The Dragon of Wantley

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The Dragon of Wantley

This anonymous text originated in the 17th century, and was published in Thomas Percy's anthology Reliques of Ancient Poetry. A text of this name has been attributed by Cousin to be by Henry Carey

Old stories tell how Hercules
     A dragon slew at Lerna,
With seven heads and fourteen eyes,
     To see and well discern-a:
But he had a club, this dragon to drub,
     Or he ne'er had done it, I warrant ye:
But More of More-hall, with nothing at all,
     He slew the dragon of Wantley.

This dragon had two furious wings,
     Each one upon each shoulder;
With a sting in his tail as long as a flail
     Which made him bolder and bolder.
He had long claws, and in his jaws
     Four and forty teeth of iron;
With a hide as tough as any buff,
     Which did him round environ.

Have you not heard how the Trojan horse
     Held seventy men in his belly?
This dragon was not quite so big,
     But very near, I'll tell ye;
Devoured he poor children three,
     That could not with him grapple;
And at one sup he ate them up,
     As one would eat an apple.

All sorts of cattle this dragon would eat,
     Some say he ate up trees,
And that the forests sure he would
     Devour up by degrees:
For houses and churches were to him geese and turkeys;
     He ate all and left none behind,
But some stones, dear Jack, that he could not crack,
     Which on the hills you will find.

Hard by a furious knight there dwelt;
     Men, women, girls, and boys,
Sighing and sobbing, came to his lodging,
     And made a hideous noise.
Oh, save us all, More of More-hall,
     Thou peerless knight of these woods;
Do but slay this dragon, who won't leave us a rag on,
     We'll give thee all our goods.

This being done, he did engage
     To hew the dragon down;
But first he went new armor to
     Bespeak at Sheffield town;
With spikes all about, not within but without,
     Of steel so sharp and strong,
Both behind and before, arms, legs, and all o'er,
     Some five or six inches long.

Had you but seen him in this dress,
     How fierce he looked, and how big,
You would have thought him for to be
     Some Egyptian porcupig:
He frighted all, cats, dogs, and all,
     Each cow, each horse, and each hog:
For fear they did flee, for they took him to be
     Some strange, outlandish hedge-hog.

To see this fight all people then
     Got up on trees and houses,
On churches some, and chimneys too;
     But these put on their trousers,
Not to spoil their hose. As soon as he rose,
     To make him strong and mighty,
He drank, by the tale, six pots of ale
     And a quart of aqua-vitæ.

It is not strength that always wins,
     For wit doth strength excel;
Which made our cunning champion
     Creep down into a well,
Where he did think this dragon would drink,
     And so he did in truth;
And as he stooped low, he rose up and cried, boh!
     And kicked him in the mouth.

Oh, quoth the dragon with a deep sigh,
     And turned six times together.
Sobbing and tearing, cursing and swearing
     Out of his throat of leather:
More of More-hall, O thou rascal,
     Would I had seen thee never;
With the thing at thy foot thou hast pricked my throat,
     And I'm quite undone forever.

Murder, murder, the dragon cried,
     Alack, alack, for grief;
Had you but missed that place, you could
     Have done me no mischief.
Then his head he shaked, trembled and quaked,
     And down he laid and cried;
First on one knee, then on back tumbled he;
     So groaned, and kicked, and died.