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Library: Highwaymen

Books

Author: merja
Date:Mar 12 2005

You open the pages and begin reading.
     
There is some serious looking scrawl here.. You correctly identify it as an
excerpt from Bulfinche's Mythology, from the legends of Charlemagne, or
Romance of the Middle Ages, Chapter XXIII: Huon of Bordeaux.
     
"... HUON had seen many beauties at his mother's court, but his heart had
never been touched with love. Honor had been his mistress, and in pursuit of
that he had never found time to give a thought to softer cares. Strange that a
heart so insensible should first be touched by something so unsubstantial as a
dream  but so it was.
     
 The day after the adventure with his uncle, night overtook the travellers as
they passed through a forest. A grotto offered them shelter from the night
dews. The magic cup supplied their evening meal  for such was its virtue that
it afforded not only wine, but more solid fare when desired. Fatigue soon
threw them into profound repose. Lulled by the murmur of the foliage, and
breathing the fragrance of the flowers, Huon dreamed that a lady more
beautiful than he had ever before seen hung over him, and imprinted a kiss
upon his lips. As he stretched out his arms to embrace her, a sudden gust of
wind swept her away.  
     
 Huon awoke in an agony of regret. A few moments sufficed to afford some
consolation in showing him that what had passed was but a dream  but his
perplexity and sadness could not escape the notice of Sherasmin. Huon
hesitated not to inform his faithful follower of the reason of his pensiveness
 and got nothing in return but his rallyings for allowing himself to be
disturbed by such a cause. He recommended a draught from the fairy goblet, and
Huon tried it with good effect.
       At early dawn they resumed their way. They travelled till high noon,
but said little to one another. Huon was musing on his dream, and Sherasmin's
thoughts flew back to his early days on the banks of the flowery Garonne.
     
 On a sudden they were startled by the cry of distress, and, turning an angle
of the wood, came where a knight hard pressed was fighting with a furious
lion. The knight's horse lay dead, and it seemed as if another moment would
end the combat, for terror and fatigue had quite disabled the knight for
further resistance. He fell, and the lion's paw was raised over him, when a
blow from Huon's sword turned the monster's rage upon a new enemy. His roar
shook the forest, and he crouched in act to spring, when, with the rapidity of
lightning, Huon plunged his sword into his side. He rolled over on the plain
in the agonies of death.
     
 They raised the knight from the ground, and Sherasmin hastened to offer him a
draught from the fairy cup. The wine sparkled to the brim, and the warrior put
forth his lips to quaff it, but it shrunk away, and did not even wet his lips.
He dashed the goblet angrily on the ground, with an exclamation of resentment.
This incident did not tend to make either party more acceptable to the other 
and what followed was worse. For when Huon said, "Sir knight, thank God for
your deliverance,"- "Thank Mahomet, rather, yourself," said he, "for he has
led you this day to render service to no less a personage than the Prince of
Hyrcania."
     
 At the sound of this blasphemy Huon drew his sword and turned upon the
miscreant, who, little disposed to encounter the prowess of which he had so
lately seen proof, betook himself to flight. He ran to Huon's horse, and,
lightly vaulting on his back, clapped spurs to his side, and galloped out of
sight.
     
 The adventure was vexatious, yet there was no remedy. The prince and
Sherasmin continued their journey with the aid of the remaining horse as they
best might. At length, as evening set in, they descried the pinnacles and
towers of a great city full before them, which they knew to be the famous city
of Bagdad.
     
 They were wellnigh exhausted with fatigue when they arrived at its precincts,
and in the darkness, not knowing what course to take, were glad to meet an
aged woman, who, in reply to their inquiries, offered them such accommodations
as her cottage could supply. They thankfully accepted the offer, and entered
the low door. The good dame busily prepared the best fare her stores
supplied,- milk, figs, and peaches,- deeply regretting that the bleak winds
had nipped her almond-trees.
     
