22 February 2011

The Ballad of Hans van Pelt, Part 3

The conclusion of the Ballad of Hans van Pelt.  If any kind reader knows anything about the origins of this tale, or about its author Joseph Hunt Miller, please leave a comment.

But before a man moved, a fresh breeze in the air
Uncovered the legs that were galloping there,
When the gleaming sharp point of each curving cow horn
Seemed the point of a lance by an enemy borne.

Then arose a wild cry that rang far through the town,
That the Tories in hot wrath were fast riding down.
Such a racket, and tumult, and terrible roar
Never Middlebush heard neither since or before.

When his tired horse at last to the spur gave no heed,
And in vain strove the rider to quicken his speed,
As the day hid its face under night's sable gown,
On a slow-walk he rode into Millstone's fair town,
Where Ten Eycks, and Ten Broecks, and ten dozen or more
Of Van Dams and Van Liews, of Van Duzens, Van Dor-
Ens, Van Veghtens, Van Camps, Van Arsdales, Van Dycks,
Van Cleefs, and Van Syckles, Van Homes and Van Slykes,
Who, that evening as wont having finished their chores,
Were all gathered in groups, just in front of their doors;
The men smoking and joking; the good women knitting-
An employment they follow, whether standing or sitting.
Salutations they gave Hans, believing the stranger
One riding the land with war's tidings of danger.
Came his words to their ears, like chill winds to the flowers,
When an iceberg has stranded on tropical shores-
"The British have come!" - then, on turning his head
And beholding the moon, which now arid and red,
Hung low in the east, and shone through the dim haze-
"New Brunswick is sacked! See, the town's in a blaze,
And on their swift horses they hitherward come,
The soldiers of Howe to pillage your town."

Then the hardy Ten Broecks were all in a quiver,
Through the bold Ten Eycks swept an aching cold shiver,
And the tremor contagious spread to each man
Till aching and shaking stood every Van.

Trusty scouts were sent forward who rode all the night
Nor returned to the town till the dawn's early light,
Though far they had ridden, some to New Brunswick below,
They found in the land not a sign of the foe.
Then the Vans took to swearing and swore all the day,
If ever again Hans should ride down that way,
Though he came like a priest, in a cassock and gown,
Only his ghost should ride forth from the town.

At midnight Hans reached the high hill of Neshanic,
Where he sprang from his horse and ran in his panic
To a cave on its brow, where long hidden he lay.
What came of him then, I really can't say,
For like the old dame, who lived under the hill,
For all that I know he is living there still.

Joseph Hunt Miller

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