Charles de Coster.

The legend of Ulenspiegel and Lamme Goedzak and their adventures heroical, joyous, and glorious in the land of Flanders and elsewhere (Volume 1) online

. (page 1 of 20)
Online LibraryCharles de CosterThe legend of Ulenspiegel and Lamme Goedzak and their adventures heroical, joyous, and glorious in the land of Flanders and elsewhere (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



,J^ V



The Legend of Ulenspiegel
and J^amme Qoedzak^


Ex Libria












London: William Heintmann.

(24 L3

"Beatrice de Holthoir











WHEN May was unfolding the whitethorn blos-
som Ulenspiegel, son of Claes, was born at
Damme in Flanders.

A gossip midwife, by name Katheline, wrapt him
in warm swaddling clothes, and, looking at his head,
pointed out a caul on it.

"A caul! he is born under a lucky star!" exclaimed
she, rejoicing.

But in a moment, lamenting and displaying a little
black spot on the babe's shoulder:

"Alas," she wept, "'tis the black print of the devil's

"Master Satan has been getting up very early, then,"
rejoined Claes, "if he has had time already to put his
mark on my son. "

"It was not yet his bedtime," said Katheline, "for
there is Chantecleer only now waking up the hens."

And she went away, putting the child in the arms of

Then the dawn burst through the night clouds, the

VOL I. I b

2 The Legend of Ulenspiegel

swallows skimmed the meadows with shrill cries, and the
sun showed his dazzling countenance, bright and red
upon the horizon. Claes threw the window wide and
spake to Ulenspiegel.

"Son with the caul," said he, "lucky son, here is our
lord Sun coming to salute the soil of Flanders. Look
always on him when thou canst, and whenever thou art
in a maze, knowing not what to do so as to do right, ask
counsel of him: he is bright and warm; be thou honest
as he is bright, and kind even as he is warm."

"Husband Claes," said Soetkin, "you are preaching
to deaf ears; come, drink, my son."

And the mother offered the newly born nature's
goodly flagons.


While Ulenspiegel drank of them, and called for no
cup, all the birds in the countryside awoke.

Claes, who was binding faggots, looked upon his wife
as she gave the breast to Ulenspiegel.

"Wife," said he, "have you laid up store of this
good milk?"

"The jars are full," said she, "but that is not enough
for my content."

"You speak piteously of so great a joy."

"'Tis in my mind," said she, "that in the wallet you
see hanging by the wall there is not one poor patard."

Claes took the wallet in his hand; but in vain did he
shake it, no morning song of coin answered him from
within. Thereat he was chapfallen, but wishing never-
theless to hearten his good wife.

"Why do you vex yourself?" said he. "Have we
not in the hutch the cake Katheline gave us yesterday ?

And Lamme Goedzak 3

Do not I behold a noble piece of beef that for three days
at least will make good milk for the babe? That sack
of beans squatting so snugly in the corner, does it
prophesy famine? Yon firkin of butter, is it a ghost?
Be they but phantoms, those bright platoons and com-
panies of apples ranged warrior-like in ranks of eleven
in the loft? Doth not that full-girthed cask of Bruges
cuyte, that in its belly keeps the wherewithal for our
refreshing, doth it not proclaim good drinking?"

"Needs must," said Soetkin, "when the babe is
borne to baptism, that we give two patards to the
priest and a florin for the feasting."

Therewith entered Katheline, holding a great sheaf
of plants in her hand, saying:

"I bring the lucky babe angelica, that keepeth
man from lewdness; fennel that putteth Satan to
flight. . . ."

"Have you not," said Claes, "gotten the herb that
conjureth florins?"

"Nay," quoth she.

"Then," said he, "I will even go see if there be none
in the canal."

Forth he went carrying line and net, being well
assured of meeting nobody, for it still lacked an hour
of the oosterzon, which is, in Flanders, the morning
sun of six of the clock.


Claes came to the canal of Bruges, not far from the
sea. There, baiting his line, he cast it in the water, and
let down his net. A little lad, well attired, lay upon the
other bank, sleeping like a log upon a clump of mussels.

The noise Claes made awoke him, and he would have

4 The Legend of U lens pie gel

fled away, fearing it might be some sergeant of the
commune coming to turn him off his couch and hale
him to the Steen for unlicensed vagrancy.

But his fears ceased when he knew Claes and when
he heard him call:

"Would you like to earn six liards? Drive the fish
this way."

The lad on the word went down into the water,
with his little belly already showing round and puffed
up, and, arming himself with a tuft of long reeds, drove
the fish toward Claes.

