Mary Botham Howitt.

Ballads and other poems .. online

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" Oh ! what will my mother say ? but yet,
Non nobis, Domine /"

Hffw Willie o' Wyburn becomes a Man, and is sent for to London

As Willie o' Wyburn grew a man.

More learned still was he ;
He had more books in his forest-lodge

Than the monks at Elverslie.


Latin he had, and he had Greek,

And wondrous scrolls indeed.
All written over with letters strange

That none but he could read.

And Willie he knew all metals,

And the virtues to them given ;
He knew the names of rocks and stones,

And of the stars in heaven.

There were no trees upon the hill.

No flowers within the dell,
But Willie had read and written of them, "

And all their names could tell.

He knew what the lightnings were ; he knew

How the winged winds career ;
The nature of sun and moon he knew,

And the changes of the year.

There was no book, however wise.

But he had read it through ;
And the darkest things in philosophy

To him were easy too.

But Willie was more than wise, for he

Was meek, and kind, and good ;
And the Christian's blessed law of love

He chiefest understood.

He was a brother to the poor.

Their friend beloved, their guide ;
And the merry children left their sports,

To wander at his side.


And Willie o' Wyburn's mother,

Oh, who was glad as she !
And who had joy in his learning

Like the monk of Elverslie !

For thy Latin is pure," the monk he said,
" Thy Greek withouten fault ;
Thou art a scholar as good as I,
By whom this lore was taught !"

Now, Willie read, and Willie wrote.
And afar his name was known.

Till the fame of his learning came, at last,
To the king upon his throne.

And he sent for Willie o' Wyburn

All up to London town.
To see if, indeed, his learning

Could equal his renown.

King Henry sate upon his throne,

With his wise men around ;
Seven bishops and ten priests there were,

Of learning most profound.

And there the queen sate smiling.

Her fan within her hand ;
With twenty fair young ladies.

The noblest in the land.

And all were wondrous merry.

As they stood round about ;
For they thought their witty beauty

Would put his learning out.


But when they looked upon him,
With his pale and noble face ;

And saw his quick discerning eye,
His youthful, reverend grace ;

Straightway their mirth was ended,
Their jesting all was o'er ;

And, when he spoke, his lofty speech
Amazed them the more.

His voice was low and sweetly toned.

Like a bird's song on the bough ;
And every bishop at the court

His learnins: did allow.


" Now, by my faith," King Henry said,
" I ne'er heard learning rare,
I ne'er heard learning in my days.
That might with thine compare.

" I wish, by my soul, this very day,
So wish I, by my fee.
That I was a little child again.
To get my lore from thee !"

He took a chain from off his neck.
And a book that lay by his side,

Saying, " Take thou these, a gift from me.
And the good saints be thy guide !"

The queen took a ring from off her hand.

The fairest ring she wore,
Saying, " Wear thou this, for lore I love

As I ne'er loved it before !"


Upcm his knee bent Willie, and took
The ring, the book, the chain,

And said, " By your leave, my lieges,
I'll to my home again.'"

' Nay," said the king, " thou shalt not go

Without a gift from me,
A gift for thine alma mater,
The House of Elverslie !"

He bade them make a chalice of gold,

The best his smith could make.
And round it was graved, in Latin,
" For Willie o' Wyburn's sake."

And so lived Willie o' Wybum,

Beloved wherever he came :
His minstrel friend did write this lay

In honor of his name.

The king is great upon his throne,

The canon in his stall ;
But a right good man, like Wybum Willie,

Is greater than they all. •



The younger son to his father spake ;
" My home is weary grown ;
Give me the portion of thy goods
Will one day be mine own.

" Let me go out into the world ;
I long its joys to share ;
I long to spend my youthful years
Among the free and fair."

" My son ! my son !" the old man said,
With low, prophetic voice,

" Tarry at home in quietness ;
Thine is an evil choice.

" Tarry at home in quietness ;
I have but children twain.
And ye are dear as is my life !"
— The old man spoke in vain.

Then up he went to his iron chest,
That was locked with an iron key.

And took seven bags ot fine red gold,
And three of the white monie.


" And this," he said, " is half my wealth
And he took them one by one,
And set them down, a goodly row,
Before his younger son.

" I gained it, boy, without a crime ;
I hoarded it for thee ;
And as by honest means it came,
So let its spending be."

In the city is a festive stir,

And riot fills the air,
And who, beside the younger son.

Can make such revel there ?

