The Ingoldsby Legends, by Thomas Ingoldsby

The Ingoldsby Penance

A Legend of Palestine — And West Kent

I’ll devise thee brave punishments for him!


Out and spake Sir Ingoldsby Bray,

A stalwart knight, I ween, was he,

‘Come east, come west,

Come lance in rest,

Come faulchion in hand, I’ll tickle the best

Of all the Soldan’s Chivalrie!’

Oh! they came west, and they came east,

Twenty-four Emirs and Sheiks at the least,

And they hammer’d away

At Sir Ingoldsby Bray, —

Fall back, fall edge, cut, thrust, and point, —

But he topp’d off head, and he lopp’d off joint;

Twenty and three,

Of high degree,

Lay stark and stiff on the crimson’d lea,

All — all save one — and he ran up a tree!

‘Now count them, my Squire, now count them and see!

‘Twenty and three!

Twenty and three! —

All of them Nobles of high degree;

There they be lying on Ascalon lea!’

Out and spake Sir Ingoldsby Bray,

‘What news? what news? come, tell to me!

What news? what news, thou little Foot-page? —

I’ve been whacking the foe, till it seems an age

Since I was in Ingoldsby Hall so free!

What news? what news from Ingoldsby Hall?

Come tell me now, thou Page so small!’

‘Oh, Hawk and Hound

Are safe and sound,

Beast in byre, and Steed in stall;

And the Watch-dog’s bark,

As soon as it’s dark,

Bays wakeful guard around Ingoldsby Hall!’

— ‘I care not a pound

For Hawk or for Hound,

For Steed in stall, or for Watch-dog’s bay:

Fain would I hear

Of my dainty dear;

How fares Dame Alice, my Lady gay?’

Sir Ingoldsby Bray, he said in his rage,

‘What news? what news? thou naughty Foot-page!’ —

That little Foot-page full low crouch’d he,

And he doff’d his cap, and he bended his knee,

‘Now lithe and listen, Sir Bray, to me:

Lady Alice sits lonely in bower and hall,

Her sighs they rise, and her tears they fall:

She sits alone,

And she makes her moan;

Dance and song

She considers quite wrong

Feast and revel

Mere snares of the devil;

She mendeth her hose, and she crieth “Alack!

When will Sir Ingoldsby Bray come back?”’

‘Thou liest! thou liest, thou naughty Foot-page,

Full loud dost thou lie, false Page, to me!

There, in thy breast,

‘Neath thy silken vest,

What scroll is that, false Page, I see?’

Sir Ingoldsby Bray in his rage drew near,

That little Foot-page he blench’d with fear;

‘Now where may the Prior of Abingdon lie?

King Richard’s Confessor, I ween, is he,

And tidings rare

To him do I bear,

And news of price from his rich Ab-bee!’

‘Now nay, now nay, thou naughty Page!

No learned clerk, I trow, am I,

But well, I ween,

May there be seen

Dame Alice’s hand with half an eye;

Now nay, now nay, thou naughty Page,

From Abingdon Abbey comes not thy news;

Although no clerk,

Well may I mark

The particular turn of her P’s and her Q’s!’

Sir Ingoldsby Bray, in his fury and rage,

By the back of the neck takes that little Foot-page;

The scroll he seizes,

The Page he squeezes,

And buffets, — and pinches his nose till he sneezes;

Then he cuts with his dagger the silken threads

Which they used in those days, ‘stead of little Queen’s-heads

When the contents of the scroll met his view,

Sir Ingoldsby Bray in a passion grew,

Backward he drew

His nailed shoe,

And he kicked that naughty Foot-page, that he flew

Like a cloth-yard shaft from a bended yew,

I may not say whither — I never knew.

‘Now count the slain

Upon Ascalon plain, —

Go count them, my Squire, go count them again!’

‘Twenty and three! There they be,

Stiff and stark on that crimson’d lea! —

Twenty and three? —

— Stay — let me see!

Stretched in his gore

There lieth one more!

By the Pope’s triple crown there are twenty and four?

Twenty-four trunks, I ween, are there,

But their heads and their limbs are no-body knows where!

Ay, twenty-four corses, I rede, there be,

Though one got away and ran up a tree!’

‘Look nigher, look nigher,

My trusty Squire!’ —

‘One is the corse of a bare-footed Friar!!’

Out and spake Sir Ingoldsby Bray,

‘A boon, a boon, King Richard,’ quoth he,

‘Now Heav’n thee save, A boon I crave,

A boon, Sir King, on my bended knee;

A year and a day

Have I been away,

King Richard, from Ingoldsby Hall so free;

Dame Alice, she sits there in lonely guise,

And she makes her moan, and she sobs and she sighs,

And tears like rain-drops fall from her eyes,

And she darneth her hose, and she crieth ‘Alack!

