        390
In broad, bright rounds of ruddy gold,
  The pittance of his price.”
“Gold buys this world, not heaven.
  This cannot make thee whole.
Each stripe that rends the slave’s poor flesh,        395
  It hurts his Master’s soul;
“And if the slave doth die,”
  He said beneath his breath,
“I fear the Masters sprite for aye
  Rots in the second death.        400
“But be of better cheer.
  Since thou thy sin canst see,
’Tis plain thy guardian angel back
  Hath flown from heaven to thee.
“The soul benumbed by sin,        405
  And limb that’s numb with frost,
Are saved by timely aches. If first
  They reach the fire, they’re lost.
“The Sun of righteousness,
  Whose beaming smile on high,        410
With light, and life, and love doth fill
  The mansions of the sky,
“And kindles risen souls
  Unto a rapturous glow,
Who duly sought his scattered rays,        415
  To bask in them below,
“Seems but a hideous glare
  Of blazing pangs untold,
To those whom death hath made more pale,
  But could not make more cold.        420
“Full many a man like thee,
  Unless by devils driven,
Would never turn his laggard steps
  To hurry unto heaven.
“Thank God, who oped thine ear        425
  Unto their dreary lay,
Ere came the night that summoned thee
  To chant with them for aye!
“That holy text, which through
  Their gnashing teeth they laughed        430
And screamed, I read thee yester eve,
  And they with wonted craft
“Told o’er, their fright and pain
  That thou shouldst come to share,
As birds by hissing serpents scared        435
  Drop down, through sheer despair.
“But in its two pure hands
  Each holy Scripture still
Doth bear a blessing for the good,
  A curse unto the ill.        440
“Heed thou, but do not fear
  Too much their threatening voice,
Who tremble and believe. Thou yet
  Believing mayst rejoice.
“Take up thy cross with speed.        445
  This penance shalt thou do;
Thyself in sad humility
  To seek Christ’s servant go,
“Both near and far; and dry
  His tears with thine, if still        450
His limbs the toil-exacting earth
  In misery tread and till.”
His forehead from his hands
  Upraised the haggard guest:
“And even here, and even yet,        455
  For me no heavenly rest!”
The abbot shook his head:
  “God help thee now, poor son!
The heavenly rest is but for those
  Who heavenly work have done.        460
“Strife is the bridge o’er hell
  ’Twixt sin and sin forgiven;
Still purgatory lies between
  The wicked world and heaven.
“The priceless pearl is worth        465
  The plunge through whelming floods.
The bitter years man loathes are but
  Eternity’s green buds.
“Thou hast, in Satan’s ranks,
  To harm been brisk and brave;        470
Thou wilt not shrink, when sent by Christ
  To suffer and to save.”

Sir Pavon’s gallant steed was dead;
  Sir Pavon’s sword was broke.
On foot he went; and in his hand        475
  The abbot’s staff he took,
And many an hour fared patiently,
  Beneath the parching sun,
That eyed him through his riven wall
  Before the day was done.        480
The shattered casements gaped and stared;
  Black charcoal paved the floor;
Up rose his hunger-maddened hound,
  And bit him in the door.
He climbed the scathed and tottering stair        485
  Unto the sooty tower;
His rifled coffers upside down
  Lay in his secret bower.
With heavy heart and tread he trod
  The banquet-hall below;        490
The hollow-voicèd echoes chid
  Each other, to and fro.
A jeering face peeped in; he heard
  A titter and a shout;
In rushed his rabble rout of hinds,        495
  And round him danced about:
“Ho, worthy master, welcome home!
  Where hast thou left thy sword,
Thy kingly port, and lusty blows?
  We serve another lord.”        500
They strove to trip him as he went;
  They drove him from his door:
“Now fare ye well, my fathers’ halls!
  We part to meet no more.
“Farewell my pride and pomp and power!        505
  Farewell, my slippery wealth,
That bought my soul’s sore malady,
  Nor stayed to buy my health!
“Farewell, my sturdy strength, that did
  The Devil’s work so well,        510
All blasted by God’s thunderbolts,
  That on my spirit fell!
“And thou, O brave and loyal Christ,
  Who, ’mid the sordid Jews,
By love, not fear, constrainèd couldst        515
  At Satan’s hands refuse
“The crown and sceptre of the world,
  And choose the cross and rod,—
Thy more than earthly manhood in
  Its glory unto God        520
“Lay down,—accept, and do not scorn
  The beaten losel me,
Who, worthless for thy service, come
  For shelter unto thee.”
