Charles de Coster.
The Legend of Ulenspiegel. Volume 1 of 2
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Running thus at full speed, followed by Lamme, he found in the Eikenstraat a savage lampoon on Brederode. He went and took it to him directly.
“Monseigneur,” he said, “I am that good Fleming and that king’s spy whose ears you dressed down so well, and to whom you gave such good mulled wine to drink. He brings you a pretty little pamphlet in which among other things you are accused of calling yourself Count of Holland, like the king. It is fresh and hot from the press of Jan a Calumnia, living near the Vagabonds’ Quay, in the blind alley of the Thieves of Honour.”
Brederode answered, smiling:
“I shall have you flogged for two hours if you do not tell me the scribe’s real name.”
“Monseigneur,” replied Ulenspiegel, “have me flogged for two years if you will, but you will not be able to make my back tell you what my mouth does not know.”
And he went away, not without getting a florin for his trouble.
Since June, the month of roses, the preachings had begun in the country of Flanders.
And the apostles of the primitive Christian Church preached everywhere, in every place, in fields and in gardens, on the hillocks which in times of flood were used to keep cattle on, upon rivers, in boats.
On land, they entrenched themselves as in a camp, surrounding themselves with their wains. Upon the rivers and in harbours, boats filled with armed men kept guard round about them.
And thus the word of freedom was heard on every side on the soil of our fathers.
Ulenspiegel and Lamme being at Bruges, with their cart, which they left in a yard close by, went into the church of Saint Sauveur, instead of going to the tavern, for there was in their pouches no more the merry clink of coins.
Father Cornelis Adriensen, a minor friar, dirty, brazen, furious, and a bellowing preacher, was on that day occupying the pulpit of truth.
Beautiful young devout women were thronging all around.
Father Cornelis was discoursing of the Passion. When he came to the passage in the Holy Gospel where the Jews cried to Pilate, speaking of our Lord Jesus, “Crucify him, crucify him, for we have our law, and by that law he must die,” Broer Cornelis exclaimed:
“Ye have just heard it, good people, if Our Lord Jesus Christ endured a dreadful and a shameful death, it is because there have at all times been laws to punish heretics. He was justly condemned, because he had disobeyed those laws. And to-day they would fain regard as naught the edicts and proclamations. Ah! Jesus! What curse wouldst thou set upon these lands. Honoured Mother of God, if the Emperor Charles were still alive, and could he see the scandal of these confederate nobles who have dared to present to the Lady Governor a request against the Inquisition and against the proclamations made for an aim so good, which are so ripely thought out, and promulgated after so long and so wise reflection and deliberation, to destroy all sects and heresies! And they would fain reduce them to nothing, though they are more necessary than bread and than cheese! In what foul, loathsome, abominable gulf are we to be made to fall to-day? Luther, that vile Luther, that mad ox, triumphs in Saxony, in Brunswick, in Lunebourg, in Mecklenburg; Brentius, that dung Brentius who lived in Germany upon acorns the pigs refused, Brentius triumphs in W?rttemberg; Servetus the Lunatic, who hath a quarter of the moon in his head, the Trinitarian Servetus, reigns in Pomerania, in Denmark and in Sweden, and there he dares to blaspheme the holy, glorious, and mighty Trinity.Aye. But I am informed that he hath been burned alive by Calvin, who was never right or good save in that; aye, by the stinking Calvin who smells of musty sourness; aye, with his long face like a leather bottle; a face of cheese, with his big teeth like a gardener’s shovel. Aye, these wolves eat one another; aye, the ox Luther, the mad ox, roused the princes of Germany to arms against the Anabaptist M?nzer, who was a good man, they say, and lived according to the Gospel. And through all Germany the bellowings of this ox have been heard, aye!
“Aye, and what do we see in Flanders, Gueldre, Frisia, Holland, Zealand? Adamites running naked through the streets; yea, good people, naked in the streets, showing their lean flesh without shame to the passers-by. There was but one of them, say you: aye – let it pass – one is as good as a hundred, a hundred is even as one. And he was burned, say you, and he was burned alive, at the request of the Calvinists and Lutherans. These wolves eat one another, I say unto you!
“Aye, and what do we see in Flanders, Gueldre, Frisia, Holland, Zealand? Free thinkers teaching that all servitude is contrary to the word of God. They lie, the stinking heretics; we must submit to the Holy Mother Church of Rome. And there, in that accursed city of Antwerp, the rendezvous and meeting-ground of all the heretic dogs in the world, they have dared to preach that we prepare and bake the host with dog’s grease. Another saith, ’tis that beggar upon the chamber pot at the corner of the street, ‘There is no God, nor life eternal, nor resurrection of the body, nor everlasting damnation.’ ‘We can,’ saith another yonder, in a whining voice, ‘baptise without salt, or lard, or spittle, without exorcism and without candle.’ ‘There is no purgatory,’ says another. There is no purgatory, good people! Ah! it were better for you to have committed sin with your mothers, your sisters, and your daughters, than to doubt purgatory.
