Good my friends, fellow poets, and those who follow the muse.
For some time now, it has gripped my brain to render the crisis we have faced in poetic form. That is now done. I fear it owes more to Kippling than any period source, but Kippling is often accounted the honorary first of SCAdians so perhaps I may be forgiven. (It scanns to "A Servant When He Reigneth," so anyone who wants to sing all ten pages or so has a tune. Not that this is recomended, but it provides a good scansion check.)
This poem reflects my view of things. No doubt others see things differently. That is their affair, and I make no appologies. Let them reply in verse.
As an added bonus, I have sprinkled a few names in here. They aren't accrostics, but word combinations. Have fun finding yourselves.
I dedicate this poem to AElflead, Ghita, Gunwaltd, and the others who have so steadfastly held to the Board over the last year. Their faith and loyalty has been truely touching, and an inspiration to us all. The occasion ever arise, I hope that I too can be so blind to the faults and so vigorous to the defense of those I love. I do not expect them to agree, but I do hope they find understanding.
The Lord and the Castellan by Mar Yaakov HaMizrachi Part I- the Founding of the Keep A Lord bethought to build a keep, so gathering some friends, They hewed the word and baked the bricks and laid them end to end. Small perhaps, this castle was, but those few thought it fair. When one of them began to speak to all those standing there. "My Lord," he said, "and gracious friends, who labored oh so hard. To protect our new built castle we must set for us a guard. Who knows what evils lurk within the borders of this land? And so, my friends, I offer now to serve as Castellan. "As servant shall I tend your needs and guard our little Keep. Relieving you of burdens that disturb your play or sleep. You know that you may trust me to guard you safe alone, For I worked here beside you, mingling sweat with wood and stone. "Besides," he whispered urgently. "I fear there is a flaw, If we don't have a castellan we're sure to break the law. I'm not sure but I *think* the king requires such a one. So I will take the burden while you go and have your fun." The Lord and all his friends were not quite certain what to do. Though none of them had heard this law, perhaps it might be true? Who among them could find out, for law was not their trade? But the thought of having Castellans left one or two dismayed. "Beware a servant's power and beware a servant's price. We have done quite well without one so we offer this advice. We have no need of castellans to govern our affairs. Why should we change our customs on the basis of his fears?" But most thought that a castellan was something they would need. And so they took their friend's advice and readilly agreed To give him power over this, the running of the Keep, To deal with law and government and guard them in their sleep. That done, the Lord and friends returned to happier pursuits, While the Castellan determined what his duties constitute. Deciding that defenses would save them from distress He set upon the outward wall most sturdy buttresses. "How now," the Lord and friends decried when this first change they saw. "You said you'd be our Castellan to help us with the law. We never asked for changes in the way we made the wall. And besides, the weight of buttresses will cause the thing to fall." "Fie," replied the Castellan. "When I have worked so hard. While all of you were out about a'playing in the yard. These buttresses protect us, which I'm sure meets your desires. Besides, I hear that buttresses are what the law requires. "Now also law requires me (though I've not checked I'm sure) To get support for buttresses so that they may endure. I'll have to build supports now, so I must ask you for gold. But fear not, after this I'm sure all will be as of old." Now some did doubt the Castellan, and some did make a fuss. But others argued "trust him, for we know he's one of us. He's worked so hard to help us and to take such proper care. We should be glad to pay his gold. Come, come it's only fair!" Some friends left, but others stayed and did as they were told. For after all, the Castellan had not asked for *much* gold. And some stayed but refused to pay, recalling that the pax Was kept by honest laboring and not some foolish tax. The Lord observed the arguement, considering awhile. Balancing the Pros and cons of such a taxing style. But since the thing resolved itself he let the matter slide. (Prefering peace and quiet to a'fightin' with the tide.) Part II- The Rise of the Keep The Lord and friends returned to play; their fame spread far and wide. So new friends came to join them, and then others swelled the tide. And since the Keep was now too small for such a mighty group. They built a new extension that could house so great a troop. And as they worked the Castellan did labor night and day, Ensuring that the labor would be done 'the proper way.' "Our floors and rooms all have to match, however much it cost. we can't risk anyone who wanders in here getting lost." He also added floor plans for which others hadn't asked. And groaned about the extra labor needed for the task. And