Walked with him flagging Weariness;        525
  And Famine spun his head:
“I would, of all my feasts, were left
  One little crust of bread.”
When maids and stars their tapers lit,
  He reached a wooden hut;        530
The chinks were gilt by light therein,
  But close the door was shut.
What seemed an aged woman’s voice
  Within, with sob and groan,
Entreated Heaven in agony        535
  To send her back her son:
“The day is night that shows me not
  His face,—the voice of joy
Mere heart-break till his laugh I hear!
  O, send me back my boy!        540
“In pity send some tidings soon!
  If thus I grieve, I dread
Lest, when he hurries back to me,—
  Poor youth!—he find me dead.
“Let them not tell me he is dead,        545
  And buried anywhere!
What has the ground or brine to do
  With his dear mouth and hair,
“That I have kissed and stroked so oft
  There by his empty chair?        550
Yon doublet new, I’ve wrought for him,
  He’ll soon come back to wear.
“I brushed the very flies away,
  That with his brows did toy,
When tired he slept. How could the worms        555
  Or fishes eat my boy?
“O Father, who thine only Son
  Didst yield to pain and death,
And know’st ’tis deadlier pain to do’t,
  Than give the rattling breath,        560
“If not my boy, let unto me
  His faith and trust be given,
That I may clasp him yet again,
  If not on earth, in heaven.”
She ceased. Sir Pavon softly knocked;        565
  The door flew open wide.
“Fear not, good mother,” he began.
  “O, is it thou?” she cried,
Then turned away and wrung her hands.
  “If thou wilt give to me        570
A morsel, and a cup of wine,
  Perchance thy charity,
“When ended is my present quest,
  I may full well requite,
If lives thy son, and bring him back.        575
  I am a famous knight,—
“Although of late mine ambushed foe
  Despoiled me traitorly,—
And maid and matron ever found
  A champion leal in me.”        580
“Alack, I have no wine nor flesh,
  Nor yet a crust of bread!
Herbs for my noontide meal I culled,
  Untasted still,” she said;
“And water from the brook I’ll bring,—        585
  Scant fare for hungry guest!—
But sit thee down at least, and feed
  Thy weariness with rest.
“Thou hast seen other lands perchance?”
  “Good mother, many a one.        590
I pray you fill my cup once more.”
  “O, hast thou seen my son?”
“Went he a soldier?” “Nay, but he
  Was seized and sold away,
I know not where. No news of him        595
  Has reached me from that day.
“He bade me still with wayfarers
  His scanty portion share.
Thou eatest from his platter now,
  And sittest in his chair.        600
“He was so good!” “Who used him so?”
  “Sir Pavon was his name.”
His platter dropped, and over him
  A deadly sickness came.
“I knew not half my guilt!” he shrieked,        605
  And on his brow did strike;
These mothers are like God, then,—love
  Ugly and fair alike!
“’Twas I. Thou art avenged on me.
  To find him is my quest;        610
Nor till ’tis done, in life or death,
  For me is any rest.
“God’s heaviest hand is for his sake
  Meanwhile upon me laid.
For his deliverance pray, and mine;        615
  And take me in his stead.
“A duteous son I’ll be to thee
  Until I give him back.
I’ve many friends would give us steeds
  To bear us on his track.”        620

“Who may yon man be, who on foot
  Comes in his iron coat,
And, with an old wife at his side,
  Toils towards the castle-moat?
“He looketh as Sir Pavon should        625
  If thirty years were o’er;
But he is dead, they say. We’ll know.
  Ho, there! The drawbridge lower!
“What, Pavon! Hast thou come to life?
  Thou lookest like a ghost.”        630
“Nigh slain was I by treachery:
  My sword and all is lost.
“And I was ill, and worse. Alas!
  With thee I may not bide,
But day and night, by fiends pursued,        635
  Upon a quest must ride,
“To free my soul, that erst I sold
  To bondage with a slave.
My merry life is dead in me!
  Myself a haunted grave!        640
“Of thy dear love, long pledged and sworn,
  Some food and drink I pray
For this poor dame, and gold and steeds,
  To bear us on our way.”
