William Morris Archive

Early Draft: The Man Born To Be King


Fitzwilliam Library MS 2, in Morris's hand, 10ff. Very rough. Murray titles it "The Man Born To Be King" in his table of contents to Fitz. MS 2. May Morris cites portions of this in CW, III, xvi-xvii, and CW, XXI, xviii. (The CW, XXI passage apparently preceded the CW, III one). She comments, "It is interesting, as it was written, I think, about the time of 'The Scenes from the Siege of Troy,' the workmanship being in my father's younger manner --full of vigorous, imperfect, and impatient verse, different indeed from that of the published 'Earthly Paradise'" (III, xvi). This would make it the earliest known draft of an individual Earthly Paradise tale.

Pub. CW, XXI, xviii.

It is well said among wise men
If ye cannot have twelve take ten,
Also I say for my part
That the grey smock may cover a heart
Good enough for the gown of a king:
May this tale be to your liking.

Now this same lusty king
Had a dame, a right sweet thing,
And he loved her passing well
In such wise it were hard to tell,
Over long at Candlemas
The snow lay upon the grass,
Thereupon did the Queen pass
With the King from the minster.

Portions Pub. CW, III, xvi-xvii

That same damozel bent low
Her knee in the white snow,
Lightly at the Queen's command
To that gold shoe she set her hand;
Right so some steel pin
In the Queen's gown, smote therein;
The red blood fell from her hand,
There as the Queen did stand.
The Queen regarded pensively
The red blood on the snow lie
And her gold shoe that was nigh.
She sighed and said: "Yellow as gold,
White as the snow upon the mold,
I would my child might be so;
Red as blood and white as snow,
And yellow as gold mote she be,
Great joy this would be to me."

In that same night that she was born
There was a small house poor and forlorn
Beside a river lay alone;

He sold his skins and feathers of heme,
And unto him they gave in turn
Nets and wood-axes and such gear,
Coats of frieze for him to wear,
Flanders cloth for his mother,
Shoes and hats of Caudebec ...

I trow a right fat man was he,
He had a brown face and eyen white;
His red hair in the sun shone bright;
He was as fierce as any knight.
I trow that in the town council
Always for hanging spoke he well,
If men debated on some thief.