His fishing over, Claes drew in his net and line, and
walking across the lock, came to the lad.

"You are he," said Claes, "whom they call Lamme
by baptism and Goedzak for your gentle nature, and
you live in the street of the Heron, behind Notre Dame.
How comes it, young and well clothed as you are, that
you must needs sleep on a public bed?"

"Alas, master coalman," replied the lad, "at home
I have a sister a year younger than I, who beats me
with heavy blows for the smallest wrangle. But I
dare not take my revenge on her back, for I should do
her a hurt. Last night, at supper, I was an-hungered
and cleaned with my fingers a dish of beef and beans in
which she meant to have a share. There was not
enough of it for me, master. When she saw me licking
my lips for the goodness of the sauce, she became as one
out of her wits, and beat me so fast and furiously that
I fled all bruised from out of the house."

Claes asked him what his father and mother did
during all this cuffing.

Lamme Goedzak replied:

"My father beat me on one shoulder and my mother

And Lamme Goedzak 5

on the other saying, 'Avenge thyself, coward!' But I,
not willing to strike a girl, fled away."

Suddenly Lamme grew pale and trembled all over.

And Claes saw a tall woman approaching, and by her
side a little girl lean and of a fierce aspect.

"Ah!" said Lamme, taking hold of Claes by his
breeches, "here be my mother and my sister coming to
find me. Protect me, master coalman."

"Here," said Claes, "first take these seven liards
for wages and let us go stoutly to meet them."

When the two women saw Lamme, they ran to him
and both were fain to beat him, the mother because she
had been anxious and the sister because it was her habit.

Lamme hid behind Claes and cried:

"I have earned seven liards, I have earned seven
liards, do not beat me!"

But already the mother was hugging him, while the
little girl tried with might and main to open Lamme's
hands to have his money. But Lamme cried:

"It's mine. You shall not have it."

And he clenched his fists tight.

Claes shookthe girl smartly by the ears and said to her:

"If you happen ever again to raise a brawl with your
brother, who is as good and gentle as a lamb, I shall put
you in a black coal-hole and there it will not be I that
pull your ears, but the red devil out of hell, who will
rend you in pieces with his long claws and his big forked

At this threat the little girl, not daring now to look
at Claes or to go near Lamme, took shelter behind her
mother's skirts. But as she went into the town she
cried out everywhere:

"The coalman beat me:he has the devil in his cellar."

6 The Legend of Ulenspiegel

However, she never struck Lamme again; but being
tall, she made him work instead of her. And the kindly
simpleton did it with a good will.

On his way back Claes had sold his catch to a farmer
who usually bought it from him. And reaching home
he said to Soetkin:

"Here is what I found in the belly of four pike, nine
carp, and a basketful of eels." And he threw two flor-
ins and a patard on the table.

"Why do you not go a-fishing every day, husband?"
asked Soetkin.

Claes replied:

"Not to be fish myself in the nets of the constables."


At Damme they called Ulenspiegel's father Claes the
Kooldraeger or coalman: Claes had a black fell, eyes
shining bright, a skin the same colour as his wares, ex-
cept on Sundays and feast days, when there was great
plenty of soap in the cottage. He was short, square,
and strong, and of a gay countenance.

When the day was ended and the evening shadows
were falling, if he went to some tavern on the Bruges
road, to wash out his coal-blackened gullet with cuyte,
all the women taking the cool air on their doorsteps
would call out a friendly greeting:

"Good even and clear beer, coalman!"

"Good even and a wakeful husband," Claes would

The lasses coming back from the fields in troops used
to plant themselves all in front of him so as to prevent
him from going on, and would say:

And Lamme Goedzak 7

"What will you give for your right of way: scarlet
ribbon, gilt buckle, velvet shoon, or florin in the
pouch ? "

But Claes would take one round the waist and kiss
her cheeks or her neck, according to which fresh skin
was nearest his mouth, then he would say:

"Ask your lovers, darlings, ask your lovers for the

Then they would go off in bursts of laughter.

The boys knew Claes by his big voice and the clatter
of his shoes. Running to him they would say:

"Good evening, coalman. "

"God give you the like, my cherublings," Claes
would answer, "but don't come too close, or I shall turn
you into blackamoors."

The little fellows, being bold, would come close all the
same; and then he would seize one by the tunic, and
rubbing his soft little muzzle with his smutty hands,
would send him back like that, laughing in spite of it,
to the great delight of all the others.

Soetkin, Claes's wife, was a good helpmeet, early as
the dawn and diligent as the ant.

