Tales have been told of towering hills,of hardy heroes and holy quests,of unkindly kings, quick to judge,of gems that bejewel gentle ladies,of lovers' love, and the love of God.Now listen if you like to this little lay,for I truly tell a tale of such themes.
When spring had sprouted, spreading new life,to a lord and his lady a lass was born.Wealthy and wise was this worthy lordand fúlly fáir his faithful wife,and the girl they were given o'er gold they prized.She grew as the green tree grows by the streamand thus came to be courteous, comely and wise.Reports of her purity and peerless beautywere listened to in lands and lorddoms far.So sundry suitors sought her hand.Proud princes from palaces lofty,noble knights that knew of honour,and lords that lacked ladies, but little besides,all left for the land of that lovely maiden.Though wishing to woo her and win her hand,not one of those worthies waked her love.
For in that glorious green of the growing spring,when bright newborn brooks break through the land,a sorrowless singer, who sought but a roof,happened to reach that ruler's hall.Songs he could sing in sundry tonguesof gladness great and the glory of God,and the sorrow and sadness that sullies our world.He told these tales to the tunes of his harpin melodies meet, sometimes mournful and slow,but great and glad and glowing at others.Of that age-old art, all honoured him master.
When she saw him sing as they sat at tableand listened to his lay that he lovingly sang,that lady loved him, though lowly his birth,though spear nor sword nor spurs had he won,though penny in his pocket nor purse he owned;40 for to lordly or lowly love is impartial.When his song was ceased the singer saw herand the gaze she gave him his good heart pierced.No longer would he live in listlessness.He woke to a world of wonder and sorrow.A path of pain, but peerless joyto follow henceforth his fate had become.He was put on this path, for he picked it not.
But a second he saw her, for she suddenly went,and he followed her footsteps as by fairy enchantedto a garden where grass and growing plantsstood under stars, straight and serene.The woman walked there, wistfully thinking,in gown of green, girded with silver.Though quaking, he came, conquering fear.Preferring to face her, a fool though he seem,than to wonder and wish while he walked the earth,what words the woman would have said.So he fell at her feet fervently crying"Loveliest of ladies, this lowly forgive!"But she smiled on the singer and said to him "Nay,for failure nor fault do I find in your boldness.But kneel to me not, for are not we both bornof Adam and Eve, our ancient parents?I would fain we were friends and fear breeds distance."And walked without want, wanderer and maid.
And so spring to summer swiftly passedwhen green and gold grow entwinedand fair bloom flowers on the flourishing vine.The two I have told of attached became,for their friendship was fated to be followed by love.And as they wandered and walked through the ways of the gardenhe vowed to be faithful and devoted to her,and her alone of ladies to love or to kiss.To her fair formed finger he fixed a gem--an heirloom old, his only wealth.It blazed, brilliant, bright as flames,when it seized the sunlight in its smooth-cut facets.Thus in love their lives were elated with joy.
But as his daughter dwelt in undarkened joythat lórd lónged that she a lover might choose.For many a man that to marry had wishedwere wanting to wend their way back home.Princes were impatient with passiveness now.Knights had need in the next months to journey.Long-suffering lords to leave soon were planning.So finally her father that fair maid summonedand "Dearest daughter, dó you not knowthat I wish you one of these worthies would chooseto marry and be made man and wife?"he said to her seeking to swiften her choice.Then his daughter breathed deeply, for doom she knew,be it foul or fair, had fallen at last,"My lord and life-giver, whom I love full well,I would fain fulfill my father's will,and already have rightly wrought my choice.
Then, smiling satisfied, he said aloud,"On both of you be the blessing of God!And may the man who would marry my marvelous daughtercome forward before me that his face I might see!"When summoned, the singer stepped steadily forth,No attendants or train trailed behind him,No royal robes or rich adornmentattired him, though tall and tough-built his body,neath the cloak that kept him from cold and rain,and keen his countenance, comely to behold.He knelt now knowing how near was fate,yet carrying himself calmly as a king could be proud of."Lord I ask leave, for love of your daughter,to serve you till my soul is sent to the Lordand to offer you all that my efforts shall yield.For this doom is dealt and ordained by God,that alone of all ladies shall I love your daughterand of men she shall marry this minstrel lowly.May the goodness of God and his grace move youto accept myself as your servant and son.But may God forgive your grave offenseif you defy the fate His finger wrote."Thus humbly he offered and asked for her hand
But her father found fault with that fair one's choicelittle did he like the lowly appearanceof the simple singer, his assuming words.And anger and arrogance entered his heart.so he said to the singer insultingly:"My lands you shall leave, you lowborn churl!For your brash boldness and brazen deedsand your dealings with my daughter today must end!And if ever you enter my acres againyou will learn the length of a lordly wrath!So after bearing a beating for your boorish speechgo hence from here by the hastiest way!"thus wrapped up in wrath the ruler stormed outand, grabbed by guards, that good man was taken.
But he left his lady with these loving words:"I shall love while I live! Love never ends!"As they went away the woman was left,woefully weeping the way things had goneand as wanderer was whipped he wept as well,not for welts that were weightily whipped on his back,but solely for sorrow of being sent from his love,cruelly cut from the keeper of his heart.In this sorrowful state they sent him forth,and as he left that land the leaves were falling.
