Long line assignment: Long lines, like a ballad, I can do! 🙂
This verse is based upon a story (by Mara Freeman) of the same name, that I heard a long time ago. The only way I could memorize it was to re-write it in rhyme. Enjoy!
There was a king of the Western Isles, who had an only son;
A fine, strong, handsome lad who answered to “Ian.”
Well, Ian could run like a hare in the heather, and hunt like the hawk, so swift —
Happy was he, in his father’s home, until there came a rift
Ian’s mother had died, and the King decided, to take another wife;
And she, too, was beautiful, but schemed to take Ian’s life —
Because she was jealous of the boy and wished to do him harm;
(This new queen was dark and powerful in magic spells and charm!).
Then one day, she got her chance, when the young prince hunting did go;
But found no game at all that day: only a blue falcon, so —
As it flew past him, on his way homeward, his arrow he then did aim;
Carefully at her (but she flew so swift) that only a blue feather came —
Fluttering down from her mighty wing to the forest floor;
So the Prince put the feather in his hunting-bag and returned to home, once more.
When the Queen saw him, she asked him, “What have you caught to-day?”
Ian handed her the blue feather, “Only this,” he did say.
Now, the Queen knew the feather was magical and as she took it, she cried;
“I am setting as crosses, and spells and decay, on the year applied —
“On you; that ye be not without, a pool within your shoe,
“Wet, filthy and cold, shall you be, until I get from you —
“The bird from whence this feather came,” the Wicked Queen did tell;
But the handsome Prince was not without some knowledge of magic as well!
“And you,” Ian cried, “I am setting, as crosses and spells and decay —
“Of the year; ye shall stand on the castle roof, facing whichever way —
“The wind blows; until I return,” and away Ian went to seek;
The magical bird, while the Evil Queen had found herself so weak,
Standing upon the castle roof, where the howlin’ cold wind did she face —
From the North, with its bitter freezing rains ravagin’ her place.
So, Ian travelled through the wildwoods, endlessly seeking the Blue —
Falcon; but not a trace could he find, of a bird with such a hue,
As the winter dusk came early and the little birds did fly;
From bush tops to rest ‘neath briar roots, as Ian stumbled by —
Through the blind, dark night quite hopeless and very much alone;
’til at last he did rest ‘neath a bramble bush, not far from the home —
Of a fox; “You’re a sorry sight, Ian, and what’s more a bad night did you choose;
“The hoof ‘n’ jaw of a sheep is all I have, but this supper I’ll share with you.”
They kindled a fire, roasted the meat, then later Ian did tell;
The fox of his quest, and Gillie Martin replied,”I knows where the falcon doth dwell!
“She’s in the house of the five-headed giant, five necks and five humps has he;
“And I’ll show you exactly where he lives and by morning there can you be.
“Then ask for work! Look after his birds, this I tell to you;
“And he may trust you enough to feed his beautiful falcon blue!
“Be good to her (very good to her!) and wait for the perfect time when —
“The giant goes out; and you can run, far away with her then.
“But of one thing you must take great care, not one of her feathers must touch;
“Anything of the household, or it won’t go as well as such —
“For you;” so Ian set off the next morn, and he came to the house of the man;
With five heads, five necks and five humps, then Ian hammered the door, which began:
“WHADDAYA WANT?!?” the giant roared, from a high window sill;
“Work!” shouted young Ian, standing e’er so still,
“What can ya do?” the five heads asked with a most curious air;
“I can tend pigs and I can tend cows, rake the much from the pen and the byre —
“And mash the bran, and toss the hay, feed the hens in the coop, as well;
“But I’m very good at feeding birds,” Prince Ian proudly did tell.
“It is the likes of you I want,” the five-headed man did blare;
Then he let the Prince inside his home and put him to work in there.
The Prince was a marvelous help to the giant, he had a wonderful way —
With beasts of all kinds; and t’was not too long before the big man, one day,
Let Ian tend his Blue Falcon, which the young prince did so well,
That the giant thought he could trust Ian, long enough to dwell —
Alone in the house; but as soon as he left, the prince grabbed the falcon and fled;
Swiftly for the door; but as he crossed the threshold, the bird saw the light and spread —
Her wings out; so that one feather, upon the door-post did touch;
And Ian was grabbed by the scruff of his neck, by the giant in a rush!
“So, ya wants me falcon, do ya?” he roared, “I would not give her to you;
“Unless you fetched me the White Sword of Light from the Seven Big Women, who —
“Live on the Isle of Jura!” then he kicked the prince out the door;
And when Ian picked himself up, brushed himself off, he was nose to nose once more —
With Gillie Martin; the nimble fox, who was hunting that early night;
“I see, you did not do as I said, and you’re now a sorry sight!
“And the Sun is going down, my friend, and what is more you chose —
“A bad night; I’ve only a ewe’s jaw for supper, but I’ll share it, I suppose.”