She and Claes tilled their field together, yoking them-
selves like oxen to the plough. Hard and toilsome was
the dragging, but harder still the harrowing when that
rustic engine must tear the stiff earth with its wooden
teeth. Yet always they worked light-hearted, singing
some ballad song.

And in vain was the earth stony hard; in vain did the
sun dart his hottest beams upon them: dragging the
harrow, bending at the knees, it was as naught that
they must strain their loins cruelly; when they would
pause, and Soetkin turn toward Claes her gentle face,

8 The Legend of Ulenspiegel

and Claes kiss that mirror of a tender heart, then, ah,
then, they would forget tneir utter weariness.

Last night it had been cried at the doorway of the
Townhall that Madam, the wife of the Emperor Charles,
being great with child, all men must pray for her speedy

Katheline came to Claes's house all trembling.

"What aileth thee, gossip?" asked the goodman.

"Alas me!" she replied, and spoke brokenly. "Last
night, spectres cutting down men as reapers mow the
grass. Girl children buried quick! The hangman

danced on the corpse Stone sweating blood nine

months, broken this night."

"Have pity upon us," groaned Soetkin, "Lord God,
have pity: 'tis a black foreboding for the land of

"Sawest thou that with thine eyes or in a dream?"
asked Claes.

"With mine own eyes," said Katheline.

All pale and weeping Katheline spake again:

"Two boy babes are born, one in Spain, the Infante
Philip, the other in the country of Flanders, the son of
Claes who will in after days be surnamed Ulenspiegel.
Philip will become a butcher, being engendered by
Charles the Fifth, the murderer of our country. Ulen-
spiegel will be greatly learned in jests and pranks of
youth, but he will be kind of heart, having had to
father Claes, the stout worker that knew how to earn
his bread in courage, honour, and simplicity. Charles
the Emperor and Philip the King will ride roughshod

And Lamme Goedzak 9

through life, working ill by battles, exactions, and other
crimes. Claes toiling all week long, living by righteous-
ness and law, and laughing instead of weeping in his
heavy labours, will be the ensample of all the good
workers of Flanders. Ulenspiegel ever young, and
never to die, will run throughout the world without
ever tying himself to any place. And he will be churl,
noble, painter, sculptor, all together and at once. And
through the world will journey in this wise, praising
all things good and lovely, and flouting without stint
all manner of folly. Claes is thy courage, noble
Flanders folk, Soetkin thy valiant mother, Ulenspiegel
is thy spirit; a darling sweet girl, Ulenspiegel's mate
and like him immortal, will be thy heart, and a fat
paunch, Lamme Goedzak, will be thy stomach. And
up aloft shall be the devourers of the folk; below, the
victims; aloft the thieving hornets, below, the toiling
bees, and in the skies shall bleed the wounds of Christ."
This much having said, Katheline the good spaewife
fell on sleep.


They bore Ulenspiegel to baptism: on a sudden fell a
spouting shower that soaked him through. Thus was
he baptized for the first time.

When he came within the church, word was given
to godfather and godmother, father and mother, by the
schoolmaster beadle, that they were to range them-
selves about the baptismal font, the which they did.

But there was in the roof above the font a hole made
by a mason wherefrom to hang a lamp from a star of
gilded wood. The mason, spying from on high the god-
father and godmother stiffly standing around the font

io The Legend of Ulenspiegel

covered with its lid, poured through the hole in the
roof a treacherous bucket of water, which falling be-
tween them upon the lid of the font made a mighty
splashing. But Ulenspiegel had the biggest share.
And thus w T as he baptized for the second time.

The dean arrived: they complained to him; but he
told them to make haste, and that it was an accident.
Ulenspiegel was twisting about and kicking because of
the water that had fallen on him. The dean gave him
salt and water, and named him Thylbert, which sig-
nifies "rich in movements." Thus he was baptized for
the third time.

Leaving Notre Dame, they went opposite the church
in the rue Longue to the Rosary of Bottles whose credo
was a jar. There they drank seventeen quarts of dobbel-
cuyt, and more. For this is the true Flanders way of
drying drenched folk, to light a fire of beer in the belly.
Ulenspiegel was thus baptized for the fourth time.

Going home and zigzagging along the road, their
heads weighing more than their bodies, they came to a
foot plank thrown across a little pool; Katheline, the
godmother, was carrying the child, she missed her foot-
ing and fell in the mud with Ulenspiegel, who was thus
baptized for the fifth time.

But he was pulled out of the pond and washed with
warm water in the house of Claes, and that was his
sixth baptism.


