Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
Or, close the wall up with our English dead.
--------------- And you, good yeomen,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture---let us swear
That you are worth your breeding.
King Henry V
Cedric, although not greatly confident in Ulrica's message,
omitted not to communicate her promise to the Black Knight and
Locksley. They were well pleased to find they had a friend
within the place, who might, in the moment of need, be able to
facilitate their entrance, and readily agreed with the Saxon that
a storm, under whatever disadvantages, ought to be attempted, as
the only means of liberating the prisoners now in the hands of
the cruel Front-de-Boeuf.
"The royal blood of Alfred is endangered," said Cedric.
"The honour of a noble lady is in peril," said the Black Knight.
"And, by the Saint Christopher at my baldric," said the good
yeoman, "were there no other cause than the safety of that poor
faithful knave, Wamba, I would jeopard a joint ere a hair of his
head were hurt."
"And so would I," said the Friar; "what, sirs! I trust well that
a fool---I mean, d'ye see me, sirs, a fool that is free of his
guild and master of his craft, and can give as much relish and
flavour to a cup of wine as ever a flitch of bacon can---I say,
brethren, such a fool shall never want a wise clerk to pray for
or fight for him at a strait, while I can say a mass or flourish
a partisan." And with that he made his heavy halberd to play
around his head as a shepherd boy flourishes his light crook.
"True, Holy Clerk," said the Black Knight, "true as if Saint
Dunstan himself had said it.---And now, good Locksley, were it
not well that noble Cedric should assume the direction of this
"Not a jot I," returned Cedric; "I have never been wont to study
either how to take or how to hold out those abodes of tyrannic
power, which the Normans have erected in this groaning land. I
will fight among the foremost; but my honest neighbours well know
I am not a trained soldier in the discipline of wars, or the
attack of strongholds."
"Since it stands thus with noble Cedric," said Locksley, "I am
most willing to take on me the direction of the archery; and ye
shall hang me up on my own Trysting-tree, an the defenders be
permitted to show themselves over the walls without being stuck
with as many shafts as there are cloves in a gammon of bacon at
"Well said, stout yeoman," answered the Black Knight; "and if I
be thought worthy to have a charge in these matters, and can find
among these brave men as many as are willing to follow a true
English knight, for so I may surely call myself, I am ready, with
such skill as my experience has taught me, to lead them to the
attack of these walls."
The parts being thus distributed to the leaders, they commenced
the first assault, of which the reader has already heard the
When the barbican was carried, the Sable Knight sent notice of
the happy event to Locksley, requesting him at the same time, to
keep such a strict observation on the castle as might prevent the
defenders from combining their force for a sudden sally, and
recovering the outwork which they had lost. This the knight was
chiefly desirous of avoiding, conscious that the men whom he led,
being hasty and untrained volunteers, imperfectly armed and
unaccustomed to discipline, must, upon any sudden attack, fight
at great disadvantage with the veteran soldiers of the Norman
knights, who were well provided with arms both defensive and
offensive; and who, to match the zeal and high spirit of the
besiegers, had all the confidence which arises from perfect
discipline and the habitual use of weapons.
The knight employed the interval in causing to be constructed a
sort of floating bridge, or long raft, by means of which he hoped
to cross the moat in despite of the resistance of the enemy.
This was a work of some time, which the leaders the less
regretted, as it gave Ulrica leisure to execute her plan of
diversion in their favour, whatever that might be.
When the raft was completed, the Black Knight addressed the
besiegers:---"It avails not waiting here longer, my friends; the
sun is descending to the west---and I have that upon my hands
which will not permit me to tarry with you another day. Besides,
it will be a marvel if the horsemen come not upon us from York,
unless we speedily accomplish our purpose. Wherefore, one of ye
go to Locksley, and bid him commence a discharge of arrows on the
opposite side of the castle, and move forward as if about to
assault it; and you, true English hearts, stand by me, and be
ready to thrust the raft endlong over the moat whenever the
postern on our side is thrown open. Follow me boldly across, and
aid me to burst yon sallyport in the main wall of the castle. As
many of you as like not this service, or are but ill armed to
meet it, do you man the top of the outwork, draw your bow-strings
to your ears, and mind you quell with your shot whatever shall
appear to man the rampart---Noble Cedric, wilt thou take the
direction of those which remain?"
