He Meets the Maiden

Canto III

The adornment dear of down and dales,
Of wood and water and widening plain,
Built in me bliss, abated my wails,
Dispelled my distress, and destroyed my pain.
Down after a stream that unfailingly flows
I bent my way blissfully--brim full my brain.
The further I followed those flocculent vales
The stronger the joy my heart did contain.
Thus Fortune fares with whomever she'd train:
Whether solace she sends or else sorrow sore,
The wight who to her will is fain
Is bound to have ever more and more.

Our poet delights in the visual imagery of beauty and glory; and he is an artist in his use of it.

His thought at the conclusion of this stanza is an important one. Grief does tend to feed upon itself and bring us into further grief. Just so, joy tends to create more of itself, leading us on from joy to joy. The Jeweler, now, has experienced both cycles. The lesson, I think, is that we be alerted to this characteristic of grief and thus resist being sucked into its undertow.

If you have not yet figured out where the Jeweler is, he will figure it out for himself in the next stanza. Give close attention to what he has to say about the river; it is to become one of his central symbols. The river itself is a familiar one, although the Jeweler never names it. Three hundred years later, Christian--in The Pilgrim's Progress--will encounter some difficulty in crossing this same stream, although, again, without naming it. Then, after a couple more centuries, out of an entirely different land and culture, the "deep river" will be named "Jordan." Yet the Jeweler is at one with that singer in wanting to "cross over into camp ground."


More of weal there was in that wise
Than I could tell if time I had,
For earthly heart may not suffice
To the tenth part of such gladness glad.
Therefore thought I that Paradise--
Beyond the stream's bank was there to be had;
I hoped the water was a device
Dividing mirths by measure made.
Beyond the brook, by glen or glade,
I hoped to mark a mighty manor.
But the water was deep; I durst not wade.
And ever I longed--aye more and more.


More and more and yet still more
I longed the brook to see beyond;
For if 'twas fair where I could fare,
Much lovelier was that farther land.
About me I did stand and stare.
Fast to find a ford I planned;
But many impasses indeed were there
The further I walked along the strand.
Yet I'd not myself bring to a stand,
Fearing weals to be won were yet in store.
Then I noticed something had come to hand
That moved my mind e'er more and more.


More marvels did my sense assault!
I saw beyond that merry mere
A crystal cliff full relucent;
Many royal a ray did from it rear.
At the foot thereof sat an infant,
A maiden majestic, full debonair;
And vestally white was her vesture.
I knew her well; I had seen here ere!
As glistening gold that men shave sheer,
So shone she shining on other shore.
At length I looked upon her there--
The longer, I knew her more and more.

Yes, you have correctly identified the "maiden majestic"; but the poet's word "infant" is not quite the give-away you might think. In his day, "infant" covered a much broader age-range than it does for us. Thus the "infantry" consisted of troops too young and inexperienced for the cavalry.


The more I fathomed the fair face
Of this fine figure I had found,
Such gladdening glory did me grace
As not long before had been my wont.
The desire to call her did me embrace;
But bewilderment gave my heart a brunt--
I saw her in so strange a place,
Such a burst might my heart benumb!
Then she toward me raised her fair front,
Her visage white as ivory pure.
It stung my heart, me straightway stunned
And ever the longer, more and more.

Copyright (c) 1983