 Sir Huon thought he had never in his life tasted any fare so good. The old
lady talked while her guests ate. She doubted not, she said, they had come to
be present at the great feast in honor of the marriage of the Sultan's
daughter, which was to take place on the morrow. They asked who the bridegroom
was to be, and the old lady answered, "The Prince of Hyrcania," but added,
"Our princess hates him, and would rather wed a dragon than him." "How know
you that?" asked Huon  and the dame informed him that she had it from the
princess herself, who was her foster-child. Huon inquired the reason of the
princess's aversion  and the woman, pleased to find her chat excite so much
interest, replied that it was all in consequence of a dream. "A dream!"
exclaimed Huon. 
     
"Yes! a dream. She dreamed that she was a hind, and that the Prince, as a
hunter, was pursuing her, and had almost overtaken her, when a beautiful dwarf
appeared in view, drawn in a golden car, having by his side a young man of
yellow hair and fair complexion, like one from a foreign land. She dreamed
that the car stopped where she stood, and that, having resumed her own form,
she was about to ascend it, when suddenly it faded from her view and with it
the dwarf and the fair-haired youth. But from her heart that vision did not
fade, and from that time her affianced bridegroom, the Hyrcanian prince, had
become odious to her sight. Yet the Sultan, her father, by no means regarding
such a cause as sufficient to prevent the marriage, had named the morrow as
the time when it should be solemnized, in presence of his court and many
princes of the neighboring countries, whom the fame of the princess's beauty
and the bridegroom's splendor had brought to the scene."
     
 We may suppose this conversation woke a tumult of thoughts in the breast of
Huon. Was it not clear that Providence led him on, and cleared the way for his
happy success? Sleep did not early visit the eyes of Huon that night  but,
with the sanguine temper of youth, he indulged his fancy in imagining the
sequel of his strange experience.
     
 The next day, which he could not but regard as the decisive day of his fate,
he prepared to deliver the message of Charlemagne. Clad in his armor,
fortified with his ivory horn and his ring, he reached the palace of Gaudisso
when the guests were assembled at the banquet. As he approached the gate, a
voice called on all true believers to enter  and Huon, the brave and faithful
Huon, in his impatience passed in under that false pretension. He had no
sooner passed the barrier than he felt ashamed of his baseness, and was
overwhelmed with regret. 
     
To make amends for his fault he ran forward to the second gate, and cried to
the porter, "Dog of a misbeliever, I command you in the name of Him who died
on the cross, open to me!" The points of a hundred weapons immediately opposed
his passage. Huon then remembered for the first time the ring he had received
from his uncle, the Governor. He produced it, and demanded to be led to the
Sultan's presence. The officer of the guard recognized the ring, made a
respectful obeisance, and allowed him free entrance. In the same way he passed
the other doors to the rich saloon where the great Sultan was at dinner with
his tributary princes. At sight of the ring the chief attendant led Huon to
the head of the hall, and introduced him to the Sultan and his princes as the
ambassador of Charlemagne. A seat was provided for him near the royal party.
     
 The Prince of Hyrcania, the same whom Huon had rescued from the lion, and who
was the destined bridegroom of the beautiful Clarimunda, sat on the Sultan's
right hand, and the princess herself on his left. It chanced that Huon found
himself near the seat of the princess, and hardly were the ceremonies of
reception over, before he made haste to fulfil the commands of Charlemagne by
imprinting a kiss upon her rosy lips, and after that a second, not by command,
but by good-will. The Prince of Hyrcania cried out, "Audacious infidel! take
the reward of thy insolence!" and aimed a blow at Huon, which, if it had
reached him, would have brought his embassy to a speedy termination. But the
ingrate failed of his aim, and Huon punished his blasphemy and ingratitude at
once by a blow which severed his head from his body.
     
 So suddenly had all this happened, that no hand had been raised to arrest it 
but now Gaudisso cried out, "Seize the murderer!" Huon was hemmed in on all
sides, but his redoubtable sword kept the crowd of courtiers at bay. But he
saw new combatants enter, and could not hope to maintain his ground against so
many. He recollected his horn, and, raising it to his lips, blew a blast
almost as loud as that of Roland at Roncesvalles. It was in vain. Oberon heard
it  but the sin of which Huon had been guilty in bearing, though but for a
moment, the character of a believer in the false prophet, had put it out of
Oberon's power to help him. Huon, finding himself deserted, and conscious of
the cause, lost his strength and energy, was seized, loaded with chains, and
plunged into a dungeon.
     
