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THE BLIND SINGER, SAINT HERVÉ
NCE upon a time when Childebert
was King of France, a thousand
years ago, there lived a young man
named Hyvarnion who was very handsome
and had the sweetest voice. Hyvarnion was
the King's minstrel; he lived at the palace
and it was his business to make music for the
King to keep him in a good temper. For he
wrote the most beautiful songs and sang them
to the accompaniment of a golden harp which
he carried with him everywhere he went. And
besides all this Hyvarnion was very wise; so
wise that when he was a boy at school he was
called the Little Sage, for Saint Cadoc had
been his master and had taught him many
things that even the King, who was a heathen, did not know.
Now Hyvarnion had lived four years with
the King when one night he had a wonderful dream.
He dreamed that he saw a beautiful maiden
picking flowers in a meadow,
and that she smiled at him and gave him a
 blossom, saying, "This is for my King." And
Hyvarnion woke up longing to see the
maiden more than anything else in the world.
For three nights he dreamed the same
dream, of the singing maiden and the meadow
and the flowers; and each time she
seemed more beautiful than on the last. So
on the fourth day he woke up and said, "I
must find that maiden. I must find her and
hear her call me her King."
So, taking his golden harp on his back, he
went out from the palace and struck into the
deep black forest. By and by he came to an
open place, like a meadow, where the grass
grew tall and thick, and where in the midst
was a spring like a bit of mirror set in a green
frame. And Hyvarnion's heart beat fast with
joy when he saw on the border of the spring
the very maiden about whom he had dreamed,
but much more beautiful than any dream.
She was bending over, picking something
from the grass, and she seemed like a wonderful
pink-and-white flower set among the
other flowers of yellow and red and blue.
For a moment Hyvarnion stood and gazed
with open mouth and happy eyes. Then he
 took his harp and began to sing a song which
he had just that minute made. For because
he was a minstrel it was easier for him to sing
than to talk. And in the song he called her
Queen Iris gathering flowers for her crown.
Then the maiden raised her head and she
turned pinker and whiter, and looked even
more like a fair flower than before. For she
too had had a dream, three times. And it
was of golden-haired Hyvarnion that she had
dreamed, whom she now saw looking at her
and singing so sweetly with his silver voice.
But she also answered him in a song, for
she was a singer, too. "I am no Queen Iris,"
she sang, "I am only the little maiden Rivanone,
though they call me Queen of this
Fountain. And I am not gathering flowers
as you say, fair Sir, but I am seeking simple
herbs such as wise men use to cure pain and
HYVARNION AND RIVANONE
"What are the herbs you seek, Rivanone?"
asked Hyvarnion, coming nearer.
She held up a sprig of green in her white
hand. "See, this is the vervain," she answered
in song; "this brings happiness and heart's
ease. But I seek two others which I have
 not found. The second opens the eyes of the
blind. And the third,—few may ever find
that precious herb,—the third is the root of
life, and at its touch death flees away. Alas!
 Fair Sir, I cannot find those two, though some
day I feel that I shall need them both most
sorely." Rivanone sighed and two tears stood
like dewdrops in her flower eyes.
But Hyvarnion had now come very close.
"Still, you have found the first, which gives
happiness, little Queen," he sang tenderly.
"Have you not happiness to share with me,
Rivanone?" Then the maiden looked up in
his eyes and smiled, and held out to him a
sprig of the green vervain.
"For my King," she sang, just as he had
dreamed. And then he did just what she had
dreamed he would do; but that is a secret
which I cannot tell. For no one knows all
that a maiden dreams.
And after this and that they came back to
the King's palace hand in hand, singing a
beautiful song which together they had made
about Happiness. So they were married at
the court, and the King did them great honor
and made them King and Queen of music
and of song.
So, happily they lived and happily they
sang in their little Kingdom of Poesie,—for
did they not possess the herb of joy which
 Rivanone had found and shared with Hyvarnion, her King?
UT it was a pity that Rivanone had
not also found those other plants for
which she had been seeking, the root
which brings light to the blind, and the root
which gives life to the dying. Because Rivanone
had foreseen only too well the need of
them which would come to her. For when,
after a year or two, their little son was born,
his blue eyes were sightless and all the colored
wonders of the world were secrets which he
could never know. So they named him
Hervé,—which means Bitterness,—the first
bitterness which had come into their lives of
joy. But it was not the last. Not long after
the little Hervé came, golden-haired Hyvarnion
lay ill and dying. And because on that
spring morning, Rivanone had not found the
herb of life, she could not keep him from
going away to find it for himself in that fair
country where it is the only plant that grows,
with wonderful blossoms which no living man
has ever seen.
