I originally wrote this poem in a form I’m calling a bastard quatrain; it would be long measure if I had an ear for meter, but my meter is pretty irregular, so probably the best way to describe the form is the bastard love child of long measure and redondilla (though I can’t find hard and fast confirmation as to whether the redondilla is actually meter-less or rather, made of trochees [In the extensive, rigorous ten minutes of Googling I did]). There was a poetry contest at the last Dreamstone, which had a Chaucerian theme, so they were looking for poems written in Rhyme royal, which is a 7 line stanza iambic pentameter form. I waited until the 11th hour to do a poem for it, so figured the easiest thing to do would be to adapt this poem. I ended up regretting the choice, as I much preferred the original form. I felt forcing the poem into a shape it didn’t “want” to be made the language stilted at times and the flow more awkward. I’m rather odd and superstitious about form, though. I feel like every poem has a shape it “wants” to be, and if you allow the poem to flow into that shape, you get a better poem out of it. In addition, rhyme royal is a form better suited to ornamentation, and I prefer simplicity in my work as a general rule.
Rhyme Royal Version:
The Reluctant Husband
With a heavy heart this morning of May,
I make my slow way to the chapel door,
For this morn is my wedding day,
And I shall tarry with my love no more,
For I walk towards a bride I abhor.
The ring silver seems a jailor’s hard chain.
There is nothing sweet in this parting’s pain.
It is the sweet Catrin that I do love,
Her kindly smile, her skillful lute playing,
Her voice as soft as the coo of the dove,
Not foul Roslyn with her donkey braying.
To buy her silence would be worth the paying.
It is hard fate for a man yet young to bear,
When he has known truly a love so fair.
The fair Catrin has skin as soft as morning dew,
A waist as slim as a lily’s thin stem.
Of sores and spots Roslyn has not few.
Her breath is as rank as the fetid fen.
Upon her brow there sits a ponderous wen.
Catrin’s head has fine gold and silver hair.
Ruth Ann’s dirty brambles cannot compare.
Catrin’s step knows a sweet and gentle grace,
While foul Roslyn naps through the dance,
Blue flies and gnats lighting upon her face.
I guess I could ask Roslyn to prance.
I would prefer to fall upon a lance.
Instead I ask of God to deliver,
A swift quick death or a stronger liver.
Fairest Catrin’s wit is most keen and true
She has no match within a scholar’s duel
If you ask foul Roslyn for two and two
She’ll think you a tormentor rather cruel
I could believe she swapped her brains for gruel
I could believe she had plenty to start
Since she’s eaten enough to fill a cart
Catrin kens well how to please a young man
Lifting him to heaven with softest touch
While foul Roslyn doth kiss as best she can,
Sadly, she seems to slobber over much.
Black hairs about her lips cluster and clutch,
But in fairness and honesty I must tell,
In truth, always she has kept them brushed well.
No more shall I believe that love can last!
No more shall fair Catrin close swive to me1
It has become a dream of the sweet past,
Our fond embrace beneath the linden tree.
Though it seems most cruel, our love is not to be.
For, of years Roslyn has twenty and four,
And fair Catrin has (alas!) two and four score.
Bastard Quatrain Version:
The Reluctant Husband
It is with heavy heart this morn,
That I approach the chapel door,
For this morn is my wedding day.
I shall tarry with my love na’more!
The silver ring seems jailor’s chain.
Tis hard fate for man young to bear,
Marriage to a woman so foul,
When he has known a love so fair.
It is fine sweet Kathrine that I love,
With golden locks light as air.
Not lumbering fat Rosamund,
With a bramblepatch for hair.
Fair Kathrine possesses skin soft,
Fresh and clean as morning dew.
Foul Rosamund’s face, never washed,
Sores and spots she has not few.
Fair Kathrine is as slim and sweet,
As a green slip of lily stem.
Fat Rosamund is foul and round,
A sink-pool in the fetid fen.
Fair Kathrine’s dance step has no par.
Her steps are quick and full of grace.
Foul Rosamund naps through the dance,
Flies lighting quick upon her face.
Fair Kathrine’s wit is quick and keen,
None can match her in a learned duel.
Ask foul Rosamund for two and two,
She’ll think you a tormentor cruel.
Fair Kathrine kens how to please a man,
Bringing him to heaven with a touch.
Foul Rosamund’s kisses are wet,
She slobbers and drools overmuch.
One last time I held Katharine close,
Beneath the bowing linden tree,
And she refused me once again,
As I begged her to swive to me.
With sore heart, I bid her farewell,
For our love is not meant to be:
Of years Rosamund has one and eight,
And fair Kathrine has eight and three.