The Ferryman

Poem By David Lewis Paget

In April, back in twenty-one
Inside the Castle Myrmidon,
I worked the Master's stables
And I groomed Milady's mare.
The Baroness De Ville would roam
The country on her chestnut roan,
And I would lead her safely home
And tend to her despair.

They kept her close and under key
In fear that she might turn and flee,
But she was trapped by geography
Beside the River Styx,
The river turned and turned about
Confined her where the bank ran out
And often there, I heard her shout:
‘Save me from Asterix! '

The Knight, Sir Asterix had planned
To ask her for her maiden hand,
But she had turned in terror, and
Had flown up to her room…
There in the tower she stayed locked in
Until the Knight left Myrmidon,
Enraged, he swore that she'd be won,
By Whitsun afternoon!

Her uncle raged: ‘This cannot be,
You can't treat him haphazardly,
I'll see you wed to Asterix
Or else I'll turn you out! '
‘I'd rather be a beggar first,
Bereft of food, unslaked of thirst,
At least I know what would be worst, '
I heard Milady shout!

The master was Sir Oswald Gray
Of temper mean, that ruled the day
He held her fortune locked away
She said she didn't care,
The slight allowance that he gave
Was not enough to spend or save
But she was young, and she was brave
And stood up to him there!

They locked her in the tower room
In shadows, in the deepest gloom,
She wailed all night, as in a tomb
And tore her auburn hair!
I took her tit-bits in the night
Pushed through the grill, to her delight
And there she told me of her plight…
She loved Sir Gordon Ware!

Sir Gordon lived at Castle Pride
Some miles across the countryside,
But cut off by the river wide,
(She cried in her despair) .
But stories of this Asterix
His alchemy, his darker fits
With murder not the least of it,
Had terrorised her there!

I wandered to the river bank
To where an ancient boat had sank,
And there I met a Ferryman,
A dwarf with one good eye:
‘What brings you to the riverside? '
He looked out at the countryside
And turned his blind eye high and wide;
I shuddered, fit to die!

I told him of Milady's plight
How she wept bitterly at night
And would escape, if she but might;
The Ferryman said: ‘See…
Bring me three crowns of gold, my friend,
The lady, to the river's bend,
What they don't know, they'll never mend,
My oars will make her free! '

At Whitsun, she was dressed so fine
In wedding lace, and crepe design,
I held her hand, and she held mine
Out to the stable door;
I'd saddled up the roan for her
She leapt aboard, and called me ‘sir'
And thanked me to the river's spur,
The Ferryman said ‘Whoa! '

For back, and at the Castle Gate
There came a flash, a coach and eight
That raced to claim her heart, too late,
Though Asterix screamed: ‘No! '
She leapt the ferry with a laugh,
I passed the Kronors to the dwarf
And soon they swirled beyond the wharf,
Out in the undertow!

But Asterix then left me there
With blood congealed, and through my hair,
And told me, I should never dare
His country, now or soon;
But of Milady, I could see
She had escaped her misery,
And so my heart was light and free
Until that afternoon!

A peasant told me, passing by
That I had need to sit and cry,
I asked about the Ferryman
And this is what he said:
‘There hasn't been a Ferryman
At this point of the river plan
Since ever Adam was a man,
The Ferryman is dead! '

‘He got caught in the undertow
And floated down and down below,
The raging current took him so
And drowned him in the Styx.'
At times though, there's a troglodyte
Who boats here on a Whitsun night,
They say he is a dreadful sight,
Brought low by Asterix!

He was, they say, a fulsome page
That Asterix attacked in rage,
And worked his alchemy to stunt
His body, and his sight,
Since when he's roamed the riverside
In search of someone else's bride,
One kiss may just reverse the tide
Of Asterix's spite!

So now on evenings, when I go
To sit beside the river flow
I hear a voice to ghostly go:
‘Of love, I've drunk my fill! '
And then I see the coach and eight
In flight and through the Castle Gate,
Where Asterix stares out in hate,
He's looking for her still!

16 February,2012

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