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Confronting Sir Robert

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The words of the king

Hell’s halls, corrupt with blood of innocence;
these splendid mansions cost the weak and small
their hopes and dreams, their loves, their lives, their all -
in order that Sir Robert rule there hence
in luxury. Thus Giles the Fool cares not
for all the wealth and wonder that he sees.
By choice he’d rather never take his ease
within this many-tower’d sham Camelot.
But now he steels himself to say such things
as fools or jesters never said before;
to shake foundations bolstering the law,
and contradict the privilege of kings -
by saying rights a ruler claimed from God
required account for every step he trod.

Now as he enters into halls obscene,
Giles gasps, then covers up in coughs his shock;
there stands the huntsman, solid as a rock,
he and his hounds by others all unseen.
The seven sorcerers that Robert toasts
are sat in seats of honour nigh their lord;
belov’d Columba dressed in blue them poured
the blood of grapes, received from far French coasts.
And all among them sat in armour bright
a boy, who must impersonate a man;
alone amidst them, lost without a plan,
the one whose lonely lot was silent knight.
Though shining breastplate sparked with starry gleams,
to Giles the smith-wrought metal empty seems.

Sir Robert sees his Fool. “Now then, be quick!
Waited have we for Arthur’s famous word.
What has the starry dreamer said, absurd,
sullying proper kingship? Makes me sick.
But for his luck in getting sorcerous help,
kingdom of nothing would he have at all;
since he insists on serving Merlin’s call,
his is not royalty; a wizard’s whelp
all he will ever be. And thus his lot,
piping a minor tune on history’s stage.
Death of his beneficial mentor Mage,
final will cause the fall of Camelot.
So get it over! Read it out aloud,
if for no cause but making mute knights proud.”

Through this Columba weaves a steady route,
seeing no purpose served to irk the brute.
Above her, on a ledge, she sees a dove,
and stops a moment, smiling all her love –
but Ranulet frowns, scowling, “Make thee haste”,
while Robert places bets she won’t stay chaste.
Trefor sits still as if an empty shell;
the huntsman holds unseen the hounds of hell.
Giles with a prayer for help unrolls the scroll,
and wonders what wise words might bring his goal.

“From Arthur, King at Camelot who reigns
by grace of God o’er Britain’s isles entire,
in line aright descended from his sire;
Uther Pendragon, sacred his remains.
To Robert, falsely knight, who holds in chains
Lionel’s people, famed upon the lyre.
By devious and deep deception dire,
you bled the blood of kingship from his veins.
I charge you thus, and call you regicide.
No king rules in these isles without my leave,
and only by his oath did Lionel reign.
Repent of all your recklessness and pride;
release the feeble folk you caused to grieve,
and then confess you stole the summer’s grain.

I find in you this fault and call it sin;
you covet for yourself all kingly power
without an oath to God. Instead, your tower
is all you hope to take your refuge in.
My status was appointed to my kin,
and as for yours, I say to you this hour,
renounce it! Else face Britain’s finest flower,
my knights and army, ‘gainst whom none can win.
When you so rashly rave ‘God and my right’
you fail to say that never did you call
upon his name by oath, when crown you took;
and so you call yourself not king, but knight.
Yet heavy on the poor your hand doth fall,
as every day your ruthless rule they brook.

The right to be responsible belongs
to all who call themselves a king ’fore God,
remembering that on this earth He trod,
a King, who suffered from us many wrongs.
Lay down your life for your allotted throngs,
instead of reigning over them roughshod;
show them the kindly hand, and not the rod,
and you would be the subject of their songs.
But this is moot; you have no right to rule.
Return the kingship hence to Lionel’s line!
If Giles not now be found, then bow to me.
Give up at once your reign, corrupt and cruel;
your wretched rule is not by God’s design;
renounce the throne, or die! This my decree.”

The Fool, emphatic, rolls the empty scroll.
He knows no words to add to those he said;
no words he wrote, but felt as if he read;
read from the words of one who filled his soul.

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