Charles de Coster.

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went to the wall and put her head over it.

" Art thou there," she said, " my man ? "

" Yes," said he.

" Art thou hungry ? " she said.

" Yes," said he. '

" Well then," she said, " spread thy leathern apron ; I
will throw thee the pudding which has just been given
1 68

Smetse Smee

" But thou," said he, " wilt thou eat nothing ? "

" No," said she, " for I have heard it said that there is
supper by and by."

Smetse ate the rice pudding, and was suddenly filled with
comfort, for the pudding was more succulent and delicious
than the finest meats of the earth. Meanwhile his wife went
off to walk about in the good Paradise, and afterwards came
back to Smetse to tell him what she had seen.

" Ah," she said, " my man, 'tis a most beautiful place.
Would that I could see thee within ! Round about My Lord
Jesus are the pure intelligences who discuss with him what-
ever is goodness, love, justice, knowledge, and beauty, and
also the best means of governing men and making them
happy. Their speech is like music. And all the while they
keep throwing down to earth the seeds of beautiful, good,
just and true thoughts. But men are so wicked and stupid
that they tread underfoot these fair seeds or let them wither
away. Farther on, established in their several places, are
potters and goldsmiths, masons, painters, tanners and fullers,
carpenters and shipbuilders, and thou shouldst see what fine
work they do, "each in his own trade. And when they have
made some progress they cast down the seed of that also
towards the earth, but 'tis lost oftentimes."

" Wife," said Smetse, " didst see no smiths ? "

" Yes," said she.

" Alas," said he, " I would gladly be working alongside
them, for I am ashamed to be sitting here like a leper, doing
nothing and begging my bread. But listen, wife ; since
Master St. Peter will not let me in, go thou and ask grace
for me from My Lord Jesus, who is kind and will let me in
for certain."

" I go, my man," said she.

My Lord Jesus, who was in council with his doctors,
saw her coming towards him. " I know thee, good wife,"
said he ; " thou wast in thy lifetime wedded to Smetse the
smith, who entreated me so well when, in the guise of a little


Flemish Legends

child, I came down to earth with Master Joseph and Madam
Mary. Is he not in Paradise, thy good man ? "

" Alas, no, My Lord ! " answered she, " my man is at
the door, most sad and out of heart, because Master St.
Peter will not let him in."

" Why is that ? " said My Lord Jesus.

" Ah, I cannot tell," said she.

But the angel who writes down the faults of men in a
record of brass, speaking suddenly, said : " Smetse cannot
enter Paradise, for Smetse, delivered from the devil, kept
devil's money."

" Ah," said My Lord Jesus, " that is a great sin ; but
has he not repented of it ? "

" Yes," said the good wife, " he has repented, and, more-
over, he has been all his life good, charitable, and com-

" Go and find him," said My Lord Jesus, " I will question
him myself."

Two or three halberdier angels ran to obey him, and
brought Smetse before the Son of God, who spoke in this
wise :

" Smetse, is it true that thou didst keep devil's money ? "

" Yes, My Lord," answered the smith, whose knees were
knocking together with fear.

" Smetse, this is not good, for a man should rather suffer
every ill, pain, and anguish, than keep the money of one
who is wicked, ugly, unjust, and a liar, as is the devil. But
hast thou no meritorious deed to tell me, to mitigate this
great sin ? "

" My Lord," answered Smetse, " I fought a long while
beside the men of Zeeland for freedom of conscience, and,
doing this, suffered with them hunger and thirst."

" This is good, Smetse, but didst thou persist in this fair
conduct ? "

" Alas, no, My Lord ! " said the smith, " for, to tell truth,
my courage lacked constancy, and I went back to Ghent,

Smetse Smee

where, like so many another, I came under the Spanish

" This is bad, Smetse," answered My Lord Jesus.

" My Lord," wept the good wife, " none was more
generous than he to the poor, kind to every one, charitable
to his enemies, even to the wicked Slimbroek."

