And now here is the full, uexpurgated epic in all its glory. Based on the traditional ballads of the Master of Whittington Castle, Shropshire and performed by Michael Rosen at Whittington Castle on 6th September 2003.

Mythstories Poetry Commission 2003
Fouke le fitz waryn by Michael Rosen

People one and all
I come before you today
To tell the tale of a man
Who once lived round this way.

An outlaw like Robin Hood
Or the American Jesse James
But in this book, my friends,
you won’t hear of such names.

No, we’re talking here
Of one Fouke le fitz waryn
A man let’s agree
was a Norman baron

Though Fouke le fitz waryn
is the name you see on this book
Between me and you
We’ll just call him Fouke.

And in case it’s a story
You do not know
I’ll tell you it takes place
Eight hundred years ago.

Fouke’s grandad, Waryn
Came from France
Not something, you realise,
That happened by chance.

He wasn’t a tourist
Who’d be that barmy?
No, he came over
With the Norman army.

Duke William of Normandy
Was the commander in chief
Though there are some even now
Who would say he was a thief.

He charged all over Britain
Spreading panic and fear
Killing Saxons and Celts.
He even came here.

And if you did a bit extra
To support William’s power
He’d give you something nice;
Like a castle or tower.

He built one right here
La Tour Blanche, it was known
It’s Whittington in English
This one, the one you all own.

He gave it to his niece
She was his pet
Beautiful, not married
By the name of Melette.

If you wanted to marry her
You had to bring a tent
And take part in a

He who dares
Is he who achieves
Waryn turned up
dressed in leaves

The Duke of Burgundy
Hit Waryn with enormous force
So Waryn hit him back –
knocked him off his horse.

The ref said Waryn won
Shoulder-high he was carried.
So Melette said to Waryn
Hey let’s get married.

Now Waryn had a son,
He called him Fouke
Not our Fouke, but our Fouke’s dad
It’s easily mistook.

Waryn ruled in this castle
He seriously bossed it
But Fouke his son
then went and lost it.

So he was Fouke the loser
Fouke the bodger
Whittington now belonged to
Morys fitz Roger.

But Fouke and his wife
did one sensible thing
They hung out with Henry
Who happened to be king

Now Fouke and his wife
By hook or by crook
Had a son
And they called him fouke

Do you remember John
Who hated Robin Hood?
The baddie, the Prince
Yes, I thought you would.

He was King Henry’s son
The same one, yes,
And him and little Fouke
Liked to play chess.

Well, I say ‘play chess’
But I have to record
That John once hit Fouke
With the wooden chess board.

Fouke then kicked John
Right in the chest
I think you can probably
Imagine the rest

John’s head hit the wall
He was in terrible pain
And to tell the truth
Was never the same again.

John got whipped by his master
Because he got the blame
As for Fouke
John never forgot the name.

Years went by
John became king
Young Fouke became a man
And was after one thing:

This place. He said
It was his by right
‘Not so,’ says Morys fitz Roger
The dastardly knight

So in front of King John
They argued it out,
But Fouke’s brother dived in
And gave Morys a clout.

‘Whittington’s mine’ says Fouke
Morys, says ‘’s mine’
King John meanwhile
was thinking of another time

That game of chess
And ending up in the wars
He turned to Morys:
‘The castle is yours!’

So our Fouke stood up
‘I can’t stand any more.
I’m not your liege
I’ll be an outlaw.’

So Fouke and his brothers
(I forgot to say, he had four)
Girded up their loins
And galloped out the door.

In a matter of hours
They were facing the king’s men
In a fierce battle
The Fouke Gang killed ten.

The king swore revenge
With his sword he’d make merry.
The Fouke gang hurried off
To Alberbury.

Alberbury? You say
That sounds funny.
It’s where mum lived.
He was after her money.

He got it. He led her
A right dance.
Then along with his brothers
Went off to France.

But the Fouke Gang came back
Travelling only at night
Not daring to face
an attack in daylight.

‘Back to mum’s,’ he thought
‘Ah home!’ he sighed
only to hear that
the old dear had died.

He prayed for her soul
(You see how he was good)
Then he and the gang
Headed for Babbins Wood.

Babbins Wood? Near here?
What for? you cry.
To fight Morys fitz Roger
That’s why.

Morys’s shield was green
As I’ve heard told
With two wild boars
Of beaten gold.

A border of argent
fleur de lys of azure
How do I know?
I’m not really sure.

Morys stabbed Fouke
Deep in the shoulder
‘Ah!’ said Fouke
‘I shan’t live a day older.’

A crossbow bolt
got him in the thigh.
‘Ah!’ said Fouke
‘I’m going to die.’

But the Fouke Gang fought back
Against Morys fitz Roger
He ran back to the castle
Did Morys fitz Dodger.

But Morys was no fool
He liked to do his own thing
‘The Fouke Gang’s back’
he messaged the king.

