The Enchanted Gambeson

In days of old, as I've heard told
there lived a  knight so fearful,
with weapons bright by day and night
he left many a maiden tearful.
He robbed and slaughtered here and there,
he ravished every nation.
His shining sword from dragon's hoard
he swung without cessation.
His hauberk was a water-tank,
his shield a stable door;
his codpiece circled round his neck,
his height was nine feet four.
He wore an enchanted gambeson
as thick as any tree;
no soap nor water had  it seen
since 34 BC.
The mighty fumes that rose from it
no knight could ever withstand;
survivors told dark tales of it
in many and many a land .
They told of a rank, miasmic mist
as from immortal drama
that snapped each arrow as it flew
and rusted al1 your armour.
This awful knight, Sir Arbalest
went riding one Eastertide.
His horse then stumbled -- down he fell,
had a heart attack, and died.
(Pie Jesu Domine: Dona Eis Requiem! )
It chanced a young man passing by,
his eyes raised high to heaven,
over the fallen knight he tripped:
this hero's name was Kevin.
"O Flee this place, Sir Kevin bold!
O run away  like hell!"
The passing maiden's cry was vain --
Kevin had no sense of smell.

And Kevin armed him head and foot:
he put the armour on,
and forthwith took the power of
the enchanted gambeson.
And Kevin practiced day and night
with axe find sword and bow;
and everywhere that Kevin went
that gambeson had to go.

And if he lay in bed at morn
for fear that it was raining,
the gambeson pulled him out of bed
and dragged him off to training.
He entered  into tournaments
and fought both loud and long
and every knight fell down in fear --
his armour was so strong.
His name was blazoned far and wide
in every tournament list.
He feasted, sang and played the harp
and every night went to bed early.
At last he reached his heart's desire,
he thought his heart would burst;
and knights and ladies saluted him
His Grace, King Kevin the First.
He came unto a princess fair
to ask her hand in marriage:
"No way!," she cried. "No bloody fear,
by the length of my father's carriage!"
"Ti11 you put off your gambeson
and give it Christian burial
will I consider such a thing
as a union matrimonial."
Then Kevin took it off at once
and laid it in a coffin.
But it wasn't so easy to bury it:
such armour stops at nothing
And up it leapt with a mighty wind
and turned on bold King Kevin.
It waved its arms in fearful wrath
and cursed him three times seven.
Then lords and nobles sped away,
but Kevin was full of cunning:
a bar of soap he then drew forth
and the creature didn't stop running
Till seven miles between them lay
and faint was its distant terror,
and brave King Kevin wed his lass
which was, indeed, no error.
But still on dark and windswept nights
twixt moon and far horizon
there rides the pale and ghostly form
of the enchanted gambeson.

Copyright 1991 David Greagg. All rights reserved.

Reprinted with permission from the author.