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SANT EFFLAMM AND KING ARTHUR¹

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The Database of Ornament

ON a far-off day, a day in the shadow of forgotten
time, a great king reigned in Inisfail, the Isle of
Destiny, whence, later, the holy Columba sailed
towards lona in his frail coracle. This king had
a daughter whose hand he was fain to give in high
marriage. Her name was Enora, and she was
more fair to see than the fairest princesses of her time. When
men looked upon her, it was as though they beheld the woman
of their dream. Many young lords there were who paid homage
to Enora, but of these one only found favour in the sight of the
king; and this was Efflamm, the son of a mighty monarch who
ruled a distant land. This Lord Efflamm was young and fair.
So it came to pass that Efflamm and Enora took the marriage-
troth before God and man. Now the brave knight, ere he had
quitted his father’s kingdom, had vowed a vow. Therefore
it was that on the marriage-night, when all slept, he did a
strange thing: for a strange thing it was to leave the bridal
chamber and the sleeping Enora, and stealthily to quit the
palace, followed only by his faithful hound.

Straight to where the waves lapped the shore he went, but
when he reached the rocks he gazed in vain for the galley
which was to carry him thence: no boat could he discern,
because of the darkness which lay upon the moaning sea. As
he peered into the night the moon rose, and it was borne

¹This rendering: of the Breton legend ‘Sant Efflamm hag ar Roue Arzur’ is based upon
the ballad of that name given by the late Vicomte Hersart de la Villemarqué in the
Barzaz-Breiz.


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in upon Efflamm that he must follow her track across the
waters. While still he pondered, his gaze chanced upon a
little chest tossing forlornly from wave to wave. Drawing it
shoreward, he made ready to commit himself to this frail and
perilous craft, but first a prayer sped from his lips along the
moonway: ‘God of the sea, of the moon, and of the human
clan! guard me, for henceforth my life is Thine: guard me, for
my boat is small. Thy sea is vast.’ Thereat the tiny craft began
to move, and soon was a dim shadow swallowed up in the
drowning darkness. Before the yellow track paled with the
coming of day, Efflamm neared the coast of Brittany.

At this time many wild animals roamed through the forests and
over the waste lands of Armorica; and there were dreaded
haunts whence fierce and terrible dragons devastated the land,
and wrought ruin and terror among the poor folk. Nowhere
did the curse lie more heavily than on Lannuon: Lannuon of
the Islands, which has been called the Venice of Brittany;
Lannuon the Fair, where the lads dance the daintiest steps in
all the country of Landreger, where the damsels are so beauti-
ful that an unloved maiden is as rare as a star shining in full
daylight, or a blossoming rose when winter has come. Of the
dragons, whose victims were to be counted by tens of hundreds
in Armorica, the great King Arthur had killed many; but even
the sword of this mighty hero had been powerless against the
Terror of Landreger, the fiercest of a fierce band.

Landreger is sheltered from the blasts of the Atlantic by the
chain of the Black Mountains. Far as the gaze can reach
green valleys stretch westward, in spring starred white
and yellow with violets and primroses—milk-flowers, the
children call them. The winding lanes are bordered by hedges
of hawthorn and privet, over and amid which interlace the
branches of the wild rose and the honeysuckle. Here, as
seldom in Kerne or Leon, the air is clear and wind-swept, the
sky blue. Hamlets nestle on the slopes, half hidden among
rich foliage, and rolling purple heathlands meet the blue of the
sky. Smoke rises from the steadings, and the lowing of kine,

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the bellowing of bulls, and the barking of dogs break the
silence.

But it was not springtime when Efflamm the Holy first saw
this fair country. Then, over hill-slope and valley, over moor-
land and plain lay the white peace of winter. The chain of
Black Mountains might well have been a bank of cloud against
the horizon, so shining white were they. Yet beneath the
peace Efflamm discerned the green sleeping life, he heard the
breathing of Nature our mother, with the unborn spring like a
child wrapped close to her brown breast beneath its soft garment
of snow. He knew that fair would be the land whereon he
stood when once the south-west wind blew its bugle over
forest and lea.

Soon all other thoughts were merged in one; for he beheld
stains of blood on the snow. These Efflamm traced to their
source; and thus it was that he found King Arthur stretched
prostrate on the ground. By the king’s side lay his charger,
wounded to death; and over the hero himself stood a furious
monster, with one blood-red eye glaring from the centre of his
forehead, and green scales, so thick that spear had never pierced
them, protecting his shoulders. Gigantic and savage he was,
fiercer than a bull with the red rage upon him. His huge scaly
tail writhed like a serpent, and in the mouth that stretched
from ear to ear were sown broadcast great tusks more terrible
than those of a boar.

From sunrise to sunset, and all through one night, king and
dragon had fought; throughout the following day and night the
conflict continued, the monster as fierce, the knight as courage-
ous, as at the onset. It was now the end of the third day,
and the strength of King Arthur was spent.

‘For the love of Mary a cup of water, good pilgrim, to cool my
parched lips!’ cried the stricken champion as he saw the stranger
approach.

