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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.


The Heiress of Kéroulaz

By Anonymous

Translated by Louisa Stuart Costello

THE LITTLE heiress had no care,

Nor other thought in life she knew,

Than play and gambol free as air,

As great lords’ daughters wont to do.

This year the heiress plays no more,

An orphan, she laments in vain,

Her father left her wondrous store,—

’T were well her kindred’s word to gain.

“Alas! my only friend, farewell!

No love have I from kindred known,

My death were news they fain would tell,

And then my wealth were all their own!”

But Kéroulaz’ fair heiress now

Should be as happy as the day,

For flowers of gold are round her brow,

She wears rich gowns embroidered gay;

She has no latchets to her shoes,

But stockings all of silk so bright,

Such as an heiress well may choose,

And little shoes of satin white.

So thought the guests, when at the ball

She looked as bravely as a bride;

The Marquis led her through the hall,

His wily mother at his side.

“O that I were a bird to fly

There, where I might my ear incline,

As in her chamber secretly

His wily mother speaks to mine.

“My heart is sick,—alas! I fear

Some deep design their steps have led;

They come not idly wandering here,

And know an heiress is to wed!

“De Mesle a noble name may be,

He may have wealth, perchance, in store,

But Kerthomaz is dear to me,

And will be loved forevermore.”

Kerthomaz looked with heart oppressed,

As guests came trooping far and near;

He loved that gentle maid the best,

As he to her alone was dear.

“O that I were the bird of night

That on the rose-tree sings so fair,

To see her when she comes all bright

To gather roses for her hair!

“Were I a bird upon the lake

Where maidens lave the robes she wears,

My thirst in that dear wave to slake,

And swell the waters with my tears.”

That Saturday the evening brought

Another youth who loved her too,

Young Salaün yon halls has sought,

As he had long been fond to do.

He forward spurred his small black steed,

And at the castle gate he stood;

The heiress came herself with speed

To give an aged woman food.

“O, tell me, gentle heiress, pray,

Where are the gallant nobles gone?”

“They all have sought the chase to-day,

Why linger you behind alone?”

“I came not, lady, for the chase.

I came to Kéroulaz for you,

I came to look upon your face,

And tell you that I love you true!”

“My heart is sad, each day the same,”

The heiress to her mother cried;

“’T is since the Marquis hither came,—

O mother! make me not his bride!

“My hand to any other give,—

Let Pennanrum decide my lot,

Or Salaün my troth receive,

I care not, so De Mesle ’t is not!

“If I the best of all might name,

One you have not denied is he,

O, if a boon I dared to claim,

Kerthomaz should my bridegroom be.”

“Now, good Kerthomaz, tell me all,

And let the truth dwell on your tongue;

Say, have you been to Kastelgall,

And saw you aught of vile or wrong?”

“I saw a hall all filled with smoke,

With broken casements flapping round;

I saw the doors all black and broke,

But ne’er a page nor groom I found.

“An aged crone was chopping hay,

No corn her master would afford;

Nor better is the feast each day

That crowns De Mesle the miser’s board!”

“Now shame, Kerthomaz, you have lied;

The Marquis dwells in pomp and state,

His castle shines with costly pride,

And menials at his bidding wait.

“Both blest and honored is her lot

Whom he shall ask his bride to be—”

“O mother, since I seek it not,

Such honor is not grace to me!”

“O daughter, urge me not again,

I seek for you a happy home,

My word is given, your tears are rain,

You must the Marquis’ bride become.”

The dame of Kéroulaz was moved,

For jealousy lurked in her heart;

Kerthomaz secretly she loved,

And wished the heiress should depart.

The maiden’s heart was like to break,—

“He gave me pledges oft of yore,

O, blithe was I those gifts to take,

O, sadly I those gifts restore!

“Kerthomaz, take your golden chain,

Your ring, your seal, I now resign;

I dare not any pledge retain,

Since I, alas! may not be thine!”

That heart was hard that would not melt

To see what looks the heiress cast,

How sadly at her gates she knelt,

And kissed the threshold as she passed:

“Farewell, dear Kéroulaz, farewell!

And all the scenes I prized of yore,

My friends, my love, I greet ye well,

I shall behold you nevermore!”

The poor were weeping one and all,—

“O, mourn not thus,” the heiress cried,

“Come to me straight at Kastelgall,

And all your wants shall be supplied;

For every day large alms I ’ll give,

And wheat and oats and barley fine,

Three times a week ye shall receive,—

I will not spare the wealth that ’s mine.”

The Marquis frowned upon his bride,—

“You shall not squander thus my store,

What means this idle boast?” he cried,

“I ’ll have no beggars swarm my door!”

“My lord, no gold of thine I crave,

Yet shall my alms each day be given,

That through the prayers we thus shall have,

Our souls may find some grace in heaven.”

Two months were past,—“O, is there none

That dares my messenger to be,

And make it to my mother known

What luckless fate has chanced to me!”

Then softly spake a gentle page:

“Dear lady, write a letter straight,

And I my truth and faith engage

To leave it at thy mother’s gate.”

The heiress made but small delay,

The page to Kéroulaz has hied,

Where in the hall, with knights so gay,

Her mother sat in pomp and pride.

Kerthomaz stood amidst the rest,

But when the letter they unfold,

Sad fears are in the mother’s breast,

Kerthomaz’ cheek is pale and cold.

“O, quick the grooms, Kerthomaz, call,

To saddle straight our swiftest steeds,

We must to-night to Kastelgall,

My daughter much our presence needs!”

When at the castle gate they rung,

The mother said, “What means this cheer?

Why is the door with mourning hung,

What heavy chance has fallen here?”

“The heiress that two months ago

The Lord de Mesle went hence to wed,

Is cause of all these marks of woe,

That gentle dame to-night is dead.”

“O, if that lady is no more,”

The mother cried in accents wild,

“’T is I who crushed that lovely flower,

’T is I have killed my only child!

“Her tears my pride could never move,

She would not be the Marquis’ bride,

But said, ‘Kerthomaz is my love,

And I can love no man beside!’”

Kerthomaz from the world is fled,

You abbey walls conceal his care;

The mother, to all comfort dead,

Devotes her life to God in prayer.