 His life was spared for the time, merely that he might be reserved for a more
painful death. The Sultan meant that, after being made to feel all the
torments of hunger and despair, he should be flayed alive.
     
 But an enchanter more ancient and more powerful than Oberon himself
interested himself for the brave Huon. That enchanter was Love. The Princess
Clarimunda learned with horror the fate to which the young prince was
destined. By the aid of her governante she gained over the keeper of the
prison, and went herself to lighten the chains of her beloved. It was her hand
that removed his fetters, from her he received supplies of food to sustain a
life which he devoted from thenceforth wholly to her. After the most tender
explanations the princess departed, promising to repeat her visit on the
morrow.
     
 The next day she came according to promise, and again brought supplies of
food. These visits were continued during a whole month. Huon was too good a
son of the Church to forget that the amiable princess was a Saracen, and he
availed himself of these interviews to instruct her in the true faith. How
easy it is to believe the truth when uttered by the lips of those we love!
Clarimunda erelong professed her entire belief in the Christian doctrines, and
desired to be baptized.
     
 Meanwhile the Sultan had repeatedly inquired of the jailer how his prisoner
bore the pains of famine, and learned to his surprise that he was not yet much
reduced thereby. On his repeating the inquiry, after a short interval, the
keeper replied that the prisoner had died suddenly, and had been buried in the
cavern. The Sultan could only regret that he had not sooner ordered the
execution of the sentence.
     
 While these things were going on, the faithful Sherasmin, who had not
accompanied Huon in his last adventure, but had learned by common rumor the
result of it, came to the court in hopes of doing something for the rescue of
his master. He presented himself to the Sultan as Solario, his nephew.
Gaudisso received him with kindness, and all the courtiers loaded him with
attentions. He soon found means to inform himself how the Princess regarded
the brave but unfortunate Huon, and, having made himself known to her,
confidence was soon established between them. Clarimunda readily consented to
assist in the escape of Huon, and to quit with him her father's court to
repair to that of Charlemagne. Their united efforts had nearly perfected their
arrangement, a vessel was secretly prepared, and all things in forwardness for
the flight, when an unlooked-for obstacle presented itself. Huon himself
positively refused to go, leaving the orders of Charlemagne unexecuted.
      
 Sherasmin was in despair. Bitterly be complained of the fickleness and
cruelty of Oberon in withdrawing his aid at the very crisis when it was most
necessary. Earnestly he urged every argument to satisfy the prince that he had
done enough for honor, and could not be held bound to achieve impossibilities.
But all was of no avail, and he knew not which way to turn, when one of those
events occurred which are so frequent under Turkish despotism. A courier
arrived at the court of the Sultan, bearing the ring of his sovereign, the
mighty Agrapard, Caliph of Arabia, and bringing the bowstring for the neck of
Gaudisso. No reason was assigned  none but the pleasure of the Caliph is ever
required in such cases  but it was suspected that the bearer of the bow-string
had persuaded the Caliph that Gaudisso, whose rapacity was well known, had
accumulated immense treasures, which he had not duly shared with his
sovereign, and thus had obtained an order to supersede him in his Emirship.
     
 The body of Gaudisso would have been cast out a prey to dogs and vultures,
had not Sherasmin, under the character of nephew of the deceased, been
permitted to receive it, and give it decent burial, which he did, but not till
he had taken possession of the beard and grinders, agreeably to the orders of
Charlemagne.  
     
 No obstacle now stood in the way of the lovers and their faithful follower in
returning to France. They sailed, taking Rome in their way, where the Holy
Father himself blessed the union of his nephew, Duke Huon of Bordeaux, with
the Princess Clarimunda.
     
 Soon afterward they arrived in France, where Huon laid his trophies at the
feet of Charlemagne, and, being restored to the favor of the Emperor, hastened
to present himself and his bride to the Duchess, his mother, and to the
faithful liegemen of his province of Guienne and his city of Bordeaux, where
the pair were received with transports of joy.
     