So they kindled a fire to cook the bone and quietly eat they did;
And early in the morning, it was the fox that said:
“I suppose I must tell you how *now* to get, the Sword of Light,” said he;
And they set off, at a brisk pace, together for the sea —
Shore; and the fox then told him,”Here’s what you must do:
“Ask the women for metal-polishing work (and do a good job of it too!),
“So well that they will entrust you, with the Sword of Light and when;
“You get the chance to run off with it, you must take great care then —
“Not to let it touch anything — in the house,” Gillie Martin did tell;
“For as I told you before, young prince, all will not go well.
“And now, I’ll take you to the Isle of Jura,” said the fox stepping into the wave;
“And how do you propose to do that?!?” Prince Ian had started to rave.
Then before his eyes, the prince beheld the rusty-red fox was gone;
And a little boat, floating gently, was at his side anon!
Ian leapt aboard not knowing which way his course to steer;
“Leave that to me,” Gillie Martin’s voice whispered in his ear!
Arriving at the Juran Isle, Prince Ian quickly did go;
To the house of the Seven Big Women, as the fox had told him so.
He pounded his fists upon the door, and a deep, dark echo parlayed —
His arrival; and a little conversation between the parties was made:
“WHADDAYA WANT?” the big women screamed as they wildly flung open the door;
“Work,” replied young Ian, looking up from the flagstone floor.
“What can ya do?” the Jurans then asked, staring down at him cold;
“I can burnish your cauldrons and saucepans bright, shine and polish your silver and gold —
“Your coppery kettles and candlesticks, regardless from which they were made;
“Make your carving-knives sparkle and gleam, I can, but I’m very good with a blade!”
“It’s the likes of you we want,” said the seven women of the Juran isle;
And the prince was so good at his polishing that the females started to smile —
At each other and say; “We should let him try to polish our Sword of Light.”
And so they did, but it was not long after, the women then took flight,
On a trip to the far side of the island, and no sooner had they fled;
Ian seized the sword, thrust it into its sheath, raised it onto his shoulder and said:
“We’re off!” but as he crossed the threshold, the point of the sheath did touch —
The lintel (which gave a horrid screech!) and the women ran back in a rush.
Up the path like a thunderin’ herd, the sword from him to take;
Before Ian had the chance to discover his most terrible mistake!
“We would not surrender the Sword of Light, to you unless you brought —
“To us the Bay Filly of Erin, of which the King has got!”
They had screamed hysterically, after kicking him down the strand;
And he caught, again, Gillie Martin’s eye, when he got up to spit out the sand —
From his mouth; as the laughing fox observed from a massive stone;
“You’ve made a right mess of things, haven’t you?” was his scolding tone.
“With a terrible, wet night coming on, I have only the hoof of a sheep;
“But, I’ll share my supper with you, and your company, too, I’ll keep.”
So they kindled a fire, cooked the bone, and ate quietly that wet night;
And Gillie Martin prepped Ian, for a trip to Erin, by next morn’s early light.
“When we get to Erin, you must ask the King, for work as a stable boy;”
And the Prince responded with sour looks, which the fox began to enjoy.
“And at the very first chance, you must ride off with the Bay;
But, if any part of her touches the gate, all will not go your way!”
The rusty-red fox emphasized with an ever-growing smile;
And next day, he turned back into a boat pointing west for Erin’s Isle.
When they reached the coast of Erin, Prince Ian leapt ashore;
And made his way to the castle of the Irish King to implore,
By hammering upon the door until the King came out;
(Who didn’t like the disturbance echoing about.).
“What do you want?” questioned the King with a regal look of disdain;
“Work,” replied Prince Ian, not revealing his birth nor his name.
“But what can you do?” — of course, was the Erin King’s reply;
“I can harness your horses with bridle and bit, polish your spurs and then tie —
“Bells on their reins, groom your destrier and to your colt feed milk;
“And fir them all with saddles and caparisons of finest silk!
“But, I’m particularly good with fillies!” Ian added proud;
“Show him to the stables!” the King then ordered aloud.
Under Ian’s care, the horses grew sleek and their silver trappings shone;
And the Erin King was watchful, and pleased, with the goings on.
“This stable boy is the best I’ve had,” the man with the crown did say;
“And it is, after much thought, I will let him look after my bay.”
So the Prince cared for the Bay Filly, so well that her coat did shine;
And she galloped so swift she could leave one wind and catch another most fine.
And all was well in the castle, so Ian waited until;
The Erin King was far away and on the hunting hill —
When he saddled and bridled the Filly and led her out of the stall;
But as he was taking her through the gate, she swished her tail was all —
She did; and touched the gatepost, (which made a horrid scream!);
That the Erin King heard while he was returning, then grabbing Ian did ream:
“I would not give you my Bay Filly unless you fetched for me;
The daughter of the King of France — the most beautiful woman that be!”
The Erin King yelled, as he threw Ian, down the castle stair;
Then a miserable Ian wandered the shore and met a laughing fox there.