King John picked
One hundred knights and their men
‘Don’t stand there!’ He shouted
‘Find Fouke, then!’

‘How do you want him?’
one knight said.
‘I don’t care,’ said John
‘Alive or dead!’

So off they galloped
To find the gang and Fouke
But if they heard he was near
In their boots they shook

And galloped off
In the opposite direction
Never to make the vital

The Fouke Gang were hiding
One time in some woods
When some merchants came by
Weighed down with goods.

Cloth, fur and dresses
Finer than you’ve ever seen
All being carried
Through the forest so green

The merchants weren’t alone:
Along for good measure
Came 24 soldiers
Guarding some treasure.

Fouke called for his friend
(Also called John)
‘Go and find out
what business they’re on.’

John galloped up
‘Might I ask you, what this is?’
A merchant replied
‘None of your business!’

Says John; ‘Will you come and
speak with my lord?’
For that, he was attacked
By a knight with a sword.

‘I’m not sure I needed that’
John said
And gave the soldier
A whack on the head.

The Fouke Gang turned up
the merchants were well defended
and yet it wasn’t long
before they all surrendered

‘Now, you gentlemen,’ says Fouke
‘I’ll ask you one thing.
Where’s all this stuff going?’
Says one, ‘To the king!’

‘I don’t think so,’ says Fouke
playing with some flowers
‘From now on, good sirs
all this stuff’s ours.’

‘See all this cloth?
We’ll have all that
How do I look
In this fine fur hat?

‘As for these sweetmeats
They’ll all be eaten
Oh and this gold
My, it’s newly beaten.

‘I love this necklace
And this silver ring’
And with that he added:
‘Send our compliments to the king.’

Then he thanked them
Wished them all good day
And sent those merchants
On their way.

Many days later
They came before King John
They told the story of how
They were set upon

They told of how and what
And who came and took.
‘Who?’ Says John, ‘Who?’
‘He said his name was Fouke.’

At that King John
Flew into a terrible rage
Tipped up his drink and
Kicked his page.

He punched the air
He stamped on the ground
‘Whoever catches damn Fouke
Wins a thousand pound.’

‘What’s more,’ he added
‘I’ll give that man
Every acre, every inch
Of that damn Fouke’s land.’

So now Fouke and the gang
Were on the run
And it seemed like, after
Them, was everyone.

One time the Fouke Gang
Hid in an abbey
An ancient place
And rather shabby.

With nothing to eat
But a stew made of rabbit
And nothing to wear
But an old monk’s habit.

Not long after
I think it was half past eight
The king’s knights turned up
And knocked on the gate.

They knocked so loud
The whole place shook
‘Is there anyone in here
By the name of Fouke?’

Fouke himself
Came to the gate
‘Old Monk,’ says a knight
‘Can you help us, mate?’

‘You said, “Fouke?”, said Fouke
‘I can’t stand the name.
His horses trampled on me.
Look, I’m lame.’

Fouke limped in front of them
Across the yard
‘No one has ever
beaten me so hard.’

‘Say no more, old monk
we wish you well
As for that Fouke
He will rot in hell.’

‘D’you think so?’ says Fouke
with a sly cough
‘Just watch us,’ they cried
as they galloped off.

About this time Fouke tired
of the single life:
‘What a terrible pity
I haven’t got a wife.’

The Archbish of Canterbury
One Hubert by name
Also thought
It was a bit of a shame.

So he invited Fouke
round to his house
And married him off
To Matilda de Caus.

You don’t need to know
the how or the which
All you need to know
Is she was incredibly rich.

Fouke’s fame now spread
Both far and wide
Even to Scotland
Where lived a knight who lied

Saying that he was Lord Fouke
And all should obey him.
Fouke didn’t like this
And had to slay him.

But what of Whittington?
I hear you cry
Yes, the Fouke Gang came there
By the by.

To reclaim this castle
Was always his dream
So they camped outside
Just by a stream.

‘John,’ says Fouke
‘you like to do your thing.
You can juggle a bit
And you can sing.’

‘You’re a bit of a minstrel
A bit of a rascal
How’s about you
Going into the castle?’

‘Then you could find out
What Morys is doing
You could find out
If anything’s brewing.’

‘Oh yes,’ says John,
‘I like that, guys,
I tell you what
I’ll go in disguise.’

At that he took up
And old herb of the south
And crammed it into
His great big mouth.

His eyes went red
His hair went fluffy
His lips swelled up
His face went puffy.

Under his eyes
grew two black bags
And he dressed himself
in filthy rags.

He started to speak
With an accent really thick
And walked with a limp
Carrying a stick.

He knocked on the door
The one over there
And leered at the porter
Through his filthy hair.

‘Who are you?’ says the man
‘And where are you from?’
‘Scotland,’ says John
‘And ma name’s wee Tom.’

