The Ballad of the Starlet | By Will Ragsdale

“Another song!” the old king brays
 as the weary bard then sighs
In a sing-song way, the troubadours say
“Performance or demise.”

The drummer drums his numbing thumbs,
and the harpist’s knuckles crack.
The lutist plays through painful daze,
his hands gone raw and black.

Each note he breeds, his fingers bleed;
his strings snap with a twang.
He spoke to curse this tyrant king
when the starlet suddenly sang:

“Oh frightful king with silver rings
 of hair beneath your crown,
Let our songs like purple wine,
cast away your frown!”

“We are but humble troubadours,
we live our lives to please,
We gaily play the days away
with innocence and ease.”

“In summer silks and winter wools,
we make our music loud!
Happily we’ll strum and sing
to prove our families proud!”

“So now we dance and now we sing,
but do you see our strife?
That’s why I beg you mighty king,
take mercy on their life.”

“For if they play another song,
surely they’ll be dead,
So spare them please, oh frightful king,
and take me in their stead!”

“I have no noble birth nor blood,
no riches to my name,
and to your court, in poverty,
from foreign lands I came.”

“Still though I am but seventeen,
I have an angel’s voice.
I’ll sing for you both night and day,
please make the moral choice…”

The king responded cold and cruel,
when a smile crossed his face:
“True you are a gentle thing
of innocence and grace,”

“A maiden fair with raven hair,
and smooth, soft olive skin,
I’ve made my choice young pretty girl,
I shall not spare your kin!”

“I’ll have them play until they fall,
and then I’ll take their heads,
and once you’ve watched your brothers die,
I’ll take you to my bed.”

“For pretty girls with angel’s voices
shall not go to waste,
and it is not the purple wine
which satisfies my taste.”

“Rather it’s the tender flesh
of a girl just seventeen,
and that my nights are lonely
in the absence of a queen”

So they played and so they died
and the starlet watched in fear,
she felt the king’s hands on her skin
and dreaded what was near.

He led her to his bed that eve
and there began to say:
“I’ll do to you what I wish to do,
be it night or day!”

T’was then he took her maidenhood,
making her his harlot,
and as he did he held her down,
saying “Sing, my little starlet.”

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