Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Ted Garvin & the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
THE GESTE OF
with illustrations in color by
BT LITTLE, BBOWN, AND COMPANY.
All rights reserved Published September, 1920
Set up and electrotyped by J. S. Cushing Co. Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.
My GILLIAN, thou child that budding woman art
For whom to-day and yesterday lie far apart
Already thou, my dear, dost longer dresses wear
And bobbest in most strange, new-fangled ways thy hair;
Thou lookest on the world with eyes grown serious
And rul'st thy father with a sway imperious
Particularly as regards his socks and ties
Insistent that each with the other harmonise.
Instead of simple fairy-tales that pleased of yore
Romantic verse thou read'st and novels by the score
And very oft I've known thee sigh and call them "stuff"
Vowing of love romantic they've not half enough.
Wherefore, like fond and doting parent, I
Will strive this want romantic to supply.
I'll write for thee a book of sighing lover
Crammed with ROMANCE from cover unto cover;
A book the like of which 't were hard to find
Filled with ROMANCE of every sort and kind.
I'll write it as the Gestours wrote of old,
In prose, blank-verse, and rhyme it shall be told.
Some day perhaps, my dear, when you are grown
A portly dame with children of your own
You'll gather all your troop about your knee
And read to them this Geste I made for thee.
"Nobles of Brocelaunde, salute your Duchess Yolande"
They saw afar the town of Canalise
"Brave soldier, I do thank thee well!" she sighed
"Hush, poor Motley!" whispered the maid.
With mighty bound, bold Robin leaping came
The long blades whirled and flashed
Long, long ago when castles grim did frown,
When massy wall and gate did 'fend each town;
When mighty lords in armour bright were seen,
And stealthy outlaws lurked amid the green
And oft were hanged for poaching of the deer,
Or, gasping, died upon a hunting spear;
When barons bold did on their rights insist
And hanged or burned all rogues who dared resist;
When humble folk on life had no freehold
And were in open market bought and sold;
When grisly witches (lean and bony hags)
Cast spells most dire yet, meantime, starved in rags;
When kings did lightly a-crusading fare
And left their kingdoms to the devil's care--
At such a time there lived a noble knight
Who sweet could sing and doughtily could fight,
Whose lance thrust strong, whose long sword bit
With darting point or mighty two-edged sweep.
A duke was he, rich, powerful--and yet
Fate had on him a heavy burden set,
For, while a youth, as he did hunt the boar,
The savage beast his goodly steed did gore,
And as the young duke thus defenceless lay,
With cruel tusk had reft his looks away,
Had marred his comely features and so mauled him
That, 'hind his back, "The ugly Duke" folk called
My daughter GILLIAN interposeth:
GILL: An ugly hero?
MYSELF: That is so.
GILL: An ugly hero, father? O, absurd! Whoever of an "ugly" hero heard?
MYSELF: I'll own, indeed, I've come across but few--
GILL: But a duke--and ugly! Father, this from you?
MYSELF: My duke is ugly, very, for good reason, As shall appear in due and
GILL: I'm sure no one will want to read him then, For "heroes" all should
be most handsome men. So make him handsome, please, or he won't do.
MYSELF: By heaven, girl--no, plain heroes are too few!
GILL: Then ev'ry one will leave him on the shelf!
MYSELF: Why, then, I'll read the poor fellow myself.
GILL: I won't!
MYSELF: Then don't! Though, I might say, since you're set on it, child, My
duke was not so ugly when he smiled--
GILL: Then make him smile as often as you can.
MYSELF: I might do that, 't is none so bad a plan.
GILL: And the lady--she must be a lady fair.
MYSELF: My dear, she's beautiful beyond compare.
GILL: Why, then--
MYSELF: My pen!
So here and now I do begin
The tale of young Duke Jocelyn,
For critics, schools,
And cramping rules,
Heedless and caring not a pin.
The title here behold
On this fair page enrolled,
In letters big and bold,
As seemeth fit--
Upon a day, but when it matters not,
Nor where, but mark! the sun was plaguy hot
Falling athwart a long and dusty road
In which same dust two dusty fellows strode.
One was a tall, broad-shouldered, goodly wight
In garb of motley like a jester dight,
Fool's cap on head with ass's ears a-swing,
While, with each stride, his bells did gaily ring;
But, 'neath his cock's-comb showed a face so marred
With cheek, with brow and lip so strangely scarred
As might scare tender maid or timid child
Unless, by chance, they saw him when he smiled,
For then his eyes, so deeply blue and bright,
Did hold in them such joyous, kindly light,
That sorrow was from heavy hearts beguiled--
This jester seemed less ugly when he smiled.
Here, O my Gill, right deftly, in a trice
I've made him smile and made him do it--twice.
That 't was the Duke of course you've guessed at once
Since you, I know, we nothing of a dunce.
But, what should bring a duke in cap and bells?
Read on and mark, while he the reason tells.
Now, 'spite of dust and heat, his lute he strummed,
And snatches of a merry song he hummed,
The while askance full merrily he eyed
The dusty knave who plodded at his side.
A bony fellow, this, and long of limb,
His habit poor, his aspect swart and grim;
His belt to bear a long broad-sword did serve,
His eye was bold, his nose did fiercely curve
Down which he snorted oft and (what is worse)
Beneath his breath gave vent to many a curse.
Whereat the Duke, sly laughing, plucked lutestring
And thus, in voice melodious did sing:
"Sir Pertinax, why curse ye so?
Since thus in humble guise we go
We merry chances oft may know,
Sir Pertinax of Shene."
"And chances woeful, lord, also!"
Quoth Pertinax of Shene.
"To every fool that passeth by
These foolish bells shall testify
That very fool, forsooth, am I,
Good Pertinax of Shene!"
"And, lord, methinks they'll tell no lie!"
Growled Pertinax of Shene.
Then spake the Knight in something of a pet,
"Par Dex, lord Duke--plague take it, how I sweat,
By Cock, messire, ye know I have small lust
Like hind or serf to tramp it i' the dust!
Per De, my lord, a parch-ed pea am I--
I'm all athirst! Athirst? I am so dry
My very bones do rattle to and fro
And jig about within me as I go!
Why tramp we thus, bereft of state and rank?
Why go ye, lord, like foolish mountebank?
And whither doth our madcap journey trend?
And wherefore? Why? And, prithee, to what end?"
Then quoth the Duke, "See yonder in the green
Doth run a cooling water-brook I ween,
Come, Pertinax, beneath yon shady trees,
And there whiles we do rest outstretched at ease
Thy 'wherefores' and thy 'whys' shall answered be,
And of our doings I will counsel thee."
So turned they from the hot and dusty road
Where, 'mid green shade, a rill soft-bubbling flowed,
A brook that leapt and laughed in roguish wise,
Whereat Sir Pertinax with scowling eyes
Did frown upon the rippling water clear,
And sware sad oaths because it was not beer;
Sighful he knelt beside this murmurous rill,
Bent steel-clad head and bravely drank his fill.
Then sitting down, quoth he: "By Og and Gog,
I'll drink no more--nor horse am I nor dog
To gulp down water--pest, I hate the stuff!"
"Ah!" laughed the Duke, "'tis plain hast had enough,
And since well filled with water thou dost lie
To answer thee thy questions fain am I.
First then--thou art in lowly guise bedight,
For that thou art my trusty, most-loved knight,
Who at my side in many a bloody fray,
With thy good sword hath smit grim Death away--"
"Lord," quoth the Knight, "what's done is past return,
'Tis of our future doings I would learn."
"Aye," said the Duke, "list, Pertinax, and know
'Tis on a pilgrimage of love we go:
Mayhap hast heard the beauty and the fame
Of fair Yolande, that young and peerless dame
"For whom so many noble lovers sigh
And with each other in the lists do vie?
Though much I've dreamed of sweet Yolanda's charms
My days have passed in wars and feats of arms,
For, Pertinax, this blemished face I bear,
Should fright, methinks, a lady young and fair.
And so it is that I have deemed it wiser
To hide it when I might 'neath casque and visor--"
Hereat Sir Pertinax smote hand to knee
And, frowning, shook his head. "Messire," said he,
"Thou art a man, and young, of noble race,
And, being duke, what matter for thy face?
Rank, wealth, estate--these be the things I trow
Can make the fairest woman tender grow.
Ride unto her in thy rich armour dight,
With archer, man-at-arms, and many a knight
To swell thy train with pomp and majesty,
That she, and all, thy might and rank may see;
So shall all folk thy worthiness acclaim,
And her maid's heart, methinks, shall do the same.
Thy blemished face shall matter not one jot;
To mount thy throne she'll think a happy lot.
So woo her thus--"
"So will I woo her not!"
Quoth Jocelyn, "For than I'd win her so,
Alone and loveless all my days I'd go.
Ha, Pertinax, 'spite all thy noble parts,
'Tis sooth ye little know of women's hearts!"