 So Hyvarnion passed away from his kingdom
of music and song, which he left to be
shared by dear Rivanone and Hervé his little
son. Thus Hervé became a Prince, heir to
all the gifts of that royal pair. And of these
there were in particular four of the best: a
beautiful face, the sweetest voice that ever
thrilled in Brittany, the golden harp of Hyvarnion
his father, and many a lovely song
made by those two, which Rivanone taught
him. What a wonderful Kingdom that was
to be his! What beautiful gifts for a little
boy to own!
But even in a kingdom of this sort one
has to bear sorrows and discomforts, just as
folk do in other kingdoms which are less
fair. Hervé's name meant bitterness, and
there was much bitterness in his little life
before he learned what a prince he really
was. For he was blind and could not play
with the other children. Rivanone was a poor
widow and there was no one to earn bread
for the two. Sometimes the carols which they
sang together were the only breakfast to begin
the day. Sometimes the songs Rivanone
made beside his bed at night were the only
 food Hervé had tasted since sunrise.
Sometimes they were both so hungry that they
could not sing at all; and those were sad
But when Hervé was seven years old a
great idea came to him. Rivanone lay ill and
miserable, and there was nothing to eat in the
house. Hervé sat by her side holding her
hand, and wishing there was something he
could do about it. Blind as he was he had
never been out of the house alone. But suddenly
courage came to him and hope, through
his great idea.
"I will save you, dear mother!" he cried,
throwing his arms about her neck. "I will
take father's golden harp and go out upon
the highway and sing your beautiful songs.
People will give me pennies, and I shall buy
So, carrying the golden harp on his back,
in his ragged clothes and bare feet the little
fellow went out stumbling and feeling his
way along the hard road. Now almost at
the first corner he met a white dog, who
seemed to have no master. This creature
came sniffing and whining up to Hervé and
 licked his hand. And when the boy went
on the dog followed close at his side as if to
guide and protect him. Hervé asked every
one he met whose dog it was; but they all
said it was a strange fog come from No-where,
and belonged to No-one. It seemed
almost as if the beast had been sent especially
for Hervé. So at last he said, "You shall
be my dog," and at that the great white
beast jumped up and barked for joy. Hervé
fastened a rope about the dog's neck and
kept one end in his hand. So now he had
some one to guide and guard him, for the
dog was very careful and kind and took care
that Hervé never stumbled nor went astray
into the ditch by the side of the road.
It must have been a hard-hearted man indeed
who had no pennies to spare for the
blind boy led by the big white dog. With
his bare feet blue with cold, his teeth chattering,
and his eyes turned wistfully up to
the sky which he could not see, he was a sad
little figure to meet on the lonely Brittany
roads. And he sang so sweetly, too! No
one had ever heard such a voice as that, nor
such beautiful songs. Every one who heard
 gave him money. So he was helping his
mother, getting her food and medicine and
clothes to keep her warm. And this thought
comforted him when he was shivering with
cold, his rags blown about by the wind and
soaked in the rain.
Day after day, week after week, Hervé
trudged along the flinty roads. Often he
limped with cold, bleeding feet which the
faithful dog would try to lick warm again.
Often he was very tired, and sometimes he
was sad, when people were not kind. But
this seldom happened. Once Hervé was
passing through a strange village where all
the folk were heathen. And a band of
naughty children began to dance about him
and tease him, pulling his hair and twitching
his cloak. And they mocked his music,
singing, "Blind boy, blind boy! Where are
you going, blind boy!" Then it is said that
a wonderful thing happened. Hervé was
sorry because they were so cruel and unkind,
and he struck a strange chord of music on
his harp and sang in a low, clear voice,—
"Dance on, bright eyes who can see.
Dance on, children who mock a poor blind
 boy. Dance on,—and never stop so long
as the world wags." And it is said that the
wicked children are still dancing, over the
world and back, around and around, tired
though they must be. And they will be
still more tired before all is done. For they
must whirl and pirouette until the end of
the world; and that is a long time even for
children who love to dance.
At a different time another unkind thing
happened to Saint Hervé. But this time it
was a beast who hurt his feelings. And this
was strange; for usually the beasts loved
him and tried to help him as the white dog
had done. But after all this was only a mistake;
yet it was a sad mistake, for it cost
Hervé the life of his faithful guide. This is
how it happened.
As Hervé and his dog were passing along
a lonely road, a black wolf sprang out upon
them. He mistook the dog for an ancient
enemy of his, another wolf. For indeed
Blanco looked like a white wolf,—a wolf
such as Saint Bridget gave the King of Ireland.