‘What news do you bring
From there?’ the man said.
‘Ye herd o’ Lord Fouke?
I can tell ye he’s dead.’

‘Now that’s good news
you’ve cheered me up,’
and the porter gave
our John a silver cup.

Well, John stayed in the castle
For a short while
But some who were there
didn’t like his style.

They said he was ugly
They pulled his hair
Called him a fool –
Happened just over there.

John lost his rag
It made him sick
He whacked one of them
With his big stick

He hit his head so hard
Some people say
The man’s brains flew out
Just down thisaway.

Sir Morys leaped up
‘How could you be so bad?’
‘Sorry, m’lud,’ says John
‘But you see, I’m mad.’

‘I canna help meself
I think I’m possessed
Something o’ertaks me body
And rages in me breast.’

‘I’m not sure if this
isn’t some cunning ruse.
I’d cut off your head
Were it not for the good news.

‘I’m very grateful
To you, Tom,’ he said
‘Thanks to you we know
That damn Fouke is dead.’

‘We’re off to Shrewsbury
In the morning
Watch out old juggler
And that’s a warning.’

Well, our John left
Pretty soon after
And told all to Fouke
With a great deal of laughter.

So on the next day
When Sir Morys rode out
The Fouke gang fell on him
With a great shout.

In the battle that followed
Fought with might and main
19 knights and Sir Morys
were all slain.

People said, ‘Don’t tell the king
Better to leave it.’
But when John finally heard
He couldn’t believe it.

‘Hey! By Saint Mary
I am the King. I rule here.
I’m Duke of Anjou and Normandy
Don’t I strike fear

Into the hearts of all?
I said Fouke must be stopped
To an end he must be brought
His head off chopped.

I’m going to Shrewsbury
And I’ll tell you what’s more.
We’re talking ‘serious consequences’
And that means war.’

Most people thought John was mad
Gone in the head, la-la
That’s why Fouke
Waited for him at Castle Bala.

Fouke, as we know
Was a cunning man
What’s more, he was local
Knew the lie of the land.

King John’s route to Bala
Would be across a marsh
Over a ford
And through a narrow pass.

Now you’d think
That this’d be hard enough
Coming through all that
Would be tricky stuff.

But Fouke couldn’t risk
Any kind of glitch
So next to the ford
He dug a long ditch.

And then to do
He knew just what he oughta
He filled the ditch
With gallons of water.

So when John arrived
With his thousands of troops
He sees the ditch
And cries out ‘Oops!’

From the other side
Of the cunning ditch
Fouke shouts out
‘And there’s no bridge!’

Then with no more
Than a nudge and a jolt
Each of his men
Shot a crossbow bolt.

Thousands of bolts
Darkened the air
King John thought it best
To get out of there.

But his hate of Sir Fouke
Was in no way diminished
‘I’ll be back!’ he shouted
‘And then you’re finished’

John, Like sir Alex
He of Old Trafford
Had powerful friends:
Like Henry of Stafford.

A man with a foul
And horrible face
With ten thousand men
He marched on this place.

By now our Fouke
Was used to these fights
This time he had the help
Of seven hundred Welsh knights.

But sad to say
It wasn’t enough
The fight was long
The going tough

Though Fouke’s horses
Were fast and pacy
John captured Fouke’s friend
Sir Audulph de Bracy.

King John, whose cheeks
Were as hairy as a gooseberry
Now retreated
To the city of Shrewsbury.

Sir Fouke was sad
‘This is the end,
King John has seized
My best friend.’

But Sir Fouke’s mate John
Had to interrupt
‘oh for gawd’s sake sir
do shuttup.’

‘Trust me, you know
My ideas are always racy
Watch me, I’ll save
Sir Audulph de Bracy.’

And John was quick
He was sharp
And quite a dab hand
At playing the harp.

Not at all hesitant
Not at all faltery
When he turned his hand
To playing the psaltery.

He dressed in fine clothes
Put on earrings of pearl
He could easily pass off
As a duke or an earl.

But then his scheme
Took a surprising tack
He dyed all his hair
And his skin, jet black.

Around his neck
He hung a beautiful drum
By the way, he was black all over
Even his bum.

A disguise like this
Doesn’t come for free
He rode out
On a handsome palfrey.

To Shrewsbury he rode
To seek out the King
The sun flashed on his
Ruby ring.

He held his head high,
As high as he could bear
The people of Shrewsbury
Stopped to stare.

He came before King John
And knelt down low
Our john could put on
A convincing show.

‘Sire,’ says our John
‘I’m not here to soft soap yer.
I’m a minstrel
From Ethiopia.’

‘Wow,’ said King John
Much taken aback
‘I take it that all
Ethiopians are black.’

‘Indeed, sir, we are,
You don’t miss a trick
We had heard that
You are tremendously…th.. quick.’

‘Oh really?’ says King John
Feeling rather pleased
Having no idea
That he was being teased.

