The Efferous Beast
In common cause, the nobles rode,
bound by the ancient, chivalrous code;
the quiet and ingenuous Don -
of La Mancha, by his caparison -
the loud and bluff Sir Pellinore,
as stout and prickly as a boar.
'Did I tell thee of the Questing Beast?
I've chased him twenty years at least!'
'Ah Pelli, talk not of this beast now,
we must catch another one somehow.'
The Don was haughty, dour and thin,
while Pellinore had a pendulous chin:
neither were blessed with any beauty,
just an unreasonable sense of noble duty.
Over the horizon, into the blue;
high adventure, companions true.
In a village scarce a league from Tolédo,
lived Ana-Luis de Compostela Roblédo,
widow of a dissolute Burgundian Count,
she took young lovers in uplifting amount.
Her eye shone brightly as the sun,
no-one cared she had only one,
and if she were uncommon fat,
the local blades cared naught for that.
Her daughter she kept in durance vile,
that none be enchanted by her smile.
The widow's mite was soon a-wasted,
spent on the lips of lovers she tasted.
Left with ducats down to a quarter,
she proposed a marriage for her daughter.
A plot, a ruse or stratagem?
Some way to wealth by fooling men.
The Don and Pellinore crossed the border,
stayed with nuns of peculiar order,
habits were most overwhelming simple,
dispensing with all but a fetching wimple.
The ascetic Don was quite bemused,
at words the Mother Superior used.
'Twas not so for Sir Pellinore,
who said 'Tis a pity...' but little more.
The nunnery gardener Joao Pinto Flaco,
grew nothing but a foul tobacco,
enjoying the while the cloistered life
with no incommodity of a wife.
'I am,' he said ' a simple fellow...'
he was interrupted with a bellow
from the nunnery's callypygian cook,
and what we must call a murderous look.
The avaricious mother fashioned a plan
to snare for her daughter some very rich man,
an Hidalgo, a Comte, a Baron, a Duke,
a Mufti, a Khan or a Mameluke.
It mattered not the fellow's station,
had he but riches in proliferation.
She chose not a tourney in the lists,
or some common struggle involving fists.
No indeed! No things like these
- some knightly pauper would win with ease -
far better something that needed wealth,
something that might be bought by stealth.
Advice was sought for impossible things,
a Unicorn, or a frog that sings.
She held a most splendiferous feast
and announced the Quest for the Efferous Beast.
So the Don and Pellinore did acquire,
some semblance of a doughty squire,
in the shape of Joao Pinto Flaco,
who brought a donkey load of tobacco,
several fine bottles of muscatel wine,
and a secret map of a lost gold mine.
The Don was riding a bony jade,
his ancient armour was a rusty shade;
Sir Pellinore shone like a silver sun,
as round and painful to the eye as one,
his horse as fat and content as his master,
would quicken his gait and go no faster.
Flaco's noble donkey strode,
and his master walked, while their masters rode
across the fields, by day and night,
under the moon and harsh sunlight.
Ana-Luis de Compostela Roblédo,
in her village not far from Tolédo,
enjoyed her feast in large degree,
hanging three minstrels from a tree,
simply to discourage younger brothers,
sinister scions and sundry others.
The estate was in a parlous way,
a Castilian Bishop was heard to say;
he left the hall on the end of a knife,
and descanting novenas left this life.
The mistress was ever so unforgiving,
many paramours were no longer living:
some had died by poisons vile,
some had drowned in the castle dung-pile,
one or two indeed escaped,
although their limbs were peculiar-shaped.
The Don and Pellinore thought it a pity
not to sojourn in Logroño city,
and so the three entered by the city gate
sepulchrally quiet, though it was not late.
Joao Pinto Flaco muttered a curse,
'Is it the Inquisition or something worse?'
There was a smell of burning meat,
the streets sweltered in unseasonal heat,
in the Plaza Alta, amid the howling of bitches
the flames were consuming unfortunate witches.
The knights were deafened by the crowd's huzzah
and welcomed by a speech from Salazar.