And without stopping to find out who
he really was, which would have saved all the
 trouble, they had a terrible fight, and poor
Blanco was killed by the huge black wolf.
Then Hervé was sad indeed. He cried
and sobbed and was so wretched that the
wolf was sorry. Besides, as soon as the fight
was over the wolf had found out his mistake,
and saw that it was a strange dog
whom he had killed, no wolf-enemy at all.
He was very much ashamed. He came up
to Hervé and fawned at his feet, trying to
tell that he was sorry, and asking what he
should do about it. So Hervé told him that
if he would be his dog now instead of Blanco
he would try to forgive the wolf; though he
was, oh, so sorry to lose his faithful dog.
After that Hervé went on his wanderings
led by a big black wolf whom he held in a
strong leather leash. And the wolf became
as dear to him as Blanco had been. He
slept in the barn with the oxen when he was
at home, and never snapped nor bit at them as
most wolves would do. But he kept sharp
watch over his little master, and saw that no
one hurt or cheated him. I should be sorry
to think what would have happened to any
one who had dared to touch Hervé while
 the wolf was near. And he was always near,
with his sharp teeth and watchful eyes.
So they wandered and wandered together,
Hervé and the wolf, carrying music from
town to town, the songs of Hyvarnion and
Rivanone. But Hervé had not yet learned
to make songs of his own.
OW after seven years of wandering,
Hervé had earned money enough
to keep his mother in comfort. He
longed to go to school and be taught things,
to grow wise like his father, who had been
called the Little Sage, and to learn how to
make songs for himself. For he felt that it
was time for him to come into the kingdom
of Hyvarnion and Rivanone; and the songs
shut in his heart were bursting to come out.
Gourvoyed, the brother of Rivanone, was
a holy hermit who lived alone in the forest,
and he would teach Hervé his nephew, for
love of him. For Gourvoyed was a wise
man, skilled in all things, but especially in
the making of songs.
 It was a blessed morning when Hervé
started for his school in the woods; he was
going to his kingdom! The sunlight
framed his fair curls in a halo of light, as if
giving him a blessing. Birds sang all along
the way as if telling him that with Gourvoyed
he would learn to make music even
sweeter than theirs. The wolf led him
eagerly, bounding with joy; for he shared
in all the hopes of Hervé's life. And all the
creatures knew that he would become a great
poet. And so indeed it was.
For Hervé soon learned all that Gourvoyed
could teach, and in his turn he became a master.
Many pupils came to the
hut in the forest which the hermit gave up
to him, and begged Hervé to make them
singer-poets like himself. But he could not
do that. He could teach them to sing and
to play the harp; but no one could sing as
well as he sang, or play as well as he
played. And no one can ever be taught to
make poetry unless he has it in his soul, as
Hervé had. For that is a royal gift, and it
came to Hervé from Hyvarnion and Rivanone,
the King and Queen of music and of
 song. It was Hervé's kingdom, and it was
given him to take away the bitterness from
his name, to make it remembered as sweet,
And now on his wanderings from town to
town Hervé was received like a prince. He
sat at great lords' tables, and sang in ladies'
bowers. He had golden goblets as his gifts,
and shining gems to wear if he chose. But
he was so generous that he gave them all
away. Never was there heard music so
sweet as his; never were there songs so beautiful
as he sang to the rippling of his father's
golden harp. For Hervé was even a greater
minstrel than Hyvarnion or Rivanone had
In his wanderings all about the country
Hervé came to many strange places and met
with many strange adventures. Once he
spent the night at the castle of a great lord
who made Hervé sit on his right hand at
table and honored him above all his guests.
When the banquet was over, at the Count's
request a page brought to Hervé his golden
harp, and they all shouted for "A song! a
sung!" Every one pushed back his stool to
 listen, and Hervé took the harp and ran his
finger over the golden strings with a sound
like drops of rain upon the flowers.
Now outside the castle, beyond the moat,
was a pond. And in the pond lived a whole
colony of great green bullfrogs, whose voices
were gruffer and grummer than the lowest
twanging note on Hervé's harp. And as
soon as Hervé began to sing these rude frogs
began to bellow and growl as if trying to
drown his music. Perhaps they were jealous;
for Hervé's voice was sweeter than a
silver bell. But all they could sing was
"Ker-chog! Ker-r-kity-chog, Ker-chog!"
which is neither very musical nor very original,
being the same tune which all the frog-people
have sung from the earliest days.
Now Hervé was displeased by their disagreeable
noise. He could not sing nor
play, nor think of the words which belonged
with his music: only the "Ker-chog!
Ker-r-kity-chog! Ker-chog!" sounded in
his ears. And it grew louder and louder
every moment as one by one all the frogs
joined in the chorus.
