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Confronting Sir Robert

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In the stocks

Plods Robert in the tower of the guard
where wallow all his soldiers through the night;
their care to make militiamen work hard,
much more to make the jaws of Robert bite.
Old soldiers fear Sir Robert till their graves;
meek men of the militia fear his knights;
sad serfs fear their own countrymen, made slaves
through whose endeavours Robert robs their rights.
This pyramid of pow’r perpetuates
deep evil that was born in far off France.
Expelled from forests free by those he hates,
black Beast of Brittany knows no ‘romance’
nor lore of knighthood brave and bold and true;
far rather torture – vicious, through and through.

“Pris’ner now mine, mute man of iron and steel!
Giles you have kept with care, I trust, Gervaise?
Trusted lieutenant, trained in all my ways,
rout out the traitorous trash these lands conceal!
For, when the dawn arrives with sky stained red,
let it be seen by all that Giles is stretched.
Every man, woman, boy and girl be fetched;
every last one watch all his blood be bled!
All of the plotters mired in his maze
must be revealed, and hung before their peers.
When we have drained the people’s eyes of tears,
then they will soon amend their traitorous ways.”

“How shall the show be staged?
What of the lame and blind?
Who will remain behind?
What of the babes and aged?”

“Fetch ev’ry one, else pain of death they share;
let ev'ry cripple, nursing child and fool
learn the full price of rueing Robert’s rule.
Leave one behind, must others stay to care.”

“Then must the guard entire
ride through the realm this night,
if the whole land have sight
while the Fool faces fire.

So the militiamen
must be aroused to ride.
Those who would rather hide
shall not see light again.”

“So it must be. The Fool is in the stocks?
Good! As you go, fetch Ranulet, that toad!
Get him from out his opulent abode -
tell him to hurry, on him be a pox!”

“Attends! To horse, each knight!
Venez! The land to scour!
Sans pitié! Rise this hour!
Ce chateau! By the light!”

The guardsmen move as one; they know the cost
of failing to respond at once, as told;
not one of them could count on growing old
if Robert’s grip on power e’er be lost.
No fantasies have they their rule is loved;
and if the land once gain the upper hand,
all would be lost, and thus their time is spanned
enforcing Robert’s rule, all iron-gloved.
Sir Robert wanders off to meet the mage
out in the courtyard by the tower of guard.
Comes running Ranulet, that lump of lard,
off to the stocks, tomorrow’s grisly stage.
The mage, the knight, the one who played the Fool;
torturer, villain, King denied his rule.

“Well then, King Fool! These stocks a merry throne,
whence you shall issue sage and wise decrees!
Spend the night chanting fancies on the breeze -
Ranulet shall be glad his skills to hone.
Surely you know his reputation well,
since you have mummed and flattered round my seat;
unto our sorcerous friend you are but meat;
flayed, stretched, skinned, boiled and burned, you’ll enter hell!
Was the girl worth it? Mincing, prancing love –
not consummated, fearing wrath of God –
silly romantic nonsense find I odd;
what did you gain from her, or from above?
Killing her served to find out if that knight
truly was Arthur’s, or upheld my right!”

King Giles returned no word. What was to say?
Nothing he said would see him through the day.

“Well then, my man! How much can Giles be tried,
ere his poor body give him death’s release?
Tell me, how long before the torture cease?
Finally on a fire his frame be fried!”

“Sire, by my arts the time be what you will;
but, if your mind is publicly to kill,
then the true limit’s what the crowd can bear,
till they from horror, broken, cease to stare.”

“Well then, King Fool! You’ve heard tomorrow’s tale.
Now you’ll reveal to me who hired Sir Mute –
for you have not the means to buy a lute –
tell me this night, or else I’ll make you wail.
No? I had thought not. Noble to the end,
Lionel was like you, full of vain regret.
Go to your bed and rest then, Ranulet -
early to wake, his trembling limbs to rend.
There, he has gone, then. Here we are alone.
Now I will give you one last chance to live!
Not that I care to pardon or forgive,
but for one cause I’ve many years made moan:
tell me where Blaise, the black magician, lies,
and with one cut I’ll spare you countless sighs.”

“Since we are now alone,
you, who did steal my throne,
had I but once have known
where Blaise might be;

even if funds be found
so we could hire that hound,
even to raise your mound,
I’d keep the fee.

Rather the kingdom slain,
never to rise again,
than by that sorcerer’s chain
would we be free.”

Sir Robert turned about and went within,
to plan all night a day of darkest sin.

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