THE NIGHTINGALE, OR THE TRANSFORMED DAMSEL
I know where stands a Castellaye, Its turrets are so fairly gilt;With silver are its gates inlaid, Its walls of marble stone are built.
Within it stands a linden tree, With lovely leaves its boughs are hung,Therein doth dwell a nightingale, And sweetly moves that bird its tongue.
A gallant knight came riding by, He heard its dulcet ditty ring;And sorely, sorely, wondered he At midnight hour that it should sing.
“And hear, thou little Nightingale, If thou to me wilt sing a lay,Thy feathers I’ll with gold bedeck, Thy neck with costly pearls array.”
“With golden feathers others lure, Such gifts for me have value slight;I am a strange and lonely bird, But little known to mortal wight.”
“And thou, a strange wild bird thou be, Whom other mortals little know;Yet hunger pinches thee, and cold, When falls the cruel winter snow.”
“I laugh at hunger, laugh at snow, Which falls so wide on hill and lea;But I am vexed by secret care, I know not either joy or glee.
“Betwixt the hills and valleys deep Away the rapid rivers flow;But ah! remembrance of true love From out the mind will never go.
“O I had once a handsome love, A famous knight of valour he;But ah! my step-dame all o’erturn’d, She vowed our marriage ne’er should be.
“She changed me to a Nightingale, Bade me around the world to fly;My Brother she changed to a wolf so gray, Bade him into the forest hie.
“She told him, as the wood he sought, That he should win his shape no more,’Till he had drunk her heart’s blood out, And that befell when years were o’er.
“It happened on a summer tide, Amidst the wood she wandered gay,My brother saw and watched her close, From ’neath the bushes where he lay.
“He seized her quickly by the foot, All with his laidly wolfish claw;Tore out her heart, and drank her blood, And thus released himself he saw.
“Yet I am still a little bird, And o’er the verdant meads I fly;So sorrowful I pass my life, But mostly ’neath the winter’s sky.
“But God be thanked, he me has waked, And speech from him my tongue has won;For fifteen years I have not spoke As I with thee, Sir Knight, have done.
“But ever with a mournful voice, Have sung the green wood bough upon;And had no better dwelling place Than gloomy forests, sad and lone.”
“Now hear, thou little Nightingale, This simple thing would I propose,In winter sit within my bower, And hie thee forth when summer blows.”
“O many thanks, thou handsome knight Thy offer would I accept full fane;But ah, my step-dame that forbade Whilst still in feather I remain.”
The Nightingale sat musing deep, Unto the knight she paid no heed,Until he seized her by the foot, For God I ween had so decreed.
He carried her to his chamber in, The doors and windows fast he made;Then changed she to the strangest beasts That ever mortal eye survey’d.
A lion now, and now a bear, And now a coil of hissing snakes;At last a Dragon she became, And furious she the knight attacks.
He cut her with a little knife, So that her blood did stain the floor;Then straight before his eye there stood A Damsel bright as any flower.
“Now, Damsel fair, I’ve rescued thee From thraldom drear and secret care;Now tell me of thy ancestry, Thy parents and thy race declare.”
“My father he was England’s King, My mother was his lovely Queen;My brother once a grey wolf was, And trotted o’er the wold so green.”
“If England’s King thy father was, And thy dear mother England’s Queen,Thou art my sister’s daughter then, Who long a Nightingale has been.”
O there was joy throughout the land, And all the court was filled with glee;The Knight has caught the Nightingale, That dwelt within the linden tree....