‘Your fame goes back years
My my, it’s lasted.
Everyone thinks you’re
A fantastic ba….loke.’

Well, King John missed that
Sorry to say
But he called on our John
To sing and play.

He called for food
And a great deal of wine
With music in his ears
They sat down to dine.

As the drink went down
The king had an idea:
Why not call Sir Audulph
To come in here?

‘Tomorrow the traitor
Will breathe his last breath
But a man can have pleasure
On the eve of his death.’

So Sir Audulph was summoned
He came into the room
And he stared at the minstrel
In the candle-lit gloom.

He had thought by now
That all hope had gone
But blimey O’Riley
Wasn’t this…John?

John meanwhile
Could see Audulph think
And when no one looked
Tipped him a wink.

John knew he couldn’t
Do anything louder
And something else:
He was carrying some powder.

It wasn’t anything horrid
Or anything creepy
Just the kind of stuff
To make you sleepy.

With all the kings men
Well and truly fuddled
With this special powder
Our John juggled.

Into the men’s glasses
The powder he slipped
So straightway they dozed
Straightway they kipped.

In this story you’re used
To hearing of great feats.
So you’ll not be surprised that
John grabbed some sheets.

Audulph was curious
‘Hey John,’ he said
‘I suppose you’re tired
And wanna go to bed?’

‘No Audulph,’ says John
‘Praise be to heaven
We’re gonna jump out the window
Into the River Severn.’

So the two men escaped
Back to Sir Fouke
King John was so furious
The rafters shook.

It wasn’t very nice
Being in the King’s parlour
Next thing he sent a letter
To Prince Lewis of Bala.

‘Your reward, dear Prince
Will be many a shilling
If you catch Sir Fouke
And proceed to kill’im.’

Well, Prince Lewis was good.
No one comes better.
He only went and showed
Sir Fouke the letter.

‘Wer ho’, says Sir Fouke
‘Don’t like the look of that.
I’m off.
Where’s me hat?’

‘Stay,’ says Prince Lewis
But Fouke didn’t take the chance.
‘Sorry, Prince, I’m off.
I’m going to France.’

Well, he took jewels and money
And many an ornament.
And when he got there
They were having a tournament.

Soon he was jousting
With a knight called Sir Druz.
And in this story, as you know,
Sir Fouke doesn’t lose.

Sir Druz was putting on
Something of a show
So Sir Fouke struck him
A terrible blow.

It was right on his head
So his brain was addled
So Fouke gave him a push
And Sir Druz was unsaddled.

‘Who are you?’ said the King
‘Mon Dieu, ma foi!’
‘I,’ said Sir Fouke
‘Am Amys del Bois.’

So as Amys del Bois
Sir Fouke stayed in the court.
But as you’d expect
The time was short

King John back home
In his court got word.
That the voice of Sir Fouke
In France had been heard.

‘Dear France,’ he writes,
‘Je dois vous dire’ –
(That’s ‘I have to say,’) –
‘Send Fouke back here.’

Back writes France
‘I swear on my hat.
There’s no one ici
Called anysing like zat.’

News reached Sir Fouke
Of what King John had written
Sir Fouke was twice shy
As he was many times bitten.

‘My Lord,’ says Sir Fouke
‘Merci pour l’hospitality
But je pense maintenant
It’s time to end the jollity.’

‘Zut!’ said the King,
‘You English baron
Are not Amys del Bois
Vous etes Fouke le fitz waryn.’

Well, as you know well
Even today
The French don’t like to do
What the English say.

‘I say merde to King John
I would love you to stay’
But Fouke didn’t stop
He was soon on his way.

He headed for the coast
And soon found a ship
He found the captain
And planned a trip.

‘Sir,’ said Sir Fouke
‘I can see that your body’s well made
You look like someone
Who’s mastered his trade.

But how did your father die
Can you tell me?’
‘Sir,’ said the captain
‘My father died at sea.’

‘And his dad and his dad
What about them? Do tell me.’
‘They too, Sir Fouke,
All died at sea.’

‘Well,’ says Sir Fouke
‘Take it from me
You must be mad
Going to sea.’

‘Well,’ said the captain
‘I can see why.
But tell me Sir Fouke
Where did your folks die?’

Sir Fouke thought for a bit
And then he said,
‘Well as far as I know
They all died in bed.’

The captain smiled
And then he said.
‘Well you must be mad
Going to bed.’

‘Oh who’s the funny one?’
Said Fouke with much laughter.
And they set sail for England.
Very soon after.

Down below they had stored
Some excellent cheese
Some fine French cloth
And the duty frees.

It was all in piles
And neatly stacked
When all of a sudden
They were being attacked.

‘Ahoy,’ said the pirate
With a voice like thunder
‘Your ship looks right
For a bit of plunder.’

‘Indeed,’ said the captain,
‘And so do you.’
He sailed at the pirate
And cut his ship in two.

