The Flying Dutchman





I



A storm on the ocean is a fearful thing to see. It roars, it flashes, it

races huge waves mountain-high one after the other, it dashes them

furiously against the sharp rocks, it howls, it blows, and it tosses

great ships about as though they were tiny toys.



Once, long, long ago there was just such a storm as this off the Cape of

Good Hope, that most southern point of Africa. For the Evil Spirit who

ruled the seas in those days, and who had many servants to do his

bidding, had ordered one of them, the Wind Storm, to sweep over the

waters far and wide. Perhaps the Evil Spirit wanted to add to the

treasures that he had gathered from all the ships he had

wrecked--treasures that he kept far beneath the water.



At any rate, the Wind Storm did as he was told. He lashed the mighty

waves into anger so that they crashed against the jagged rocks of the

Cape, and all the ships that were abroad scudded swiftly along before

him in fear.



"Go home," whistled the Wind Storm through the sails. "Go back to your

safe harbors. There is no room for you on this sea. I need it

all--all--all."



And the ships scurried into their harbors--all but one. The captain of

that ship was not afraid of the Wind Storm nor of the Evil Spirit,

either, for that matter. His ship was strong, and so was his will. He

was determined to go around the Cape. He stood at the prow while the

ship rocked violently to and fro. The salt spray dashed over him, but

still he defied the Wind Storm.



"I will not go back," he cried, and he swore a mighty oath. "I'll sail

on and round that Cape if I sail forever."



Now the Evil Spirit happened to be lurking beneath the angry waters,

and he heard the oath.



"Very well," cried he. "Sail on forever and ever, then! Sail on until

you find a maiden fair who will be willing to die for love of you!"



And so it came to pass. Through all the long years that followed, the

ship sailed on and on. In fair or foul weather, over smooth or stormy

seas, under blue or gray skies, the strange voyage continued year after

year.



Sometimes the captain in his despair would steer straight for the craggy

rocks, hoping to be dashed to pieces, but the rocks would not harm his

ship. He steered in the path of terrible pirates, but when the pirates

saw the ship, they crossed themselves and hurried away. The blustering

tempest would not harm it, nor the eddying whirlpool. It just sailed on

and on.



The sailors, who had been young and lively, grew old and silent. Their

hearts were as gray as their heads, for though the days grew into

weeks, the weeks into years, the years into centuries, still there was

no rest for them. Their faces became as white as ghosts, and some say

that the blood left their bodies and crept into the sails. At any rate,

the strong, white ship turned black and weather-beaten, and the strong,

white sails, red, red as blood.



Only the captain remained forever young and handsome, and each seven

years as the ship sailed into some harbor, he was allowed to go on shore

to seek the maiden fair who would deliver him and his crew from their

fate and set them at rest. But alas! no such maiden had he ever found.

Many maidens had he met and loved, and many had loved him, too, but to

be true to him forever and to die for him,--that was quite another

matter.



And so each time "The Flying Dutchman" had gone on again, until once at

the end of a seven years' period he came to the coast of Norway.





II



Heigho, heigho! sang the sailors of a gay Norwegian bark as they cast

anchor in a sheltered bay on the coast of Norway to escape the tempest,

which had been tossing them about on the open sea. What though the south

wind had driven them a few miles out of their course? The sunrise of

another day would find them safe at home after their long voyage. In

fancy, they could already see the dear ones on the shore, waving,

smiling, welcoming! So "heigho, heigho for to-morrow!" sang they.



Only Daland, the captain, was full of gloom. Impatient was he, also, for

had he not expected to spend that very night by his own fireside with

his daughter Senta? And now to wait here, so near and yet so far, with a

raging sea between him and his peaceful home, was an ordeal, indeed. To

battle with those angry waves had been no easy task, either. A little

sleep would not harm him, thought he.



Now you must know that in those days the seas were full of dread pirates

and bold robbers who prowled about seeking plunder, and so, before

Daland lay down to sleep, he called his steersman and bade him keep

sharp watch. The steersman did--for a little while. But he, too, was

tired. First he sang right lustily a merry song about the distant climes

where he had traveled, and of the kind winds that would send him back to

his sweetheart. Soon, however, his voice faltered; it grew fainter and

fainter. His head nodded once, twice. He, too, was asleep.



Then, while no one watched, slowly, quietly, out of the west, came an

old weather-beaten vessel with red, red sails, straight into that very

bay. Only you and I know whence it came, and how endless had been its

wanderings. So silently did it sail, so ghostly were its movements, that

no one on all Daland's boat heard a single sound. No one heard the

noiseless dropping of the anchor, the lowering of those red, red sails.