A hundred guests go thronging up

A lordly staircase bright ;
And that young man, throughout his hall,
Hears dancing feet so musical

Make merry sound all night.

Each day on couches rich he lies,

With gold cloth at his feet ;
And dainty meats are carved for him.

When he sits down to eat.

He drinks his wine from a golden cup ;

With a free hand spends his store ;
Thou prodigal, be warned in time.

Thy seven bags are but four !


There are one and twenty gentlemen

Around the table sitting :
Ah, younger son ! dare not that throw j
Each villain doth his business know,

And it is thy outwitting.

He has thrown the dice, he has lost the game !

And now he sits apart,
With burning anger on his brow,

And madness in his heart.

He lifts the wine-cup to his lips,

A fevered man is he ;
He drains it, and he fiUeth still,

And drinketh desperately !

" Ho, fellow ! " saith the midnight watch.

Within the city street ;
" Whence comest at this late hour ? " they ask

Of one they nightly meet.

'T is he, 't is he, the younger son.
How changed in mood and frame !

And now he leads a sinful life,
A sinful life of shame.

And he hath spent the seven bags,
That were filled up to the brim ;

And the three alone of white money
Are only left to him.


WoU, younger son, since so it is,

Thine evil ways amend ;
And, where thou spent a thousand pounds,

A penny tliou now must spend.

Thy years are few, and thou art strong ;

Come, yield not to dismay ! —
Thou fool ! — hast with a madman's hand

Thy last mite thrown away ?

Now God have mercy on thy need !

With man is little grace ;
For they, with whom thou spent thy gold,

Will mock thee to thy face.

He heard the laugh, as he went by ;

He saw them turn aside.
As from a creature pestilent;
And in each place, where'er he went,

He met the taunt of pride.

They would not give, they would not lend ;

They mocked him one and all ;
Then passed he through the city gate,
And laid him down, as day grew late,

Without the city wall.

Now, younger son, can this be you ?

Dost herd among the swine ?
Thine eyes are meek, thy brow is pale,

An altered heart is thine.


And thou hast bowed to solemn thoughts
That through thy spirit ran,

As in the wilds thou sat'st apart,
A solitary man.

Ay, prodigal, sweet tears are these ;

And this stripped heart is sent
By God, in token of his grace :

Look up, poor penitent !

Bethink thee of thy father's house,
Heaven's holy peace is there :

The very servants of that place
Have bread enough to spare.

Up, thou dost perish in this wild !

And there is one doth keep
Watch for thee with a yearning love,

A memory fond and deep.

— The younger son rose up, and went

Unto his native place ;
And bowed, a meek, repentant man,

Before his father's face.


lis THK wiru imk nautilus.

Down nnd down wont tho sotling sun,

And do\* n nml down wont wo :
'Twas n splondid sail tor sovon days

On u snkvth dosoondinj; sou.

C'^n a snuxMli, dosoondinjj son wo suilod,

Nor broo/.c tho wntor ourlod :
My brain grow siok. lor I saw wo suiloti

On tlio down-bill of'tbo worlil.

" Good tViond," said I to ibo Nautilus,
*• Can tins the right course bo ?
And shall wo come ngnin to land V

Hut answer none made ho ;
And 1 saw a laugh in his fishy oyo

As lie turned it up to mo.

So on wo went ; but sinm I heanl

A sound as when winds blow.
And waters wild are timdded liown

Into a gulf below .

And on and on flew the little bark.

.\s n fiend her course did urge ;
And I saw, in a moment, we nuist hang

V[xm the ocean's verge.

1 snatched down the sails. 1 snapped the rojies,

1 broke tho masts in twain ;
Hut on flew the bark, and Vain.^st tho rocks

Like a living thing did strain.

" Thou'st steered us wrong, thou helmsman vile!"

Said I to tho Nautilus bold ;
" Wo shall down tho gulf; we're dead men botJi !

Dost know the course wo hold ?''


I seized the helm with a sudden jerk,

And we wheeled round like a bird ;
But I saw the Gulf of Eternity,

And the tideless waves I heard.

" Good master," said the Nautilus,
" I thought you might desire
To have some wondrous thing to tell
Beside your mother's fire.

" What's sailing on a summer sea ?
As well sail on a pool ;
Oh, but I know a thousand things
That are wild and beautiful !

" And if you wish to see them now,

You've but to say the word."
" Have done !" said 1 to the Nautilus,
" Or I'll throw thee overboard.

" Have done !" said I, " thou mariner old,
And steer me back to land."
No other word spake the Nautilus,
But took the helm in hand.