This all took place
Far from ground
And all the pirates
Were very soon drowned.

The captain, I’ve said,
Was something of a cutey
He showed Fouke how
To grab the booty.

On they sailed
Past lowland and highland
When they came on shore
At an unknown island.

A peasant by his door
Was just taking his mat in.
Interestingly enough
He spoke in Latin.

‘Do you speak Latin?’
Sir Fouke said, ‘Yes.’
‘Well come and join me
In a game of chess.’

‘I’ll give that a miss
If that’s OK
I’m someone who
Once was in trouble that way.’

‘Right, said the peasant,
‘As you’re on my patch.
If it’s not chess
Then it’s a wrestling match.’

‘Look,’ said Sir Fouke,
‘It’s nearly night.
To tell the truth
I don’t fancy a fight.’

The peasant was calm
He didn’t raise his voice.
‘Actually, chum,
You don’t have a choice.

Hey, John, hey Tom,
Hey Will,’ he said.
‘See this knight
Let’s break his head.’

Sir Fouke could see
That it was all getting sticky
He didn’t have time
To do anything tricky.

He just got out his sword
And whirled it around.
And their four heads
Ended up on the ground.

An old woman sitting near
Looking all forlorn
Tried to sound the warning
With her warning horn.

‘Not so fast,’ says Sir Fouke
‘You old crone.’
‘Don’t hurt me,’ says she
I’m all alone.

Well, actually I’m not.
Behind that tree with fruit down laden
Is an incredibly beautiful
And intelligent maiden.

And to tell the truth
I’ve got something else in store,
Behind that tree over there,
Are, I think, six more.’

The seven lovely maidens
Came out from the trees
And in front of Fouke
Threw themselves on their knees.

‘Oh mercy, mercy!’
They cried as one.
‘We kiss your feet
As the sky greets the sun.’

‘Actually, girls
It’s the other way round
But anyway,
Get off the ground.

Don’t look so drear
Don’t look so pale
And might I ask
From where you hail?’

‘Sir,’ said one,
‘We’ll answer in a trice
But could I say
You talk really nice?

I tell the truth
You won’t hear me tell no porky
But I am the daughter
Of Aunflor of Orkney.

We once were noble
We once were rich
we were ravished or banished,
I forget which.

Now we’re here
With these Latin peasants
Between you and me
It’s not very pleasant.

I can see you’re someone
Who likes to roam
Any chance of helping us
And taking us home?’

‘Ladies,’ said Fouke
‘I’m your man
I’ll take you back
To your homeland.’

But Fouke didn’t know
That as he spoke this word
A Latin peasant hard by
Was on hand and heard.

He sounded his horn
He sounded the alarm
And two hundred peasants
Came to do Fouke harm.

‘Fie on you,’ says Fouke
‘And fie yet again.’
But he wielded his sword
And they were all slain.

‘Oh Fouke,’ said the ladies
‘You’re so strong.
You’re so clever
You do nothing wrong.’

‘I know,’ said Fouke
Smoothing down his coat.
‘Now, don’t hang about
Come on board my boat.’

On the way to the Orkneys
They had many a fright
Past Norway and Denmark
Many a strange sight.

He saw serpents with horns
And the horns were very pointed
He saw giant lizards
Whose legs were double jointed.

There was the beard of a goat
On one beast he saw there
It had the head of a dog
And the ears of a hare.

Those double jointed lizards
Had come from Wales
Oh I forgot to say:
None of them had tails.

Well Fouke slew them all
It was terrible carnage
And not long after
He landed in Carthage.

On the way there
I forgot to add
The ladies dropped off
Went home to their dad

In Carthage, a peasant said
‘Don’t think us inferior
But Carthage is now ruled
By the King of Iberia.

Our new King came
From across the water
And I’ll tell you summat else
He’s got a lovely daughter.’

At that he took a quaff
From his pewter flagon
‘D’you know what happened next?
She was seized by a dragon.

The dragon took her to
A mountain in the sea.
‘Oh dragon,’ she said,
‘Please set me free.’

But the dragon didn’t listen
He said he was glad to have met her
He said he couldn’t free her
And then he ate her.

Oh damnable dragon
Oh terrible beast
To turn a maiden
Into a juicy feast.’

Fouke turned to his captain.
‘You know me.
Take me, pal
To that mountain in the sea.’

After many, many days
More than anyone was countin’
The captain and Fouke
Arrived at the mountain.

‘Oh sire,’ said the captain,
‘Of scary things I am no stranger
But if you ask me
We’re in terrible danger.’

‘What are you?’ said Fouke
‘A fool who raves and rants?
I’ll tell you what you are.
You’re a scaredypants.

I’ll get that dragon
I really will.
See this mountain
It’s just a little hill.

Don’t come with me.
Listen to me. Stop.
Oh you weren’t coming anyway.
Well I’ll climb to the top.’

