A Ballad of Sir Kay

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A Ballad of Sir Kay

from: Collected Poems (Pp. 508 - 511)  1913

Part I

WHAT, ho?
Kay the Seneschal,
Fare ye forth in the woods alone?
Yea, 'sooth,
And who shall hinder me?
Hardier Knight, by the Rood, there is none!

Tangled thorn, and the gliding snake,
     And the whistle of owls he liketh not,
Nor the glimmer of eyes in the ashen brake,
     Nor the hooves of tuskèd boars, God wot!

Wit ye well
A giant is bellowing!
Take to thy heels thou brave Sir Kay!
Ride! Hide!
Belike he is following:
Knights are his caudle, and fattened to flay.

Eftsoons the woeful echoes die, —
     The birds are merry again, I ween:
Braver Knight there is none than I:
     Creep on thy belly the boughs between.

Hush! Ho!
Logrin is lying there, —
Logrin the giant, shaggy of head:
King's son
Lohot beside him:
Which is the sleeper? Which is the dead?

Creep and crawl, a blade in thy teeth, —
     Reach ye an arm, and sever a neck.
Doughtily done! — Now delve in the heath:
     Bury a body, and no man shall reck.

Hack thy shield,
Gallop to Camelot,
Brag of the buffets ye got in the fray;
Look ye, Knights,
Tied to my saddle bow
Head of the giant, slain by Sir Kay!


Part II

King Arthur sits at his table round,
     A year and a day hath passed and gone,
And Kay the Seneschal, still renowned,
     A second marvellous deed hath done:

Cometh a maiden, and in her hand
     A coffer, carven of gold ywis:
— O King, I have travelled many lands,
     But never a Knight may open this!

Stand forth, Sir Lancelot, quoth the King:
     Thou are full hardy and deft withal;
Right craftily shalt thou do this thing.
     — But, alack, it might not so befall.

Then followeth many a cunning elf, —
     Galahad, Bors and wight Gawain;
And last of them all the King himself:
     Nor ever the lid might open amain.

Then spake the lady: The saying is true
      "A mettlesome carle is he that shall come
To open the coffer," for lo he slew
     The hardiest knight in Christendom!

Quoth Arthur, Let call the brave Sir Kay:
     A coffer of gold for a giant's head,
In sooth were a guerdon meet to pay: —
     And the Seneschal nought thereto gainsaid.

Shout, Ho!
Kay the Seneschal,
Kay who Logrin the giant bestrid, —
Kay hath taken it,
Kay hath conquered it,
Kay hath opened the golden lid!

Grammercy, Knight, — King Arthur cried, —
     'Tis mickle fame that deed shall win!
— The coffer hath gotten a scroll inside,
     And the grimly head of a knight therein!

What, Ho!
Read ye the writing there!
"I AM SIR LOHOT: FOULLY I BLEED:
SLAIN ASLEEP:
LYING ON LOGRIN:
WHO OPENS THE COFFER OWNS TO THE DEED."

The first they saw of the bold Sir Kay
     Was a smile and an orgulous port;
The last they saw of the knight that day
     Was his heels as he fled the court.

*    *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Sing, Ho!
The story is told!
Rascals may thrive for a year and a day:
Shout, Ho!
In their coffers of gold
Are the head of a corpse and the heels of Sir Kay.