The Ballad of Sir Edmund

These lines were penned in 1992, when Matthew Macfadyen had been
British Go Champion for many years, and Edmund Shaw had won
the first game of the three round match of that year's championship.

Of arms I sing, and of a man1
Whose thoughts to deeds of valour ran,
Who rated as a strong five dan
At go did play.
Sir Edmund was this valiant wight,
A truly perfect well-bred knight.2
No foe so fearsome him could fright, or so they say.

Full oft he'd visit some far town,
Preceded by his great renown
And there he'd fling the gauntlet down
In some great tourney.
But after many battles fought
All opposition came to nought.
The spectacle, spectators thought,
Well worth the journey

It happened, in Sir Edmund's day,
A fearsome giant held his sway
Amongst the folks who go did play,
And none could beat him.
And so they went to Edmund bold
Whom of the monster soon they told.
"Silver shall be your fee, and gold
If you'll defeat him."

From any nest a crane he'd prise,
No jumping monkey could surprise,
And double-headed dragons' eyes
He'd soon put out.
But this fierce monster was far worse.
(It's name I scarce dare speak in verse.)
If he could rid them from its curse
He harboured doubt.

He asked, "What weapons shall I need?
My sword and buckler, and my steed
To charge the monster at full speed
Shall I require?"
They said, "A bowl of stones, nine score,
Is all you'll need, and nothing more
The monster for to smite full sore
Till it expire."

"How can I fight this monster dread
Without my sword; with stones instead?
I'll surely very soon be dead,"
Our hero cried.
"Remember how, in ancient time,
When David smote the Philistine,
One single stone made him resign,"
Thay all replied.

"Where shall I these strange weapons wield?
What river, mountain, lake or field
The monster's hiding place will yield?"
He asked again.
"No lengthy journey need you take
The monster's fearsome hold to break.
To Guildford you your way should make,"
They told him then.

"From my forebears' shades I'll borrow
Strength," said he, and on the morrow
Through the night of doubt and sorrow3
Onward he sped.
And when he first to Guildford came
He asked to hear the monster's name,
And there at last, to hide their shame
That name they said

In secret, and with windows shuttered,
They stood, they started, stopped, and stuttered.
At last: "Macfadyen!" they uttered,
That awful name.
"The fear is nameless now no longer,"
Quoth Sir Edmund, "I feel stronger
Yet. So let me smite this wronger
To the ground."

The monster had stones nine score too.
Their stones they cast the whole day through,
But Edmund, as the sun set, knew
He'd won the day.
The bells ring out, with gladsome noise.
The people sing, they dance, rejoice,
Until they hear Sir Edmund's voice:
"Hear what I say!

Where is my gold and silver fee?
Now render what you promised me.
Since from the monster you are free,
Give me my due."
Both silence and their faces fell.
They said, "But did we not you tell
You have to win twice more as well.
So buckle to!"

And there we leave Sir Edmund bold,
The story only one third told,
So let us hope, before we're old,
To hear the rest.
A champion new we sorely need.
Sir Edmund let us wish Godspeed
To see go players all agreed
He is the best.

I borrowed this line from Virgil ...

2... and this one from Chaucer.

3Edmund's grandfather Martin Shaw composed the tune to which the
hymn Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow is usually sung.