The Saffron Fly: A Legend of Brittany

JUDOCK the sorcerer, Kakous born,
Master of magic sign and spell,
Skilled to measure the thought of man,
Wise with the wisdom of lower hell, —
Judock, hated and mocked and feared,
Hid in the shadow of Mont d’Yvé,
High and scornful to men appeared,
But the soul within him cursed all day.
Mad with the lust of gold was he,
Thirsty for riches as sea for sands;
Long he pondered the mystery
Of hoarding spirits and hiding hands.
Morn and midnight he travailed well,
Wrought with signet and spell of power,
Till the Spirit of Sin in the rock that dwells
He bound and tortured in evil hour.
Round and round, and seven times round,
Him he bound with a mighty chain,
Till Debrua howled like a beaten hound,
And shook and shuddered in mortal pain.
Loud he yelled, “ 0 master of men !
Set me free, and I will not lie !
Gold and jewels his hands shall fill
Who finds and catches the Saffron Fly.
“ Weave of thy whitest hair a net, —
Weave it only with three times three;
Soak it in blood and wash in sweat,
So shall the Fly thy captive be.”
Judock severed the mighty chain,
The sword of Solomon cleft it through ;
With screech, and laughter, and yell of hate,
Back to the rocks old Debrua flew.
Judock wove the wondrous net,
Hunted the Fly by night and day;
Thorns and briers his path beset,
Tearing the flesh from his bones away.
Wild the black rocks over him frowned,
His blood ran cold, he was like to die,
Or ever above that haunted ground
Danced and glittered the Saffron Fly.
Seven long days, through mire and mud,
Well he followed its freakish flight,
Till overhead, on a peasant’s hut,
He saw the glimmering wings alight.
His bones were stiff, his flesh was cold,
He could not climb a fathom higher;
For one more chance at the Fly of gold
He set the peasant’s hut on fire.
Loud they shrieked who burned within.
What cared he, for the Fly, it flew !
Low he cursed and fast he ran,
Black the cinders after him blew.
Now it lights,—on a fennel-tree!
Flower of fennel no witch abides.
The greedy fingers grew numb and weak ;
The Fly of fortune his chase derides.
By there wandered a shepherd lad ;
Fair to see was the yellow Fly ;
Slowly he reached his slender hand,
And safe within it did fortune lie.
Judock’s dagger was keen and fine ;
Deep to the shepherd’s heart it sped.
Loud he laughed as he caught the Fly
Out of the fingers of the dead.
Fair is fortune, and evil too;
Close he grasped, and sharp it stung ;
The hand that gathers with love nor ruth
Gathers sorrow for old or young !
Gold like pebbles his coffers filled;
Gorgeous garments and spreading lands,
Gems like the dews of morning spilled,
All were gathered by Judock’s hands:
All ! — and the blessing of Saint Sequaire ;
Cursèd blessing, that dries the heart.
His blood grew thick and his body spare,
He felt the life from his veins depart.
Light grew dark to his groping gaze,
Bitter was food, the wine cup dry ;
In a year and a day he wasted away,
And his soul died cursing the Saffron Fly.
Rose Terry Cooke.