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GURD THE THIRD During the reign of Gurd the Third A number of events occurred Which some observers thought to be Part of a vast conspiracy By profit takers, gnomes and those Entrepreneurs nobody knows Working together underground To lower the value of the pound. Others considered them to be The glimmerings of anarchy, While others thought that they were just Part of the normal cut and thrust Of mere existence in the main Throughout the course of King Gurd’s reign, Like Knights, Crusaders, derring-do, Pornography and sniffing glue… At all events they served to bring No small annoyance to the King. Awaking on the twelfth of May The King felt he was not au fait With normal routine matters which Usually ran without a hitch. There was no valet by the bed To place the crown upon his head. No barber there to comb his locks Nor chambermaid to find his socks. On might say, in parenthesis Protocol predetermines this Should fall within the valet’s sphere, Nevertheless it would appear With underwear and socks and such The King preferred the lighter touch. (All save the Queen thought this to be A harmless idiosyncrasy.) There was no one there to say, ‘Good morning Sire, a lovely day.’ And stir his tea, for he could see There wasn’t even any tea. He called, ‘Ho, there. Without!’ Quoth he, ‘This can’t be happening to me.’ He shut his eyes and counted ten Before he opened them again Directing an imperious stare At all the servants who were not there, A strange unprecedented thing. ‘I must be dreaming.’ Said the King.

He thought the room with no one there Decidedly seemed somewhat bare. The Royal Torso, instantly, Trembled in tacit sympathy. The King lay back and counted then Another, more determined, ten, And gave the matter one more try, Opened a surreptitious eye Risking a single furtive peep While feigning to be fast asleep. A furtive peep, a glance, a glareBut still there was nobody there. He grumbled, rumbled, then arose, The floor was icy to his toes, And ventured forth to find a Page On whom to vent the Royal Rage. There was nobody in the Hall, No bounding hound, no Seneschal, Not even the intruder who Had broken in a time or two, Only the papers on the mat, Unironed, unopened, just like that. Unrecognised as well, for he Knew only of The Sun, Page Three. The Queen came down in disarray, ‘Something seems different today’ She said, ‘so what is happening?’ ‘I want my breakfast.’ Said the King. At the Prince Percy wandered down. The Queen observed, with regal frown, ‘Grammercy, Percy, pray begone, Thee hast not got thy trousers on!’ The Prince departed, clearly piqued, ‘I’ll dress myself, so there!’ he squeaked. They looked around, they searched the Hall, There was nobody there at all. Discussing it, the King and Queen, Debated what it could have been That caused the entire staff to err In such absentia, as it were, Before deciding it must be A failure of Security. Just one more contretemps, but that Was hardly to be wondered at, Matters had got so lax that there Was now a public thoroughfare From somewhere in the Palace Wall Which ended in the Banquet hall, And commoners had even been Seen in the Royal Mezzanine.

One that might merit, nonetheless, Further disclosures in the Press, Which could be guaranteed to bring Strong disapproval from the King. Elsewhere along a dusty road A threadbare Knight in armour strode. A sword he had, but scabbard lacked, His horse was lame and broken backed. His dressage lacked in finer points, His armour squeaked in all its joints. He carried neither shield nor lance; People regarded him askance, With neither squire nor retinue They thought him far from well to do. Distrust was seen on every face That looked upon him. Not to place Too fine a point upon it, he Became redundant recently, A situation he enjoyed Among three million unemployed. His quest, in rusted vintage mail Was hardly for the Holy Grail, Nor one to rescue damozels In durance vile or under spells, Nor jousting match, nor bank to rob The Knight was looking for a job. And to obtain one, in a word, One needs must travel, he had heard. As bright the sun upon him burned A metal patch could be discerned, A small square inset on his breast Appearing brighter than the rest, Over a portion which, one knew Originally had rusted through. In certain light one saw a snatch Of printing on the metal patch. Embossed upon the piece of tin, (Capital letters it was in) If anybody really cares, Appeared “Fray Bentos, Buenos Aires.” The Knight rode on and at midday He had his lunch along the way. He sat against a fallen tree Leaving his horse to wander free. There was no risk that it would stray It never, ever, ran away, In any case it was too slow And hadn’t any place to go.

