A Toast To William Marshal

Written for the William Marshal Feast in Stormhold, AS XXXIII. This was a fun event. Thorfinn invited me to give the toast to William Marshal, which I present here for your entertainment (if you like William Shakespeare crossed with W H Auden). The first three words elicited exactly the response I was hoping for…

[November, 1998]

Chivalry is dead! The finest rose
From England’s soil now lies in bleak repose.
The paragon of Knights, the best, is gone.
What reason have we left to toil on?

In legend, from today until the end
His story will remain — on that, depend.
Tradition yet cries out what all here knew:
No man there was as brave, no Knight as true.

Oh, was he but a man, this legend-Lord?
Is there a scroll or page that dares record
His history, in words we might retell?
Was he a child, a youth, like us as well?

He was, I say! A child indeed — a child
Of character so sweet and face so mild
That brigands, who to hostage took the boy
Repented and returned him, chaste with joy.

A squire he was, in all his youthful trials
Combining boyish zeal with adult wiles
So skillfully, in all the arts of war,
That many disbelieved the feats they saw.

A knight, in grace, he also came to be,
A leader, both in skill and chivalry.
On tourney field and battle’s bitter stage
He proved to be the model of his age.

He guided Kings, and Kings before him knelt;
His wisdom filled the land in which he dwelt.
And now, in state he lies, his long life spent;
We mourn with heavy heart and raiment rent.

The Marshal into Paradise is gone,
But we who stay behind must toil on.
And should we feel, at times, the weight of years,
Let his example lead us through our fears.