He reeled with weakness: “He is starved.        645
  Lead hence, and feed him well;
And when our feast is done to-night,
  His tale we’ll hear him tell.
“He’s crazed with shame, as erst with pride,—
  Perchance ’twill please my guests        650
To list. My fool is growing old,
  And oft repeats his jests.”
Scarce were they at the burdened board
  Ranged by the seneschal,
When Pavon fed and calmed came in,        655
  And stood before them all,
And clasped each slackened hand, and smiled
  In many a well-known face,
And fell upon some cooling hearts
  Once more in kind embrace:        660
“Dear mates, how good it is to stand
  Again among you here,
Though ’neath my ruined towers no more
  We make our wonted cheer!
“I must not stay; but list a word,        665
  And mark it well, before
I look my last upon you all,
  Perchance, forevermore.
“Among the tombs I sat, and heard
  Within me or without,—        670
I know not which,—a horrid voice:
  It drives me still about.
“A wondrous thing it told to me,
  As terrible as new,
Undreamed of to that hour by me,        675
  To this, I ween, by you.
“Christ ’mid the serfs hath men, whom he
  Dear as himself doth hold;
Thus he who sells his Christian slave,
  His master, Christ, hath sold,        680
“For from the very book of peace
  The fiends have learned a hymn,—
‘Who did it unto one of his,
  Hath done it unto him.’”
Each in his neighbors’ faces looked;        685
  And some were pale with fear;
“Out!” roared the host, “ye serving men,
  What make ye gaping here,
“To swallow what concerns you not?
  Such ravings if they hear,        690
They’ll rave themselves. I saw them all
  Prick up each meddling ear.
“Your pardon, noble comrades all;
  A very sorry jest
Was this to make you sport withal;        695
  He told me of a quest.”
“My quest it is to find and free
  The hunchback, whom of old,
When thou wert wassailing with me
  At Christmastide, I sold.        700
“Look not so darkly on me, friends,
  I will not mar your feast;
But, Raymond, for the red-roan steeds
  I lent thee, give at least
“To me one jennet, mule, or ass,        705
  That I thereon may lead
His blister-footed mother hence,
  And make the better speed.”
“Poor man, his case is pitiful.
  If madman e’er I saw,        710
He’s mad! What say ye? Let him go?
  Or give him chains and straw!”
“He was a gallant champion late!”
  “He’s harmless; let him go.”
“Nay, if he stirreth up the serfs        715
  I cannot count him so.”
Then rage brought back Sir Pavon’s strength:
  He dashed the casement through,
Leaped headlong down, and all in steel
  He swam the moat below.        720
Forth swarmed the varlets sent, for him,
  But soon returned without,
So hotly with the abbot’s staff
  He ’mongst them laid about.
His comrades from the battlements        725
  Looked wondering down to see
The knight the hobbling crone await,
  With pity and with glee.
He paced to meet her courteously;
  He propped her with his arm,        730
And with his staff, and bent as if
  To soothe her weak alarm;
But with a bitter laugh he said,
  “Sure, he who findeth out
How fickle are the world’s sweet smiles,        735
  Can do its smiles without.”

Long years of hunger, cold, and heat,
  And home-sick toil in vain;—
Long years of wandering up and down,
  O’er inland, coast, and main;—        740
Long years of asking still for one,
  And longing day and night,
Who, ever present with the soul,
  Hath vanished from the sight!
The freeman like a growing tree        745
  Thrives, rooted in his place;
The bondman, like a withered leaf,
  Flits on and leaves no trace.
Sir Pavon’s armor rusted off;
  He seemed no more a knight;        750
Yet ever to himself he said,
  While raged his inward fight,
“How quickly may a wrong be done,
  How slowly done away!
Shall all eternity repair        755
  My trespass of a day?”
While some said, “East,” and some said, “West,”
  And most, “I cannot tell,”
They ate the stranger’s crusts, and drank
  At many a stranger’s well.        760
He ever walked, or stood, or sat,
  Between her and the blast.
She cheered him with forgiving words,
  And begged his scant repast.
In penitent and pardoning woe,        765
  Thus went they hand in hand,
The master and the slave. They trod
  The cactus-hatching sand.
They stood beneath the snowy pole,
  Where, quenched, the heavenward eye,        770
Sinks dizzy back to earth, beneath
  The crumbling, sinking sky.

