But meaty and well versed in worldly tricks.”
“By God,” the Host cried, “you’ll be number six
My Shipman friend, which might be for your good –
But only if your head is made of wood.”
The Wife roared out with laughter. “That’s well said,”
Quod she, then extricated from her head
That monstrous hat and turned her gap-toothed smile
Upon her fellow pilgrims. “’Tis by guile
And learning,” she informed them, “that today
A woman born of humble parents may
Escape the chains of lowly birth, and wed
Above her station ere that she be dead
From poverty, or hunger, or disease.
But frequently that dream of moneyed ease
Remains just that – an unattainèd dream.
Yet always in a woman’s heart the gleam
Of hope persists that if enough she strived,
Unto a better man she could be wived.
So if it please you all I’ll tell a tale
Of one young maiden skewered on the nail
Of penury, who hoped to realise
Her dream of scooping up a spousal prize
Beyond convention’s narrow-minded scope,
While those around her tried to thwart that hope.”
The pilgrims nodded, and at once agreed
That Alison of Bath should now succeed
The Shipman with a story to enthrall
The captivated gath’ring, one and all.
Such plush apparel and appear so rich,
How did he end up dead beside a ditch
In this remote, unpopulated place?
By God, this is a most perplexing case.”
Into the castle hall the boy was shown
A fragile youth - no more than skin and bone –
Whose rosy cheeks were streaked with running tears.
Yet ’neath his frame the lad was wise in years
Beyond his seventeen. For once he saw
His master, Troy, had failed to win at war
’Gainst sundry dragons, Goldenlocks turned tail.
With trembling lip and face a ghastly pale,
Upon his horse the battlefield he fled.
Troy’s sad demise was on the young lad’s head,
For Goldenlocks was keeping safe a hoard
Of sharpened lances, plus his master’s sword.
Outnumbered and equipped with but a spear,
The knight beseeched his squire, “Douse your fear
And bring my weapons ere the deadly breath
Of these foul creatures does poor Troy to death!”
Yet Goldenlocks ignored this piteous plea
And chose instead - at breakneck speed - to flee.
The erstwhile squire of brave Sir Troy now spoke,
And since his youthful voice had barely broke,
Inside his throat the words appeared to catch.
“Courageously my master met his match,”
Quod he. “And at that this dangerous point I rode
Unto him with his sword and lances stowed
Upon my horse in hopes he might rearm
And by my selfless act be saved from harm.
But Fate had other thoughts, and though I tried
To fight the dragons off, my master died.
The serpents seized him firmly with their claws
And tore off joints of meat with chomping jaws.
Exhaling flame, his flesh the beasts did cook;
Oh, how I wish to bring them all to book.”
His speech complete, the boy began to bawl,
Eliciting from those inside the hall
Much tearfulness. Quod Arthur, “Goldenlocks
Evaded death by fleeing like a fox
Pursued by hounds and hid beneath some trees.
Although above him, gliding on the breeze,
A score of dragons circled overhead,
(And from a dozen wounds he freely bled)
The boy escaped their all-consuming fire
And thus became our sole-surviving squire
Returning from a dragon-slaying quest
So, Tamarind, pray put your mind at rest -
Upon your journey none’s a better aide
At keeping safe your lances and your blade.”