The Luck of Edenhall
(Eden Hall)

edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2005-2019


  1. The Luck of Edenhall (1). A fairy legend from Cumberland, England.

  2. The Luck of Eden Hall (2). Another version of the above legend.

  3. The Luck of Eden Hall (3). A third version of the above legend.

  4. The Luck of Eden Hall (4) A fourth version of the above legend.

  5. Link to another account of this legend: The Luck of Eden Hall: A Tale of the Musgraves.

  6. Das Glück von Edenhall. A German ballad by Ludwig Uhland.

  7. The Luck of Edenhall. An English translation of Uhland's ballad by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

  8. Link to a description of the antique goblet "The Luck of Edenhall" on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

  9. Link to additional Fairy Cup Legends.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

The Luck of Edenhall (1)


In an excursion to the North of England, I was easily prevailed upon to see the Luck of Edenhall,* [*Edenhall, the antient seat of Sir Philip Musgrave, near Penrith, Cumberland] celebrated in a ballad of Ritson's Select Collection of English Songs. The only description I can give you of it is, a very thin, bell-mouthed, beaker glass, deep and narrow, ornamented on the outside with fancy work of coloured glass, and may hold something more than a pint.

Antient superstition may have contributed not a little to its preservation; but that it should not, in a more enlightened age, or in moments of conviviality (see the Ballad), meet with one gentle rap (and a gentle one would be quite sufficient for an ordinary glass of the same substance), is to me somewhat wonderful. Superstition, however, cannot be entirely eradicated from the mind at once. The late agent of the family had such a reverential regard for this glass, that he would not suffer any person to touch it, and but few to see it . When the family, or other curious people, had a desire to drink out of it, a napkin was held underneath, less any accident should befall it; and it is still carefully preserved in a case made on purpose. The case is said to be the second, yet bears the marks of antiquity, and is charged with ihs.

Tradition, our only guide here, says, that a party of Fairies were drinking and making merry round a well near the Hall, called St. Cuthbert's well; but, being interrupted by the intrusion of some curious people, they were frightened, and made a hasty retreat, and left the cup in question: one of the last screaming out,

If this cup should break or fall,
Farewell the Luck of Edenhall.

The Luck of Eden Hall (2)


In this house (Eden Hall, a seat of the Musgraves), are some good old-fashioned, apartments. An old painted drinking glass, called the Luck of Eden Hall, is preserved with great care. In the garden near to the house is a well of excellent spring water, called St. Cuthbert's Well. (The church is dedicated to that saint.) This glass is supposed to have been a sacred chalice; but the legendary tale is, that the butler, going to draw water, surprised a company of Fairies, who were amusing themselves upon the green near the well; he seized the glass which was standing upon its margin. They tried to recover it; but, after an ineffectual struggle, flew away, saying,
If that glass either break or fall,
Farewell the luck of Eden Hall.

The Luck of Eden Hall

Joseph Ritson

In Eden Hall, in Cumberland, the mansion of the knightly family of Musgrave for many generations, is carefully preserved, in a leathern case, an old painted drinking glass, which, according to the tradition of the neighborhood, was long ago left by fairies near a well not far from the house, with an inscription along with it to this effect:
If this glass do break or fall,
Farewell the luck of Eden Hall.
From this friendly caution the glass obtained the name recorded in a humorous and excellent ballad, usually, but erroneously attributed to the Duke of Wharton, of a famous drinking match at this place, which begins thus:
God prosper long from being broke,
The luck of Eden Hall.
The good fortune, however, of this ancient house was never so much endangered as by the Duke himself, who, having drunk its contents, to the success and perpetuity, no doubt of the worthy owner and his race, inadvertently dropped it, and here, most certainly, would have terminated The Luck of Eden Hall if the butler, who had brought the draught, and stood at his elbow to receive the empty cup, had not happily caught it in his napkin.

The Luck of Eden Hall (4)

Evelyn Blantyre Simpson

The elves were hospitable. They liked their human neighbours to eat, drink, and be merry with them. Endless tales are told of them biding their big neighbours, who strayed in among them while they were carousing, to partake of their feast. A goblet in which they were drinking a "richt gude willie waught" in their sovereign's honour roused the envy of a Musgrave. He rushed in, seized the glass, mounted in hot haste and galloped away with his stolen trophy.

Some authorities hold that the good folk are not averse to crossing running water. It is only a wicked class of them whose powers are blunted by traversing flowing streams. But legend tells us Musgrave pressed his steed towards the brook, for he knew if once he forded it, the rain of fairy flints showered at him, and all pursuit, would cease. His terrified courser, spurred by steel and fear, leapt the water.

Safe across the river he paused, and borne on the breeze, Musgrave heard his despoiled pursuers forgivingly sing:

Joy to thy banner, bold Sir Knight,
But if yon goblet break or fall,
Farewell thy vantage in the fight.
Farewell the luck of Eden Hall.
In the Musgraves' Cumberland home the illicitly-obtained "luck" -- a glass goblet -- remains intact, carefully preserved.

