ANDROCLES
by
John Bilsborough 2002

Androcles - that's the name of our hero.
Not a King, not an Earl, nor a Duke,
nor Prince Charming, nor th'Emperor Nero,
nor his coachman, not even his cook.

Long ago, far away, says the story,
lived an overworked, downtrodden slave,
who was blessed with his moment of glory,
and ensconced in the ranks of The Brave.

Now, in terms of the social hierarchy,
he were nowhere... down bottom of't heap,
'Enough!' he says, 'Stuff this malarkey!'
And he scarpered, while't boss were asleep.

Into 't forest he went, through the greenery,
past pitfalls and crocodile lakes -
there was no time to take in the scenery,
what with spiders and scorpions and snakes...

and... eyyyy-upppp, it's a lion! Oh, dear...
But what to do? Face 'im! Aye, but...
Then the lion says 'Now then, look here,
there's a thorn, sithee, stuck in me foot.'

Didn't say that, exactly, like I did,
But Androwcles didn't need telling twice,
His attention was quite undivided...
and he pulled out the thorn in a trice.

'There you are,' he says, friendly but quaking,
as't Lion lets out a gert roar...
'What, Androcles, lad, why art shaking?
It's not tea-time till quarter past four.

Nay, I'm joking. I'm everso grateful, and if...
Ey Up! It's time to move on.
The hunters are out.. ' With this fateful,
though ill-timed, advice, he were gone.

As a horde of curmudgeonly yokels,
came trampling through't forest, this way,
'Glad I'm not a lion' says Androwcles.
'We're not hunting for lions, today'.

We're looking for keen volunteers,'
says the slave driver, cracking his whip,
'So, get in line, no time for tears,
Cos you're off for a ride on me ship.'

First they're chained up with shackles and pollocks
and as they go trudging on board,
Centurion shouts 'Which one's Androllocks?'
then gives 'im a jab wi' 'is sword.

'I've a nice job lined up for you, later,
an exciting day-out, in the sun,
in a world-famous amphi-thee-ater,
That's noted for fresh air and fun,

what is seeking for further amusements....
That should suit a fit feller like you.
We have all of the usual inducements,
if you don't quite agree... oh, you do?'

So, that Saturnsday, fanfare of trumpets,
the Emp'ror, with Home Guard in tow,
with his pals and imperial strumpets,
came for't Royal Variety Show.

He were sat on his throne, eating toffees,
as befits a Commander in Chief,
in his robes, with his baton of office,
(with the equiform finial motif.)

And he says 'Let the battles begin!'
One and all filled the stadium with cheers -
They'd have raised the roof, if there had been one,
then't centurions rattled their spears...

And all't senators, commoners, yeomens,
the nobles, the great and the good,
fifty thousand excitable Romans,
settled down and behaved... as you would.

First came music and singing and dancing about,
then a bit of an organised brawl
final score: Romans, 15 , Barbarians, nowt,
and the Empress says 'Well. Is this all?

Is this best they can do? That was dreadful!
That was awful, pathetic, shambolic!
We've had bloody barbarians by't shed-full!
Really, this is a right load of frolics.

What's next? Giant crocodiles? Tedious!
Eating Christians? Oh, don't make me laugh.
They're weeny, they're weaky, they're weedy as...
Then what? A pair of giraffe,

versus Babel's Barbarian Bowmen
shooting arrows and wrestling in mud!
Fifty thousand excitable Romans,
all chanting and baying for blood...

won't be happy with them sort of antics,
nor second-hand rejects from't zoo.
They prefer things more... gory? More... frantic?
There's only one thing that'll do.

And that's lions. You know that. Round here,
they're really the sine qua non.
Have we got any lions?' 'Well, yes, dear,
Well, leastways, we have got the one...

I had it sent over from Gaul, dear,'
and the Empress says, 'Huh! Just the one?'
'Still, it's better than no lions at all, dear,
so it's chop-chop, there, chaps, get 'em on!'

And the jailer, who keeps a keen eye on
all the victims stood waiting their cue,
says 'Right! Next! Someone fighting a lion...
Hey Androckles, sunshine, that's you...'

And they marched him, on, up from the basement,
and gave him a prod with their spears,
Androwcles gawped round in amazement -
The crowd gave some half-hearted cheers,

A fanfare rang out from the trumpets, (ta-ra)
the Emp-e-ror waved to the crowd,
his raft of imperial strumpets
smiled their sweetest, and Androcles bowed...

And the crowd roared and shouted and chanted
'Vide! Dulce et Day-corum est'
or, translated, (quite liberally, granted),
'Ey Up! 'Ees behind you!' At best,

it's a bit of a shock to encounter
any lion that's baying for blood,
but if it's your blood, then you're bound ter have
concern for your ultimate good...

One-last-prod with their swords from his minders -
Poor Androcles, scorned and reviled,
didn't need any homespun reminders
that lions were ferocious and wild.

'Well, that's better,' the Empress confided,
'We all like a nice bit of blood.
It's maybe a trifle one-sided,
but never mind... so far, so good.'

With a roaring and snarling, it bounded,
Poor Androcles trembled with fear...
The amphithe-atre resounded
with one boorish and bloodthirsty cheer,

The lion sprang, roaring like thunder,
and was just going to bite off his head,
when it stopped and it looked and it wondered,
and it sat down beside him and said:

'Well, of all of the amphi-the-atres,
in all of the outposts of Rome...
You're hardly the brave gladiator,
they warned us about, back at home.'

'How's the paw then? Mm, healing up nicely.
They're nasty things, thorns... How am I?
Not so easy to answer, precisely...
There is the odd cloud in the sky...'

and he tickled the lion's abdomen,
'Quid hoc sibi vult? came the cry.
Fifty thousand excitable Romans,
wondered what was occurring and why,

busy chunnering, mithering and grumbelling,
and muttering and threatening war,
but they stopped gawping, oyening and rumbelling,
when they saw what was happening: 'Aaaaaawe...'

'Oh, how sweet,' said the Emperess, 'Charming,
You can call me a silly old tart,
but, darling, you'd not dream of harming
that soppy old lion... Sweetheart...?

And as for that handsome young chappie...
He's certainly charmed this brute beast.
Would the crowd be so very unhappy
if he was... well, you know... released?'

'What! I can't let them go! There'd be riots.'
'Now, dearest, just leave it to me.
Listen! Friends, Romans, whatsisnames, Quiettt !
Look, hands up for setting them free!'

It was one of those magical moments -
The lion... held up his great paw.
Fifty thousand excitable Romans,
united in wonder and 'Aaaaaaaawe...'

Then they cheered Androcles, like a hero,
and they gave him the Freedom of Rome.
He says 'What about lion?' and Nero says
'Suit yourself, lad. Tek it home!

So, what's next?, Them Barbarian Bowmen,
shooting arrows and wrestling in mud...?
Well, I can't speak for these soppy Romans,
but by eck! It had better be good!'

And Empress says 'Darling, what is it?
We're having a wonderful day.
Oh, Androcles, promise you'll visit,
any time you're both passing this way.'

And the Emperor nods, in compliance,
'Though it does seem a daft thing,' says he,
'to spend our time raising fierce lions,
then inviting the buggers to tea!'
The end