ST. ELOI'S BLESSING
Clovis the King, proud of his golden thrones,
Granted our Saint broad lands, whereon he should
Build cloisters, work in gold and precious stones
And carve in silver as it might be wood,
And for God's glory-and the King's fair name—
Do miracles with metal and with flame.
So to the world's end, where long-hoarded pelf
Shone forth new-hallowed in the goldsmith's hand,
Saint Eloi's craftsmen, as long since himself,
Were honored where they went in every land,
Yet still his heart was ever ours, and 'stayed
Here in Limoges, the city that he made.
Then all one night he knelt for us in prayer
At the high altar, suing for this grace,—
That his fine art, in his true people's care,
Should ripen rich as in none other place,
And if gold fail, beauty to our desire
Should we create, out of the earth and fire.
All secret work of dainty orfreny
Couchet in jeweled paternes brightly quaint,
Balass and emeraut, sapphire, all should be
Set in the triptych of the pictured saint,
Or with new dreams of unwrought beauty haunted,
Blend in amail deep hues of light enchanted.
Then vanished all the vision—Saint Eloi
With trembling saw it swallowed up in night.
None may escape the laws of grief or joy,
And when the day is done, then fails the light.
Yet still he prayed-the dragon-darkness fled,
And a new life dawned, risen from the dead.
Soft smoothness like a creamy petaled rose,
Rich roundness like the sun-filled apricot,
Gold garlands twisted by some wind that blows
From what strange land we craftsmen marvel not,
And in this porcelain cup (he said) shall pour
Joy of life, joy of craft, forevermore.
GOLD OF BYZANTIUM
HOW GUY OF LIMOGES TAUGHT THE ART OF BYZANTIUM TO WILFRID OF SUSSEX
 GUY BOUVEREL was again in his own country,
where he was called, according to the habit of the
day, Guy of Limoges. He had spent nearly ten years
working with Eloy, the master artist, in Limoges,
and studying the art of enameling on copper, silver and gold.
The new name was to him what a degree from some famous
university is to the modern scientist. When a man was called
Guy of Limoges, William of Sens, or Comelys of Arras, it
usually meant that he was a good example of whatever made
the place mentioned famous. Guy Bouverel might be anybody.
The name was known among the goldsmiths of Guthrum's
Lane in London; that was all. But Guy of Limoges
meant a reputation for enamel-work.
The matter on which he was meditating, however, as he
left Cold Harbor and walked up toward the house of Wilfrid
the potter, was clean outside his own craft. The King,
being much pleased with certain work done at the Abbey for
which Guy was bound, had questioned him about it, and
ended by giving him a rather large order. Brother Basil, a
wise monk from an Irish monastery, had come to England to
 gather artists and artisans, and was for the time at this Abbey
in the north, directing and aiding some work for the Church.
Several of the company that lay the night before at Cold
Harbor were going there, and among them they would be able
to do what the King required.
The dowry of Princess Joan was to include a table of gold
twelve feet long, twenty-four gold cups and as many plates,
and some other trifles. A part of this work would be done in
Limoges; but the King seemed to think that the rest might
be done in England quite as well. He had also ordered stained
glass for a chapel, and some reliquaries, or cases for precious
relics, and three illuminated missals. The Sicilian court was
one of the most splendid in Europe. The King evidently
meant his daughter's setting out to be nowise shabby.
A chest of gold was to be delivered by the Chancellor to
Guy, and he was to accompany it, with its guard, to its
destination. One of the King's accountants would be nominally
in charge, but of course if anything should happen to the
chest, Guy would be in difficulties. There were ingots, or
lumps, of gold, cast in molds for convenience in packing, and
to be used in the goldsmith-work; but the greater part of the
gold was coined bezants—coins worth about half a sovereign
in modern money, and minted in Byzantium. This would
pay for materials brought from almost every corner of the
known world, and for the work of the skilled metal-worker,
enamel-worker, glassmaker, and lumineur who would fill the
order. Tomaso the physician had established himself in a
half-ruined tower not far from the workshop on the Abbey
lands, and would aid them in working out certain problems;
 and altogether, it was such a prospect as any man of Guy's
age and ambition might find agreeable.
"Hola, lad!" called Ranulph the troubadour cheerily.
"Have you the world on your shoulders, or only some new
Guy laughed, with a certain sense of relief. He had known
Ranulph for some time, and it occurred to him that here he
might safely find a listener.
"Do you know a certain clerk named Simon Gastard?" he
"I have not that pleasure," laughed the troubadour. "Ought
I to know him?"
"Not if you can help it," said Guy, "if he is the same
Gastard whom I heard of in France five years ago. Didst
ever hear of sweating gold?"
"It sounds like the tale of King Midas," Ranulph chuckled.