Day after day of dolour he journeyedthrough wild wasteland in wind wet with rain--a hungry hunter heart-sore and cold.No tunes tinkled from the traveler's harp,he sent forth no song to soar through the air.In his heavy heart hope was stifled.He no longer believed in the Lord's deliverance.But though he loathed his life, love of his ladynever left him but led him, for love endures.
Now the rest of the ruler who had wronged the singerwas torturously troubled by tremors of guiltand in the dark before dawn his dream was strange:In a fáir forest he fared, it seemedof tall trees with twined with vineswhose leaves gave light like liquid gold,in their branching boughs birds were singingand, growing with the grass, on the ground were flowersof red as rich as running blood.And lo! in the leaf-light a lady was standingnearly tall as the trees, she towered above himand whiter than wool were her well-woven robes.Far fairer than the fairest found on earth,yet stern as steel and stubborn as stonewas her fearless face, fair and hard.And her hair hung from her head to the ground,where her feet were fixed firm and unshod.And behold! in her hand she holds a sword,of sun-bright silver and swift as lightningand in the other the ancient and accurate balancewhere the souls of sinners by the savior are judged.Her noble name is known as Justice.In her majesty no man, who is mortal may stand.
Thus the lord was laid low and the lady declaimed:"Woe! O woe! You worldly man!To bríght coins bound and burnished gold!God appóinted you prínce, gave you the privilege to judge,and with rightness to rule your realm and men.But you boldly abused this blessing of Godwith insult and injury the innocent judgingand dealing pain to your pure daughter.Woe! O woe! You worldly man!You shall learn that the Lord is Lord of lords!"As she said this the scene that he saw around himwas burning and blazing with bright white fireand by the time she had told these terrible wordsashes alone were all that was left.He did not doubt then that death and darknesshad fallen his fate from the fairness of God.
But suddenly it seemed that he saw a lightin the distance, through the darkness, drawing closer.For the sister of Justice, that solemn maid,was walking where the wood at one time had stood.But as her sister was strong, slight was this maid,fair as the first but not fearfully so,and white as the garment worn by her sisterwas her lovely gown of gilded lace.And behold! in her hands is the holy crosson which Christ was killed for the crimes of mankindand which won for our world God's wondrous grace.Down her fáir fáce are flowing tearsfor our world which is wasted with the woes of sin.The maid is called Mercy that met him there.She lifted him up where he lay in ashand began to give him God's good news:"Strife and destruction storm around you.The daylight dwindles and darkness grows.But repent of your pride you poor, poor manand God may forgive you your grave offense.O poor, o pitiable, prideful manrepent and pray before passes your chance."
Then the lord looked up, loudly awakenedby voices of vandals invading his city.He sought for his sword, swift, as was neededand ran to the ruin to right the wrong.But to defend his folk he found he was late.The high hall that housed his people,was felled by fire that left foul-smelling smokeand ashes were everywhere over the ground.Many of his men had been merc'lessy slainand of the women and wives were woefully takenand his dearest daughter was abducted as well.Sorely smitten with sorrow and grief,the lord was laid low, to lie in the ash,deeply drinking his draught of woe.and in silence he suffered his sin's guilt.
But as sunlight seeped o'er the sorrowful scene,he looked to the light and lifted this payer:"O Lord of lords I opposed your will.Yet remember, o Master, your mercy still.I ask for nothing for myself.Take my life, my honour, wealth.But protect my daughter --my dearest childfrom being knavishly defiledand let her come forth, free again,free from the fetters of foul-hearted men.I promise, o Lord: I repent of my prideand will give the singer my daughter for bride,and lay great gifts of gold in his hands,and acres, even half my landsin recompense for foolish pride.Therefore Lord be at my side,for I solemnly swear by the cross of my sword,and know I shall keep my word, o Lord,that I shall chase and harry, follow and slaythese murdering men until the daymy daughter and folk are returned to me,and for those they've slain mercilesslyin their family's hands is the man-price paid,or I myself in death am laid.Cleanse from his sins your servant againIn the name of Christ, your son. Amen."He stood up straight and strode to his folkto muster men and march to war.
We leave that lord now to learn of his daughter,who, with face full of fear and falling tears,unwilling, went away. To wonder she dáred notwhat féll fáte would find her soon.The cold-hearted king, who had conquered her townfared to his fortress with the fair maid.Through mighty mountains he made his way--a rough road and rocky till they reached the fort.Hid neath a hill his hall had been built.Sieges and assaults it had suffered since many,yet stood stalwart as it stood first-built--fast and firm in faithful stone.And as she struggled and strove in distress at the gate,there fell from her finger the flame-like ring--sign of the singer's ceaseless love.Unheeded, it hit the hard stone floorand they dragged her, doleful, through the door of iron.But though captive in the castle of a king of raiders,she was not forced and defiled, for the Father of Gracehad listened with love to that lady's fatherand heard his humble, heartfelt prayer.
