Treasure Island

Marriott Edgar

(1880 - 1951 / Kirkcudbright / Scotland)

The Burghers of Calais


It were after the Battle of Crecy-
The foe all lay dead on the ground-
And King Edward went out with his soldiers
To clean up the places around.

The first place they came to were Calais,
Where t' burghers all stood in a row,
And when Edward told them to surrender
They told Edward where he could go.

Said he, " I'll beleaguer this city,
I'll teach them to flout their new King -
Then he told all his lads to get camp-stools
And sit round the place in a ring.

Now the burghers knew nowt about Crecy-
They laughed when they saw Edward's plan-
And thinking their side were still winning,
They shrugged and said- " San fairy Ann."

But they found at the end of a fortnight
That things wasn't looking so nice,
With nowt going out but the pigeons,
And nowt coming in but the mice.

For the soldiers sat round on their camp-stools,
And never a foot did they stir,
But passed their time doing their knitting,
And crosswords, and things like that there.

The burghers began to get desperate
Wi' t' food supply sinking so low,
For they'd nowt left but dry bread and water,
Or what they called in French "pang" and "oh"

They stuck it all autumn and winter,
But when at last spring came around
They was bothered, bewitched and beleaguered,
And cods' heads was tenpence a pound.

So they hung a white flag on the ramparts
To show they was sick of this 'ere-
And the soldiers, who'd finished their knitting,
All stood up and gave them a cheer.

When King Edward heard they had surrendered
He said to them, in their own tongue,
"You've kept me here all football season,
And twelve of you's got to be hung."

Then up stood the Lord Mayor of Calais,
"I'll make one" he gallantly cried-
Then he called to his friends on the Council
To make up the rest of the side.

When the townspeople heard of the hanging
They rushed in a crowd through the gate-
They was all weeping tears of compassion,
And hoping they wasn't too late.

With ropes round their necks the twelve heroes
Stood proudly awaiting their doom,
Till the hangman at last crooked his finger
And coaxingly said to them-" Come.

At that moment good Queen Phillippa
Ran out of her bower and said-
Oh, do have some mercy, my husband;
Oh don't be so spiteful, dear Ted."

Then down on her knee-joints before them
She flopped, and in accents that rang,
Said, "Please, Edward, just to oblige me,
You can't let these poor burghers hang.

The King was so touched with her pleading,
He lifted his wife by the hand
And he gave her all twelve as a keepsake
And peace once again reigned in the land.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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Comments about this poem (The Burghers of Calais by Marriott Edgar )

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  • Stephen West (7/25/2008 9:51:00 AM)

    I just love this stuff and cannot understand why it is ignored these days.
    Perhaps the teaching of so-called 'real' history is lacking. (Report) Reply

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