Das Glück von Edenhall

Ludwig Uhland

Von Edenhall der junge Lord
Läßt schmettern Festtrommetenschall,
Er hebt sich an des Tisches Bord
Und ruft in trunkner Gäste Schwall:
»Nun her mit dem Glücke von Edenhall!«

Der Schenk vernimmt ungern den Spruch,
Des Hauses ältester Vasall,
Nimmt zögernd aus dem seidnen Tuch
Das hohe Trinkglas von Kristall,
Sie nennen's: das Glück von Edenhall.

Darauf der Lord: »Dem Glas zum Preis
Schenk Roten ein aus Portugal!«
Mit Händezittern gießt der Greis,
Und purpurn Licht wird überall,
Es strahlt aus dem Glücke von Edenhall.

Da spricht der Lord und schwingt's dabei:
»Dies Glas von leuchtendem Kristall
Gab meinem Ahn am Quell die Fei,
Drein schrieb sie: kommt dies Glas zu Fall,
Fahr wohl dann, o Glück von Edenhall!

Ein Kelchglas ward zum Los mit Fug
Dem freud'gen Stamm von Edenhall;
Wir schlürfen gern in vollem Zug,
Wir läuten gern mit lautem Schall;
Stoßt an mit dem Glücke von Edenhall!«

Erst klingt es milde, tief und voll,
Gleich dem Gesang der Nachtigall,
Dann wie des Waldstroms laut Geroll,
Zuletzt erdröhnt wie Donnerhall
Das herrliche Glück von Edenhall.

»Zum Horte nimmt ein kühn Geschlecht
Sich den zerbrechlichen Kristall;
Er dauert länger schon als recht,
Stoßt an! mit diesem kräft'gen Prall
Versuch ich das Glück von Edenhall.«

Und als das Trinkglas gellend springt,
Springt das Gewölb mit jähem Knall,
Und aus dem Riß die Flamme dringt;
Die Gäste sind zerstoben all
Mit dem brechenden Glücke von Edenhall.

Ein stürmt der Feind, mit Brand und Mord,
Der in der Nacht erstieg den Wall,
Vom Schwerte fällt der junge Lord,
Hält in der Hand noch den Kristall,
Das zersprungene Glück von Edenhall.

Am Morgen irrt der Schenk allein,
Der Greis, in der zerstörten Hall',
Er sucht des Herrn verbrannt Gebein,
Er sucht im grausen Trümmerfall
Die Scherben des Glücks von Edenhall.

»Die Steinwand – spricht er – springt zu Stück,
Die hohe Säule muß zu Fall,
Glas ist der Erde Stolz und Glück,
In Splitter fällt der Erdenball
Einst gleich dem Glücke von Edenhall.«

The Luck of Edenhall

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

From the German of [Ludwig] Uhland

The tradition upon which this ballad is founded, and the "shards of the Luck of Edenhall," still exist in England. The goblet is in the possession of Sir Christopher Musgrave, Bart., of Eden Hall, Cumberland; and is not so entirely shattered as the ballad leaves it [note by Longfellow].

Of Edenhall, the youthful Lord
Bids sound the festal trumpet's call.
He rises at the banquet board,
And cries, 'mid the drunken revellers all,
"Now bring me the Luck of Edenhall!"

The butler hears the words with pain,
The house's oldest seneschal,
Takes slow from its silken cloth again
The drinking glass of crystal tall;
They call it The Luck of Edenhall.

Then said the Lord, "This glass to praise,
Fill with red wine from Portugal!"
The graybeard with trembling hand obeys;
A purple light shines over all,
It beams from the Luck of Edenhall.

Then speaks the Lord, and waves it light:
"This glass of flashing crystal tall
Gave to my sires the Fountain-Sprite;
She wrote in it, If this glass doth fall,
Farewell then, O Luck of Edenhall!

"'Twas right a goblet the Fate should be
Of the joyous race of Edenhall!
Deep draughts drink we right willingly:
And willingly ring, with merry call,
Kling! klang! to the Luck of Edenhall!"

First rings it deep, and full, and mild,
Like to the song of a nightingale
Then like the roar of a torrent wild;
Then mutters at last like the thunder's fall,
The glorious Luck of Edenhall.

"For its keeper takes a race of might,
The fragile goblet of crystal tall;
It has lasted longer than is right;
King! klang!--with a harder blow than all
Will I try the Luck of Edenhall!"

As the goblet ringing flies apart,
Suddenly cracks the vaulted hall;
And through the rift, the wild flames start;
The guests in dust are scattered all,
With the breaking Luck of Edenhall!

In storms the foe, with fire and sword;
He in the night had scaled the wall,
Slain by the sword lies the youthful Lord,
But holds in his hand the crystal tall,
The shattered Luck of Edenhall.

On the morrow the butler gropes alone,
The graybeard in the desert hall,
He seeks his Lord's burnt skeleton,
He seeks in the dismal ruin's fall
The shards of the Luck of Edenhall.

"The stone wall," saith he, "doth fall aside,
Down must the stately columns fall;
Glass is this earth's Luck and Pride;
In atoms shall fall this earthly ball
One day like the Luck of Edenhall!"

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Revised April 6, 2019.