Nor did any one hear the sigh of relief with which the worn sailors

crept away to their berths, nor see the hope and longing that lit their

pale faces as they saw their captain spring eagerly to the shore.



Perhaps the captain stamped too heavily up and down on the wet sand,

glad to feel the solid earth under his feet once more. Perhaps he raised

his arms to heaven and cried aloud to God to help him now find the

maiden fair who would love him truly forever. Why, I do not know, but

just then Daland awoke with a start.



A strange vessel alongside! How he chided the drowsy steersman! A

strange captain on the shore! Quickly he leaped to the sand to greet

him!



"Whence come you?" asked Daland, "and whither are you going?"



The Dutchman replied but little. "Holland," he said, "and a wanderer

seeking shelter for his vessel from the storm." Home he had none, nor

wife, nor child, and gladly would he pay of his treasures for one night

at somebody's hospitable hearth.



And while Daland was marveling at this strange tale, and had begun to

tell of his own home so near and yet so far away, the stranger, at a

sign, had received a huge chest from his ship and was opening it before

Daland's eyes.



If "all the wild flowers of the forest, all the lilies of the prairie,"

all the glorious colors of sunrise and sunset, if the rainbow itself,

had been packed away in a chest to be suddenly opened before you,

perhaps you would have been surprised, too. Gold was there, and silver

was there, and the white sheen of pearls, and the bright sparkle of

diamonds, and the deep glow of rubies, all there dancing, glittering, in

Daland's astonished eyes. Was this some marvelous dream? When he found

that the treasure was real, he remembered Senta, and offered the

Dutchman his home for the night, telling him that his daughter ...



The Dutchman caught the word "daughter." Had Daland a daughter? Would he

give her to him for a wife? And Daland, who had been thinking what a

fine husband such a man, with a ship full of treasures, would be for his

daughter, lost no time, and said yes.



Then hope came again to the heart of the Dutchman. He was impatient to

see this maiden who, he silently prayed, might be the one to deliver him

from his fate. And while he prayed, the wind changed, the clouds broke,

a ray of sunshine peeped through, the sea became smooth as glass.



"You'll see her this day," said Daland.



And so, bidding the sailors raise anchor, Daland went aboard his boat,

the Dutchman aboard his, and with a heigho, heigho, they sailed out of

the bay.





III



Daland's home stood, as a sailor's home should, near the sea. Through

its white-curtained windows one could see far out over the blue water,

to the broad horizon, where ships hovered like white birds against the

sky.



Inside the house all was as sweet and clean as the willing hands of old

Marie, the house-keeper, could make it. The walls, rough and unpainted,

were almost covered with flat blue maps and sailor's charts, save where,

over the wide doorway, a single picture hung.



It was the picture of a man; a man with a pale face, a long, black

beard, and strange, foreign-looking clothes. But I do not need to tell

you who he was. You know the story behind those melancholy eyes that

looked out so sadly from the picture. You have heard it this very day.



Had you entered that sunny room on a certain afternoon long, long ago,

you would have seen a group of happy girls, under the direction of

Marie, all diligently spinning. And, had you stopped to listen, you

would have heard merry chatter and light-hearted snatches of song

mingled with the whir-r, whir-r, whir-r-r of those quick-turning wheels.

How they joked, and laughed, and sang, those girls of long ago!



Did I say all? No, not all. For there was one who sat quite apart, her

idle hands in her lap, her young face uplifted, and her dreaming eyes

fixed on the portrait over the door. She was Senta, the daughter of

Daland.



Once, when Senta was very young, old Marie had told her the history of

that pale man in the picture, and the sadness of his fate, and that of

his unhappy crew, had touched her tender heart. And, because she was an

imaginative girl, who fancied strange things, the picture of the Flying

Dutchman, wandering over unknown seas, came back to her mind again and

again. She thought of him by day; she dreamed of him by night. She even

began to imagine that God had destined her to be that maiden fair whose

love would deliver him from his mournful roaming. But certainly she

never breathed such a strange thought to a single soul.



Until that day! Then, as all the busy girls laughingly teased her for

her idleness, and twitted her for being in love with a mere shadow

instead of with the real, strong, young hunter Eric, who wanted to marry

her, she grew impatient. To still their chatter, she cried out

fretfully:



"Oh, girls, cease your foolish songs and your spinning! I am tired of

all the humming and buzzing. Do you want me to join you? Listen, and

I'll sing the ballad of the Flying Dutchman. Then you'll know why his

sad fate touches my heart."



