Lay of Lord Lucy of Egremond

The Lay of Lord Lucy of Egremond

On that Mount surnamed "of Sorrow"
Glass'd in Enna's winding flood,
Looking forth through many a morrow
Both the warriors, Lucies, stood;
Stood beside the ramparts hoary,
Brothers, vow'd their brows to wreathe
In the Holy Land with glory,
Or its sands to rest beneath.

Quietly the vale was lying,
Farm and meadow, forge and mill,
As the day-star faintly dying
Paled above the eastern hill.
But beneath the cullis'd portal
Press'd the pent-up throng of war,
Eager for the strife immortal
With the Soldan's hosts afar.

Fame has all his soul's embraces—
Clasps Lord Lucy maid nor wife.
As the warriors' vizor'd faces
Turn towards the land of strife.
Through the gate beneath the towering
Pile they wind in shining mail.
Soon afar the fortress lowering
Sinks beneath them in the vale.

Scawfell saw them take the billow,
Man by man on Cumbria's shore;
Carmel's foot was first their pillow
When again to land they bore.
And in holy fight they bound them
To their Saviour's service true;
Fought and bled, through hosts around them,
Till their ranks were faint and few.

Then beneath the foe contending,
Faithful, fearless, but in vain,
Lo, the brothers bound and bending
Drag the hopeless captive's chain.
In the Moslem dungeon wasting,
England's bravest, both they lie;
No sweet hope nor solace tasting,
Only blank captivity.

Months have rolled; and moons are waning;
Then stood Lucy forth and said,—
"Emir, over millions reigning!
We are two in dungeon laid.
I, who bore a noble's banner,
I have halls and realms afar,
Wealth which many a lordly manor
Yields, beneath the western star.

"Let the Emir's heart be gracious!
Free my brother at my side;
And a ransom rich and precious
We will bring o'er ocean wide.
So we two, whose arms avail'd not
Here our freedom to sustain,
But whose constant courage fail'd not,
May be Freedom's sons again."

Greed for gain o'er wrath prevailing
Softened soon the tyrant's mind.
Homewards one is swiftly sailing;
Calmly one will wait behind.
For a twelve-months thus they parted.
Weary months, the year, went o'er.
But that brother, evil-hearted,
From the West return'd no more.

Then the Emir's soul no longer
Would its vengeance stern forego;
All his rage suppress'd the stronger,
Burn'd, and burst upon his foe.
And he bade his hair be knotted
Into cords around a beam,
There to chain him till he rotted,
Where no light of heaven could gleam.

And in hunger sore he wasted;
And his nails grew like a bird's;
Day's sweet blesséd airs untasted,
And no sound of human words!
Changed in soul, and form, and feature,
Ah! how changed from that fair mould.
In which heaven had stamped its creature
Man and warrior, mild as bold!

Yet one heart whose daily gladness
Once had been, from latticed bower
To look down on him in sadness
Walking forth at evening hour;
She, the Emir's fairest daughter,
Sees brave Lucy now no more,—
Till unresting love has brought her
Trembling to his dungeon's floor.

There, with one mute form attending,
Swift her arm the faulchion drew
Through his locks; the hatterel rending[1]
From him, as it cleaved them through.
And with words of woman-kindness
Whisper'd she—"To light and air,
Life and love, from dungeon blindness,
Are we come the brave to bear."

And for love of him she bore him
To a ship, wherein he rode
Seaward till the bright sky o'er him
Circled round his own abode.
Then his castle-horn he sounded,
Which none other's skill could sound,
Where the traitor sat, confounded,
With his bold retainers round.

But brave Lucy's soul forgave him
All that wrong so foully done;
Him who went not back to save him
With the ransom he had won.
Yea, and more: "From Duddon's borders
Far as Esk, and from the sea
To where Hard-knott's ancient warders
Sleep," he said, "I give to thee.

"Here once more by vale and mountain,
On these ramparts side by side,
Wells up from my heart a fountain
Wastes and dungeons have not dried."
And his stately halls he entered,
Borne mid cheers and warriors' clang;
While a thousand welcomes, centred
In one shout of triumph, rang.