On that same day, His Sacred Majesty Charles
resolved to hold high festival to celebrate the birth of
his son befittingly. Like Claes he determined to go
a-fishing, not in a canal, but in the pouches and pock-

And Lamme Goedzak u

ets of his people. Thence is it that sovereign houses
draw crusadoes, silver daelders, gold lions, and all
those miraculous fishes that change, at the fisher's
will, into velvet robes, priceless jewels, exquisite wines,
and dainty meats. For the rivers best stocked with fish
are not those that hold most water.

Having brought together his councillors, His Sacred
Majesty resolved that the fishing should be done in the
following manner.

His lordship the Infante should be borne to baptism
toward nine or ten of the clock; the inhabitants of
Valladolid, to testify their joy, should hold revelry and
feast all night long, at their own charges, and should
scatter their silver upon the great square for the poor.

In five carfaxes there should be a great fountain
spouting until daybreak with strong wine paid for by
the city. In five other carfaxes there should be dis-
played, upon wooden stages, sausages, saveloys, botar-
goes, chitterlings, ox tongues, and all kinds of meats,
also at the city's charges.

The folk of Valladolid should erect at their own ex-
pense, along the route of the procession, a great number
of triumphal arches representing Peace, Felicity, Abund-
ance, Propitious Fortune, and emblems of all and
sundry gifts from the skies with which they were loaded
under the reign of His Sacred Majesty.

Finally, besides these pacific arches, there should be
set up certain others on which should be displayed in
bright colours less benignant emblems, as lions, eagles,
lances, halberds, pikes with wavy bladed heads, hack-
buts, cannons, falconets, mortars with their huge jowls,
and other engines showing in image the might and power
in war of His Sacred Majesty.

12 The Legend of Ulenspiegel

As for the lighting of the church, it should be gra-
ciously permitted to the Guild of Candlemakers to make
free gratis and for nothing more than twenty thousand
wax tapers, the unburned ends of which should revert
to the chapter.

As for any other expenses, the Emperor would gladly
bear them, thus showing his kindly determination not
to burden his people overmuch.

As the commune was about to carry out these orders,
lamentable tidings came from Rome. Orange, Alen-
con and Frundsberg, captains of the Emperor, had
entered into the holy city and there sacked and spoiled
churches, chapels, and houses, sparing no living soul,
priests, nuns, women, children. The Holy Father
had been made prisoner. For a whole week pillage
had never ceased, and Reiters and Landsknechts were
wandering through Rome, stuffed with food, drunken
with wine, brandishing their weapons, hunting for car-
dinals, declaring they would cut enough out of their
hides to save them from ever becoming popes. Others,
having already carried out this threat, strutted proudly
through the city, wearing on their breast rosaries of
twenty-eight or more beads, big as walnuts, and all
bloody. Certain streets were red streams in which lay
heaped the rifled bodies of the dead.

Some said that the Emperor, needing money, had
determined to fish for it in the blood of the Church, and
that having taken cognizance of the treaty imposed
by his commanders upon the captive pontiff, he forced
him to cede all the strongholds in his states, to pay
four hundred thousand ducats and to be prisoner until
all was duly carried out.
None the less, great was His Majesty's grief; he

And Lamme Goedzak 13

countermanded all the joyous preparations, all feasts
and rejoicings, and ordered the lords and ladies of his
palace to don mourning.

And the Infante was baptized in white robes, the hue
of royal mourning.

And lords and ladies interpreted this as a sinisteromen.

For all this, my lady the nurse presented the Infante
to the lords and ladies of the palace, that these might,
as is the custom, offer good wishes and gifts.

Madame de la Coena hanged upon his neck a black
stone potent against poison, the size and shape of a
hazelnut, with a gold shell; Madame de ChaufFade
fastened upon him, by a silken cord, hanging down
upon his stomach, a filbert, the which bringeth good
digestion of all nourishment; Messire van der Steen of
Flanders gave a Ghent sausage five ells long and half
an ell in thickness, wishing that at its mere fragrance
Kis Highness might be thirsty for clauwaert in the
manner of the people of Ghent, saying that whoso lov-
eth the beer of a town will never hate the brewers;
Messire Squire Jacque-Christophe of Castile prayed my
Lord the Infante to wear green jasper on his tiny feet,
to make him run well. Jan de Paepe the fool, who
was there present, exclaimed:

"Messire, give him rather the trumpet of Joshua,
at the sound whereof all towns ran full trot before him,
hastening to plant themselves elsewhere with all their
inhabitants, men and women and babes. For mon-
seigneur must not learn to run, but to make others run."

