Grotesque Tournament


The princess arms him with a lance
then she places a crest on his helmet,
it is blue and gold, a token he will
carry as he defends her honour
in her fight. He is proud.

His warhorse is a unicorn.
His squire, a monkey, cavorts at the bridle.
She sews a gold symbol on blue trappings;
an armour, she says, nothing can penetrate.
He holds aloft a lance.

Then in rides the challenger,
a bull on the back of a goat.
Gauntlet and insult are exchanged.
On the bull’s shoulder a vulture cackles.
The unicorn and rider shiver.

A pageant arrives to referee the joust,
first a fox trailing a scarlet cape from its neck
is led in by a gorilla on a stag
outflanked by a rabbit and a hare
dancing flag dances.

Around the arena thumps a wildman
horns on his head and Ash in his hands.
A wildwoman rides in on the back of a griffin,
she waves effigies of men and women.
The winter trees are black with rooks.

Banners in red and gold and blue stream
from poles that are brandished by bears.
A trumpet heralds the contest.
From one side of the field he spurs the unicorn,
from the other the bull snorts at the goat.

Dead centre on a raised dais
the princess sits with her hands on her lap,
the back of her right hand in the palm of her left.
She has an overview of the contest
and the whole grotesque tournament.

Copyright 1992 by John Fairfax

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