Florence Wyndham

Cette légende (ou relation historique) m' a été transmise par W. H. (Ben) Norman.
Vous pouvez la retrouver, ainsi que bien d'autres, dans ses livres:
- Legends & Folklore of Watchet _      Williton printers, Williton, Somerset _    2000 / 2° édition
- Tales of Watchet harbour _               Short Run Press Ltd, Exeter _                 2002 / 3° édition

Histoire de Florence Wyndham .. The Florence Wyndham  story

Au seizième siècle, la pittoresque vieille ferme de Kentsford était la demeure de John Wyndham et de sa jeune épouse Florence.   John était le fils aîné  de sir John Wyndham, des vergers Wyndham près de Williton.   Florence était issue, également, d’une famille distinguée.   C’est son frère, Nicholas Wadham qui créa le collège Wadham à Oxford.  

Sir John et toute la famille fondaient sur Florence toutes leurs espérances pour perpétuer la lignée des Wyndham.

Leurs espoirs s’évanouirent quand, en 1559, Florence tomba subitement malade puis entra en coma. Le docteur local, appelé précipitamment à son chevet, se pencha sur elle, et ne percevant aucun pouls, déclara au mari désespéré que sa jeune femme était décédée.

 

In the sixteenth century the picturesque old house at Kentsford, near Watchet, was the home of John Wyndham and his young wife Florence.   John was the elder son of Sir John Wyndham of Orchard Wyndham, near Williton.   Florence, too, came from a distinguished family.   It was her brother Nicholas Wadham, who founded Wadham-College at Oxford.   

Sir John and all the family hoped that Florence would bear sons to carry on the Wyndham name.

It seemed that this was not to be when. in 1559. Florence was taken desperately ill and passed into a coma.   The local physician was hurriedly summoned to her bedside. After examining her pale and cold body and detecting no pulse, he told the distraught husband that his young wife was dead.

Comité de jumelage saint Renan _ Watchet

Le caveau familial, sis à l’intérieur de l’église St Décuman, fut rapidement préparé pour les funérailles par le bedeau.   Cet homme avait, quelque temps plus tôt, aidé à la mise en bière de Florence, la jeune et adorée femme du Lord du manoir, et pu s’apercevoir que cette dernière serait enterrée avec tous ses bijoux.   
« Quelle pitié » pensait-il « tout cet or inestimable va rester sous terre, ne profitant à personne alors qu’il me serait tellement utile pour améliorer ma pauvre existence.»   Ces pensées firent leur chemin dans son esprit toute la journée et le bedeau céda à la tentation.
  The interment vault of the Wyndham family inside St. Decuman's Church was made ready for the funeral by the sexton.   A little earlier this same man had helped to lift Florence's body, the adored and charming wife of the lord of the manor into her coffin and had noticed that she still wore her golden wedding ring and others costly gems on her fingers. 
“ What a pity, he thought to himself, that this valuable golden token would remain forever in a tomb and benefit no-one whilst he poor wretch had barely enough to survive.”   With these thoughts in mind and after the funeral the sexton gave way to temptation.
Le bedeau se rendit discrètement, à minuit, de Watchet à l’enclos paroissial et descendit les marches en pierre menant au caveau sombre et humide.   Allumant alors sa lanterne, il introduisit une clef rouillée dans la serrure de la lourde porte.   Un léger grincement l’avertit que la clef épousait bien le mécanisme et la porte s’ouvrit.   Le bedeau pénétra dans la chambre mortuaire quelque peu angoissé et hésitant, mais l’appât du gain fut le plus fort et il s’avança, posa sa lanterne, souleva le couvercle du tombeau et le posa contre terre.

Il retira rapidement les bagues des doigts blancs et glacés, mais l’anneau qui avait la plus grande valeur marchande, l’alliance de Florence, refusait d’abandonner la pauvre jeune femme.

Décidé malgré tout à entrer en possession de ce bijou, le voleur l’arracha violemment.   Ce faisant, il blessa l’annulaire de Florence et le sang jaillit du doigt.   Cet acte eut le mérite de relancer la circulation sanguine et notre « Belle au bois dormant » se réveilla.
 
The sexton lived at Watchet, and at midnight he wended soft-footed to the church-yard and crept down the stone steps into the dimness and dampness of the burying-place.  Here he lit his lantern, then thrust a rusty key into the lock of the great door.   A short grinding sound as the key came into contact with the wards of the huge lock, and the door yielded.  The sexton entered the death-chamber somewhat fearfully and hesitatingly, but greed and gain urged him forward and hanging his lantern aloft, he wrenched at the lid of the leaden chest until he had removed it.

Quickly he took the rings and gems from the white, icy fingers, but there was one ring, by far the most valuable of the whole, that would not leave its stiffened surroundings.   