I looked up to the lady moon,

She was like a glow-worm's spark ;
And never a star shone down to us

Through the sky so high and dark.

We had no mast, we had no ropes.

And every sail was rent ;
And the stores I brought from the charmed isle

In the seven days' sail were spent.


Down and down went the setting sun,
And down and down went we ;

'Twas a splendid sail for seven days
On a smooth descending sea.


On a smooth, descending sea we sailed,

Nor breeze the water curled :
My brain grew sick, for I saw we sailed

On the down-hill of the world.

" Good friend," said I to the Nautilus,
" Can this the right course be ?
And shall we come again to land ?"

But answer none made he ;
And I saw a laugh in his fishy eye
As he turned it up to me.

So on we went ; but soon I heard

A sound as when winds blow,
And waters wild are tumbled down

Into a gulf below.

And on and on flew the little bark,

As a fiend her course did urge ;
And I saw, in a moment, we must hang

Upon the ocean's verge.

1 snatched down the sails, I snapped the ropes,

I broke the masts in twain ;
But on flew the bark, and 'gainst the rocks

Like a living thing did strain.

" Thou'st steered us wrong, thou helmsman vile !"

Said I to the Nautilus bold ;
" We shall down the gulf; we're dead men both !

Dost know the course we hold ?"


I seized the helm with a sudden jerk,

And we wheeled round like a bird ;
But I saw the Gulf of Eternity,

And the tideless waves I heard.

" Good master," said the Nautilus,
" I thought you might desire
To have some wondrous thing to tell
Beside your mother's fire.

" What's sailing on a summer sea ?
As well sail on a pool ;
Oh, but I know a thousand things
That are wild and beautiful !

" And if you wish to see them now.

You've but to say the word."
" Have done !" said 1 to the Nautilus,
" Or I'll throw thee overboard.

" Have done !" said I, " thou mariner old,
And steer me back to land."
No other word spake the Nautilus,
But took the helm in hand.

I looked up to the lady moon.

She was like a glow-worm's spark ;
And never a star shone down to us

Through the sky so high and dark.

We had no mast, we had no ropes,

And every sail was rent ;
And the stores I brought from the charmed isle

In the seven days' sail were spent.


But the Nautilus was a patient thing,

And steered with all his might
On the up-hill sea ; and lie never slept,

But kept the course aright.

And for thrice seven nights we sailed and sailed ;

At length I saw the bay
Where I built my ship, and my mother's house

'Mid the green hills where it lay.

" Farewell !" said 1 to the Nautilus,

And leaped upon the shore ;
" Thou art a skilful mariner.

But I'll sail with thee no more !"



Dives put on his purple robes, and linen white and fine,
With costly jewels on his hands, and sate him down to dine.
In a crimson chair of state he sate, and cushions many a one
Were ranged around, and on the floor, to set his feet upon.
There were dishes of the wild fowl, and dishes of the tame,
And flesh of kine, and curious meats, that on the table came ;
From plates of ruddy gold he ate, with forks of silver fine ;
And drank from out a crystal cup the bright and foaming wine.
Behind him stood his serving-men, as silent as might be,
To wait upon him while he dined amid his luxury.

Now Lazarus was a beggar, a cripple weak and grey ;
A childless man, too old to work, who begged beside the way j
And as he went along the road great pain on him was laid,
So on a stone he sate him down, and unto God he prayed,
'Twas in the dreary winter, and on a stone he sate,
A weary, miserable man, at Dives' palace gate.
ThSre many servants out and in were passing to and fro.
And Lazarus prayed, for love of God, some mercy they would

show ;
And that the small crumbs might be his that fell upon the floor,
Or he must die for lack of food beside that palace door.


Now Dives on a silken bed in sumptuous ease was laid,
And soft-toned lutes and dulcimers a drowsy music made ;
But he heard the voice of Lazarus low-wailing where he lay,
And he said unto his serving-men, " Yon beggar drive away !"
" He is old," said one ; another spake, " He's lame, and cannot

Said a third, " He craveth for the crumbs that lie the board be-
" It matters not !" said Dives ; " go, take my blood-hounds grim,
Go, take them from their kennels, and set them upon him ;
And hunt him from the gate away, for while he thus doth moan
I cannot get a wink of sleep." And so the thing was done.
But when they saw the poor old man who not a word did say,
The very dogs had pity on him, and licked him where he lay ;
And in the middle of the night, sore smit with want and pain,
On the frosty earth he laid him down ne'er to rise up again.
And Dives likewise laid him down on a bed of soft delight.
Rich silver lamps were burning dim in his chamber through the

night ;
But a ghostly form stole softly in, and the curtains drew aside,
And laid his hand on Dives' heart ; and Dives likewise died.

