BOOKS by MR. CABELL
FIGURES OF EARTH
THE LINE OF LOVE
THE HIGH PLACE
THE CERTAIN HOUR
THE CORDS OF VANITY
FROM THE HIDDEN WAY
THE RIVET IN GRANDFATHER S NECK
THE EAGLE S SHADOW
THE CREAM OF THE JEST
STRAWS AND PRAYER-BOOKS
THE LINEAGE OF LICHFIELD
THE JEWEL MERCHANTS
JURGEN AND THE LAW
(Edited by Guy Holt)
A Comedy of Justice
JAMES BRANCH CABELL
"Of JURGEN eke they maken mencioun,
That of an old wyf gat his youthe agoon,
And gat himself e a shirt e as bright as fyre
Wherein to jape, yet gat not his desire
In any countrie ne condicioun."
ROBERT M. McBRIDE & COMPANY
Copyright, 1919, by
JAMES BRANCH CABELL
Sixteenth Printing, June, 1924
The United States of America
P<iblished, September 1919
Before each tarradiddle,
Uncowed by sciolists,
Robuster persons twiddle
Tremendously big fists.
"Our gods are good," they tell us ;
"Nor will our gods defer
Remission of rude fellows
Ability to err."
So this, your JURGEN, travels
Content to compromise
Ordainments none unravels
Explicitly . . . and sighs.
"Others, with better moderation, do either
entertain the vulgar history of Jurgen as a
fabulous addition unto the true and authentic
story of St. lurgenius of Poictesme, or else we
conceive the literal acception to be a miscon
struction of the symbolical expression : appre
hending a veritable history, in an emblem or
piece of Christian poesy. And this emblemati
cal construction hath been received by men
not forward to extenuate the acts of saints."
"A forced construction is very idle. If
readers of The High History of Jurgen do
not meddle with the allegory, the allegory
will not meddle with them. Without minding
it at all, the whole is as plain as a pikestaff.
It might as well be pretended that we cannot
see Poussin s pictures without first being told
the allegory, as that the allegory aids us in
E. NOEL CODMAN.
"Too urbane to advocate delusion, too hale
for the bitterness of irony, this fable of Jurgen
is, as the world itself, a book wherein each
man will find what his nature enables him
to see; which gives us back each his own
image; and which teaches us each the lesson
that each of us desires to learn."
JOHN FREDERICK LEWISTAM.
C on ten ts
A FOREWORD: WHICH ASSERTS NOTHING 3
I WHY JURGEN DID THE MANLY THING 9
II ASSUMPTION OF A NOTED GARMENT 14
III THE GARDEN BETWEEN DAWN AND SUNRISE 18
IV THE DOROTHY WHO DID NOT UNDERSTAND 22
V REQUIREMENTS OF BREAD AND BUTTER 34
VI SHOWING THAT SEREDA Is FEMININE 39
VII OF COMPROMISES ON A WEDNESDAY 47
VIII OLD TOYS AND A NEW SHADOW 60
IX THE ORTHODOX RESCUE OF GUENEVERE 66
X PITIFUL DISGUISES OF THRAGNAR 72
XI APPEARANCE OF THE DUKE OF LOGREUS 78
XII EXCURSUS OF YOLANDE S UNDOING 82
XIII PHILOSOPHY OF GOGYRVAN GAWR 87
XIV PRELIMINARY TACTICS OF DUKE JURGEN 94
XV OF COMPROMISES IN GLATHION 104
XVI DIVERS IMBROGLIOS OF KING SMOIT Ill
XVII ABOUT A COCK THAT CROWED Too SOON 122
XVIII WHY MERLIN TALKED IN TWILIGHT 129
XIX THE BROWN MAN WITH QUEER FEET 136
XX EFFICACY OF PRAYER 141
XXI How ANAITIS VOYAGED 147
XXII As TO A VEIL THEY BROKE 151
XXIII SHORTCOMINGS OF PRINCE JURGEN 159
XXIV OF COMPROMISES IN COCAIGNE 173
XXV CANTRAPS OF THE MASTER PHILOLOGIST 180
XXVI IN TIME S HOUR-GLASS
XXVII VEXATIOUS ESTATE OF QUEEN HELEN ,
XXVIII OF COMPROMISES IN LEUKE ,
XXIX CONCERNING HORVENDILE S NONSENSE ,
XXX ECONOMICS OF KING JURGEN ,
XXXI THE FALL OF PSEUDOPOLJS
XXXII SUNDRY DEVICES OF THE PHILISTINES ,
XXXIII FAREWELL TO CHLORIS
XXXIV How EMPEROR JURGEN FARED INFERNALLY,
XXXV WHAT GRANDFATHER SATAN REPORTED
XXXVI WHY COTH WAS CONTRADICTED ,
XXXVII INVENTION OF THE LOVELY VAMPIRE
XXXVIII As TO APPLAUDED PRECEDENTS
XXXIX OF COMPROMISES IN HELL
XL THE ASCENSION OF POPE JURGEN
XLI OF COMPROMISES IN HEAVEN
XLII TWELVE THAT ARE FRETTED HOURLY
XLIII POSTURES BEFORE A SHADOW
XLIV IN THE MANAGER S OFFICE
XLV THE FAITH OF GUENEVERE
XLVI THE DESIRE OF ANAITIS
XLVII THE VISION OF HELEN
XLVIII CANDID OPINIONS OF DAME LISA
XLIX OF THE COMPROMISE WITH KOSHCHEI
L THE MOMENT THAT DID NOT COUNT...