But when he got there
It was covered in stones
All round and about
Lay hundreds of bones

Bits of armour,
Shields and spears
It was worse than
The worst of Sir Fouke’s fears.

Nearby was a cave
And a stream running clear
And a voice called out
‘Get me outta here.’

It was a beautiful maiden,
Like an angel from heaven.
‘How long you been here?’
Says the maiden: ‘Seven.

And I’m warning you now
You’re a fool to stay
Cos if the dragon comes out
He won’t let you stay.’

‘What is it with dragons?’
Fouke asked her to tell.
‘And while I’m asking
What’s that terrible smell?’

‘That’s the smell of dead knights
That the dragon has slaughtered
He chops them in half
And again, so they’re quartered.

He slavers and slobbers
Blood flies all over the place
It sticks to his beard
His moustache and his face.

And when he has done
He calls me to his chair
‘Wash me wench,
My maiden fair.’

I then have to wash him
Wash him all over
And then he lies down
On his golden sofa.

You might wonder why
But he’s no fool.
He’s very hot
But the gold is cool.

In front of the door
He puts a great stone,
In case I run away
To be on my own.

And I think something else
Gives him the creeps
He’s scared I’ll kill him
While he sleeps.’

‘By God,’ says Sir Fouke
‘What a terrible beast.
I’ll give him some bother
At the very least.’

‘Oh knight,’ said the maiden
‘Don’t play silly games.’
Just then the dragon appeared
Breathing smoke and flames.

He was up in the sky
Flying from the south
The smoke and flames
Were coming out of his mouth.

Oh it was horrible
Oh it was sickening
If you’d been there
Your blood woulda been quickening.

Down flew the dragon
Smote Fouke with his tail.
Fouke let out
A terrible wail.

But he got out his sword
And gave it a thrust
‘Call yourself fierce?
I tell you you’re dust.’

He drove the sword in
Hoping to see the blood spurt.
‘Oh my!’ said the dragon
‘Was that supposed to hurt?’

Sir Fouke saw that his sword
Didn’t stick, it bounced.
He was really afraid
He was about to be trounced.

‘His chest is as hard
As a coat of mail…
But what if I have a go
At his enormous tail?’

Dodging the flames
So he didn’t burn
He waited for the dragon
To revolve and turn.

Then with a shout
And a mighty laugh
He slashed at the tail
And cut it in half.

Then with a yell
And a mighty roar
He slashed at its foot
And cut off its claw

Then as it turned
To fly back south
Fouke slashed at its head
And cut off its mouth.

Tired as he was
And feeling rather old
He scrabbled around
And picked up the gold.

Then with the damsel
And feeling rather superior
They travelled back to
The King of Iberia.

She was exhausted
So Fouke had to carry her
When the King saw them
He said ‘why don’t you marry her?’

‘Nice idea,’ said Fouke
‘But I don’t want any strife
You see I’ve already got
A lovely wife.’

‘Pity,’ said the King
‘I thought you were ideal
Don’t worry, old chap
I know how you feel.’

So Fouke thanked the King
And then set sail once more
On what was becoming
A kind of world tour.

‘Home to England, Captain
You remember the white cliff.’
‘Aye aye sir,’ said the captain
‘We’ll be there in a jiff.’

They landed at Dover
And soon met with a peasant
A nice looking gal
Carrying a pheasant.

‘I say lass,’ said Sir Fouke
‘Please accept this parcel.
Tell us where is King John?.’
‘He’s at Windsor Castle.’

So Fouke said farewell
To this young head turner
And met in the forest
A charcoal burner.

‘I say young man
I don’t want to be any trouble
Can you sell me your clothes
And that lovely shovel?’

‘I don’t see that they are
Anything to admire.’
‘Just sell them, man
And I’ll stoke the fire.’

‘If you ask me,’ said the man
‘It all sounds a bit funny.’
‘Look, just shuttup,
And take the money.’

So the deal was done
And off went the man
Leaving Fouke with the clothes
The shovel in his hand.

Now as Fouke poked the fire
With a huge iron fork.
Who should come by
But King John on a walk?

As the King appeared
Striding through the trees
Fouke had a plan
And fell on his knees.

‘Oh a peasant,’ said the king,
‘What a frightful drag.
But maybe he knows
Where I can find a stag.

I say, peasant,
Do you live here
Have you seen a stag
A buck, or a deer?

What’s the matter man
Why are you groaning
It’s the trouble with peasants
They’re always moaning.’

‘Ooh Sorry my lord,
You see, it’s me corns
But I did see a beast
And it had big horns.

I can take you to see him
If you don’t mind my talk
But please my lord
Can I bring my iron fork?

To you it might be
Nothing more than dross
But if it were stolen
Twould be a great loss.’

‘Oh I suppose you’re someone
In whom we can trust.
Bring the fork, peasant,
If you really must’

Luckily King John
Didn’t look Fouke in the face
And soon Fouke brought him
To a good shooting place.

