The Road to Compostela


(A Ballad from Limoges)

Saint-Jacques de Compostelle,
That rough pilgrim road,
Has this tale to tell
Of the mercy of God:

Three pilgrims to Saint James,
Poor men lost and late
Come begging alms
At a rich castle gate

‘Bid you good-e’en, madame!
Bid you and yours God-speed!
Will you not give us alms,
Alms, lady, in our need?’

‘Yes, yes, poor souls, for sure,
Here is drink and meat.’
‘No, madame, just pure
Water for our feet.’

She called her servant-maid
Bade her wash them there;
The servant was afraid
Cried, ‘I do not dare!’

The mistress just the same,
Bent humbly down to wash,
When from the air there came
A sudden blinding flash.

She fell upon her knees
In anguish and alarm.
‘Dear lady, be at peace.
You shall take no harm.

‘We are three angels sent from
Paradise to you.’
‘If you are angels, come,
You must confess me now.’

‘Yes, yes, madame, confess
Here’s wine and blessed bread.’
Scarce had she heard the Mass,
The lady’s soul had fled.

The lady saved her soul;
The servant’s shrieked and fell
Into that deep, dark hole
Of everlasting hell.

From the Bas-Limousin
Pilgrims to Saint James
Used such tales to win
Their lodgings, their alms.

The pious bullying
Of this ferocious lay
In chorus they would sing;
It cheered them on their way.

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