The Pride and The Grace of Days


With apologies to Leslie Charteris and Sir Patrick Spens.

  A poem of the Twentieth Century.


“The King sits in the silent town,

Sipping his China tea:

‘And where shall I find a fearless knight

To bear a sword for me?


‘The beasts are leagued about my gates,

The vultures seek the slain,

Till a perfect knight shall rise and ride

To find the Grail again.’


Then up and spake a Minister,

Sat at the King’s right knee:

‘Basil de Bathmat Dilswipe Boil

Has a splendid pedigree.


‘His brother is Baron de Bathmat Boil,

Who owns the Daily Squeal,

And everybody knows he is

Impeccably genteel.’


‘Has he been with my men-at-arms,

Has he borne scars for me,

That I should take this Basil Boil

Among my chivalry?’


‘Sire, in a war some years ago

You called him to the fray,

And he would have served you loyally,

But his conscience bade him nay.


‘And they took him before the judges,

Because he did rebel,

And he lay a year in prison

To save his soul from hell.’


‘Then what have I for a portent,

What bring you me for a sign,

That I should take this coistril

To be a knight of mine?’


‘Sire, we are bringing in a bill

Which the Daily Squeal could foil,

And it might be wise to wheedle

Baron de Bathmat Boil.’


Then the King rose up in anger

And seared them with his gaze:

‘You  have  taken  the  wine and  the  laughter,

The pride and the grace of days;


‘The last fair woman is faded,

And the last man dead for shame,

But a dog from the gutter shall serve me

Before this man you name.’


They heard, and did not answer;

They heard, and did not bend;

And he saw their frozen stillness

And knew it was the end.


Basil de Bathmat Dilswipe Boil

They brought upon a day,

And the King gave him the accolade

And turned his face away.


And saw beyond his windows

The tattered flags unfurled;

And on his brow was a crown of iron   

And the weariness of the world.”

– Leslie Charteris [ Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin ]

Is chivalry now dead, or just anathema?

In 1930 the, oh, so modern, British thought that internationalism had replaced patriotism. That martial valor was an evil relic of a primitive day. War had been proven too stupid for any to want or fear.

A decade after this was written an irrational, aggressive force plunged them into a war against their will. After their concerted attempt to placate that force.

That ridiculously primitive dagger that I use as a more modern symbol of the sword of chivalry became a tool so useful and iconic that half of the world copied it during the conflagration that followed. That medieval device was modern and relevant.  We are not so advanced as we believe.

Of Course Charteris was updating another poem.


          Sir Patrick Spens

The King sits in Dunferline toun, 
Drinkin the blude-reid wine 
'O whaur will A get a skeely skipper 
Tae sail this new ship o mine?' 

O up and spak an eldern knight, 
Sat at the king's richt knee; 
'Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor 
That ever sailt the sea.' 

Our king has written a braid letter 
And sealed it wi his hand, 
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens, 
Wis walkin on the strand. 

'Tae Noroway, to Noroway, 
Tae Noroway ower the faem; 
The King's dauchter o Noroway, 
Tis thou maun bring her hame.' 

The first word that Sir Partick read 
Sae loud, loud laucht he; 
The neist word that Sir Patrick read 
The tear blindit his ee. 

'O wha is this has duin this deed 
An tauld the king o me, 
Tae send us out, at this time o year, 
Tae sail abuin the sea? 

'Be it wind, be it weet, be it hail, be it sleet, 
Our ship maun sail the faem; 
The King's dauchter o Noroway, 
Tis we maun fetch her hame.' 

They hoystit their sails on Monenday morn, 
Wi aw the speed they may; 
They hae landit in Noroway 
Upon a Wodensday. 

'Mak ready, mak ready, my merry men aw! 
Our gude ship sails the morn.' 
'Nou eer alack, ma maister dear, 
I fear a deadly storm.' 

'A saw the new muin late yestreen 
Wi the auld muin in her airm 
And gif we gang tae sea, maister, 
A fear we'll cam tae hairm.' 

They hadnae sailt a league, a league, 
A league but barely three, 
When the lift grew dark, an the wind blew loud 
An gurly grew the sea. 

The ankers brak, an the topmaist lap, 
It was sic a deadly storm. 
An the waves cam ower the broken ship 
Til aw her sides were torn. 

'Go fetch a web o silken claith, 
Anither o the twine, 
An wap them into our ship's side, 
An let nae the sea cam in.' 

They fetcht a web o the silken claith, 
Anither O the twine, 
An they wappp'd them roun that gude ship's side, 
But still the sea cam in. 

O laith, laith were our gude Scots lords 
Tae weet their cork-heelt shuin; 
But lang or aw the play wis playd 
They wat their hats abuin. 

And mony wis the feather bed 
That flattert on the faem; 
And mony wis the gude lord's son 
That never mair cam hame. 

O lang, lang may the ladies sit, 
Wi their fans intae their hand, 
Afore they see Sir Patrick Spens 
Come sailin tae the strand! 

And lang, lang may the maidens sit 
Wi their gowd kames in their hair, 
A-waitin for their ane dear loes! 
For them they'll see nae mair. 

Half-ower, half-ower to Aberdour, 
Tis fifty fathoms deep; 
An there lies gude Sir Patrick Spens, 
Wi the Scots lords at his feet!
Oh, and Amanda, that is Scots. 
Not unlike what some of your ancestors spoke in Crempsie 
a bit west of Edinburgh.
Gaelic you could not read without considerable study.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s