Aphelion Issue 279, Volume 26
December 2022/January 2023
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The Ballad of Big Jim

by Iain Muir

Big Jim was a gander-man,
Who watched from Londrin's walls.
(For they've kept a watch from Londrin,
Ever since the fall.)

Now Sal, she was a serving-wench,
Who slung ale in a place called "Slim's".
There's many a man had an eye on Sal,
But she had her eye on Jim.

Big Jim and Sal were sweethearts,
Had been since they were yea high.
And never a day did they miss a chance
For a touch, or a glance of the eye.

Then came my Lord of Kanterbree,
To call on Londrin's Lord,
And he brought ten thousand men with him
Which was most untoward.

For he thought, my Lord of Kanterbree,
'Twould be a wondrous thing,
If all the lands should have one Lord,
And he should be their King.

So he came, my Lord of Kanterbree,
And his ten thousand men,
To camp by the walls of Old Londrin,
And not to leave again.

But Londrin's walls are old, and thick,
And they've stood for a wondrous time.
If ever they fall when they're armed and manned,
'Twill be a serious crime.

The Watch, they stood to man the walls,
Their charge to guard the gates.
For there, in Londrin's high, stout walls,
Would fall the attacker's weight.

Big Jim, he had the dead night watch,
Midnight until the dawn.
One stormy night, he heard the sound
Of the bolts of the gate being drawn.

From his high perch, where he watched without,
Big Jim crept down through the storm.
With his dark lantern held on high,
He saw a familiar form.

Then Jim, he felt his heart to break,
And his love, it turned to hate,
As his lantern shone full bright on Sal,
And she was unbarring the gate.

Sal, she was full of stories,
About what they'd do to her Nan
If she didn't let the enemy in.
It made no bones to her man.

Big Jim, he was filled with anger,
He was spitting mad at Sal,
That someone he loved would betray the town!
Just then he detested his gal.

She begged him and pleaded to help her,
Or forget her and just walk away,
But Jim, he just couldn't let her
Ope the gates to the army that day.

Sal flung her arms round him, weeping
But to Jim's horror, he felt
Her hand at the hilt of his dagger,
As she dragged it out of his belt.

Deep in his side she stabbed him,
And turned away as he fell,
To finish her treacherous duties,
As she quietly damned him to hell.

Jim dragged himself to his feet again
And he pulled his knife from his side.
He staggered across to where Sal worked,
And into her back it did glide.

With a gasp and a sigh Sal fell to the ground.
Jim strained the bolts to replace.
And thus they found them: Sal on the ground,
And Big Jim flat on his face.

They fought off my Lord of Kanterbree,
The men of Londrin did,
While Jim he lay in a spital bed
And his face in his hands he hid.

He wept for the loss of her golden hair,
For the smile that promises gave.
He wept for the fact that 'twas by his hand
That Sal was gone to her grave.

Now Big Jim was a gander-man,
And he watched from Londrin's wall.
But never again did he court a lass,
Round tavern or market stall.

So each night we sits in the tavern,
And each night we tells the tell,
So all know the price of freedom,
And the cost of betrayal as well!

© 2001 Iain Muir

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