"Not so, by the soul of Hereward!" said the Saxon; "lead I
cannot; but may posterity curse me in my grave, if I follow not
with the foremost wherever thou shalt point the way---The quarrel
is mine, and well it becomes me to be in the van of the battle."
"Yet, bethink thee, noble Saxon," said the knight, "thou hast
neither hauberk, nor corslet, nor aught but that light helmet,
target, and sword."
"The better!" answered Cedric; "I shall be the lighter to climb
these walls. And,---forgive the boast, Sir Knight,---thou shalt
this day see the naked breast of a Saxon as boldly presented to
the battle as ever ye beheld the steel corslet of a Norman."
"In the name of God, then," said the knight, "fling open the
door, and launch the floating bridge."
The portal, which led from the inner-wall of the barbican to the
moat, and which corresponded with a sallyport in the main wall of
the castle, was now suddenly opened; the temporary bridge was
then thrust forward, and soon flashed in the waters, extending
its length between the castle and outwork, and forming a slippery
and precarious passage for two men abreast to cross the moat.
Well aware of the importance of taking the foe by surprise, the
Black Knight, closely followed by Cedric, threw himself upon the
bridge, and reached the opposite side. Here he began to thunder
with his axe upon the gate of the castle, protected in part from
the shot and stones cast by the defenders by the ruins of the
former drawbridge, which the Templar had demolished in his
retreat from the barbican, leaving the counterpoise still
attached to the upper part of the portal. The followers of the
knight had no such shelter; two were instantly shot with
cross-bow bolts, and two more fell into the moat; the others
retreated back into the barbican.
The situation of Cedric and of the Black Knight was now truly
dangerous, and would have been still more so, but for the
constancy of the archers in the barbican, who ceased not to
shower their arrows upon the battlements, distracting the
attention of those by whom they were manned, and thus affording
a respite to their two chiefs from the storm of missiles which
must otherwise have overwhelmed them. But their situation was
eminently perilous, and was becoming more so with every moment.
"Shame on ye all!" cried De Bracy to the soldiers around him; "do
ye call yourselves cross-bowmen, and let these two dogs keep
their station under the walls of the castle?---Heave over the
coping stones from the battlements, an better may not be---Get
pick-axe and levers, and down with that huge pinnacle!" pointing
to a heavy piece of stone carved-work that projected from the
At this moment the besiegers caught sight of the red flag upon
the angle of the tower which Ulrica had described to Cedric. The
stout yeoman Locksley was the first who was aware of it, as he
was hasting to the outwork, impatient to see the progress of the
"Saint George!" he cried, "Merry Saint George for England!---To
the charge, bold yeomen!---why leave ye the good knight and noble
Cedric to storm the pass alone?---make in, mad priest, show thou
canst fight for thy rosary,---make in, brave yeomen!---the castle
is ours, we have friends within---See yonder flag, it is the
appointed signal---Torquilstone is ours!---Think of honour, think
of spoil---One effort, and the place is ours!"
With that he bent his good bow, and sent a shaft right through
the breast of one of the men-at-arms, who, under De Bracy's
direction, was loosening a fragment from one of the battlements
to precipitate on the heads of Cedric and the Black Knight. A
second soldier caught from the hands of the dying man the iron
crow, with which he heaved at and had loosened the stone
pinnacle, when, receiving an arrow through his head-piece, he
dropped from the battlements into the moat a dead man. The
men-at-arms were daunted, for no armour seemed proof against the
shot of this tremendous archer.
"Do you give ground, base knaves!" said De Bracy; "'Mount joye
Saint Dennis!'---Give me the lever!"
