The Ballad of Tom the Turkey
I sing a ballad of a bird
Whose tale is strange and quirky.
He taught us things without a word
By being bold and perky,
And all the kings and queens have heard
Of noble Tom the turkey.
He lived inside a wooden pen,
Against the outer wall
Of Bulwark Castle, built from stone,
Which rose above him tall
With turrets high that touched the sky;
He hoped they’d never fall.
Tom was a stout and sturdy bird,
In truth a little plump.
A turkey cannot fly, alas,
But Tom was keen to jump.
He’d launch himself with flapping wings
And land upon his rump.
The plumpness of the turkey’s tum
Was easy to explain.
Each morning, Sal the maid would come
And feed him full of grain.
She’d stand and chat and linger some,
In sunshine or in rain.
Sal loved to tell him epic tales,
And those she loved the best
Had knights who’d ride the countryside
Upon a noble quest,
And dragons, vain, would end up slain,
While damsels watched impressed.
Sal had a soft romantic heart
And daydreams filled her head.
The cook would scream: “Wake from your dream
And do some work instead.”
To Tom, Sal poured out all her tales;
He heard each word she said.
One morning, ringing hammer blows
Beyond the castle gate,
Woke Tom up from his peaceful sleep
And put him in a state.
Had foes attacked the castle walls?
And what would be his fate?
His great alarm gave way to calm
When Sal appeared with grain.
Her step was light. Her eyes were bright.
She hurried to explain:
“The Golden Prince, his questing done,
Has come home once again.
“To celebrate his safe return
From many savage fights,
A tournament takes place today,
Packed full of bold delights,
And best of all the Prince will joust
With all presenting knights.
“They always joust in great romances,
And bards sing of heroic deeds
By brave knights who must take their chances
When mounted on their mighty steeds;
They charge each other with raised lances,
And clash together at huge speeds.
“Carpenters build a lengthy rail,
Those banging sounds you hear.
This way the horses don’t collide;
It helps the knights to steer.
One on each side, they boldly ride,
While crowds watch on and cheer.
“Now here’s the most romantic part,
Of which fine words are spoken:
The lady who is his sweetheart
Will give the knight a token,
But if he should refuse her gift,
The lady’s heart is broken.
“A simple token works the best,
A lover’s lucky charm,
Like feathers for his helmet crest
Or kerchief round his arm,
But not long scarves for they might catch
And cause the brave knight harm.
“I always cheer the Golden Prince
Because he looks so fine.
Last night I had a lovely dream;
I hope it is a sign:
He wore a lady’s love token,
And that token was mine.
“I dream but I’m a foolish girl,
My love alas ill-starred.
The Prince is ranked too high for me;
From meeting him, I’m barred.
I’ll miss the tournament as well
For Cook will work me hard.
“A massive feast is needed since
We’ve hungry knights to feed,
And dear Tom how it makes me wince
But Cook says it’s agreed:
You’ll be presented to the Prince;
He’ll think you fine indeed.”
A bout of sobbing struck poor Sal
As fierce as it was brief.
She plucked from underneath her sleeve
A linen handkerchief
And mopped at her cascading tears
As she expressed her grief.
“Each day I’ve talked to you, dear Tom,
You’ve listened to each word.
You never interrupt or yawn
Or tell me I’m absurd.
Time spent with you is precious time
Because I feel I’m heard.
“But Cook will shrug and say that’s life
So I must dry my eyes;
The kitchen boys, full of rude noise
Will mock my heart-felt cries;
Yet I am sad we’ll meet no more;
How tragic are goodbyes!”
Sal finished doling out the grain
Though she was filled with grief.
She tried her best to hide her pain
And smiled through gritted teeth.
She did not spot that under strain
She’d dropped her handkerchief.
Why must we part? It makes Sal cry,
Tom thought, as he pecked grain.
It is because the Prince likes me;
The answer is quite plain;
My noble rank has grown so high
We cannot meet again.
How silly all this is, Tom thought,
That I should lose a friend,
Because I am a noble bird
And social rules won’t bend.
How can I raise the dear maid up
So friendship need not end?
She has to catch the Prince’s eye,
And with his passion woken
He’ll woo her and she’ll swoon and sigh
And offer him a token.
He’ll wear it and she’ll rank so high,
As high as can be spoken.
For Sal has seen this in her dream
And dreams are always sound.
Her token is her handkerchief,
She carries it around,
But she has dropped this precious cloth;
It’s lying on the ground.
A lesser turkey might have felt
That matters ended there.
But Tom was made of sterner stuff
And he did not despair.
He took the hankie in his beak
And lifted it with care.
The precious cloth must be returned
To Sal so that she could
Present it to her love-struck Prince,
Not leave it in the mud
Tom took a vow to do this now,
Though it might cost him blood.
Six trumpets blew a loud fanfare,
Beyond the castle wall.
The tournament was starting there;
Those trumpets were the call.
Now was the time for Tom to dare
And boldly risk his all.
He gripped the hankie in his beak
And took a breath, most deep,
Then sprinted hard towards the fence
And took a mighty leap.
He scraped his tail but cleared the rail
And landed in a heap.
The lofty building, called the keep,
It could not be denied,
Made poor Tom feel alone and small;
He summoned up his pride.
The keep was where the kitchens were
And he’d find Sal inside.
Tom waddled briskly to a door
Where two men barred his way.
With widened eyes and great surprise,
They wondered what to say.
Tom fluffed his splendid feathers up;
He did not have all day.
“Look Bert, I think I know this bird,”
One guard said to his mate.
“He’s wanted at the royal feast.
We should not make him wait.
These birds are bred to come to us;
Next thing, they’ll bring a plate!”
“It’s got a napkin in its beak,”
Bert said and scratched his chin.
“Now Fred, this plump and juicy bird
Is one we should let in.
And Cook just might give us a bite.”
The guards exchanged a grin.
###End of Sample ###
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