The Ballad of the Coins.
My love she gave me coins of gold
Three coins she gave to me.
‘And with each coin there comes a task
To prove your love to me.’
‘Take this first coin and with it go
To roam both land and sea.
And with this specie obtain the spark
Taking then this first gold coin
I left with sword in hand;
To find for her creation’s spark
I’d venture through the land!
For three whole days and three whole nights
I searched with fevered pace
Not once did I espy the fire
Of invention’s artful grace.
So I, with heavy heart and mind,
Retraced my weary path
And doomed, so young, to loveless life
Composed loves epitaph.
But glancing up as I strode on
I spied a squalid inn. And as
Bad spirits of a feather be
I deigned to enter in.
That day I met Sir Cerrenan
(This inn he did frequent)
And spurning generation’s gap
We joined in merriment
Many a toast we offered there
Loud were the songs we sung
I told him of my quest most fair
And how it had begun
With eyes ablaze he face me then
(His voice I hardly heard)
‘You squander youth and waste your love
For this task most absurd?
Oh what a waste
Of youthful face
Is this task most absurd!’
‘Go home, go home most foolish blade
Finish not this quest,
For absence makes the head go soft
Heed my sententiousness!’
Taking pity on the man
I gave him then the coin,
And aching head I homeward turned
My love for to re-join.
But when I reached my loved one’s door
At once she asked of me
‘Why is it you brings not the fire
And kneeling there before her fair
I told my journey’s tale
Of how I came without the flame
To stand before her failed.
Having heard the story’s end
I rose at her behest
And giving me a second coin
She spoke my second quest:
‘With this second coin I give
This second task I fashion –
Bring to me, to prove thy love,
That same dear love’s compassion.’
‘Go hence and leave this place once more
And take this kiss with thee.
This time I ask, while on this task,
Keep thy sobriety!’
Then heading West from my loves side
I travelled towards the sea,
And on that road a mastiff bitch
Did give me company.
At rest around the campfire’s glow
The hound and I did play
And when I slept she closely kept
The nights dark foes away.
And as the days turned into weeks
I loved my mastiff well
And glad of her companionship
I named her Jezzabel.
For seven days then seven more
We travelled until we
Clearing icy mountain tops
At last beheld the sea.
Then coming to the deep’s dark edge
My Jezzabel and I
Were filled with awe and wonder
As the waves arose on high.
But Ah! The smell that filled the air
And set the wind afree
No mortal tongue could ‘ere describe
That ocean’s majesty.
With Jezzabel pressed to my side
Both long and still we stood
And let the sparkling salt spray spume
Fill soul and chill the blood.
Then turning North we journeyed on
With humbled heart and mind
And with the fading of the sun
A village we did find.
Heeding then my lovers words
The inn we passed it by,
And came at last to a weathered barn
Beneath a starry sky.
Thus entering through the old oak door
My strength at last did sap
And lay we down upon the floor
My pups head in my lap.
Oh blessed sleep that fills men’s souls
With dreams of heavenly grace –
For as I slept I saw once more
My loved ones joyous face.
And as this vision I beheld
(Oh tantalizing sleep!)
For even as she shone up there
I heard my loved one speak:
‘I miss thee oh my gallant youth
Please hurry back to me,
Search quickly to expose thy loves
Compassion within thee.’
Awakening then, the vision left
And sunlight filled my eyes,
And Jezzabel did lick my face
As slowly I did rise.
Thus spurred once more by my loves words
I set about my quest –
To lay a claim to that hearts flame
That beat within her breast.
So calling faithful hound to me,
An inland course we wove
And followed by a chill East wind
Our tired bodies drove.
For six more days we travelled on
As dark clouds filled the blue,
Until on dawn of seventh day
The thunderstorm broke through.
We entered then a wooded copse
To shield the storm most foul,
But even as we rested there
My hound began to growl.
Leaping up, my Jezzabel
Her yellow teeth displayed,
And seeing that all was not well
I swiftly drew my blade.
Then gazing through the gloomy depths
The trees they came alive,
For closing in with evil grin
I counted bandits five.
The faithful Jezzabel charged forth
And I charged at her side
And in our bloody battle wrath
Those evil five men died.
And panting hard I sheathed my sword
My arms awash with gore,
Then turned to praise my loving hound
And froze at what I saw:
Sweet hound she lay upon the ground
Her fur with blood festooned
For there across her supple back
Was gouged a streaming wound.
And kneeling by my mastiffs side
She opened up her eyes,
And seeing fear upon my face
My Jezz she tried to rise.
But failing once and failing twice
She tried and tried again
Until her bodies crimson tear
Did close her eyes with pain.
And lying back and whimpering
She turned to look at me
And deep within those gentle eyes
I heard her silent plea.
Thus drawing sword once more did I
A gentle kiss impart
And then with tortured cry I plunged
My blade into her heart.
Oh how can I describe
The utter loneliness I felt
My body shook with anguished sobs
As by my Jezz I knelt.
There I stayed in mourning
Till the setting of the sun,
I dug a grave not stopping once
Until my task was done.
Then travelling onward into town
My every breath a moan
I took my lovers second coin
And bought my hound a stone.
Thus having set the stone above
The place where Jezz was laid,
I turned my thoughts ahomeward
And my final farewell bade.
It was a very different youth
That finally sounded home
A youth no more: that spirit tore
When I returned alone.
[…to be continued…]