Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
William of Cloudeslé
THE KING called his best archers
  To the buttes with him to go,
“I will see these fellows shoot,” he said,
  “In the north have wrought this wo.”
The king’s bowmen busk them blyve,        5
  And the queen’s archers alsoe,
So did these three wight yeomen
  With them they thought to go.
There twice or thrice they shoot about
  For to assay their hand,        10
There was no shot these yeomen shot
  That any prick might them stand.
Then spake William of Cloudeslé,
  “By him that for me died,
I hold him never no good archer        15
  That shooteth at buttes so wide.”
“Whereat?” then said our king,
  “I pray thee tell me:”
“At such a butte, sir,” he said,
  “As men use in my countree.”        20
William went into a field,
  And his two brethren with him,
There they set up hazle rods,
  Twenty score paces between.
“I hold him an archer,” said Cloudeslé,        25
  “That yonder wande cleaveth in two.”
“Here is none such,” said the king,
  “Nor none that can so do.”
“I shall assay, sir,” said Cloudeslé,
  “Or that I farther go.”        30
Cloudeslé with a bearing arrow
  Clave the wand in two.
“Thou art the best archer,” then said the king,
  “Forsooth that ever I see;”—
“And yet for your love,” said William,        35
  “I will do more mastery.
“I have a son is seven years old,
  He is to me full dear;
I will him tie to a stake
  All shall see that be here.        40
“And lay an apple upon his head,
  And go six score paces him fro,
And I myself with a broad arrow
  Shall cleave the apple in two.”
“Now haste thee then,” said the king,        45
  “By him that died on a tree;
But if thou do not as thou hast said,
  Hangèd shalt thou be.
“And thou touch his head or gown,
  In sight that men may see,        50
By all the saints that be in Heaven,
  I shall hang you all three!”
“That I have promised,” said William,
  “I will it never forsake;”
And there even before the king,        55
  In the earth he drove a stake,
And bound thereto his eldest son,
  And bade him stand still thereat,
And turned the child’s head from him,
  Because he should not start.        60
An apple upon his head he set,
  And then his bow he bent;
Six score paces were out-met,
  And thither Cloudeslé went.
There he drew out a fair broad arrow,        65
  His bow was great and long,
He set that arrow in his bow,
  That was both stiff and strong.
He prayed the people that was there,
  That they would still stand,        70
“For he that shooteth for such a wager,
  Behoveth a steadfast hand.”
Much people prayed for Cloudeslé,
  That his life saved might be,
And when he made him ready to shoot        75
  There was many a weeping eye.
Thus Cloudeslé cleft the apple in two
  That many a man might see;
“Over-gods forbode,” then said the king,
  “That thou should shoot at me!        80
“I give thee eighteen pence a day,
  And my bow shalt thou bear,
And over all the north country
  I make thee chief rider.”

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