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And Lamme Goedzak, and their Adventures
Heroical, Joyous and Glorious
in the Land of Flanders and Elsewhere


Translated by
F. M. Atkinson

Vol. I


London: William Heinemann

Béatrice de Holthoir



Book I 1
Book II 251





When May was unfolding the whitethorn blossom 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 finger."

"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 Claes.

Then the dawn burst through the night clouds, the 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 nevertheless to hearten his good wife.

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

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."

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 florins 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, except 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 reply.

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:

"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 rest."

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 themselves 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,
and Claes kiss that mirror of a tender heart, then, ah, then, they
would forget their 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 delivery.

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 Flanders."

"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. Ulenspiegel 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 through life,
working ill by battles, exactions, and other crimes. Claes toiling
all week long, living by righteousness 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 themselves 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 godfather and godmother stiffly standing
around the font covered with its lid, poured through the hole in the
roof a treacherous bucket of water, which falling between them upon
the lid of the font made a mighty splashing. But Ulenspiegel had the
biggest share. And thus was 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 signifies
"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
footing 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 pockets 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 displayed, upon wooden stages, sausages, saveloys,
botargoes, chitterlings, ox tongues, and all kinds of meats, also at
the city's charges.

The folk of Valladolid should erect at their own expense, along
the route of the procession, a great number of triumphal arches
representing Peace, Felicity, Abundance, 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, hackbuts, cannons, falconets, mortars with their huge jowls,
and other engines showing in image the might and power in war of His
Sacred Majesty.

As for the lighting of the church, it should be graciously 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, Alençon 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 cardinals, 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 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 sinister omen.

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 His Highness might be thirsty for clauwaert in the manner of
the people of Ghent, saying that whoso loveth 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,

"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
monseigneur 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
loving and women inconsolable.

But the Infante whimpered like a young calf.

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, Katheline, 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 breathing:

"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...."

"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 educated Ulenspiegel became valiant as a young lion.

If Claes was from home, Ulenspiegel would ask Soetkin for a liard,
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, dropping 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 thought.

"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 neighbour 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, goodwife, life is no longer worth the living in Flanders by
reason of these edicts. Soon every night will the chariot of death
pass through the town, and we shall hear the skeleton shaking in it

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Online LibraryCharles de CosterThe Legend of Ulenspiegel, Volume 1 (of 2) → online text (page 1 of 20)