And, snatching it up, he again assailed the loosened pinnacle,
which was of weight enough, if thrown down, not only to have
destroyed the remnant of the drawbridge, which sheltered the two
foremost assailants, but also to have sunk the rude float of
planks over which they had crossed. All saw the danger, and the
boldest, even the stout Friar himself, avoided setting foot on
the raft. Thrice did Locksley bend his shaft against De Bracy,
and thrice did his arrow bound back from the knight's armour of
"Curse on thy Spanish steel-coat!" said Locksley, "had English
smith forged it, these arrows had gone through, an as if it had
been silk or sendal." He then began to call out, "Comrades!
friends! noble Cedric! bear back, and let the ruin fall."
His warning voice was unheard, for the din which the knight
himself occasioned by his strokes upon the postern would have
drowned twenty war-trumpets. The faithful Gurth indeed sprung
forward on the planked bridge, to warn Cedric of his impending
fate, or to share it with him. But his warning would have come
too late; the massive pinnacle already tottered, and De Bracy,
who still heaved at his task, would have accomplished it, had not
the voice of the Templar sounded close in his ears:---
"All is lost, De Bracy, the castle burns."
"Thou art mad to say so!" replied the knight.
"It is all in a light flame on the western side. I have striven
in vain to extinguish it."
With the stern coolness which formed the basis of his character,
Brian de Bois-Guilbert communicated this hideous intelligence,
which was not so calmly received by his astonished comrade.
"Saints of Paradise!" said De Bracy; "what is to be done? I vow
to Saint Nicholas of Limoges a candlestick of pure gold---"
"Spare thy vow," said the Templar, "and mark me. Lead thy men
down, as if to a sally; throw the postern-gate open---There are
but two men who occupy the float, fling them into the moat, and
push across for the barbican. I will charge from the main gate,
and attack the barbican on the outside; and if we can regain that
post, be assured we shall defend ourselves until we are relieved,
or at least till they grant us fair quarter."
"It is well thought upon," said De Bracy; "I will play my part
---Templar, thou wilt not fail me?"
"Hand and glove, I will not!" said Bois-Guilbert. "But haste
thee, in the name of God!"
De Bracy hastily drew his men together, and rushed down to the
postern-gate, which he caused instantly to be thrown open. But
scarce was this done ere the portentous strength of the Black
Knight forced his way inward in despite of De Bracy and his
followers. Two of the foremost instantly fell, and the rest gave
way notwithstanding all their leader's efforts to stop them.
"Dogs!" said De Bracy, "will ye let TWO men win our only pass for
"He is the devil!" said a veteran man-at-arms, bearing back from
the blows of their sable antagonist.
"And if he be the devil," replied De Bracy, "would you fly from
him into the mouth of hell?---the castle burns behind us,
villains!---let despair give you courage, or let me forward! I
will cope with this champion myself"
And well and chivalrous did De Bracy that day maintain the fame
he had acquired in the civil wars of that dreadful period. The
vaulted passage to which the postern gave entrance, and in which
these two redoubted champions were now fighting hand to hand,
rung with the furious blows which they dealt each other, De Bracy
with his sword, the Black Knight with his ponderous axe. At
length the Norman received a blow, which, though its force was
partly parried by his shield, for otherwise never more would De
Bracy have again moved limb, descended yet with such violence on
his crest, that he measured his length on the paved floor.
"Yield thee, De Bracy," said the Black Champion, stooping over
him, and holding against the bars of his helmet the fatal poniard
with which the knights dispatched their enemies, (and which was
called the dagger of mercy,)---"yield thee, Maurice de Bracy,
rescue or no rescue, or thou art but a dead man."
"I will not yield," replied De Bracy faintly, "to an unknown
conqueror. Tell me thy name, or work thy pleasure on me---it
shall never be said that Maurice de Bracy was prisoner to a
The Black Knight whispered something into the ear of the
"I yield me to be true prisoner, rescue or no rescue," answered
the Norman, exchanging his tone of stern and determined obstinacy
for one of deep though sullen submission.
