The Knight of the Garden Spade

Henry Lawson, 1908

      It was the old King of Virland,
      The monarch of all the land,
      Who toiled away through a sunny day
      With a garden spade in his hand.
      There was peace in his wide dominions
      For arts and tillage and trade —
      He'd won it with something sharper
      Than was ever a garden spade.

      The old king wiped his forehead,
      And he blew a long breath — so,
      As he'd done when the fight was over
      In the warlike long ago.
      And he sat close under the ivy,
      And spelled in the dark green shade;
      And he thought of nought but potatoes
      As he scraped his garden spade.

      There stood a knave in the shadow,
      Unsuspecting and unafraid,
      With his head through the buttery window
      And his arms round a buttery maid.
      He tempted and she resisted —
      For to tempt and resist was their trade;
      They were all unaware of his majesty
      And his majesty's garden spade.

      The old king stood by the ivy
      And listened to every word;
      The oath, and the yielding murmur,
      And the plan for the night he heard.
      And, be it a boor and a serving wench,
      Or be it a lady and knight,
      He wanted his maids to be mated,
      But he wanted them mated aright.

      So a sudden smack smote the silence,
      And startled both knave and maid:
      'Twas the mighty monarch of Virland,
      And the back of his kingly spade!
      The knave swung round with a bad word —
      Then bowed with a knavish mien,
      With his head bent low to the gravel,
      And a hand where the spade had been.

      The old king pondered a moment,
      And leaned on his garden spade,
      While the other maids screamed in hysterics
      To the screams of the buttery maid.
      The old king paused for a moment,
      Then said with a kingly frown:
      "I command you twain to be wedded
      The moment the sun goes down.

      "For, be it a boor and a besom,
      Or a ladye and knight love-hot,
      Though I want strong sons in my kingdom,
      I'll have them honestly got;
      That the son on the night ere battle,
      As he lies on the starlit sward,
      May think without shame of his mother's name,
      And be proud of his father's sword!"

      And the knave was a squire thereafter,
      And he bore him so well in a fight,
      When a war-time came to Virland,
      That the old king made him a knight.
      And he lived till his first great-grandson
      Was wed to a scullery maid,
      And he died beloved and honoured,
      As the Knight of the Garden Spade.