everywher put buttresses, and arrow slits as well. Insisting they were needed as the Law would surely tell. And for his newest labors asked again for bits of gold. As gifts for all the work, and wood, and brick the Lord was told. The Castellan insisted that though no one *had* to pay, It really would be better for the ones who wished to stay. Again there was much protest and again some people left. But most found that to leave the Keep would leave them quite bereft Of all that they had worked for, sweated for and dreamed, And perhaps the Castellan's advice was better than it seemed. And others who had never known a Castellan-less world, Argued that they should obey the one who spoke as Lord. and though the Lord did hear these things, he let the matter slide. (For fighting takes more effort than mere drifting with the tide.) Part III- The Castellan Grows Proud And so the matter passed again, and year did follow year, While slowly other Castellan 'inventions' did appear. He ordered all things in the Keep and set new walls about, With sturdy locked portcullises "to keep the rif-raf out." Whenever folk did challenge his authority he'd say: "If not for me there'd be no Keep in which you all could play. How rude of you to challenge me, you quite ungrateful boors. You should thank me for my labors which are twice as great as yours. "Now if you ask politely, as a proper supplicant, I'll consider your suggestions on my means of management. But I've no responsibility to do so, lest it please. So best you should approach me coming on your hands and knees." Now once or twice the Lord did think this might get out of hand, And summoned forth to discipline this surely Castellan. The Castellan would then repent, the tears fell on his breast. He'd swear he merely sought to serve the Lord as he knew best. The Castellan would promise to do better for the Lord And hearken to the people and pay heed to every word. But time goes on, as is its want, and all folk tend to strya. So Castellan would drift back to his proud and haughty way. Now Lord and friends would often sit and drink beside the fire. And vent about this Castellan that caused them all such ire. But it was tiresome to fight him, and they never could decide On how they would replace him, so they let the matter slide. (It always will seem easier to let the matter slide, Instead of swimming shoreward simply drift out with the tide. But swimmers may discover to their everlasting woe, That gentle tide may soon become a viscious undertow.) Part IV- Enter a Stranger Then one day the Castellan announced "My friends I fear, Our castle isn't stable and we need an engineer. We have so many people and our Keep is now so large I need help to protect the ones who lie within my charge." "But wait!" Some folks protested. "Why should we pay to hire Some stranger or outsider who could be a thief or liar? We've engineers among us who will gladly charge no price, But as gift of love give us experienced advice." The Castellan did grace them with a condescending smile. "Tut, tut, you foolish children, if you sit and think awhile, And ponder as I've pondered things I'm sure that you'll agree That nobody within the Keep can know as much as me." And so the Castellan brought in a stranger from outside. (The Lord might still have stopped him but he drifted with the tide. Forgetting, as some swimmers do, a warning grim and stark: The tide sweeps little fishies to the waiting hungry shark!) He set to work then with a will, this foreign engineer. He stood beside the Castellan and whispered in his ear. Explaining why he must abandon ways that served of old, To increase his construction and, of course, increase his gold. The Castellan and engineer stayed closed inside a room, And sealed it up as tightly and as silent as a tomb. Taking all the documents and records of the Keep; Discussing 'weighty matters' while the Lord lay sound asleep. Their secrets they kept guarded as an alchemist of old, But issued leaden orders that they thought as good as gold. And set the Keep's inhabitants to labor night and day, To build up better buttresses in fine, warlike array. The engineers protested at the effort and the weight. And asked why such contrivances were needed at this date? The Castellan responded (when he deigned to leave his hall): "You poor well-meaning simpletons need have no fear at all." Part V- The Crisis One day the Lord went riding and he saw a horrid sight. A castle fell as Mordor belching fire in the night. With watchers fixed and towers grim, with grape and chain no lack. And the people locked secure inside 'to save them from attack.' "Can this then be our faery Keep we built in days gone by? Oh tell me when did chivalry take sick at heart and die? How can I not have noticed this great horror on my land? I shall have answers soon enough. Come forth oh Castellan!" A figure came out to the gate in answer to this word. ('Twas not a loyal castellan in fealty to his lord.) A figure dressed in ermines, and on his head a crown, Who said: "What beggar doth approach me, and how dare he not bow down?" The Lord and all his loyal friends who stood there on the path At first but choked and sputtered far too overcome with wrath. When rage had dimmed to choler, the