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Full text of "The jackdaw of Rheims, from the Ingoldsby legends"

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Sat on 

the Cardinal's chair ! 
Bishop, and abbot, and 

prior were there ; 
Many a monk, and many a friar, 
Many a knight, and many a 

With a great many more of lesser degree, — 
In sooth, a goodly company ; 
And they served the Lord Primate 
on bended knee. 
Never, I ween, 
Was a prouder seen, 
Read of in books, or dreamt of in dreams. 
Than the Cardinal Lord Archbishop of Rheims! 





Through the motley rout, 
That Uttle Jackdaw kept 

hopping about ; 
Here and there, 
Like a dog in a fair. 
Over comfits and cates, 
And dishes and plates. 
Cowl and cope, and rochet and pall. 
Mitre and crosier ! he hopp'd upon all ! 


JLGjlI a saucy air, 
He perch'd on the chair 
Where, in state, the great 
Lord Cardinal sat 
^ In the great Lord Cardinal's 
great red hat; 
And he peer'd in the face 
Of his Lordship's Grace 
With a satisfied look, as if he would say, 
" We Two are the greatest folks here to-day ! " 
And the priests, with awe, 
As such freaks they saw. 
Said, " The Devil must be in that little 
Jackdaw ! ! " 


£I& r&lHS'5 Was over, 
the board was clear'd, 
The flawns and the custards 

had all disappear'd, 
And six little Singing-boys, — 
dear little souls ! 
In nice clean faces, and nice white stoles, 
Came, in order due, 
Two by two, 
Marching that grand refectory through ! 
A nice little boy held a golden ewer, 
Emboss'd, and fiU'd with water, as pure 
As any that flows between Rheims and 

Which a nice little boy stood ready to catch 
In a fine golden hand-basin made to match. 


"^OKICfe Little boys, 

rather more grown, 
Carried lavender-water, and 
eau de Cologne ; 
[ And a nice little boy had a 
nice cake of soap, 
Worthy of washing the hands of the Pope. 
One little boy more 
A napkin bore, 
Of the best white diaper, fringed with pink. 
And a Cardinal's Hat, mark'd in *' permanent 


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Cardinal turns at the sight 
Of these nice little boys 

dress'd all in white: 
From his finger he draws 
His costly turquoise ; 
And, not thinking at all about little Jackdaws, 
Deposits it straight 
By the side of his plate, 
While the nice little boys on his Eminence 

Till, when nobody 's dreaming of any such 

That little Jackdaw hops off with the ring ! 


5alH&RV&-fl CK2 And a 

^ f shout, 

And a deuce of a rout, 
And nobody seems to know 
what they 're about, 

•' "^ But the monks have their 

pockets all turn'd inside out; 
The friars are kneeling. 
And hunting, and feeling 
The carpet, the floor, and the walls, and the 
The Cardinal drew 
Off each plum-colour'd shoe, 
And left his red stockings exposed to the view ; 


O* X & %> Jt 5p^ And he 

In the toes and the heels ; 
They turn up the dishes, 
— they turn up the 
1 ^ ^w i J ,,m^^ ^ plates, — 
They take up the poker and poke out the 
— They turn up the rugs, 
They examine the mugs : — 
But, no ! — no such thing ; — 
They can't find THE RING ! 
And the Abbot declared that, " when nobody 

twigg'd it, 
Some rascal or other had popp'd in, and 
prigg'd it ! " 

[ 15 1 

S[& CaSS>mtrk Rose 

with a dignified look, 
He call'd for his candle, his 
bell, and his book ! 
[ In holy anger, and pious 
He solemnly cursed that rascally thief! 
He cursed him at board, he cursed him in bed ; 
From the sole of his foot to the crown of his 

head ; 
He cursed him in sleeping, that every night 
He should dream of the devil, and wake in 

a fright ; 
He cursed him in eating, he cursed him in 

He cursed him in coughing, in sneezing, in 

winking ; 
He cursed him in sitting, in standing, in lying ; 
He cursed him in walking, in riding, in flying. 
He cursed him living, he cursed him dying ! — 
Never was heard such a terrible curse ! ! 
But, what gave rise 
To no little surprise, 
Nobody seem'd one penny the worse ! 


That's him. . 

iit> ^jfVS Was gone, 

^f The night came on, 

The Monks and the Friars 

i. ' ' they search'd till dawn ; 
When the Sacristan saw, 
* On crumpled claw, 
Come limping a poor little lame Jackdaw ! 
No longer gay. 
As on yesterday ; 
His feathers all seem'd to be turn'd the wrong 

way; — 
His pinions droop'd, — he could hardly 

stand, — 
His head was as bald as the palm of your 
hand ; 
His eye so dim. 
So wasted each limb, 
That, heedless of grammar, they all cried, 
"That's him! — 

[ 19] 

that has done this scandalous 
thing ! 
\ That 's the thief that has got 

my Lord Cardinal's Ring! " — 
^ The poor little Jackdaw, 
When the monks he saw, 
Feebly gave vent to the ghost of a caw ; 
And turn'd his bald head, as much as to say, 
*' Pray, be so good as to walk this way ! " 




He limp'd on before, 
Till they came to the back of 

the belfry-door, 
Where the first thing they 

Midst the stocks and the straw. 
Was the RING, in the nest of that little 
Jackdaw ! 