“O, sail-borne trader, hast thou seen,
  In lands beneath the sun,
Or in the shadow of the pole,        775
  My Anselm? O my son!”
“A pilgrim, dame?” “A slave.” “A slave!
  Ask, have I seen a sheep!
Ay, flocks and flocks, where’er I go.
  Yon Moors their hundreds keep,—        780
“The lazy tawny dogs!—beyond,
  Where ’twixt these fronting lands
The writhing sea his pent-up way
  Tears ’twixt the rocks and sands.”
“He is like no one else. His face        785
  Is wondrous mild and fair;
His eyes are kind and bright; and fine
  And silky is his hair.”
“Ha, ha! So whines the shepherd lad
  Whose petted ewe hath strayed!”        790
“He bore a hump upon his back,”
  Sir Pavon softly said,—
“Was helpful to the poor beyond
  The custom of mankind.”
Before the statelier questioner        795
  The merchant searched his mind.
“Such slave I saw in Barbary,
  A twelvemonth scarce agone.
A fever-smitten sailor there
  We left to die alone;—        800
“It grieved me much. We could not choose.
  Our venture had been lost,
Had we not seized the first fair gale
  To sweep us from the coast.
“I hurried back. I thought to see        805
  His living face no more,
But haply give him burial.
  He met me on the shore,
“Thin as this blade, and white as is
  This handle of my knife.        810
A slave, he said, had ta’en him in
  And nursed him like a wife,
“A hunchback, for he showed me him.
  How called you yours?” “His name
Was Anselm.” “Ay, and so was his,        815
  It is the very same.
“Old Hassan’s steward in the sun
  Doth beat him to and fro;
He limps with water from the tanks
  To make the melons grow.        820
“See how my Sea-gull flaps her wings,
  Impatient for the deep!
Anon shall she to Tripoli
  So lightly dart and leap;
“And for that bounteous deed of his        825
  His mother shall he see;—
What costs a good turn now and then?—
  Embark and sail with me,
“For nothing,—if ye nothing have.
  They’ll call for little food,        830
On landlocked billows, sickened by
  The tossing of the flood.”
The anchor climbed. The wind blew fair,
  But ere they neared the pier
The old wife on death’s threshold lay,        835
  Distraught with hope and fear.
“How canst thou free him from his woes?
  Thou hast nor friends nor gold.
How may I even crawl to him
  His misery to behold?        840
“O master, trail me through the dust
  And leave me at his feet!”
“Nay, thou wert patient all those years.
  Here, sheltered from the heat,
“A little longer wait and pray;        845
  It may be but an hour.
Our Lord, who bade to succor him,
  I think shall give the power.
“And, merchant, if he fly with me
  Wilt bear him hence?” “My head,        850
And thine, were lost belike! Art mad?
  ’Twould surely cost my trade.
“I buy and sell, but steal not, slaves!”
  “Thou’rt known to Hassan?” “Ay.”
“Then lead me to him; and the Lord,        855
  I think, the slave shall buy.
“Then wilt thou bear him hence, and her?”
  “Ay, on mine honest word.
Oft as I may, I gladly do
  A pleasure to the Lord.”        860
Turbaned and robed old Hassan sat.
  An atmosphere of rest
Hung brooding o’er his soft divan,
  His beard slept on his breast.
His rolling eyes upon the floor        865
  Did round about him fall,
To thread the mazy arabesques
  Paved in his marble hall.
They shone and glimmered moist with dew,
  While, robed in spangled spray,        870
Amidst them high a fountain danced
  In whispering, tittering play.
No joy, grief, awe, nor doubt looked through
  His features swart and still;
“I ought” had ne’er been written there,        875
  But petrified, “I will.”
“What wouldst thou, merchant?” “Nothing, I;
  This godly man would speak,
A very godly man!—Methinks
  His wits are somewhat weak.”        880
“Good Hassan, for thy hunchback slave
  I’ve sought through dreary years;
Wilt give him up?” “In change for what?”
  “Our prayers and grateful tears.”
“I want them not.” “Thou mayst one day!        885
  When misbelievers stand
Amazed in judgment, he shall plead
  For thee at God’s right hand;
“His mother, too;—they’re dear to Christ;
  I know it all too well!        890
And I up from my lower place
  Will cry aloft and tell,
“That thou art he my sinking soul
  Who lifted out of hell;
Till all the saints shall join with me,        895
  O blessed infidel!”
