Ivanhoe Chapter XVII
by Sir Walter Scott

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Chapter XVII

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? Warton

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 performance."

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."

It speedily appeared, that if the knight was not a complete master of the minstrel art, his taste for it had at least been cultivated under the best instructors. Art had taught him to soften the faults of a voice which had little compass, and was naturally rough rather than mellow, and, in short, had done all that culture can do in supplying natural deficiencies. His performance, therefore, might have been termed very respectable by abler judges than the hermit, especially as the knight threw into the notes now a degree of spirit, and now of plaintive enthusiasm, which gave force and energy to the verses which he sung.

THE CRUSADER'S RETURN.

1.

High deeds achieved of knightly fame, From Palestine the champion came; The cross upon his shoulders borne, Battle and blast had dimm'd and torn. Each dint upon his batter'd shield Was token of a foughten field; And thus, beneath his lady's bower, He sung as fell the twilight hour:---

2.

"Joy to the fair!---thy knight behold, Return'd from yonder land of gold; No wealth he brings, nor wealth can need, Save his good arms and battle-steed His spurs, to dash against a foe, His lance and sword to lay him low; Such all the trophies of his toil, Such---and the hope of Tekla's smile!

3.

"Joy to the fair! whose constant knight Her favour fired to feats of might; Unnoted shall she not remain, Where meet the bright and noble train; Minstrel shall sing and herald tell--- 'Mark yonder maid of beauty well, 'Tis she for whose bright eyes were won The listed field at Askalon!

4.

"'Note well her smile!---it edged the blade Which fifty wives to widows made, When, vain his strength and Mahound's spell, Iconium's turban'd Soldan fell. Seest thou her locks, whose sunny glow Half shows, half shades, her neck of snow? Twines not of them one golden thread, But for its sake a Paynim bled.'

5.

"Joy to the fair!---my name unknown, Each deed, and all its praise thine own Then, oh! unbar this churlish gate, The night dew falls, the hour is late. Inured to Syria's glowing breath, I feel the north breeze chill as death; Let grateful love quell maiden shame, And grant him bliss who brings thee fame."

During this performance, the hermit demeaned himself...

(The entire section is 1,661 words.)