"Go to the barbican," said the victor, in a tone of authority,
"and there wait my further orders."
"Yet first, let me say," said De Bracy, "what it imports thee to
know. Wilfred of Ivanhoe is wounded and a prisoner, and will
perish in the burning castle without present help."
"Wilfred of Ivanhoe!" exclaimed the Black Knight---"prisoner, and
perish!---The life of every man in the castle shall answer it if
a hair of his head be singed---Show me his chamber!"
"Ascend yonder winding stair," said De Bracy; "it leads to his
apartment---Wilt thou not accept my guidance?" he added, in a
"No. To the barbican, and there wait my orders. I trust thee
not, De Bracy."
During this combat and the brief conversation which ensued,
Cedric, at the head of a body of men, among whom the Friar was
conspicuous, had pushed across the bridge as soon as they saw the
postern open, and drove back the dispirited and despairing
followers of De Bracy, of whom some asked quarter, some offered
vain resistance, and the greater part fled towards the
court-yard. De Bracy himself arose from the ground, and cast a
sorrowful glance after his conqueror. "He trusts me not!" he
repeated; "but have I deserved his trust?" He then lifted his
sword from the floor, took off his helmet in token of submission,
and, going to the barbican, gave up his sword to Locksley, whom
he met by the way.
As the fire augmented, symptoms of it became soon apparent in the
chamber, where Ivanhoe was watched and tended by the Jewess
Rebecca. He had been awakened from his brief slumber by the
noise of the battle; and his attendant, who had, at his anxious
desire, again placed herself at the window to watch and report to
him the fate of the attack, was for some time prevented from
observing either, by the increase of the smouldering and stifling
vapour. At length the volumes of smoke which rolled into the
apartment---the cries for water, which were heard even above the
din of the battle made them sensible of the progress of this new
"The castle burns," said Rebecca; "it burns!---What can we do to
"Fly, Rebecca, and save thine own life," said Ivanhoe, "for no
human aid can avail me."
"I will not fly," answered Rebecca; "we will be saved or perish
together---And yet, great God!---my father, my father---what will
be his fate!"
At this moment the door of the apartment flew open, and the
Templar presented himself,---a ghastly figure, for his gilded
armour was broken and bloody, and the plume was partly shorn
away, partly burnt from his casque. "I have found thee," said he
to Rebecca; "thou shalt prove I will keep my word to share weal
and woe with thee---There is but one path to safety, I have cut
my way through fifty dangers to point it to thee---up, and
instantly follow me!"*
* The author has some idea that this passage is imitated
from the appearance of Philidaspes, before the divine
Mandane, when the city of Babylon is on fire, and he
proposes to carry her from the flames. But the theft,
if there be one, would be rather too severely punished
by the penance of searching for the original passage
through the interminable volumes of the Grand Cyrus.
"Alone," answered Rebecca, "I will not follow thee. If thou wert
born of woman---if thou hast but a touch of human charity in thee
---if thy heart be not hard as thy breastplate---save my aged
father---save this wounded knight!"
"A knight," answered the Templar, with his characteristic
calmness, "a knight, Rebecca, must encounter his fate, whether it
meet him in the shape of sword or flame---and who recks how or
where a Jew meets with his?"
"Savage warrior," said Rebecca, "rather will I perish in the
flames than accept safety from thee!"
"Thou shalt not choose, Rebecca---once didst thou foil me, but
never mortal did so twice."
So saying, he seized on the terrified maiden, who filled the air
with her shrieks, and bore her out of the room in his arms in
spite of her cries, and without regarding the menaces and
defiance which Ivanhoe thundered against him. "Hound of the
Temple---stain to thine Order---set free the damsel! Traitor of
Bois-Guilbert, it is Ivanhoe commands thee!---Villain, I will
have thy heart's blood!"