Oh! when will Sir Ingoldsby Bray come back?’

A boon, a boon, my Liege,’ quoth he,

‘Fair Ingoldsby Hall I fain would see!’

‘Rise up, rise up, Sir Ingoldsby Bray,’

King Richard said right graciously,

‘Of all in my host

That I love the most,

I love none better, Sir Bray, than thee!

Rise up, rise up, thou hast thy boon;

But — mind you make haste, and come back again soon!’

Fytte II.

Pope Gregory sits in St. Peter’s chair,

Pontiff proud, I ween, is he,

And a belted Knight,

In armour dight,

Is begging a boon on his bended knee,

With signs of grief and sounds of woe

Featly he kisseth his Holiness’ toe.

‘Now pardon, Holy Father, I crave,

O Holy Father, pardon and grace!

In my fury and rage

A little Foot-page

I have left, I fear me, in evil case:

A scroll of shame

From a faithless dame

Did that naughty Foot-page to a paramour bear:

I gave him a ‘lick’

With a stick, And a kick

That sent him — I can’t tell your Holiness where!

Had he as many necks as hairs,

He had broken them all down those perilous stairs!’

‘Rise up, rise up, Sir Ingoldsby Bray,

Rise up, rise up, I say to thee;

A soldier, I trow,

Of the Cross art thou;

Rise up, rise up from thy bended knee:

Ill it beseems that a soldier true

Of holy Church should vainly sue:—

— Foot-pages, they are by no means rare,

A thriftless crew, I ween, be they,

Well mote we spare

A Page — or a pair,

For the matter of that — Sir Ingoldsby Bray.

But stout and true Soldiers, like you,

Grow scarcer and scarcer every day!

Be prayers for the dead

Duly read,

Let a mass be sung, and a pater be said;

So may your qualms of conscience cease,

And the little Foot-page shall rest in peace!’

— ‘Now pardon, Holy Father, I crave,

O Holy Father, pardon and grace!

Dame Alice, my wife,

The bane of my life,

I have left, I fear me, in evil case!

A scroll of shame in my rage I tore,

Which that caitiff Page to a paramour bore;

’Twere bootless to tell how I storm’d and swore;

Alack! alack! too surely I knew

The turn of each P, and the tail of each Q,

And away to Ingoldsby Hall I flew!

Dame Alice I found, —

She sank on the ground, —

I twisted her neck till I twisted it round!

With jibe and jeer, and mock, and scoff,

I twisted it on — till I twisted it off! —

All the King’s Doctors and all the King’s Men

Can’t put fair Alice’s head on agen!’

‘Well-a-day! well-a-day! Sir Ingoldsby Bray,

Why really I hardly know what to say:—

Foul sin, I trow, a fair Ladye to slay,

Because she’s perhaps been a little too gay. —

— Monk must chaunt and Nun must pray

For each mass they sing, and each pray’r they say,

For a year, and a day,

Sir Ingoldsby Bray

A fair rose-noble must duly pay!

So may his qualms of conscience cease,

And the soul of Dame Alice may rest in peace!’

‘Now pardon, Holy Father, I crave,

O Holy Father, pardon and grace!

No power could save

That paramour knave;

I left him, I wot, in evil case!

There, ‘midst the slain Upon Ascalon plain,

Unburied, I trow, doth his body remain,

His legs lie here, and his arms lie there,

And his head lies — I can’t tell your Holiness where!’

‘Now out and alas! Sir Ingoldsby Bray,

Foul sin it were, thou doughty Knight,

To hack and to hew

A champion true

Of Holy Church in such pitiful plight!

Foul sin her warriors so to slay,

When they’re scarcer and scarcer every day! —

— A chauntry fair,

And of Monks a pair,

To pray for his soul for ever and aye,

Thou must duly endow, Sir Ingoldsby Bray,

And fourteen marks by the year must thou pay

For plenty of lights

To burn there o’ nights —

None of your rascally ‘dips’ — but sound,

Round, ten-penny moulds of four to the pound; —

And a shirt of the roughest and coarsest hair

For a year and a day, Sir Ingoldsby, wear!

So may your qualms of conscience cease,

And the soul of the Soldier shall rest in peace!’

‘Now nay, Holy Father, now nay, now nay!

Less penance may serve!’ quoth Sir Ingoldsby Bray,

‘No champion free of the Cross was he;

No belted Baron of high degree;

No Knight nor Squire Did there expire;

He was, I trow, but a bare-footed Friar!

