Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Gentlemen in Distress"

haikujaguar and I have been discussing the batch of heroic fantasy gender studies ballads that came out of the April 7, 2009 fishbowl. By this point, you've seen "A Doe in Velvet," "Whistling Girls and Crowing Hens," and "Where Have All the Heroes Gone?/Different Gifts." But there's a piece missing, and she put it like this:

But I was thinking... you've covered girls who want to hold swords, girls who want to be saved... boys who want to hold swords...

But we're missing a set! What about the boys who don't want to be knights? :) The scholars, the gentle, the men who long to be stewards and good servants, but not heros themselves...

So here is that missing piece. It's another epic, but you folks are worth it and the set needs to be complete.

Gentlemen in Distress

Dimitri came to Bella Bay
To study magic at the school;
He did not heed his father’s scorn,
Who thought of him a shiftless fool.

He practiced long into the nights
To learn the ways of wizardry,
But never looked at pretty girls –
His feet were light, his gaze was free.

When Francis came to Bella Bay
He sought employment in the keep
But none would have a seamster there,
Though his skill made the ladies weep.

He found a job down near the docks
And sewed gowns for the dally-girls
Who praised him for his stitches fine
But never stroked his silken curls.

A press-gang swept through Bella Bay
To fill a new ship’s company;
They took Dimitri from the park
And Francis down beside the sea.

The two men woke up in a cell
With rowdy others caged nearby.
Dimitri said to Francis then,
“We’d best get free, or surely die.”

“Can you pick locks, or break the door?”
Said Francis, holding out his hands,
“For I cannot, and you don’t look
The sort to best these iron bands.”

Dimitri said, “Alas, I can’t.
I rather hoped you could instead.”
The locks held fast, although they tried
Until their tattered fingers bled.

The other captives laughed at them,
As if their bonds were nothing new,
And said, “Don’t cry, you pansy lads,
The sea will make real men of you!”

Dimitri snorted, “That I doubt;
My father’s tried all he could find.”
But Francis said, “We’re surely men,
As you must see – or are you blind?”

Dimitri turned to Francis then,
And moved to kiss him on the lips
But Francis turned his face away
And gently lifted hands from from hips.

“It’s sweet of you to offer this,”
Said Francis, “but I am afraid
That where you seek a man, my friend,
I’d rather have a willing maid.”

Dimitri winced, but turned his thoughts
Back to escape. “I know a charm
To summon aid,” he said, “from those
Of braver heart and stronger arm.”

“What will you need?” said Francis then.
“A pen and ink, and parchment page,”
Dimitri said, “but I don’t see
A way to get them in this cage.”

“Must it be pen and ink and page,
Or might I sew what you would write?”
Said Francis – and Dimitri laughed,
“We’ll yet get out of here tonight!”

Dimitri said, “What of your tools?”
But Francis chuckled, “I believe
They didn’t search me very well,”
And pulled a needle from his sleeve.

Dimitri chanted long and low
While Francis made his fingers fly
With spell and symbol drawing those
Who would be saviors, by and by.

Exhausted, both men fell asleep
Still huddled close for comfort there
While all around them, time and tide
Were turning onward, unaware.

At middle-night the captain came
To pay the press-gang for his crew.
He fetched the captive sailors out
And laughed to see the sleeping two.

Then clang! and clash! – the sound of swords
Rang down the dungeon, rousing all.
From north and south, two voices came
And raised a brazen battle-call.

As Francis scrambled to his feet,
Somebody dragged him from the cell,
Then shoved Dimitri afterwards –
He couldn’t see her very well.

Not far away, the captain fought
Against a knight who struck him down;
And she who saved them slew the gang
Who had been pressing in the town.

When Francis saw the lady-knight
With skin of pearl and hair of flame
He snatched his tongue back from the cat
And stammered, “May I have your name?”

She swept a bow. “I’m Bernadette,
And this is Ricard; we’re a pair
Of errant knights who got your call,”
She said. “I’m glad we found the lair.”

Dimitri meant to slip away
And leave the others to their fun
But Ricard caught him, murmuring,
“You know, you’re not the only one.”

Dimitri blushed, as red as rose,
And Ricard kissed him on the hand.
“My hero,” sighed Dimitri then
And Ricard said, “At your command.”

They left the press-gang’s hidden lair
And called the Guard to tend the mess
Then found an inn, and rented rooms,
And went to bed – well, more or less.

At last they’d won what they had sought,
So morning found them, two by two:
Here Ricard and Dimitri lay,
There Bernadette and Francis too.

When Bernadette went to her friends
Among the noblewomen, they
Rethought their stance on seamsters and
Found Francis work without delay.

He dressed the ladies of the keep
In broideries of silk untold,
But only his own Bernadette
Was decked with vines in thread-of-gold.

When Ricard chatted with the Guard
And praised Dimitri’s wizardry
They said that they could use such spells
And offered up a handsome fee.

Dimitri made them crystal balls
And taught some Guardsmen how to see –
But for his home with Ricard made
A Veil of perfect privacy.

In Bella Bay, two couples live
Who followed hearts in different ways
Than others do, but found their bliss
And hold it close for all their days –

For knights are sworn to save the meek
And wizards tend the subtleties
And seamsters take a stitch in time –
Let others do as they may please.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, writing

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