"I had not found thee, Wilfred," said the Black Knight, who at
that instant entered the apartment, "but for thy shouts."
"If thou be'st true knight," said Wilfred, "think not of me
---pursue yon ravisher---save the Lady Rowena---look to the noble
"In their turn," answered he of the Fetterlock, "but thine is
And seizing upon Ivanhoe, he bore him off with as much ease as
the Templar had carried off Rebecca, rushed with him to the
postern, and having there delivered his burden to the care of two
yeomen, he again entered the castle to assist in the rescue of
the other prisoners.
One turret was now in bright flames, which flashed out furiously
from window and shot-hole. But in other parts, the great
thickness of the walls and the vaulted roofs of the apartments,
resisted the progress of the flames, and there the rage of man
still triumphed, as the scarce more dreadful element held mastery
elsewhere; for the besiegers pursued the defenders of the castle
from chamber to chamber, and satiated in their blood the
vengeance which had long animated them against the soldiers of
the tyrant Front-de-Boeuf. Most of the garrison resisted to the
uttermost---few of them asked quarter---none received it. The
air was filled with groans and clashing of arms---the floors were
slippery with the blood of despairing and expiring wretches.
Through this scene of confusion, Cedric rushed in quest of
Rowena, while the faithful Gurth, following him closely through
the "melee", neglected his own safety while he strove to avert
the blows that were aimed at his master. The noble Saxon was so
fortunate as to reach his ward's apartment just as she had
abandoned all hope of safety, and, with a crucifix clasped in
agony to her bosom, sat in expectation of instant death. He
committed her to the charge of Gurth, to be conducted in safety
to the barbican, the road to which was now cleared of the enemy,
and not yet interrupted by the flames. This accomplished, the
loyal Cedric hastened in quest of his friend Athelstane,
determined, at every risk to himself, to save that last scion of
Saxon royalty. But ere Cedric penetrated as far as the old hall
in which he had himself been a prisoner, the inventive genius of
Wamba had procured liberation for himself and his companion in
When the noise of the conflict announced that it was at the
hottest, the Jester began to shout, with the utmost power of his
lungs, "Saint George and the dragon!---Bonny Saint George for
merry England!---The castle is won!" And these sounds he rendered
yet more fearful, by banging against each other two or three
pieces of rusty armour which lay scattered around the hall.
A guard, which had been stationed in the outer, or anteroom, and
whose spirits were already in a state of alarm, took fright at
Wamba's clamour, and, leaving the door open behind them, ran to
tell the Templar that foemen had entered the old hall. Meantime
the prisoners found no difficulty in making their escape into the
anteroom, and from thence into the court of the castle, which was
now the last scene of contest. Here sat the fierce Templar,
mounted on horseback, surrounded by several of the garrison both
on horse and foot, who had united their strength to that of this
renowned leader, in order to secure the last chance of safety and
retreat which remained to them. The drawbridge had been lowered
by his orders, but the passage was beset; for the archers, who
had hitherto only annoyed the castle on that side by their
missiles, no sooner saw the flames breaking out, and the bridge
lowered, than they thronged to the entrance, as well to prevent
the escape of the garrison, as to secure their own share of booty
ere the castle should be burnt down. On the other hand, a party
of the besiegers who had entered by the postern were now issuing
out into the court-yard, and attacking with fury the remnant of
the defenders who were thus assaulted on both sides at once.
Animated, however, by despair, and supported by the example of
their indomitable leader, the remaining soldiers of the castle
fought with the utmost valour; and, being well-armed, succeeded
more than once in driving back the assailants, though much
inferior in numbers. Rebecca, placed on horseback before one of
the Templar's Saracen slaves, was in the midst of the little
party; and Bois-Guilbert, notwithstanding the confusion of the
bloody fray, showed every attention to her safety. Repeatedly he
was by her side, and, neglecting his own defence, held before her
the fence of his triangular steel-plated shield; and anon
starting from his position by her, he cried his war-cry, dashed
forward, struck to earth the most forward of the assailants, and
was on the same instant once more at her bridle rein.