                                                     ----------- * -----------
 
You decide you want to read more. Flipping the page, you find more of the
scrawl, sometimes it appears just decipherable. Shaking your head at the
careless hand, you continue to read..
     
Judging for yourself, you see that this is a poem by Alfred Noyes. You decide
it might be fun to sing it, and quickly duck the barrage of rotting fruit
which is thrown your way, only to sing LOUDER!
     
(Part One)
     
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas
The road was a ribbon of moonlight o'er the purple moor
And the highwayman came a riding, riding riding riding
The highwayman she came ariding, up to the inn of four winds' door.
     
She'd a Númenórean cap on her fore'ead, and a bunch of Ancalimë's lace at her
chin
A stealthy Elf cloak and brown doe-skinned breeches
They fitted with ne'er a wrinkle and her boots were way up to her thighs!
She strode with a jewelled twinkle, Her fistfulls of rings a-twinkle Her
rapier hilt a twinkle, under the jewelled sky.
     
Over the cobbles her boots clattered and clashed in four winds' courtyard
And she tapped with her whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred,
She whistled a tune to the window, and should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed archmaiden, Coren the landlord's daughter!
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair!
     
And dark in the four winds' inn-yard, a stable wicket creaked
Where Arakorni the archostler did hear, his face was white and peaked
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like smouldering hay
But he loved the landlord's archmaiden, the landlord's red-lipped archmaid
Astun and skills interupted, he heard the robber say:
     
"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize tonight
But I shall be back with the yellow gold afore morning light
Yet if they press me and harry me throughout the day look for me in the
moonlight
I'll come for you, Corena, by moonlight, though the devil should bar the way!"
     
She rose in her bootspurs, scarce reaching the archmaid's hand
Unleashing Corena's hairband, the robber's face, she burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of parfum rained tumbled o'er her breast
And she kissed its waves in the moonlight, O sweet virgins in the moonlight!
Then she tugged at her reigns in the moonlight, and she galloped away to the
West.
     
(Part Two)
     
She did not come at dawning, she did not come at noon
and out O the tawny sunset, afore the rise of the moon
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor
A red-coat troop came a'marching, marching marching marching fore!
Arch Gore's demons came a'marching up to Four Winds' door!
     
They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed
Two of them knelt to her old sailor's chests, with evil claws opened wide!
There was death at every window, and the Devil at one dark window
For the magic-8-ball inside her chest, showed which road the Robber would
ride.
     
They had tied her up, with many a sniggering jest
They summoned a spider demon beside her, and bound a ball-and-chain to her
breast
"Now keep a good watch!" and the kissed her, she heard the demons say
She heard the dead robber say: "Look for me by moonlight, Watch by the
moonlight"
"I'll come for you by moonlight, though Hell should bar the way!"
     
She twisted the knots behind her, but all the knots held good.
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat and blood
They stretched and strained in the darkness and time fled like years
Till now on the stroke of midnight, nigh on the ray of moonlight
One finger touched it! The trigger it was hers! ! Tlot, tlot tlot, tlot. Had
they heard it? The horse hooves ringing clear
tlot, tlot tlot, tlot. in the distance. Were they deaf, did they not hear?
Down o'er the ribbon of darkness, and o'er the brow o'the hill
the highway man came a'riding, riding ariding riding!!
The red-demons awaited their ticks, she stood straight and still!
     
tlot, tlot! in the frosty silence. tlot, tlot! in the echoing night.
Nearer she came, and nearer! The maid's face was like a light.
Her eyes drew wife for a moment, then she drew one last breath
Then her finger moved in the monlight, her musket shattered the moonlight.
Piercing her heart in the moonlight, warning the highwayman with her death.
    