The tearful widow of Floris van Borsele, who was lord
of Veere in Zealand, gave Monseigneur Philip a stone,
which, said she, made men lovingand women inconsolable.

But the Infante whimpered like a young calf.

14 The Legend of U lens pie gel

At the same time Claes was putting in his son's
hands a rattle made of osier, with little bells, and said,
dancing Ulenspiegel on his hand: "Bells, bells, tinkling
bells may you have ever on your cap, manikin; for 'tis
to the fools belongeth the realm of good days."

And Ulenspiegel laughed.


Claes having caught a big salmon, that salmon was
eaten one Sunday by himself and by Soetkin, Kathe-
line, and little Ulenspiegel, but Katheline ate no more
than a bird.

"Gossip," said Claes to her, "is Flanders air so solid
to-day that it is enough for you to breathe it to be fed
as with a dish of meat? When shall we live in this
wise? Rain would be good soup, it would hail beans,
and the snows, transformed to celestial fricassees,
would restore and refresh poor travelling folk."

Katheline, nodding her head, uttered not a word.

"Lo now," said Claes, "our dolorous gossip. What
is it grieves her then?"

But Katheline, in a voice that seemed but a low

"The wicked one," said she, "night is falling black
I hear him announcing his coming screaming like a
sea hawk shuddering, I beseech the Virgin in vain.
For him, neither walls nor hedges nor doors nor windows.

Entereth anywhere like a spirit Ladder creaking

He beside me in the garret where I sleep. Seizes me in
his cold arms, hard like marble. Face frozen cold,

kisses like damp snow The cottage tossed upon the

earth, moving like a bark on the stormy sea. . . ."

And Lamme Goedzak 15

"You must go," said Claes," every morning to mass,
that our Lord Jesu may give you strength to drive
away this phantom come from hell."

"He is so handsome!" said she.


Being weaned, Ulenspiegel grew like a young poplar.

Claes now did not kiss him often, but loved him with
a surly air so as not to spoil him.

When Ulenspiegel would come home, complaining
of being beaten in some fray, Claes would beat him
because he had not beaten the others, and thus edu-
cated Ulenspiegel became valiant as a young lion.

If Claes was from home, Ulenspiegel would ask Soet-
kin for a Hard, to go play. Soetkin, angry, would say,
"What need have you to go play? It would fit you
better to stay at home to tie faggots."

Seeing that she would give him nothing, Ulenspiegel
would cry like an eagle, but Soetkin would make a
great clatter of pots and pans, which she was washing
in a wooden tub, to pretend she did not hear him. Then
would Ulenspiegel weep, and the gentle mother, drop-
ping her feigned harshness, would come to him, petting
him, and say, "Will a denier be enough for you?"
Now take notice that a denier is worth six liards.

So she loved him overmuch, and when Claes was not
there, Ulenspiegel was king in the house.


One morning Soetkin beheld Claes with head down
wandering about the kitchen like a man lost in his own

1 6 The Legend of Ulenspiegel

"What grieves thee, husband?" said she. "Thou
art pale, wroth, and distraught."

Claes answered in a low tone, like a growling dog:

"They are going to renew the Emperor's cruel edicts.
Death will hover once more over the soil of Flanders.
Informers are to have the half of the victims' goods,
if the goods exceed not a hundred florins carolus."

"We are poor folk," said she.

"Poor," said he, "but not poor enough. There are
some of that vile crew, ravens and vultures living on
corpses, who would denounce us to divide a basket
of charcoal with His Majesty as well as a bag of carolus.
What had poor Tanneken, the widow of Sis the tailor,
who perished at Heyst, buried alive? A Latin Bible,
three gold florins, and some pewter pans that her neigh-
bour coveted. Johannah Martens was burned for a
witch, being first flung into water, for her body had
floated and they took it as a judgment of heaven. She
had some poor bits of furniture, seven gold carolus
in a purse, and the informer wanted half. Alas! I
could tell thee the like until to-morrow, but come, good-
wife, life is no longer worth the living in Flanders by
reason of these edicts. Soon every night will the char-
iot of death pass through the town, and we shall hear
the skeleton shaking in it with a dry clatter of bones."

"You must not frighten me, husband. The Emperor
is the father of Flanders and Brabant, and like a father
is endued with long-sufFering gentleness, patience, and

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryCharles de CosterThe legend of Ulenspiegel and Lamme Goedzak and their adventures heroical, joyous, and glorious in the land of Flanders and elsewhere (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 20)