High the feast and great the story
Then that fill'd his ancient halls.
Healths to Lucy's House and glory
Shook the banners on the walls.
And their deep foundations hail'd him
With such echoes as were born
When his own true breath avail'd him
On the faithful Castle-horn.

And 'twas joy again to wander
On his own fair fields, and chase
There the wild wolf, and bring under
The strong deer in deadly race.
And if sometimes more the forest
Won him, museful and alone;
'Twas when secret thoughts were sorest.
Turn'd upon the past and gone.

But that lone and lordly bosom
Sought no mate of high degree;
Wooed no fair and beauteous blossom
From a noble kindred tree,—
As might have beseem'd, to wear her
Throned within a warrior's breast;
Evermore to bloom, the sharer
Of its love, its life, its rest.

So in field, and hall, and tourney,
As he lived—upon a day,
Wearied with a toilsome journey,
Came a guest from far away;
Feebly at his gate and humbly
Asking, "Dwells Lord Lucy here?"
But all question parried dumbly,
Till the voice she sought was near.

Then indeed the sorrow-laden,
Travel-stricken form sunk down;
Slow the hatterel forth the maiden
Drew; he knew her! 'twas his own!
Knew her, as she stood before him
On that barren Syrian shore,
When from wrath and death she bore him
Where no wrong might touch him more.

Bear her in! he tells them of her,
Tells them all with eyeballs dim.
Cannot be but he must love her,
For she bears such love to him.
She has left her father's mansion,
Left her country, faith, and name,
Travell'd o'er the sea's expansion,
Him to find in life and fame.

Was there ever like devotion?—
Is he husband, father; she
Who has braved the boundless ocean
Will his serving maiden be.
No! she shall abide in honour,
One for ever at his side;
Every gift and grace upon her
That beseems a warrior's bride.

Then again his days were gladden'd
With more joys than e'er of yore.
And if thought at times was sadden'd
With the memories which it bore,
Clasping oft his wife with true love,
He would say with whispering breath—
"Love is life indeed! for through love
I am here, reprieved from death!"

And his soul's allegiance fail'd not
That fair consort, all his days.
And their blissful love—avail'd not
Chance or time to quench its rays.
Love unto his gate had brought her
O'er the seas from far beyond.
And with love the Emir's daughter
Ruled the halls of Egremond.

But that kinsman, far divided
From them by remorse and shame,
Round his courts in secret glided
Ghost-like—nevermore the same:
Conscience-torn, repentant, weary,
Burning, longing for the close
Of that pilgrimage so dreary.
Power had come, but not repose.

Shadows the rebuked and chastened,
Worn-out warrior lowly laid.
And from Bega's cloisters hastened
Thrice the prior with his aid:
Thrice: And ere the leaves had faded,
Brave Lord Lucy clasped his breast;[2]
Kiss'd him; and the convent shaded
One more spirit into rest.

Notes to "the Lay of Lord Lucy of Egremond."

The name of Egremont seems to be derived from its ancient possessors, the Normans, and being changed by a trifling corruption of their language, carries the same meaning, and signifies the Mount of Sorrow.

The charter of Richard de Lucy, granted to the burgesses in the time of King John, declares it to be given and confirmed "burgensibus meis de Acrimonte," &c.

