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THE WANDERER: 5. IN HOLLAND: A NIGHT IN THE FISHERMAN'S HUT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: If the wind had been blowing the devil this way
Last Line: Shall yield him my offerings, and make him my bow.
Alternate Author Name(s): Meredith, Owen; Lytton, 1st Earl Of; Lytton, Robert
Subject(s): Fish & Fishing; Netherlands; Travel; Anglers; Holland; Dutch People; Journeys; Trips



IF the wind had been blowing the Devil this way
The midnight could scarcely have grown more unholy,
Or the sea have found secrets more wicked to say
To the toothless old crags it is hiding there wholly.

I love well the darkness. I love well the sound
Of the thunder-drift, howling this way over ocean.
For't is though as in nature my spirit had found
A trouble akin to its own fierce emotion.

The hoarse night may howl herself silent for me.
When the silence comes, then comes the howling within.
I am drenched to my knees in the surf of the sea,
And wet with the salt bitter rain to the skin.

Let it thunder and lighten! this world's ruined angel
Is but fooled by desire like the frailest of men;
Both seek in hysterics life's awful evangel,
Then both settle down to life's silence again.

Well I know the wild spirits of water and air,
When the lean morrow turns up its cynical gray,
Will, baffled, revert with familiar despair
To their old listless work, in their old helpless way.

Yonder's the light in the Fisherman's hut:
But the old wolf himself is, I know, off at sea.
And I see through the chinks, though the shutters be shut,
By the firelight that some one is watching for me.

Three years ago, on this very same night,
I walked in a ballroom of perfume and splendor
With a pearl-bedecked lady below the lamplight: --
Now I walk with the wild wind, whose breath is more tender.

Hark! the horses of ocean that crouch at my feet,
They are moaning in impotent pain on the beach!
Lo! the storm-light, that swathes in its blue winding-sheet
That lone desert of sky, where the stars are dead, each!

Holloa, there! open, you little wild girl!
Hush, ...'t is her soft little feet o'er the floor.
Stay not to tie up a single dark curl,
But quick with the candle, and open the door.

One kiss? ...there 's twenty! ...but first, take my coat there,
Salt as a sea-sponge, and dripping all through.
The old wolf, your father, is out in the boat there.
Hark to the thunder! ...we're safe, -- I and you.

Put on the kettle. And now for the cask
Of that famous old rum of your father's, the king
Would have clawed on our frontier. There, fill me the flask.
Ah, what a quick, little, neat-handed thing!

There 's my pipe. Stuff it with black negro-head.
Soon I shall be in the cloud-land of glory.
Faith, 't is better with you, dear, than 'fore the mast-head,
With such lights at the windows of night's upper story!

Next, over the round open hole in the shutter
You may pin up your shawl, ...lest a mermaid should peep.
Come, now, the kettle 's beginning to splutter,
And the cat recomposes herself into sleep.

Poor little naked feet, ...put them up there...
Little white foam-flakes! and now the soft head,
Here, on my shoulder; while all the dark hair
Falls round us like sea-weed. What matter the bed

If sleep will visit it, if kisses feel there
Sweet as they feel under curtains of silk?
So, shut your eyes, while the firelight will steal there
O'er the black bear-skin, the arm white as milk!

Meanwhile I 'll tell to you all I remember
Of the old legend, the northern romance
I heard of in Sweden, that snowy December
I passed there, about the wild Lord Rosencrantz.

Then, when you 're tired, take the cards from the cupboard,
Thumbed over by every old thief in our crew,
And I 'll tell you your fortune, you little Dame Hubbard;
My own has been squandered on witches like you.

Knave, King, and Queen, all the villanous pack of 'em,
I know what they 're worth in the game, and have found
Upon all the trump-cards the small marl at the back of 'em,
The Devil's nail-mark, who still cheat us all round.



THE lamps in the castle hall burn bright,
And the music sounds, and the dancers dance,
And lovely the young Queen looks tonight,
But pale is Lord Rosencrantz.

Lord Rosencrantz is always pale,
But never more deadly pale than now...
O, there is a whisper, -- an ancient tale, --
A rumor, ...but who should know?

He has stepped to the dais. He has taken her hand.
And she gives it him with a tender glance.
And the hautboys sound, and the dancers stand,
And envy Lord Rosencrantz.

That jewelled hand to his lips he prest;
And lightly he leads her towards the dance:
And the blush on the young Queen's cheek confest
Her love for Lord Rosencrantz.

The moon at the mullioned window shone;
There a face and a hand in the moonlight glance;
But that face and that hand were seen of none,
Save only Lord Rosencrantz.

A league aloof in the forest-land
There 's a dead black pool, where a man by chance
... Again, again, that beckoning hand!
And it beckons Lord Rosencrantz.

While the young Queen turned to whisper him,
Lord Rosencrantz from the hall was gone;
And the hautboys ceased, and the lamps grew dim,
And the castle clock struck One!

* * * *

It is a bleak December night,
And the snow on the highway gleams by fits:
But the fire on the cottage-hearth burns bright,
Where the little maiden sits.

Her spinning-wheel she has laid aside;
And her blue eyes soft in the firelight glance;
As she leans with love, and she leans with pride,
On the breast of Lord Rosencrantz.

Mother 's asleep, up stairs in bed:
And the black cat, she looks wondrous wise
As she licks her paws in the firelight red,
And glares with her two green eyes:

And the little maiden is half afraid,
And closely she clings to Lord Rosencrantz;
For she has been reading, that little maid,
All day, in an old romance,

A legend wild of a wicked pool
A league aloof in the forest-land,
And a crime done there, and a sinful soul,
And an awful face and hand.

