Walter Stanford (1920)

The minstrel smote on the trembling strings
And he chortled a song of war
Of heroes hacking their way to fame
Through rivers and seas of gore
Of headless bodies, of brain protruding,
Of warm and quivering flesh
Till the lord remarked, "Oh chuck it! Chestnuts
Let's have something fresh."
And the minstrel looked at his lord in grief
"Gramercy, my liege," said he
"Would'st thou that I sing of a knight and a dame
And their love 'neath the greenwood tree?"
"No, by my halidane," cried the lord
"Thou drivest me off my chump
These mildewed, fat-headed ditties of thine
Give me the perishing hump.
I give thee a week to learn something newer
I've said it and thou dost know
By Friday next thou wilt either do it
Or take my money and go."

Sad was the minstrel at heart that night
As he sat in his small bedroom
With never a lamp and not even a candle
To lighten his mental gloom
With a grey goose quill and a horn of ink
By the watery moonbeams' light
He sat him down by his casement sill
With an aching breast to write.
Long, long he pondered, but nothing but blots
Appeared on the parchment fair
His muse was on strike, he champed his pen
And ruffled and towsled his hair
But, all in a flash, on his brain there came
An inspiration divine
He started to write, and there, in the silence
A ballad grew line by line.
And when it was finished he took up his harp
And he tickled it pinkety-pong
And sung sotto voce the great prototype
Of the present day music-hall song.

Friday is come and the supper is ended
The lord and his lady are there
And the former commands in a voice of contempt
For the minstrel straightway to appear

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