Determined to have it, the unfeeling thief started to file through it, but in so doing brought blood from the finger. This had the effect of quickening the blood stream, whereat the shrouded sleeper arose.

  Comité de jumelage saint Renan _ Watchet  

Florence se redressa et, assise dans son cercueil, regarda autour d’elle.   Son regard se posa sur le bedeau qui fut pris de terreur face à ses yeux hagards et s’enfuit à toutes jambes.   La maîtresse de Kentford, elle-même égarée, appelait à l’aide celui qu’elle prenait pour son sauveur et qu’elle voulait remercier, mais en vain;   Submergé par la terreur et affolé par un sentiment de culpabilité, le bedeau s’était enfui le long du chemin et s’était jeté dans un puits.
   She sat up for a moment and stared around in blank bewilderment.   Her gaze rested on the sexton, who, catching a glimpse of those fair but mystified eyes, was seized with terror and ran for his life.   The Mistress of Kentsford had been buried in a trance, but, on recovery, called for the one who had saved her life and whom she intended rewarding handsomely.   She called in vain, for fear and guilt of his dreadful deed had urged the sexton to follow the pathway to Five Bells, where he leapt headlong into a well.

La charmante jeune femme descendit de la bière, décrocha la lanterne, monta les marches et, traversant l’enclos paroissial, se dirigea vers la demeure conjugale.   Quiconque l’aurait croisé cette nuit là dans les prairies silencieuses de Snailhot, aurait été effrayé par son apparence:   Un fantôme, dans un suaire maculé du sang coulant de son doigt, éclairé par une lanterne vacillante.   Finalement Florence entra sur les terres du manoir, traversa la pelouse jusqu’au porche normand et souleva le loquet de la lourde porte. Trouvant la porte fermée, notre ressuscitée souleva le heurtoir à plusieurs reprises jusqu’à ce qu’elle entendit un mouvement à l’étage.

Comité de jumelage saint Renan _ Watchet

  The lovely lady stepped out of the bier, unhung the lantern, ascended the steps, and crossing the consecrated sward went homeward straightway.   Down by the silent meadows of Snailholt she passes.   Had the stoutest of heart encountered her on that lonely journey they would have been affrighted for her tall, ghostly figure, red-spotted by the blood oozing from her finger, lit by the golden gleam of the light from the lantern, was enough to drive fear into the bravest breast.   At length she entered the Manor grounds, passed in at the court-house gateway, crossed the lawn to the Norman porch, enteredunder the arched porchway, and lifted the latch of the heavy door.   Finding the door bolted and barred, she gave a gentle tap with the giant knocker.  

Getting no answer, she knocked louder till she heard a stirring overhead

Depuis des heures, le propriétaire du manoir se morfondait sur son lit.   Peu avant les coups du heurtoir, il avait entendu son chien gémir, le portail de l’entrée s’ouvrir, et entr’aperçu une faible lueur s’infiltrer dans la chambre à travers les rideaux entr’ouverts.

Sa première pensée fut: « Quel esprit malin vient ainsi me torturer?   Ne peut on me laisser seul, au moins cette nuit, à épancher mon chagrin et avoir une dernière pensée pour mon épouse qui gît  dans le caveau à St Décuman? ».   Furieux, il se redressa et, dévalant les escaliers de chêne, saisit sa carabine puis remonta les marches à la volée. Il ouvrit la fenêtre et, brandissant son arme, se prépara à contrer cette intrusion.   « Qui va là?  Répondez ou je tire! »

Comité de jumelage saint Renan _ Watchet

   For hours the lord of the manor had been lying awake mourning his beloved.   Before the knocking he had heard the howl of his faithful hound, the click of the court-house gate, and, moreover, had seen a faint light sweep across the bedroom wall which had been cast by the lantern

" What devil had come to torment him at such an hour of the morning?"  was his first enraged thought.   “On this night of all nights could he not be left undisturbed to nurse his grief and with tear-stained eyes to meditate fondly upon that dear one whose body rested in the cold vault deep in the hill of St. Decuman ?”   He rose furiously and, running down the oaken stairway, seized his flint-lock and speedily mounted the stairs.   Opening the casement wide and holding the weapon in readiness, he threw down the challenge : " Who art thou? Answer now or thou shalt be shot!"

