The Poetical Works of Thomas Hood, by Thomas Hood

The Forge.

A Romance of the Iron Age.

“Who’s here, beside foul weather?”— KING LEAR.

“Mine enemy’s dog, though he had bit me,

Should have stood that night against my fire”

— CORDELIA

Part 1

Like a dead man gone to his shroud,

The sun has sunk in a copper cloud,

And the wind is rising squally and loud

With many a stormy token —

Playing a wild funereal air

Through the branches bleak, bereaved, and bare,

To the dead leaves dancing here and there —

In short, if the truth were spoken,

It’s an ugly night for anywhere,

But an awful one for the Brocken!

For oh! to stop

On that mountain top,

After the dews of evening drop,

Is always a dreary frolic —

Then what must it be when nature groans,

And the very mountain murmurs and moans

As if it writhed with the cholic —

With other strange supernatural tones,

From wood, and water, and echoing stones,

Not to forget unburied bones —

In a region so diabolic!

A place where he whom we call Old Scratch,

By help of his Witches — a precious batch —

Gives midnight concerts and sermons,

In a Pulpit and Orchestra built to match,

A plot right worthy of him to hatch,

And well adapted, he knows, to catch

The musical, mystical Germans!

However it’s quite

As wild a night

As ever was known on that sinister height

Since the Demon-Dance was morriced —

The earth is dark, and the sky is scowling,

And the blast through the pines is howling and growling,

As if a thousand wolves were prowling

About in the old BLACK FOREST!

Madly, sadly, the Tempest raves

Through the narrow gullies and hollow caves,

And bursts on the rocks in windy waves,

Like the billows that roar

On a gusty shore

Mourning over the mariners’ graves —

Nay, more like a frantic lamentation

From a howling set

Of demons met

To wake a dead relation.

Badly, madly, the vapors fly

Over the dark distracted sky,

At a pace that no pen can paint!

Black and vague like the shadows of dreams,

Scudding over the moon that seems,

Shorn of half her usual beams,

As pale as if she would faint!

The lightning flashes,

The thunder crashes,

The trees encounter with horrible clashes,

While rolling up from marsh and bog,

Rank and rich,

As from Stygian ditch,

Rises a foul sulphureous fog,

Hinting that Satan himself is agog —

But leaving at once this heroical pitch,

The night is a very bad night in which

You wouldn’t turn out a dog.

Yet ONE there is abroad in the storm,

And whenever by chance

The moon gets a glance,

She spies the Traveller’s lonely form,

Walking, leaping, striding along,

As none can do but the super-strong;

And flapping his arms to keep him warm,

For the breeze from the North is a regular starver,

And to tell the truth,

More keen, in sooth,

And cutting than any German carver!

However, no time it is to lag,

And on he scrambles from crag to crag,

Like one determined never to flag —

Now weathers a block

Of jutting rock,

With hardly room for a toe to wag;

But holding on by a timber snag,

That looks like the arm of a friendly hag;

Then stooping under a drooping bough,

Or leaping over some horrid chasm,

Enough to give any heart a spasm!

And sinking down a precipice now,

Keeping his feet the Deuce knows how,

In spots whence all creatures would keep aloof,

Except the Goat, with his cloven hoof,

Who clings to the shallowest ledge as if

He grew like the weed on the face of the cliff!

So down, still down, the Traveller goes,

Safe as the Chamois amid his snows,

Though fiercer than ever the hurricane blows,

And round him eddy, with whirl and whizz,

Tornadoes of hail, and sleet, and rain,

Enough to bewilder a weaker brain,

Or blanch any other visage than his,

Which spite of lightning, thunder and hail,

The blinding sleet and the freezing gale,

And the horrid abyss,

If his foot should miss,

Instead of tending at all to pale,

Like cheeks that feel the chill of affright —

Remains the very reverse of white!

His heart is granite — his iron nerve

Feels no convulsive twitches;

And as to his foot, it does not swerve,

Tho’ the Screech-Owls are flitting about him that serve

For parrots to Brocken Witches!

Nay, full in his very path he spies

The gleam of the Were Wolf’s horrid eyes;

But if his members quiver —

It is not for that— no, it is not for that

Nor rat,

Nor cat,

As black as your hat,

Nor the snake that hiss’d, nor the toad that spat,

Nor glimmering candles of dead men’s fat,

Nor even the flap of the Vampire Bat,

No anserine skin would rise thereat,

It’s the cold that makes Him shiver!