Hervé waited for them to stop. But
 when he found that they did not mean to do
this, but were really trying to drown his
voice, he was very angry. He strode to the
window holding his harp in his hand. And
leaning far out he struck another of his wonderful
chords of music, such as had charmed
the mocking children once before, as you
"Sing your last song, O Frogs," he said.
"Sing your last Ker-chog, for henceforth you
will be silent. I command you from this
night never to open your mouths again.
All save one, the littlest of you all. And
he shall sing forever, without cease, to remind
you of your rudeness to me." And
no sooner had he ceased speaking when there
came a great silence outside the window,
broken only by one wee piping tadpole
voice. "Ker-chog! Ker-r-kity-chog!
Ker-chog!" he chanted his sad little solo. And
all alone he had to sing and sing this same
tune forever. I dare say one can hear him
yet in the greeny pond outside that old
OW after many years of wandering,
of singing, of making beautiful
songs, of teaching and wandering
again, Hervé's dear mother Rivanone died.
But he still had some one to love and look
for him and the wolf when he came home
from his travels. For Rivanone had adopted
a dear little girl named Christine, beautiful
as sunshine and sweet as a flower. She
called Hervé "Uncle" and loved him dearly,
and the wolf was a great friend of hers.
So at last he thought to settle down and
make music about him in his own home,
letting people come there to hear it, instead
of carrying it to them by road and river.
For he was growing an old man, and it was
not so easy to travel in his blindness as it
used to be. Besides, the black wolf was
also growing gray, and needed rest after
these long years of faithful work.
Hervé resolved to build a church, and to
live there with Christine near him in a little
house of her own. He had grown to be an
important personage in the world, and had
many friends, pupils, and followers who
 wanted to live near him. So forth they set
to find a place for their church, Hervé and
his troop of black-robed monks. And before them,
like a little white dove among
the ravens, ran Christine holding her uncle's
hand in one of hers, and in the other grasping
the leash at which tugged the grizzled
old wolf, who was guiding them. Over
many a hill and dale and bloomy meadow
he had led Hervé before now, down many a
lane and village street, but never upon so
important a journey as this. For this was
to be the old wolf's last long tramp with his
master. And the wolf was to choose the
spot where the church should stand. Where
he stopped to rest, there would they lay the
So he led them on and on. And at last
he lay down in a green spot by a river, just
the place for a beautiful church to grow up.
And thenceforth Hervé the minstrel would
wander no more, but bide and rest and be
happy with the wolf and Christine.
They built her an arbor near the church,
in a clump of willows on the border of a
spring. It was cone-shaped and covered
 with straw like a huge beehive. And
Christine herself seemed like a busy bee
gathering honey as she buzzed in and out
among the roses, humming little tunes below
her breath. For she was always among
the flowers, as Rivanone had been. Every
Saturday morning she would rise early, and
with her little basket on her arm would go
out to pick the blossoms with the dew still
on them. And every Saturday evening she
came to the church with her arms full of
flowers till she looked like a bouquet of
sweetness. And going into the empty
church she would busy herself with arranging
the flowers for the next morning's service.
For it was her duty to see that Uncle
Hervé's church was kept clean and sweet
And while Christine stood there putting
the flowers into tall golden vases, singing
softly the songs which Rivanone had taught
her, her Uncle Hervé would come creeping
up the steps of the church, his hand on the
head of the wolf, who always led him to
the place where he heard her voice. Softly,
very softly, as if he were doing something
 naughty, Hervé would pull open the heavy
door, just a crack, the better to hear her sing.
Then he would put his ear to the opening;
while the wolf would thrust his nose in below,
and wag his tail eagerly. But Christine's
keen ears always heard them, no matter
how slyly the good blind man crept up
to that door. And it became part of the
game that she should cry out suddenly,—
"I see you, Uncle! I see you!" And
though he could not see her at all, he would
start and pop back, pulling the wolf with
him as though he had done something wrong.
Then without making any noise they would
tiptoe away to Hervé's house, their hearts
beating with love for the dear little maiden
who would soon come to bid them good-night
on her way home to her bower.
So they lived happily all the rest of their
days, these three among the flowers. And
in spite of his name Hervé's life was not one
of bitterness, but of joy. The kingdom
which had come to him from Hyvarnion
and Rivanone was his all his life long; and
though he no longer wandered painfully
from town to town, the songs which he made
 wandered still from heart to heart. And
long, long afterwards their echo made music
through the land of Brittany, as the fragrance
of a flower lasts long after the flower has
passed on its way elsewhere.
Dear Saint Hervé!