The Ballad of a Bell

 

PART 3.

And the next day before a ray
Of sun was on the world,
The King was up, no bite nor sup,
Nor keen moustaches curled.

But to and fro did pacing go;
Nor did the scene embellish,
O what a stunt was half a grunt –
His voice he seemed to relish.

He did not dare e’en yet prepare
His chords to tune a note,
With half a thrill he kept them still
Lest mute they should be smote.

In silence deep the dawn did leap
And overcame the night:
Birds on the wing the shrilly sing
In evident delight.

But old King Crump beneath a clump
Of rosy rhododendrons,
Thought, “Imitate my voice, inflate
“But strain your larynx tendons.”

O yea, he had a kind of mad
Exalted jubilation,
Now o’er his voice did sweet rejoice,
No longer tribulation.

Already felt upon his pelt
Increasing youth invading,
Was sure one hair was growing there
Upon his pate parading.

He could not tell though very well
Without a looking glass,
It was no good to look at wood,
Or peer upon the grass.

Ah, ah, the lake. There did he take
His barely-stockinged feet,
Across the lawn amid the dawn,
With pants and shirt complete.

The mere was wide, upon its side
Grew rushes green and slimy,
And all the mud that in it stood
Was wet and rather grimy;

The water dark, not here the lark
Sang out his clear song,
But all the trees moaned in the breeze –
A weird gloomy throng.

Up to this bed old King Crump sped
With short explosive gasps,
And rested there, while in despair
Unloosened doublet clasps.

Anon revived at length contrived
To reach the dark lake’s marge –
The willows wept, grey whiskers crept,
And spectres were at large.

The birds, song ceased, no sound of beast,
No furrows or no wake
Did stir the lake, no sound to break
The stillness of the grave.

A little lower, a little more
The King did outwards strain,
His tongue half out as if in doubt
Or maybe it was pain.

Oh, lower yet the King did get
His form like Cupid’s bow,
But still he could not where he stood
Even perceive his brow.

Oh, farther out, and then a shout,
A frenzied frantic yell,
Not as select one would expect
From a nice, thinking bell.

But then in fear one does not rear
A tuneful not aloft;
The blackbird squawks at flying corks –
I’ve heard a thrush that coughed.

So here’s the king, a sorry thing,
A-floating very pink,
He was obese and full of grease
And so he couldn’t sink.

His face still red, he stuck his head
Above the turbid water,
Oh, joy of joys, he did rejoice,
For there was Clare, his daughter.

“O father dear!” she cried in fear,
“Whatever have you done?”
“Why are you there?” and in despair
The king said, “Just for fun!”

“Now don’t pick seed”, his child did plead,
And prettily did pout.
“Good gracious, child!” Her pa was wild.
“Why don’t you get me out?”

A little smirk did covert lurk
Around her pretty mouth,
Her father’s face made chuckles race –
She looked away to south.

So he’d define no tell tale sign
Upon her dimpled cheek.
“Good god, I’ll scream!” did Crump blaspheme,
“Am I here for a week?”

His anger spied, she thus replied,
“Nay, father, off I’ll race
“To fetch a man who surely can
“Retrieve you from this place.”

“No, no, no, no!” Her father’s foe,
However fierce he may
Have been would quail at this assail
And hasten quick away.

“Come back! Come back! Alack! Alack!
“Oh, have you any sense?
“How could you let one see me wet –
“Why must you be so dense?”

“What shall I do? What shall I do?
The maid cried in distress.
“How get you out can I without
“A strong man’s aid no less?”

“Go, get you rope! There’s still a hope
“I may get out for lunch.”
And off she sped, while Crump his head
With pink fat fists did punch.

“It is too bad. The whole world’s mad,
“And all conspired ‘gainst me;
“What have I done to be thus run
“Into such tyranny?”

The sun was warm, it seemed like barm
Upon his frigid pate,
But underneath was cold ad death,
And here he had to wait.

Anon down slope with mighty rope
The princess slowly staggered,
An honest pride suffused Crump’s hide –
He surely all but swaggered,

But with the damp contracted cramp
Around his fifth right rib,
And to reach up to grab the rope
His very arms did jib.

