William Topaz McGonagall
Jack O' The Cudgel - Poem by William Topaz McGonagall
'Twas in the famous town of Windsor, on a fine summer morn,
Where the sign of Windsor Castle did a tavern adorn;
And there sat several soldiers drinking together,
Resolved to make merry in spite of wind or weather.
And old Simon the landlord was at the head of the table,
Cutting slices of beef as quick as he was able;
And one of the soldiers was of rather superior rank,
And on his dress trinkets of gold and silver together did clank.
He was a free companion, but surly and hard,
And a soldier of fortune, and was named Croquard;
And he had all the appearance of his martial calling,
But on this particular morning he was rudely bawling.
So the other soldiers laughed, for their spirits felt gay,
And they applauded his jokes, and let him have his own way,
Because he could command as desperate a gang of men as any in the world,
So many a joke and slur at the soldiers he hurled.
And the mirth increased as the day wore on,
And Croquard didn't seem the least woe-begone;
But, as he was trolling out a very merry song,
A wandering minstrel sat down beside him, and thought it no wrong.
By my troth, shouted Croquard, Come here, minstrel,
And give us a stave of love or war, which is my will:
But the minstrel didn'-t appear to comply with this request,
And he tried to withdraw, as he thought it was best.
Ho ! didst thou hear me, varlet? then Croquard did cry:
Oh! gentle sir, replied the minstrel, I cannot with your wish comply;
Believe me, I sing best to the ladies at the court,
And, in doing so, find it more profitable sport.
What, varlet! cried Croquard, Dost thou refuse me?
By heaven, proud cur, you shall see
And feel the weight of my hand before you are much older:
Then he instantly sprang up, and seized the minstrel by the shoulder.
Then the youth began to tremble, and seemed terrified to death,
And appeared ready to faint for the want of breath;
While Croquard shook him roughly, just like an ugly whelp,
And he looked from one to another, imploring help
At this moment a youth observed what was going on,
And he cried out to Croquard, Inhuman monster, begone!
Leave the minstrel, thou pig-headed giant, or I'll make you repent,
For thou must know my name is Jack, and I hail from Kent.
Then Croquard relaxed his hold of the minstrel boy,
Which caused the minstrel's heart to leap with joy;
As Jack placed himself before Croquard the giant,
And stood on his guard with a stout oak cudgel defiant.
Then the fist of the giant descended in a crack,
But Jack dealt Croquard a heavy blow upon the back
With his cudgel, so that the giant's hand fell powerless down by his side,
And he cursed and roared with pain, and did Jack deride.
Then the giant tried to draw his sword for to fight,
But Jack danced around him like a young sprite,
And struck him a blow with his cudgel upon the back of the head,
And from the effects of the blow he was nearly killed dead.
Then down sank the carcase of the giant to the ground,
While the soldiers about Jack did quickly gather round;
And Jack cried, Ha! lie thou there overgrown brute,
And defiantly he spurned Croquard's body with his foot.
There, lad, cried Vintner Simon, thou hast shown English spirit to-day,
By chastising yon overbearing giant in a very proper way;
So come, my lad, and drink a flagon of my very best sack,
For you handled your cudgel well, and no courage did lack.
Then no sooner had our hero finished his goblet of sack,
He cried, Go and fetch the minstrel back;
For the giant by this time had fled far away,
Therefore the minstrel's tender heart need not throb with dismay.
Then the minstrel was brought back without delay,
Which made Jack's heart feel light and gay,
And the minstrel thanked Jack for saving him on that eventful day,
So the soldiers drank to Jack's health, and then went away.
And when King Edward III. heard what Jack had done,
He sent for Jack o' the Cudgel, the noble Saxon,
And he made him his page, and Jack uttered not a word,
But he unwillingly gave up the cudgel for the honour of the sword.
After the battle of Calais, King Edward returns to fair England,
And he invited his nobles to a banquet most grand,
That the like hadn't been in England for many a day;
And many of the guests invited had come from far away.
The large hall of Windsor Castle was ablaze with light,
And there sat King Edward and his Queen, a most beautiful sight-
To see them seated upon two thrones of burnished gold;
And near the King sat Jack o' the Cudgel, like a warrior bold.
And when the banquet was prepared, King Edward arose,
And said, My honoured guests, I have called you together for a special purpose!
To celebrate our victories so gloriously achieved in France
By my noble and heroic troops at the charge of the lance.
And now, since the war in France with us is o'er,
And Edward, our son, about to marry the lady he does adore,
The most amiable and lovely Countess of Kent;
Therefore, I hope they will happy live together and never repent.
Then King Edward took the Countess by the hand, and said,
Come, Edward, take your bride by the hand, and don't be afraid;
And do not think, my beloved son, that with you I feel wroth,
Therefore, take the Countess by the hand, and plight your troth.
Then the Prince arose and took the fair Countess by the hand,
As King Edward, his father, had given the royal command;
Then he led the Countess Joan to the foot of the throne,
Then King Edward and his Queen welcomed the Countess to their palatial home.
Then the Prince unto his father said, I must not forget whatever betide,
That to Sir Jack o' the Cudgel I do owe my bride;
Because he rescued her from the hands of a fierce brigand,
Therefore 'twould be hard to find a braver knight in fair England.
Then a cheer arose, which made the lofty hall to ring,
As Jack advanced towards the throne, on the motion of the King;
Then Jack fell on one knee before King Edward,
Then said the Monarch, Arise, brave youth, and I will thee reward.
Sir Jack, I give thee land to the value of six hundred marks
In thine own native county of Kent, with beautiful parks,
Also beautiful meadows and lovely flowers and trees,
Where you can reside and enjoy yourself as you please.
And remember, when I need your service you will be at my command,
Then Jack o' the Cudgel bowed assent, and kissed King Edward's hand;
Then the Countess Joan took a string of rarest pearls from her hair,
And placed the pearls around Jack's neck, most costly and rare.
Then the tumult became uproarious when Jack received the presentation,
And he thanked the Lady Joan for the handsome donation;
Then all the ladies did loudly cheer, and on Jack smilingly did fan,
And Sir Walter Manny cried aloud, Sir Jack, you are a lucky man.
Then the mirth increased, and louder the applause,
And the Countess Joan asked, after a pause,
Tell me who has gained the love of the Knight o' the Cudgel;
Then Jack replied, My lady, you know her right well.
She is the lovely daughter of noble John of Aire,
Then, replied the Countess, she is a lovely creature, I must declare;
And I hope the choice that you have made won't make you grieve,
Then Jack kissed the Countess's hand, and took his leave.
And he wended his way to his beautiful estate in Kent,
And many a happy day there he spent;
And he married the lovely daughter of John of Aire,
And they lived happy together, and free from all care.
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