William the Conqueror having established himself on the throne of England, and added the county of Cumberland, which he wrested from Malcolm, king of Scotland, to his northern possessions; he gave it, together with the barony of Westmorland, to Randolph or Ranulph du Briquesard, also surnamed le Meschin, Vicomte du Bessin, elder brother of William le Meschin. This nobleman was allied to the Conqueror by marriage with his niece, and was one of his numerous train of military adventurers. He was the first Norman paramount feudatory of Cumberland. When Ranulph granted out to his several retainers their respective allotments; reserving to himself the forest of Inglewood, he gave to his brother, William le Meschin, the great barony of Copeland, bounded by the rivers Duddon and Derwent, and the sea. The latter seated himself at Egremont and there erected a castle; and in distinction of this his baronial seat, he changed the name of the whole territory to that of the barony of Egremont. After possessing this estate with great power for several years, and dying without male issue, it devolved to his daughter Alice, married to Robert de Romili, Lord of Skipton. They having no male issue, these two great baronies descended to their only daughter Alice, who married William Fitz-Duncan, Earl of Murray, nephew to David, King of Scots. By this marriage there was issue a son, who died in infancy, and three daughters who divided the vast inheritance. To Amabil, the second daughter, the barony of Egremont came in partition; and by her marriage with Reginald Lucy, passed to that family. William Fitz-Duncan was Lord of the adjoining Cumbrian seigniory or honor of Cockermouth, and of the barony of Allerdale below Derwent, which large estates had descended to him from his mother Octreda, who inherited them from her grandfather Waldeof, first lord of Allerdale, to whom they had been granted by Ranulph de Meschin. Waldeof was the son of Gospatrick, Earl of Dunbar.

Particular mention is made of two only of the name of Lucy in succession: Reginald de Lucy, who was governor of Nottingham for the King, in the rebellion of the Earl of Leicester, and who also attended the coronation of Richard I. among the other Barons; and Richard de Lucy, his son, who, in the reign of King John, paid a fine of three hundred marks for the livery of all his lands in Coupland and Canteberge, and to have the liberty of marrying whom he pleased, &c. He married Ada, one of the two daughters and co-heiresses of Hugh de Morville; and obtained a grant from King John, by which he claimed and held the whole property of his father-in-law, without partition to the other daughter, Joane. He died before or about the 15th year of King John, leaving two daughters, between whom the estates were divided, and who both married into the Multon family.

At that time, and long after, it was a part of the King's prerogative to interfere in the marriages of his nobility.[3]

The subsequent acts of the widowed Ada de Lucy afford us a fine illustration of the exercise of this prerogative on the part of the sovereign in the matters of widows and heiresses. Ada paid a fine of five hundred marks for livery of her inheritance; as also for dowry of her late husband's lands; and that she might not be compelled to marry again. She espoused, however, without compulsion, and without the king's licence, Thomas de Multon; in consequence of which, the Castle of Egremont, and her other lands, were seized by the Crown. But upon paying a compensation, they were restored, and she had livery of them again. Her second husband, on his payment of one thousand marks to the crown, was made guardian over the two daughters, and co-heiresses, of her first husband, de Lucy: and as a necessary consequence, and, in fact, in accordance with the permission implied by the arrangement, he married them to his two sons by his first wife.

These two daughters and co-heiresses of Lucy having married the two sons of Thomas de Multon, the elder carried with her the lordship of Egremont; while the son of the younger assumed the surname of his maternal family, and was ancestor of the barons Lucy of Cockermouth. The infant daughter of Anthony, the third and last baron Lucy, dying in the year following his own demise, the barony was carried by the marriage of his sister Maude with the first Earl of Northumberland to the Percy family: thence to the Seymours, Dukes of Somerset; and through them to Wyndham, Earl of Egremont, by whose descendant, the first Lord Leconfield, it is at present enjoyed.

Egremont was anciently a borough, sending two members to parliament; but was disfranchised on the petition of the burgesses, to avoid the expense of representation. The burgesses possessed several privileges, but all records of them are lost. The ordinances of Richard de Lucy for the government of the borough is a curious record, in which several singularities are to be observed, which point out to us the customs of that distant age. By this burgage tenure, the people of Egremont were obliged to find armed men, for the defence of the Castle, forty days at their own charge. The lord was entitled to forty days' credit for goods, and no more; and his burgesses might refuse to supply him, till the debt which had exceeded that date was paid. They were bound to aids for the redemption of the lord and his heir from captivity; for the knighthood of one of the lord's sons, and the marriage of one of his daughters. They were to find him twelve men for his military array. They were to hold watch and ward. They could not enter the forest with bow and arrow. They were relieved from cutting off the dogs' feet within the borough, as being a necessary and customary defence: on the borders, the dogs appointed to be kept for defence, were called slough dogs : this privilege points out, that within the limits of forests, the inhabitants keeping dogs for defence were to lop off one foot or more, to prevent their chasing the game; which did not spoil them for the defence of a dwelling. A singular privilege appears in the case of a burgess committing fornication with the daughter of a rustic, one who was not a burgess; that he should not be liable to the fine imposed in other cases for that offence, unless he had seduced by promise of marriage. The fine for seducing a woman belonging to the borough was three shillings to the lord. By the rule for inspecting dyers, weavers, and fullers, it seems those were the only trades at that time within the borough under the character of craftsmen. The burgesses who had ploughs were to till the lord's demesne one day in the year, and every burgess to find a reaper: their labour was from morning ad nonam, which was three o'clock, as from six to three.