"Our little cottage is bleak and drear,"
Says the little maid to Lord Rosencrantz;
"And this is the loneliest time of the year,
And oft, when the wind, by chance,

"The ivy beats on the window-pane,
I wake to the sound in the gusty nights;
And often, outside, in the drift and rain,
There seem to pass strange sights.

"And O, it is dreary here alone!
When mother 's asleep, in bed, up stairs,
And the black cat, there, to the forest is gone,
-- Look at her, how she glares!"

"Thou little maiden, my heart's own bliss,
Have thou no fear, for I love thee well;
And sweetest it is upon nights like this,
When the wind, like the blast of hell,

"Roars up and down in the chimneys old,
And the wolf howls over the distant now,
To kiss away both the night and the cold
With such kisses as we kiss now."

"Ah! more than life I love thee, dear!"
Says the little maiden with eyes so blue;
"And, when thou art near, I have no fear,
Whatever the night may do.

"But O, it is dreary when thou art away!
And in bed all night I pray for thee:
Now tell me, thou dearest heart, and say,
Dost thou ever pray for me?"

"Thou little maiden, I thank thee much,
And well I would thou shouldst pray for me;
But I am a sinful man, and such
As ill should pray for thee."

Hist! ...was it a face at the window past?
Or was it the ivy leaf, by chance,
Tapping the pane in the fitful blast,
That startled Lord Rosencrantz?

The little maid, she has seen it plain,
For she shrieked, and down she fell in a swoon:
Mutely it came, and went again,
In the light of the winter moon.

* * * *

The young Queen, -- O, but her face was sweet! --
She died on the night that she was wed:
And they laid her out in her winding-sheet,
Stark on her marriage-bed.

The little maiden, she went mad;
But her soft blue eyes still smiled the same,
With ever that wistful smile they had:
Her mother, she died of shame.

The black cat lived from house to house,
And every night to the forest hied;
And she killed many a rat and mouse
Before the day she died.

And do you wish that I should declare
What was the end of Lord Rosencrantz?
Ah! look in my heart, you will find it there,
-- The end of the old romance!



YES, you have guessed it. The wild Rosencrantz,
It is I, dear, the wicked one; who but I, maiden?
My life is a tattered and worn-out romance,
And my heart with the curse of the Past hath been laden:

For still, where I wander or linger, forever
Comes a skeleton hand that is beckoning for me;
And still, dogging my footsteps, life's long Never-never
Pursues me, wherever my footsteps may be:

The star of my course hath been long ago set, dear;
And the wind is my pilot, wherever he blows:
He cannot blow from me what I would forget, dear,
Nor blow to me that which I seek for, -- repose.

What! if I were the Devil himself, would you cling to me,
Bear my ill humors, and share my wild nights?
Crouch by me, fear me not, stay by me, sing to me,
While the dark haunts us with sounds and with sights?

Follow me far away, pine not, but smile to me,
Never ask questions, and always be gay?
Still the dear eyes meekly turned all the while to me,
Watchful the night through, and patient the day?

What! if this hand, that now strays through your tresses,
Three years ago had been dabbled in gore?
What! if this lip, that your lip now caresses,
A corpse had been pressing but three years before?

Well then, behold! ...'t is the gray light of morning
That breaks o'er the desolate waters...and hark!
'T is the first signal shot from my boat gives me warning:
The dark moves away: and I follow the lark.

On with your hat and your cloak! you are mine, child,
Mine and the fiend's that pursues me, henceforth!
We must be far, ere day breaks, o'er the brine, child:
It may be south I go, it may be north.

What! really fetching your hat and your cloak, dear?
Sweet little fool. Kiss me quick now, and laugh!
All I have said to you was but a joke, dear:
Half was in folly, in wantonness half.



AY, maiden: the whole of my story to you
Was but a deception, a silly romance:
From the first to the last word, no word of it true;
And my name 's Owen Meredith, not Rosencrantz.

I never was loved by a Queen, I declare:
And no little maiden for me has gone mad:
I never committed a murder, I swear;
And I probably should have been hanged if I had.

I never have sold to the Devil my soul;
And but small is the price he would give me, I know:
I live much as other folks live, on the whole:
And the worst thing in me 's my digestion...heigh ho!

Let us leave to the night-wind the thoughts which he brings,
And leave to the darkness the powers of the dark;
For my hopes o'er the sea lightly flit, like the wings
Of the curlews that hover and poise round my bark.

Leave the wind and the water to mutter together
Their weird metaphysical grief, as of old,
For day's business begins, and the clerk of the weather
To the powers of the air doth his purpose unfold.

Be you sure those dread Titans, whatever they be,
That sport with this ball in the great courts of Time,
To play practical jokes upon you, dear, and me,
Will never desist from a sport so sublime.

The old Oligarchy of Greece, now abolished,
Were idle aristocrats fond of the arts,
But though thus refined, all their tastes were so polished,
They were turbulent, dissolute gods, without hearts.

They neglected their business, they gave themselves airs,
Read the poets in Greek, sipped their wine, took their rest,
Never troubling their beautiful heads with affairs,
And as for their morals, the least said, the best.

The scandal grew greater and greater: and then
An appeal to the people was formally made.
The old gods were displaced by the suffrage of men,
And a popular government formed in their stead.

But these are high matters of state, -- I and you
May be thankful, meanwhile, we have something to eat,
And nothing, just now, more important to do,
Than to sit down at once, and say grace before meat.

You may boil me some coffee, an egg, if it's handy,
The sea's rolling mountains just now. I shall wait
For King Neptune's mollissima tempora fandi,
Who will presently lift up his curly white pate,

Bid Eurus and Notus to mind their own business,
And make me a speech in Hexameters slow;
While I, by the honor elated to dizziness,
Shall yield him my offerings, and make him my bow.

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