A Malady of Arms

Swatch
The Arms of Sir Swatch of Wristwatch

 

A Malady of Arms

Sir Lucas Drake was a dragon of a knight:
His scale-mail always polished bright,
Charging headlong into battle,
Stalling left and swooping right
To circle round and dive again –
His wind-filled cloak, his flying mane,
His sword as sharp as any talon,
Raining over foes with death
To make their sabres rattle.
He also had a fiery breath
From quaffing claret by the gallon.

Sir Lucas Drake was a dragon of a knight,
Yet his coat of arms would dishonour a sergeant:
Not for him a griffon argent,
Nor a wyvern passant gules
His blazon, rather, came a cropper,
Listing not a battle-stopper,
But a shield befitting fools:
‘Azure, a mallard with head vert,
Naiant contourny proper’.
Oh, how that blazon hurt !
A green-headed duck upon a blue ground,
Swimming the wrong-way round.

Sir Lucas Drake was a dragon of a knight,
Though he bore much wit from his brothers-in-sword
Who rebuked his arms with much delight –
“It seems our Drake bethinks he a lord:
For look: Sir Luke, by his shield, is a Duc !”
Sir Lucas would curse “That’s just my luck,
To share a name with so artless a bird.
I’m one quack away from a chicken’s cluck !
What forebear had I who was so absurd
That such a pitiful nickname stuck ?
It should be a lion or a viper-snake,
Or a dragon – then they’d bloody quake !
But no, I’m a Drake – I’m a ruddy duck !”

 

 

A Malady of Arms – The Herald’s Cut

Sir Lucas Drake was a dragon of a knight,
But never one for courtly prattle.
Back at home, he spread his wings
Across his mountainous estate,
And hunted game and sheep and cattle,
Anything to fill his plate.
Never one for kissing rings,
Or hearing yet again the jest
The ladies made at his family crest,
So he’d retreat to his hilltop clouds
Away from kings and madding crowds.
Depressed, he’d often spend his days
Within his keep, atop his gold,
Asleep against the winter’s cold
As jealously he’d guard each chattel.

 

 

The second poem is an early verse which I had to cut, so I thought I’d include it here on the B-side.

Can I say how much I hate the language of heraldry – write in in English, or write it in French, but this weird Norman-middle English hybrid is…well, come to think of it, it’s the kind of snobbery we’d expect from people who still think that coats of arms matter. I love them for their history, but we’re not living in history.

The facing-right bit is rare. Since most knight were right handed, they held their shield in their left hand, so for the charge (animal) to be looking forwards, it has to face to the left. Fine for in battle, but otherwise looking like it’s facing backwards, and possibly retreating !

Belgian Lessons

berries blueberry close up delicious
Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Pexels.com

 

Belgian Lessons

I met a gent one day in Ghent
Within his chic café.
He brought a viennoiserie,
And croissants, and sorbet.

And as he served his fine hors d’oeuvres,
He wished “Bon appetit !
Aha !, I thought, your phrase has taught
Your mother tongue to me.

My French is good, perhaps I should
Plutôt parler Français.
Of course !  Très bon !  “I say, garçon !
L’addition, s’il vous plaît.”

But Gallic chat was falling flat –
Had I just caused offence ?
But then he smiled and said, unriled,
“Ten euros, sixty cents.”

He’d rumbled me !  My tasse de thé
Had shown my rosbif-hood.
“Don’t worry, sir, for de rigueur
My English speak is good.”

My grand faux pas was too bourgeois,
My cheeks were burning rouge.
“Your French is fine,” said he, “Not mine –
For I was born in Bruges.”

“I feared as much” I said.  “This Dutch
To me is all but Greek.”
“Pardon, meneer, in Flanders here,
It’s Flemish that we speak.”

Mais oui, monsieur, if you prefer;
A patriot and true !
But help me out and talk about
The change between the two.”

“Each verb and noun when written down”
He said, “is much the same.
But when they’re sung upon our tongue,
It’s quite a diff’rent game.”

“Well, très bien to that, my man,
Indeed, it’s worth a verse !
I’ll write it yet, our tête-à-tête,
With phrases interspersed.

But wait !  Alas, it cannot pass,
If they aren’t en Français.
I have no crutch of schoolboy Dutch
With which to sound au fait.

My masterplan will bring rien
Veloren hoop, I say !
Oh fame, adieu !  Cruel déjà vu !
The Flems have told me nee !”

 

 

Stowaways

advertising alphabet business communication
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Stowaways

I am the B in doubt and in womb,
I am the G in gnostic and brougham,
The P that’s in coup, and in pseudo and pneum-,
The N there in autumn, the dumb L in Hulme,
The W lurking in answer and whom,
The E that is freeloading gaffe.
And I am the H and the T in whistle,
The K in knife and the C in scissel,
The S in debris and the comma in this’ll,
The F in lieutenant and laugh.

 

 

A poem about silent letters.  Because spelling in English is always an adventure.