Gateway to the Classics: In the Days of the Guild by Louise Lamprey
In the Days of the Guild by  Louise Lamprey

Harper's Song

O listen, good people in fair guildhall—

(Saxon gate, Norman tower on the Roman wall)

A King in forest green and an Abbot in gray

Rode west together on the Pilgrims' Way,

And the Abbot thought the King was a crossbowman,

And the King thought the Abbot a sacristan.

(On White Horse Hill the bright sun shone,

And blithe sang the wind by the Blowing Stone,—

O, the bridle-bells ring merrily-sweet

To the clickety-clack of the hackney's feet!)

Said the King in green to the Abbot in gray,

"Shrewd-built is yon Abbey as I hear say,

With Purbeck marble and Portland stone,

Stately and fair as a Cæsar's throne."

"Not so," quo' the Abbot, and shook his wise head,—

"Well-founded our cloisters, when all is said,

But the stones be rough as the mortar is thick,

And piers of rubble are faced with brick."

(The Saxon crypt and the Norman wall

Keep faith together though Kingdoms fall,—

O, the mellow chime that the great bells ring

Is wooing the folk to the one true King!)

Said the Abbot in gray to the King in green,

"Winchester Castle is fair to be seen,

And London Tower by the changeful tide

Is sure as strong as the seas are wide."

But the King shook his head and spurred on his way,—

"London is loyal as I dare say,

But the Border is fighting us tooth and horn,

And the Lion must still hunt the Unicorn."

(The trumpet blared from the fortress tower,

The stern alarum clanged the hour,—

O, the wild Welsh Marches their war-song sing

To the tune that the swords on the morions ring!)

The King and the Abbot came riding down

To the market-square of Chippenham town,

Where wool-packs, wheatears, cheese-wych, flax,

Malmsey and bacon pay their tax.

Quo' the King to the Abbot, "The Crown must live

By what all England hath to give."

"Faith," quoth the Abbot, "good sign is here

Tithes are a-gathering for our clerkes' cheer."

(The song of the Mint is the song I sing,

The crown that the beggar may share with the King,

And the clink of the coin rhymes marvelous well

To castle, or chapel, or market-bell!)

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