‘D’you like this place, sir
I’ve done my best to pick it.
I can now go ahead
And go into that thicket

I’ll take my big fork
And bash it about
And with a bit of luck
The stag’ll come out.’

Once Fouke was in the bush
And out of sight.
He whistled loud
With all his might.

It was a signal
The Fouke Gang knew well.
Their leader was near
They could tell.

‘You’re back at last, sir
Let’s have a long chat.’
‘Shush, you fools
No time for that.

D’you have any idea
Who that is over there?’
‘The Duke of Windsor?
The Pope? A grizzly bear?’

‘You’re the greatest fools
On whom sun ever shone.
That, you idiots
Is the evil King John.’

So they jumped on the King
And tied him to a tree
‘Now,’ says Fouke,
‘Are you listening to me?

History will say
This is my finest hour
I have you foul King
In my power.

For the pain you have caused
Prepare to die
To this world in its beauty
Now Say goodbye.’

‘Oh Mercy, Sir Fouke
I meant you no harm never
You can have your castle back
Forever and ever.’

‘Prick your royal thumb
With a thorn from this hedge
And make what you say
A solemn pledge.’

‘Oh I will oh I will
Look I’m trying.’
Fouke didn’t know
That the king was lying.

Foolishly he allowed
The king to go back
Back To Windsor
To prepare an attack.

John gathered together
All the great names
Sir Randolph of Chester
The Earl Marshal and Sir James.

They put on their armour
It was a splendid sight
They rode white horses
And the armour was white.

Not that all that gear
Did them much good
Fouke was waiting
Deep in the wood.

In the fight that followed
Fouke brought the knights to their knees
Then he could do with them
Just whatever he pleased.

Sir Fouke le fitz waryn
Got up to his usual biz.
He swapped the gear round
Made Sir James wear his.

He put Sir James’ gear on
Another king’s knight
And sent them off under guard
In the cover of night.

When the King found them
It was a damn close thing
That Sir James wasn’t killed
By John the King.

Now Fouke was thinking
He was riding his luck
‘If I stay here
I could get stuck’

The forest has become
Too dangerous he thought
And he headed back
To his ship in the port.

The Captain was pleased
To see he hadn’t come to a bad end.
‘Take me away from this place’
Said Fouke to his friend.

Well they put out to sea
In the ship once again
And not long after
Sailed past Spain.

You may know the Cotswolds
And a place called Charlbury
This was nothing like it
It was called Barbary.

The King saw the boat
Sent one of his men to take it.
Though the knight he sent
Very nearly didn’t make it.

He was clambering aboard
And along the deck creeping
When he came on Fouke
Who was very busy sleeping.

Fouke was captured
Fouke was seized
I’m pretty sure
He wasn’t very pleased.

Now you remember Fouke’s wife
It’s true that he missed her
But we have to mention here
The King of Barbary’s sister.

She was lovely and gentle
It can’t be denied
She noticed that our Fouke
Had a wound in his side.

‘Oh sir,’ she said,
Looking kind and pert
‘That wound in your side…
You’re awfully hurt.’

‘Oh that?’ said Fouke.
‘Yes I remember now.’
‘Oh tell me how it happened
Tell me how.’

‘I am Marin le perdu
Or the Sailor Lost
And I am in true love
Sadly crossed.

I was made to feel
Such a lowly churl
I was in love with the daughter
Of a noble earl.

She said she loved me
But felt full sore
That she loved another man
Even more.

One night we lay
In each other’s arms
My mind and heart
Were free of qualms

When the man she loved
More than I could abide
Burst into the room
And stabbed me in the side.’

‘Oh my lord, poor you
Drink this gruel
I can’t think of a lady
Who could have been more cruel.

I tell you something
That comes to mind
You could do with a lady
Who is much more kind.’

‘Ah yes,’ said Sir Fouke
‘You’ve got a good point there.
I’d love to meet someone like that
But where?’

The lady looked long
And deep in his eyes
‘Who knows,’ she said
‘Where the answer lies?’

At this point, dear friends
We’ll cut short this tryst
I’m sure it’s something
You’d rather you missed.

Likewise a battle
Oh no, not another
Where Fouke nearly killed someone
Who turned out to be his brother.

‘Oh what a hard life,’ he was saying
‘I’ve led.’
When Fouke said, ‘I say
You must be Philip the Red.

Me and you have got
The very same mother
Put it another way
You’re my brother.’

Well that pleased them both
One helluva lot
That each of them
A brother had got.

So they bid adieu
To the King of Barbary
Who lived in a place
That was nothing like Charlbury.

Back in England
Fouke remembered his brother
I don’t mean Philip
I mean another

His name was William
You’ll be utterly enraptured
To know that William
Had been seriously captured.

King John had him
In some dark dungeon
With never a meal
Not even luncheon.