Nescio quid certi est: et Hylax in limine latrat:
A Foreword: Which Asserts Nothing
IN Continental periodicals not more than a dozen
articles in all would seem to have given accounts
or partial translations of the Jurgen legends. No
thorough investigation of this epos can be said to have
appeared in print, anywhere, prior to the publication, in
1913, of the monumental Synopses of Aryan Mythology
by Angelo de Ruiz. It is unnecessary to observe that
in this exhaustive digest Professor de Ruiz has given
(VII, p. 415 et sequentia) a summary of the greater
part of these legends as contained in the collections of
Verville and Biilg; and has discussed at length and with
much learning the esoteric meaning of these folk-stories
and their bearing upon questions to which the "solar
theory" of myth explanation has given rise. To his
volumes, and to the pages of Mr. Lewistam s Key to the
Popular Tales of Poictesme, must be referred all those
who may ^lect to think of Jurgen as the resplendent,
journeying and procreative sun.
Equally in reading hereinafter will the judicious
waive all allegorical interpretation, if merely because
the suggestions hitherto advanced are inconveniently
various. Thus Verville finds the Nessus shirt a symbol
of retribution, where Biilg, with rather wide divergence,
would have it represent the dangerous gift of genius.
Then it may be remembered that Dr. Codman says,
without any hesitancy, of Mother Sereda: "This
Mother Middle is the world generally (an obvious ana
gram of Erda es), and this Sereda rules not merely the
middle of the working-days but the midst of everything.
She is the factor of middleness, of mediocrity, of an
avoidance of extremes, of the eternal compromise be
gotten by use and wont. She is the Mrs. Grundy of the
Leshy ; she is Comstockery : and her shadow is common-
sense." Yet Codman speaks with certainly no more au
thority than Prote, when the latter, in his Origins of
Fable, declares this epos is "a parable of . . .
man s vain journeying in search of that ration
ality and justice which his nature craves, and discovers
nowhere in the universe: and the shirt is an emblem of
this instinctive craving, as ... the shadow symbol
izes conscience. Sereda typifies a surrender to life as
it is, a giving up of man s rebellious self-centredness
and selfishness: the anagram being se dare."
Thus do interpretations throng and clash, and neatly
equal the commentators in number. Yet possibly each
one of these unriddlings, with no doubt a host of others,
is conceivable: so that wisdom will dwell upon none of
them very seriously.
With the origin and the occult meaning of the folk
lore of Poictesme this book at least is in no wise con
cerned : its unambitious aim has been merely to familiar
ize English readers with the Jurgen epos for the tale s
sake. And this tale of old years is one which, by rare
fortune, can be given to English readers almost un
abridged, in view of the singular delicacy and pure-
mindedness of the Jurgen mythos: in all, not more than
a half-dozen deletions have seemed expedient (and have
been duly indicated) in order to remove such sparse and
unimportant outcroppings of mediaeval frankness as
might conceivably offend the squeamish.
Since this volume is presented simply as a story to be
read for pastime, neither morality nor symbolism is
hereinafter educed, and no "parallels" and "authorities"
are quoted. Even the gaps are left unbridged by guess
work: whereas the historic and mythological problems
perhaps involved are relinquished to those really
thoroughgoing scholars whom erudition qualifies to deal
with such topics, and tedium does not deter. . . .
In such terms, and thus far, ran the Foreword to the
first issues of this book, whose later fortunes have made
necessary the lengthening of the Foreword with a post
script. The needed addition this much at least chiming
with good luck is brief. It is just that fragment which
some scholars, since the first appearance of this volume,
have asserted upon what perfect frankness must de
scribe as not indisputable grounds to be a portion of the
thirty-second chapter of the complete form of La Haulte
Histoire de Jurgen.
