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Gesta Gugliemi: Part III
For loyally serving his dying lord, William the Marshall was given in ward A virtuous maiden, wise and fair, Strongbow's daughter and only heir. The rest of that tale is easy to tell; William is wedded with Isabel. The bachelor knight, who lived by his sword, In the space of a night is become a lord, Mighty in men and gold and rights; Her Norman lands feed forty-three knights, In Pembroke itself, if all else fails, He can rule like a prince on the Marches of Wales. But better still does Isabel bring; Her mother was daughter to Leinster's king, A quarter of Ireland wed and won By Richard Strongbow—who had no son. Long in tourney and battle field Has William labored with lance and shield, First and foremost in all men's sight, Never defeated in any fight. But now the knight plays a bigger game, Earl of Pembroke in all but name, A wealthy baron in Normandy, All but a king by the Irish sea. The Angevin holdings everywhere Are held from Richard as Henry's heir, Save only that John, by their father's command, Is paramount lord of Ireland. A baron in England or Normandy Holds from Richard his lands in fee; But William holds, by Isabel's hand, A fourth of a kingdom from John Lackland. Richard is off on the long crusade, England is full of rumor and raid, Each against all with an eye to the throne, William sits silent and guards his own. Richard is taken and held for gold, Now is the hour when truth is told; John goes after his brother's crown. William stands loyal and John goes down. Richard is back, and at his side Archbishop Walter stands in pride, An ill-taught clerk but a loyal man Who serves his King with a heavy hand. "Sire, safe you can never be While John is sovereign across the sea; It would therefor be wise, in defense of your crown, That the Irish Barons to you should kneel down." "My brother John holds Ireland free, From our father's hand and not from me. In England John has no strength to stand, But how am I sovereign of Ireland?" "Your brother John has a weighty claim But you are his master in might and fame. Though strong in law his case must yield, For parchment is not proof to steel. On either side of either sea, What lord to John shows loyalty? If Ireland you claim today, Where is the knight to say you nay?" The bishop fell silent and looked at his lord. The king stood in thought with a hand on his sword, Gazing out over the glittering crowd, Then turned to the bishop and cried out aloud: "By the legs of sweet Jesus, see there where there stands The mightiest Baron in all Ireland. Speak to our Marshall and prove here tonight If the barons of Ireland kneel or will fight." As sudden and silent as arrow from string, The Bishop sped off at the word of the king And, passing by many of power and pride, Went straight to the Marshall and drew him aside. "Good Marshall, Sir William, as all men can see, Prince John is defeated in base treachery. Therefore I bring you King Richard's command That you kneel now to him for your Irish land." The knight replied "I will bow down For English land to the English crown, Richard by right holds the English throne, But how can he claim what he does not own? I am a knight and owe my sword For English lands to my English lord, But Leinster never was English land Nor Richard sovereign of Ireland." So loud his voice rang through the hall That men could hear him from wall to wall; Richard stood silent and all beside While loud the Bishop in wrath replied. "I see a knight to his sovereign's cost Planting a garden against the frost. None can doubt it a prudent thing To serve a prince who may yet be king." The knight replied, "as you desire, Plant, Sir Priest, with vine or briar; Some might think it a perilous thing To stand for justice against a King. But a knight must cleave with lance and sword And all his strength to his spoken word; Pembroke I hold from Richard's hand, But Leinster as his brother's man. When John went after his brother's crown I did my best to pull him down. If Richard is claiming his brother's land, I will withstand him as best I can." Richard strode to the Marshall's side: "It seems, good Bishop, your test is tried. And I think my crown I can safely wear While my knights hold true to the oaths they swear."