A youthful knight his sword and shield did take
As the rising sun displayd its heavenly fire
And thus unto his servant boldly spake:
"Come ride with me this day, my faithful squire,
For glory, praise, and honour - all and eke
The favour of my queen do I desire:
A foul and loathesome creature I do seek
And shall destroy, for many rumours say
There lives a dragon high on Vulcan Peak."
So rideth then the gallant knight away
Accomp'nied by his squire, young and true;
They travelld far, a wretched beast to slay.
Late crosséd they a valley blacke of hue
At whose grim aspect the squire did recoil,
For charcoal pillars stood where trees once grew.
No blade of grass could pierce that darkend soil,
All coveréd with soot and grisly ash,
So greatly the land did dragon's breath despoil.
Looking about, the hero's eyes did flash:
He in his mind himselfe did entertain
With thoughts of him with whom he soon would clash!
Beyond the valley lay a verdant plain
That peaceful strecht far as the eye could see;
Yet soon they'd learn this land were dragon's domain.
For as they crosst the meadow presently,
Past herds of roe deer grazing near a creek,
There rose o'er the horizon ominously
Great mountains that conceald whom they did seek.
Approaching nigh, they soon did comprehend:
There stood a dragon high on Vulcan Peak!
Thus up the mountain paths they did ascend
Till narrow rocky ways their steeds deterrd;
They did alight, from thence on foot to wend.
And climbing treacherous slopes without a word,
The champion preparéd for the fight,
But ere he drew his shining sword, they heard
A deep, sonorous voice: "Well met, Sir Knight."
All sudden stopt he, frozen still with shock -
"It speaks!" exclaimd the squire, gript with fright.
And as they stood dumbfounded on the rock
The dragon spake again: "Why com'st thou here?"
The knight, amazd that such a brute could talk
Did quell within the rising tide of fear,
And reconsideréd his rude atttack,
For that this were no simple beast twas clear.
Therefore, that courtesy he might not lack,
He issuéd a challenge at the least,
And boldly to the dragon calléd back:
"Prepare thee to defend thyself, foul beast!
For in the name of righteousness, I swear
I shall not rest until thou lie deceast,
And in my hand thy lifeless head I bear!
Thus from our land this evil shall I purge,
And so by deeds acquire praises fair."
Then from the dragon's nostrils did emerge
A puff of orange smoke that rose o'erhead
And, caught by sundry breezes, did diverge.
"Foul beast?" indignantly the dragon said.
"What crime have I committed, pray do tell,
That now so earnestly you wish me dead?"
Then spake the knight, "Thou denizen of hell,
Thy mere existence giveth man offense!
But certainly thy sins thou knowest well:
Thou fliest through fair azure skies, from whence
Poor towns with scorching flames thou hast attackt,
Fiercely devouring helpless innocents!"
"Torching villages? Is that a fact?"
The dragon's eyes grew scarlet: "Namest thou
One village that I'm rumourd to have sackt!"
(The list'ning squire was forcéd to allow
That of no burnéd town was he aware;
Though certainly his lord would know just how
To render unto him an answer fair.)
So spake the knight: "The towns thou hast destroyd
Were raizd completely - nothing didst thou spare;
This devastation left the land devoid
Of life, that e'en their names to us are lost.
But haste! Thou triest deftly to avoid
The deadly fray which thee thy life shall cost!
Percht safely out of reach of trenchant blade
With idle talk my patience you exhaust.
So from thy lofty crest, though yet afraid,
Descendest thou! Prepare to meet thy fate -
Which by my troth thou never shalt evade!"
Then spake the dragon, "Let me get this straight.
You uninvited come unto my land
To proffer vulgar insults ripe with hate,
Then falsely you accuse me out of hand
Of crimes in truth I never did commit.
You threaten me my life, and then demand
That I descend at once from whence I sit,
In order that, to comp for lack of skill,
Your target you might be more apt to hit?"
The young knight twitcht and sputterd on the hill,
For taken quite aback, he'd no reply
To this nefarious fiend he'd come to kill.
"Very well," the dragon spake, and breathd a sigh.
Then stretcht he wide his huge majestic wings
Whose brightly colourd feathers bore him high,
And in the sunlight, glittering like rings,
His scales shone of iridescent gold -
A treasure to be coveted by kings.
He truly was magnificent to behold;
In spite of themselves the two men gaipt in awe
As they watcht this wingéd beast from days of old
Glide effortlessly through the air. His massive jaw
All coveréd with hair of snowy white
Bore two great curvéd fangs, from which they saw
The sunlight gleam upon the ivory bright.
So flew the dragon downward toward the plain,
Alighting himselfe some distance from the knight.
At once the lord, descending back again,
Did mount his steed to close in combat dire,
Urging his stallion on with spur and rein:
His shield he gript to ward the beastly fire
And bracéd fast his lance, whose mortal blow
Alone would satisfy his burning ire.
Silently the dragon watcht his foe,
Sitting calmly as though without a care;
No hint of wrath nor terror did he show.
And fiercely rode the knight, swift as a hare,
Closing on the beast at a fearsome pace:
A mighty crack resounded through the air
As his dreadful weapon found its rightful place -
And snapt in two! Nor did the dragon stir,
But staréd down, disdain upon his face.
No wound upon the beast did he confer;
Instead the knight himselfe was sorely daizd.
Yet nothing this brave lord could e'er deter
From earning his prize, and so his anger blaizd
As he reinéd in his steed and turnd about.
Then drawing forth his sword with arm upraisd,
He chargéd once again this wretched lout
Who waited for him patiently afield.
Thus girding all his strength he gave a shout:
With such great might the knight his sword did wield
That as he smote the dragon with his blade
It shatteréd to bits before his shield!
At this, the squire's heart was sore dismayd
To see his liegelord so beset, that he
Did draw his own good sword to give him aid.
And rushing toward his foe courageously
He glauncéd at the creature, that did stare
Upon him fast, with great intensity,
And peerd at him with such a fearsome glare
That he did stay his hand. His noble lord
Meanwhile, his weaponry in ill repair
From having shatterd both his launce and sword,
Producéd now an heavy iron mace
Which on his steed conveniently was stord.
But ere the knight could e'en advaunce a pace,
Blacke smoke did billow from the dragon's nose,
And he with breath of flame a line did trace
Upon the grass betwixt them both. So rose
Up from the field a wall of fire and smoke
That effectively did separate the foes.
With dreadful wrath the dragon loudly spoke:
"Be still and listen, rash and foolish man,
Before my rage to bloodshed you provoke!
This land is mine, an hundred leagues the span
From north to south, and like from east to west -
A fact ordaind long ere your quest began.
But should you wish this claim to now contest,
Go, gather up your kings and armies bright,
And bring unto me here your warriors best.
For then will I explain to you my right
In the only language you will understand:
The language of blood and death! But you, Sir Knight,
You speak of winning praise and glory grand,
Wherefore to earn, foul murder you'd commit.
Therefore accept from me this reprimand,
And cause thy rankled pride to yet submit:
Shouldst thou desire a reputation pure,
Do seek thy calling better to befit,
Though thou great many hardships may endure;
Try thou to learn humility of heart,
And practice showing mercy to the poor."
These words unto the knight did hotly smart,
And did his stallion rear and loudly neigh
As he jerkt the reins and turnéd to depart.
Aflush with shame he gallopéd away,
Followd by the squire, his count'nance meek,
Returning whence they came without delay.
And to this day, should any dare to seek,
There lives a dragon still on Vulcan Peak.