"How, exactly, does it happen?"
"It does not happen," Guy answered, "except an itching
palm be in the treasury. There was a clerk in Paris who
took a cask full of gold pieces and sand, which being rolled
about, gold more or less was ground off by the sand without
great change in the look of the coin. Then, the coins being
taken out in a sieve and the sand mixed with water, the gold
dust sank to the bottom and was melted and sold, while the
coins were paid on the nail. I had as lief get money by
paring a cheese, but that's as you look at it. If I have to
travel with this fellow I should like to know that there is
nothing unusual about the chest our gold is in. I cannot
keep awake all the time, and there is enough in that chest
to make a dozen men rich. I knew a rascal once who made
 a hole in the bottom of a chest, stole most of the coin, and
then nailed the chest to the floor to hide its emptiness."
Ranulph laughed sympathetically. "You do see the wrong
side of mankind when you have anything to do with treasure."
"Unless you know something of it," returned Guy grimly,
"you won't be allowed to handle treasure more than once."
"True," admitted Ranulph. "Why not take turns watching
"The others who are bound for the Abbey have gone on.
I had to wait for the Chancellor, and then I saw Gastard."
"Ask the potter," said Ranulph at last. "He can be trusted,
and he may know of some one who has a chest that will defy
your clerk. I suppose you don't expect him to steal it, chest
"No; I have had dealings with the captain of the guard
before. He is Sir Stephen Giffard, a West-country knight,
and he will send men who can be trusted. The trouble is,
you see, that I am not sure about Gastard. But he could not
object to the secure packing of the gold."
By this time they had reached Wilfrid's house, and he was
at home. When Guy unfolded his problem the potter looked
"I may have the very thing you want," he said. "Come
He led the way into a small room which he used as a study,
and dragged into the middle of the floor a carved oaken chest
bound with iron. There was just enough carved work on it
to add to its look of strength. Two leopards' heads in wrought
iron, with rings in their jaws, formed handles on the ends.
The corners were shielded with rounded iron plates suggesting
 oak leaves. The ornamental wrought iron hinges, in an oak
and acorn pattern, stretched more than half way across the
lid and down the back. Iron bolts passing through staples
held the lid, and acorn-headed nails studded it all over. In
fact, the iron was so spread over it in one way and another
that to break it up one would have needed a small saw to
work in and out among the nails, or a stone-crusher. When
the lid was thrown back, more iron appeared, a network of
small rods bedded into the inner surface of lid, bottom and
sides. The staples holding the lock went clean through the
front to the inside of the box.
"What a piece of cunning workmanship!" said Guy in
admiration. "It is like some of the German work, and yet that
never came over seas."
"No," said Wilfrid, "it was done here in the Sussex Weald.
I had the idea of it when I came back from France, and young
Dickon, whom you saw last night, made the iron-work. He
began with the hinges and handles, and then Quentin of
Peronne did the wood-work and brought the chest here, and
Dickon fitted in these grilles yesterday."
"Will you sell it?" asked Guy. The other hesitated.
"I had meant to keep it to show the Abbey folk," he said.
"I had thought it might get Dickon a job at some cathedral."
"We'll use it to pack some gold-work that's to go to the
King," averred Guy promptly. "Will that content you?"
"It ought to," smiled Wilfrid, well satisfied, as he took the
contents of the coffer out and shut down the lid.
"What's your price?" asked Guy.
 Wilfrid hesitated again. It might have been thought that
he was wondering how much he could possibly ask. But it
was not that.
"I met you in London, Master Bouverel," he said finally,
"and I understood you to be a worker in amail."
Amail was the common name for enamel. The corruption
may have come from the fancied likeness of the work to the
richly ornamented "mail," or from the fact that the enamel
covered the gold as mail covers a man's body.
"Amail, gold and silver work, and jewelry," said Guy.
"Is it hard to learn?"
"That depends," returned the goldsmith. "I was brought
up to the craft, and I've been at it ten year now in Limoges,
but I'm a prentice lad beside the masters."
"Well, it's like this," said the potter slowly. "I saw amail
in France and Limoges that fair made me silly. I know a
bit of glass-work, and something of my own trade, but this
was beyond me. I'll never be aught but a potter, but if you
can give me a piece o' that I'll give you the chest and what
you like besides to make up the price."
Guy smiled—he had never suspected that Wilfrid felt about
the enameling as he himself did. "You shall have it and
welcome," he answered. "But why not come to the Abbey
and learn to do the work yourself—if you can leave your own
workshop`? We can do with more men, and there might be
things about the glazing and that which would be useful in
Wilfrid met the suggestion gladly. He could make arrangements
to leave the pottery in the hands of his head man
for a while; for all the work they did was common ware which
 a man could almost make in his sleep. If he could study
some of the secrets of glazing and color work with Guy, he
might come back with ideas worth the journey.
