The Ingoldsby Legends, by Thomas Ingoldsby

Hermann; Or, the Broken Spear.

An Emperor famous in council and camp,

Has a son who turns out a remarkable scamp;

Takes to dicing and drinking,

And d — mning and sinking,

And carries off maids, wives, and widows, like winking!

Since the days of Arminius, his namesake, than Hermann

There never was seen a more profligate German.

He escapes from the City;

And joins some banditti

Insensible quite to remorse, fear, and pity;

Joins in all their carousals, and revels, and robberies,

And in kicking up all sorts of shindies and bobberies.

Well, hearing one day

His associates say

That a bridal procession was coming their way,

Inflamed with desire, he

Breaks into a priory,

And kicking out every man Jack of a friar, he

Upsets in a twinkling the mass-books and hassocks,

And dresses his rogues in the clergyman’s cassocks.

The new married folks

Taken in by this hoax,

Mister Hermann grows frisky and full of his jokes:

To the serious chagrin of her late happy suitor,

Catching hold of the Bride, he attempts to salute her:

Now Heaven knows what

Had become of the lot

It’s Turtle to Tripe they’d have all gone to pot —

If a dumb Lady, one

Of her friends, had not run

To her aid, and, quite scandalized, stopp’d all his fun!

Just conceive what a caper

He cut, when her taper

Long fingers scrawled this upon whitey-brown paper,

(At the instant he seized, and before he had kissed her) —

‘Ha, done, Mister Hermann! for shame! it’s your sister!’

His hair stands on end, — he desists from his tricks

And remains in ‘a pretty particular fix.’

As he knows Sir John Nicholl

Still keeps rods in pickle,

Offences of this kind severely to tickle,

At so near an escape from his court and its sentence

His eyes fill with tears, and his breast with repentance:

So, picking and stealing,

And unrighteous dealing,

Of all sorts, he cuts, from this laudable feeling:

Of wickedness weary

With many a tear, he

Now takes a French leave of the vile Condottieri:

And the next thing we hear of this penitent villain,

He is begging in rags in the suburbs of Milan.

Half starv’d, meagre, and pale,

His energies fail,

When his sister comes in with a pot of mild ale:

But though tatter’d his jerkins

His heart is whole, — workings

Of conscience debar him from ‘Barclay and Perkins.’

‘I’ll drink,’ exclaims he,

‘Nothing stronger than tea,

And that but the worst and the weakest Bohea,

Till I’ve done — from my past scenes of folly a far actor —

Some feat shall redeem both my wardrobe and character.’

At signs of remorse so decided and visible

Nought can equal the joy of his fair sister Isabel,

And the Dumb Lady too

Who runs off to a Jew

And buys him a coat of mail spick and span new,

In the hope that his prowess and deeds as a Knight

Will keep his late larcenies quite out of sight.

By the greatest good luck, his old friends the banditti

Choose this moment to make an attack on the city!

Now you all know the way

Heroes hack, hew, and slay,

When once they get fairly mixed up in a fray:

Hermann joins in the mélée,

Pounds this to a jelly,

Runs that through the back, and a third through the belly.

Till many a broken bone, bruised rib, and flat head,

Make his ci-devant friends curse the hour that he ratted.

Amid so many blows,

Of course you’ll suppose

He must get a black eye, or, at least bloody nose:

‘Take that!’ cried a bandit, and struck, while he spoke it,

His spear in his breast, and, in pulling out broke it.

Hermann fainted away

When, as breathless he lay,

A rascal claimed all the renown of the day;

A recreant, cowardly, white-livered knight,

Who had skulked in a furze bush the whole of the fight.

But the Dumb Lady soon

Put some gin in a spoon,

And half strangles poor Hermann, who wakes from his swoon,

And exhibits his wound, when the head of the spear

Fits its handle, and makes his identity clear.

The murder thus out, Hermann’s fêted and thankéd,

While his rascally rival gets tossed in a blanket:

And to finish the play —

As reformed rakes, they say,

Make the best of all husbands — the very same day

Hermann sends for a priest, as he must wed with some — lady,

Buys a ring and a licence, and marries the Dumb Lady.


Take warning, young people of every degree,

From Hermann’s example, and don’t live too free!

If you get in bad company, fly from it soon!

If you chance to get thrash’d, take some gin in a spoon;

And remember, since wedlock’s not all sugar-candy;

If you wish to ‘scape ‘wigging,’ a dumb wife’s the dandy!




Act 1.

Walter Tyrrel, the son of a Norman Papa,

Has, somehow or other, a Saxon Mama:

Though humble, yet far above mere vulgar loons,

He’s a sort of a sub in the Rufus dragoons;

Has travelled, but comes home abruptly, the rather

That some unknown rascal has murder’d his Father;

And scarce has he pick’d out, and stuck in his quiver,

The arrow that pierced the old gentleman’s liver,

When he finds, as misfortunes come rarely alone,

That his sweetheart has bolted, — with whom is not known.

But, as murder will out, he at last finds the lady

At court with her character grown rather shady:

This gives him the ‘blues,’ and impairs the delight

He’d have otherwise felt, when they dub him a Knight.

For giving a runaway stallion a check,

And preventing his breaking King Rufus’s neck.

Act 2.

Sir Walter has dress’d himself up like a Ghost,

And frightens a soldier away from his post;

Then, discarding his helmet, he pulls his cloak higher,

Draws it over his ears and pretends he’s a Friar.

This gains him access to his sweetheart, Miss Faucit;

But, the King coming in, he hides up in her closet;

Where oddly enough, among some of her things,

He discovers some arrows he’s sure are the King’s,

Of the very same pattern with that which he found

Sticking into his father when dead on the ground!

Forgetting his funk, he bursts open the door,

Bounces into the Drawing-room, stamps on the floor,

With an oath on his tongue, and revenge in his eye,

And blows up King William the Second, sky-high;

Swears, storms, shakes his fist, and exhibits such airs,

That his Majesty bids his men kick him down stairs.

Act 3.

King Rufus is cross when he comes to reflect,

That as King, he’s been treated with gross disrespect;

So he pens a short note to a holy physician,

And gives him a rather unholy commission,

Viz, to mix up some arsenic and ale in a cup,

Which the chances are Tyrrel may find and drink up.

Sure enough, on the very next morning, Sir Walter

Perceives in his walks, this same cup on the altar.

As he feels rather thirsty, he’s just about drinking,

When Miss Faucit in tears, comes in running like winking;

He pauses of course, and, as she’s thirsty too,

Says, very politely, ‘Miss, I after you!’

The young lady curtsies, and being so dry,

Raises somehow her fair little finger so high,

That there’s not a drop left him to ‘wet t’other eye;’

While the dose is so strong, to his grief and surprise,

She merely says, ‘Thankee, Sir Walter,’ and dies.

At that moment the King, who is riding to cover,

Pops in en passant on the desperate lover,

Who has vow’d, not five minutes before, to transfix him,

— So he does, — he just pulls out his arrow and sticks him.

From the strength of his arm, and the force of his blows,

The Red-bearded Rover falls flat on his nose;

And Sir Walter, thus having concluded his quarrel,

Walks down to the foot-lights, and draws this fine moral.

‘Ladies and Gentlemen,

Lead sober lives; —

Don’t meddle with other folks’ Sweethearts or Wives! —

When you go out a sporting, take care of your gun,

And — never shoot elderly people in fun!’

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