Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Belgium: Bruges

The Guilds

By Count Anton Alexander von Auersperg (Anastasius Grün) (1806–1876)

Translated by J. O. Sargent

THE GUILD-MASTERS of Bruges sat by cards and wine and song,

The sailor, smith, and dyer had sat there all day long;

And Coppenoll, the cobbler, from Ghent, was present too;

He bawled in council the loudest, and made the meanest shoe.

The cobbler spake: “My masters, know ye the news to-night?

The king is coming to Candlemas, God grant, Let there be light!”

At this the dyer stealthily peeps in the cards of the smith,

Meanwhile of a fine old carol he is merrily humming the pith.

“A little king there once was,—a marmot, you may say,—

Of work he had his hands full, for he slept both night and day;

At night, because ’t is the fashion in life to sleep by night,

And by day because his slumbers had fatigued and tired him quite.”

Then spake the smith: “This Max here is made of the right stuff;

He was always a gallant fellow, and I like him well enough;

But all the lords his courtiers with hoofs of iron prance,

And on the corns of the people they love to tread and dance.”

With a sly chuckle the cobbler the smith on the shoulders hit,

“I should like to make their boots for them,—I ’d give them a tight fit.”

Then the dyer slapped on the table and tossed off his stoup of wine,

And roared,—“The King of Clubs, bravo! the Knave of Diamonds is mine.”

Then the sailor dashed in anger his cards upon the floor,—

“A god-forsaken life it is you people live on shore;

Damme! It always happens the knave is trumped by the king”:

All spring up in confusion, stools tumble, and glasses ring.

Then cried the smith, “A sceptre, forsooth, is a sorry thing;

For me such work would not answer, but ’t will do well enough for a king.”

Then the dyer,—“At home there lie mouldering many red rags of my own,

Which, hung on the stool of the cobbler, would make it as fine as a throne.”

Stood Coppenoll the cobbler, who gravely shook his head,

Oppressed with thought, and, muttering, thus to himself he said,—

“Respublica but recently has rubbed a hole in her shoe,

And Master Coppenoll reckons the cobbling ’s for him to do.

“These kings—who gives the sceptre, gentlemen, into their hands?

He who reigns in the heavens. He also created their lands.

The Netherlands we have created, by our own labor and pains,

So the right of choosing our master in our own hands remains.”

“Bravo! thou gallant master! thou shalt our leader be.”

So the others fall into chorus, and all shout clamorously;

Out of the doors they tumble, the towers and steeples gain,

And set the bells ringing the tocsin, and howl like a hurricane.

In the market-place already the guilds their banners flaunted,

And all the guild companions under them stood undaunted;

Then first began in a whisper, then louder and louder to roll,

From the mouth of the people and head-men, “Our leader be Coppenoll!”

In the streets and squares there ’s a shouting, there ’s a howl and a roar and a rush,

They ply the hammer and pickaxe, and the kingly columns crush;

Many the sceptres of iron, and the crowns that yield to their blows,

With many a king’s wooden noddle and many a stony lord’s nose.