Athelstane, who, as the reader knows, was slothful, but not
cowardly, beheld the female form whom the Templar protected thus
sedulously, and doubted not that it was Rowena whom the knight
was carrying off, in despite of all resistance which could be
"By the soul of Saint Edward," he said, "I will rescue her from
yonder over-proud knight, and he shall die by my hand!"
"Think what you do!" cried Wamba; "hasty hand catches frog for
fish---by my bauble, yonder is none of my Lady Rowena---see but
her long dark locks!---Nay, an ye will not know black from white,
ye may be leader, but I will be no follower---no bones of mine
shall be broken unless I know for whom.---And you without armour
too!---Bethink you, silk bonnet never kept out steel blade.
---Nay, then, if wilful will to water, wilful must drench.
---'Deus vobiscum', most doughty Athelstane!"---he concluded,
loosening the hold which he had hitherto kept upon the Saxon's
To snatch a mace from the pavement, on which it lay beside one
whose dying grasp had just relinquished it---to rush on the
Templar's band, and to strike in quick succession to the right
and left, levelling a warrior at each blow, was, for Athelstane's
great strength, now animated with unusual fury, but the work of a
single moment; he was soon within two yards of Bois-Guilbert,
whom he defied in his loudest tone.
"Turn, false-hearted Templar! let go her whom thou art unworthy
to touch---turn, limb of a hand of murdering and hypocritical
"Dog!" said the Templar, grinding his teeth, "I will teach thee
to blaspheme the holy Order of the Temple of Zion;" and with
these words, half-wheeling his steed, he made a demi-courbette
towards the Saxon, and rising in the stirrups, so as to take full
advantage of the descent of the horse, he discharged a fearful
blow upon the head of Athelstane.
Well said Wamba, that silken bonnet keeps out no steel blade. So
trenchant was the Templar's weapon, that it shore asunder, as it
had been a willow twig, the tough and plaited handle of the mace,
which the ill-fated Saxon reared to parry the blow, and,
descending on his head, levelled him with the earth.
"'Ha! Beau-seant!'" exclaimed Bois-Guilbert, "thus be it to the
maligners of the Temple-knights!" Taking advantage of the dismay
which was spread by the fall of Athelstane, and calling aloud,
"Those who would save themselves, follow me!" he pushed across
the drawbridge, dispersing the archers who would have intercepted
them. He was followed by his Saracens, and some five or six
men-at-arms, who had mounted their horses. The Templar's retreat
was rendered perilous by the numbers of arrows shot off at him
and his party; but this did not prevent him from galloping round
to the barbican, of which, according to his previous plan, he
supposed it possible De Bracy might have been in possession.
"De Bracy! De Bracy!" he shouted, "art thou there?"
"I am here," replied De Bracy, "but I am a prisoner."
"Can I rescue thee?" cried Bois-Guilbert.
"No," replied De Bracy; "I have rendered me, rescue or no rescue.
I will be true prisoner. Save thyself---there are hawks abroad
---put the seas betwixt you and England---I dare not say more."
"Well," answered the Templar, "an thou wilt tarry there, remember
I have redeemed word and glove. Be the hawks where they will,
methinks the walls of the Preceptory of Templestowe will be cover
sufficient, and thither will I, like heron to her haunt."
Having thus spoken, he galloped off with his followers.
Those of the castle who had not gotten to horse, still continued
to fight desperately with the besiegers, after the departure of
the Templar, but rather in despair of quarter than that they
entertained any hope of escape. The fire was spreading rapidly
through all parts of the castle, when Ulrica, who had first
kindled it, appeared on a turret, in the guise of one of the
ancient furies, yelling forth a war-song, such as was of yore
raised on the field of battle by the scalds of the yet heathen
Saxons. Her long dishevelled grey hair flew back from her
uncovered head; the inebriating delight of gratified vengeance
contended in her eyes with the fire of insanity; and she
brandished the distaff which she held in her hand, as if she had
been one of the Fatal Sisters, who spin and abridge the thread of
human life. Tradition has preserved some wild strophes of the
barbarous hymn which she chanted wildly amid that scene of fire
and of slaughter:---
Whet the bright steel,
Sons of the White Dragon!