Lord regained his tongue. He cried: "Should I bow down to one who served me for so long? "I am your lord and master! How dare you wear my clothes? For this impudence I'm sure you should be scourged from head to toes! Now end this foolish mockery. There's work here to be done. I swear these ugly battlements won't see another sun." The Castellan laughed long and hard, oh how his tears did roll! "You? My lord and master? Oh good jester that *is* droll. My word is law within these walls, 'tis I who rule this land. See how the people grovel and obey my each command? "Have I not labored lovingly upon this Keep for years, So that I may command here, sovereign lord of all my peers? Did I not forge these battlements of steel, and brick and stone? My will it is that rules this land; mine and mine alone!" The Lord was stricken dumb by this vociferous assault. More grevious than the words, though, was the knowledge of his fault. He now perceived the folly of his foolishness and pride, In thinking he could rule but put his duties all aside. The Lord sought to re-enter but the Castellan said "Nay! We shall let no one through this gate unless they first shall pay their full share of the taxes, which we demand you pay in gold (For the building of the battlement will bankrupt us I'm told)." Of those who stood by Castellan, all fled to his defense. they leaned upon the gun wall and demanded recompense Of the Lord and all who lived within the borders of the land, For the love and work and labor of the glorious Castellan. "How rude you are, oh foolish ones, to say such vile words. Madness surely festers if you think that you are lords. We know our Lord is truely him whom you call Castellan. He is and always has been ever since the world began. "How wisely he has done, we're sure, to make all things the same. In letting nothing vary to disturb our perfect game. These battlements he tells us are most surely for our good. We know that we all trust him and we know that you all should! "Now since you've spoken rudely you have no right to be heard. Whatever fate befalls you is most certainly deserved. But we will still permit you ('though we know we are too kind) To enter here and serve our lord and aid his grand design." Part VI- The Lord, With the Aid of His True Friends, Resists At first the Lord did waiver and his will it nearly broke. But one among his friends rose up, and boldly these words spoke: "We will fight this usurpation of our Keep and all our land! Do they think the charge of madness will dissuade our righteous band? "Think, instead, how sane are we who stand against this lie. Our valiant efforts will cast down this dreadful tyranny. In men there is resistence; we never will bow low. And hang a red red banner on a pikestaff so they'll know "The strength of this our challenge to their overweaning speech. We call forth all those loyal to our true Lord to impeach This wicked Castellan who has forgotten fealty, And seeks to rule as tyrant over all that he can see." First slowly, then with vigor, the Lord's spirit now revived. His anger flared within him, and rememberance of his pride. His long forgotten majesty he once again did wear. Within his eyes defiance did replace his bleak dispair. (There will always be a moment when each swimmer must decide If they will struggle shoreward or be drown'ed in the tide. If they see in time their danger, and their spirit be not broke, they may muster will and courage for the painful, homeward stroke.) The Castellan did hear the bold defiance of his foe, And swore that those within the Keep should never come to know Of those who did oppose him, of how many stood to bar His (to him) rightful rule with this rebellious threat of war. "No pikestaff shall we give you, no crier shall you use. We shall not permit our castle to be sullied with abuse. But we shall make them carry our decrees about the tax, And tell them all the real truth and not your lying 'facts.' "No petition, post or broadside will be seen within these walls. For we are charged with keeping peace within our sacred halls. Your groundless accusations I condemn as knavish tricks. For defying us in public is the crime of 'politics!'" So the Lord and all his allies then prepared to lay a siege 'Gainst Castellan and servants who denied their rightful liege. The Lord did warn them "Careful, lest we slay those still within. Our arrows mean t'bore through walls not slay our friends and kin." The Castellan spent recklesslythe gold he had in store, Securing mercenaries and defenses for the war. Locked his secrets and his documents up tighter than a drum. In arrogance refused to parley, saying: "Let them come! "My engineer assures me my defenses are the best. These bars and heavy buttresses will weather every test. So let them all defy me 'til they tire and go away. Or else admit defeat and all my needed taxes pay." Part VII- The Lord Triumphs on the Field Now sitting with the allies in the front rank bearing swords Were a writer of poor satire, and a publisher of words. Said the poet to the publisher "I also engineer. And the weaknesses of yonder Keep are many, great, and clear. "Yon wall is over-engineered and cannot stand duress. It's weight and all that cannon must create a fearful stress. That sort of thing will never stand in light loose-pack'ed soil (Which I tol them when they started all their bleedin' useless toil). "A single shove will make quick work of all that wretched mess. And, judging how they've built it, and unless I miss my guess, When that damn gate topples over the entire thing will go As each wall impacts its neighbor like a giant domino." So a sortie charged the castle crying warning to the foe. Giving Castellan a final chance before they struck the blow. But the Castellan disdained them with a haughty, open sneer. Who could possibley be better than his chosen engineer? One swift and single sure-placed blow they struck upon the wall. Then -to Castellan's great wonder- it began to sway and fall! With a scream like the damnation of each sinner anatoned, The Keep's defenses crumbled in a heap of steel and stone. The engineer was caught up in that rock and debris Hell, And lay there crushed by all he swore no man could ever fell. Which is fitting, for when girder cracks and breaks the grinding span the blame for loss or murder must be laid upon the man. Part VIII- The Castellan Tries to Snatch Victory From Defeat The Castellan survived and rose to meet the Lord's approach. To the wonder of the company he started to reproach The Lord for all the damage that was done by the assault. Which the Castellan was swift to say was surely not *his* fault. "I merely sought to serve you, Lord, we did not need to fight. Perhaps I went too far but I am certain I was right. If I offended you, I'm sorry and I'll try to make amends. But the real villians here are these betrayers you call friends. "Tis they who stirred up trouble and rebuked me without need. They acted (I assure you) out of pettiness and greed. They all covet my station, though I only sought to serve. I beg you now to punish them as they so well deserve. "Recall, my Lord, how rude they were- devoid of chivalry. They 'politicked' (that evil crime) and spoke uncivally. And since I acted in your name you know that it is true, That each attack upon me was a clear attack on you. "So come now, Lord, forsake this crew that acted far too bold. Pay heed now to my counsel and let all be as of old. Let me care for you, and tend your needs. Return to fun and play. I will set right all the damage that these brigands caused this day. "I also fear that I will have to raise another tax. To pay for all the damage that they caused with their attacks. Fear not! I no assistance ask, I gladly volunteer. I'll set all things aright through my own efforts, never fear. "Of course, if others wish to help, I gladly will take heed. (Though I insist that I approve their every thought, and word, and deed. It would be *so* disorderly if folks acted alone. And the trouble they may accidently stir up makes me groan.)" To the wonder of the company who fought that mighty siege, A look of weary indecision settled on their liege. He tired of the battle; he yearned again to play. And the counsel of the Castellan did seem the easy way. Old habits are enduring, reflexes hard to bind. So long the Lord had given over keeping of his mind And will to Castellan he started to agree To submit himself again to Castellan's authority. (For all swimmersthere's a danger, as they swim on back to shore, Of believing they are safe and need not stroke hard anymore. Of giving in to tired muscles, simply trusting to the tide To carry them to safety with a gentle drifting ride. They forget it was this very tide that now they wish to trust That carried them to danger and against wich they have just Struggled to exhaustion. Now, in sight of victory, They yield to their weariness and drift back out to sea.) Part IX- The Lord's Choice "Oh sovereign Lord!" His friends did cry. "don't yield to his demand. Remember all your struggle for your freedom and your land. Recall the shames you suffered. Stand firm before this knave! Not weariness nor habit should reduce a lord to slave. "Do not let his 'grand' counsel or his talk of doom decieve. For though ugly walls have falle, our fair Keep is free of grief. We do not need 'repairing' of defenses we don't need. Nor do we need new taxes for the fueling of his greed. "If he wishes now to serve you let him set aside his power, Swear fealty again to you, pledging from this hour To hearken to your each command, nor claim authority To order all about the Keep without consulting thee. "Let him cease to try controlling all the thoughts and words and deeds Of all who live within these walls, nor try to judge their needs Which they may know far better than some central figure can. Let him set aside the power that he claims as Castellan." The Lord looked indecisive, not quite certain what to do. Submit or fight for freedom? Ah my friends, 'tis up to you. Will the Lord chose to return now to his prior servitude? Chose polite and cloistered slavery to freedom rough and rude? Will the Castellan forsake the borrowed power that he claimed? Will he seek to rule forever as the Lord in all but name? Will the Lord prevent that outrage, or return again to play? What will happen to the Keep then? Only you, my friends, can say.
Copyright 1994 by Harold Feld. Permission to reprint and cross-post granted, nay encouraged.