Saint George and the Dragon

Bernat Martorell, Saint George and the Dragon (1434-1435)
Sir George, he went a’questing,
as gallant lads will do,
to prove his mettle
and his fine fettle
— a knight both brave and true.

He came upon a kingdom 
wherein misfortune reigned.
The dragon blight,
a dire plight,
a land become blood-stained.

The dragon charged the people
— a dreadful contract laid —
to stave off strife
he took the life
of fairest lad or maid.

The king, he was confounded.
Tax fell to him this year.
None else were left,
and soon bereft
he’d be of daughter dear.

He offered wealth and title
to slay the foul wyvern.
Said George, “A test
is this behest!
I’ll rid you of this worm.”

Sir George rode up the mountain
in search of dragon’s lair;
and there he found,
all trussed and bound,
the gentle maiden fair.

But here the story wanders,
for death was not to be.
As Sir George neared
the worm appeared
and cut the princess free.

A pact ‘tween worm and princess
was honorably forged. 
“He’s given oath
and solemn troth,” 
the maiden said to George. 

“No more will dragon plunder.
No more will lives be lost.
And he’ll away
this very day.
His freedom is his cost.”

George was then disheartened.
His quest was unfulfilled.
The knight demurred
but gave his word:
The worm would not be killed.

So knight and worm and princess
to king came in procession. 
The king was mazed.
But then George blazed
“I have but this concession.”

And with a mighty lance stroke, 
he pierced the dragon’s head.
“You can not trust
the traitorous.
No fear if dragon’s dead.”

The princess gaped in horror,
her word made so untrue.
Distraught, she cried,
“You beast! You lied!
To think we trusted you!”

But George, he claimed his guerdon.
The king had no complaint.
Though George betrayed
wyvern and maid,
yet still t’was made a saint.

The Feast of Saint George is celebrated on 23 April (though in the Church of England it is moved until Monday when the 23rd falls between Palm Sunday and the Sunday after Easter, as in this year). I’ve always been a bit disconcerted by this story. Knights and saints play by different rules, I suppose.


©Elizabeth Anker 2022