So down, still down, through gully and glen,

Never trodden by foot of men,

Past the Eagle’s nest and the She-Wolf’s den,

Never caring a jot how steep

Or how narrow the track he has to keep,

Or how wide and deep

An abyss to leap,

Or what may fly, or walk, or creep,

Down he hurries through darkness and storm,

Flapping his arms to keep him warm —

Till threading many a pass abhorrent,

At last he reaches the mountain gorge,

And takes a path along by a torrent —

The very identical path, by St. George!

Down which young Fridolin went to the Forge,

With a message meant for his own death-warrant!

Young Fridolin! young Fridolin!

So free from sauce, and sloth, and sin,

The best of pages

Whatever their ages,

Since first that singular fashion came in —

Not he like those modern and idle young gluttons

With little jackets, so smart and spruce,

Of Lincoln green, sky-blue, or puce —

A little gold lace you may introduce —

Very showy, but as for use,

Not worth so many buttons!

Young Fridolin! young Fridolin!

Of his duty so true a fulfiller —

But here we need no farther go

For whoever desires the Tale to know,

May read it all in Schiller.

Faster now the Traveller speeds,

Whither his guiding beacon leads.

For by yonder glare

In the murky air,

He knows that the Eisen Hutte is there!

With its sooty Cyclops, savage and grim

Hosts, a guest had better forbear,

Whose thoughts are set upon dainty fare —

But stiff with cold in every limb,

The Furnace Fire is the bait for Him!

Faster and faster still he goes.

Whilst redder and redder the welkin glows,

And the lowest clouds that scud in the sky

Get crimson fringes in flitting by.

Till lo! amid the lurid light,

The darkest object intensely dark,

Just where the bright is intensely bright,

The Forge, the Forge itself is in sight,

Like the pitch-black hull of a burning bark,

With volleying smoke, and many a spark,

Vomiting fire, red, yellow, and white!

Restless, quivering tongues of flame!

Heavenward striving still to go,

While others, reversed in the stream, below,

Seem seeking a place we will not name,

But well that Traveller knows the same,

Who stops and stands,

So rubbing his hands,

And snuffing the rare

Perfumes in the air,

For old familiar odors are there,

And then direct by the shortest cut,

Like Alpine Marmot, whom neither rut,

Rivers, rocks, nor thickets rebut,

Makes his way to the blazing Hut!

Part 2.

Idly watching the Furnace-flames,

The men of the stithy

Are in their smithy,

Brutal monsters, with bulky frames,

Beings Humanity scarcely claims,

But hybrids rather of demon race,

Unbless’d by the holy rite of grace,

Who never had gone by Christian names,

Mark, or Matthew, Peter, or James —

Naked, foul, unshorn, unkempt,

From touch of natural shame exempt,

Things of which Delirium has dreamt —

But wherefore dwell on these verbal sketches,

When traced with frightful truth and vigor,

Costume, attitude, face, and figure,

Retsch has drawn the very wretches!

However, there they lounge about,

The grim, gigantic fellows,

Hardly hearing the storm without,

That makes so very dreadful a rout,

For the constant roar

From the furnace door.

And the blast of the monstrous bellows!

Oh, what a scene

That Forge had been

For Salvator Rosa’s study!

With wall, and beam, and post, and pin,

And those ruffianly creatures, like Shapes of Sin,

Hair, and eyes, and rusty skin,

Illumed by a light so ruddy

The Hut, and whatever there is therein,

Looks either red-hot or bloody!

And, oh! to hear the frequent burst

Of strange, extravagant laughter,

Harsh and hoarse,

And resounding perforce

From echoing roof and rafter!

Though curses, the worst

That ever were curst,

And threats that Cain invented the first,

Come growling the instant after!

But again the livelier peal is rung,

For the Smith, hight Salamander,

In the jargon of some Titanic tongue,

Elsewhere never said or sung,

With the voice of a Stentor in joke has flung

Some cumbrous sort

Of sledge-hammer retort

At Red Beard, the crew’s commander.

Some frightful jest — who knows how wild,

Or obscene, from a monster so defiled,

And a horrible mouth, of such extent,

From flapping ear to ear it went,

And show’d such tusks whenever it smiled —

The very mouth to devour a child!

