IF ever you've been to Fargeau,
Where from mineral springs they will pump any
Kind of water that doctors know,
With all the sparkle of Veuve Clicquot,
But the taste of the sulphurous worlds below,
Where springs and village are joined into
A kind of Wells, Fargo, and Company,
For the sake of extorting surplus cash
From the plethoric pockets of tourists rash,
Who visit the springs of Fargeau, -
If, as I've said, you've ever been
You'll very probably have seen
Rising from the meadows green
A hill they call St. Victorine,
And on this hill a castle stands, -
A castle stands, or, rather, stood;
For now the work of many hands
And many years, in solitude,
Looks o'er the lands where once its lords held sway, - Sad, gloomy relic of a long-gone day.
There is a sound of revelry,
Wassail and mirth in the oaken hall;
There is boisterous fun and riotous glee,
Yet the minstrel brings,
As he sweetly sings,
Joy or pain, as he lists, to all.
But Rudolph, lord of the manor fair,
Lord of the castle, stout and strong,
Looked in sooth as cross as a bear,
And did not wear
A remarkable air
Of calm content as he viewed the throng.
The vassals marked his despondent mien,
And, whispering to each other, said, -
"What a pity it was that, though he'd been
So brave a knight,
With fame so bright,
Yet claret would always go to his head."
The revel was high, the revel was long, -
For wine like water was flowing, -
But at last all heads, however strong,
And quitting the meal did
Each one remark it was time to be going.
An hour after and silence reigned, -
Silence of death in the oaken hall, -
And the stars grew dim and the fair moon waned;
The stars grew dim,
And the castle grim
Was shrouded within a cloudy pall.
Sleep has come with its soothing balm,
The toil and trouble of day are o'er;
They all repose in slumber calm;
But I'm sorry to add,
For the climax is bad,
That they very perceptibly snore.
Rudolph alone of all the crew
Tosses painfully, restlessly,
And his ruddy face is of ashen hue,
For the lights burn blue, -
And I fancy that you
Would have been as thoroughly scared as he,
Especially if, as the clock struck one,
By the aid of a lightning-flash blood-red,
You had seen four phantoms of grizzly bone,
In place of a post,
At each corner a ghost
Grinning and gibbering round your bed.
"Ah, wherefore come ye, terrible shapes!
My sins are many, I humbly own;
But amid my arsons and murders and rapes,
I never have done a
Ghost harm, 'pon my honor,
And I think that you might let a fellow alone.
"If so be that you 'll disappear
And take your terrible forms away,
A wondrous beautiful cloister I 'll rear;
From my plundered store,
One half to the holy Church I 'll pay."
The sole reply to this generous offer
Was: "Give us nor gold nor precious stones;
Our vengeance cannot be bribed, thou scoffer.
Thou canst return to us our bones.
"Dost thou remember how, years ago,
Thou crossedst the Rhine one wintry night,
When the fierce wind howled and waves dashed high, -
When waves dashed high
Toward the lowering sky,
To meet a rival in mortal fight?
"Dost thou remember that fatal fray,
How, at the last, Count Robert fell
Struck to the heart, and how away
Toward the skiff
Thou fled'st, as if
Already chased by fiends from hell?
"Dost thou remember, recreant knight,
What murmurs rose 'mid thine oarsmen bold
At viewing the triumph of wrong o'er right?
For a treacherous blow
Despatched thy foe,
And blood-stains cannot be hid with gold.
"Dost thou remember how thou didst spurn
Pity or shame, and with reeking blade
Pierced the bosoms of each in turn;
Spilt the gore
Of the fated four,
And over the boatside cast the dead?
"Count Rudolph, thine hand hath given
More than death to blameless men;
Innocent souls are barred from heaven;
He cannot come
To that blessed home
Who dies unabsolved in mortal sin.
"Count Rudolph, awake, asleep,
All unheeded by other eye,
Ever a constant vigil we 'll keep;
Haunt the Murderer till he die.
"Then when his wretched life is o'er,
While still is sounding the passing bell,
Round thee yet shall phantoms four,
Rigidly grasping thee,
Cruelly clasping thee,
Bear thee away to the lowest hell."
The shapes are gone, and in dazed surprise
The knight reflects on what they have said;
He pinches himself and rubs his eyes,
And examines the posts,
Which had seemed to him ghosts,
And, striking a light, looks under the bed.
A curious look is on his face;
He writhes as if in inward pain;
And swears an oath by our Lady's grace,
That in order to spare
Such another nightmare,
He 'll never eat lobster for supper again.