David Boyle

Richard the Lionheart’s prison song

Written in captivity, summer 1193

No-one who is in prison sees his fate
With honesty; for all he feels is sad -
But he can still compose a hopeful song.
I am so rich in friends, but poor in help:
They should be ashamed if, for my ransom,
I lie here one more year.

They know this all too well, my home, my lords,
The English, Norman, Poitevin, Gascon:
I never had a friend who was so poor
That I would leave them in their prison cell.
I do not sing these words to criticise –
Yet I am still in prison here.

The ancient saying I now know too well:
In prison, death: no family nor friends.
Because they leave me here for lack of wealth,
I grieve my fate, but grieve for them still more –
When I am dead, they will have their remorse
If I am too long here.

It’s no wonder that my heart is sad
When my own overlord torments my lands.
If he remembered what we both agreed
And held back, knowing what we swore,
You would not see me held in chains so long,
Nor stay in prison here.

They know this well, Tourains and Angevins –
Those youthful gentlemen so strong and rich –
That I am far away, in hostile lands.
They loved me so, but have not loved enough –
There’ll be no tournaments held on their fields
While I’m in prison here.

Comrades I loved, and those I still do love,
My lords of Perche and also of Caieux:
Tell them, song, that they have not proved friends.
My heart was never false or vain to them.
But they’ll be criminals if they still fight me
While I am lying here.

Sister, Countess, your sovereign right
May God preserve, and guard the one I claim
For whom I suffer here.

I don’t speak of the lady of Chartres,
The mother of Louis.


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title: books by David Boyle
Broke Voyages of Discovery Money Matters Blondel's Song Leaves World to Darkness The Little Money Book Funny Money The Tyranny of Numbers