“Hast nothing else to offer?” “Ay,
  To serve thee faithfully,
Another slave I’ll give,—myself,—
  As stout a wight as he.”        900
“Nought hast thou of his look; yet sure
  He is thy son or brother?”
“My serf of yore.” “’Tis strange, if true!
  Most Christians hate each other.
“I take thy proffer, false or fair;        905
  But if to me thou liest,
And seek’st to steal thyself away,
  E’en in my gates thou diest.”
He clapped his hands; and in there rushed
  A turbaned menial throng.        910
Strange words he spake. A dusky Moor
  Good Pavon led along,
With bounding heart, and beaded brow,
  And paling, glowing cheek,
And trembling lips compressed, that strove        915
  To brace themselves to speak,
Through cool, dank courts, and sultry paths,
  Till, ’twixt the twinkling twigs
Of citron, and of orange-trees,
  And sun-bathed purple figs,        920
He saw the fattening melons bask
  On beds both long and broad,
And Anselm, staggering forth to them,
  Bent ’neath his watery load.
He oped his mouth to call on him;        925
  Amazed, he did but choke;
For with its mighty wrath and joy,
  His great heart almost broke.
He darted on his track, and wrenched
  His pitcher from his hand.        930
The slave dropped back his drooping head,
  And strove to understand,
With bony fingers interlaced
  His dazzled eyes above,
Why came the tall mute man to him,        935
  In enmity or love.
Then muttered he, “This scorching sun
  At last hath fired my brain!
I seem to see one far away,
  Perchance long dead again,—        940
“Sir Pavon! ’Tis some fancy, bred
  Of famine, wild and weak,
Or fever. Wherefore gaze on it?
  If ’twas a man ’twould speak.”
Then Pavon in a storm of tears        945
  Fell crying on his breast:
“Forgive me, brother, if thou canst!
  I’ve known no peace nor rest,
“For years or ages, but to right
  The wrong I did to thee,        950
And mine own soul, roamed o’er the earth!
  From henceforth thou art free.”
“Sir Pavon! Is it thou?—and here?”
  “Ay; and I hold thee fast
In verity, as oft in dreams,        955
  When, as my slumber past,
“’Mid fading forms I clutched at thine,
  ’Mid fading visioned lands,
And shouting woke, with bloody nails
  Clenched in mine empty hands.”        960
“God! Heardst thou then my hopeless prayers?
  He’s saved!—And am I free?”
“Ay, go thy ways in joy, poor friend,
  Nor cease to pray for me.
“The merchant Andrew on the shore        965
  Awaits thee, in his bark.
His homeward voyage bears him by
  The abbey of St. Mark.
“The monks, for Abbot Urban’s sake,
  Will house and feed thine age        970
When thou hast told to them the end
  Of Pavon’s pilgrimage,
“By him enjoined. Though he be dead,
  He must remembered be
By novices he nurtured.” “Sir,        975
  Dost thou not come with me?
“Long wilt thou tarry?” “Be content.”
  “Not to forsake thee here.
I’ll serve thee in this homesick land
  For love, as erst from fear.”        980
“Go thou. I stay.” A change came o’er
  The hunchback’s raptured face:
“Why stays he, Selim, know’st?” “To draw
  Our water in thy place.”
He tore his hair; he turned away;        985
  He spake: “It shall not be!
All blessings bless thee for the thought,
  But ’twere not meet for thee!
“Few years are left me on the earth;
  And God hath taught to me        990
That willing bondage borne in Christ
  Is loftier liberty.”
“Then grudge it not unto thy lord,”
  St. Pavon following said.
The slave took up his water-pots,        995
  Moved on, and shook his head.
“This is my penance I must do,
  Or be for aye abhorred
Of Heaven.” “I’ll help thee bear it.”
  “Nay, stint not mine earned reward!”        1000
St. Pavon’s eyes and hands on his
  He fixed, and joyously
Cried, “Laggard son, thy mother waits
  Among the ships for thee!”
The new slave let the melons thirst        1005
  Till, through the twinkling twigs
Of citron, and of orange-flowers,
  And sun-bathed purple figs,
He saw the hunchback hurry o’er
  The beach, and scale the deck,        1010
Towards outstretched arms, that like a trap
  Did spring and catch his neck.
