By Rhinefield and by Osmondsleigh,

Through glade and furze-brake fast drove he,
Until he heard the roaring sea;

Quod he, 'Those gay waves they call me.'
By Mary's grace a seely boat

On Christchurch bar did lie afloat;
He gave the shipmen mark and groat,
To ferry him over to Normandie,
And there he fell to sanctuarie;
God send his soul all bliss to see.
And fend our princes every one,
From foul mishap and trahison;
But kings that harrow Christian men
Shall England never bide again.





58. fell to sanctuarie. Took refuge at the altar of the Church, from which his enemies might not remove him, except under penalty of excommunication.



Henry I had taken his only son William over to Normandy to be recognized as his successor to the Dukedom. During the return voyage to England the ship in which William was sailing struck on a rock at the mouth of the harbour and sank. The story that follows is supposed to be told by the only survivor.

BY none but me can the tale be told,
The butcher of Rouen, poor Berold.

(Lands are swayed by a King on a throne.) 'Twas a royal train put forth to sea,

Yet the tale can be told by none but me. (The sea hath no King but God alone.)

54. seely] timely.


King Henry held it as life's whole gain
That after his death his son should reign.

And next with his son he sailed to France
To claim the Norman allegiance.


'Twas sworn and sealed, and the day had come When the King and the Prince might journey home.

The King set sail with the eve's south wind,
And soon he left that coast behind.

The Prince and all his, a princely show,
Remained in the good White Ship to go.

With noble knights and with ladies fair,
With courtiers and sailors gathered there,
Three hundred living souls we were:

And I Berold was the meanest hind
In all that train to the Prince assign'd.

And now he cried: 'Bring wine from below;
Let the sailors revel ere yet they row:



'Our speed shall o'ertake my father's flight Though we sail from the harbour at midnight.' 25

The rowers made good cheer without check;
The lords and ladies obeyed his beck;

The night was light, and they danced on the deck.

Swifter and swifter the White Ship sped
Till she flew as the spirit flies from the dead: 30

As white as a lily glimmered she

Like a ship's fair ghost upon the sea.

And the Prince cried, 'Friends, 'tis the hour to sing! Is a songbird's course so swift on the wing?'

And under the winter stars' still throng,


From brown throats, white throats, merry and strong,
The knights and the ladies raised a song.

A song,-nay, a shriek that rent the sky,
That leaped o'er the deep!--the grievous cry
Of three hundred living that now must die.

An instant shriek that sprang to the shock
As the ship's keel felt the sunken rock.

'Tis said that afar-a shrill strange sigh--
The King's ship heard it and knew not why.

Pale Fitz-Stephen stood by the helm



'Mid all those folk that the waves must whelm.

A great King's heir for the waves to whelm,
And a helpless pilot pale at the helm!

The ship was eager and sucked athirst,
By the stealthy stab of the sharp reef pierc'd.


A moment the pilot's senses spin,-
The next he snatched the Prince 'mid the din,
Cut the boat loose, and the youth leaped in.

A few friends leaped with him, standing near,
'Row! the sea's smooth and the night is clear!' 55

'What! none to be saved but these and I?'
'Row, row as you'd live! All here must die!'

Out of the churn of the choking ship,
Which the gulf grapples and the waves strip,
They struck with the strained oars' flash and dip. 60

'Twas then o'er the splitting bulwarks' brim
The Prince's sister screamed to him.

He gazed aloft, still rowing apace,

And through the whirled surf he knew her face.

To the toppling decks clave one and all
As a fly cleaves to a chamber-wall.

I Berold was clinging anear;

I prayed for myself and quaked with fear,
But I saw his eyes as he looked at her.

He knew her face and he heard her cry,
And he said, 'Put back! she must not die!'

And back with the current's force they reel
Like a leaf that's drawn to a water-wheel.

'Neath the ship's travail they scarce might float,
But he rose and stood in the rocking boat.

Low the poor ship leaned on the tide:
O'er the naked keel as she best might slide,
The sister toiled to the brother's side.

He reached an oar to her from below,
And stiffened his arms to clutch her so.

But now from the ship some spied the boat,
And Saved!' was the cry from many a throat.

And down to the boat they leaped and fell:
It turned as a bucket turns in a well,





And nothing was there but the surge and swell. 85

The Prince that was and the King to come,
There in an instant gone to his doom,

Despite of all England's bended knee
And maugre the Norman fealty!

89. maugre] despite.

He was a Prince of lust and pride;
He showed no grace till the hour he died.

When he should be King, he oft would vow,
He'd yoke the peasant to his own plough.
O'er him the ships score their furrows now.

God only knows where his soul did wake,
But I saw him die for his sister's sake.

By none but me can the tale be told,
The butcher of Rouen, poor Berold.

(Lands are swayed by a King on a throne.)
'Twas a royal train put forth to sea,
Yet the tale can be told by none but me,
(The sea hath no King but God alone.)







For an account at first hand of the evil doings of the Norman barons during Stephen's reign see Gardiner's Student's History of England, p. 134 ('Anarchy ').

IN his chamber, weak and dying,
Was the Norman baron lying;
Loud, without, the tempest thundered,
And the castle-turret shook.

In this fight was Death the gainer,
Spite of vassal and retainer,

And the lands his sires had plundered,
Written in the Doomsday Book.


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