Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ten Men of Ealdormere

Colyne Stewart Oct AS XXXVI (2003)

Ten fine men of Ealdormere
set off upon their way
armed and armoured walking in
the sun that shone that day

and as they walked they hummed a tune
and burst out into song
with merry heart and happy soul
they made their way along

the nine were huge and hulking men
the tenth was rather small
he was the butt of most their jokes
he smiled and took them all

beside their path there was a cave
before which cried a dame
the lead knight stopped and gripped his sword
the others did the same

"what ills ail thee?" the good knight asked
"a creature" she replied
"which stole my child into the cave
I fear that she has died"

"fear not" the knight said stepping forth
"for we will find the child"
the others echoed his brave words
although the cave looked wild

"but wait, my knights" the lady said
"the cave it is accursed
but he who conquers ev'ry vice
will make it to the purse"

"we are knights true" their leader said
"no flaw do we possess
as your champion, I will go
and 'gainst the darkness press"

so saying he the first went in
with torch and sword in fist
deeper darker the tunnel twined
the ground obscured in mist

he called out to the creature vile
challenged it to duel
no answer came, the fighter stood
in the darkness cruel

a scent then wafted to his nose
he found a banquet spread
ham and pheasant, soup, stew and hare
white cheese and nuts and bread

stomach rumbling he sat to eat
he ate and ate and ate
outside his fellows ill at ease
they found it had grown late

the second entered looked about
to try and find his friend
instead he found broached kegs of ale
the liquor was his end

the third found snuff, the fourth found gold
both stopped and so both died
the fifth succumbed to women loose
his body home to flies

the sixth was sure he was the one
he bet he was the blest
he wandered long in darkened hall
never to find his rest

a gold-gilt mirror found the seventh
and gazed upon his face
he stood so long he turned to stone
he stands still in that place

the eighth caught by sycophants
he only heard their praise
the praise was false, they left him there
he wasted from malaise

the ninth found nought, he raged about
and stumbled in the dark
he fell upon his bastard sword
which pierced his angry heart

 this left the last, the smallest knight
least of their company
he smiled at the lady, then
into the cave went he

he found the food, the ale, the gold
the women and the fame
he passed them by, ignored them all
they passed out of his flame

he passed the vice and found the girl
the evil creature slain
he helped her out back to her mam
he only without stain

dear reader, there's a lesson here
for those who choose to learn
the strength of man is ever flawed
'til we our vices spurn

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