‘By the grace of God I will help thee, and gladly,’ answered
Efflamm. As he spoke he struck thrice with his staff the mound
whereon he stood. Over the white country passed a tremor:

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the face of the snow was tinged with faint green; and in the
heart of King Arthur hope was reborn. For a moment there
was silence, while the gaze of Efflamm rested on that of the
warrior, and over the eyes of the beast a film slowly spread.

Then water sprang from the rock—cool, clear water. As
King Arthur drank eagerly, his strength came back to him.
Throwing himself on his adversary, he plunged his sword into
the monster’s throat; to the very hilt it sank, and with one cry
the Terror of Landreger fell dead, and the body rolled over the
rocks into the sea. The blood from the wound left gory pools
on the snow, and down the white cliff was a blood-red track
where the beast had fallen.

King Arthur and Efflamm now stood alone upon the height
Each looked at the other wonderingly. At last the king spoke:
‘Follow me, I pray thee, to my palace. I would make thy
future prosperous and happy.’

But Efflamm answered: ‘Red as the gore at thy feet is my
past; white as the snow on yonder cliff I have vowed my life
shall be. Henceforth my days shall be spent on this hill. It
may be that as the sun melts the snow, and springtime succeeds
to winter, the good God will smile upon me, and my heart shall
be green once more.’

At that King Arthur bowed his head, and silently went towards
his palace, leaving Efflamm alone upon the hill.

In the stillness of the marriage-night Enora awoke from a
dream. ‘Efflamm, my hero’ she murmured, ere her eyes
opened to the darkness, ‘ Efflamm, my hero, my king!’ But a
moment thereafter the silence was broken by the weeping of the
lonely bride. She knew that none save herself breathed in that
silent chamber, and a strange fear crept over her. It was long
before the first whisper of sunlight ran across the frontiers of
the morning; long, at least, it seemed to Enora, who, in be-
wildered grief, sat at her window gazing towards the east. Her
hands were locked, and ever and again her lips moved in prayer.

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‘Whither has my lord Efflamm fared?’ was the question that she
put to all, when once the new day was come. And as each
made the same answer, ‘The good God only can tell that thing,’
Enora turned away, and the pain at her heart became yet fiercer.
All that day she sat on the seashore. ‘Perchance he has gone
a-fishing, and his boat has been caught in a storm,’ her lips said;
but in her heart was a dread silence. ‘Or mayhap he is on the
hills tracking the deer,’ she muttered; yet the pulse gave no
answering leap. Thus the hours of light passed; and through-
out the darkness Enora watched and wept.

For many weeks thereafter she was alone in her gloom. The
roar of the sea, the soughing of the wind, the drip of the rain
which fell unceasingly, were all the sounds that pierced to the
silence of her soul.

At last one night, when for the third time the moon was at the
full, weary with sorrow, she fell asleep and dreamed a dream.
Efflamm stood by her side, radiant as the sun at noon; a glory
was about him: ‘Follow me, Enora, my bride.’ Each word
healed an open wound; sweet was the sound of his voice as the
cooing of the doves at dawn. ‘Follow me into the solitude,
that thy white soul may become yet whiter. White it shall be
as the snow ere it descends from heaven.’

Is it not a hearthside tale how angels came to carry Enora
over the wide stretch of sea between Ireland and Brittany; and
how they laid her on the threshold of the hermit’s cell?
When she awoke she knocked thrice on the door—
‘Efflamm, Efflamm! I am Enora, thy wife. God has borne me
hither. In my heart there is joy.’

Efflamm had spent his days in prayer. Each morning the
first words on his lips had been, ‘May Thy peace fall as
morning dew upon Enora’; every nightfall he prayed, ‘May
Thy cool hand rest on Enora in the gloom.’ Every hour of the
day it was for her soul he travailed with prayer and fasting.
When he heard the voice at his door, Efflamm knew that God
had answered his prayers.


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Winter had passed, and springtime had come in the countiy of
Landreger; fresh and green was the grass of the hillside; but
of the meeting on that lone spot no man knows aught, though
folk say that thereafter it was as if the wind and the sun were
comrades.

By the side of his cell Efflamm built a hut for Enora; and
thus the two saints lived for many a year. The wonder of
the miracles that they wrought was passed from lip to lip, and
each day the sick were healed at the touch of Efflamm, and
young mothers sought the blessing of Enora.

There came a night when the fishermen, idly at rest where
their boats lay becalmed, saw the heavens open, and heard a
strange, wild music. On the morrow a poor woman, unable to
suckle her child, toiled up the hill. She knocked at the door of
Enora’s cell many times, but no voice bade her enter. When
she looked through a hole in the wall, a glory filled the hut. It
came from the fair body of the saint, who lay dead on the
earthen floor. Near her knelt a little lad robed in white.
Startled with awe, the good woman ran to the cell of Efflamm;
       but he, too, lay in the white sleep which comes to all
              when the pulse in the heart is weary.

                  EDITH WINGATE RINDER.

MLA citation:

Rinder, Edith Wingate. “Sant Efflamm and King Arthur.” The Evergreen; A Northern Seasonal, vol. 4 Winter 1896-7, pp. 69-74. Evergreen Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2016-2018. Yellow Nineties 2.0, General Editor Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019. https://1890s.ca/egv4_rinder_sant/