He ate his lunch, as I have said, Comprising of a loaf of bread, While working out how he could stretch Three groats and what his horse might fetch To last him through another week Of bare existence, so to speak. As thus he sat and did his sums Some birds hopped up and pecked the crumbs. He watched them with a jaundiced eye; Incuriously he wondered why No matter where he went, alack, Something was always on his back. Among the flock, two mynah birds Not only pecked but read the words Upon his breastplate lightly scratched Above the place where it was patched. The birds disguised an instant start And casually drew apart, Leaving the other birds still there To eat the poor Knight’s wholesome fare, Then surreptitiously took wing And hurried off to tell the King. One interjects a few brief words In order to explain these birds. They were in an elitist Corps Originally recruited for Such duties for the madding crowd Too secret to be said aloud. As each new entrant passed his course And took up duties with the force, Consecutively each one bore A “Mynah Number” in the Corps, Preserving his identity In deep anonyminity. EG., the first two entrants, who Were Mynah One and Mynah Two. For every Mynah there occurred A clutch of Secretary Birds With offices and desks and files And memoranda, codes and piles Of paper passing here and there And up and down and everywhere, Continuously very much Preserving secrecy and such. The Secretary Bird IC, Reported to the Ministry, ‘Nomenclature, re Mynah Corps, I recommend it would be more Efficient if you were to give

A title less informative. Therefore, instead of Mynah, I Consider, we should say M.I. For, after all, security Is what we are supposed to be.’ This was approved, I have to say, With only a few month’s delay. Thereafter, then, the Mynah word Officially was never heard Except in bars and Fleet Street pubs, Bedrooms and homosexual clubs, In every one of which, one fears, A Chapman Pincher had its ears. (A breed of dog, with pointed snout, Designed for sniffing secrets out.) Thus Mynah was, as time went by Abbreviated to M.I. Our birds, by one of Fate’s strange tricks, Were M.I. 5 and M.I. 6. Back in the Palace, King and Queen Were ignorant of what might had been The reason for the overnight Absence of everyone in sight. The Queen said, ‘We must search the place To see if there is any trace Of anyone, or any clue To indicate what we should do, I’ve never heard of such a thing!’ ‘I want my breakfast.’ said the King. They wandered vaguely here and there From room to room from Hall to stair. They searched the place from floor to floor, Inside each room, behind each door, They barked their shins; they banged their heads, The King looked under all the beds, And cleared his throat, the Queen said, ‘Where?’ ‘No’ said the King, ‘there’s no one there.’ They searched the Staff Apartments, then Went back upstairs to start again. The King got lost and roundly swore, ‘I’ve never seen in here before.’ Eventually they chanced to be Searching the Kitchen, there to see A message stuck upon a spike Which said, ‘We hereby go on strike For better wages, higher pay And more emoluments every day.’ And signed, ‘A Steward on behalf Of all your loyal Palace Staff.

