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Chapter 17
At eve, within yon studious nook,
I ope my brass-embossed book,
Portray'd with many a holy deed
Of martyrs crown'd with heavenly meed;
Then, as my taper waxes dim,
Chant, ere I sleep, my measured hymn.
* * * * *
Who but would cast his pomp away,
To take my staff and amice grey,
And to the world's tumultuous stage,
Prefer the peaceful Hermitage?
Notwithstanding the prescription of the genial hermit, with which his guest willingly
complied, he found it no easy matter to bring the harp to harmony.
"Methinks, holy father," said he, "the instrument wants one string, and the rest have
been somewhat misused."
"Ay, mark'st thou that?" replied the hermit; "that shows thee a master of the craft. Wine
and wassail," he added, gravely casting up his eyes---"all the fault of wine and wassail!--
-I told Allan-a-Dale, the northern minstrel, that he would damage the harp if he touched
it after the seventh cup, but he would not be controlled---Friend, I drink to thy successful
So saying, he took off his cup with much gravity, at the same time shaking his head at
the intemperance of the Scottish harper.
The knight in the meantime, had brought the strings into some order, and after a short
prelude, asked his host whether he would choose a "sirvente" in the language of "oc", or
a "lai" in the language of "oui", or a "virelai", or a ballad in the vulgar English.*
* Note C. Minstrelsy.
"A ballad, a ballad," said the hermit, "against all the 'ocs' and 'ouis' of France. Downright
English am I, Sir Knight, and downright English was my patron St Dunstan, and scorned
'oc' and 'oui', as he would have scorned the parings of the devil's hoof ---downright
English alone shall be sung in this cell."
"I will assay, then," said the knight, "a ballad composed by a Saxon glee-man, whom I
knew in Holy Land."