And in reply to what these scholars assert, discretion
says nothing. For this fragment was, of course, un
known when the High History was first put into English,
and there in consequence appears, here, little to be won
either by endorsing or denying its claims to authenticity.
Rather, does discretion prompt the appending, without
any gloss or scholia, of this fragment, which deals with
The Judging of Jurgen.
Now a court was held by the Philistines to decide
whether or no King Jurgen should be relegated to limbo.
And when the judges were prepared for judging, there
came into the court a great tumblebug, rolling in front of
him his loved and properly housed young ones. With the
creature came pages, in black and white, bearing a sword,
a staff and a lance.
This insect looked at Jurgen, and its pincers rose erect
in horror. The bug cried to the three judges, "Now, by
St. Anthony ! this Jurgen must forthwith be relegated to
limbo, for he is offensive and lewd and lascivious and
"And how can that be?" says Jurgen.
"You are offensive," the bug replied, "because this page
has a sword which I choose to say is not a sword. You
are lewd because that page has a lance which I prefer to
think is not a lance. You are lascivious because yonder
page has a staff which I elect to declare is not a staff.
And finally, you are indecent for reasons of which a de
scription would be objectionable to me, and which there
fore I must decline to reveal to anybody."
"Well, that sounds logical," says Jurgen, "but still, at
the same time, it would be no worse for an admixture
of common-sense. For you gentlemen can see for your
selves, by considering these pages fairly and as a whole,
that these pages bear a sword and a lance and a staff,
and nothing else whatever; and you will deduce, I
hope, that all the lewdness is in the insectival mind of
him who itches to be calling these things by other
The judges said nothing as yet. But they that guarded
Jurgen, and all the other Philistines, stood to this side
and to that side with their eyes shut tight, and all these
said : "We decline to look at the pages fairly and as a
whole, because to look might seem to imply a doubt of
what the tumblebug has decreed. Besides, as long as the
tumblebug has reasons which he declines to reveal, his
reasons stay unanswerable, and you are plainly a prurient
rascal who are making trouble for yourself."
"To the contrary," says Jurgen, "I am a poet, and I
"But in Philistia to make literature and to make trou
ble for yourself are synonyms," the tumblebug explained.
"I know, for already we of Philistia have been pestered
by three of these makers of literature. Yes, there was
Edgar, whom I starved and hunted until I was tired of it :
then I chased him up a back alley one night, and knocked
out those annoying brains of his. And there was Walt,
whom I chivvied and battered from place to place, and
made a paralytic of him : and him, too, I labelled offensive
and lewd and lascivious and indecent. Then later there
was Mark, whom I frightened into disguising himself in
a clown s suit, so that nobody might suspect him to be a
maker of literature: indeed, I frightened him so that he
hid away the greater part of what he had made until after
he was dead, and I could not get at him. That was a dis
gusting trick to play on me, I consider. Still, these are
the only three detected makers of literature that have ever
infested Philistia, thanks be to goodness and my vigilance,
but for both of which we might have been no more free
from makers of literature than are the other countries."
"Now, but these three," cried Jurgen, "are the glory of
Philistia : and of all that Philistia has produced, it is these
three alone, whom living ye made least of, that to-day are
honored wherever art is honored, and where nobody
bothers one way or the other about Philistia."
"What is art to me and my way of living?" replied
the tumblebug, wearily. "I have no concern with art and
letters and the other lewd idols of foreign nations. I have
in charge the moral welfare of my young, whom I roll
here before me, and trust with St. Anthony s aid to raise
in time to be God-fearing tumblebugs like me, delighting
in what is proper to their nature. For the rest, I have
never minded dead men being well-spoken-of . No, no, my
lad : once whatever I may do means nothing to you, and
once you are really rotten, you will find the tumblebug
friendly enough. Meanwhile I am paid to protest that
living persons are offensive and lewd and lascivious and
indecent, and one must live."
Then the Philistines who stood to this side and to that
side said in indignant unison: "And we, the reputable
citizenry of Philistia, are not at all in sympathy with
those who would take any protest against the tumblebug
as a justification of what they are pleased to call art. The
harm done by the tumblebug seems to us very slight,
whereas the harm done by the self-styled artist may be
Jurgen now looked more attentively at this queer crea
ture: and he saw that the tumblebug was malodorous,
certainly, but at bottom honest and well-meaning ; and this
seemed to Jurgen the saddest thing he had found among
the Philistines. For the tumblebug was sincere in his
insane doings, and all Philistia honored him sincerely, so
that there was nowhere any hope for this people.
Therefore King Jurgen addressed himself, as his need
was, to submit to the strange customs of the Philistines.