Lady Wyndham recula vers le porche et s’arrêta au beau milieu de la pelouse.   Soulevant sa lanterne pour mieux montrer son visage, elle sourit à son mari.  Affolée par le côté tragique de la situation, Florence resta quelques instants muette, puis de sa douce et sensuelle voix elle répondit:   « S’il vous plaît ne tirez pas, c’est moi, votre femme, qui me présente à vos yeux, rendue à la vie de par la grâce de Dieu.    Descendez et laissez moi entrer, j’ai froid et ce suaire me glace le sang.   Hâtez vous je vous en prie!»   Lady Wyndham drew back from the porchway and stepped haltingly on to the lawn.   Holding the lantern high she smiled up at her husband, the glow from the lantern displaying her pale, clear-cut features to perfection.   Somewhat fearful of the frown that greeted her, she was mute for a moment, then her soft, smooth voice made reply: ”Shoot not, sire!   The one who stands before you is your wife, restored to life by the grace and mercy of God.   Come down right now and let me in, for I am weary, and on this chill night this thin garb of death is no fit raiment for one who lives.   Hasten !"
Convaincu qu’il était bien en présence de son épouse, le jeune seigneur descendit les escaliers plus vite qu’il ne les avait montés et, après avoir ouvert la porte, tomba dans les bras de Florence.   Puis, séchant les larmes de sa bien aimée, il la fit entrer et, avant même de se changer, notre héroïne lui raconta tout ce qui lui était arrivé.   Convinced that this was his spouse, the now glad-hearted squire went down with all speed.   Unbolting and unbarring the cumbersome door, he bade welcome to his wife.   He clasped her in a fond embrace and their tears mingled together.   Then, wiping the tears from the blanched but serene countenance of the one he loved so well, he accompanied her indoors where she, even before the winding-sheet bearing the embroidered Wyndham crest had been removed, explained how she had been restored to him.
Bien avant l’aube toute la maisonnée fut avertie de ce qui se passait.   Le grand choc et l’explosion de joie qui s’ensuivit ne peuvent être retranscrits dans ces lignes, mais l’histoire ne s’arrête pas là.   En effet, peu de temps après cette nuit mémorable, Florence donna naissance à un fils.   C’est de celui-ci, prénommé John comme son père et son grand père, que la lignée des Wyndham actuels descend.   

Cette histoire extraordinaire qui s’est répandue dans tout le Somerset, voire au delà, est toujours vivante dans la mémoire des anciens.
 

Before dawn the entire household knew of this strange happening.   The great shock, followed by the joy other reunion can only be left to the imagination, but the legend ends even more happily-for shortly after Florence had returned from the tomb she gave birth to a son.   He also was named John and it is from him that the Wyndham line continues to this day.

Comité de jumelage saint Renan _ Watchet

The fame of her experience spread far and wide, and even to-day old people of West Somerset will enthrill and enthrall you as they tell this magnetic tale of death and resurrection.

Dans l’église de Sampford Brett, petit village distant de cinq kilomètres, un banc sculpté est réputé représenter Lady Wyndham, orante, remerciant Dieu de sa délivrance hors de la vallées des larmes et de la mort.

AB

  In the church at Sampford Brett, a village two miles distant, there is a carved figure on one of the bench ends, believed to be that of the Lady Wyndham around whom this legend is woven.   This carving depicts a youthful lady in the attitude of prayer, possibly offering a thanksgiving to Almighty God for her timely deliverance from the valley and the shadow of death
 
Read more about St Decuman's church  
Comité de jumelage saint Renan _ Watchet 
And now improve your English !!! 
Lady Wyndham’s return

On Watchet town the night had closed
Down by the Severn strand.
And from the grey embattled tower
The bells had chimed the vesper hour.
Far echoing o’er the land.

Saint Decuman’s upon the hill
Kept ward above the town.
And through the silence of the night
The stars like lamps of silver bright
Their magic rays flashed down.

The vale that slept below the shrine.
With many an elm tree tall.
A stillness held with nothing broke.
Save where_from Warren’s stunted oak_
An owl its mate did call.

But ‘neath the manor’s ancient roof
By Kentsford’s murmuring wave.
The noble house of Wyndham kept
A mournful vigil, and they wept
As round a new-made grave

And well indeed they might, for late
Their fair lady had died:
And in the proud ancestral hall
She slept beneath her snow white pall
With the lilies by her side.

She was of gentle lineage born
And to her lord most dear.
A scion he_of an ancien clan.
Who now_a broken-hearted man_
Long lingered by her bier.

He thought him of those golden hours
When he the maiden wooed,
The wedding morn, the nuptial feast.
The blessing of the ancient priest,
The chancel where they stood.

Now all had vanished as a dream,
His fondest hopes were gone.
No more those lovely eyes for him
Would shine; his own with tears grew dim
There in that desolate dawn.

At length the day of burial came.
And through the leafy lane
Along by Snailholt's silent bourne
They bore her body that sad morn
Up to the ancient fane.

And there in a grim and mouldy vault.
Where many a Wyndham lay,
They left her for the long, long rest,
Her white hands crossed upon her breast.
And went their homeward way.

Again the gathering shades of night
The little town obscured:
The old church on the breezy mound
Stood silent in its holy ground,
Its dim vault well secured.

