Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE STORY OF HAVELOK THE DANE
 THE good king of whom we read in the last chapter was called
Athelwold, and the poet tells us that there were happy days in
England while he reigned. But at length he became sick unto
death. Then was he sore grieved, because he had no child to sit
upon the throne after him save a maiden very fair. But so young
was she that she could neither "go on foot nor speak with mouth."
So, in this grief and trouble, the King wrote to all his nobles,
"from Roxburgh all unto Dover," bidding them come to him.
And all who had the writings came to the King, where he lay at
Winchester. Then, when they were all come, Athelwold prayed them
to be faithful to the young Princess, and to choose one of
themselves to guard her until she was of age to rule.
So Godrich, Earl of Cornwall, was chosen to guard the Princess.
For he was a true man, wise in council, wise in deed, and he
swore to protect his lady until she was of such age as no longer
to have need of him. Then he would wed her, he swore, to the
best man in all the land.
So, happy in thought that his daughter should reign after him in
peace, the King died, and there was great sorrow and mourning
throughout the land. But the people remained at peace, for the
Earl ruled well and wisely.
"From Dover to Roxburgh
All England of him stood in awe,
All England was of him adread."
 Meanwhile the Princess Goldboru grew daily more and more fair.
And when Earl Godrich saw how fair and noble she became, he
sighed and asked himself:—
"Whether she should be
Queen and lady over me.
Whether she should all England,
And me, and mine, have in her hand.
Nay, he said,
'I have a son, a full fair knave,
He shall England all have,
He shall be king, he shall be sire.' "
Then, full of his evil purpose, Godrich thought no more of his
oath to the dead king, but cast Goldboru into a darksome prison,
where she was poorly clad and ill-fed.
Now it befell that at this time there was a right good king in
Denmark. He had a son named Havelok and two fair daughters. And
feeling death come upon him, he left his children in the care of
his dear friend Godard, and so died.
But no sooner was the King in his grave than the false Godard
took Havelok and his two sisters and thrust them into a dungeon.
"And in the castle did he them do
Where no man might come them to,
Of their kin. There they prison'd were,
There they wept oft sort,
Both for hunger and for cold,
Ere they were three winters old.
Scantily he gave them clothes,
And cared not a nut for his oaths,
He them nor clothed right, nor fed,
Nor them richly gave to bed.
Thane Godard was most sickerly
Under God the most traitorly
That ever in earth shapen was
Except the wicked Judas."
 After a time the traitor went to the tower where the children
were, and there he slew the two little girls. But the boy
Havelok he spared.
"For the lad that little was,
He kneeled before that Judas
And said, 'Lord, mercy now!
Homage, Lord, to you I vow!
All Denmark I to you will give
If that now you let me live.' "
So the wicked Earl spared the lad for the time. But he did not
mean that he should live. Anon he called a fisherman to him and
"Grim, thou wist thou art my thral,
Wilt thou do my will all
That I will bid thee?
To-morrow I shall make thee free,
And give thee goods, and rich thee make,
If that thou wilt this child take
And lead him with thee, to-night,
When thou seest it is moonlight,
Unto the sea, and do him in!
And I will take on me the sin."
Grim, the fisherman, rejoiced at the thought of being free and
rich. So he took the boy, and wound him in an old cloth, and
stuffed an old coat into his mouth, so that he might not cry
aloud. Then he thrust him into a sack, and thus carried him home
to his cottage.
But when the moon rose, and Grim made ready to drown the child,
his wife saw a great light come from the sack. And opening it,
they found therein the prince. Then they resolved, instead of
drowning him, to save and nourish him as their own child. But
they resolved also to hide the truth from the Earl.
At break of day, therefore, Grim set forth to tell Godard that
his will was done. But instead of the thanks
 and reward promised
to him, he got only evil words. So, speeding homeward from that
traitor, he made ready his boat, and with his wife and three sons
and two daughters and Havelok, they set sail upon the high sea,
fleeing for their lives.
Presently a great wind arose which blew them to the coast of
England. And when they were safely come to land, Grim drew up
his boat upon the shore, and there he build him a hut, and there
he lived, and to this day men call the place Grimsby.
Years passed. Havelok lived with the fisherman, and grew great
and fair and strong. And as Grim was poor, the Prince thought it
no dishonor to work for his living, and he became in time a
Havelok had to work hard. But although he worked hard he was
always cheerful and merry. He was so strong that at running,
jumping, or throwing a stone no one could beat him. Yet he was
so gentle that all the children of the place loved him and played
"Him loved all, quiet or bold,
Knight, children, young and old,
All him loved that him saw,
Both high men and low,
Of him full wide the word sprang
How he was meek, how he was strong."
At last even the wicked Godrich in his palace heard of Havelok in
the kitchen. "Now truly this is the best man in England," he
said, with a sneer. And thinking to bring shame on Goldboru, and
wed her with a kitchen knave, he sent for Havelok.
"Master, wilt wed?" he asked, when the scullion was brought
"Nay," quoth Havelok, "by my life what should I do with a wife?
I could not feed her, nor clothe her, nor shoe her. Whither
should I bring a woman? I have no
 cot, I have no stick nor twig.
I have neither bread nor sauce, and no clothes but one old coat.
These clothes even that I wear are the cook's, and I am his
At that Godrich shook with wrath. Up he sprang and began to beat
Havelok without mercy.
"And said, 'Unless thou her take,
That I well ween thee to make,
I shall hangen thee full high
Or I shall thrusten out thine eye.' "
Then seeing that there was no help for it, and that he must
either be wedded or hanged, Havelok consented to marry Goldboru.
So the Princess was brought, "the fairest woman under the moon."
And she, sore afraid at the anger and threats of Godrich, durst
not do aught to oppose the wedding. So were they "espoused fair
and well" by the Archbishop of York, and Havelok took his bride
home to Grimsby.
You may be sure that Havelok, who was so strong and yet so
gentle, was kind to his beautiful young wife. But Goldboru was
unhappy, for she could not forget the disgrace that had come upon
her. She could not forget that she was a princess, and that she
had been forced to wed a low-born kitchen knave. But one night,
as she lay in bed weeping, an angel appeared to her and bade her
sorrow no more, for it was no scullion that she had wed, but a
king's son. So Goldboru was comforted.
And of all that afterward befell Havelok and Goldboru, of how
they went to Denmark and overcame the traitor there, and received
the kingdom; and of how they returned again to England, and of
how Godrich was punished, you must read for yourselves in the
book of Havelok the Dane. But this one thing more I will tell
you, that Havelok and Goldboru lived happily together until they
died. They loved each other so tenderly that
 they were never
angry with each other. They had fifteen children, and all the
sons became kings and all the daughters became queens.
I should like to tell you many more of these early English
metrical romances. I should like to tell you of Guy of Warwick,
of King Horn, of William and the Werewolf, and of many others.
But, indeed, if I told all the stories I should like to tell this
book would have no end. So we must leave them and pass on.
BOOKS TO READ
The Story of Havelok the Dane, rendered into later English
by Emily Hickey.
The Lay of Havelok the Dane, edited by W. W.
Skeat in the original English.