"Now do you judge me fairly," cried Jurgen to his judges,
"if there be any justice in this mad country. And if
there be none, do you relegate me to limbo or to any other
place, so long as in that place this tumblebug is not omni
potent and sincere and insane."
And Jurgen waited. . . .
J URG EN
amara lento temperet risu
Jurgen Did the Manly Thing
IT is a tale which they narrate in Poictesme, saying:
In the old days lived a pawnbroker named Jurgen;
but what his wife called him was very often much
worse than that. She was a high-spirited woman, with
no especial gift for silence. Her name, they say, was
Adelais, but people by ordinary called her Dame Lisa.
They tell, also, that in the old days, after putting up
the shop-windows for the night, Jurgen was passing the
Cistercian Abbey, on his w r ay home : and one of the monks
had tripped over a stone in the roadway. He was cursing
the devil who had placed it there.
"Fie, brother!" says Jurgen, "and have not the devils
enough to bear as it is?"
"I never held with Origen," replied the monk; "and
besides, it hurt my great-toe confoundedly."
"None the less," observes Jurgen, "it does not behoove
God-fearing persons to speak with disrespect of the di
vinely appointed Prince of Darkness. To your further
confusion, consider this monarch s industry! day and
night you may detect him toiling at the task Heaven set
him. That is a thing can be said of few communicants
and of no monks. Think, too, of his fine artistry, as evi
denced in all the perilous and lovely snares of this world,
which it is your business to combat, and mine to lend
money upon. Why, but for him we would both be voca-
tionless! Then, too, consider his philanthropy! and de
liberate how insufferable would be our case if you and I,
and all our fellow parishioners, were to-day hobnobbing
with other beasts in the Garden which we pretend to desi
derate on Sundays! To arise with swine and lie down
with the hyena ? oh, intolerable I"
Thus he ran on, devising reasons for not thinkingtoo
harshly of the Devil. Most of it was an abridgement of
some verses Jurgen had composed, in the shop when
business was slack.
"I consider that to be stuff and nonsense," was the
monk s glose.
No doubt your notion is sensible," observed the pawn-
broker : "but mine is the prettier."
Then Jurgen passed the Cistercian Abbey, and was ap
proaching Bellegarde, when he met a black gentleman,
who saluted him and said:
"Thanks, Jurgen, for your good word."
"Who are you, and why do you thank me?" asks
"My name is no great matter. But you have a kind
heart, Jurgen. May your life be free from care!"
"Save us from hurt and harm, friend, but I am already
"Eh, sirs, and a fine clever poet like you !"
"Yet it is a long while now since I was a practising
"Why, to be sure ! You have the artistic temperament,
which is not exactly suited to the restrictions of domestic
life. Then I suppose your wife has her own personal
opinion about ooetry, Jurgen."
WHY JURGEN DID THE MANLY THING 11
"Indeed, sir, her opinion would not bear repetition, for
I am sure you are unaccustomed to such language."
"This is very sad. I am afraid your wife does not quite
understand you, Jurgen."
"Sir," says Jurgen, astounded, "do you read people s
The black gentleman seemed much dejected. He
pursed his lips, and fell to counting upon his fingers : as
they moved his sharp nails glittered like flame-points.
"Now but this is a very deplorable thing," says the
black gentleman, "to have befallen the first person I have
found ready to speak a kind word for evil. And in all
these centuries, too ! Dear me, this is a most regrettable
instance of mismanagement! No matter, Jurgen, the
morning is brighter than the evening. How I will reward
you, to be sure !"
So Jurgen thanked the simple old creature politely.
And when Jurgen reached home his wife was nowhere to
be seen. He looked on all sides and questioned everyone,
but to no avail. Dame Lisa had vanished in the midst of
getting supper ready suddenly, completely and inexplic
ably, just as (in Jurgen s figure) a windstorm passes and
leaves behind it a tranquillity which seems, by contrast,
uncanny. Nothing could explain the mystery, short of
magic: and Jurgen on a sudden recollected the black
gentleman s queer promise. Jurgen crossed himself.
"How unjustly now," says Jurgen, "do some people get
an ill name for gratitude ! And now do I perceive how
wise I am, always to speak pleasantly of everybody, in
this world of tale-bearers."
Then Jurgen prepared his own supper, went to bed, and
"I have implicit confidence," says he, "in Lisa. I have
particular confidence in her ability to take care of herself
in any surroundings."
That was all very well : but time passed, and presently
it began to be rumored that Dame Lisa walked on
Morven. Her brother, who was a grocer and a member
of the town-council, went thither to see about this report.