Thus as the lady was locked in a lightless cella tired traveler, the tale-teller silenced,who had felt fate's finger fall on him hard,smitten by sorrows and sundry ills,whipped by wind and whirling snowfor winter had wasted the world once green,fiercely frosted his feet and handsand worn and wasted his weathered cloaktill tatters alone were left to protect him;but led by love at last he was cometo the mighty fort where the maid was fettered.
Thus unkempt he was crawling, crusted with snow,unshaved and unsheltered, shaking with cold.His eyes, once as eagles, were out of focus,bloodshot and bleary; his body bony.He fell half-fainting, but forced himself up,stumbled six steps and stopped again,for on the ground in his grasp was the glow of fire.Wánting wármth in winter's chillhe stretched out his hand, and held the stonethat once was the woman's, still warm from her hand;and lifted to his lips, he laid there a kiss.On his face there froze his falling tears.
But then opened the entrance of underground fortand the guards of the gate, great and strongcame forth and caught him, and carried him down.Though the traveler was tall they towered above himas they led him below twixt lighted torches.Their flickering flames flashed in the gemthat lay hid his hand, held tightlyas hidden in his heart hope was blazing.As they tramped down the tunnel he turned to God,silently seeking the savior's help..
When gone through the gate to the great hallbefore them they found the fearsome king.Down steps of stone, he stared upon them--A mighty man of moody face,battle-battered, boldest of fighters.His silver sword was a slayer of men.It's shining sharp edge a shatterer of shields.His buckler bore the brunt of the fightwhen his bold band in battle strove.But his spear had, unsparing, spitted menthat had done him no damage nor dealt him woe.For the killed he cared not --a killer from youth,mighty but merciless, a murderer hard.
Fore this sinful soldier the singer was brought."Well half-dead harper, let's hear your voice.Sing us a song ere I send you to hell!"The singer was silent and still for a moment.Then his lips, which too long had lacked a songopened, and after he offered a prayerHe sang his soul as he sang before neverfor experience of pain empowered his voice:
"The sun was bright, the wind was sweet,The grass grew green about her feet.Her hair did shine with heaven's lightThat flaxen fell. Her eyes were bright.Where lightly fell her dancing toedid flowers bloom and berries grow.The birds did sing to see her face,That, peerless fair, taught nature grace.For the flowers twined around her haircould never as her face be fair.Alas, my love! That were my joy!My joy is lost in sorrow.For I, that day, was torn awayAnd we met not again on the morrow.
The sky is dark, the wind is chill,the cruel winter life does kill.The flowers are withered, gone the grassthat once did kiss her feet, Alas!For lack of her that the world did gracethe sun himself does hide his face,the birds are silent chased away,the night is long and dark the day.And I alone am left to weepfor her whose love my heart does keep.Alas, my love! That were my joy!My joy is lost in sorrow.For I, that day, was torn away,and we met not again on the morrow."
The singer ceased, with sorrow bent.But wonder of wonders! The warrior wept.For through the song of the singer the Spirit had spoken.Unfeigned, down his face, were flowing tears.And whelmed with woe, he whispered softly,"Alas for my life! Alas for my sins!"And suddenly that soldier to the singer was kneeling,and said, solemn, "O singer great,what now I know, I never felt:the sadness for sin, the sorrow of shame.Your music has moved me, and melted my heartand anything I own, for the asking, is yours."The wanderer, weeping, worshipped in joy:"That heaven has heard me and here has workedGod's be the glory, God's the praise!Know him and kneel, but not to me.And I ask not for anything at all, but thisif you have, in this hall, any held captivefree them, for I fear, my friends are among them."Your will shall be worked! and what is moregifts of gold will go with you all.But wait for a while worthy manto tell me tales and talk with me,for my heart is heavied with hateful deeds""Lord, I leave now, but later, soonyou will see the singer stand in your hall.For I have an errand I am anxious to dothat will not wait a while longer."The singer then set him in the savior's careand left to learn how the lady had fared.
Now we learn of the lord, the lady's fatherwho marched through the mountains with his men about him.Great was the gladness given to him,when he beheld how heaven had heard his prayer.For he met them marching down the mountain path:his folk in a file with the fee for the slain,led by the lady, his lovely daughter,who stood by the singer's side in joy,as he sang a song to the savior's gloryof the Lord's deliverance, as long agoDavid the doughty had done in thanks:"I praise you Lord of mighty loveFor you have heard my prayerYou lifted me up from the depths of darkand came to me with aid.Give full glory to the God of grace!Praise his name, o people!For though his anger may last for a seasonthe spring of his mercy is swift.During the night tears may endurebut joy is born at dawn.Lord you turned my silent woeinto songs of joy.Forever will I sing, sing your praiseand give the glory to You!"Then wondrously, winter was wept awayin rushing rivers, roaring with joy.The savior sent his spring to earthand the grass again grew green and bright.
Mark, o men, the Almighty's love.Kneel to his name. Know him for God.He is King of kings and conquers the strong,Lord of lords and lowers the proud,but Lover of lovers, the lowly he lifts.God's be the glory God's the praise!Amen. Amen. Alleluia!