Death, Dying, Grief and Mourning

            "Death is always the same,
                               but each man dies in his own way."

Carson McCullers, Clock Without Hands, 1960


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An Anthology by  Adrienne Nater

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Death, Dying, Grief, and Mourning

in Western Literature


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Bulfinch Mythology - Legends of Charlemagne, 768

 Translated Thomas Bulfinch 1863

Death of Rinaldo

Chapter 20 - Death of Rinaldo:

THE distress in Rinaldo’s castle for want of food grew more severe every day, under the pressure of the siege. The garrison were forced to kill their horses, both to save the provision they would consume, and to make food of their flesh. At last, all the horses were killed except Bayard, and Rinaldo said to his brothers, "Bayard must die, for we have nothing else to eat." So they went to the stable and brought out Bayard to kill him. But Alardo said, "Brother, let Bayard live a little longer; who knows what God may do for us."

Bayard heard these words, and understood them as if he was a man, and fell on his knees, as if he would beg for mercy. When Rinaldo saw the distress of his horse his heart failed him, and he let him live.

Just at this time, Aya, Rinaldo’s mother, who was the sister of the Emperor, came to the camp, attended by knights and ladies, to intercede for her sons. She fell on her knees before the king, and besought him that he would pardon Rinaldo and his brothers; and all the peers and knights took her side, and entreated the king to grant her prayer. Then said the king, "Dear sister, you act the part of a good mother, and I respect your tender heart, and yield to your entreaties. I will spare your sons their lives, if they submit implicitly to my will."

When Charlot heard this, he approached the king and whispered in his ear. And the king turned to his sister and said, "Charlot must have Bayard, because I have given the horse to him. Now go, my sister, and tell Rinaldo what I have said."

When the Lady Aya heard these words, she was delighted, thanked God in her heart, and said, "Worthy king and brother, I will do as you bid me." So she went into the castle, where her sons received her most joyfully and affectionately, and she told them the king’s offer. Then Alardo said, "Brother, I would rather have the king’s enmity than give Bayard to Charlot, for I believe he will kill him." Likewise said all the brothers. When Rinaldo heard them, he said, "Dear brothers, if we may win our forgiveness by giving up the horse, so be it. Let us make our peace, for we cannot stand against the king’s power." Then he went to his mother, and told her they would give the horse to Charlot, and more, too, if the king would pardon them, and forgive all that they had done against his crown and dignity. The lady returned to Charles and told him the answer of her sons.  

When the peace was thus made between the king and the sons of Aymon, the brothers came forth from the castle, bringing Bayard with them, and, falling at the king’s feet, begged his forgiveness. The king bade them rise, and received them into favor in the sight of all his noble knights and counsellors, to the great joy of all, especially of the Lady Aya, their mother. Then Rinaldo took the horse Bayard, gave him to Charlot, and said, "My lord and prince, this horse I give to you; do with him as to you seems good." Charlot took him, as had been agreed on. Then he made the servants take him to the bridge, and throw him into the water. Bayard sank to the bottom, but soon came to the surface again and swam, saw Rinaldo looking at him, came to land, ran to his old master, and stood by him as proudly as if he had understanding, and would say, "Why did you treat me so?" When the prince saw that, he said, "Rinaldo, give me the horse again, for he must die." Rinaldo replied, "My lord and prince, he is yours without dispute," and gave him to him. The prince then had a millstone tied to each foot, and two to his neck, and made them throw him again into the water. Bayard struggled in the water, looked up to his master, threw off the stones, and came back to Rinaldo.

When Alardo saw that, he said, "Now must thou be disgraced forever, brother, if thou give up the horse again." But Rinaldo answered, "Brother, be still. Shall I for the horse’s life provoke the anger of the king again?" Then Alardo said, "Ah, Bayard! what a return do we make for all thy true love and service!" Rinaldo gave the horse to the prince again, and said, "My lord, if the horse comes out again, I cannot return him to you any more, for it wrings my heart too much." Then Charlot had Bayard loaded with the stones as before, and thrown into the water; and commanded Rinaldo that he should not stand where the horse would see him. When Bayard rose to the surface he stretched his neck out of the water and looked round for his master, but saw him not. Then he sunk to the bottom.

Rinaldo was so distressed for the loss of Bayard, that he made a vow to ride no horse again all his life long, not to bind a sword to his side, but to become a hermit, He resolved to betake himself to some wild wood, but first to return to his castle, to see his children, and to appoint to each his share of his estate.

So he took leave of the king and of his brothers, and returned to Montalban, and his brothers remained with the king. Rinaldo called his children to him, and he made his eldest born, Aymeric, a knight, and made him lord of his castle and of his land. He gave to the rest what other goods he had, and kissed and embraced them all, commended them to God, and then departed from them with a heavy heart.

