Glasgerion

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

Ther herde I pleyen on an harpe
That souned bothe wel and sharpe,
Orpheus ful craftely,
And on his syde, faste by,
Sat the harper Orion,
And Eacides Chiron,
And other harpers many oon,
And the Bret[A] Glascurion.

--Chaucer, Hous of Fame, III.


The Text, from the Percy Folio, luckily is complete, saving an omission of two lines. A few obvious corrections have been introduced, and the Folio reading given in a footnote. Percy printed the ballad in the Reliques, with far fewer alterations than usual.

The Story is also told in a milk-and-water Scotch version, Glenkindie, doubtless mishandled by Jamieson, who 'improved' it from two traditional sources. The admirable English ballad gives a striking picture of the horror of 'churlës blood' proper to feudal days.

In the quotation above, Chaucer places Glascurion with Orpheus, Arion, and Chiron, four great harpers. It is not improbable that Glascurion and Glasgerion represent the Welsh bard Glas Keraint (Keraint the Blue Bard, the chief bard wearing a blue robe of office), said to have been an eminent poet, the son of Owain, Prince of Glamorgan.

The oath taken 'by oak and ash and thorn' (stanza 18) is a relic of very early times. An oath 'by corn' is in Young Hunting.

[Footnote A: From Skeat's edition: elsewhere quoted 'gret Glascurion.']


GLASGERION

1.
Glasgerion was a king's own son,
And a harper he was good;
He harped in the king's chamber,
Where cup and candle stood,
And so did he in the queen's chamber,
Till ladies waxed wood.

2.
And then bespake the king's daughter,
And these words thus said she:
... ... ...
... ... ...

3.
Said, 'Strike on, strike on, Glasgerion,
Of thy striking do not blin;
There's never a stroke comes over this harp
But it glads my heart within.'

4.
'Fair might you fall, lady,' quoth he;
'Who taught you now to speak?
I have loved you, lady, seven year;
My heart I durst ne'er break.'

5.
'But come to my bower, my Glasgerion,
When all men are at rest;
As I am a lady true of my promise,
Thou shalt be a welcome guest.'

6.
But home then came Glasgerion,
A glad man, Lord, was he!
'And come thou hither, Jack, my boy,
Come hither unto me.

7.
'For the king's daughter of Normandy
Her love is granted me,
And before the cock have crowen
At her chamber must I be.'

8.
'But come you hither, master,' quoth he,
'Lay your head down on this stone;
For I will waken you, master dear,
Afore it be time to gone.'

9.
But up then rose that lither lad,
And did on hose and shoon;
A collar he cast upon his neck,
He seemed a gentleman.

10.
And when he came to that lady's chamber,
He thrilled upon a pin.
The lady was true of her promise,
Rose up, and let him in.

11.
He did not take the lady gay
To bolster nor no bed,
But down upon her chamber-floor
Full soon he hath her laid.

12.
He did not kiss that lady gay
When he came nor when he yode;
And sore mistrusted that lady gay
He was of some churlës blood.

13.
But home then came that lither lad,
And did off his hose and shoon.
And cast that collar from about his neck;
He was but a churlës son:
'Awaken,' quoth he, 'my master dear,
I hold it time to be gone.

14.
'For I have saddled your horse, master,
Well bridled I have your steed;
Have not I served a good breakfast?
When time comes I have need.'

15.
But up then rose good Glasgerion,
And did on both hose and shoon,
And cast a collar about his neck;
He was a kingës son.

16.
And when he came to that lady's chamber,
He thrilled upon a pin;
The lady was more than true of her promise,
Rose up, and let him in.

17.
Says, 'Whether have you left with me
Your bracelet or your glove?
Or are you back returned again
To know more of my love?'

18.
Glasgerion swore a full great oath
By oak and ash and thorn,
'Lady, I was never in your chamber
Sith the time that I was born.'

19.
'O then it was your little foot-page
Falsely hath beguiled me':
And then she pull'd forth a little pen-knife
That hanged by her knee,
Says, 'There shall never no churlës blood
Spring within my body.'

20.
But home then went Glasgerion,
A woe man, good [Lord], was he;
Says, 'Come hither, thou Jack, my boy,
Come thou thither to me.

21.
'For if I had killed a man to-night,
Jack, I would tell it thee;
But if I have not killed a man to-night,
Jack, thou hast killed three!'

22.
And he pull'd out his bright brown sword,
And dried it on his sleeve,
And he smote off that lither lad's head,
And asked no man no leave.

23.
He set the sword's point till his breast,
The pommel till a stone;
Thorough that falseness of that lither lad
These three lives were all gone.

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