Shield of Flandrensis

The Shield of Flandrensis

The Knight sat lone in Old Rydal Hall,
Of the line of Flandrensis burly and tall.
His book lay open upon the board:
His elbow rested on his good sword:
His knightly sires and many a dame
Look'd on him from panel and dusky frame.
High over the hearth was their ancient shield,
An argent fret on a blood-red field—
"Peace, Plenty, Wisdom."—"Peace?" he said:
"Peace there is none for living or dead."

The Autumnal day had died away:
The reapers deep in their slumbers lay:
The harvest moon through the blazoned panes
From Scandale Brow poured in the stains:
His household train, and his folk at rest,
And most the child that he loved best:
His startled ear caught up the swell
Of distant sounds he knew too well.
By his golden lamp to the shield he said,
"Peace? Peace there is none for living or dead."

The Knight he came of high degree,
None better or braver in arms than he:
Worthy of old Flandrensis' fame,
Whose soul not battle nor broil could tame.
That neighing and trampling of horses late,
That hubbub of voices round his gate,
That sound of hurry along the floors,
That dirge-like wail through distant doors,
Tempestuous in the calm, he heard:
And he looked on the shield, nor spoke, nor stirr'd.

From inmost chambers far remote
Responsive flow'd one dirge-like note:
Loud through the arches deep and wide
One little voice did sweetly glide;
Its sad accords along the gloom
Swelled on towards that lordly room—
"We wait not long, our watch we keep,
We all are singing, and none may sleep:
When stone on stone nor roof remain,
The unresting shall have rest again."

The Knight turned listening to the door.
His little maid came up the floor.
Her nightly robe of purest white
Gleamed purer in the faded light.
The blazoned moonbeams slowly swept
The spaces round, as on she stept.
And lo! in his armour from head to toe,
With his beard of a hundred winters' snow,
Stood old Flandrensis burly and tall,
With his breast to the shield, and his back to the wall.

The six score winters in his eyes
Unfroze, as on through the blazoned dyes,
Sable, and azure, and gules, she came.
Through his heaving beard low fluttered her name.
But slowly and solemnly, leading or led
By phantoms chanting for living or dead,
Pass'd on the little voice so sweet—
"We all are singing: we all must meet"—
And into the gloom like a fading ray:
And the form of Flandrensis vanished away.

The Knight, alone, in his ancient hold,
Sat still as a stone: his blood ran cold.
For his little maiden was his delight.
Then forth he strode in the face of the night.
His dogs were in kennel, his steeds in stall:
His deer were lying about his hall:
His swans beneath the Lord's Oak Tree:
The silvery Rotha was flowing free.
He set his brow towards Scandale hill:
The vale was breathing, but all was still.

He thought of the spirits the snow-winds rouse,
The Piping Spirits of Sweden Hows,
That wail to the Rydal Chiefs their fate—
That pipe as they whirl around lattice and gate,
With their grey gaunt misty forms: but now,
There was not a stir in the lightest bough:
The winds in the mountain gorge were laid;
No sound through all the moonlight stray'd.
He turned again to his ancient Keep:
There all was silence, and calm, and sleep.

But all grew changed in the gloomy pile.
His little maiden lost her smile.
The menials fled: that knightly race
Was left alone in its ancient place:
The pride of its line of warriors quailed—
Those sworded knights once peerless hailed:
To the earth broke down from its hold their shield.
With its argent fret and its blood-red field:
And they fled from the might of the powers that strode
In the darkness through their old abode.

And Sir Michael brooded an autumn day,
As he looked on the slope at his child at play,
On the green by the sounding water's fall:
And often those words did he recall—
"We wait not long, our watch we keep;
We all are singing, and none may sleep.
When stone on stone nor roof remain,
The unresting shall have rest again."
And the Knight ordained, as he brooded alone—
"There shall not be left of it roof or stone."

And Sir Michael said—"I will build my hall
On the green by the sounding waterfall:
And an arbour cool at its foot, beside.
And I'll bury my shield in the crystal tide,
To cleanse it from blood perchance, that so
Peace, Plenty, and Wisdom again may flow
Round old Flandrensis' honours and name."
And the pile arose: and the sun's bright flame
Was pleasant around it: and morn and even
It lay in the light and the hues of heaven.

And Sir Michael sat in the arbour cool,
Where the waters leapt in the crystal pool;
Saying—"Gone is yon keep to a grim decay.
And now, my little one, loved alway!
Whence came thy singing so wild and deep?"—
—"We all were singing, and none might sleep,
Till all the Unmerciful heard their strain.
But now the unresting have rest again."—

So the keep went down to the dust and mould.
And the new pile bore the blazon of old—
The pride of the old ancestral shield—
The argent fret on the blood-red field;
"Peace, Plenty, Wisdom"
Beneath enscrolled.

Notes to "the Shield of Flandrensis."

The ancient Manor house at Rydal stood in the Low Park, on the top of a round hill, on the south side of the road leading from Keswick to Kendal. But on the building of the new mansion on the north side of the highway, in what is called the High Park, the manor house became ruinous, and got the name of the Old Hall, which, says Dr. Burn, in his time, "it still beareth." Even then there was nothing to be seen but ruinous buildings, walks, and fish ponds, and other marks of its ancient consequence; the place where the orchard stood was then a large enclosure without a fruit tree in it, and called the Old Orchard. At the present day few indications of its site remain. Tradition asserts that it was deserted from superstitious fears.

The present mansion was erected by Sir Michael le Fleming in the last century. It stands on the north side of the road, on a slope facing the south, is a large old fashioned building, and commands a fine view of Windermere. Behind it rises Rydal Head, and Nab-Scar a craggy mountain 1030 feet above the level of the sea. The Park is interspersed with abundance of old oaks, and several rocky protuberances in the lawn are covered with fine elms and other forest trees. The Lord's Oak, a magnificent specimen, is built into the wall on the lower side of the Rydal Road over which it majestically towers. "The sylvan, or rather forest scenery of Rydal Park," says Professor Wilson, "was, in the memory of living men, magnificent, and it still contains a treasure of old trees."

The two waterfalls, the cascades of the rivulet which runs through the lawn, are situated in the grounds. The way leads through the park meadow and outer gardens by a path of singular beauty and richness. They are in the opinion of Gilpin and other tourists unparalleled in their kind. The upper fall is the finest, in the eyes of those who prefer the natural accessories of a cascade: but the lower one, which is below the Hall, is beheld from the window of an old summer house. This affords a fine picture frame; the basin of rock and the bridge above, with the shadowy pool, and the overhanging verdure, constituting a perfect picture.

The heraldic distinction, the fret, is found more than once in Furness Abbey, and is undoubtedly the ancient arms of le Fleming. An entire seal appended to a deed from Sir Richard le Fleming of Furness dated 44 Edward the Third (1371) shews a fret hung cornerwise, the crest, on a helmet a fern, or something like it. The seal annexed to another deed dated 6 Henry V. (1419) is the same as above described; the motto, S. Thome Flemin, in Saxon characters.

The present crest and motto are of modern date, and explain each other: the serpent is the emblem of wisdom, as the olive and the vine are of peace and plenty. But upon what occasion this distinction was taken does not appear.