“Catch hold!” she cried, “you must be bold,
“I’ll pull you to the shore;
“Reach out your hand; soon on the land
“You’ll be and wet no more.”

Arms would not move, so he did prove
His ingenuity,
Although his plot in tune was not
With kingly dignity.

With eager teeth he searched beneath
The green and slimy water
To fix in jaws the hempen hawse
Out-flung by his own daughter.

At last, at last, he held it fast,
And could have danced a valse,
She pulled – alas; out came a mass
Of teeth, for they were false!

With mighty splash the kind did thrash
The water into foam,
And as he kicked the wavelets licked
His face like playful gnome.

And then a smack upon his back,
He found the water shallow,
And he was out without a doubt –
He fev’rishly did wallow.

Without one word, nor daughter heard,
He shook himself and ran,
His feet did lift, and was a swift
As any younger man.

Up to his bed he quickly fled,
A-swallowing his wrath,
His garments doffed he straightway coughed
And plunged into his bath.

A silent king ruled Bumblesting,
Some statesmen thought him dumb,
And others said, with shaking head,
“He’s booked for Kingdom-Come!”

But we well know this was not so,
The king was never younger.
Ate with a will and drank his fill
He knew not thirst or hunger.

And being dumb as feared by some,
For that we know the reason;
When jokes were cracked and lips were smacked
Said Crump, “I’ll let ‘em tease on!”

He did not speak for near a week
So great was his endeavour
To guard his voice ‘gainst any noise
That might his larynx sever.

Of course he spoke, but just a croak,
When at the dinner table,
In nothing crisper than a whisper,
“Pass the butter, Mabel”.

Though good Queen Mabel was not able
To reason for it all,
But with wise head no word she said
And waited for the fall.

The wedding day was fixed for May,
And that was in a week;
His plans did make, came Crump to break
The news in manner meek.

The days flew past, oh woeful fast,
The weather it was fair,
And all the earth was full of mirth
For lovely Princess Clare.

Great nobles came and men of fame,
In honour of the wedding,
And flags hung out, without a doubt
The merriment was spreading.

From morn till night the streets were bright
With men in shining buttons,
And feast were rife and many a wife
Thought husbands hopeless gluttons.

Then dawned the day, and it was May,
Of that there was no doubting,
For skies were blue and clouds were few
And all the world was shouting.

At eight o’clock the church did rock
With all its bells a-pealing,
At quarter past it was packed fast
With people to the ceiling.

Eight-thirty sharp the Royal Harp
Was heard to twang a chord,
A silence fell – it was as well
That nobody had snored.

In came the Cross borne by the Boss,
A Wondof dignitary,
The followed him procession grim,
And last the Secretary.

With Bible large with printed marge,
Which placed up in the pulpit –
To earn his salary searched the Gallery
And looked out o’er the full pit,

And having swept the dim transept
As was his bounden duty,
And scanned the crowd, his head he bowed;
And then in came the Beauty!

The Princess warm on King Crump’s arm,
A lovely sight displayed;
A truant ray from outside day
Played halo round her head.

But caused a gleam as it did stream
On old King Crump’s head down,
His pate elect it did reflect
For he had lost his crown.

Before the hour did fev’rish scour
Each corner, nook and cranny,
But of his Crown he had to own
A glimpse there was not any.

So with bare head his daughter led
Before the stately altar;
Though half distraught with dire thought,
In truth he did not falter.

I will not dwell; perhaps too well
The scene is known to you;
The bridegroom came to wed his dame;
At ten the deal was through.

Then flashed abroad like glistening sword,
A cannon’s mighty roar,
A fusillade some thunder made,
And more, and more, and more.

The bells pealed forth, east, west, south, north,
It was a merry mixture,
And as Crump heard he deep was stirred,
His face a rosy texture.

He could not quell his thoughts to dwell
Upon the feasting after;
The mighty dine, the sparkling wine,
The joking and the laughter –

When joy was full, would come the lull,
Then he would stately rise,
He’d clear his throat and such a note
Would soar into the skies;

Ah, what a throng to hear his song
He’d gather in the Square –
With this idea he smote his rear
By slipping on the stair.

End of Part 3.

16. 3. 29