" This is good, Smetse," said My Lord Jesus ; " but hast
thou no other merit in thy favour ? "

" My Lord," said the smith, " I have always laboured
with a good heart, hated idleness and melancholy, loved joy
and merriment, sung gladly, and drunk with thankfulness
the bruinbier which came to me from you."

" This is good, Smetse, but it is not enough."

" My Lord," answered the smith, " I thrashed as soundly
as I could the wicked ghosts of Jacob Hessels, the Duke of
Alva, and Philip II, King of Spain."

" Smetse," said My Lord Jesus, " this is very good. I
grant thee leave to enter my Paradise."


Translated by GEOFFREY WHITWORTH. With 20 Woodcuts by

" Tyl Ulenspiegel i not yet, in most English households, an
old friend. Yet we believe that the fellow will soon make his brave
and humorous way into the friendship of old and young. And the
twenty full-page woodcuts with which M. Albert Delstanche has
illustrated this edition will help the friendship on. All the heartiness,
the ruggedness, the fun, and the gloom of one tragic period in the
history of a homely and much-enduring people are expressed through
the eye to the mind by M. Delstanche's knowledge and skill." The

" An excellent translation has brought a notable example of
modern Belgian literature within the reach of readers in this country.
Taking as his central figure the scampish Tyl Ulenspiegel, already in
the sixteenth century a traditional personage, De Coster produced a
remarkable reconstruction of Flemish life in the days of Spanish
oppression and of the famous ' Beggars '." Scotsman.

" On the large scale, the obvious work of a master, a man who knew
sorrow but who loved to share the mirth and good living of his fellows,
mocked impostors wherever he found them, and had a hatred of cruelty
and injustice that is like lightning. It is one of the rare books, full
of sad laughter and warm understanding, of the order of ' Don
Quixote'." The Nation.

" It is a happy thought which has brought out Mr. Geoffrey Whit-
worth's version of ' The Legend of Tyl Ulenspiegel ' now ... for
the description of it as the ' national epic of Flanders ' has much

more meaning than such phrases usually have. . . . And all the
adventures of Tyl and his friends have this quality of reality in fairy-
land, whether they are grotesque or tragic. The book has tragedy in
it to balance its boisterous comedy, but the two are combined in a
style whose generosity and exuberance make their union complete
and satisfactory. It is a great book indeed. Mr. Whitworth is to
be congratulated on his excellently easy and vivid translation ; and
the woodcuts of M. Albert Delstanche are all exceedingly impressive
and many exceedingly beautiful." Land and Water.

" It is hardly too much to say that De Coster's book is a work of
pure genius. ... At such a moment as the present no publication
could be more timely than this English version of what will inevitably
rank as a great epic of Belgian nationality. . . . For the rest, we
have only to compliment the publishers, the translator, and the
illustrator upon their joint efforts to present a fine work in a worthy
and acceptable form." The Guardian.

" The illustrator's bold and luminous drawings certainly catch
the bluff spirit of Charles de Coster's quaint masterpiece, in which the
transition-age between mediaevalism and modernity lives again so
grimly, so shrewdly, so humorously. Here there is a suitable gift-
book for all who love to travel in the highways of world-literature."
Morning Post.

" It is, of course, for adults and not for children, with its grim
horrors and its full-blooded jollity. What we have learnt to call the
soul of a people is in it the spirit of Flanders. The force of De Coster's
style loses nothing in Mr. Geoffrey Whitworth's translation, and
there are admirable illustrations cut on the wood by M. Albert Del-
stanche." Daily Telegraph.

" A most remarkable volume." Glasgow Herald.

" Reading it for the first time in Mr. Whitworth's admirable
English version, one is amazed at first that it has not been rendered
previously. De Coster will never require another English version,
and this one book of ' glorious adventures ' is aureole enough to ensure
his place on the great hierarchy of literature." The Bookman.


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Online LibraryCharles de CosterFlemish legends → online text (page 13 of 13)