King Rhodri, challenged by the Dane,
Rode forth his title to retain
While nobles followed at his will
To thwart the treacherous foe.
To thwart the foe his nobles rode
While in the rear his poor troops strode
Shoeless, tattered, loyal still,
Foot soldiers 'gainst the foe.
Foot soldiers 'gainst the foe were they;
King Rhodri tarried in the way,
Surveyed his troops, then cried out “Halt!
Behold these peasants' feet!
“These peasants' feet do stain our road,
Dragged for miles 'neath heavy load
Their steps of blood the battle mark,
Yet none do beg retreat.”
Yea none did beg retreat nor flew;
The king, amazed, his great sword drew;
“Hark, noblemen—this day our might
Is writ in peasant blood.
“This peasant blood doth show the way,
Nor sword nor spear will win the day,
Nor horse nor shield the foe will rout--
But this great sacrifice--
Great sacrifice, beyond all price,
Tho' hidden in a pauper's guise.”
Then king, his nobles to inspire,
Removed his own shoes.
Removed his own shoes, then held
Full forth his sword and gilded shield,
With naked feet he led his band
Of nobles high and low.
Nobles high and low went forth
To battle on the enemy turf,
And scornful Danes did point and jeer
At this, a weakened foe.
A weakened foe, or so they thought
Not knowing victory would be bought
By men emboldened by their king
Who unshod took the field.
Unshod he took the battlefield
Where scornful Dane was sure he'd yield,
Mocks and jeers, like javelins thrown,
Did meet the hero band.
But hero band did lift the sword,
The spear, the bow, and at the word
Of their dear king, with fearsome shout
They broke the enemy line.
Broke enemy line; but scornful Dane
Made one last, lasting mark of pain:
The royal steed's white flanks were smeared
With blood from Rhodri's feet.
For Rhodri's feet, in battle fierce,
Alone of all his men's were pierced;
His nobles, peasants, all could stand,
But not their sovereign lord.
And this is how the tale doth go:
That Honor honored those below.
Kingly feet, once well-prepared,
Humility caused to be bared.
Miming the lowly, the Red King gave
To every man, soul to be brave.