But fair or foul the jest gives birth

To another bellow of demon mirth,

That far outroars the weather,

As if all the Hyænas that prowl the earth

Had clubb’d their laughs together!

And lo! in the middle of all the din,

Not seeming to care a single pin,

For a prospect so volcanic,

A Stranger steps abruptly in,

Of an aspect rather Satanic:

And he looks with a grin at those Cyclops grim,

Who stare and grin again at him

With wondrous little panic.

Then up to the Furnace the Stranger goes,

Eager to thaw his ears and nose,

And warm his frozen fingers and toes —

While each succeeding minute,

Hotter and hotter the Smithy grows,

And seems to declare,

By a fiercer glare,

On wall, roof, floor, and everywhere,

It knows the Devil is in it!

Still not a word

Is utter’d or heard,

But the beetle-brow’d Foreman nods and winks,

Much as a shaggy old Lion blinks,

And makes a shift

To impart his drift

To a smoky brother, who, joining the links,

Hints to a third the thing he thinks;

And whatever it be,

They all agree

In smiling with faces full of glee,

As if about to enjoy High Jinks.

What sort of tricks they mean to play

By way of diversion, who can say,

Of such ferocious and barbarous folk,

Who chuckled, indeed, and never spoke

Of burning Robert the Jäger to coke,

Except as a capital practical joke!

Who never thought of Mercy, or heard her,

Or any gentle emotion felt;

But hard as the iron they had to melt,

Sported with Danger and romp’d with Murder!

Meanwhile the Stranger —

The Brocken Ranger,

Besides another and hotter post,

That renders him not averse to a roast —

Creeping into the Furnace almost,

Has made himself as warm as a toast —

When, unsuspicious of any danger,

And least of all of any such maggot

As treating a body like a faggot,

All at once he is seized and shoven

In pastime cruel,

Like so much fuel,

Headlong into the blazing oven!

In he goes! with a frightful shout

Mock’d by the rugged ruffianly band,

As round the Furnace mouth they stand,

Bar, and shovel, and ladle in hand,

To hinder their Butt from crawling out,

Who making one fierce attempt, but vain,

Receives such a blow

From Red-Beard’s crow

As crashes the skull and gashes the brain,

And blind, and dizzy, and stunn’d with pain,

With merely an interjectional “oh!”

Back he rolls in the flames again.

“Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho!” That second fall

Seerns the very best joke of all,

To judge by the roar,

Twice as loud as before,

That fills the Hut, from the roof to the floor,

And flies a league or two out of the door,

Up the mountains and over the moor —

But scarcely the jolly echoes they wake

Have well begun

To take up the fun,

Ere the shaggy Felons have cause to quake,

And begin to feel that the deed they have done,

Instead of being a pleasant one,

Was a very great error — and no mistake.

For why? — in lieu

Of its former hue,

So natural, warm, and florid,

The Furnace burns of a brimstone blue,

And instead of the couleur de rose it threw,

With a cooler reflection — justly due —

Exhibits each of the Pagan crew,

Livid, ghastly, and horrid!

But vainly they close their guilty eyes

Against prophetic fears;

Or with hard and horny palms devise

To dam their enormous ears —

There are sounds in the air,

Not here or there,

Irresistible voices everywhere,

No bulwarks can ever rebut,

And to match the screams

Tremendous gleams,

Of Horrors that like the Phantoms of dreams,

They see with their eyelids shut!

For awful coveys of terrible things,

With forked tongues and venomous stings,

On hagweed, broomsticks, and leathern wings,

Are hovering round the Hut!

Shapes, that within the focus bright

Of the Forge, are like shadows and blots;

But farther off, in the shades of night,

Clothed with their own phosphoric light,

Are seen in the darkest spots.

Sounds! that fill the air with noises,

Strange and indescribable voices,

From Hags, in a diabolical clatter —

Cats that spit curses, and apes that chatter

Scraps of cabalistical matter —

Owls that screech, and dogs that yell —

Skeleton hounds that will never be fatter —

All the domestic tribes of Hell,

Shrieking for flesh to tear and tatter,

Bones to shatter,

And limbs to scatter,

And who it is that must furnish the latter

Those blue-looking Men know well!