"Women?" quoth Pertinax, and scratched his jaw,
"'Tis true of dogs and horses I know more,
And dogs do bite, and steeds betimes will balk,
And fairest women, so they say, will talk."
"And so dost thou, my Pertinax, and yet,
'Spite all thy talk, my mind on this is set--
Thus, in all lowliness I'll e'en go to her
And 'neath this foolish motley I will woo her.
And if, despite this face, this humble guise,
I once may read love's message in her eyes,
Then Pertinax--by all the Saints, 'twill be
The hope of all poor lovers after me,
These foolish bells a deathless tale shall ring,
And of Love's triumph evermore shall sing.
"So, Pertinax, ne'er curse ye so
For that in lowly guise we go,
We many a merry chance may know,
Sir Pertinax of Shene."
"And chances evil, lord, also!"
Quoth Pertinax of Shene.
Now on a sudden, from the thorny brake,
E'en as Sir Pertinax thus doleful spake,
Leapt lusty loons and ragged rascals four,
Rusty their mail, yet bright the swords they bore.
Up sprang Sir Pertinax with gleeful shout,
Plucked forth his blade and fiercely laid about.
"Ha, rogues! Ha, knaves! Most scurvy dogs!" he cried.
While point and edge right lustily he plied
And smote to earth the foremost of the crew,
Then, laughing, pell-mell leapt on other two.
The fourth rogue's thrust, Duke Joc'lyn blithely parried
Right featly with the quarter-staff he carried.
Then 'neath the fellow's guard did nimbly slip
And caught him in a cunning wrestler's grip.
Now did they reel and stagger to and fro,
And on the ling each other strove to throw;
Arm locked with arm they heaved, they strove and panted,
With mighty shoulders bowed and feet firm-planted.
So on the sward, with golden sunlight dappled,
In silence grim they tussled, fiercely grappled.
Thus then Duke Jocelyn wrestled joyously,
For this tall rogue a lusty man was he,
But, 'spite his tricks and all his cunning play,
He in the Duke had met his match this day,
As, with a sudden heave and mighty swing,
Duke Jocelyn hurled him backwards on the ling,
And there he breathless lay and sore amazed,
While on the Duke with wonderment he gazed:
"A Fool?" he cried. "Nay, certes fool, per De,
Ne'er saw I fool, a fool the like o' thee!"
But now, e'en as the Duke did breathless stand,
Up strode Sir Pertinax, long sword in hand:
"Messire," he growled, "my rogues have run away,
So, since you've felled this fellow, him I'll slay."
"Not so," the Duke, short-breathing, made reply,
"Methinks this rogue is too much man to die."
"How?" cried the Knight; "not slay a knave--a thief?
Such clemency is strange and past belief!
Mean ye to let the dog all scathless go?"
"Nay," said the Duke, square chin on fist, "not so,
For since the rogue is plainly in the wrong
The rogue shall win his freedom with a song,
And since forsooth a rogue ingrain is he,
So shall he sing a song of roguery.
Rise, roguish rogue, get thee thy wind and sing,
Pipe me thy best lest on a tree ye swing!"
Up to his feet the lusty outlaw sprang,
And thus, in clear melodious voice, he sang:
"I'll sing a song not over long,
A song of roguery.
For I'm a rogue, and thou'rt a rogue,
And so, in faith, is he.
And we are rogues, and ye are rogues,
All rogues in verity.
"As die we must and turn to dust,
Since each is Adam's son,
A rogue was he, so rogues are we,
And rascals every one.
"The Abbot sleek with visage meek,
With candle, book and bell,
Our souls may curse, we're none the worse,
Since he's a rogue as well.
"My lord aloft doth hang full oft
Poor rogues the like o' me,
But all men know where e'er he go
A greater rogue is he.
"The king abroad with knight and lord
Doth ride in majesty,
But strip him bare and then and there
A shivering rogue ye'll see,
"Sirs, if ye will my life to spill,
Then hang me on a tree,
Since rogue am I, a rogue I'll die,
A roguish death for me.
"But i' the wind the leaves shall find
Small voices for my dole,
"And when I'm dead sigh o'er my head
Prayers for my poor rogue soul;
For I'm a rogue, and thou 'rt a rogue,
And so in faith is he,
As we are rogues, so ye are rogues,
All rogues in verity."
The singing done, the Duke sat lost in thought,
What time Sir Pertinax did stamp and snort:
"Ha, by the Mass! Now, by the Holy Rood!
Ne'er heard I roguish rant so bold and lewd!
He should be whipped, hanged, quartered, flayed alive--"
"Then," quoth the Duke, "pay him gold pieces five,"
"How--pay a rogue?" the Knight did fierce retort.
"A ribald's rant--give good, gold pieces for't?
A plague! A pest! The knave should surely die--"
But here he met Duke Joc'lyn's fierce blue eye,
And silent fell and in his poke did dive,
And slowly counted thence gold pieces five,
Though still he muttered fiercely 'neath his breath,
Such baleful words as: "'S blood!" and "'S bones!" and "'S death!"
Then laughed the Duke and from the greenwood strode;
But scarce was he upon the dusty road,
Than came the rogue who, louting to his knee:
"O Fool! Sir Fool! Most noble Fool!" said he.
"Either no fool, or fool forsooth thou art,
That dareth thus to take an outlaw's part.
Yet, since this day my rogue's life ye did spare,
So now by oak, by ash, by thorn I swear--
"And mark, Sir Fool, and to my saying heed--
Shouldst e'er lack friends to aid thee in thy need
Come by this stream where stands a mighty oak,
Its massy bole deep-cleft by lightning stroke,
Hid in this cleft a hunting-horn ye'll see,
Take then this horn and sound thereon notes three.
So shall ye find the greenwood shall repay
The roguish life ye spared a rogue this day."
So spake he; then, uprising from his knees,
Strode blithe away and vanished 'mid the trees.
Whereat Sir Pertinax shook doleful head:
"There go our good gold pieces, lord!" he said.
"Would that yon rogue swung high upon a tree,
And in my poke our gold again might be.
Full much I marvel, lord, and fain would know
Wherefore and why unhanged didst let him go?"
Then answered the Duke singing on this wise:
"Good Pertinax, if on a tree
Yon rogue were swinging high
A deader rogue no man could see--
'He's but a rogue!' says you to me,
'But a living rogue!' says I.
"And since he now alive doth go
More honest he may die,
Yon rogue an honest man may grow,
If we but give him time, I trow,
Says I to you, says I."
At this, Sir Pertinax growled in his beard--
My daughter GILLIAN interrupteth:
GILL: A beard? O father--beard will never do!
No proper knight a beard ever grew.'
No knight could really romantic be
Who wore a beard! So, father, to please me,
No beard; they are, I think, such scrubby things--
MYSELF: Yet they are worn, sometimes, by poets and kings.
GILL: But your knight--
MYSELF: Oh, all right,
My Gill, from your disparagement to save him,
I, like a barber, will proceed to shave him.
Sir Pertinax, then, stroked his smooth-shaved chin,
And thus to curse he softly did begin,
"Par Dex, my lord--"
My daughter GILLIAN interposeth:
GILL: Your knight, dear father, seems to love to curse.
MYSELF: He does. A difficult matter, child, in verse--
GILL: Of verse I feel a little tired--
MYSELF: Why, if you think a change desired,
A change we'll have, for, truth to tell,
This rhyming bothers me as well.
So here awhile we'll sink to prose.
Now, are you ready? Then here goes!
"Par Dex, my lord!" growled Sir Pertinax. "A malison on't, says I, saving
thy lordly grace, yet a rogue is a rogue and, being rogue, should die right
roguishly as is the custom and the law. For if, messire, if--per De and by
Our Sweet Lady of Shene Chapel within the Wood, if, I say, in thy new and
sudden-put-on attitude o' folly, thou wilt save alive all rogues soever,
then by Saint Cuthbert his curse, by sweet Saint Benedict his blessed
"Hold now, Pertinax," said the Duke, slipping his lute into leathern bag
and slinging it behind wide shoulders, "list ye, Sir Knight of Shene, and
mark this, to wit: If a rogue in roguery die then rogue is he forsooth;
but, mark this again, if a rogue be spared his life he may perchance and
peradventure forswear, that is, eschew or, vulgarly speaking, turn from his
roguish ways, and die as honest as I, aye, or even--thou!"
Here Sir Pertinax snorted as they strode on together, yet in a little they
turned aside from the hot and dusty road and journeyed on beneath the trees
that grew thereby.
"By all the fiends, my lord, and speaking vulgarly in turn, this belly o'
mine lacketh, these my bowels do yearn consumedly unto messes savoury and
Whereat the Duke, smiling merry-eyed, chanted roguishly:
"A haunch o' venison juicy from the spit now?"
