Sunday Poetry – Fainthearts

An anonymous poem this week about a fair lady & a knight (picture from here) who thinks he’s going to get his heart’s desire but is outwitted. If only he’d been bold instead of baffled! I always have questions about these ballads. Why was the knight out riding with two horses? Was he looking for an opportunity to take off with a willing young lady? Or did he make his squire walk?

Although the setting is medieval, the language & the repetition of “sir” sound more Victorian to me. The last two lines also remind me of the verse inscribed on the little Victorian box that Wilmet receives in Barbara Pym’s A Glass of Blessings. The gift is anonymous & Wilmet has a lovely time speculating as to who the giver might be.

The Baffled Knight

There was a knight, and he was young,
A riding along the way, sir,
And there he met a lady fair,
Among the cocks of hay, sir.

Quoth he, Shall you and I, lady,
Among the grass lye down a?
And I will have a special care
Of rumpling of your gown a.

‘If you will go along with me
Unto my father’s hall, sir,
You shall enjoy my maidenhead,
And my estate and all, sir.’

So he mounted her on a milk-white steed,
Himself upon another,
And then they rid upon the road,
Like sister and like brother.

And when she came to her father’s house,
Which was moated round about, sir,
She stepped straight within the gate,
And shut this young knight out, sir.

‘Here is a purse of gold,’ she said,
‘Take it for your pains, sir;
And I will send my father’s man
To go home with you again, sir.’

‘And if you meet a lady fair,
As you go thro the next town, sir,
You must not fear the dew of the grass,
Nor the trumpling of her gown, sir.

‘And if you meet a lady gay,
As you go by the hill, sir,
If you will not when you may,
You shall not when you will, sir.’

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