JAMES I.—THE BEAUTIFUL LADY OF THE GARDEN
When King Henry of England took Prince James of
Scotland prisoner, he did not treat him unkindly. No
chains were put on his hands or feet, nor was he thrown
into a dark and horrible dungeon. He was shut up in a
strong castle, but he had a pleasant room in which to live.
His window looked out on a pretty garden. There early
and late Prince James would sit, watching the trees and
the flowers, and listening to the birds singing, and that
brought great comfort to him in his loneliness.
King Henry, remembering that he had said that he
could teach James French as well as any man, had him
taught not only French, but many other things. Prince
James learned to read French, and English, and Latin,
to sing, and to play upon the harp and organ. He was
also taught to fence and to wrestle, to use bows and arrows,
and indeed, to do everything that knights and nobles did
in those days.
No doubt the hours seemed long to the little boy, shut
up all day in one room, so he looked forward to the
coming of his masters, and soon he grew to love his books
better than anything else. Over and over again he read
the pretty stories of Chaucer and of other great poets, and
he filled his mind so full of beautiful thoughts that when
he grew up he too wrote poems.
But in spite of all this James was very lonely. When
THE BEAUTIFUL LADY OF THE GARDEN 225
he was a boy he longed for other boys to play with, and
as year after year went by and he grew to be a man, he
longed more and more to be out in the great world, to
go and come as he wished, to talk and laugh, to be merry
and sad with other men and women, and to have his share
in all the joy and sorrow, work and play, of life.
‘ Whereas in ward full oft I would bewail
My deadly life, full of pain and penance,
Saying right thus, “ What guilt have I, to fail
My freedom in this world and my pleasance ?
Since every man has thereof sufficance,
That I behold ; and I a creature
Put from all this—hard it mine adventure.
‘ “ The bird, the beast, the fish eke in the sea,
They live in freedom each one in his kind ;
And I a man and liketh liberty ;
What shall I say, what reason shall I find,
That fortune should do so—” Thus in my mind
My folk I would argue, but all in vain,
None there was took pity on my pain.
‘ Then would I say, “ If God me had divised
To live my life in thraldom thus and pine,
What was the cause that he more me adjudged
Than other folk to live in such ruin ?
I suffer alone among the figures nine,
An woeful wretch that to no man may speed,
And yet of all living help has need.”
That is part of a poem which James wrote, and which is
called The King’s Quair, or King’s book. He tells us
that both day and night he would bewail his sad fate in
words like these. Often he could not sleep, and would
spend the night trying to read, and so to forget his misery.
Then, as soon as the sun began to shine, he would go to
his window, and look out upon the fair world into which
he might not go. And the sight of the blue sky and the
green trees comforted him.
226 SCOTLAND’S STORY
One May morning he rose very early, and, opening his
window, leaned out to breathe the fresh, clear air. He
looked down into the garden with its green arbour, set
about with thick leafy trees and hawthorn hedges white
with blossom, and up to the sky where big fleecy clouds
were sailing through the blue. All the world was bright.
‘ And on the small green twigs sat
The little sweet nightingales, and sang
So loud and clear, the hymns consecrate
To love‘s use, now soft now loud among,
That all the garden and the walls rang
Right with their song, and all the linked notes
Of their sweet harmony.
‘ “ Worship ye that lovers be this May,
For of your bliss the first days are begun,
And sing with us, Away Winter, away !
Come Summer, come, the sweet season and sun !
Awake for shame ! that have your heavens won,
And joyously lift up your heads all,
Thank Love that does you to this merci call.” ’
The birds seemed so glad and joyous that after they had
stopped singing, Prince James still leaned by the window,
watching them as they hopped about, preening their
feathers, twittering and playing with each other in the
sunshine. They came quite close to his window, for they
were not afraid of the man with the sad eyes who watched
them. And all the time Prince James was saying to
himself, ‘ What have I done that I should be cooped up
here within these four walls, with no one to love me, while
the birds may fly about in the free air, and sing to each
other and love each other ? ’
Still full of these sad thoughts he looked down again
into the garden. Suddenly all the blood in his body
seemed to rush to his heart. For there in the garden
walked the fairest lady he had ever seen. Her golden
THE BEAUTIFUL LADY OF THE GARDEN 227
hair was crowned with a wreath of flowers, red, white, and
blue. Her dress glittered with gold and gems. Round
her neck hung a great, red, ruby heart, and oh ! she was
more beautiful than any fairy princess. Unable to move,
the Prince stood and gazed at her.
‘ No wonder was ; for why ? my wits all
Were so o’ercome with pleasure and delight,
Only through letting of my eyes down fall,
That suddenly my heart became her thrall,
For ever of free will ; for of menace
There was no token in her sweet face.’
As soon as he recovered himself, Prince James drew
in his head quickly, lest he should be seen, and frighten
the beautiful lady away. But again he leaned out to
watch her as she walked with her two ladies in waiting,
and played about with her little dog.
Then, although the lady was far away down in the
garden and could not hear him, Prince James knelt at
the window and whispered to her. ‘ Dear lady,’ he said,
‘ you are so beautiful I cannot help but love you. Why
did you come ? I am only a wretched prisoner, but be
kind to me, and love me too. If you will not, I must
bear the pain all my life.’
And so he knelt, and watched, and whispered, and
envied the little dog she played with. ‘ Dear birds,’ he
cried, ‘ where are your songs ? You sang of love this
morning. Where are your songs now ? Why are you
silent ? Do you not see that the most beautiful lady in
all the world is walking in the garden ? Sing on again
and make my lady cheer. Now is the time to sing, or
It seemed as if the little birds understood, for they
began to sing more sweetly than they had ever sung
before, it seemed to the Prince. The beautiful lady stood
under the trees, looking up and listening to their songs.
And Prince James knelt by the window, watching and
loving her more and more.
‘ In her was youth, beauty with humble port,
Bounty, richness and womanly feature,
God better wot than my pen can report,
Wisdom, largess, estate and knowledge sure.
In every point, so goodly her measure
In word, in deed, in shape, in countenance,
That nature might no more her child advance.
‘ And when she walkéd had a little while
Under the sweet young boughs bent,
Her fair fresh face, as white as any snow,
She turnéd has, and forth her ways went ;
But then began mine anguish and torment,
To see her go and follow not I might,
Methought the day was turnéd into night.’
The beautiful lady had gone from the garden. To
Prince James, life seemed darker and more dreary than
before. All day he mourned and grieved, longing again
to see the lovely lady. When night came he still knelt
by the window, as motionless as any statue. At last,
wearied out both in heart and mind, he leaned his head
against the cold stone and slept. And in his dreams he
saw again the beautiful lady walking in the garden.
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