"Aha!" groaned the Knight, "Lord, let us haste--"
"A larded capon to thee might seem fit now?"
"Saints!" sighed the Knight, "but for one little taste."
"Or, Pertinax, a pasty plump and deep--"
"Ha--pasty, by the Mass!" the Knight did cry.
"Or pickled tongue of neat, Sir Knight, or sheep--"
"Oh, for a horse! For wings wherewith to fly--"
"Or breast of swan--"
"Stay! nay, my lord, ha' mercy!" groaned Sir Pertinax, wiping moist brow.
"Picture no more toothsome dainties to my soul lest for desire I swoon and
languish by the way. I pray thee, let us haste, sire, so may we reach fair
Canalise ere sunset--yet stay! Hearken, messire, hear ye aught? Sure, afar
the tocsin soundeth?"
Now hearkening thus, they both became aware
Of distant bells that throbbed upon the air,
A faint, insistent sound that rose and fell,
A clamour vague that ominous did swell.
As thus they stood, well hidden from the road,
Footsteps they heard of feet that briskly strode.
And, through the leaves, a small man they espied,
Who came apace, a great sword by his side.
Large bascinet upon his head he bore,
'Neath which his face a scowl portentous wore;
While after toiled a stout but reverend friar
Who, scant of breath, profusely did perspire
And, thus perspiring, panted sad complaints
Thus--on the heat, his comrade and the Saints.
"O Bax, O Bax! Saint Cuthbert aid me now!
O Bax, see how to sweat thou'st made me now!
Thy speed abate! O sweet Saint Dominic!
Why pliest thou thy puny shanks so quick;
O day! O Bax! O hot, sulphurous day,
My flesh betwixt ye melteth fast away.
Come, sit ye, Bax, in shade of yon sweet tree,
And, sitting soft, I'll sagely counsel thee."
"Not so, in faith," the small man, scowling, said,
"What use for counsel since the cause be fled?
And since she's fled--Saints succour us!" he cried;
As 'mid the leaves all suddenly he spied
Sir Pertinax in his unlovely trim,
His rusty mail, his aspect swart and grim--
"Ha!" gasped the little man, "we are beset!"
And starting back, off fell his bascinet.
Whereat he fiercely did but scowl the more,
And strove amain his ponderous sword to draw.
"Hence, dog!" he cried, "lest, with my swashing blow,
I make thee food for carrion kite and crow."
But in swift hands Sir Pertinax fast caught him
And, bearing him on high, to Joc'lyn brought him,
Who, while the captive small strove vain aloft
Reproved him thus in accents sweet and soft:
"Right puissant and potential sir, we do beseech thee check thy ferocity,
quell now thy so great anger and swear not to give our flesh for fowls to
tear, so shalt thou come down to earth and stand again upon thine own two
legs. And thou, most reverend friar, invoke now thy bloody-minded comrade
that he swear to harm us not!"
The stout friar seated himself hard by beneath a tree, mopped moist brow,
fetched his wind and smiled.
"Sir Fool," said he, "I am thy security that thou and thy brawny gossip
need quake and tremble nothing by reason of this Bax, our valiant reeve--he
shall harm ye no whit." Here, meeting Jocelyn's eye, Sir Pertinax set
down the small Reeve, who having taken up and put on his great bascinet,
scowled, whereupon Duke Jocelyn questioned him full meek:
"Good master Reeve, of your courtesy pray you tell us why yon bells do ring
so wild alarm."
The small Reeve viewed him with disdainful eye;
Sniffed haughty nose and proudly made reply:
'Our bells we ring and clamour make, because
We've lost our lady fair of Tissingors.
Our Duchess Benedicta hath this day
From all her worthy guardians stole away.
Thus we for her do inquisition make,
Nor, 'till she's found, may hope our rest to take,
And thus we cause such outcry as we may,
Since we lose not our Duchess ev'ry day.
So then we'd have ye speak us--aye or no,
Saw ye our errant lady this way go?
And, that ye may her know for whom we seek,
Her just description fully I will speak:
Her hair night-black, her eyes the self-same hue,
Her habit brown, unless 't were red or blue,
And if not blue why then mayhap 'tis green,
Since she by turns of all such hues is seen--"
"Stay, sir," quoth Jocelyn, "'tis plain to see
No maid but a chameleon is she,
For here we have her brown and green and blue,
And if not brown then rosy is her hue,
And, if not red, why then 'tis very plain
That brown she is or blue or green again.
Now fain, sir, would I ask and question whether
She e'er is seen these colours all together?
"O fain would I a lady spy,
By countryside or town,
Who may be seen all blue and green,
Unless she's red or brown."
But now, while fierce the little man did scowl,
The rosy Friar, sly-smiling 'neath his cowl,
His visage meek, spake thus in dulcet tone:
"Sir Fool, our Reeve is something mixed, I'll own,
Though he by divers colours is bemused,
Learn ye this truth, so shall he stand excused:
Our Duchess Benedicta, be it known,
Hath this day from her several guardians flown.
Ten worthy men her several guardians be,
Of whom the chief and worthiest ye see,
As first--myself, a friar of some report,
Well-known, methinks, in country, town and court.
Who as all men can unto all men speak,
Well read beside in Latin and in Greek,
A humble soul albeit goodly preacher,
One apt to learn and therefore learned teacher,
One who can laugh betimes, betimes can pray,
Who'll colic cure or on the bagpipe play.
"Stay!" cried the Reeve. "Friar, what o'me?"
"Patience, O Bax, too soon I'll come to thee!
Who'll sing ye then blithe as a bird on bough--"
"Friar!" growled the Reeve, "the time for me is now!"
"So be it, then," the Friar did gently say,
"I'll speak of thee as truly as I may:
Here then behold our port-reeve, Greg'ry Bax,
Who, save for reason, naught in reason lacks,
Who, though he small and puny seems to shew,
In speech he is Goliath-like, I trow,
Chief Councillor of Tissingors is he,
And of the council second but--to me.
For with the townsfolk first of all come I--"
REEVE: Since thy fat finger is in every pie--
"Saving your reverend grace," Duke Joc'lyn said,
"What of this maid that turneth green and red?"
REEVE: Fool, then learn this, ere that our lord duke died,
Ten guardians for his child he did provide,
The Friar and I, with men of lesser fame,
Co-guardians are of this right puissant dame.
JOCELYN: Beseech ye, sir, now tell us an' ye may,
Why hath thy youthful Duchess run away?
"Fair Fool," quoth the Friar, fanning himself with a frond of bracken,
"'tis a hot day, a day reminiscent of the ultimate fate of graceless
sinners, and I am like the day and languish for breath, yet, to thy so
pertinent question I will, straightly and in few words, pronounce and
answer thee, as followeth: Our Lady Benedicta hath run away firstly,
brethren, for that being formed woman after Nature's goodly plan she hath
the wherewithal to walk, to leap, to skip or eke to run, as viz.: item and
to wit--legs. Secondly, inquisitorial brethren, she ran for an excellent
good reason--as observe--there was none to let or stay her. And thirdly,
gentle and eager hearers, she did flit or fly, leave, vacate, or depart
our goodly town of Tissingors for that she had--mark me--no mind to stay,
remain or abide therein. And this for the following express, rare and most
curious reason as--mark now--in a word--"
"Hold--hold, Friar John!" exclaimed the Reeve; "here sit ye here
a-sermonising, venting words a-many what time our vanished Duchess fleeth.
Knew I not the contrary I should say thou didst countenance her flight and
spent thyself in wordy-wind wherewith to aid her!"
Now here, chancing to meet Duke Jocelyn's shrewd gaze, Friar John slowly
and ponderously winked one round, bright eye.
"Hark to our valiant port-reeve Greg'ry Bax
Who, save for reason, nought of reason lacks!"
"Howbeit," fumed the Reeve, stamping in the dust, "here sit ye at thy
full-bodied ease, fanning flies and animadverting--"
"Animadverting!" nodded Friar John. "A good word, Reeve, a fair, sweet
word; in verity a word full-bodied as I, wherefore it liketh me well. So
sit I here animadverting whiles thou kicketh up a dust in fashion foolish
"A plague o' words!" cried the Reeve. "A pest o' wind! Enough--enough,
contain thy prolixities and rodomontade and let me to the point explain--"
"Aha!" quoth the Friar. "Good sooth, here's a noble word! A word round
i' the mouth, rolling upon the tongue. Ha, Reeve, I give thee joy of
"Thus then," continued the Reeve, "I will, with use of no verbiage
"Ho-oho!" cried Friar John, rubbing plump hands ecstatic. "Good Bax, ne'er
have I heard thee to so great advantage--verbiage circumlocutory--and
thou--thou such small man to boot! O most excellent, puny Reeve!"
Here the little man turned his back upon the Friar and continued hastily
"A lord there is, a lord of lofty pride,
Who for our lady oft hath sued and sighed--"
FRIAR JOHN: Whom she as oft hath scornfully denied!
