This song was written in October 2012 (before “Changeling”), but was not publicly performed until Mudthaw in March 2013.
The Name of the King
© 2012 words & music by Eric Schrager
A mighty sovereign did escape
His enemies of war.
By stealth the rogues had captured him
Not quite two days before.
Unarmored and on foot across
The countryside went he,
And not a soul who saw him would
Know him for royalty.
He for the nonce must stay in flight
Till he’d reclaim his steel.
But when he rejoined the fight
They would feel the might of the king.
As dusk approached, he came upon
What might have been a farm,
’Twas in no state for planting,
But could shelter him from harm.
The woman there seemed not the sort
Inclined to take a guest,
So in their liege’s name he begged
A place that night to rest.
“Stop, vagabond! Have you no shame?
I’ll not shed you a tear.
Though my stable’s yours to claim,
I’ll not hear the name of the king!
“So eager was our prince to prove
His fighting father’s son,
He tore this land to shreds, and yet
The bloodshed’s never done.
“This farm has failed, like all the rest,
Since he took up the throne.
His wars devoured my sons and husband:
Now I’m here alone.”
She spoke, every word a poisoned dart,
Bitter, hard, and fierce,
Without courtesy or art,
And it pierced the heart of the king.
He slept on straw and bid the widow
Farewell on the morn.
By noon, his men saw him return,
And blew the battle-horn.
“Your Majesty is back! And now,
To slaughter them we go!”
“Belay that,” said the king, “and call
A parley with the foe.”
“My liege,” said his marshal, “that’s absurd!
You’ve got them! Why release?”
“Because my command you’ve heard!
Now make peace the word of the king!”
He yielded up his conquests,
Told his generals to disband.
He sent his soldiers home, poured out
His coffers to the land.
No glory earns a king who lays
His father’s sword to rust:
The nobles and their chroniclers
Consigned him to the dust.
But in the countryside, his fame
The generations cheered:
Like a bright, enduring flame,
They revered the name of the king.
While the song’s first public performance was at Mudthaw in March 2013, it did get a semi-private audience at Cooks Collegium in November 2012, where it was performed for HRM Thyrra of the East Kingdom and HRH Liadain of Aethelmearc and their attendants, as well as the renowned Toki Redbeard (who shared the bill with me, as it were, and killed with his story).
The song originated with me during Pennsic 2012, which was a rich event for me, and the place where I began the work of establishing a name for myself as a bard. Unlike my previous two Pennsics, where I found myself moved to actually write songs (The Bastard’s Tale and My Thirst, respectively) on-site, I was there to perform and to establish ties in the bardic community. Instead, I picked up a notebook and began jotting ideas for future songs, which came at me fast and furious all through the week, and left with inspirations for maybe a dozen possible songs.
The first of those inspirations was the seed for this song. I was looking to find my bearings in the bardic community and get a better understanding of the role of a bard in the SCA more broadly, and learned that a big part of that role involved learning and writing about SCA history, in particular the doings of kings, which recreates an important role of the authentic medieval bard (or so I gathered). My first thought on learning this was, “Oh, so I’m supposed to glorify kings and fighting and killing. That’s so not something interests me…I don’t know any royalty, and I have basically no interest in SCA fighting. I’m a 21st century American liberal, and there isn’t really that much I like about medieval monarchy from my modern perspective. That’s going to be an obstacle.”
My second thought (and second thoughts are often quite useful) was, “Okay, well that sounds like a dare. And if I did have something to say on the subject of kings and fighting and killing, what would it be?” I was intrigued to write a song that pushed back against all of that, and began shaping a story in my mind to serve that theme, and jotted down an outline.
When it came time to craft the song itself, one influence that came to mind was Mistress Rosalind Jehanne’s The Peasant Knight. It’s a beautiful song, and in particular I liked the subtlety of the inner rhymes she used in her choruses, such as:
Oh I have the heart of a warrior!
And although I am low-born, I hope one day I’ll be sworn
To be a knight, so I can fight to serve my lord.
My song is very different stylistically, and I took a different tack with the rhymes in my chorus, but I enjoyed the challenge of using an unusual scheme with fast-paced lines: A/B/A/BAC.
Chords (No Capo)
Intro: Bm A E Verses: Bm G A Bm A E Bm G A Bm A E Chorus 1-4: C#m F#m C#m F#7 Bm G A Bm G A (Instrumental) Bm A E Chorus 5: C#m F#m C#m F#7 Bm G A Bm G A Bm (rit.) G A Bm
Chords (Capo on 2nd Fret)
Intro: Am G D Verses: Am F G Am G D Am F G Am G D Chorus 1-4: Bm Em Bm E7 Am F G Am F G (Instrumental) Am G D Chorus 5: Bm Em Bm E7 Am F G Am F G Am (rit.) F G Am