Did I tell you
About that before?
If I did, just wait,
I think there’s more.

You remember John
One of Fouke’s guys
Who was always good
At getting up in disguise.

Well this time John
Would make his pitch
Dressed as a merchant
Seriously rich.

He headed for London
Found a place to stay there
In the house of none other
Than London’s Mayor.

His name wasn’t Dick
Or for that matter Ken
But he was one of the King’s
Favouritest men.

Soon our John
Was brought before the King
This time though
He didn’t play or sing.

‘Kind sir, I’m a merchant
If you pleece.
I come from a country
By the name of Greece.

I am being also
In Babylon
I am hearing over there
Of your Avalon.

Also I am being
In Alexandria
You look my treasure
And think me conjurer!’

‘Yes, yes, yes,’ said the King
Interrupting the laughter
‘But what, Mr Merchant
Are you after?’

Just then a man was brought in
It was just as John feared
It was William fitz waryn
Waryn a long beard.

He was thin and weak
In a wretched state
John tried to show him
That he was his mate.

But it wasn’t something
He could easily show
If he was to set him free
He’d have to do it slow.

So day by day
And week by week
John became known
As the friendly Greek.

Seeing John would give
Everyone a lift
Especially as he usually
Came with a gift.

One time though
John came with some men
And they grabbed William
And he was free again.

King John as usual was
Utterly enraged
And ran about
Like a lion caged.

But now Fouke
With all his brothers
Headed for the forest
With hundreds of others.

When they heard the King
Was coming hunting
They didn’t put out the flags
Or the bunting.

Oh no, they ambushed him
And didn’t let him go
‘Let me go,’ said the king
But the Fouke gang said ‘no.’

‘Give me back Whittington
Do you hear me King?’
‘Oh alright, Fouke
Have every damned thing.

Have your little castle
If you must
I really don’t know
What’s been all the fuss.

I’ve always thought
That castle’s a dud
Not worth spilling
All that blood.

I don’t believe you
That People rate it
Surely you wouldn’t
Celebrate it?’

‘Oh yes, we do’
Said Fouke with force
And returned to his castle
Mounted on a horse.

Well he would have returned
If something hadn’t cropped up
To tell the truth
He nearly got chopped up.

When friends asked for favours
Fouke was always pliant
Though this time it meant
Fighting a giant.

Ireland’s not a place for giants
You’d assume
But it was there that Fouke
Nearly met his doom

Face to face
He was about to stall
When he saw a giant
Twelve feet tall.

I don’t want to gossip
Or tittle tattle.
But when Knight after knight
Tried to do battle,

He just picked them up
And squeezed out their breath
’Til each and every one
Met a frightful death.

That is until Fouke
Did battle with the man
And Fouke as you’d expect
Had a cunning plan.

He wouldn’t leave
Anything to chance
He’d ride forward on horse
Spear him with his lance.

But the Giant was no fool
He knew his eggs.
He drew his sword
And cut off the horse’s legs.

The horse couldn’t cope
He fell down
With him fell Fouke
Down to the ground.

The giant stepped up
It was nearly all over
Fouke wished he was
Back in Dover.

Oh no, thought Fouke
I’m as good as dead
But as the giant drew close
Fouke chopped off his head.

By the giant’s side
Lay his fearsome hatchet
Fouke pushed aside trophy hunters
And was able to snatch it.

And the truth of the matter
Is he brought it home
Vowing to his wife
He’d never more roam

Indeed he didn’t
He shared out lands and gold
Lived right here
’Til he was very old

Though with pleasure
He always filled her
He did outlive
The lovely Matilda

So he married a French lady
Not from Paris
She came from Auberville
By the name of Clarice.

As you know by now
Fouke never fails
His daughter Eve
Married the Prince of Wales.

Fouke and Clarice
Lived on. Not quite forever.
It has to be said
He wasn’t that clever

In case you think
He was too smug, too contented
You’ll be pleased to know
That Fouke repented

Yes the last years of his life
Were a bit of a bind
God seemed to have made him
Completely blind.

You see one night
Of his sins he was much minded
A bright light appeared
And by that he was blinded.

But it made him think
Of the words of the song
You thought you were right
But in fact you were wrong.

He thought and he thought
And he thought once again
What a terrible shame
I killed all those men.

I know I lost Whittington
Could I have got it back
Without killing all those people?
There must be a knack…

And a vision came to him
As he stood there
Of a time in the future
Of a Whittington where

The people of the village
Gathered around
Saying let’s make this ours
Let’s stand our ground.

And all those local
Women and men
Not with a sword
But with a pen

Turned Whittington Castle
Into a place of fun
A place that could be used
By everyone.

So old Fouke could see
Tho’ he had no eyes
That there are other ways
To be canny and wise.

So in the name of Fouke
I say cheers to this castle
Even though
He was a bit of a rascal.

© Michael Rosen 2003

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