Senta began her singing. The girls stopped their wheels to listen, and

as they listened, their eyes grew round with wonder. They, too, pitied

the poor captain and his unhappy crew. But when Senta described these

aimless wanderings that nothing could change except that maiden fair who

would be willing to die for love, the girls interrupted her.



"Oh!" cried they. "Where in all the world is there such a maiden?"



"Here!" answered Senta, and she sang:



"Angel above, oh! bring to me

The pale man sailing o'er the sea!"



Do you wonder that all the girls, even Marie, started up in alarm when

they heard that strange prayer? No doubt they thought Senta had gone out

of her mind. Loudly they called, until Eric the hunter came running into

the room. He reasoned, he pleaded with Senta, but all in vain. She could

think of nothing but the story of the man whose picture hung on the

wall.



Just when the excitement was greatest, a cry from without told of the

approach of Daland's boat. There was no time for foolish thoughts, then.

A meal must be prepared, the table set, the glasses filled! Away hurried

the girls and old Marie.



In a moment Daland was at the door. Who was that pale visitor, so

strangely like the picture above his head, entering behind him? Senta

stared from one to the other. She could scarcely greet her father. She

knew at once who this stranger was, just as you know and as I know. But

Daland knew not.



He, proud and happy, thinking of that ship full of treasures, lost no

time in telling Senta that this was the man he had chosen to be her

husband on the morrow, if she were willing.



Senta was quite willing, for had she not loved this stranger for a long,

long time? As for the Flying Dutchman, he gazed into those trusting

eyes, and was filled with a great joy and a greater hope. Often when

tossed about on the cruel waves had he dreamed of a maiden just as

fair, just as pure as this one who now stood before him. If she would

but be constant, all would be well, thought he. And, as he gazed, he

heard her sweet voice saying,



"Whoever thou art, whatever thy fate,

I will be thy love, I will be thy mate."





IV



The marriage feast was quickly prepared. The jolly sailor boys, the

pretty peasant girls, all lent helping hands, and soon the merrymaking

on board the gayly lighted ship began. Only on the black ship with the

red sails was there darkness and silence.



Suddenly a young girl walked hastily down to the shore. It was Senta,

the daughter of Daland, and closely following her, came Eric the hunter.

He begged her to hearken to his wooing once more. He pleaded with her to

give up that mysterious stranger who had come between them. Had she

forgotten all her promises? Must her father's rash command be obeyed?



Because Eric was an old friend, and because Senta was a kind-hearted

girl, she listened patiently to all that he had to say. Not that a

single word could have altered her determination to live and to die, if

need be, for the Flying Dutchman. She loved him too well for that.



Even while she listened to Eric, she thought tenderly of her new lover

and of how good God had been to allow her to be the maiden fair who

would relieve his endless suffering.



Perhaps it was just that tender thought showing in her face that the

Dutchman mistook for regret. For, at that very moment, when Eric was

pleading so earnestly, and Senta was listening so patiently, the

Dutchman came down to the shore.



He looked first at Eric, then at Senta, and like a flash came the

thought that here was another girl who would not keep her promise.

There had been so many like that. He did not stop to ask or to reason.

Frantic with disappointment and despair, he rushed blindly over the

rocks toward his ship.



"To sea! To sea forevermore!" cried he.



Now, you know Senta had not ceased loving him at all. So, although Eric

tried to detain her, she ran swiftly after the Dutchman. She clung to

him, crying out her love, and vowing eternal faithfulness again and

again. So loudly did she cry, that Daland and Marie came hurrying, too.



The Dutchman managed to loosen her arms, to free himself. He waved her

back, and a great change came over his face. Gone were all thoughts of

himself and of his sad fate. He thought only of this pure maiden who was

willing to die for his sake. He knew now that he loved her too well to

let her pay such an awful price. Rather would he sail on and on

forever.



Warning her not to come nearer, he leaped into his boat. Then, as the

gray sailors unfurled the red, red sails and the black ship plunged

forward, he stretched out his arms and told who he was. "The Flying

Dutchman am I, the Scourge of the Sea," he shouted.



Daland, Marie, Eric, crossed themselves and looked after him in horror.

Not so, Senta. She had always known who he was. She would save him. She

would be faithful until death. With a glad cry, she leaped forward and

cast herself into the seething sea.



The waves closed over her. And as they closed a strange thing happened.

At the very same moment, the black ship, the red sails, the sailors, all

disappeared. Only a rosy light lay over the water where they had been.

And in that rosy light, which ascended from the blue water to the blue

sky, were seen, in close embrace, the angel forms of the Flying Dutchman

and his maiden fair, floating onward and upward, toward their eternal

rest.





Tannhaeuser The Minstrel Knight The Master Singers facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback