Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Monday, June 2, 2008

Part IV: Journey to a Tourney - A Peasant's Experience

Arthur raced along the dirt road as fast as his nimble legs would take him. He’d finished his duties in the field in just enough time to hopefully make it to the list fields before too many of the jousts were completed.

It was his favorite part of a tourney. Well, that and the nice big jug of ale and leg of fowl he’d inhale.

He prayed he wasn’t too late. Whoever won the joust today, he was going to beg to allow him to be his kipper. Aye, he knew it would be hard to gain his employ, kippers were fast losing their popularity with chivalry taking the front row. But if that were the case, maybe he could become a servant of the knights, even if it only meant shining the armor. He was sure he couldn’t be a squire, and knew he’d never be a knight. Only kings and royalty could knight peasants. Even if he were to become some sort of assistant to the knight, that still placed him no where near King Edward II… However the king was known to favor lower-born vassals than those born of nobility. That was definitely something to think about.

The life in the fields was no place he wanted to be. At five and ten years of age, he’d already figured that much out. Now he wanted to serve a knight. He’d enjoy seizing the armour and other accoutrements from fallen knights. He’d even learn to fight. And if the mighty knight took mercy on him, and gave him the duty of kipper, he would be forever in the man’s debt.

His mother, before she’d passed had, often told him she’d named him Arthur, after King Arthur of Camelot. She’d brewed in him that he could be better than the sorry life she’d been able to give him. And then she’d passed, not six months ago. Poor sorrow filled woman.

Now he was alone, since his father had died shortly before her mother. Being the youngest and only boy in his family, his five older sisters had already married and had babes of their own.

He vowed on her deathbed, that he would find a better life for himself. It was then word of his master, Lord Gloucester’s tournament came about, and he knew just how to make a better life for himself. Since the winner was to be the new Captain of the Guard to his lordship, Arthur felt certain he’d be able to convince Lord Gloucester to give him up as a field hand. It wasn’t like he’d be leaving the service of his lordship anyway. In fact, he’d be adding the lord’s safety. That was just how he planned to persuade him too.

The surrounding fields of the tilt-yard were filled with knights, squires, horse masters and amourers. Practicing, retrieving, filling, and grooming. Arthur felt a surge of excitement. He’d made it just in time!

Finding a nearby bucket of water by some knight’s horses he dipped his hands in to wash the grime away. He wiped the dust from his rough woolen tunic and stockings, using some of the water to scrape away some stains. It had been at least seven months since his garments had been washed…and he only had the one pair.

Running his wet hands through his hair, he hoped he looked presentable enough when he introduced himself to the knight.

“Any idea when the jousts are startin’?” Arthur asked a squire as he walked through the throngs of people.

“’Bout an hour,” he said before scurrying off.

Arthur couldn’t wait to be rushing about doing his new masters duties. Oh the rush of it! Fulfilling his dreams, what he was born to do!

A minstrel strolling by stopped Arthur. “And what be yer name laddie?”

“Arthur,” he replied, not sure why the minstrel would stop for him.

“Arthur, eh? You look in a hurry, might I entertain you before you scurry?”

“I have naught to offer ya,” Arthur said plainly.

“’Tis just as well, I’m new and need to practice a few.”

Arthur stifled a laugh and the minstrel’s attempts to rhyme.

“Suit yourself.”

The minstrel tapped his foot, and began a ballad…

(Borrowed from the Poet’s Corner, website sited at the end.)

"As noble Sir Arthur one morning did ride,
With his hounds at his feet, and his sword by his side,
He saw a fair maid sitting under a tree,
He asked her name, and she said 'twas Mollee.

'Oh, charming Mollee, you my butler shall be,
To draw the red wine for yourself and for me!
I'll make you a lady so high in degree,
If you will but love me, my charming Mollee!

'I'll give you fine ribbons, I'll give you fine rings,
I'll give you fine jewels, and many fine things;
I'll give you a petticoat flounced to the knee,
If you will but love me, my charming Mollee!'

'I'll have none of your ribbons, and none of your rings,
None of your jewels, and other fine things;
And I've got a petticoat suits my degree,
And I'll ne'er love a married man till his wife dee.'

'Oh, charming Mollee, lend me then your penknife,
And I will go home, and I'll kill my own wife;
I'll kill my own wife, and my bairnies three,
If you will but love me, my charming Mollee!'