“Aye, and they turn up their nose at the Inquisitor, that holy man, aye. They came to Belem, near this place, as many as four thousand Calvinists, with weaponed men, banners and drums. Aye. And you can smell from here the smoke of their cooking fires. They have taken the Church of Saint Catholyne to dishonour it, profane it, desecrate it by their damnable preachifying.
“What is this impious and scandalous tolerance? By the thousand devils of hell, ye supine, faint-hearted Catholics, why do not ye also take weapons into your hands? Ye have, even as these damned Calvinists, cuirasses, lances, halberds, swords, daggers, arbalests, knives, cudgels, pikes, the town falconets and culverins.
“They are peaceful folk, say you; they desire in all freedom and tranquillity to hear the word of God. That is all one to me. Go forth from Bruges! hunt me, slay me, blow me up all these Calvinists that are without the pale of the Church. Ye are not yet started! Fie on you! Ye are hens trembling with fear on your dunghill. I see the moment when these damned Calvinists will drum on your wives’ and daughters’ bellies, and you will let them, men of tow and putty. Go not over yonder, go not … ye will get your stockings wet in the battle. Fie upon you, men of Bruges! fie upon you, Catholics! That is well done and like true Catholics, O cowardly poltroons! Shame upon you, ducks and drakes, geese and turkeys that you are!
“Are not they goodly preachers, that you should go in crowds to hearken to the lies they belch forth, that the young girls should go by night to their sermons, aye, and that in nine months the town should be full of little beggar-boys and beggar-girls? There were four of them there, four scandalous vagabonds, that preached in the cemetery of the church. The first of these vagabonds, livid and lean, the ugly loose-belly, had a dirty hat upon his head. Thanks to it his ears were not to be seen. Which of you hath seen the ears of a preacher? He had no shirt, for his bare arms came linenless out through his doublet. I saw it well, though he tries to cover himself up with a dirty little cloak, and I saw, too, all right in his black canvas breeches, full of open work like the spire of Notre Dame, the swinging of his bells and clapper. The other vagabond preached in a doublet, and no shoes. Nobody saw his ears. And he had to stop short in his preachifying, and the boys and girls began to hoot him, crying: ‘Yah! Yah! he doesn’t know his lesson!’ The third of these scandalous vagabonds had on his head a dirty ugly little hat, with a little feather sticking out of the top. And his ears were not to be seen, either. The fourth of the rascals, Hermanus, better arrayed than the others, must have been branded on the shoulder twice by the executioner, aye, verily.
“They all wear under their headgear greasy silk caps that hide their ears. Did you ever see the ears of a preacher? Which of these rogues ever dared to show his ears? His ears! Ah! yes, show his ears; they have all been cut off. Aye, the executioner has cut the ears off every one of them.
“And yet it was round about these scandalous rogues, these cut purses, these cobblers that have run away from their stools, these ragamuffin preachers, that all the whole populace went crying and shouting: ‘Long live the Beggars!’ as if they had all been mad, drunk, or fools.
“Ah, it only remains for us poor Roman Catholics to leave the Low Countries, since there they allow this bawling cry: ‘Long live the Beggars! Long live the Beggars!’ What a millstone of a curse hath therefore fallen upon this bewitched and foolish folk, ah! Jesus! Everywhere, rich and poor, noble and base, young and old, men and women, all cry out: ‘Long live the Beggars!’
“And what are all these lords, these scald leather seats that have come to us from Germany? All their having is gone on harlots, or gaming, lechery, lewdness, long-drawn debauchery, rooted villainies, abominations of dice and ostentation of outward array. They have not even a rusty nail to scratch themselves with where they itch. And now they must needs have the goods and wealth of churches and convents.
“And there at their banquet in the house of that rogue De Culembourg, with that other rogue De Brederode, they drank in wooden bowls, for scorn of Messire de Berlaymont and Madame the Lady Governor. Aye, and they shouted ‘Long live the Beggars!’ Ah! if I had been the good God (with all respect), I would have caused their drink, whether it was beer or wine, to be changed into a foul and loathy dishwater, aye, into foul, abominable, stinking suds, in which they had washed their shirts and foul sheets.