THE REEVE: A mighty lord who seeketh her to wife--
FRIAR JOHN: Though he, 'tis said, doth lead most evil life!
THE REEVE: To which fair lord our wilful maid we'd wed--
FRIAR JOHN: Since this fair lord the council holds in dread!
THE REEVE: But she, defying us, this very day
Like wicked thief hath stole herself away.
Thus this poor lord such deeps of gloom is in
Vows he'll not wash, nor shave again his chin
Till found is she: He groaneth, sheddeth tears--
THE FRIAR: And swears her guardians ten shall lose their ears!
THE REEVE: Wherefore are we in mighty perturbation,
Amazed, distraught and filled with consternation.
Thus do our bells ring out their wild alarms,
Our civic bands do muster under arms;
Drums shall be drummed the countryside around,
Until our truant Duchess we have found,
And we have wed this most elusive dame
Unto Sir Agramore of Biename.
THE FRIAR: And yield her thus to woes and bitter shame!
THE REEVE: So speak me, fellows; as ye came this way
Saw ye aught of this wilful, errant may?
Answered JOCELYN: "Neither to-day nor any other day."
"Why then," fumed the Reeve, "here have we been at great expense o' breath
and time and all to no purpose. Come, Friar, beseech thee, let us haste to
So Friar John got slowly to his feet
Complaining loud of hurry and of heat,
But paused behind the hasteful Reeve to linger,
And to plump nose he slyly laid plump finger.
Now stood Sir Pertinax thoughtful, chin on fist, insomuch that Jocelyn,
thrumming his lute, questioned him:
"Good Pertinax, how now
What pond'rest thou
With furrowed brow?
Thy care, Sir Knight, avow!"
Saith Pertinax: "I meditate the way wondrous of woman, the frowardness of
creatures feminine. For mark me, sir, here is one hath guardians ten, yet
despite them she is fled away and they ten!"
"Why truly, Pertinax, they are ten, so is she fled."
"Aye, but if they be ten that ward her and she one that would flee, how
shall this one flee these ten?"
"For that they be ten."
"Nay, lord, here be twenty eyes to watch one young maid and twenty legs to
pursue the same, yet doth she evade them one and all, and here's the wonder
on't--she's but one maid."
"Nay, there's the reason on't, Pertinax--she is a maid."
"The which is great matter for wonder, lord!"
"Spoke like a very Pertinax, my Pertinax, for here's no wonder at all. For
perceive, the lady is young, her wardens ten grave seniors, worthy wights
--solemn, sober and sedate, Pertinax, wise and wearisome, grave yet
garrulous, and therefore they suffice not."
"Aye, prithee and wherefore not?"
"For their divers worthy attributes and because they be--ten. Now had these
ten been one and this one a very man--_the_ man--here had been no running
away on part of the lady, I 'll warrant me?"
"Stay, my lord," said Pertinax, in deep perplexity, "how judge ye so--and
wherefore--why and by what manner o' reasoning?"
"Ha, Pertinax!" laughed the Duke, "my lovely, loveless numskull!" So
saying, he kicked the good Knight full joyously and so they trudged on
Till presently, beyond the green of trees,
They saw afar the town of Canalise,
A city fair, couched on a gentle height,
With walls embattled and strong towers bedight.
Now seeing that the sun was getting low,
Our travellers at quicker pace did go.
Thus as in haste near to the gate they came,
Before them limped a bent and hag-like dame,
With long, sharp nose that downward curved as though
It beak-like wished to peck sharp chin below.
Humbly she crept in cloak all torn and rent,
And o'er a staff her tottering limbs were bent.
So came she to the gate, then cried in fear,
And started back from sudden-levelled spear;
For 'neath the gate lounged lusty fellows three
Who seldom spake yet spat right frequently.
"Kind sirs, good sirs," the ancient dame did cry,
"In mercy's name I pray ye let me by--"
But, as she spoke, a black-jowled fellow laughed,
And, spitting, tripped her with out-thrust pike-shaft,
That down she fell and wailed most piteously,
Whereat the brawny fellows laughed all three.
"Ha, witch!" they cried, as thus she helpless lay,
"Shalt know the fire and roasted be one day!"
Now as the aged creature wailed and wept,
Forth to her side Duke Joc'lyn lightly stepped,
With quarter-staff a-twirl he blithely came.
Quoth he: "Messires, harm not this ancient dame,
Bethink ye how e'en old and weak as she,
Your wives and mothers all must one day be.
So here then lies your mother, and 't were meeter
As ye are sons that as sons ye entreat her.
Come, let her by and, fool-like to requite ye,
With merry jape and quip I will delight ye,
Or with sweet song I 'll charm those ass's ears,
And melt, belike, those bullish hearts to tears--"
Now the chief warder, big and black of jowl,
Upon the Duke most scurvily did scowl.
"How now," quoth he, "we want no fool's-heads here--"
"Sooth," laughed the Duke, "you're fools enow 't is clear,
Yet there be fools and fools, ye must allow,
Gay fools as I and surly fools--as thou."
"Ha, look 'ee, Fool, Black Lewin e'en am I,
And, by my head, an ill man to defy.
Now, motley rogue, wilt call me fool?" he roared,
And roaring fierce, clapped hairy fist on sword.
"Aye, that will I," Duke Joc'lyn soft replied,
And black-avised, swart, knavish rogue beside."
But now, while thus our ducal jester spoke,
Black Lewin sprang and fetched him such a stroke
That Jocelyn saw flash before his eyes,
More stars that e'er he'd noticed in the skies.
Whereat Sir Pertinax did gaping stare,
Then ground his teeth and mighty oaths did swear,
And in an instant bared his trusty blade,
But then the Duke his fiery onslaught stayed.
"Ha!" cried the Knight, "and wilt thou smitten be
By such base knave, such filthy rogue as he?"
"Nay," smiled the Duke, "stand back and watch, good brother,
A Rogue and Fool at buffets with each other."
And speaking thus, he leapt on Black Lewin,
And smote him twice full hard upon the chin,
Two goodly blows upon that big, black jowl,
Whereat Black Lewin lustily did howl
And falling back, his polished bascinet
With ringing clash the cold, hard flagstones met.
Whereat his fellows, shouting fierce alarms,
Incontinent betook them to their arms;
And thus it seemed a fight there must have been
But that a horseman sudden spurred between--
A blue-eyed youth with yellow, curling hair,
Of slender shape, of face and feature fair,
A dainty knight was he in very truth,
A blue-eyed, merry, laughter-loving youth.
"Ha, knaves, what do ye with the Fool?" lisped he,
"Wilt strike a motley, dogs--a Fool? Let be!
Though faith,'t would seem, Sir Fool, thou hast a fist
That surly Lewin to his dole hath kissed.
If it can strum thy lute but half as well,
Then gestours all methinks thou should'st excel--
Ye rogues, pass Folly in, no man shall say
That from our town we folly turned away.
Come, follow, Fool, into the market-square,
And give us earnest of thy foolish ware."
Now it was market day, and within the goodly square were people come from
near and far, a notable concourse, country folk and folk of the town,
farmers and merchants, rustic maids, fair ladies, knights and esquires on
horseback or a-foot, but who, hearing the jingle of the Duke's tinkling
bells, seeing his flaunting cock's-comb, with one accord gathered to him
from every quarter:
For when this long-legged gestour they espied,
They, laughing, hemmed him in on every side,
And, "See, a Fool! A Fool! The Fool must sing,"
And "Fool! A Fool!" upon the air did ring,
Wherefore the Duke betook him to his lute,
And strummed until the chattering crowd was mute.
Then while all folk did hold their peace to hear,
In golden voice he sang, full rich and clear:
"'A fool! A fool!' ye cry,
A fool forsooth am I.
But tell me, wise ones, if ye can,
Where shall ye find a happy man?
Lived there one since the world began?
Come, answer ye
"'What of the king?' says you.
Says I to you--'Go to!
A king despite his crown and throne,
Hath divers troubles all his own.
Such woes, methinks, as are unknown
To such as ye,
"'Ha, then--the rich!' ye cry,
'Not so in truth,' says I.
'The rich man's gold is load of care,
That day and night he needs must bear;
Less care he'd know if poor he were,
As poor as ye,
"For, sirs, as I do guess
This thing called 'Happiness'
Man leaveth with his youth behind;
So keep ye all a youthful mind,
Thus happiness ye all shall find
If wit have ye,
"O list ye, great and small,
Proud knight, free man and thrall,
True happiness, since life began,
The birthright is of every man;
Seize then your birthright if ye can,
Since men are ye--
"Thus I forsooth, a Fool,
Do now ye wise ones school;
Since of my folly, full and free,
I wisely thus admonish ye,
Be wise--or eke fools learn to be
Now when the song was ended some there were who laughed and some looked
grave, some talked amain and some wagged solemn heads, while many a good
coin rang heartily at Duke Jocelyn's feet; smiling, he bade Sir Pertinax
take them up, joying to see the proud Knight stooping thus to pouch the
money like any beggar. But now, when he would fain have gone his way into
the town, the people would by no means suffer it and clamoured amain on
all sides, insistent for more; wherefore, lifting his scarred face to the
sunset sky, Duke Jocelyn sang as here followeth:
"When man is born he doth begin
With right good will, to daily sin,
And little careth.