He did not tell Edwitha anything about the enamel-work.
That was to be a surprise.
It was some time before they met again at the Abbey. The
gold arrived safely in due season, and Simon Gastard bade
it good-by, with very sour looks. It was placed in charge
of Brother Basil and Tomaso, and Wilfrid, who had been a
Master Potter, took his place as apprentice to a new craft.
His experience as a potter helped him, however, for the
processes were in some ways rather alike. At last he was ready
to make the gift he intended for Edwitha.
Padraig, the young artist and scribe who was making most
of their designs, drafted a pattern for the work, but Wilfrid
shook his head.
"That is too fine," he said. "Too many flowers and leaves
—finikin work. Make it simpler. Every one of those lines
means a separate gold thread. It will be all gold network
and no flowers."
"As you will," Padraig answered. "It's the man that's to
wear the cap that can say does it fit." And he tried again.
Wilfrid himself modified the design in one or two details,
for he had made pottery long enough to have ideas of his
own. The enamel was to show dewberry blossoms and fruit,
white and red, with green leaves, on a blue ground; the band
of enamel around the gold cup was to be in little oblong sec-
tions divided by strips of ruby red. It was not like anything
else they had made. It was as English as a hawthorn hedge.
Very thin and narrow strips of gold were softened in the
 fire until they could be bent, in and out, in a network cor-
responding to the outlines of the design. This was fastened
to the groundwork with flour paste. Then it was heated until
the gold soldered itself on. Powdered glass of the red chosen
for the berries was taken up in a tiny spoon made of a quill,
and ladled carefully into each minute compartment, and
packed firmly down. Then it was put into a copper case with
small holes in the top, smooth inside, and rough like a grater
outside, to let out the hot air and keep out hot ashes. The
case had a long handle, and coals were piled all around it
in a wall. When it had been heated long enough to melt
the glass it was taken out and set aside to cool. This took
some hours. When it was cold the glass had melted and
sunk into the compartment as dissolved sugar sinks in a glass.
More glass was put in and packed down, and the process
repeated. When no more could possibly be heaped on the
jewel-like bit of ruby glass inside the tiny gold wall, the
white blossoms, green leaves, blue ground, and strips of
deeper red, were made in turn. Only one color was handled
at a time. If the glass used in the separate layers was not
quite the same shade, it gave a certain depth and changeful-
ness of color. Overheating, haste or carelessness would ruin
the whole. Only the patient, intent care of a worker who
loved every step of the work would make the right Limoges
enamel. This was one of the simpler processes which are still
The polishing was yet to be done. A goatskin was stretched
smooth on a wooden table; the medallion was fixed in a piece
of wax for a handle, and polished first on a smooth piece of
 bone and then on the goatskin. Each medallion was polished
in turn until if half the work were wet and half dry the
eye could detect no difference.
Alan brought his mother, Dame Cicely, to the glass-house
while Wilfrid was still at work on the polishing, and after she
had seen the great window they had made for the Abbey
church at the King's order, she paused to look at the enamel.
"Tha'lt wear out thy ten finger-bones, lad," said she. "I'm
pleased that my cheeses don't have to be rubbed i' that road.
They say that women's work's never done, but good wheaten
bread now-mix meal and leaven, and salt and water, and
the batch'll rise itself."
"There's no place for a hasty man in the work of making
amail, mother," drawled her son. "Nor in most other crafts,
to my mind."
"My father told me once," quoth Wilfrid, smiling, "that
no work is worth the doing for ourselves alone. We were
making a wall round the sheepfold, and I, being but a lad,
wondered at the tugging and bedding of great stones when
half the size would ha' served. He wasn't a stout man neither
—it was the spring before he died. He told me it was 'for the
honor of the land.' I can see it all now—the silly sheep
straying over the sweet spring turf, gray old Pincher guarding
them, the old Roman wall that we could not ha' grubbed up
if we would, and our wall joining it, to last after we were
dead. That bit o' wall's been a monument to me all these
"You're not one to scamp work whatever you're at," Guy
declared heartily, "but that cup's due to be finished by tomorrow."
 When the wreath of blossoms was in place around the shallow
golden bowl, the smaller garland around the base, and
the stem was encircled with bands of ruby, azure and emerald,
it was a chalice fit for the Queen of Fairyland if she were
also a Sussex lass. Brother Basil, whose eye was never at
fault, pronounced it perfect. It was not like anything else
that they had made, but that, he said, was no matter.
"When Abbot Suger of St. Denys made his master-works,"
Guy observed as he put away his tools for the night, "he did
not bring workmen from Byzantium; he taught Frenchmen to
do their own work. And an Englishman is as good as a
Frenchman any day."
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics