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King Ryence's Challenge

Thomas Percy 1729 (Bridgnorth) – 1811

As it fell out on a Pentecost day,
King Arthur at Camelot kept his court royall,
With his faire queene dame Guenever the gay,
And many bold barons sitting in hall,
With ladies attired in purple and pall,
And heraults in hewkes, hooting on high,
Cryed, Largesse, Largesse, Chevaliers tres-hardie.

A doughty dwarfe to the uppermost deas
Right pertlye gan pricke, kneeling on knee;
With steven fulle stoute amids all the preas,
Say'd, "Nowe Sir King Arthur, God save thee and see!
Sir Ryence of North-Gales greeteth well thee,
And bids thee thy beard anon to him send,
Or else from thy jaws hewill it off rend.

"For his robe of state is a rich scarlet mantle,
With eleven kings beards bordered about,
And there is room lefte yet in a kantle,
For thine to stande, to make the twelfth out.
This must be done, be thou never so stout;
This must be done, I tell thee no fable,
Maugre the teethe of all thy Round Table."

When this mortal message from his mouthe past,
Great was the noyse bothe in hall and in bower:
The king fum'd; the queene screecht; ladies were aghast;
Princes puff'd; barons blustred; lords began lower;
Knights stormed; squires startled, like steeds in a stower;
Pages and yeomen yell'd out in the hall;

Then in came Sir Kay, the king's seneschal.
"Silence, my soveraignes," quoth this courteous knight,
And in that stound the stowre began still:
Then the dwarfe's dinner full deerely was dight;
Of wine and wassel he had his wille,
And when he had eaten and drunken his fill,
An hundred pieces of fine coynd gold
Were given this dwarf for his message bold.

"But say to Sir Ryence, thou dwarf," quoth the king,
"That for his bold message I do him defye,
And shortlyewith basins and pans will him ring
Out of North-Gales; where he and I
With swords, and not razors, quickly shall trye,
Whether he, or King Arthur, will prove the best barbor:"
And therewith he shook his good sword Escalàbor.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Thomas Percy

Thomas Percy was Bishop of Dromore, County Down, Ireland. Before being made bishop, he was chaplain to George III. Percy's greatest contribution is considered to be his Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, the first of the great ballad collections, which was the one work most responsible for the ballad revival in English poetry that was a significant part of the Romantic movement. more…

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