But when his grave he thinketh near,
Then grave he groweth in his fear
And sin forsweareth.
"This life that man doth cherish so,
Is wondrous frail and quick to go,
Nor will it stay.
Yet where's the man that will not give
All that he hath so he might live
"Fain would I know the reason why
All men so fearful are to die
And upward go?
Since Death all woes and ills doth end,
Sure Death, methinks, should be a friend,
Not hated foe.
"So when Death come, as come he must,
Grieve not that we this sorry dust
Do leave behind.
For when this fleeting life be run,
By Death we all of us--each one,
True life shall find."
Now while he sang melodious and clear
Amid the throng that closer pressed to hear,
Duke Joc'lyn of a sudden did espy
The "wherefore" of his coming and the "why."
Yolande herself he, singing, did behold,
Her eyes, red lips, her hair of ruddy gold;
And all her warm and glowing loveliness
Did sudden thus his raptured vision bless;
While she, in gracious ease, her horse did sit
That pawed round hoof and champed upon his bit,
Arching proud neck as if indeed he were
Proud of the lovely burden he did bear.
As Joc'lyn gazed upon her thus, she seemed
A thousand times more fair than he had dreamed.
Now while he sang, she viewed him, gentle-eyed,
And quite forgot the gallant by her side,
A tall, dark-featured, comely lord was he,
With chin full square and eyes of mastery,
Who, when the Duke made of his song an end
Did from his saddle o'er Yolanda bend.
With eyes on her warm beauty he stooped near
To touch white hand and whisper in her ear;
Whereat she laughed and frowned with cheek flushed red
Then, frowning still, she turned her horse's head,
And rode away with dame and squire and knight,
Till lost she was to Joc'lyn's ravished sight.
"Ha, lord!" quoth Sir Pertinax, as they came within a quiet thoroughfare,
"this lady is grown more fair since last we saw her Queen of Beauty at
Melloc joust, concerning whom Fame, in troth, doth breed a just report for
once. But, messire, didst mark him beside her--with touch o' hand, lord,
whispers i' the ear--didst mark this wolf, this Seneschal, this thrice
accurst Sir Gui?"
"Aye, forsooth," answered the Duke, "but thou'rt an hungered, methinks?"
"To touch her hand, lord--aha! To whisper in her ear, lord--oho! A right
puissant lord, Seneschal of Raddemore, Lord of Thorn and Knight of Ells! A
lord of puissance and power potential."
"And thou, my Pertinax, art but a hungry Knight, that trampeth with a
hungry Fool, wherefore let us forthwith--"
"Aye, but mark me, lord, if this puissant lord with pomp and high estate
doth woo the lady--"
"So then, my Pertinax, will I woo this lady also."
"How, in this thy foolish guise?"
"Why, then, thou art like to be whipped for froward Fool and I for ragged
rogue, and this our adventure brought to ill and woeful end--so here now is
folly, lord, indeed!"
"Aye, forsooth!" smiled the Duke,
"Whereto these bells give heed.
But come, amend thy speed,
Methinks thy fasting-need
These gloomy vapours breed.
Thy inner man doth plead
Good beef with ale or mead
Wherein, thou Fool decreed,
I am right well agreed
'T were goodly thing to feed,
Nor will I thee impede,
So follow Folly's lead
And food-wards we'll proceed."
How Pertinax mine host's large ears did wring,
And Jocelyn of these same ears did sing.
Now the town was full, and every inn a-throng with company--lords, both
great and small, knights and esquires and their several followings, as
archers, men-at-arms, and the like, all thither come from far and near
to joust at the great tournament soon to be, to honour the birthday of
Benedicta, Duchess of Tissingors, Ambremont, and divers other fair cities,
towns and villages. Thus our travellers sought lodgment in vain, whereat
Sir Pertinax cursed beneath his breath, and Duke Jocelyn hummed, as was
each his wont and custom; and ever the grim Knight's anger grew.
Until, at last, an humble inn they saw--
A sorry place, with bush above the door.
This evil place they straightway entered in,
Where riot reigned, the wild, unlovely din
Of archers, men-at-arms, and rogues yet worse,
Who drank and sang, whiles some did fight and curse.
An evil place indeed, a lawless crew,
And landlord, like his inn, looked evil too:
Small was his nose, small were his pig-like eyes,
But ears had he of most prodigious size,
A brawny rogue, thick-jowled and beetle-browed,
Who, spying out our strangers 'mid the crowd,
Beholding them in humble, mean array,
With gestures fierce did order them away.
"Nay," quoth Sir Pertinax, "here will we bide,
Here will we eat and drink and sleep beside.
Go, bring us beef, dost hear? And therewith mead,
And, when we've ate, good beds and clean we 'll need."
"Ho!" cried the host. "Naught unto ye I'll bring
Until yon Fool shall caper first and sing!"
Said Jocelyn: "I'll sing when I have fed!"
"And then," quoth Pertinax, "we will to bed!"
"And wilt thou so?" the surly host replied;
"No beds for likes o' ye do I provide.
An' ye will sleep, knave, to the stable go,
The straw is good enough for ye, I trow."
"Ha!" roared Sir Pertinax. "A stable? Straw?
This to me, thou filthy clapper-claw,
Thou fly-blown cod's-head, thou pestiferous thing!"
And, roaring, on the brawny host did spring;
By his large ears Sir Pertinax did take him,
And to and fro, and up and down, did shake him;
He shook him quick and slow, from side to side,
While loud for aid the shaken landlord cried.
Whereat the vicious crowd, in sudden wrath,
Shouted and cursed and plucked their daggers forth.
But, ere to harm our bold Knight they were able,
Duke Joc'lyn lightly sprang on massy table;
Cock's-comb a-flaunt and silver bells a-ring,
He laughing stood and gaily plucked lute-string,
And cut an antic with such merry grace
That angry shouts to laughter loud gave place.
Thereafter he sang as followeth:
"Bold bawcocks, brave, bibulous, babbling boys,
Tall tosspots, come, temper this tumult and noise;
So shall I sing sweetly such songs as shall sure
Constrain carking care and contumacy cure.
But here the surly landlord raised much clamour and outcry, whiles he
touched and caressed his great ears with rare gentleness.
"Oho, my yeres!" roared he. "My yeres do be in woeful estate. Oho, what o'
yon fierce-fingered rogue, good fellows, what o' yon knave--'a did twist my
yeres plaguily and wring 'em roguishly, 'a did! Shall 'a not be beaten and
drubbed out into the kennel, ha? What o' poor Nykins' yeres, says I--my
"Thine ears, unsavoury scullion," laughed Jocelyn; "thine ears, forsooth?
Hark ye, of thy so great, so fair, so fine ears I'll incontinent make a
song. List ye, one and all, so shall all here now hear my song of ears!"
Forthwith Duke Jocelyn struck his lute and sang:
"Thine ears, in sooth, are long ears,
Stout ears, in truth, and strong ears,
Full ears, I trow, and fair ears,
Round ears also and rare ears.
So here's an ear that all eyes here
Shall see no beauty in, 'tis clear.
For these o' thine be such ears,
Large, loose, and over-much ears,
Ears that do make fingers itch,
Ears to twist and ears to twitch.
If thine ears had gone unseen,
Pulled forsooth they had not been;
Yet, since pulled indeed they were,
Thine ears plain the blame must bear.
So of thine ears no more complain,
Lest that thine ears be pulled again.
So hide thine ears as best ye may,
Of which same ears, to end, I say
Thine ears indeed be like my song,
Of none account, yet over long!"
Now hereupon was huge laughter and merriment, insomuch that the
thick-jowled landlord betook himself otherwhere, and all men thronged upon
our jester, vociferous for more.
"Aye, but, bold tosspots," laughed Jocelyn, "how now, sit ye without wine
in very truth?"
"Not so, good Fool," they cried. "Here be wine a-plenty for us and for
"Go to, tall topers," quoth the Duke, "ye are witless, in faith, for there
is no man here but is without wine, as in song will I shew--mark now:
"'Tis plain that ye are wine without,
Since wine's within ye, topers stout.
Without your wine, ye whineful show,
Thus wine-full, wine without ye go.
Being then without your wine, 'tis true,
Wine-less, ye still are wine-full too.
But, mark! As thus ye wine-full sit,
Since wine's within, out goeth wit.