Then burning guilt, like heavy lead, upon his soul was laid,
And down and down, yet lower and lower, to the lowest depth

of shade
Went the soul of wicked Dives, like a rock into the sea,
To the depths of woe, where troubled souls bewail their misery.
His eyes he wildly opened in a gulf of flaming levin.
And afar he saw, so green and cool, the pleasant land of heaven ;
A broad, clear river went winding there, and trees grew on its

brim ;
There stood the beggar Lazarus, and Abraham talked with him.
" Oh ! father," then said Dives, " let Lazarus come along.


And bring one drop of water to cool my burning tongue,
For there is torment in this flame, which burneth evermore."
Said Abraham, " Dives, think upon the days that now are o'er r
Thou hadst thy comfortable things, water, and food, and wine;
Didst deck thyself in costly robes, purple and linen fine ;
Yet was thy heart an evil heart amid thy pomp and gold,
And Lazarus sate before thy gate, despised, and poor, and old ;
A beggar whom thy dogs did hunt, and whom thou didst revile,
Wretched and weak, yet praising God with thankful heart the

Now in the blooming land of heaven great comfort doth he know,
And thou must lie 'mid torment, in the burning seas below.
Beside all this, there is a gulf that lieth us between,
A boundless gulf o'er which the wing of angel ne'er hath been."
So Dives saw them pass away from the clear river's shore.
And angels many, on snowy wings, the beggar Lazarus bore.





A LITTLE cliild, she read a book

Beside an open door ;
And, as she read page after page,

She wondered more and more.

Her little fmgcr carefully
Went pointing out the place ;

Her golden locks hung drooping down,
And shadowed half her face.

The open book lay on her knee,

Her eyes on it were bent ;
And, as she read page after page.

Her color came and went.

She sate upon a mossy stone.

An open door beside ;
And round for miles on every hand

Stretched out a forest wide.


The summer sun shone on the trees,

The deer lay in the shade ;
And overhead the singing birds

Their pleasant clamor made-
There was no garden round the house,

And it was low and small ;
The forest sward grew to the door.

And lichens on the wall.

There was no garden round about,

Yet flowers were growing free,
The cowslip and the daffodil,

Upon the forest-lea.

The butterfly went flitting by,

The bees were in the flowers ;
But the little child sate steadfastly.

As she had sate for hours.

" Why sit you here, my little maid ?"
An aged pilgrim spake ;
The child looked upward from her book,
Like one but just awake.

Back fell her locks of golden hair,

And solemn was her look.
As thus she answered witlessly,
"Oh! sir, I read this book."

" And what is there within that book
To win a child like thee ?
Up ! join thy mates, the merry birds,
And frolic with the bee."


" Nay, sir, I cannot leave this book,
I love it more than play ;
I have read all legends, but this one
Ne'er saw I till this day.

** And there is something in this book
That makes all care be gone ;
And yet I weep, I know not why,
As I go reading on."

" Who art thou, child, that thou shouldst con
A book with mickle heed ?
Books are for clerks ; the king himself
Hath much ado to read."

"My father is a forester,

A bowman keen and good ;
He keeps the deer within their bound,
And worketh in the wood.

" My mother died at Candlemas :
The flowers are all in blow
Upon her grave at Allonby,
Down in the dale below."

This said, unto her book she turned,
As steadfast as before ;
" Nay," said the pil.'-im, " nay not yet ;
And you must lell me more.

•' Who was it taught you thus to read ?"
" Ah ! sir, it was my mother :
She taught me both to read and spell,
And so she taught my brother.


" My brother dwells at Allonby
With the good monks alway ;
And this new book he brought to me, —
But only for one day.

'' Oh ! sir, it is a wondrous book.
Better than Charlemagne ;
And be you pleased to leave me now,
I'll read in it again."

" Nay, read to me," the pilgrim said ;
And the little child went on
To read of Christ, as was set forth
In the Gospel of St. John.

On, on she read, and gentle tears

Adown her cheeks did slide ;
The pilgrim sate, with bended head.

And he wept at her side,

" I've heard," said he, " the archbishop,
I've heard the pope at Rome ;
But never did their spoken words
Thus to ni}^ spirit come.

" The book it is a blessed book ;

Its name, what may it be ?"
Said she, " They are the words of Christ

That I have read to thee,
Now done into the Entrlish tongue

For folk unlearned as we."