He had not traveled far when he entered a wood, and there met with a hermit, who had long been retired from the world, Rinaldo greeted him, and the hermit replied courteously, and asked him who he was and what was his purpose. Rinaldo replied, "Sir, I have led a sinful life; many deeds of violence have I done, and many men have I slain, not always in a good cause, but often under the impulse of my own headstrong passions. I have also been the cause of the death of many of my friends, who took my part, not because they thought me in the right, but only for love of me. And now I come to make confession of all my sins, and to do penance for the rest of my life, if perhaps the mercy of God will forgive me." The hermit said, "Friend, I perceive you have fallen into great sins, and have broken the commandments of God, but His mercy is greater than your sins; and if you repent from your heart, and lead a new life, there is yet hope for you that He will forgive you what is past." So Rinaldo was comforted, and said, "Master, I will stay with you, and what you bid me I will do." The hermit replied, "Roots and vegetables will be your food; shirt or shoes you may not wear; your lot must be poverty and want, if you stay with me." Rinaldo replied, "I will cheerfully bear all this, and more." So he remained three whole years with the hermit, and after that his strength failed, and it seemed as if he was like to die.

One night the hermit had a dream, and heard a voice from heaven, which commanded him to say to his companion that he must without delay go to the Holy Land, and fight against the heathen. The hermit, when he heard that voice, was glad, and, calling Rinaldo, he said, "Friend, God’s angel has commanded me to say to you that you must without delay go to Jerusalem, and help our fellow–Christians in their struggle with the Infidels." Then said Rinaldo, "Ah! master, how can I do that? It is over three years since I made a vow no more to ride a horse, nor take a sword or spear in my hand." The hermit answered, "Dear friend, obey God, and do what the angel commanded." "I will do so," said Rinaldo, "and pray for me, my master, that God may guide me right." Then he departed, and went to the seaside, and took ship and came to Tripoli in Syria.

And as he went on his way his strength returned to him, till it was equal to what it was in his best days. And though he never mounted a horse, nor took a sword in his hand, yet with his pilgrim’s staff he did good service in the armies of the Christians; and it pleased God that he escaped unhurt, though he was present in many battles, and his courage inspired the men with the same. At last a truce was made with the Saracens, and Rinaldo, now old and infirm, wishing to see his native land again before he died, took ship and sailed for France. When he arrived, he shunned to go to the resorts of the great, and preferred to live among the humble folk, where he was unknown. He did country work and lived on milk and bread, drank water and was therewith content.

While he so lived, he heard that the city of Cologne was the holiest and best of cities, on account of the relics and bodies of saints who had there poured out their blood for the faith.

This induced him to betake himself thither. When the pious hero arrived at Cologne, he went to the monastery of St. Peter, and lived a holy life, occupied night and day in devotion. It so happened that at that time, in the next town to Cologne, there raged a dreadful pestilence. Many people came to Rinaldo, to beg him to pray for them, that the plague might be stayed. The holy man prayed fervently, and besought the Lord to take away the plague from the people, and his prayer was heard. The stroke of the pestilence was arrested, and all the people thanked the holy man and praised God.

Now there was at this time at Cologne a Bishop, called Agilolphus, who was a wise and understanding man, who led a pure and secluded life, and set a good example to others. This Bishop undertook to build the Church of St. Peter, and gave notice to all stone–masons and other workmen round about to come to Cologne, where they should find work and wages. Among others came Rinaldo; and he worked among the laborers and did more than four or five common workmen. When they went to dinner, he brought stone and mortar so that they had enough for the whole day. When the others went to bed, he stretched himself out on the stones. He ate bread only, and drank nothing but water; and had for his wages but a penny a day. The head–workman asked him his name, and where he belonged.

He would not tell, but said nothing and pursued his work. They called him St. Peter’s workman, because he was so devoted to his work.

When the overseer saw the diligence of this holy man, he chide the laziness of the other workmen, and said, "You receive more pay than this good man, but do not do half as much work." For this reason the other workmen hated Rinaldo, and made a secret agreement to kill him. They knew that he made it a practice to go every night to a certain church to pray and give alms. So they agreed to lay wait for him with the purpose to kill him. When he came to the spot, they seized him, and beat him over the head till he was dead. Then they put his body into a sack, and stones with it, and cast it into the Rhine, in the hope the sack would sink to the bottom, and be there concealed. But God willed not that it should be so, but caused the sack to float on the surface, and be thrown upon the bank. And the soul of the holy martyr was carried by angels, with songs of praise, up to the heavens.

Now at that time the people of Dortmund had become converted to the Christian faith; and they sent to the Bishop of Cologne, and desired him to give them some of the holy relics that are in such abundance in that city. So the Bishop called together his clergy to deliberate what answer they should give to this request. And it was determined to give to the people of Dortmund the body of the holy man who had just suffered martyrdom.

When now the body with the coffin was put on the cart, the cart began to move toward Dortmund without horses or help of men, and stopped not till it reached the place where the church of St. Rinaldo now stands. The Bishop and his clergy followed the holy man to do him honor, with singing of hymns, for a space of three miles. And St. Rinaldo has ever since been the patron of that place, and many wonderful works has God done through him, as may be seen in the legends.


Adrienne Nater, 2008

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