King Cahunte and the Waves


After Marriott Edgar

Long ago in Merrye England
lived a monarch widely famed.
He’d a first in Summat from Oxford
and Cahunte was his regnal name.

His renown came not from virtue, though,
nor piety, nor grit;
he’d garnered no cognomen like
the Bold, the Wise, or the Fit.

His fame stemmed from some shabby
conduct in affairs of state,
and one notorious incident,
which I will now relate:

The realm was temporarily in
financial dire straits,
so he proposed to hawk lumps off
to a cabal of his mates,

who specialised in pillaging
and plunder in the extreme;
but he forgot to tell his barons
and jarls about the scheme.

He’d met with these rapacious brutes
(there was Suebi, Goths and Gauls)
wi’ contracts ready drawn up for ’em
on t’ table in t’ Mead Hall.

They said they would look after t’ Realm
‘As if it were our own,
though we might have to charge a premium,
and flog t’ crown jewels and throne.’

Cahunte thought this was a reasonable
reward for enterprise,
and t’ Barbarians laughed as dollar signs
rotated in their eyes.

But his courtiers caught him at it
and said ‘What have you done?
You’re giving t’ keys of t’ kingdom
to a gang of Vandals and Hun.’

He said, ‘I’m not.’ They said, ‘We saw you!
Handing over t’ deeds!’
And he looked a little furtive, scuffed
his feet in t’ flooring reeds,

then said, ‘It’s not my fault at all,’
and tried to call their bluff,
‘It’s you lot that’s the problem here:
you don’t work hard enough.

‘When t’ Realm’s imperilled, you should be
manning t’ walls and watchtowers.
Instead you whinge about weekend work
and antisocial hours.’

They said, ‘We don’t. You’ve made that up.
We’re very diligent.’
But he accused them all of treachery
and being militant.

Their patience tried, they called upon
the Venerable Bede,
said ‘We’ve got to get us message out;
illuminate a screed

to circulate to t’ serfs and peasants,
counter his propaganda.
Cahunte’s using t’ Witangemot
to perpetuate his slanders,’

But Bede said, ‘I can’t just put your side.
It’s not that simple, you see.
My Charter says I must maintain
scribal impartiality.’

With that they cornered Cahunte and said,
‘Enough already, schlemiel!
We’re going to fix your fibbing ways
with a trial by ordeal.

‘If God believes your porky pies
then in his Holy Name
he’ll stop the waves from drowning you.’
Cahunte said, ‘Right, I’m game.’

So, with t’ terms of arbitration
sorted, more or less,
they loaded an ox-cart baggage train
and set off for Dungeness.

They set him on scissor chair
at t’ very lowest tide,
but he seemed ultra-confident,
if not a little snide.

Soon waves were lapping round his feet
and soaking through his shoes,
T’ jarls said, ‘That’s game over, then,
and you, your Highness, lose.’

‘I don’t,’ he boldly stated. ‘Look.
I’m turning back the tide.’
Their brows furrowed with puzzlement;
they gawped and then replied:

‘You aren’t at all; there’s seawater
washing around your knees.’
Cahunte said, ‘I’m as dry as dust,’
and looked secretly pleased.

The Goths, meantime, while filling chests
with silver, gold and groats,
winked, ‘It’s TTIP Danegelt.’
and stowed it in their boats.

Back at the beach the courtiers,
by now quite saturated,
realized they’d get no sense from him
however long they waited.

The King mused he’d announce his win
by Royal Proclamation
and have it read in every town
and village in the nation.

For tinpot tyrants always think
their every dictum datum,
That’s why subjects so often feel
obliged to assassinate um,

and, since that day in Dungeness,
every overweening dunce
and all self-deluding despots
have been pronounced Cahuntes.