'Hast thou come from so very far?
see how devout and pious we are!
Bienvenido to each brave and noble knight,
wouldst care to set the next alight?'
The gossip in the village of Roblédo,
scarce a league from the town of Tolédo,
concerned what an Efferous Beast might be,
and whether it's heads numbered two or three?
If it ate cattle or sheep or virgin girls?
If it had scales or blonde hair in curls?
Clear it was that none had seen it,
the rumours were such, they could only mean it
was looked on once before one's death,
or it had a most fearsome, poisonous breath.
Some said it came from far Cathay,
some said from somewhere on the way.
Already a hundred had begun the quest,
Comtes, Hidalgos and all the rest,
some took diamonds, rubies and sundry jewels
others sharper and more practical tools.
The Don demurred, and Sir Pellinore
to light the faggots coolly forebore:
their Squire, the Basque Joao Pinto Flaco,
asked for a light for his tobacco.
Salazar fixed him with curdling look,
'Wilt not stay and see witches cook?'
The Basque answered for the noble knights,
'They are not made for such holy sights,
we'll away in search of adventure,
if we may do so, without your censure?'
He waved them away with a 'Pax Vobiscum'
and fond regards for a certain Sir Tristram,
who'd set off down Toledo way,
he'd heard of a quest that might well pay.
The knights were mounted in a trice,
Joao Pinto followed, picking at lice.
In the un-named pueblo south-east of Tolédo,
quite under the thumb of La Duquesa Roblédo,
they whispered in alleys and around the fountains.
Gossip and rumour were crossing the mountains,
arriving on horses, in litters and droves,
their mules packed with saffron, pepper and cloves,
diamonds and rubies and leather and furs,
the cream of nobility sported their spurs.
Many brought animals alive and dead,
fools a-motleyed in jaguar-skin,
the skin of a monkey with a mannekin in.
Even a monstrous two-headed goat,
which squealed in Hebrew, as they slit its throat.
Though the Efferous Beast was none of these,
all paid the Duquesa's exorbitant fees.
Sir Pellinore and the ingenuous Don
decided they could not carry on,
and stopped south-east of grand Tolédo,
near the estate of La Duquesa Roblédo,
at the edge of the pueblo, they dismounted,
listened to the tale of the Quest recounted.
Sir Pellinore let rip with a deafening bellow
'What kind of quest is that for a fellow?
Why it's nothing more than goods for sale,
how will this make a minstrel's tale?'
The Don asked only what was being sought,
and remarked that the beast most surely ought
to answer some or other description
or was it simply some work of fiction?
It seemed the Duquesa had neglected to furnish
any outline or clue for the questors to burnish.
The knights with their lowly squire at hand,
entered the hall, being invited to stand
an hour or two while the Duquesa waited,
for sundry desires to be fully sated.
She entered herself, in pomp, at last,
and sat on a throne to break her fast.
The company she did not remark,
'til one of the hounds began to bark.
A slobber of grease drooled down her chin,
'Pray who let these vagabonds in?'
Pellinore bristled, the Don was un-moved,
Flaco thought only that this clearly proved
the woman deserved her reputation
as a person of inappropriate station.
The Don's answer had scarcely started
when she lifted her skirts and boldly farted.
The Don repeated his request
that some information might be best
about the nature of the beast,
whose quest was announced at the long-ago feast.
The Duquesa grew angry, spitting bile,
and curses in language crude and vile,
Joao Pinto Flaco began to smirk
a dozing Pellinore woke with a jerk,
the noble woman's face turned red,
she began to shake and toss her head,
she bit a courtier who stood at her side
and held on with her teeth 'til quite bug-eyed.
Such bestial behaviour insulted eye and ear,
in Pinto's head an idea came clear.
“If I might make a guess at least,
I think we have found the Efferous Beast.'
The knights rode away into the dawn,
the Duquesa looked lost and quite forlorn.
Her daughter married Joao Pinto Flaco,
and in the Americas, they grew tobacco.