Thus, truth to tell, tall topers stout,
Both wine and wit ye go without!"
By such tricks of rhyme, jugglery of words, and the like, Duke Jocelyn won
this fierce company to great good humour and delight; insomuch that divers
of these roysterers pressed wine upon him and money galore. But, the hour
growing late, he contrived at last to steal away with Sir Pertinax, which
last, having fed copiously, now yawned consumedly, eager for bed. Howbeit,
despite the Knight's fierce threats, they found no bed was to be had in
all the inn, and so, perforce, betook them at last to the stable.
There, while our Knight cursed softly, though full deep,
Soon in the straw our Duke fell fast asleep.
My daughter GILLIAN propoundeth:
GILL: O, father, dear, I greatly fear
You 'll never be a poet!
MYSELF: Don't be too hard upon the bard,
I know it, girl, I know it!
These last two lines, I quite agree,
Might easily much better be.
Though, on the whole, I think my verse,
When all is said, might be much worse.
GILL: Worse, father? Yes, perhaps you're right,
Upon the whole--perhaps, it might.
MYSELF: But hark now, miss! Attend to this!
Poetic flights I do not fly;
When I begin, like poor Lobkyn,
I merely rhyme and versify.
Since my shortcomings I avow,
The story now, you must allow,
Trips lightly and in happy vein?
GILL: O, yes, father, though it is rather
Like some parts of your "Beltane."
MYSELF: How, child! Dare you accuse your sire
Of plagiary--that sin most dire?
And if I do, small blame there lies;
It is myself I plagiarise.
GILL: Why, yes, of course! And, as you know.
I always loved your "Beltane" so.
MYSELF: But don't you like the "geste" I'm writing?
GILL: Of course! It's getting most exciting,
In spite of all the rhymes and stuff--
My daughter, you're so sweetly frank.
Henceforth my verses shall be blank.
No other rhyme I'll rhyme for you
Till you politely beg me to.
Now then, your blank-verse doom you know,
Hey, presto, and away we go!
Tell'th how Duke Jocelyn of love did sing,
And haughty knight in lily-pool did fling.
Upon a morn, when dewy flowers fresh-waked
Filled the glad air with perfume languorous,
And piping birds a pretty tumult made,
Thrilling the day with blended ecstasy;
When dew in grass did light a thousand fires,
And gemmed the green in flashing bravery--
Forth of her bower the fair Yolanda came,
Fresh as the morn and, like the morning, young,
Who, as she breathed the soft and fragrant air,
Felt her white flesh a-thrill with joyous life,
And heart that leapt responsive to the joy.
Vivid with life she trod the flowery ways,
Dreaming awhile of love and love and love;
Unknowing all of eyes that watched unseen,
Viewing her body's gracious loveliness:
Her scarlet mouth, her deep and dreamful eyes,
The glowing splendour of her sun-kissed hair,
Which in thick braids o'er rounded bosom fell
Past slender waist by jewelled girdle bound.
So stood Duke Jocelyn amid the leaves,
And marked how, as she walked, her silken gown
Did cling her round in soft embrace, as though
Itself had sense and wit enough to love her.
Entranced he stood, bound by her beauty's spell,
Whereby it seemed he did in her behold
The beauty of all fair and beauteous things.
Now leaned she o'er a pool where lilies pale
Oped their shy beauties to the gladsome day,
Yet in their beauty none of them so fair
As that fair face the swooning waters held.
And as, glad-eyed, she viewed her loveliness,
She fell to singing, soft and low and sweet,
Clear and full-throated as a piping merle,
And this the manner of her singing was:
"What is love? Ah, who shall say?
Flower to languish in a day,
Bird on wing that will away.
Love, I do defy thee!
"What is love? A toy so vain
'T is but found to lose again,
Painful sweet and sweetest pain;
Ah, love, come not nigh me.
"But, love, an thou com'st to me,
Wert thou as I'd have thee be,
Welcome sweet I'd make for thee,
And weary of thee never.
"If with thy heart thou could'st endure,
If thou wert strong and thou wert sure,
A master now, and now a wooer,
Thy slave I'd be for ever."
Thus sang she sweet beside the lily-pool,
Unknowing any might her singing hear,
When rose another voice, so rich, so full
As thrilled her into rapt and pleasing wonder;
And as she hearkened to these deep-sung words,
She flushed anon and dimpled to a smile:
"What is love? 'Tis this, I say,
Flower that springeth in a day,
Bird of joy to sing alway,
Deep in the heart of me.
"What is love? A joyous pain
That I ne'er may lose again,
Since for ever I am fain
To think and dream of thee."
Now hasted she to part the leafy screen,
And one in motley habit thus beheld.
But when 'neath flaunting cock's-comb she did mark
His blemished face, she backward from him drew
And caught her breath, and yet upon him gazed
'Neath wrinkled brow, the while Duke Jocelyn
Read the expected horror in her eyes:
Wherefore he bowed his head upon his breast
And plucked at belt with sudden, nervous hand
As, cold and proud and high, she questioned him:
"What thing art thou that 'neath thy hood doth show
A visage that might shame the gladsome day?"
Whereto he answered, low and humble-wise:
"A Fool! The very fool of fools am I--
A Fool that fain would pluck the sun from heaven."
"Begone!" she sighed. "Thy look doth make me cold,
E'en as I stand thus i' the kindly sun.
Yet, an thou 'rt poor as thy mean habit speaks thee,
Take first this dole for tender Jesu's sake."
Then answered Jocelyn on lowly knee:
"For thy sweet bounty I do thank thee well,
But, in good sooth, so great a fool am I,
'Stead of thy gold I rather would possess
Yon happy flower that in thy bosom bloometh.
Give me but this and richer fool am I
Than any knight-like fool that coucheth lance--
Greater I than any lord soever,
Aye--e'en Duke Jocelyn of Brocelaunde."
Smiled now Yolande with rosy lip up-curving,
While in soft cheek a roguish dimple played.
Quoth she: "Duke Jocelyn, I've heard it said,
Is great and rich, a mighty man-at-arms,
And thou but sorry Fool in mean array,
Yet"--from white fingers she let fall the flower--
"Be thou, Fool, greater than this mighty Duke!
And now, since mighty Fool and rich I've made thee,
In quittance I would win of thee a song."
Now sat Yolande, white chin on dimpled fist,
Viewing him o'er with cruel, maiden-eyes,
So swift to heed each outward mark and blemish
(Since maids be apt to sly disparagement,
And scorn of all that seems un-beautiful)
While he did lean him by the marble rim,
His wistful gaze down-bent upon the pool,
Feeling her look and knowing while she looked:
What time he touched his lute with fingers skilled,
And so fell singing, wonder-low and sweet:
"Though foul and harsh of face am I,
Lady fair--O lady!
Fair thoughts within my heart may lie,
As flowers that bloom unseen to die,
Lady fair--O lady!
"Though this my hateful face may fright thee,
Lady fair--O list!
My folly mayhap shall delight thee,
A song of fools I will recite thee,
Lady fair--O list!"
Herewith he sighed amain, but smiled anon,
And fell anon to blither, louder note:
"Sing hey, Folly--Folly ho,
And here's a song of Folly,
All 'neath the sun,
Will gladly run
Away from Melancholy.
"And Fool, forsooth, a Fool am I,
Well learned in foolish lore:
For I can sing ye, laugh or sigh:
Can any man do more?
Hey, Folly--Folly, ho!
'Gainst sadness bar the door.
"A Fool am I, yet by fair leave,
Poor Fools have hearts to feel.
Poor Fools, like other fools, may grieve
If they their woes conceal.
Hither, Folly--Folly, ho!
All Fools to Folly kneel.
"What though a Fool be melancholy,
Sick, sick at heart--heigho!
Pain must he hide 'neath laughing Folly,
What Fool should heed his woe!
Hither, Folly--Folly, ho!
Fool must unpitied go.
"E'en though a Fool should fondly woo,
E'en though his love be high,
Poor Folly's fool must wear the rue,
Proud love doth pass him by.
Heigho, Folly--Folly, ho!
Poor Fool may love--and die.
"Though Wisdom should in motley go,
And fools the wise man ape;
Who is there that shall Wisdom know
Beneath a 'scalloped cape?
Heigho, Folly--Folly, ho!
Life is but sorry jape.
"So, hey, Folly--Folly, ho!
And here's a song o' Folly,
All 'neath the sun
Do gladly run
Away from Melancholy."
The singing done, she viewed him kinder-eyed,
Till eyes met eyes--when she did pout and frown,
And chid him that his song was something sad,
And vowed so strange a Fool was never seen.
Then did she question him in idle wise
As, who he was and whence he came and why?
Whereto the Duke--
My daughter GILLIAN interposeth:
Dear father, if you're in the vein,
I'd like a little rhyme again;
For blank verse is so hard to read,
And yours is very blank indeed!