And the Abbot of Abingdon long may wait

With his monks around him and early and late

May look from loop-hole, and turret, and gate,

He hath lost his Prior — his Prior his pate!’

‘Now Thunder and turf!’ Pope Gregory said,

And his hair rais’d his triple crown right off his head —

‘Now Thunder and turf! and out and alas!

A horrible thing has come to pass!

What! — cut off the head of a reverend Prior,

And say he was “only (!!!) a bare-footed Friar!”

‘What Baron or Squire,

Or Knight of the shire

Is half so good as a holy Friar?’

O, turpissime!

Vir nequissime!

Sceleratissime! — quissime! — issime!

Never, I trow, have the Servi servorum

Had before ’em

Such a breach of decorum,

Such a gross violation of morum bonorum,

And won’t have again sæcula sæculorum! —

Come hither to me,

My Cardinals three,

My Bishops in partibus, Masters in Artibus,

Hither to me, A.B. and D.D.

Doctors and Proctors of every degree.

Go fetch me a book! — go fetch me a bell

As big as a dustman’s! — and a candle as well —

I’ll send him — where good manners won’t let me tell!’

— ‘Pardon and grace! — now pardon and grace!’

— Sir Ingoldsby Bray fell flat on his face —

‘Mea culpa! — in sooth I’m in pitiful case.

Peccavi! peccavi! — I’ve done very wrong!

But my heart it is stout, and my arm it is strong,

And I’ll fight for holy Church all the day long;

And the Ingoldsby lands are broad and fair,

And they’re here, and they’re there, and I can’t tell you where,

And Holy Church shall come in for her share!’

Pope Gregory paused, and he sat himself down,

And he somewhat relaxed his terrible frown,

And his Cardinals three they pick’d up his crown.

‘Now, if it be so that you own you’ve been wrong,

And your heart is so stout, and your arm is so strong,

And you really will fight like a trump all day long;

If the Ingoldsby lands do lie here and there,

And Holy Church shall come in for her share, —

Why, my Cardinals three,

You’ll agree

With me

That it gives a new turn to the whole affair,

And I think that the Penitent need not despair!

— If it be so, as you seem to say,

Rise up, rise up, Sir Ingoldsby Bray!

‘An Abbey so fair Sir Bray shall found,

Whose innermost wall’s encircling bound

Shall take in a couple of acres of ground;

And there in that Abbey all the year round,

A full choir of monks, and a full choir of nuns,

Shall live upon cabbage and hot-cross buns.

And Sir Ingoldsby Bray,

Without delay,

Shall hie him again

To Ascalon plain,

And gather the bones of the foully slain:

And shall place said bones, with all possible care,

In an elegant shrine in his Abbey so fair;

And plenty of lights

Shall be there o’ nights;

None of your rascally ‘dips,’ but sound,

Best superfine wax-wicks, four to the pound;

And Monk and Nun

Shall pray, each one,

For the soul of the Prior of Abingdon!

And Sir Ingoldsby Bray, so bold and so brave,

Never shall wash himself, comb, or shave,

Nor adorn his body,

Nor drink gin-toddy,

Nor indulge in a pipe, — But shall dine upon tripe,

And blackberries gathered before they are ripe,

And for ever abhor, renounce, and abjure

Rum, hollands, and brandy, wine, punch, and liqueur:

(Sir Ingoldsby Bray

Here gave way

To a feeling which prompted a word profane,

But he swallow’d it down, by an effort, again,

And his Holiness luckily fancied his gulp a

Mere repetition of O, mea culpa!)

‘Thrice three times upon Candlemas-day

Between Vespers and Compline, Sir Ingoldsby Bray

Shall run round the Abbey, as best he may,

Subjecting his back

To thump and to thwack,

Well and truly laid on by a bare-footed Friar,

With a stout cat-o’ ninetails of whipcord and wire;

And nor he, nor his heir

Shall take, use, or bear1

Any more, from this day,

The surname of Bray,

As being dishonour’d; but all issue male he has

Shall, with himself, go henceforth by an alias!

So his qualms of conscience at length may cease,

And Page, Dame, and Prior shall rest in peace!’

Sir Ingoldsby (now no longer Bray)

Is off like a shot away and away,

Over the brine

To far Palestine,

To rummage and hunt over Ascalon plain

For the unburied bones of his victim slain.

‘Look out, my Squire,

Look higher and nigher,

Look out for the corpse of a bare-footed Friar!

And pick up the arms, and the legs, of the dead,

And pick up his body, and pick up his head!’

