The Ballad of Sir Bedivere and the Pagan

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The Ballad of Sir Bedivere and the Pagan

It fell upon a Christmas tide,
  King Arthur sat at meat;
Without there blew a lusty blast
  With snow, and hail, and sleet.
 
“Now by St. Dunstan,” quoth the King,
  Quaffing good Rhenish wine,
“I verily doubt there is one cursed
  Pagan, south of Tyne.”
 
And scarcely had he said these words,
  When a knock on the door rang out
And a man-at-arms approached to say
  That a lady stood without.
 
“ ’Tis well,” said Arthur, “let her in.
  This savours of a chance
For one who is yet an untried knight
  To flesh his maiden lance.”
 
The door was opened, in there came
  A maid of queenly grace,
Who though but poorly habited
  Near shamed the Sun’s fair face.
 
And she advanced full timidly
  And to the King she said:
“I crave thy help in this my plight
  Who am but a poor maid.
 
“My father was a gallant knight,
  But he was foully slain,
And my brothers were taken captive,
  And bound by many a chain.”
 
Then waxed King Arthur very wroth.
  “Who did this craven deed?”
“It was mine Uncle Hildebrand
  Who owns no other creed
 
“Save that of the false Mahomet
  To whom he bows the knee
And turns him towards Mecca
  For all the world to see.”
 
“Now who of all ye goodly knights
  Will boldly sally out
To slay this follower of Mahound
  In sword or tilting bout?”
 
Then flashed two hundred knightly brands
  Of Weyland’s tempered steel
And the great hall shook with the shout,
  “Let me the Paynim kill.”
 
“Go thou, Sir Bedivere,” quo’ the King.
    “And saddle thou thy steed,
And do thou boldly in this quest;
  I wish thee now God’s speed.”
 
Then forth rode bold Sir Bedivere,
  The damsel by his side,
And through the pleasant land of Wales
  They speedily did ride.
 
Until they came to Castle Gore,
  Which stood in fair Glen Ord,
And there he ‘lighted at the gate
  And knockèd with his sword.
 
“Come forth, come forth, thou Paynim false,
  Come forth and fight with me
And I will show thee that I am
  A better man than thee.”
 
Now when the Paynim heard these words
  His craven spirit quailed,
And he prayed unto Mahomet
  That he might not be assailed.
 
“Come forth, thou caitiff,” once again
  Cried bold Sir Bedivere,
“I see thy craven spirit fears
  The Sacred Sign I bear.”
 
Then drawing forth his cross-hilt blade
  He rushed into the hall
And hewing off the Paynim’s head,
  Pinned him against the wall.
 
Then doffed he low his plumèd helm,
  And to the lady said:
“Now welcome to thine own domain
  For Hildebrand is dead.”
 
Then loosed they all the captives
  Full fourteen score and four
Who in the dungeons many a day
  Had languished very sore.
 
Then they returned to Camelot
  A happy thankful band
And the brothers of Sir Bedivere
  Did give their sister’s hand.
 
And it was a merry morning
  All the birds were glad and gay,
When the happy wedding party
  To the palace made their way.
 
And the belfries in sweet Camelot
  Rang out a merry peal
As in the Chapel’s high Chancèl
  The wedded pair did kneel.