^ I Lord Cardinal call'd for his 
And off that terrible curse he 

The mute expression 
Served in lieu of confession, 
And, being thus coupled with full restitution, 
The Jackdaw got plenary absolution ! 
— When those words were heard, 
That poor little bird 
Was so changed in a moment, 't was really 
absurd : 


t^ (5R^^rW Sleek, and 

In addition to that, 
A fresh crop of feathers came 

thick as a mat! 
His tail waggled more 
Even than before ; 
But no longer it wagg'd with an impudent air, 
No longer he perch'd on the Cardinal's chair. 


& JlOPP*i> Now 

With a gait devout ; 
At Matins, at Vespers, he 

never was out ; 
And, so far from any more 
pilfering deeds, 
He always seem'd telling the Confessor's 

If any one lied, — or if any one swore, — 
Or slumber'd in pray'r-time and happen'd 
to snore. 
That good Jackdaw 
Would give a great "Caw! " 
As much as to say, " Don't do so any more ! " 
While many remark'd, as his manners they 

That they " never had known such a pious 
Jackdaw ! " 



Lived the 

Of that country side, 
And at last in the odour of 
K sanctity died ; 
""^ When, as words were too 
His merits to paint, 
The Conclave determined to make him a 

Saint ; 
And on newly-made Saints and Popes, as you 

It 's the custom, at Rome, new names to 

So they canonized him by the name of Jem 



The story of the Jackdaw of Rheims is to be found in 
"Johan. Wolfi Lectionum Memorabilium Centenarii," 
vol. 1, p. 216. The same volume contains the original 
story of Southey's " Pilgrims of Compostella " ; and on 
the same page with the latter there is given a legend of 
St. Patrick, who, when a man had stolen some mut- 
ton, detected the thief by making the sheep bleat in 
his inside. (T. L.) 


In writing to Mrs. Hughes on the 29th of April, 1837, 
Mr. Barham refers to this, probably the most popular 
of legends, in the following terms: " I have no time to do 
more for this number [of " Bentley's Miscellany "] than 
scratch off a doggerel version of an old Catholic legend 
that I picked up out of a high Dutch author. I am 
afraid the poor 'Jackdaw ' will be sadly pecked at. Had 
I more time I meant to have engrafted on it a story I 
have heard Cannon tell of a magpie of his acquaint- 
ance." The story is given at length in the " Life and 
Letters," vol, 2, p. 21. 

In a subsequent letter to Mr. Bentley he says: "I 
am glad you like the 'Jackdaw ' ; it was struck off at a 
heat and almost in despair, when I found it impossible 
to finish the other article [ "The Spectre of Tapping- 
ton" ?] in time." 

Happily for the present generation, the memory of 
Mr. Rice, the great American comedian, and his in- 
terminable "nigger" song, "Jim Crow," has passed 
away. The time was, some thirty years ago, when this 
fearful composition seemed to pervade all space. It was 
sung, shouted, howled, and danced — semper ubique 
et ab omnibus ! A certain clever scholar of the Father 
Prout variety pronounced it a plagiarism, and pro- 
fessed to have discovered the original in a French 
chanson, which is given at length in "Bentley's Mis- 
cellany," April, 1839. A stanza may suffice as a speci- 
men: — 

En Amerique j'ai fait des sauts, 

En Angleterre aussi; 
En France j'irai s'il le faut, 

Pour sauter quand je cris, — 
Je tourne, re-toume, je caracole, 

Je fais des sauts; 
Chacque fois je fais la tour, 

Je saute "Jim Crow." 


The audacity of the famous Jackdaw of Rheims has 
been equalled if not excelled at Monkton in Kent. Dur- 
ing the divine service a jackdaw (now belonging to Mr. 
Stapleton Cotton) made its way into the church with 
the other portion of the congregation, and not only 
took a lively part in the responses, but also became 
exceedingly talkative at other times. The whole con- 
gregation were disposed to explode with merriment; 
the clergyman himself with difficulty kept a serious 
face; while the school children present broke out into 
open laughter. Things became so bad that the clergy- 
man had to order the children out of the church. Then 
an effort was made to capture the intruder, who 
had perched himself boldly upon the reading-desk. 
The bird, however, was not to be caught, and 
flew to the rafters above, where it remained 
until the end of the service, still continu- 
ing to deliver itself of more or less 
pertinent expressions of opinion. 
(" St. James's Gazette," 25th 
August, 1888.) 





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