Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 11/The legend of St. Gabriel's


Golden Cap (OAW).png

The ruins of the little chapel of St. Gabriel’s, which bear testimony to the truth of, at least, some part of the following legend (well known amongst the country people of the neighbourhood), are still to be found in a parish of the same name, situated at the foot of Golden Cap—the highest of a range of beautiful cliffs bordering the coast of Dorsetshire, between Lyme Regis and Bridport:—

The waves beat high about the ship,
A goodly ship, and strong;
The captain sends a cheering word
Th’ affrighted crew among.

The waves beat wild upon the ship,
And howling blows the wind;
And the crew can read in the captain’s face
The anguish of his mind!

The vessel drifts on the open sea,
Her masts, her compass gone;
And the foaming, seething billows now
Are fearful to look upon.

She beareth weight of precious freight,
Of gold and gems good store;
She beareth Bertram and his bride
Back to old England’s shore.

O captain, give me the ship’s small boat!”
Young Bertram loud he cried;
“Oh! give me straight the ship’s small boat,
To save my fair young bride!”

I will not give thee the ship’s small boat,
To sink in such a sea;
For, be thy bride or drown’d or saved,
Ye shall not part from me.”

O captain, change that cruel word,
For the ship is lost I wot;
But the little boat may rise and float
Where the vessel riseth not.”

The captain look’d at the broken ship,
He look’d at the lady pale,
He heard the roaring of the sea,
The howling of the gale:

Ay, take the boat, and the saints thee save,
And bring thee safe to shore;
For of crew and captain never a man
Shall live to tread it more!”

Then Bertram took his bride in his arms;
Into the boat leapt he;—
But the waves dragg’d down the doomèd ship,
To the prison-house of the sea!

The ship’s small boat rides well, rides well,
Over the waves so high;
The lady she trembles and weeps for fear,
And moans with piteous cry.

Oh! hush thee,” Bertram said, “dear love,
And pray our Lord,” quoth he;
Pray good St. Gabriel send us help
In this necessity!”

Then he aloud, and she at heart,
The self-same words they spake, —
Oh! save us, Christ, as thou didst save
On Galilëa’s lake!

Oh! save us, Gabriel, saint adored!
And still this raging sea;
And wheresoe’er the boat be cast
We’ll raise a shrine to thee,—

A beauteous altar, gold bedeck’d,
Where night and morn shall shine
A silver lamp, to tell to all
This gracious deed of thine.”

And through the night he prayèd thus;
But loud the wind did rage,
And the awful anger of the sea
Did not with dawn assuage.

The second night he prayèd thus;
And as he closed each prayer,
His bride grew pale, and wrung her hands,
And wept in dire despair!

The third night that he prayèd thus,
His voice was weak and worn;
But stars on high gemm’d all the sky,
And calmly broke the morn.

Now praise we good St. Gabriel,
My bonnie bride and I!
My dearest love, so still and pale,
Why dost thou silent lie?”

He kiss’d her lips, he call’d her name,
But answer gave she none;
He wept aloud with bitter cry,—
“Dear love! my life is gone!”

He spied upon th’ horizon clear
A line of unknown land,
And knew that the gently flowing tide
Would drift them to the strand.

And ere the sun had sunk behind
The waste of watery store,
With sighs, his burdened boat he drew
Upon the desolate shore—

A rugged coast, a belt of sand,
A cavern dark and dree,
With sea-mews sending, as they wheel’d,
Their cries across the sea.

He paced the belt of red-ribb’d sand,
He clomb the rugged cliff;
He look’d below on his pale, pale bride,
And on the broken skiff.

He kneel’d him down on the barren rock,
With his face toward the sea;
O Gabriel! send me help, to keep
The vow we vow’d to thee!”

And while he spake, from far and near
The people of the land
Came running o’er the bleak sea-shore,
Across the ribb’d sea-sand:

They lifted the lovely lady high,
As in the boat she lay;
They bare her up the pathway steep,
Nor rested by the way;

They took the granite from the cliff,
And quarried marble fine,
They hew’d, they built from night to morn,
And raised a goodly shrine;

They made an altar, and beneath
They laid the lady fair,
And lighted there a lamp that gleam’d
Like the gleams on her golden hair!

And there the chapel, to this day,
Braves the rough storm-wind well,
And proves the vow fulfill’d, I trow,
To good Saint Gabriel!