2 His brother Reginald, it would seem by the pedigree, disregarded this prohibition.

Fytte III.

Ingoldsby Abbey is fair to see,

It hath manors a dozen, and royalties three,

With right of free warren (whatever that be);

Rich pastures in front, and green woods in the rear,

All in full leaf at the right time of year;

About Christmas, or so, they fall into the sear,

And the prospect, of course, becomes rather more drear:

But it’s really delightful in spring-time, — and near

The great gate Father Thames rolls sun-bright and clear;

Cobham woods to the right, — on the opposite shore

Laindon Hills in the distance, ten miles off or more;

Then you’ve Milton and Gravesend behind, — and before

You can see almost all the way down to the Nore.1

So charming a spot It’s rarely one’s lot

To see, and when seen it’s as rarely forgot.

Yes, Ingoldsby Abbey is fair to see,

And its Monks and its Nuns are fifty and three,

And there they all stand each in their degree,

Drawn up in the front of their sacred abode,

Two by two in their regular mode,

While a funeral comes down the Rochester road.

Palmers twelve, from a foreign strand,

Cockle in hat, and staff in hand,

Come marching in pairs, a holy band!

Little boys twelve, dressed all in white,

Each with his brazen censer bright,

And singing away with all their might,

Follow the Palmers — a goodly sight;

Next high in air

Twelve Yeomen bear

On their sturdy necks, with a good deal of care,

A patent sarcophagus firmly rear’d,

Of Spanish mahogany (not veneer’d),

And behind walks a Knight with a very long beard.

Close by his side

Is a Friar, supplied

With a stout cat-o’-ninetails of tough cow-hide,

While all sorts of queer men Bring up the rear — Men

— at-arms, Nigger captives, and Bow-men, and Spear-men.

It boots not to tell

What you’ll guess very well,

How some sang the requiem, some toll’d the bell;

Suffice it to say,

’Twas on Candlemas day

The procession I speak about reach’d the Sacellum;

And in lieu of a supper

The Knight on his crupper

Received the first taste of the Father’s flagellum;

That, as chronicles tell,

He continued to dwell

All the rest of his days in the Abbey he’d founded,

By the pious of both sexes ever surrounded,

And, partaking the fare of the Monks and the Nuns,

Ate the cabbage alone, without touching the buns;

— That year after year, having run round the Quad

With his back, as enjoin’d him, exposed to the rod,

Having not only kiss’d it, but bless’d it, and thank’d it, he

Died, as all thought, in the odour of sanctity,

When, — strange to relate! and you’ll hardly believe

What I’m going to tell you, — next Candlemas eve

The Monks and the Nuns in the dead of the night

Tumble, all of them, out of their beds in affright,

Alarm’d by the bawls,

And the calls, and the squalls

Of some one who seem’d running all round the walls!

Looking out, soon

By the light of the moon,

There appears most distinctly to ev’ry one’s view,

And making, as seems to them, all this ado,

The form of a Knight with a beard like a Jew,

As black as if steep’d in that ‘Matchless!’ of Hunt’s,

And so bushy, it would not disgrace Mr. Muntz;

A bare-footed Friar stands behind him, and shakes

A flagellum, whose lashes appear to be snakes;

While more terrible still, the astounded beholders

Perceived the said Friar has NO HEAD ON HIS SHOULDERS,

But is holding his pate

In his left hand out straight,

As if by a closer inspection to find

Where to get the best cut at his victim behind,

With the aid of a small ‘bull’s-eye lantern,’ — as placed

By our own New Police, — in a belt round his waist.

All gaze with surprise,

Scarce believing their eyes,

When the Knight makes a start like a race-horse, and flies

From his headless tormentor, repeating his cries, —

In vain, — for the Friar to his skirts closely sticks,

‘Running after him,’ — so said the Abbot, — ‘like Bricks!’

Thrice three times did the Phantom Knight

Course round the Abbey as best he might,

Be-thwack’d and be-smack’d by the headless Sprite,

While his shrieks so piercing made all hearts thrill, —

Then a whoop and a halloo, — and all was still!

Ingoldsby Abbey has passed away,

And at this time of day

One can hardly survey

Any traces or track, save a few ruins, grey

With age, and fast mouldering into decay,

Of the structure once built by Sir Ingoldsby Bray;

But still there are many folks living who say

That on every Candlemas Eve, the Knight,

Accoutred and dight

In his armour bright,

With his thick black beard, — and the clerical Sprite,

With his head in his hand, and his lantern alight,

Run round the spot where the old Abbey stood,

And are seen in the neighbouring glebe-land and wood;

More especially still, if it’s stormy and windy,

You may hear them for miles kicking up their wild shindy

And that once in a gale

Of wind, sleet, and hail,

They frighten’d the horses, and upset the mail.

