Ben Oostdam story # 233


(by John K. Nixon)

’Twas in the jolly Mermaid Tavern where
Sir Toby Shakingstaff was quaffing beer,
With all his drinking buddies gathered there
His many tales of derring-do to hear.

The Proud Sir Prancelot was one of those
Who listened from his favourite window seat.
The knight then made disparaging remarks
Concerning Toby’s dragon-slaying feat.

Sir Toby’s hackles, now unshackled, rose.
You slander me with calumny unfair!
Quoth he, the veins tumescent in his nose.
The facts are known. I slew it fair and square.

But Prancelot was unrepentant still,
As insults and recriminations flew.
The noble knights appeared to lack the will
To listen to the other’s point of view.

A peaceful end seemed unimagined now
That passions had been fatally aroused.
And so it was decided that the row
Would best be settled in a public joust.

Debate ensued to choose the time and place,
Results of which were finally revealed:
At half past noon the following day upon
A plot of land in Farmer Jenkins’ field.

Next day a crowd assembled to observe
The combatants don armour and chain mail,
Then wish them all the luck that they deserved,
In hopes that in the combat they prevail.

Among the festive throng that lined the plot
Some could articulate and others not.
But those that could did agitate a lot
For Toby Shakingstaff or Prancelot.

Meanwhile the knights, with their supporters’ aid,
Had spent some time preparing for the bout.
To demonstrate that they were not afraid,
They both were now well fortified with stout.

The tipsy knights now in their saddles swayed
And struggled to discern just what was what.
While Toby fought to still his shaking staff
His challenger did wave his lance a lot.

As each contestant through his visor peered
He noticed that two images appeared.
He knew not which was false and which was true.
The challenge was to sort out who was who.

Some sixty yards did separate the pair
While waiting for the starting trumpet’s sound.
At last the signal came to start th’ affair
And horse and rider charged across the ground.

I know not if it was by chance or not
But somehow both combatants hit the spot.
As each lance splintered on the opponent’s shield
Both men were flung spread-eagled on the field.

The knights, now groggy, stumbled to their feet
And seized their broken lances to fight on.
A sorry sight it was to see them meet
In combat, without horse to sit upon.

As Bold Sir Toby and Sir Prancelot
Fought on with broken staffs to no avail.,
The raining blows did tend to glance a lot
From off the dented armour and chain mail.

Sir Toby ducked and weaved t’escape the thrusts
Delivered by the Proud Sir Prancelot.
In turn he fought with such persistence that
His foe was forced perforce to dance a lot

The racket that ensued was foul to hear.
Spectators clapped their ears against the din.
With all the dust and noise ’twas none too clear
Which combatant would lose and which would win.

The crowd allowed the judges to decide
Between Sir Toby and Sir Prancelot.
But suddenly one more impatient cried
Who is the victor, pray, and who is not?

The judges now were tangled in a knot.
One half had cast their votes for Prancelot.
Meanwhile the Bold Sir Toby Shakingstaff
Was duly favoured by the other half.

The judges then declared the joust a draw,
At which good news the battered knights embraced.
Their former friendship now had been restored,
And Prancelot’s insult had been erased.

The moral of the story seems to say:
When challenged to a mediaeval joust,
’Tis wise before engaging in the fray
T’ensure that you are well and truly soused!

BLO copied it 20070116 - stories
Thanks, John, for letting me copy this bibulous ballad!