Captain Ortis’ Booty :  a Ballad.

Captain Ortis (the tale I tell1
Petit told in his chronicle),2
Won from Alva, for service and duty,3
At Antwerp’s surrender the strangest booty.4
Then each captain gained—as I hear5
That for guerdon he held most dear,6
Chose what in chief he set heart of his on ;7
Out strode Ortis and claimed—the prison !8
Such a tumult !  For, be assured,9
Greatly the judges and priests demurred ;10
No mere criminals alone in that Stygian11
Darkness died, but the foes of religion.12
There lay heretics by the score,13
Anabaptists and many more14
Hard to catch, but let loose when caught your15
Timid squirrels, forego the torture16
Never ! Suddenly sank the noise ;17
Alva spoke in his steely voice :18
He’s my soldier sans flaw or blemish,19
Let him burn as he likes these Flemish !”20
Sire, as you please,” the Governor said,21
Only King Philip’s edict read——”22
Alva spoke ! “ What is King or Cortes ?”23
Open the portals !” cried Captain Ortis.24
Loose the prisoners ; set them free :25
Only—each pays a ransom fee.”26
Out, be sure, flowed the gold in buckets,27
Piles on piles of broad Flanders ducats.28
Ay, and there followed not gold alone ;29
Men and women and children thrown30
In chains to perish came out forgiven,31
Saw light, friends’ faces, and thought it heaven.32
Out they staggered, so halt and blind33
From rack and darkness they scarce could find34
The blessed gate where daughter and mother,35
Father and brother, all found each other.36
Freedom ! Our darlings ! Let God be praised !”37
So cried all ; then said one amazed,38
Who is he under heaven that gave us39
Thought and pity—who cared to save us ?”40
Captain Ortis,” the answer ran,41
The Spanish lancer. Here’s the man.42
Ay, but don’t kill him with too much caressing ;43
Death’s sour salad with sweetest dressing.”44
Danger indeed ; for never had been45
In brave old Antwerp such a scene,46
Boldest patriot, fairest woman,47
Blessing him, knelt to the Spanish foe-man.48
Ortis looted his prize of gold.49
And yet I think if the truth be told,50
He found, when the ducats were gone with the pleasure,51
That heretic blessing a lasting treasure.52
Still my Captain, to certain eyes,53
Seems war-hardened and worldly-wise ;54
’Twere for a hero (you say) more handsome55
To give the freedom, nor take the ransom.”56
True ; but think of this hero’s lot,57
No Quixote he, nor Sir Launcelot ;58
But a needy soldier half-starved, remember,59
With cold and hunger, that northern December.60
Just such an one as Parma meant,61
Writing to Philip in discontent :62
Antwerp must yield to our men ere much longer,63
Unless you leave us to die of hunger.64
Wages, raiment, they do without,65
Wine—fire even—they’ll learn, no doubt,66
To live without meat for their mouths ; they’re zealous,67
Only they die first as yet, poor fellows.”68
Yes and I praise him, for my part,69
This man war-beaten and tough of heart,70
Who—scheming a booty, no doubt—yet planned it71
More like a saint, as I think, than a bandit.72
What, my friend, is too coarse for you ?73
Will nought less than a Galahad do ?74
Well ; far nobler, it seems, your sort is ;75
But I—I declare for bold Captain Ortis !76