Egremont was probably a place of strength, and the seat of some powerful chief, during the Heptarchy, and in the time of the Danes. The ruins of the Castle, on the west of the town, stand on an eminence, the northern extremity of which forms a lofty mound, seventy-eight feet in perpendicular height above the ditch which surrounds the fortress. On the crown of this hill, it is believed, there formerly stood a Danish fortification. The mound is said to be artificial. Tradition goes so far as to assert that it is formed of soil brought by St. Bega from Ireland, as ballast for her ship. The miraculous power of the Saint must have been largely exercised to increase it to its present proportions. It still, however, retains the virtue given to Irish earth by the blessing of St. Patrick, and no reptile can live upon it.

This fortress is not of very great extent, but bears singular marks of antiquity and strength. The approach and grand entrance from the south, has been kept by a draw-bridge over a deep moat. The entrance to the castle is by a gateway vaulted with semi-circular arches, and guarded by a strong tower. The architecture of this tower, which is the chief part of the fortress now standing, points out its antiquity to be at least coeval with the entry of the Normans. The outward wall has enclosed a considerable area of a square form; but it is now gone so much to decay, that no probable conjecture can be made as to the particular manner in which it was fortified. On the side next the town a postern remains. To the westward, from the area, there is an ascent to three narrow gates, standing close together, and on a straight line, which have communicated with the outworks: these are apparently of more modern architecture, and have each been defended with a portcullis. Beyond these gates is the lofty mount, which has already been referred to, and on which anciently stood a circular tower, the western side of which endured the rage of time till within the last century. The whole fortification is surrounded by a moat, more properly so called than a ditch, as it appears to have been walled on both sides. This is strengthened with an outward rampart of earth, which is five hundred paces in circumference. A small brook runs on the eastern side of the Castle, and it may be presumed, anciently filled the moat. The mode of building which appears in part of the walls, is rather uncommon, the construction being of large thin stones, placed in an inclined position, the courses lying in different directions, so as to form a kind of feathered work, the whole run together with lime and pebbles, impenetrably strong. It seems to have been copied from the filling parts of the Roman wall.

An old tradition connects the lords of this Castle with the Crusades. One version of it given in the histories of Cumberland, for it is variously related, is to this effect:—"The Baron of Egremont being taken prisoner beyond the seas by the infidels, could not be redeemed without a great ransom, and being for England, entered his brother or kinsman for his surety, promising with all possible speed to send him money to set him free; but upon his return home to Egremont, he changed his mind, and most unnaturally and unthankfully suffered his brother to lie in prison, in great distress and extremity, until the hair was grown to an unusual length, like to a woman's hair. The Pagans being out of hopes of the ransom, in great rage most cruelly hanged up their pledge, binding the long hair of his head to a beam in the prison, and tied his hands so behind him, that he could not reach to the top where the knot was fastened to loose himself: during his imprisonment, the Paynim's daughter became enamoured of him, and sought all good means for his deliverance, but could not enlarge him: she understanding of this last cruelty, by means made to his keeper, entered the prison, and taking her knife to cut the hair, being hastened, she cut the skin of his head, so as, with the weight of his body, he rent away the rest, and fell down to the earth half dead; but she presently took him up, causing surgeons to attend him secretly, till he recovered his former health, beauty, and strength, and so entreated her father for him that he set him at liberty. Then, desirous to revenge his brother's ingratitude, he got leave to depart to his country, and took home with him the hatterell of his hair rent off as aforesaid, and a bugle-horn, which he commonly used to carry about him, when he was in England, where he shortly arrived, and coming to Egremont Castle about noontide of the day, where his brother was at dinner, he blew his bugle-horn, which (says the tradition) his brother the baron presently acknowledged, and thereby conjectured his brother's return; and then sending his friends and servants to learn his brother's mind to him, and how he had escaped, they brought back the report of all the miserable torment which he had endured for his unfaithful brother the baron, which so astonished the baron (half dead before with the shameful remembrance of his own disloyalty and breach of promise) that he abandoned all company and would not look on his brother, till his just wrath was pacified by diligent entreaty of their friends. And to be sure of his brother's future kindness, he gave the lordship of Millum  to him and his heirs for ever. Whereupon the first Lords of Millum gave for their arms the horn and the hatterell.