Those blue-looking men that huddle together,

For all their sturdy limbs and thews

Their unshorn locks, like Nazarene Jews,

And buffalo beards, and hides of leather,

Huddled all in a heap together,

Like timid lamb, and ewe, and wether,

And as females say,

In a similar way,

Fit for knocking down with a feather!

In and out, in and out,

The gathering Goblins hover about,

Ev’ry minute augmenting the rout;

For like a spell

The unearthly smell

That fumes from the Furnace, chimney and mouth,

Draws them in — an infernal Legion

From East, and West, and North, and South,

Like carrion birds from ev’ry region,

Till not a yard square

Of the sickening air

But has a Demon or two for its share,

Breathing fury, woe, and despair,

Never, never was such a sight!

It beats the very Walpurgis Night,

Displayed in the story of Doctor Faustus,

For the scene to describe

Of the awful tribe,

If we were two Göthes, would quite exhaust us!

Suffice it, amid that dreary swarm,

There musters each foul repulsive form

That ever a fancy overwarm

Begot in its worst delirium;

Besides some others of monstrous size,

Never before revealed to eyes,

Of the genus Megatherium!

Meanwhile the demons, filthy and foul,

Gorgon, Chimera, Harpy, and Ghoul,

Are not contented to jibber and howl

As a dirge for their late commander;

But one of the bevy — witch or wizard,

Disguised as a monstrous flying lizard,

Springs on the grisly Salamander,

Who stoutly fights, and struggles, and kicks.

And tries the best of his wrestling tricks,

No paltry strife,

But for life, dear life.

But the ruthless talons refuse to unfix,

Till far beyond a surgical case,

With starting eyes, and black in the face,

Down he tumbles as dead as bricks!

A pretty sight for his mates to view!

Those shaggy murderers looking so blue,

And for him above all,

Red-bearded and tall,

With whom, at that very particular nick,

There is such an unlucky crow to pick,

As the one of iron that did the trick

In a recent bloody affair —

No wonder feeling a little sick,

With pulses beating uncommonly quick,

And breath he never found so thick,

He longs for the open air!

Three paces, or four,

And he gains the door;

But ere he accomplishes one,

The sound of a blow comes, heavy and dull,

And clasping his fingers round his skull —

However the deed was done,

That gave him that florid

Red gash on the forehead —

With a roll of the eyeballs perfectly horrid,

There’s a tremulous quiver,

The last death-shiver,

And Red-Beard’s course is run!

Halloo! Halloo!

They have done for two!

But a heavyish job remains to do!

For yonder, sledge and shovel in hand,

Like elder Sons of Giant Despair,

A couple of Cyclops make a stand,

And fiercely hammering here and there,

Keep at bay the Powers of Air —

But desperation is all in vain! —

They faint — they choke,

For the sulphurous smoke

Is poisoning heart, and lung, and brain,

They reel, they sink, they gasp, they smother.

One for a moment survives his brother,

Then rolls a corpse across the other!

Halloo! Halloo!

And Hullabaloo!

There is only one more thing to do —

And seized by beak, and talon, and claw,

Bony hand, and hairy paw,

Yea, crooked horn, and tusky jaw,

The four huge Bodies are haul’d and shoven

Each after each in the roaring oven!

That Eisen Hutte is standing still,

Go to the Hartz whenever you will,

And there it is beside a hill,

And a rapid stream that turns many a mill;

The self-same Forge — you’ll know it at sight —

Casting upward, day and night,

Flames of red, and yellow, and white!

Ay, half a mile from the mountain gorge,

There it is, the famous Forge,

With its Furnace — the same that blazed of yore —

Hugely fed with fuel and ore;

But ever since that tremendous Revel,

Whatever Iron is melted therein —

As Travellers know who have been to Berlin —

Is all as black as the Devil!

This Poem was doubtless one of the results of Hood’s residence in Germany. It is suggested apparently in about equal proportions by the Walpurgis-night in Faust, and Schiller’s Gang nach dem Eisenhammer. Possibly Hood had been stirred up to the attempt by Retzsch’s outlines. He has mixed up localities with the utmost freedom, the Harz, the Black Forest, and the Scene of Schiller’s Poem. The influence of the Ingoldsby Legends is obvious throughout.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hood/thomas/poetical-works/poem169.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 20:51