Sir Topaz

THE FIRST FIT Listen, lords, with good intent, I'll truly tell of merriment, A pleasant story, as It's of a knight, a worthy gent 715 In battle and in tournament, His name was Sir Topaz. Where he was born lies distantly In Flanders far beyond the sea, Poperinghe was the place; 720 So noble was his father, free, And lord of all that land was he, As it was God's good grace. Sir Topaz grew, a doughty swain; His face was bread white, yet again 725 His lips red as a rose; His hue was scarlet dyed in grain, And I can say as sure as rain He had a seemly nose. Like saffron were his beard and crown 730 With hair that to his belt hung down, His shoes were hide of Spain; His hose of Bruges were colored brown, He wore a thinnish silken gown That cost him many a jane. 735 He'd hunt wild game such as the deer, Along the river he'd appear With gray goshawk for hawking; A perfect archer (pretty near), At wrestling he had not a peer, 740 Each ram he took a-walking. And many a maiden, bright in bower, Desired him--each impassioned hour She'd best have slept instead; For he was chaste, for all his power, 745 And sweet as is the bramble flower That bears the hip so red. It so befell upon a day, To tell you truly as I may, 750 Sir Topaz wished to ride; He got upon his steed of gray With lance in hand and rode away, A long sword by his side. He'd pricked his way before he ceased 755 Into a forest--many a beast Was there, both buck and hare; And as he pricked both north and east, He almost had, to say the least, A sorry bit of care. There herbs of various sizes grew, 760 It had setwall and licorice too, And many a clove to offer, And nutmeg like we put into Our ale (whether it's old or new) Or lay up in the coffer. 765 The birds sang, I can truly say, The sparrow-hawk and popinjay, A joy it was to hear; The thrush as well sang out his lay, The wood-pigeon upon the spray 770 Was singing loud and clear. Such lust in Sir Topaz had sprung When he heard how the thrush had sung, He pricked as if insane; His fair steed sweat, so sharply stung, 775 Till like a wet rag to be wrung, His sides one bloody stain. Sir Topaz, too, tired from the chase, From pricking round at such a pace With fierce heart so amazing; 780 So in the soft grass of the place He lay, and gave his steed a space To rest and do his grazing. "Saint Mary, bless me!" then said he. "What ails this love that's binding me 785 With head and heart so sore? I dreamt through all the night, pardie, An elf-queen would my lover be And sleep beneath my gore. "An elf-queen surely I will love, 790 For in this world none's worthy of My love--no woman will I take In town; All other women I forsake, For to an elf queen I'll betake, 795 In dale and over down!" His saddle he was quickly on, Went pricking over stile and stone, An elf-queen for to see, Till so far riding had he gone 800 That he found, in a land alone, The Fairyland, country so wild; For in that land none of their own Dared to go near this knight unknown, 805 Neither wife nor child. But then a giant came to vaunt, One who was named Sir Elephant, A perilous man indeed; He told him, "Child, by Termagaunt, 810 If you don't prick out of my haunt, At once I'll slay your steed With mace. For here the queen of Fairyland, With harp and pipe and all her band, 815 Is dwelling in this place." The child replied, "As I may thrive, Tomorrow with you I will strive When I have all my gear, And I am hoping, par ma fay, 820 That by this lance that I display You'll sorely suffer here; Your maw I'll pierce in two, if that I may, Before it's fully prime of day, 825 You shall not win or draw." Sir Topaz drew back quick and fast As stones at him this giant cast With slingshot worth bewaring; The child Sir Topaz from the scrape 830 Through grace of God made his escape, And through his own good bearing. Now listen, lords, yet to my tale That's merrier than a nightingale, I'll whisper up and down 835 How Sir Topaz, so trim and hale, Now pricking over hill and dale Has come again to town. His merry men commanded he To make both game and melody, 840 For he would have to fight A giant whose heads numbered three, All for the love and jollity Of one who shone so bright. "Have come," he said, "the minstrelsy, 845 And jesters telling tales for me, While I arm as I must; Romances that are royal, Of pope as well as cardinal, Of love as well as lust." 850 They fetched him sweet fruit of the vine, A bowl of mead came with the wine, And spicery for zest Like gingerbread and cumin fine And licorice, all to combine 855 With sugar of the best. He dressed as white as any seen In linen that was fine and clean, Then breeches and a shirt; A tunic next was his avail, 860 And over that a coat of mail To shield himself from hurt; And over that a fine hauberk That was all wrought of Jewish work, Strong-plated, too, at that; 865 And over that his coat of arms So lily-white, against the harms That he must then combat. The shield he bore was gold and red, Emblazoned on it a boar's head, 870 A carbuncle beside; And then he swore on ale and bread How "that great giant shall be dead, Betide what shall betide!" His jambeaux tough and leathery, 875 His sword's sheath was of ivory, His helmet brassy bright; His saddle was made of whalebone, His bridle like the sun that shone Or moon at brightest light. 880 Of finest cypress was his spear (That bode of war, no peace was here), The head was sharply ground; The steed he rode was dappled gray, And it would amble on its way 885 So gently all around The land. Listen, my lords, for here's a fit, And if you would have more of it I'll take it right in hand. 890 THE SECOND FIT Now shut your mouth, for charity, Sir knight as well as lady free, And listen to my spell; Of battle and of chivalry And lady's love, as you will see, 895 At once to you I'll tell. Men tell romances, strong and mild, Both of Ypotis and Horn Child, Of Bevis and Sir Guy, Of Lybeaus and Playndamour, 900 But Sir Topaz the flower wore Of royal chivalry. His valiant steed he was astride, Upon his way he seemed to glide Like sparks out of the flame; 905 As for his crest, it was a tower In which was stuck a lily flower-- God shield him, none to maim! And so adventurous in his powers, He slept in no house after hours 910 But slept out in his hood; His pillow was his helmet bright, And his horse fed nearby at night On herbs both fine and good. He drank spring water as withal 915 That knight did named Sir Perceval, So worthy in his wear, Till on a day--

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