" Sancta Maria !" said the man,
" Our canons have decreed
That this is an unholy book
For simple folk to read !


" Sancta Maria ! blessed be God !
Had this good book been mine,
I need not have gone on pilgrimage
To holy Palestine.

" Give me the book, and let me read ;
My soul is strangely stirred ;
They are such words of love and truth
As ne'er before I heard."

The little girl gave up the book ;

And the pilgrim, old and brown.
With reverent lips did kiss the page,

Then on the stone sate down.

And on he read, page after page ;

Page after page he turned ;
And, as he read their blessed words,

His heart within him burned.

Still, still tlie book the old man read,
As he would ne'er have done ;

From the hour of noon he read the book
Unto the set of sun.

The little child she brought him out

A cake of wheaten bread,
But it lay unbroke at eventide ;

Nor did he raise his head,
Until he every written page

Within the book had read.

Tlicn came the sturdy forester
Along the homeward track ;

Whistling aloud a hunting tune.
With a slain deer on his back.


Loud greeting gave the forester

Unto the pilgrim poor ;
The old man rose with thoughtful brow,

And entered at the door.

The two they sate them down to meat ;

And the pilgrim 'gan to tell
How he had eaten on Olivet,

And drunk at Jacob's well.

And then he told how he had knelt

Where'er our Lord had prayed ;
How he had in the garden been,

And the tomb where he was laid :

And then he turned unto the book,

And read, in English plain,
How Christ had died on Calvary,

How he had risen again ;

And all his comfortable words,

His deeds of mercy all,
He read ; and of the widow's mite.

And the poor prodigal.

As water to the parched soil,

As to the hungry, bread,
So fell upon the woodman's soul

Each word the pilgrim read.

Thus, through the midnight, did they read

Until the dawn of day ;
And then came in the woodman's son

To fetch the book away.


All quick and troubled was his speech,
His face was pale with dread ;
" For the king," he said, " had made a law
That the book must not be read ;

It was such fearful heresy,
The holy abbot said."



0:*E summer eve, seven little boys

Were playing at the ball,
Seven little boys so beautiful,

Beside a castle wall.

And, whilst they played, another came,
And stood among them there ;

A little boy, with gentle eyes
And thick and curling hair.

The clothes he on his body wore
Were linen fine and white ;

The girdle that was round his waist
Was like the morning light.

A little while he looked on them.

Looked lovingly, and smiled,
When unto him the eldest said,
" Whence comest thou, fair child ?

" Art thou the son of some great king,
And in a hidden place
Hast been concealed ; for until now
I never saw thy face ?


" Dost dwell among the lonely hills,
Or in the forest low ;
Or dost thou chase the running deer,
A hunter with thy bow ?

" And tell us what wild, woodland name
Have they unto thee given ?"

" They called me Willie," said he, " on earth ;
They call me so in heaven.

" My father with King David dwells,
In the land of heaven dwells he ;
And my gentle mother, meek and mild,
Sits at the Virgin's knee.

" Seven years ago to heaven we went ;
'T was in the winter chill,
When icy cold the winds did blow.
And mists were on the hill.

" But, when we reached the land of heaven,
'T was like a summer's day ;
The skies were blue, and fragrant flowers
All round about us lay.

" The land of heaven is beautiful :
There no cold wind doth blow ;
And fairer apples than e'er ye saw
AVithin its gardens grow.

" I've seen the patriarchs face to face ;
The wise of every land ;
And with the heavenly little ones
Have wandered, hand in hand,


" Down by the golden streams of life,
All through the forests old,
And o'er the boundless hills of heaven.
The sheep of God's own fold."

Then up and spoke a little boy,
The youngest of the seven :
" My mother is dead, so let me go
With thee, dear child, to heaven.

" My mother is dead, and my father loves
His dogs far more than me ;
No one would miss me if I went :
Oh, let me go with thee !

" No one would miss me if I went ;
Dame Bertha loves me not ;
And for old crabbed Hildebrand
I do not care a jot."

*' Alas !" the heavenly child replied,
" That home thou canst not win.
If thou have an ill word on thy tongue,
Or in thy heart a sin.

' The way is long and wearisome,
Through peril great it lies :
With any sin upon thy soul

From earth thou couldst not rise.

" There are waters deep and wild to pass ;
And who hath a load of sin.
Like the heavy rock that will not float,
Is tumbled headlong in.


" There are red and raging fires to pass ;

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