Girl, when blank verse I write for thee,
I write it blank as blank can be.
Stay, I'll declare (no poet franker)
No blank verse, Gill, was ever blanker.
Since, with your sex's sweet inconstancy,
Rhymes now you wish, rhymes now I'll
rhyme for thee:
As thus, my dear--
Whereto the Duke did instant make reply:
"Sweet lady, since you question me,
Full blithely I will answer thee;
And, since you fain would merry be,
I'll sing and rhyme it merrily:
"Since Mirth's my trade and follies fond,
Methinks a fair name were Joconde;
And for thy sake
I travail make
Through briar and brake,
O'er fen and lake,
The Southward March beyond.
"For I an embassage do bear,
Now unto thee, Yolande the fair,
Now unto thee,
Most full, most free,
Explicit I 'll declare.
"Thus: videlicit and to wit,
Sith now thou art to wedlock fit--
Both day and night
In dark, in light
A worthy knight,
A lord of might,
In his own right,
Duke Joc'lyn hight
To thine his heart would knit.
"But, since the Duke may not come to thee,
I, in his stead, will humbly sue thee;
His love each day
I will portray
As best I may;
I'll sue, I'll pray,
I'll sing, I'll play,
Now grave, now gay,
And in this way,
I for the Duke will woo thee."
Now, fair Yolanda gazed with wide-oped eyes,
And checked sweet breath for wonder and surprise;
Then laughed full blithe and yet, anon, did frown,
And with slim fingers plucked at purfled gown:
"And is it thou--a sorry Fool," she cried.
"Art sent to win this mighty Duke a bride?"
"E'en so!" quoth he. "Whereof I token bring;
Behold, fair maid, Duke Joc'lyn's signet ring."
"Heaven's love!" she cried. "And can it truly be
The Duke doth send a mountebank like thee,
A Fool that hath nor likelihood nor grace
From worn-out shoon unto thy blemished face--
A face so scarred--so hateful that meseems
At night 't will haunt and fright me with ill dreams;
A slave so base--"
"E'en so!" Duke Joc'lyn sighed,
And his marred visage 'neath his hood did hide.
"But, though my motley hath thy pride distressed,
I am the Fool Duke Joc'lyn loveth best.
And--ah, my lady, thou shalt never see
In all this world a Fool the like of me!"
Thus spake the Duke, and then awhile stood mute,
And idly struck sweet chords upon his lute,
Watching Yolande's fair, frowning face the while,
With eyes that held a roguish, wistful smile.
She, meeting now these eyes of laughing blue,
Felt her cheeks burn, and sudden angry grew.
So up she rose in proud and stately fashion,
And stamped slim foot at him in sudden passion;
And vowed that of Duke Joc'lyn she cared naught;
That if he'd woo, by him she must be sought;
Vowed if he wooed his wooing should be vain,
And, as he came, he back should go again.
"For, since the Duke," she cried, "dare send to me
A sorry wight, a very Fool like thee,
By thy Fool's mouth I bid thee to him say,
He ne'er shall win me, woo he as he may;
Say that I know him not--"
"Yet," spake Duke Joc'lyn soft,
"E'er this, methinks, thou'st seen my lord full oft.
When at the joust thou wert fair Beauty's queen
Duke Joc'lyn by thy hand oft crowned hath been."
"True, Fool," she answered, 'twixt a smile and frown,
"I've seen him oft, but with his vizor down.
And verily he is a doughty knight,
But wherefore doth he hide his face from sight?"
"His face?" quoth Joc'lyn with a gloomy look,
"His face, alack!" And here his head he shook;
"His face, ah me!" And here Duke Joc'lyn sighed,
"His face--" "What of his face?" Yolanda cried.
"A mercy's name, speak--speak and do not fail."
"Lady," sighed Joc'lyn, "thereby hangs a tale,
The which, though strange it sound, is verity,
That here and now I will relate to thee--
'T is ditty dire of dismal doating dames,
A lay of love-lorn, loveless languishment,
And ardent, amorous, anxious anguishment,
Full-fed forsooth of fierce and fiery flames;
In Brocelaunde not long ago,
Was born Duke Jocelyn. I trow
Not all the world a babe could show,
A babe so near divine:
For, truth to tell,
He waxed so well,
So fair o' face,
So gay o' grace,
That people all,
Both great and small,
Where'er he went,
Would stare and stare
To see how fair
A lad was Jocelyn.
And when to man's estate he came,
Alack, fair lady, 't was the same!
And many a lovely, love-lorn dame
Would pitiful pant and pine.
These doleful dames
Felt forceful flames,
The old, the grey,
The young and gay,
Both dark and fair
Would rend their hair,
And sigh and weep
And seldom sleep;
And dames long wed
From spouses fled
For love of Jocelyn.
Therefore the Duke an oath did take
By one, by two, by three,
That for these love-lorn ladies' sake
No maid his face should see.
And thus it is, where'er he rideth
His love-begetting face he hideth."
Now laughed Yolande, her scorn forgotten quite,
"Alas!" she cried. "Poor Duke! O woeful plight!
And yet, O Fool, good Fool, full fain am I,
This ducal, love-begetting face to spy--"
Quoth Joc'lyn: "Then, my lady, prithee, look!"
And from his bosom he a picture took.
"Since this poor face of mine doth so affright thee
Here's one of paint that mayhap shall delight thee.
Take it, Yolande, for thee the craftsmen wrought it,
For thee I from Duke Jocelyn have brought it.
If day and night thou 'lt wear it, fair Yolande,"
And speaking thus, he gave it to her hand.
Its golden frame full many a jewel bore,
But 't was the face, the face alone she saw.
And viewing it, Yolanda did behold
A manly face, yet of a god-like mould.
Breathless she sate, nor moved she for a space,
Held by the beauty of this painted face;
'Neath drooping lash she viewed it o'er and o'er,
And ever as she gazed new charms she saw.
Then, gazing yet, "Who--what is this?" she sighed.
"Paint, lady, paint!" Duke Joc'lyn straight replied,
"The painted visage of my lord it shows--
Item: one mouth, two eyes and eke a nose--"
"Nay, Fool," she murmured, "here's a face, meseems,
I oft have seen ere now within my dreams;
These dove-soft eyes in dreams have looked on me!"
Quoth Joc'lyn: "Yet these eyes can nothing see!"
"These tender lips in accents sweet I've heard!"
Quoth Joc'lyn: "Yet--they ne'er have spoke a word!
But here's a face at last doth please thee well
Yet hath no power to speak, see, sigh or smell,
Since tongueless, sightless, breathless 't is--thus I
A sorry Fool its needs must e'en supply.
And whiles thou doatest on yon painted head
My tongue I'll lend to woo thee in its stead.
I'll woo with wit
As seemeth fit,
Whiles there thou sit
And gaze on it.
Whiles it ye see
Its voice I'll be
And plead with thee,
So hark to me:
Yolande, I love thee in true loving way;
That is, I'll learn to love thee more each day,
Until so great my growing love shall grow,
This puny world in time 't will overflow.
To-day I love, and yet my love is such
That I to-morrow shall have twice as much.
Thus lovingly to love thee I will learn
Till thou shalt learn Love's lesson in thy turn,
And find therein how sweet this world can be
When as I love, thou, love, shall so love me."
"Hush, hush!" she sighed, and to her ruddy lip
She sudden pressed one rosy finger-tip.
And then, O happy picture! Swift from sight
She hid it in her fragrant bosom white.
"O Fool," she cried, "get thee behind yon tree,
And thou a very Fool indeed shall see,
A knightly fool who sighs and groans in verse
And oft-times woos in song, the which is worse."
For now they heard a voice that sung most harsh,
That shrilled and croaked like piping frog in marsh,
A voice that near and ever nearer drew
Until the lordly singer strode in view.
A noble singer he, both tall and slender,
With locks be-curled and clad in pompous splendour;
His mantle of rich velvet loose did flow,
As if his gorgeous habit he would show;
A jewelled bonnet on his curls he bore,
With nodding feather bravely decked before;
He was a lover very _point de vice_,
And all about him, save his voice, was nice.
Thus loudly sang, with lungs both sound and strong
This worthy knight, Sir Palamon of Tong.
"O must I groan
And make my moan
And live alone alway?
Yea, I must sigh
And droop and die,
If she reply, nay, nay!
"I groan for thee,
I moan for thee,
Alone for thee I pine.
All's ill for me
Until for me
She will for me be mine."
But now, beholding Yolande amid her flowers, herself as sweet and fresh as
they, he made an end of his singing and betook him, straightway, to amorous
looks and deep-fetched sighs together with many supple bendings of
the back, elegant posturings and motitions of slim legs, fannings and
flauntings of be-feathered cap, and the like gallantries; and thereafter
fell to his wooing on this fashion:
"Lady, O lady of lovely ladies most loved! Fair lady of hearts, sweet dame
of tenderness, tender me thine ears, suffer one, hath sighed and suffered
for sake of thee, to sightful sue. Lovely thou art and therefore to be
loved, and day and night thou and Love the sum of my excogitations art,
wherefore I, with loving art, am hither come to woo thee, since, lady, I
do love thee."