At hour of midnight not a soul
In Watchet town kept ward,
And while the simple town folk slept
A stealthy figure slowly crept
Across the sacred sward.


And down the stone steps to the vault
With furtive glance he made:
Into the lock his rusty key
He ventured, noiseless as could be,
And startled, half afraid.

The great door yielded: in went he.
Awhile alarmed he hid;
Then lit his lantern for the quest,
Seized on the leaden burial chest
And wrenched away the lid.

For well he knew a wealth of gems
Those dainty fingers wore:
And one. a ring a ransom worth,
Too rich to moulder in the earth,
Which she would want no more.

And those were days of dire distress
For men of low estate:
And glittering gold and sparkling gem
Could have no further use for them
Whom death had dealt their fate.


With thoughts like these his wavering will
The guilty sexton steeled.
And resolute followed yet the quest
Till, flashing from that peaceful breast.
The gems were clear revealed.

He seized the slender fingers white
And stiff in their repose.
Then sought to file the circlet through:
When, to his horror, blood he drew.
And the fair sleeper rose.

She sat a moment, gazed around.
Then. great was her surprise.
And sexton, startled, saw at a glance
This was not death, but a deep trance,
And madness leapt to his eyes.

The stagnant life stream in her veins
Again began to flow:
She felt the sudden quickening.
For her it was a joyous thing,
For him a fearsome woe.


He sprang, and like a madman fled
From the accusing vault,
And made his way among the tombs
As one chased by a hundred dooms.
Who dared not call a halt.

The lady beckoned him in vain.
He was too scared to heed.
She would have given him his price;
He cleared'the churchyard in a trice.
Spurred by his desperate deed.

And never came he back again.
Nor could the people tell
His whereabout; but legend tells
He followed the pathway up Five Bells
And leapt into a well.

The lady Wyndham left her bier,
And by the lantern's aid
She scaled the damp stone steps and found
Her way across the holy ground
And straightway homeward made.


All down by Snailholt's silent meads
The ghostly figure passed,
And through the list'ning grove below:
The startled kine that watched her go
Sprang up with fear aghast.

She reached the Manor lawn at length.
Paused at the porchway hatch;
And then. as one held in a dream.
Her face as pale in the lantern's beam.
She lifted clear the latch.

But bolts and bars were safely set:
She gave a gentle knock:
Then louder; and at length she heard
A sound, as though someone had stirred.
And it was one o' the clock.

Now sleep that lonesome night forsook
The sorrowing husband there:
He heard the river murmuring by,
And marked the mute stars in the sky
That seemed to mock his prayer.


Hour after hour he wakeful lay
And all disconsolate,
When, suddenly, he heard a sound.
Then the baying of his faithful hound
And the click of the court-house gate.

Then knockings at the great hall door
And a most plaintiff call:
He rose and oped the casement wide,
And through the darkness he descried
A ghostly figure tall.

The lantern in her hand she held,
Her robe was spectral white:
Here surely one had come from the dead!
His heart it thumped with a great dread:
It was an awesome sight.

What wonder such a vision made
His knees together knock!
Yet fear should not his soul unman,
So down the oaken stairs he ran
And seized his old flint-lock.


Some rustic knave or fool, thought he.
Is playing me this prank:
And if he is not soon away
Begad! I'll make short work of his play:
Yet half in fear he shrank.

He threw the parvise casement wide
And rang the challenge down,
"Who art thou? Answer, or I'll shoot!"
The figure stood a moment mute.
And fearful of his frown.

Then eagerly she made reply,
"Shoot not! I am you wife.
Come down, I pray you. let me in!
For the night is chill and my garb is thin.
And God gives me back my life."

The voice was hers beyond all doubt:
His wife it was who spake.
Ah! That the dead should come again
To haunt the ways of troubled men
And other troubles make.


"Death held me not: it was a trance."
She cried. "Oh. tarry not!
This winding sheet about my breast
Yet wears the embroidered Wyndham crest:
Pity my helpless lot."

He bounded down the great hall stairs
And opened wide the door:
Clasping her in a fond embrace.
He wiped the tears from that sweet face
He had thought to see no more.

She told him all the ghostly tale
Of the vault, the sexton's flight,
The file that made her finger bleed,
The venture down the lonesome mead,
The grim and terrible night.

So there was joy that early dawn
in the Squire of Kentsford's hall.
Joy as of hearts all newly wed
For one who has risen from the dead
To bear him sons withal.

And sons she after bore him, twain.
To keep the Wyndham name:
And many a year she lived to grace
His board and hearth, and all the place
Resounded with her fame.

And still in old St. Decuman's
The tablet may be seen,
Which bears the name of the lady fair
And her two children sculptured there.
To keep her memory green.

Lewis H. Court. Exon  
Comité de jumelage saint Renan _ Watchet

Date de dernière mise à jour : 28/01/2014

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