“Aye, bawl, donkeys that you are, bawl ‘Long live the Beggars!’ Aye! and I am a prophet. And all the curses, miseries, fevers, plagues, conflagrations, ruins, desolations, cankers, English sweating sickness and black plagues will fall upon the Low Countries. Aye, thus will God be revenged upon your filthy braying of ‘Long live the Beggars!’ And there will not be left one stone of your houses upon another, and not a morsel of bone in your damned legs that ran to this accursed Calvinistry and preachifying. And so, so, so, so, so be it. Amen!”
“Let us go, my son,” said Ulenspiegel to Lamme.
“In a moment,” said Lamme.
And he looked and searched among the beautiful young devotees there present at the sermon, but he did not discover his wife.
Ulenspiegel and Lamme came to the place called Minne-Water, Love-Water; but the great doctors and Wysneusen Pedants say it is Minre-Water, Minim-Water. Ulenspiegel and Lamme sat down upon the brink, seeing pass by beneath the trees all leafy down to their very heads, like a low roof, men, women, girls, and boys, hand in hand, garlanded with flowers, walking hip to hip, looking tenderly in one another’s eyes, without seeing anything in this world but themselves.
Ulenspiegel, thinking of Nele, gazed at them. In his melancholy, he said:
“Let us go drink.”
But Lamme, not hearkening Ulenspiegel, also looked upon the pairs of lovers:
“In the old days we, too, used to pass, my wife and I, loving each other under the eyes of those who like you and me, on the edge of ditches, were stretched out solitary and without a woman.”
“Come and drink,” said Ulenspiegel, “we shall find the Seven at the bottom of a quart.”
“A drinker’s word,” answered Lamme: “you know the Seven are giants who could not stand upright under the big dome of the church of Saint Sauveur.”
Ulenspiegel, thinking wretchedly of Nele, and also that in some hostelry he might perchance find a good bed, good supper, a comely hostess, said yet again:
“Let us go and drink!”
But Lamme paid no heed, and said, looking at the tower of Notre Dame:
“Madame Holy Mary, patroness of lawful loves, grant me to see again her white bosom, that soft pillow.”
“Come and drink,” said Ulenspiegel, “you shall find her, displaying it to the drinkers, in a tavern.”
“Dost thou dare think so ill of her?” said Lamme.
“Let us go and drink,” said Ulenspiegel, “she is baesine somewhere, without a doubt.”
“Thirst talk,” said Lamme.
Ulenspiegel went on:
“Perchance keepeth she in reserve for poor travellers a dish of goodly stewed beef, whose spices perfume the air, not too rich, tender, succulent as rose leaves, and swimming like Shrove Tuesday fishes amid cloves, nutmeg, cocks’ combs, sweetbreads, and other celestial dainties.”
“Cruel!” said Lamme, “you mean to kill me for sure. Do you not know that for two days we have lived on nothing but dry bread and small beer?”
“Hunger talk,” answered Ulenspiegel. “You are weeping with appetite; come and eat and drink. I have here a fine half florin that will defray the cost of our feast.”
Lamme laughed. They went to find their cart and thus went about the town, seeking to know which was the best inn. But seeing several crabbed countenances on the baes and no wise pleasing on the baesines, they passed on, thinking that a sour face is a poor sign for a hospitable kitchen.
They arrived at the Saturday Market and went into the hostelry called de Blauwe-Lanteern, the Blue-Lantern. Here there was a baes of pleasant aspect.
They put up their cart and had the ass lodged in the stable, in company with a peck of oats. They ordered supper to be served, ate their fill, slept well, and rose to eat again. Lamme, bursting with comfort, said:
“I hear heavenly music in my stomach.”
When the time came to pay, the baes came to Lamme and said to him:
“Ten patards, if you please.”
“He has them,” said Lamme, pointing to Ulenspiegel who answered:
“I have not.”
“And the half florin?” said Lamme.
“I have not got it,” said Ulenspiegel.
“This is all very well,” said the baes: “I shall take the doublet and the shirt off both of you.”
Suddenly Lamme, plucking up bottle courage:
“And if I want to eat and drink, I,” exclaimed he, “to eat and drink, aye, drink for twenty-seven florins worth or more, I will do it. Dost thou think there is not a sou’s value in this belly of mine? Good God! it was never fed till now but on ortolans. Never didst thou carry the like under thy greasy girdle. For like an ill fellow thou hast thy tallow on the collar of thy doublet, and not like me, three inches of dainty fat on the paunch!”
The baes had fallen into an ecstasy of rage. A stammerer by nature, he wanted to speak quickly; the more he hurried, the more he sneezed and sputtered like a dog coming out of the water. Ulenspiegel threw little balls of bread at his nose. And Lamme, becoming hotter, went on:
“Aye, I have wherewith to pay for your three scraggy hens, your four mangy pullets, and that big idiot of a peacock dragging his dirty tail in your yard. And if your skin was not drier than an old cock’s, if your bones were not crumbling to dust in your breast, I would have still enough to eat you, yourself, your snot of a man, your one-eyed maid and your cook, who if he had itch would have arms too short to scratch himself.
