By Toirrdelbach Ua Mael Doraid
Come fifty years, full five times ten,
Had Price and Alice married been
When came the call throughout the land
“Let all who hear, both mean and grand,
Come help us celebrate this fall
And join us in the feasting hall
Where lords and ladies, young and hoar,
Would dine upon the head of boar
With cherries serv’ed as is meet,
In dishes warm, both tart and sweet.
“Let gather there both squire and knight
To join the lists, each one to fight
To gain himself the champion’s share
And honour for his lady faire.
And when the tournament be done
The victor, that strong lord who won,
Proclaim to all, both far and near,
Inspir’d he was by maid most dear,
The beauty of whose lovely face
Is equaled only by her grace.
“Of artists should no lack be found,
For there upon the feasting ground,”
Declared our grand and noble host,
“If God allows we make our boast
To have among Earth’s craftsmen fine
The best of those skilled in design
Of wares, and art, and minstrelsy,
Then bid them come for all to see
Their craft, and let the prize be sought
For work of art or craft best wrought.
“Let tales be told. Let songs be played.
Let joyous merriment be made.
And when, at last the time is come
For all to head back to their home
Let all who come this day to dine
With us in company most fine
Proclaim to all who heeded not
The call to come to feast, ‘I wot
No better time by lass or lad
Was in this Kingdom ever had.’
Now therefore do I bring this lay
To celebrate this wondrous day.
For how could we be so remiss
To honour not the wedded bliss
Of such a fine and lovely pair,
Our Baron and his Lady Faire?
And more the negligence would be
(Let all blame fall on only me)
If left untold the tale remained
Of how young Price his Alice gained
And how those names they came to own.
For though it be not widely known
Please listen and it shall be shown
This love, which of loves stands alone,
Came from a cherry with no stone.
In years ago, two score eleven,
When bright and shining as in heaven
The morning dawned, and with it brought
The fairest day that God e’er wrought,
A wondrous thing to say the least,
For ‘twas that day All Hallows Feast,
Then Lord Antonio did wake.
And when he sat his fast to break
He thought, “Let no man ever say
I hunted not this All Saints Day.”
Then gathered he his servants near
His side and told them strong and clear,
“On days as this the hunting grounds
Call men, so go and loose the hounds.
The horses saddle right and good.
For hunt I would, and by the Rood,
No heart shall on this day escape
Its fate, and that, I make no jape,
So long as God may make me able
Shall be to end up at my table.
Obeying then their lord they went
And gathered the accoutrement
That needed for the hunt would be.
To slay the game he carried three
Spears sharp and gleaming bright, one bow
Of yew, the best that man may know.
The bridle on his horse in place,
A noble beast of Arab race,
With twelve strong men at arms he rode
And took his leave from his abode.
The keen-nosed hounds soon found the scent
And, baying, full pell-mell they went
Down trails so crooked and so narrow
No chance there was to shoot an arrow.
Through thicket close and choked with weeds,
Still huntsmen followed on their steeds
In valley deep and over hill.
Then all at once the noise was still.
The barking of the hounds was stayed;
Antonio was sore dismayed.
“What means,” quoth he, “this silence drear?
For ne’er on Earth did aught bring fear
Upon my hounds, nor did they break
Pursuit once gained,” so Anton spake.
“A beast must be the source of dread,”
His huntsmen cried. Lord Anton said,
“If beast it was that made them still,
Come, good my lords, let’s climb yon hill
To see what beast could be so fell
The baying of my hounds to quell.”
And when at last their way they made
To crest of hill, they reached a glade
Where sat the hounds beside a maid.
On beauty such as she displayed
no mortal eyes had ne’er been laid.
When Lord Antonio espied
The maid his jaw dropped open wide.
Her face like alabaster white,
Unblemished, perfect in his sight,
Lay framed by tresses bearing hue
Of burnished cherry wood—‘tis true—
In tiny ringlets falling down.
From shapely shoulders hung her gown.
As smooth and white as foam on wave
Her beauty made his heart her slave.
Reason came not; his speech was stalled.
Antonio was so enthralled
No more than stand there could he do.
He gazed at her, and then he knew
That he must go and say to her,
“Sweet maid of beauty rare and pure,
Please come with me, stay by my side,
And marry me and be my bride.
For I had liever lose my life
Than take thee not to be my wife.
“My Lord,” quoth she, “how can this be?
Thou know’st me not, nor I know thee.
How could I ever think to wed
A man like thee? Thou art well bred—
For I can see that thou art grand
With servants ever at thy hand—
While I am from a family mean.
No castle have I ever seen.
Please make for thee an equal yoke
With someone worthy,” thus she spoke.
Anton then said, “Thou dost me wrong
To think my love be not so strong
That I care not from whence you came,
Nor what your rank or family name.
Those things mean naught to me, my dear.
I love but thee, so have no fear.
If name it be that keepeth thou
Declaring not thy wedding vow
To name thee “noble” I delight;
By “Alice” shalt thou now be hight.
Sweet Alice then to him replied,
“To evermore be by your side
And live with you as man and wife
Would bring great joy into my life.
For I can tell thou lovest me,
And, by the Rood, so I do thee.
Yet, wed thee now, that I dare not.
For it has ever been my lot
Before I pledge a man my troth
I must fulfill this sacred oath.
While on his deathbed he did tarry
My father, guarded, weak and wary,
Said, “Promise me ere me you bury
To prove his worth the man you marry
Must bring to you a stoneless cherry.
“A cherry with no stone?” said he.
“A cherry with no stone,” said she.
“Though difficult may be the task,
One thing I crave, one