“Well, you’re in a pickle, ’tis no mistake, because you don’t do what I tell;
“So I suppose it’s off to France then, with the two of us, as well?”
And turned himself into a ship, loaded with full sail;
Then off they journeyed to France with a favouring wind to prevail.
When they came upon the shores of France, ‘gainst tall rocks Gillie Martin did go;
Then told the Prince what to do and sent him swiftly so.
Ian scrambled off to the castle, knocked upon the door and again;
Out came the King; and the Queen, and their beautiful daughter and then —
“O misery me!” cried Ian, “for a great storm has swept my ship —
“Onto the rock; and I’m quite stuck unable to finish my trip!”
Well, the regal French family then went with Ian, to see his ship on the shore;
But as they drew near, they heard faint music, and the Princess did implore:
That she just had to go aboard the ship, with Ian, in order to see;
Where those sweet strains of music were coming from, because it seemed to be —
Coming from the next cabin, or the one further than;
So she ran from cabin to cabin, and from deck to deck she ran —
Until at last, ‘pon the upper deck, emerged Prince Ian and she;
And saw, as they looked about them, they were far out to sea!
“You tricked me! Where are we going?” the beautiful maiden cried;
And deciding it best to tell her the truth, a lovestruck Ian replied:
“You’re going to Erin to marry the King, to get me his Bay filly-horse;
“To get me the Sword from the Big seven Women, which then, in its due course,
“Will get me the Falcon for my step-mother, so that I may be free;
“From the crosses and spells and diseases of the year that plague so me.”
Well, the Princess of France had listened, to every single word;
Of the confusing explanation, unbelieving what she heard,
But her eyes then met with Ian’s, and finding his words were true;
The stunning Princess-Royal said, “But, I’d rather marry you!”
When they got to the shores of Erin, the fox worked his magic once more;
“But the Princess,” he told Ian, “must wait upon the shore.”
Before he turned into a lovely, young woman with long hair flowing red;
“You must take me now to be the King’s wife,” to the startled Prince, he said.
Now, the Erin King loved his sweet, beautiful bride with the long and flowing hair;
And, as promised, he gave Ian the Filly decked in gold and silver fare.
But as soon as the King took his young bride to bed and went to hold her close;
She changed back into Gillie Martin, the fox, who nipped the King on the nose!
Then off Gillie Martin ran quickly, to the Erin shore;
And turned, again, into a ship to sail the wave once more,
With the Prince, Princess and Bay Filly to the Juran Isle;
And when they got there, he turned into a horse and Ian started to smile.
And the Seven Big Women were so pleased to see the Irish Bay Filly-horse;
That they thrust the sword in Ian’s hand and one of them, of course,
Got up and on the horse’s back, as well as one other of her;
And another behind, and another behind, until all seven were —
Sitting atop the flaming-red bay, when off the horse did go;
Like a torrent worse than the mighty winds that across the Earth doth blow!
He carried them screaming over the moors until he came, at last,
To the highest mountain in Jura, where he kicked up his hind legs and cast —
Off the Seven Big Women; that they tumbled down into the sea;
Then with Prince, Princess, Filly and Sword, back into a boat turned he,
Sailin’ to Scotland’s Western Isles as the massive Sun did rise;
O’er the peaceful crystal waters and the clear blue morning skies.
Then the fox turned himself into a great sword and the Prince carried him to —
The castle of the five-headed giant, who then traded the Falcon blue,
And as Ian left with the magical bird, the giant roared with delight;
As he took up the sword, over his heads, and whirled it with all his might.
But next, Gillie Martin bent himself ’round and with a clean stroke, then;
Swept off the five heads, felling the giant, and returned to a fox again,
And running back to the Prince and Princess, Filly, Sword and bird;
He again told the Prince, one last time, many a special word:
“You must both ride the filly to your father’s house, and in front of you hold the Sword high;
“Or your step-mother will turn you to firewood with a glance from her Evil Eye!”
So, Ian and the Princess rode back home and the Sword, high he did hold;
And soon they found the Wicked Queen, very wet and cold —
Standing on the castle roof, with the wind slowly turning;
And when she saw Ian, she turned upon him, her bewitching eye a-burning,
But the White Sword of Light gave a sudden flash, and as firewood she fell;
That Ian gathered and set fire to it, thus ending her wicked spell!
“I have the best wife in Scotland, and Bay Filly,” Ian did say;
“The Blue Falcon to keep me in plenty of game and this Sword to win my way —
“Through any battle; so help thyself, to any geese or hen;
“Or ducks or sheep upon my land, I owe you so much, my friend.”
“Well,” Gillie Martin winked and answered, “Young Prince, I easily could —
“Find plenty to eat without bothering ye,” and slipped back into the wood,
After bidding a fond goodnight to the Prince and his lovely bride;
The fox went back to his hovel-home with a swift and silent stride.