Fragment of an Old Ballad. 29
the severed part was immediately carried away by the force of the current, and the worm being thus unable to re-unite itself, was, after a long and desperate conflict, finally destroyed by the gallantry and courage of the Knight of Lambton.
The afflicted household were devoutly engaged in prayer during this mortal encounter; but on the happy issue of the combat, the Knight, according to promise, blew a blast on his bugle, to assure his father of his safety, and that he might let loose his favourite hound, which, according to pre-concerted agreement was destined to be the sacrifice: but, the aged parent, forgetting every thing but his parental feelings, rushed forward to embrace his son.
When the Knight beheld his father, he was overwhelmed with grief; he could not raise his arm against his parent, yet, vainly hoping that his vow might be accomplished, and the curse averted, by destroying the next living thing he met, he blew another blast on his bugle, when his favourite hound broke loose, and bounded forward to receive his caresses. The gallant Knight, with “grief and reluctance,” once more drew his sword, still reeking with the gore of the monster, and plunged it into the heart of his faithful companion. But in vain: —the prediction was fulfilled, and the Sibyl’s curse pressed heavily on the house of Lambton “for nine generations.” *
* “The precise date of the story is of course uncertain.” It is stated by some, that the heir of Lambton had gone to the Holy Wars; and there are circumstances preserved in the narrative difficult to reconcile, and which are evidently the interpolations of modern times. Popular tradition, though in general true in the main, is seldom correct in details, and the precise time when the event happened which gave birth to the Legend, must be dated much earlier than the period assigned. Be this as it may, nine ascending generations from Henry Lambton, of Lambton, Esq. M.P., (elder brother to the late General Lambton) would exactly reach to Sir John Lambton, Knight of Rhodes—and the popular tradition holds, that none of the Lords of Lambton during the period of the “curse” ever died in their beds. Sir William Lambton, who was Colonel of a regiment of foot, in the service of Charles I., was slain at the bloody battle of Marston Moor, and his son William
THE DUN COW.
‘Tis certain, that the Dun cow’s milk,
Clothes the prebend’s wives all in silk;
But this indeed is plain to me,
The Dun cow herself is a shame to see.
These lines are bad enough, but they are ancient, and the Dun cow figured in Hutchinson, v. 2, 226, is truly “a shame to see.” The present Dun cow which ornaments the West corner Tower of the East transept was done by John Purday, a mason, in South Street.
The story of the Dun cow must be familiar to every inhabitant of the County of Durham. St. [Cuthhert] (the patron saint) on his death bed, ordered his brethren rather to take his bones up and fly, than stay and submit to the yoke of “wicked schismatics.” And “Bishop Eardulf and Abbot Edred, did take and carry away the body of St. Cuthbert from Holy Island, southward, and fled seven years from Town to Town, by reason of the great persecution, and slaughter of the Painims and Danes.”
(his eldest son by his second wife) inheriting the loyalty and gallantry of his father, “received his death’s wound at Wakefield,” at the head of a troop of dragoons, in 1643. The fulfilment of the curse was inherent in the ninth of descent, as above stated, and great anxiety prevailed during his life-time, amongst the hereditary depositaries of the traditions of the county, to know if the curse would “hold good to the end.” He died in his chariot, crossing the New Bridge—thus giving the last connecting link to the chain of circumstantial tradition connected with the history of the Worme of Lambton.
After many wanderings, it was at length revealed unto Eadmer, a virtuous man, that he should be carried to Dunholme, and there be received into a place of rest. But being again distressed, because they were ignorant where Dunholme was, as they were going, a woman, that lacked her cow, did call aloud to her companion, to know if she had not seen her cow; who answered with a loud voice, that her cow was in Dunholme, (a happy, and heavenly eccho to the distressed Monks, who by that means had intelligence that they were near their journey’s end), where they should find a resting place for the body of the Saint. And thereupon with great joy and gladness, they brought his body to Dunholme, in the year 1499,* which was inculta tellus, a barbarous and rude place, replenished with nothing but thorns, and thick woods, save only in the midst, where the Church now standeth, which was plain and commodious for such a purpose. †
He chose his lordly seat at last,
Where his Cathedral huge and vast,
Looks down upon the Wear.
Stowpe, Cuddie, and bowe thy brie,
To Peeres of Yorke, our legate borne;
Look well a bout, and take good e’e,
Lest now thy cause be quite forlorne.
Stowpe, good Cuddie, and bowe thy knee,
Lest thunder boltes beginne to flee.
These lines are stated to be “Certain verses made by a learned and a pleasant Poet, about the yeare of our Lord 1310, or there-
† Davis Rites and Monuments. 32
abouts, when the See of Yorke beganne to arme themselves against our church of Durham, with the power legatie.”