She turned, spurred to the West, not knowing who there stood
Bowed with her face o'er the musket, Corena was drenched in her own blood
Not till dawn had she heard it, her face grew grey to hear
How Corena, the landlord's archmaid, the black-eyed beauty
Had watched for her love by moonlight, and died in the darkness there
     
Back she spurred like a mad fishmonger, shrieking a curse to the sky
With the white road smoking behind her and her fists branded on high
Blood-red were her spurs i' the golden noon, wine-red was her Elven cloak
When they shot her down on the highway, down like a dog on the highway
And he lay in his blood in the highway, with a bunch of Ancalimë's lace at her
throat
   
And still of a winter's night they'll say, when the wind moves within the
trees
When the moon is a fallen galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas
When the road is a purple ribbon athru the moor
Her highwayman comes a'riding, riding, riding, riding
Her highwayman comes a'riding up to the Inn of Four Winds' door.
     
O'er the cobbles she clatters and clangs in Four Winds Inn's dark courtyard
And she taps her whips upon the shutters, but all is locked and barred
He whistles a tune to the window and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed archdaughter, Corena, the landlord's archmaiden.
Plaiting a dark red love-knot in her long dark black hair.
                             ----------- *** ----------                       
  
The last entry in the old book is almost illegible. You wonder that the script
looks rather hastily compiled, but decide to read it anyway.
     
This excerpt is by Samuel Butler.
     
An Highwayman Is a wild Arab, that lives by robbing of small caravans, and has
no way of living but the Kingx{2019}s high way. Aristotle held him to be but a
kind of huntsman

but our sages of the law account him rather a beast of prey, and will not
allow his game to be legal by the forest law. His chief care is to be well
mounted, and when he is taken, the law takes care he should be so still while
he lives. His business is to break the laws of the land, for which the hangman
breaks his neck, and therex{2019}s an end of the controversie. He fears
nothing, under the gallows, more than his own face, and therefore when he does
his work conveys it out of sight, that it may not rise up in judgment, and
give evidence against him at the sessions. His trade is to take purses and
evil courses, and when he is taken himself the laws take as evil a course with
him. He takes place of all other thieves as the most heroical, and one that
comes nearest to the old Knights errant, though he is really one of the
basest, that never ventures but upon surprizal, and where he is sure of the
advantage. He lives like a Tartar always in motion, and the inns upon the road
are his hoordes, where he reposes for a while, and spends his time and money,
when he is out of action. These are his close confederates and allies, though
the common interest of both will not permit it to be known. He is more
destructive to a grasier than the murrain, and as terrible as the Huon-cry to
himself. When he dispatches his business between sun and sun he invades a
whole county, and like the long Parliament robs by representative. He receives
orders from his superior officer the setter, that sets him on work and others
to pay him for it. He calls concealing what he takes from his comrades
sinking, which they account a great want of integrity, and when he is
discoverx{2019}d he loses the reputation of an honest and just man with them
for ever after. After he has rovx{2019}d up and down too long he is at last
set himself, and conveyx{2019}d to the jail, the only place of his residence,
where he is provided of a hole to put his head in, and gatherx{2019}d to his
fathers in a faggot cart.
     
1 Aristotle held him to be but a kind of huntsman: I have been unable to trace
this reference.
2 well mounted: This passage puns on the meanings x{2018}well horsedx{2019}
and x{2018}raised up, elevatedx{2019}. When he was hanged, a highwayman was
made to stand on a cart or ladder, above the heads of the crowd who had come
to see him.
3 sessions: court held by justices of the peace. In most counties, though, a
highwayman would normally be tried in the assize court. It is likely that
Butler is thinking of the sessions for London and Middlesex, jurisdictions
where no assize court was held
4 grasier: cattle dealer  hence their vulnerability to x{2018}the
murrainx{2019}, an infectious disease of cattle. Graziers, who generally
travelled around with large sums for the purchase of beasts, were a favourite
target of highwaymen.
Huon-cry: misspelling of x{2018}hue and cryx{2019}, the official pursuit that
was set in motion after a robbery was reported.
between sun and sun: Under the law, travellers who were robbed during daylight
hours were entitled to claim half their losses back from the hundred
(district) in which it happened, unless the robbers were apprehended.
long Parliament: a royalist gibe at the exactions imposed by the Long
Parliament, which sat during the Civil Wars and interregnum, between 1640 and
1653
setter: someone who instigates or arranges a robbery.
set: marked down as prey  cf. x{2018}setterx{2019}, above.
    
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