'Oh, noble Sir Arthur, it must not be so,
Go home to your wife, and let nobody know;
For seven long years I will wait upon thee,
But I'll ne'er love a married man till his wife dee.'

Now seven long years are gone and are past,
The old woman went to her long home at last;
The old woman died, and Sir Arthur was free,
And he soon came a-courting to charming Mollee.

Now charming Mollee in her carriage doth ride,
With her hounds at her feet, and her lord by her side:
Now all ye fair maids take a warning by me,
And ne'er love a married man till his wife dee. "

Arthur didn’t quite know what to make of the ballad…now at least he knew two noblemen with the same name…

“Thank ya for listening!” the minstrel called after him as Arthur hurried through the crowd. “Was it any good?”

“Aye!” He yelled without turning back. He wanted to make sure he got that big jug of ale, and a steamy leg of fowl before the jousts started. He didn’t want to miss a thing!

He patted his pocket where his coins jingled and smiled. “I’ll have a jug o’ale,” he said smiling at the brewer.

“Ye got the coin fer it, boy?”

“Aye.” He dug into his pocket and handed the man one of his coins.

Taking a swig of his ale, he sighed. His day was going splendidly so far. Now, onto the fowl leg. He weaved his way through the crowd, sipping on his jug, and watching the entertainments. As he waited in line for meat—the aroma was delectable—he observed a nearby bear-baiting.

The large bear stood on its hind legs, chained to post in the middle of a marked off circle. The crowd stood back as four large and snarling hunting dogs were let loose on the fearsome creature. He swatted at them, sending one of the dogs through the air, its yelp of pain was quickly silenced as it landed, either dead or unconscious on the ground, far out reach of the bear.

The other three dogs either not sensing their own danger, or angry over the fourth dog’s injuries, crept low to the ground, slowly gaining inches on the bear. They circled him; their mouths pulled back, saliva dripping, canines bared. An ominous noise emanated from them, growling that meant most certain death.

The bear didn’t seem the least frightened by their aggressive behavior, and instead, opened his mouth wide, and letting loose a roar that chilled Arthur to the bone. This was a fight to the death, and he wasn’t sure who would win.

“Boy, what ya want?” His attention turned back to the sweaty cook.

“I’ll have a leg o’fowl.”

The cook simply wiggled his pudgy fingers, obviously wanting to be paid before he handed over the mouth-watering meat. Arthur eagerly dug in his pockets and produced the coin needed. He nearly spilled his jug of ale in his haste to sink his teeth into the juicy leg. Mmm… Absolutely delicious…

He rushed through the mob to make sure he had a good spot by the tilt-yard in which to observe the joust. He wouldn’t be allowed a seat, and although he was tall for his age, he’d yet to fully grow into his man’s body. He would need to have a space up close. Elbowing his way through, he made it to the front of the fence. He munched on the rest of his meat, and drank his ale until not a drop or bite were left.

Then he settled in to wait for the announcement of the knights, which didn’t take long. The fierce warriors were all the more impressive on horseback as they rode into the lists. Murmurs went through the crowd as the knight called Devereux bowed to the lord and his lady. He tried to listen, but couldn’t make out what the mass of peasants were saying. All he could make out were clipped words, “bold,” “favor,” “tokens…” What could it all mean?

Arthur’s eyes glued to the field, as the knights began to charge. He was mesmerized by the event. It had been several years since he’d been to a joust. He recalled bits and pieces, but most of all he’d remembered the thrill of the event, and it was that feeling that now raced through his veins.

“Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!” he shouted with the crowd. It look liked Sir Devereux would be his champion.

“Whoop! Devereux! Huzzah!” The crowd around him joined him in his cheers. They’d seen it too.
He needed to practice what he would say when he approached Sir Devereux later. He hoped he could convey all he needed to. The might knight had no idea how one yay or nay for him, could change the course of Arthur’s life.

Ballad Borrowed from : http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/ballad01.html#006


Pat McDermott said...

I could hear those coins jingling in Arthur's pockets, Eliza. Entertaining excerpt! One that I initially left by mistake in the comments for your last post. But it's in the right spot now!

Shannon Robinson said...

Wonderful!! Absolutely perfect imagery - especially the bear scene. That was intense. As always, great job Eliza. This is truly going to be a wonderful story.

Eliza Knight said...

Thank you ladies!!