Then out he let his pent-up breath,
  Which seemed to blow away,
In one great sigh, his life’s great woe,        1015
  And to himself did say,
“Howe’er, where’er now, in this world
  Or that, my lot may fall,
I bear this scene in memory,
  And I can bear it all.”        1020
Then to his task he turned, with mien
  As eager and as bold
As when his brethren’s blood plashed round
  His iron march of old.
Joy drained his lees of life nigh-spent        1025
  All in one brimming cup,—
One wasteful draught of feverish strength,—
  And bade him drink it up.
He dragged the sinking waters out:
  He dashed them on the ground;        1030
He panted to and fro; well-nigh
  The melons swam or drowned.
Sly women’s jet and diamond eyes
  Did near the lattice lurk,
And twinkle through its screen, to see        1035
  The Christian madman work.
The steward cried, “By Mahmoud’s beard,
  Some demon toils within
Yon unbeliever, or a troop
  Of slaves in one’s shrunk skin.”        1040
Above him like a vulture came
  The noontide sun, and beat
Upon his old bald head, and pricked
  Through all his frame with heat;
It set but spurs unto his zeal:        1045
  “O Christ, and didst thou see
My brother in this torment gasp,
  And through my cruelty!”
His short-lived might sank with the light;
  Black turned the red-hot day;        1050
He scarce could drag to Anselm’s lair
  His heavy limbs away.
He heard a sound; he felt a light;
  He deemed it was the dawn.
He oped his eyes; and, lo! the veil        1055
  Of glory was withdrawn;
A radiance brighter than the sun,
  And sweeter than the moon,
Showed earth a part of heaven! He sighed,
  “’Tis a God-granted boon,—        1060
“A vision sent to cheer my soul,—
  A glimpse of Paradise!
O, fade not yet! A moment more,
  Ere to my toil I rise.”
A quivering fanned the air; and shapes        1065
  Like wingèd Joys stood round.
“Arise!” they said. He rose and left
  His body on the ground,
His weariness and age. Surprised
  With sudden buoyancy        1070
And ease, he turned and saw aghast
  His ghastly effigy.
“’Tis but a dream!” “’Tis heaven.” “For me?
  Not yet! not yet!” he said;
“I am a traitor! Give me time!        1075
  O, let me not be dead!
“In mercy put me back to toil
  And scorch, nor bid me brook,
Ere I’ve avenged him well on me,
  Mine outraged Master’s look!”        1080
A tender smile glowed through them all.
  “Brave martyr, do not fear.
Our Master calls! He waits for thee
  To share his bridal cheer!
“Full many a weary year is told,        1085
  As mortals tell their years,
Since loud we struck our harps, and sang
  Thy triumph o’er thy tears.”
Before him, spreading welcoming arms,
  A shining Urban stood:        1090
“God gave thee grace to overcome
  Thine evil with thy good.
“My lesson, brother, hast forgot?—
  I taught to thee of yore,
That blessings hid, their threats amid,        1095
  The awful Scriptures bore.”
Then Pavon to his dear embrace
  In wildered transports sprang;
And up the sunny morn they soared.
  The dwindling earth did hang        1100
Beneath. The air flapped, white with wings
  That thickened all about;
And wide a song of triumph pealed
  And rang this burden out:
“To wrest him out of Satan’s hands        1105
  His charity sufficed;
He did it unto one of CHRIST’S,
  He did it unto CHRIST!”
Note 1. “Henry de Joyeuse, Comte du Bouchage, Frère puîné du Duc de Joyeuse, tué à Coutras. ‘Un jour qu’il passoit à Paris à quatre heures du matin, près du Convent des Capucins, après avoir passé la nuit en débauche, il s’imagina que les Anges chantoient Matines dans le Couvent. Frappé de cette idée, il se fit Capucin, sous le nom de Frère-Ange.’… Cette anecdote est tirée des Notes sur l’Henriade.”—Mémoires de Sully, Livre Dixième, Note 67. [back]
Note 2. The regular form of announcement that a single combat had begun between knights. [back]
Note 3. “To smyte a wounded man that may not stonde, God deffende me from such a shame.” “Wyt thou well, Syr Gawayn, I wyl neuer smyte a fellyd knight.”—Prose Romance of King Arthur. [back]

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