PS The rise should represent A great deal more than four per cent.’ The Queen picked up a mixing bowl, ‘Treason!’ she shouted, ‘Heads will roll! Get out the stocks; turn out the guard, Erect a gibbet in the yard, Some one this day is going to swing.’ ‘I want my breakfast.’ Said the King. The Queen strode to the Palace Yard And once again turned out the guard. Instead of forming up in threes, They vacillated, ill at ease, Quite, not unnaturally, unsure, Having been turned out just before. And so, despite the Corporal’s shout Some men fell in and some fell out. The Guard Commander hardly knew Exactly what he ought to do No Training Manuals include Events of quite this magnitude. Guards are turned out in case of Fire And not by Queens in night attire. The Palace Spectre, clanking chains, Materialised his last remains. Beneath his arm his severed head Observed the Guard and promptly said ‘The memory of this melee Will haunt me to my dying day.’ Although the King had never seen A Guard turn-out, nor yet the Queen They could but hardly fail to see They hadn’t done it properly. Though knowing naught of Guards, nor yet Of military etiquette, It suddenly occurred to them The ought to call the RSM, Who briskly strode across the Square Shouting ‘Stand still!’ and ‘That man there!’ Sadly his vast stentorian roar Confused the issue even more. The Guard responded to his shout, And fell back in or fell back out. Those that the Ghost had scared were more Terrified than they were before. The RSM was promptly heard To tell the Guard a filthy word. The Queen did not propose to be Deterred by such obscenity. She numbered off sufficient men To make the Royal beds and then

To sweep the floor and open doors And all the other Household chores. Also, by dint of regal guile, A steely charm, and frozen smile, If not to mention some duress, Prevailed upon the Sergeants’ Mess To rise to the emergency And feed the Royal Family. ‘I shall expect’ she paused to say, ‘To see the Menus every day.’ While this was going on, elsewhere, Far from the Palace and its square, The strikers planned their strategy If not in solidarity Most of them tended to concur Er…broadly speaking, as it were, Composing, to support the strike, Noteworthy slogans and the like For all the Picket Line to shout Like ‘Blackleg’, ‘Scab’ and ‘Out! Out! Out!’ They held a banner overhead – West Bromwich Albion, it said. They scrutinised the Pickets’ Code, They planned to lie down in the road, The Picketed the Sergeants’ mess, They made disclosures to the Press Though most of what they had to say Was common knowledge anyway. Numbers of local ne’er-do-well Joined in to make their total swell; Miners and Nurses joined their ranks, White collar workers from the Banks And several persons thought to be Connected with the TUC. But things got almost out of hand When politicians joined their band, One of whose number would persist In being Anti-Royalist. Speeches were made and votes were cast Until it seemed quite clear at last Their strategy was “Full Attack” And none of them were going back. They chalked a message on the wall Which said, ‘We want more pay, is all.’ This certainly went far to please The Miners, Nurses and MPs, Except the Anti-Royalist Who was against the Civil List. A protest march was also planned,

The Major Domo in command. It had not been decided where The march would go, but then and there Along a dusty, country road Up they all got and off they strode. It was the road the Knight rode on Although by now the Knight was gone. They struck a blow; they righted wrongs, They sang the fashionable songs. One Under-Chef was on his own He sang, ‘You’ll never walk alone’, Whilst marching, though he did his best, A hundred yards behind the rest. And there, pro-tem, one needs must say We’ll leave them ‘til another day. Back in the Palace that same day Progress was made the Army way. They gave the King his breakfast, then A char and wad at half past ten. It must be said the King was not Greatly disgruntled with his lot. Admitted, things were not the same Mais plus c’a change, plus c’est la même. By lunch he had dispelled his care And quite enjoyed his Army fare, When with a swish and with a swoop A mynah bird fell in his soup. Right at the onset one must say Landings were not his metier, At Cranwell there had been some doubt Whether or not to pass him out. The other, gently coming down, Lighted sedately on his crown, Whereon, before it deigned to speak It stretched its legs and cleaned its beak. They told the King where they had been. They told the King what they had seen. They told him all about the Knight Before he had a chance to bite A canapé; the second course Came as they told him of the horse. When the main meal was served they said He only had a hunk of bread. Then cheese and biscuits had been served They told the part they had reserved To be related at the end So that the King would comprehend About the breastplate of the Knight Elucidating on the sight

Of writing on the mended part. They then proceeded to impart Both word for word and fair and square Exactly what was written there. ‘And so,’ one bird concluded, ‘we Thought you should know immediately In order to facilitate Those measures in defence of State You may determine to employ.’ He said, ‘so whose a pretty boy.’

Gurd the third