Kindle the torch,
Daughter of Hengist!
The steel glimmers not for the carving of the banquet,
It is hard, broad, and sharply pointed;
The torch goeth not to the bridal chamber,
It steams and glitters blue with sulphur.
Whet the steel, the raven croaks!
Light the torch, Zernebock is yelling!
Whet the steel, sons of the Dragon!
Kindle the torch, daughter of Hengist!
The black cloud is low over the thane's castle
The eagle screams--he rides on its bosom.
Scream not, grey rider of the sable cloud,
Thy banquet is prepared!
The maidens of Valhalla look forth,
The race of Hengist will send them guests.
Shake your black tresses, maidens of Valhalla!
And strike your loud timbrels for joy!
Many a haughty step bends to your halls,
Many a helmed head.
Dark sits the evening upon the thanes castle,
The black clouds gather round;
Soon shall they be red as the blood of the valiant!
The destroyer of forests shall shake his red crest against
He, the bright consumer of palaces,
Broad waves he his blazing banner,
Red, wide and dusky,
Over the strife of the valiant:
His joy is in the clashing swords and broken bucklers;
He loves to lick the hissing blood as it bursts warm from the
All must perish!
The sword cleaveth the helmet;
The strong armour is pierced by the lance;
Fire devoureth the dwelling of princes,
Engines break down the fences of the battle.
All must perish!
The race of Hengist is gone---
The name of Horsa is no more!
Shrink not then from your doom, sons of the sword!
Let your blades drink blood like wine;
Feast ye in the banquet of slaughter,
By the light of the blazing halls!
Strong be your swords while your blood is warm,
And spare neither for pity nor fear,
For vengeance hath but an hour;
Strong hate itself shall expire
I also must perish! *
* Note G. Ulrica's Death Song
The towering flames had now surmounted every obstruction, and
rose to the evening skies one huge and burning beacon, seen far
and wide through the adjacent country. Tower after tower crashed
down, with blazing roof and rafter; and the combatants were
driven from the court-yard. The vanquished, of whom very few
remained, scattered and escaped into the neighbouring wood. The
victors, assembling in large bands, gazed with wonder, not
unmixed with fear, upon the flames, in which their own ranks and
arms glanced dusky red. The maniac figure of the Saxon Ulrica
was for a long time visible on the lofty stand she had chosen,
tossing her arms abroad with wild exultation, as if she reined
empress of the conflagration which she had raised. At length,
with a terrific crash, the whole turret gave way, and she
perished in the flames which had consumed her tyrant. An awful
pause of horror silenced each murmur of the armed spectators,
who, for the space of several minutes, stirred not a finger, save
to sign the cross. The voice of Locksley was then heard, "Shout,
yeomen!---the den of tyrants is no more! Let each bring his
spoil to our chosen place of rendezvous at the Trysting-tree in
the Harthill-walk; for there at break of day will we make just
partition among our own bands, together with our worthy allies in
this great deed of vengeance."
NOTE TO CHAPTER XXXI
Note G.---Ulrica's Death song.
It will readily occur to the antiquary, that these verses are
intended to imitate the antique poetry of the Scalds---the
minstrels of the old Scandinavians---the race, as the Laureate so
happily terms them,
"Stern to inflict, and stubborn to endure,
Who smiled in death."
The poetry of the Anglo-Saxons, after their civilisation and
conversion, was of a different and softer character; but in the
circumstances of Ulrica, she may be not unnaturally supposed to
return to the wild strains which animated her forefathers during
the time of Paganism and untamed ferocity.