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William Morris (1834-1896)

The Eve of Crecy


              1Gold on her head, and gold on her feet,
              2And gold where the hems of her kirtle meet,
              3And a golden girdle round my sweet;
              4     Ah! qu'elle est belle La Marguerite.

              5Margaret's maids are fair to see,
              6Freshly dress'd and pleasantly;
              7Margaret's hair falls down to her knee;
              8     Ah! qu'elle est belle La Marguerite.

              9If I were rich I would kiss her feet;
            10I would kiss the place where the gold hems meet,
            11And the golden kirtle round my sweet:
            12     Ah! qu'elle est belle La Marguerite.

            13Ah me! I have never touch'd her hand;
            14When the arrière-ban goes through the land,
            15Six basnets under my pennon stand;
            16     Ah! qu'elle est belle La Marguerite.

            17And many an one grins under his hood:
            18Sir Lambert du Bois, with all his men good,
            19Has neither food nor firewood;
            20     Ah! qu'elle est belle la Marguerite.

            21If I were rich I would kiss her feet,
            22And the golden girdle of my sweet,
            23And thereabouts where the gold hems meet;
            24     Ah! qu'elle est belle La Marguerite.

            25Yet even now it is good to think,
            26While my few poor varlets grumble and drink
            27In my desolate hall, where the fires sink,--
            28     Ah! qu'elle est belle La Marguerite,--

            29Of Margaret sitting glorious there,
            30In glory of gold and glory of hair,
            31And glory of glorious face most fair;
            32     Ah! qu'elle est belle La Marguerite.

            33Likewise to-night I make good cheer,
            34Because this battle draweth near:
            35For what have I to lose or fear?
            36     Ah! qu'elle est belle La Marguerite.

            37For, look you, my horse is good to prance
            38A right fair measure in this war-dance,
            39Before the eyes of Philip of France;
            40     Ah! qu'elle est belle La Marguerite.

            41And sometime it may hap, perdie,
            42While my new towers stand up three and three,
            43And my hall gets painted fair to see--
            44     Ah! qu'elle est belle La Marguerite--

            45That folks may say: Times change, by the rood,
            46For Lambert, banneret of the wood,
            47Has heaps of food and firewood;
            48     Ah! qu'elle est belle La Marguerite.

Notes

1] From Morris's first volume, published in 1858. The battle of Crecy, in which Edward III was victorious over the French, was fought in August 1346.

2] kirtle. A gown.

14] Arrière-ban. The summons of the feudal vassals to war.

15] basnets. Properly, a basnet is a light helmet.

39] Philip of France. Philip VI, the king of France at the time of the battle of Crecy.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: William Morris, The Defence of Guenevere, and Other Poems (London: Bell and Daldy, 1858). PR 5078 D4 1858 SIGS; end M677 D44 1858 Fisher Library.
First publication date: 1858
RPO poem editor: W. J. Alexander, William Hall Clawson
RP edition: RP (1912), pp. 397-99; RPO 1997.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/10

Rhyme: aaab


Other poems by William Morris