“Do you see,” he went on, “do you see this fine bird that, for half a florin, wants to seize our doublets and our shirts? Tell me what your wardrobe is worth, tattered impertinence, and I will give you three liards for it.”
But the baes, becoming angrier and angrier, puffed and blew the more.
And Ulenspiegel flung balls in his face.
Lamme, like a roaring lion, said:
“How much do you think, scrawny face, a fine ass is worth, with a fine muzzle, long ears, wide chested, with legs of iron? Eighteen florins at the least, is not that so, miserable baes? How many old nails have you in your coffers to pay for so fine a beast?”
The baes sputtered more and more, but dared not budge.
“How much do you think a fine cart is worth, all made of ash painted red, and equipped all over with Courtrai canvas against the sun and the showers? Twenty-four florins at least, hey? And how much is twenty-four florins and eighteen florins? Answer that, leper devoid of arithmetic. And as it is a market day, and as there are farming folk in your miserable hostelry, I am going to sell cart and donkey to them at once.”
And so it was done, for all knew Lamme. And in fact he got for his ass and his cart forty-four florins and ten patards. Then, clinking the gold under the nose of the baes, he said to him:
“Dost thou smell in that the savour of feasting to come?”
“Aye,” replied the host.
And he said under his breath:
“When you are selling your skin, I will buy a liard’s worth to make a charm against prodigality with it.”
In the meantime, a pretty, taking woman who was in the dark of the yard had come again and again to look at Lamme through the window, and drew back every time he might have caught sight of her pretty face.
That night, on the staircase, as he was going up without a light, tottering a little from the wine he had drunk, he felt a woman who flung her arms about him, kissed him on the cheek, the mouth, even on the nose, gluttonously, and wetting his face with amorous tears, then left him.
Lamme, all sleepy from his drink, went to bed, fell asleep, and next day went off to Ghent with Ulenspiegel.
There he sought for his wife in all the kaberdoesjen, musicos, tafelhooren, and taverns. At night, he rejoined Ulenspiegel in den zingende Zwaan, at the Singing Swan. Ulenspiegel went wherever he could, spreading alarm and rousing the people against the butchers of the land of their fathers.
Finding himself in the Friday Market, near the Dulle-Griet, the Great Cannon, Ulenspiegel lay down flat on his face on the pavement.
A coalman came and said to him:
“What are you doing there?”
“I am damping my nose to know which way the wind blows,” replied Ulenspiegel.
A carpenter came along.
“Do you take the pavement,” said he, “for a mattress?”
“There are some,” replied Ulenspiegel, “who will soon take it for a quilt.”
A monk stopped.
“What is this moon calf doing there?” he asked.
“He is on his face begging for your blessing, Father,” replied Ulenspiegel.
The monk having bestowed it, went on his way.
Ulenspiegel then lay with his ear against the ground. A peasant came by.
“Dost thou hear any noise from below?” he said.
“Aye,” replied Ulenspiegel, “I hear the wood growing, the wood whose faggots will serve to burn poor heretics.”
“Dost thou hear naught else?” said a constable of the commune to him.
“I hear,” said Ulenspiegel, “the gendarmerie coming from Spain; if thou hast aught to keep, bury it, for soon the towns will be safe no longer by reason of robbers.”
“He is mad,” said the constable.
“He is mad,” repeated the townsfolk.
Meanwhile, Lamme could not eat, thinking of the sweet vision of the stairs at the Blauwe-Lanteern. His heart turning to Bruges, he was led perforce by Ulenspiegel to Antwerp, where he continued his sorrowful searchings.
Ulenspiegel being in the taverns, in the midst of good Flemings of the reformed faith, or even Catholics that were lovers of liberty, would say to them about the proclamations: “They bring us the Inquisition under pretext of purging us from heresy, but it is meant for our purses, this rhubarb. We have no love to be physicked save at our own will and as we choose; we shall be wroth, we shall rebel and take arms in our hands. The king knew this well beforehand. Seeing that we have no mind to rhubarb, he will advance the syringes, to wit the great guns and the little guns, serpents, falconets, and mortars with their big mouths. A kingly clyster! There will not be left a single rich Fleming in all Flanders physicked in this fashion. Happy is our land to have so royal a physician.”
But the townsfolk could only laugh.
Ulenspiegel would say: “Laugh to-day, but flee or arm on that day when something is broken at Notre Dame.”
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