"Alack, Sir Palamon!" she sighed, "and is it so?"
"Alack!" he answered, "so it is. Yest're'en I did proclaim thee fairer than
all fair ladies; to-day thou art yet fairer, thus this day thou art fairer
than thyself; the which, though a paradox, is yet wittily true and truly
witty, methinks. But as for me--for me, alas for me! I am forsooth the very
slave of love, fettered fast by Dan Cupid, a slave grievous and woeful,
yet, being thy slave, joying in my slavery and happy in my grievous woe.
Thus it is I groan and moan, lady; I pine, repine and pine again most
consumedly. I sleep little and eat less, I am, in fine and in all ways,
'haviours, manners, customs, feints and fashions soever, thy lover
manifest, confessed, subject, abject, in season and out of season, yearly,
monthly, daily, hourly, and by the minute. Moreover--"
"Beseech thee!" she cried, "Oh, beseech thee, take thy breath."
"Gramercy, 'tis done, lady, 'tis done, and now forthwith resolved am I to
"Nay, I pray you, sir, sing no more, but resolve me this mystery. What is
"Love, lady? Verily that will I in truth!" And herewith Sir Palamon fell
to an attitude of thought with eyes ecstatic, with knitted brows and sage
nodding of the head. "Love, my lady--ha! Love, lady is--hum! Love, then,
perceive me, is of its nature elemental, being of the elements, as 'twere,
composed and composite, as water, air and fire. For, remark me, there is no
love but begetteth first water, which is tears; air, which is sighings and
groanings; and fire, which is heart-burnings and the like. Thus is love a
passion elemental. But yet, and heed me, lady, love is also metaphysical,
being a motition of the soul and e'en the spirit, and being of the spirit
'tis ghostly, and being ghostly 'tis--ha! Who comes hither to shatter the
placid mirror of my thoughts?"
So saying, the noble knight of Tong turned to behold one who strode towards
them in haste, a tall man this whose black brows scowled fierce upon the
day, and who spurned the tender flowers with foot ungentle as he came.
A tall, broad-shouldered, haughty lord was he,
With chin full square and eyes of mastery,
At sight of whom, Yolanda's laughter failed,
And in her cheek the rosy colour paled.
Quoth he: "Sir Palamon, now of thy grace,
And of thy courteous friendship yield me place,
To this fair lady I a word would say.
Thus do I for thy courteous-absence pray,
I am thy friend, Sir Knight, as thou dost know,
"My lord," quoth Sir Palamon, "I go--
Friendship methinks is a most holy bond,
A bond I hold all binding bonds beyond,
And thou 'rt a friend right potent, my lord Gui,
So to thy will I willingly comply.
Thus, since thy friendship I hold passing dear,
Thou need but ask--and lo! I am not here."
Thus having said, low bowed this courtly knight,
Then turned about and hasted out of sight.
"And now, my lady," quoth Sir Gui, frowning upon her loveliness, "and now
having discharged yon gaudy wind-bag, what of this letter I did receive
but now--behold it!" and speaking, he snatched a crumpled missive from his
bosom. "Behold it, I say!"
"Indeed, my lord, I do," she answered, proud and disdainful; "it is,
methinks, my answer to thy loathed suit--"
"Loathed!" he cried, and caught her slender wrist,
And held it so, crushed in his cruel fist;
But proud she faced him, shapely head raised high.
"Most loathed, my lord!" she, scornful, made reply.
"For rather than I'd wed myself with thee,
The wife of poorest, humblest slave I'd be,
Or sorriest fool that tramps the dusty way--"
"Ha! Dare thou scorn me so?" Sir Gui did say,
"Then I by force--by force will sudden take thee,
And slave of love, my very slave I 'll make thee--"
Out from the leaves Duke Joc'lyn thrust his head,
"O fie! Thou naughty, knavish knight!" he said.
"O tush! O tush! O tush again--go to!
'T is windy, whining, wanton way to woo.
What tushful talk is this of 'force' and 'slaves',
Thou naughty, knavish, knightly knave of knaves?
Unhand the maid--loose thy offensive paw!"
Round sprang Sir Gui, and, all astonished, saw
A long-legged jester who behind him stood
With head out-thrust, grim-smiling 'neath his hood.
"Plague take thee, Fool! Out o' my sight!" growled he,
"Or cropped thine ugly nose and ears shall be.
Begone, base rogue! Haste, dog, and get thee hence,
Thy folly pleadeth this thy Fool's offence--
Yet go, or of thy motley shalt be stripped,
And from the town I 'll have thee shrewdly whipped,
For Lord of Ells and Raddemore am I,
Though folk, I've heard, do call me 'Red Sir Gui,'
Since blood is red and--I am Gui the Red."
"Red Gui?" quoth Joc'lyn. "Art thou Gui the dread--
Red Gui--in faith? Of him Dame Rumour saith,
His ways be vile but viler still--his breath.
Now though a life vile lived is thing most ill,
Yet some do think a vile breath viler still."
Swift, swift as lightning from a summer sky,
Out flashed the vengeful dagger of Sir Gui,
And darting with a deadly stroke and fierce,
Did Joc'lyn's motley habit rend and pierce,
Whereat with fearful cry up sprang Yolande,
But this strange jester did grim-smiling stand.
Quoth he: "Messire, a fool in very truth,
The fool of foolish fools he'd be, in sooth,
Who'd play a quip or so, my lord, with thee
Unless in triple armour dight were he;
And so it is this jester doth not fail
With such as thou to jest in shirt of mail.
Now since my heart thy foolish point hath missed
Thy dagger--thus I answer--with my fist!"
Then swift he leapt and, even as he spoke,
He fetched the knight so fierce and fell a stroke
That, reeling, on the greensward sank Sir Gui,
And stared, wide-eyed, unseeing, at the sky.
Right firmly then upon his knightly breast
Duke Joc'lyn's worn and dusty shoe did rest,
And while Yolande stood white and dumb with fear,
Thus sang the Duke full blithely and full clear:
"Dirt thou art since thou art dust,
And shalt to dust return;
Meanwhile Folly as he lust
Now thy base dust doth spurn.
"Yea, lord, though thy rank be high,
One day, since e'en lords must die,
Under all men's feet thou'lt lie."
Now, fierce, Sir Gui did curse the Fool amain,
And, cursing, strove his dagger to regain.
But Joc'lyn stooped, in mighty arms he swung him,
And down into the lily-pool he flung him.
With splash resounding fell the noble knight,
Then gurgling rose in damp and sorry plight,
Whiles Joc'lyn, leaning o'er the marble rim,
With lifted finger thus admonished him:
Lest a dead Gui,
Gui, I make of thee,
Fair Yolande, Gui,
Humbly wooed must be.
Ere thou go, Gui,
Gui they call the Red;
And thou'lt woo, Gui,
Humbly sue, Gui,
Lest Love strike thee dead.
"Now while thou flound'rest in yon pool,
Learn thou this wisdom of a Fool;
Cold water oft can passion cool
And fiery ardours slake;
Thus, sir, since water quencheth fire,
So let it soothe away thine ire.
Then--go seek thee garments drier
Lest a rheum thou take."
Sir Gui did gasp, and gasping, strove to curse,
Whereat he, gasping, did but gasp the worse,
Till, finding he could gasp, but nothing say,
He shook clenched fist and, gasping, strode away.
Then Joc'lyn turned and thus beheld Yolande,
Who trembling all and pale of cheek did stand.
"O Fool!" she sighed. "Poor Fool, what hast
Quoth he: "Yolande, to woo thee I've begun,
I better might have wooed, it is most true,
If other wooers had not wooed thee too."
"Nay, Fool!" she whispered. "O beware--beware!
Death--death for thee is in the very air.
From Canalise, in haste, I bid thee fly,
For 'vengeful lord and cruel is Sir Gui.
Take now this gold to aid thee on thy way,
And for thy life upon my knees I'll pray,
And with the holy angels intercede
To comfort thee and aid thee in thy need.
And so--farewell! "Thus, speaking, turned Yolande.
But Joc'lyn stayed her there with gentle hand,
Whereat she viewed him o'er in mute surprise,
To see the radiant gladness of his eyes.
Quoth he: "Yolande, since thou wilt pray for me,
Of thy sweet prayers fain would I worthy be.
This I do know--let Death come when he may,
The love I bear thee shall live on alway.
Nor will I strive to leave grim Death behind me,
Since when Death wills methinks he sure will find me;
As in the world Death roameth everywhere,
Who flees him here perchance shall meet him there.
Here, then, I'll bide--let what so will betide me,