And sure enough, there was Jurgen s wife walking in the
twilight and muttering incessantly.
"Fie, sister!" says the town-councillor, "this is very
unseemly conduct for a married woman, and a thing
likely to be talked about."
"Follow me !" replied Dame Lisa. And the town-coun
cillor followed her a little way in the dusk, but when she
came to Amneran Heath and still went onward, he knew
better than to follow.
Next evening the elder sister of Dame Lisa went to
Morven. This sister had married a notary, and was a
shrewd woman. In consequence, she took with her this
evening a long wand of peeled willow-wood. And there
was Jurgen s wife walking in the twilight and muttering
"Fie, sister!" says the notary s wife, who was a shrewd
woman, "and do you not know that all this while Jurgen
does his own sewing, and is once more making eyes at
Dame Lisa shuddered ; but she only said, "Follow me !"
And the notary s wife followed her to Amneran Heath,
and across the heath, to where a cave was. This was a
place of abominable repute. A lean hound came to meet
them there in the twilight, lolling his tongue : but the no
tary s wife struck thrice with her wand, and the silent
WHY JURGEN DID THE MANLY THING 13
beast left them. And Dame Lisa passed silently into the
cave, and her sister turned and went home to her children,
So the next evening Jurgen himself came to Morven,
because all his wife s family assured him this was the
manly thing to do. Jurgen left the shop in charge of
Urien Villemarche, who was a highly efficient clerk. Jur
gen followed his wife across Amneran Heath until they
reached the cave. Jurgen would willingly have been else
For the hound squatted upon his haunches, and seemed
to grin at Jurgen ; and there were other creatures abroad,
that flew low in the twilight, keeping close to the ground
like owls ; but they were larger than owls and were more
discomforting. And, moreover, all this was just after sun
set upon Walburga s Eve, when almost anything is rather
more than likely to happen.
So Jurgen said, a little peevishly : "Lisa, my dear, if you
go into the cave I will have to follow you, because it is
the manly thing to do. And you know how easily I take
The voice of Dame Lisa, now, was thin and wailing,
a curiously changed voice. "There is a cross about your
neck. You must throw that away."
Jurgen was wearing such a cross, through motives of
sentiment, because it had once belonged to his dead
mother. But now, to pleasure his wife, he removed the
trinket, and hung it on a barberry bush ; and with the re
flection that this was likely to prove a deplorable business,
he followed Dame Lisa into the cave.
Assumption of a Noted Garment
THE tale tells that all was dark there, and Jurgen
could see no one. But the cave stretched straight
forward, and downward, and at the far end was a
glow of light. Jurgen went on and on, and so came pres
ently to a centaur: and this surprised him not a little,
because Jurgen knew that centaurs were imaginary
Certainly they were curious to look at: for here was
the body of a fine bay horse, and rising from its shoulders,
the sun-burnt body of a young fellow who regarded Jur
gen with grave and not unfriendly eyes. The Centaur
was lying beside a fire of cedar and juniper wood: near
him was a platter containing a liquid with which he was
anointing his hoofs. This stuff, as the Centaur rubbed
it in with his fingers, turned the appearance of his hoofs
"Hail, friend," says Jurgen, "if you be the work of
"Your protasis is not good Greek," observed the
Centaur, "because in Hellas we did not make such reser
vations. Besides, it is not so much my origin as my desti^
nation which concerns you."
"Well, friend, and whither are you going?"
"To the garden between dawn and sunrise, Jurgen."
ASSUMPTION OF A NOTED GARMENT 15
"Surely, now, but that is a fine name for a garden! and
it is a place I would take joy to be seeing."
"Up upon my back, Jurgen, and I will take you
thither," says the Centaur, and heaved to his feet. Then
said the Centaur, when the pawnbroker hesitated : "Be
cause, as you must understand, there is no other way.
For this garden does not exist, and never did exist, in
what men humorously called real life; so that of course
only imaginary creatures such as I can enter it."
"That sounds very reasonable," Jurgen estimated : "but
as it happens, I am looking for my wife, whom I suspect
to have been carried off by a devil, poor fellow !"
And Jurgen began to explain to the Centaur what had
The Centaur laughed. "It may be for that reason I
am here. There is, in any event, only one remedy in this
matter. Above all devils and above all gods, they tell
me, but certainly above all centaurs is the power of
Koshchei the Deathless, who made things as they are."
"It is not always wholesome," Jurgen submitted, "to
speak of Koshche-i. It seems especially undesirable in a
dark place like this."
"None the less, I suspect it is to him you must go for
"I would prefer not doing that," said Jurgen, with un
"You have my sympathy: but there is no question of