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Adapted from a traditional French ballad


Deep in the halls trumpets resound,
Drum-beats are rolled: the King's command
Summoning all his ladies;
And the first at whom he did gaze
Quite stole his heart and soul away,
Quite stole his heart and soul away.

So the King asked: "Tell me, marquis,
Who might that lovely lady be?
No fairer have I seen in my life."
And the marquis has answered:
"Sire, that lady is my wife;
Lord King, she is my wife."

"Marquis, would you give her to me?
So rare a gift would greatly please.
I'd show her royal romance.
And in return I'd make of you
Grand Marshal of all France.
Grand Marshal of all France."

"If it were not that you are king,
Sire, this request my ears would sting,
And, with my sword held in my hand,
I'd take a bloody vengeance.
Yet, since you're king of all this land,
What's mine is yours to command."

"Farewell my sweet, farewell my heart!
Farewell my love, for we must part!
Farewell our life together.
Duty demands I serve my king;
His power may yoke or sever –
Farewell all hope forever!"

King and marquise dance a pavane:
Sovereign and slave chained arm-in-arm.
In the hall drums beat faster.
While the court echoes laughter,
Deep in the night France's Marshal
Leaps from the walls of the castle.

The Queen has made up a bouquet
Of royal lilies, fair and pale,
Tainted with scent of death;
Sent it to the marquise.
The fragrance of that poisoned wreath
Stole away the marquise's breath.

The King commands a tomb be built
Covered in brass, to hide his guilt.
Deep in the earth his mistress laid,
Drums beat the sombre funeral march;
And on the tomb he's had engraved
The name of one no more enslaved.

Ah, if I e'er should choose to wed,
To take a wife unto my bed,
I would bestow the wedding ring
On someone with a face so plain
And figure so displeasing
That she would never tempt the King.
detail from "Ball at the Valois Court", ca. 1580, artist unknown

Created: November 17, 2014. © Stephen Alsford