Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Knight And The Devil.

The Knight And The DevilTitle: The history of the devil and the idea of evil: from the earliest times to the present day. ATLA monograph preservation program. Author: Paul Carus. Publisher: Open Court, 1899. Original: from Harvard University. Digitized: Nov 28, 2007. Length: 496 pages. Image: (Old German Print.)
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One reason why there were always so many who in spite of their fear of eternal damnation tried to make contracts with the Prince of Darkness was the prevalent idea illustrated in many old legends that it was quite possible to shirk one's obligations; indeed God and all the saints were supposed to be always ready to assist people in cheating the Devil out of his own. As an instance that characterises this belief, quite common in the Middle Ages, we quote the legend of St. Gertrude, an Old-German poem of unknown authorship.

Middle Ages, we quote the legend of St. Gertrude, an Old-German poem of unknown authorship.

"A knight was stricken by poverty great,

His goods he all had wasted,
And gone from him was his whole estate ;
Such bitter want he'd tasted

That to take his life he intended.

"He rode to the forest dark and dim,

But there, the Devil awaited
The knight and said to him :
'Thou shalt be reinstated
If thou wilt assist me in secret.'

" 'I'll give thee chests full of glittering gold
In exchange for thy loving maiden, Then canst thou live well and free and bold, Until thou diest. Well laden

With joys shalt thou be while living.'

"And happy was the maiden fair,

The new wealth her heart delighted ; 'But say, my Lord,' she asked, 'from where Do the riches come?' Then affrighted Was the knight at her look and her query.

" 'O, lady dear wilt thou ride with me

Through a forest green and pleasant? The birds of the forest there play in glee, And the songs are now heard incessant Which gaily the birds are singing.'

"Together a green forest they reached ;

And near the road was standing
A little chapel, where men beseeched
Mary, whose arms were expanding
To all: our worthy mother, our lady.

"To the knight the maiden said: 'Let me
Here stop in pious feeling

In the chapel to pray an Ave Marie.'
At the altar she was kneeling

With her arms acrosswise folded.

"She there fell asleep, forgetting her care,
And Mary stepped forth from the altar
And to the knight she came blooming fair,
In her hand bearing rosary and psalter,
And mounted, as if 'twere the maiden.

"They both reached soon, in the forest dense,

The cross-road where the Devil was standing,
His rage on seeing them was intense.

'Thou hast cheated me !' he was demanding,
'Thou treacherous liar, thou trickster!

" 'Thou hast promised to bring here thy lady fair,

And thou bringest the Queen of Heaven I
With her I cannot my conquests share,
From her presence I must be driven
Yea, driven from her forever.'

"Said Mary:

" 'Thou evil spirit, away with thee,

To thy fellows thou shalt be piven,
The lady thou must leave with me !
My Son's kingdom she shall live in,
Now and forever! Amen.

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