Others relate that it was the baron who remained as hostage: and that on his release from captivity by the Paynim's daughter, and after his departure to his native country, urged by her love towards him, she found her way across the sea, and presenting herself at his castle-gate, with the hatterell of his hair which she had preserved as a token, was joyfully recognized by the Baron, who made her his wife and the mistress of his halls.

It is, on various grounds, an anachronism to refer this tradition to the period when the Lucies were Lords of Egremont. For, according to Denton, the great seignory of Millom "in the time of King Henry I. was given by William Meschines, Lord of Egremont, to ... de Boyvill, father to Godard de Boyvill, named in ancient evidences Godardus Dapifer." This accords with the tradition, which is very old, and is given by both Denton and Sandford, and which makes, as we have seen, the Boyvills to be very near of kin to the Lords of Egremont. It also particularises the occasion upon which Millom was transferred to that family; who took their surname from the place, and were styled de-Millom.

That some members of the family were engaged in the crusades, we learn from the record that Arthur Boyvill or de Millom, the third lord, and the son of Godardus Dapifer, granted to the Abbey of St. Mary in Furness the services of Kirksanton in Millom, which Robert de Boyvill, his cousin-german, then held of him; and soon after he mortgaged the same to the Abbot of Furness, until his return from the Holy Land.

The crest of Huddleston of Hutton John is, Two arms, dexter and sinister embowed, vested, argent, holding in their hands a scalp proper, the inside gules. The tradition of the Horn of Egremont Castle, which could only be sounded by the rightful lord, and which forms the subject of a fine poem by Mr. Wordsworth, is said properly to belong to Hutton-John, an ancient manor of the Huddlestons, who were descended from the Boyvills in the female line; Joan, the daughter and heiress of the last of the de-Milloms, in the reign of Henry III., having married Sir John Hudleston, Kt.; and thus transferred the seignory into that family, with whom it continued for a period of about 500 years.

The name of Egremont will remind the poetical reader of the story of the "Youthful Romili," celebrated by Wordsworth in his noble ballad "The Founding of Bolton Priory," and by Rogers in his less ambitious lines "The Boy of Egremond." It seems to be by no means certain to which generation of William le Meschines' descendants the tale belongs. Denton says, "Alice Romley, the third daughter and co-heir of William Fitz-Duncan, was the fourth lady of Allerdale: but having no children alive at her death, she gave away divers manors and lands to houses of religion, and to her friends and kinsmen. She had a son named William, who was drowned in Craven coming home from hunting or hawking. His hound or spaniel being tied to his girdle by a line, (as they crossed the water near Barden Tower, in Craven) pulled his master from off his horse and drowned him. When the report of his mischance came to his mother, she answered, "Bootless bayl brings endless sorrow." She had also three daughters, Alice, Avice, and Mavice, who all died unmarried, and without children; wherefore the inheritance was after her death parted between the house of Albemarl and Reginald Lucy, Baron of Egremont, descending to her sister's children and their posterity."

