The Troubadour’s Return
“Hear ye, Hear ye,” proclaimed he
Upon arrival at the city square
Then they paid a shiny mint or two
And with battered fiddle
He played a dance or dirge
Until dawn if they wished
And when his throat, parched and dry
Could speak no more.
And when his back grew stiff and tight
From warming at a stranger’s hearth,
And when his blistered feet,
Swollen, red and tired,
No longer carried him from shining sea,
The troubadour journeyed home
And what he found after all the years away
Were no joyous voices left to greet him
No warm fire to call his own
No waiting wife or curly-headed passels
And no respite for his aching back
So he found a country cottage,
And tried a quiet life.
By day he pruned the hedges
And milked the dairy cow
Once a week he went to market,
And twice a month to rummy
And every evening,
Cooked a modest meal,
Then read of love and lore
And put himself to bed.
In those lonely nights
His mind began to wonder
Should he be content to live in house and home and never roam the earth again?
Should he never stand upon the craggy peaks of purple mountains or gaze upon a mirrored lake?
Should he never long for foaming shores of distant lands or bathe among the steaming desert geysers?
Should he sell his battered fiddle for an evening’s meal, and trade his skilled and calloused fingers, for the weathered hands of earthen toil?
And should he never again hear them clap and cheer and say:
“Play. Play us a song again.
So that the boys and girls can dance
And the men can take their lasses.”
A single tear flowed down his cheek
And in the evening light
He swore he saw his battered fiddle glow
But the hedges needed trimming
And the cow needed milking
And he had no song to play.
And the neighbors had thus met
To tell him he should take a wife
“It’s quite odd,” said they.
“What say you, to a life not lived?
Tell, now, what do you have to show?
Only this fiddle,
That’s quite old and in need of mending.
Why it’s even missing strings!”
He listened well
And took a bonny lass out for a drive
They talked of house and home
And shared a rhubarb pie
But the spirit of the troubadour
He could never quell
So, one morning,
He woke early
Pruned the hedges, and sold the cow
Then he fixed his fiddle, and bid his girl adieu
Then he set down the dusty road
Where he found a song
And made the people dance
Then troubadour warmed by a stranger’s fire
And the curly headed passels listened
As he told tales of far and wide
And you can still find him there
From time to time.
Wherever people gather
Now old and gray
And a bit bent in the back,
They pay him a mint or two
And he plays a dance or dirge
Until dawn if they wish
And in the cold nights atop a stranger’s hearth,
He snuggles into dusty bedclothes
And just before he drifts to dreamy sleep
He smiles and mumbles deep,
“Now what say you to a life well-lived?”