What ’tis breaks the rest Of these souls unblest

Would now be a thing rather hard to be guess’d,

Though some say the Squire, on his death-bed, confess’d

That on Ascalon plain,

When the bones of the slain

Were collected that day, and pack’d up in a chest

Caulk’d and made water-tight,

By command of the Knight,

Though the legs and the arms they’d got all pretty right,

And the body itself in a decentish plight,

Yet the Friar’s Pericranium was nowhere in sight;

So, to save themselves trouble, they pick’d up instead,

And popp’d on the shoulders a Saracen’s Head!

Thus the Knight in the terms of his penance had fail’d,

And the Pope’s absolution, of course, nought avail’d.

Now though this might be,

It don’t seem to agree

With one thing which, I own, is a poser to me, —

I mean, as the miracles wrought at the shrine

Containing the bones brought from far Palestine

Were so great and notorious, ’tis hard to combine

This fact with the reason these people assign,

Or suppose that the head of the murder’d Divine

Could be aught but what Yankees would call ‘genu-ine.’

’Tis a very nice question — but be ‘t as it may,

The Ghost of Sir Ingoldsby (ci-devant Bray),

It is boldly affirm’d, by the folks great and small,

About Milton, and Chalk, and around Cobham Hall,

Still on Candlemas-day haunts the old ruin’d wall,

And that many have seen him, and more heard him squall.

So, I think, when the facts of the case you recall,

My inference, reader, you’ll fairly forestall,

Viz.: that, spite of the hope Held out by the Pope,

Sir Ingoldsby Bray was d — d after all!


Foot-pages, and Servants of ev’ry degree,

In livery or out of it, listen to me!

See what comes of lying! don’t join in a league

To humbug your master, or aid an intrigue!

Ladies! — married and single, from this understand

How foolish it is to send letters by hand!

Don’t stand for the sake of a penny, — but when you

‘ve a billet to send

To a lover or friend,

Put it into the post, and don’t cheat the revenue!

Reverend gentlemen! — you who are given to roam,

Don’t keep up a soft correspondence at home!

But while you’re abroad lead respectable lives;

Love your neighbours, and welcome, — but don’t love their wives!

And, as bricklayers cry from the tiles and the leads

When they’re shovelling the snow off, ‘TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEADS!’

Knights! — whose hearts are so stout, and whose arms are so strong,

Learn, — to twist a wife’s neck is decidedly wrong!

If your servants offend you, or give themselves airs,

Rebuke them — but mildly — don’t kick them down stairs!

To ‘Poor Richard’s’ homely old proverb attend,

‘If you want matters well managed, Go! — if not, Send!’

A servant’s too often a negligent elf;

— If it’s business of consequence, DO IT YOURSELF!

The state of society seldom requires

People now to bring home with them unburied Friars,

But they sometimes do bring home an inmate for life;

Now — don’t do that by proxy! — but choose your own wife!

For think how annoying ‘twould be, when you’re wed,

To find in your bed

On the pillow, instead

Of the sweet face you look for — A SARACEN’S HEAD!

3 Alas! one might almost say that of this sacred, and once splendid, edifice, perierunt etiam ruinæ. An elderly gentleman, however, of ecclesiastical cut, who oscillates between the Garrick Club and the Falcon in Gravesend, and is said by the host to be a ‘foreigneering Bishop,’ does not scruple to identify the ruins still to be seen by the side of the high Dover road, about a mile and a half below the town, with those of the haunted Sacellum. The general features of the landscape certainly correspond, and tradition, as certainly, countenances his conjecture.

Alas, for Ingoldsby Abbey! — Alas that one should have to say

Perierunt etiam Ruinae!

Its very Ruins now are tiny!

There is a something in the very sight of an old Abbey — family associations apart — as Ossian says (or MacPherson for him), ‘pleasing yet mournful to the soul!’ nor could I ever yet gaze on the roofless walls and ivy-clad towers of one of these venerable monuments of the piety of bygone days without something very like an unbidden tear rising to dim the prospect. Something of this, I think, I have already hinted in recording our pic-nic with the Seaforths at Bolsover. Since then I have paid a visit to the beautiful remains of what once was Netley, and never experienced the sensation to which I have alluded in a stronger degree; — if its character was somewhat changed before we parted, it is not my fault. Still, be the drawbacks what they may, I shall ever mark with a white, stone the day on which I for the first time beheld the time-worn cloisters of

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56