This is Whitaker's statement:—"In the year 1121 William le Meschines and Cecilia his wife founded a Priory for canons regular, at Embsay, which was dedicated to St. Mary and St. Cuthbert, and continued there about thirty-three years, when it is said by tradition to have been translated to Bolton, on the following account.

"The founders of Embsay were now dead, and had left a daughter, who adopted her mother's name, Romillé, and was married to William Fitz-Duncan. They had issue a son, commonly called the Boy of Egremond (one of his grandfather's baronies, where he was probably born), who, surviving an elder brother, became the last hope of the family.

"In the deep solitude of the woods betwixt Bolton and Barden, the Wharf suddenly contracts itself to a rocky channel little more than four feet wide, and pours through the tremendous fissure with a rapidity proportionate to its confinement. This place was then, as it is yet, called the Strid, from a feat often exercised by persons of more agility than prudence, who stride from brink to brink, regardless of the destruction which awaits a faltering step. Such, according to tradition, was the fate of young Romillé, who inconsiderately bounding over the chasm with a greyhound in his leash, the animal hung back, and drew his unfortunate master into the torrent. The forester, who accompanied Romillé, and beheld his fate, returned to the Lady Aäliza, and, with despair in his countenance, enquired, 'What is good for a bootless Bene?' To which the mother, apprehending that some great calamity had befallen her son, instantly replied, 'Endless Sorrow.'

"The language of this question, almost unintelligible at present, proves the antiquity of the story, which nearly amounts to proving its truth. But 'bootless Bene' is unavailing prayer; and the meaning, though imperfectly expressed, seems to have been, 'What remains when prayer is useless?'"

The accuracy of this account, though admitted to be true so far as the death of a scion of Romili's house, is however doubted by Dr. Whitaker, who states that the son of the Lady Alice or Aäliza was a party and witness to the charter of translation to Bolton in 1154 of the Canons of the Priory of Embsay, founded in 1121 by William de Meschines and Cecilia de Romili his wife. Besides, as the Boy of Egremond was alive in 1160, and a partaker in the rebellion of the Pictish Celts of Scotland, of which the object was to set him on the throne as the rightful heir, Dr. Whitaker is of opinion that the story refers to one of the sons (both of whom died young) of Cecilia le Meschines, grandmother of Lady Alice.

There is however an oversight of some importance in Whitaker's statement. He altogether omits the second generation of the descendants of William le Meschines. Alice, the daughter of W. le Meschines, married Robert de Romili; Alice, her daughter, married Fitz-Duncan, who assumed the name of his wife, and was William le Romili. If their son was "the Boy of Egremond," he could not have been a witness to the charter of translation in 1154. If he was drowned in the Wharf, his death could not have been the occasion of the refounding of the Priory at Bolton. If the son of Cecilia le Meschines was "the Boy of Egremond"; as he might be so styled from his father's barony; he may have been drowned at the Strid, but his mother could not have been the second foundress of the Priory; for, as Whitaker says, the founders of Embsay were already dead. Tradition, moreover, clings to the name of the Lady Alice, as being that of the pious dispenser of her goods to sacred and religious uses. And however history may conflict with tradition, there will remain, that the Lady of Skipton, Cockermouth, and the Allerdales, bestowed her lands and goods most liberally upon the Abbeys of Fountains and Pomfret, and other religious confraternities; that she, the Lady Alice, seems always to have cherished those dispositions whose spiritual convictions moved in unison with the votive religious practices of the age; and although she, for the health of her dear son's soul (if he it were who perished in the Wharf) could not have founded near the scene of his untimely fate, the Priory before mentioned; its legendary history, which has so enshrined her affections and her sorrows, will continue to connect in the future, as in the past, the image of the youthful Romili with her griefs, and the stately Priory of Bolton with his imperishable name.

[1]The scalp with the hair attached.

[2]In the early and middle ages kissing was the common form of salutation, and the osculum pacis  was a sign of reconciliation and charity. Examples will occur to every reader of Scripture and the classics.

[3]Dr. Whitaker. Vide notes to the "Bridals of Dacre," for instances.