The Tale of Reprobus

This is the first in what will hopefully become a series of fun saint stories. I wrote this because I decided that you really don’t hear enough Christian mythology in SCA circles, and that’s a shame. “Someone should fix it!” I thought. And, seeing no one else around, I decided to do it myself. You can read the original from The Golden Legend by clicking here.

Incidentally, this is also the piece that won me my silver bracelet from Duke Cariadoc. You can watch me perform it on YouTube.

The Tale of Reprobus
by Katherine Ashewode, “The Pocket Bard”
February 2007

There was a man, both strong and proud,
who never in his life allowed
himself to serve a lesser king,
but sought the one with shining rings
of gold and armies at command.
To this great king he pledged his hand
to serve. Reprobus was his name:
the Latin meaning “damned to shame
in hell” – where Satan’s fires burn.
But yet the man would not be turned
from prideful course: he sat in hall,
and heeded to his master’s call
to go wherever he was sent.
And for a time, he was content
believing that he served the best,
a greater lord than all the rest.

But one day as he sat to dine,
a jester rose: for it was time
for stories. Spinning words of lore,
he told an ancient tale of war
between the lord of heaven’s host
and serpent, quick in prideful boast
of power. As the jester spoke
Reprobus saw his master choke
and cross himself before the heart
at every mention of a part
of Satan’s name. When asked the cause,
the king replied, “the devil’s claws
are long. And so to keep him back,
I cross myself and dodge attack.”

Reprobus said, “I see your fear,
and know by it my time is near
an end with you. I serve the best,
and though for years I’ve been a guest
within your hall, you are undone,
for Satan’s powers overrun
your own. Now he will rule my sword
as mighty king and rightful lord.”

Reprobus had not travelled long
when in the desert saw a throng
of men. Every face was dark,
and not a few betrayed a mark
of torture: all were cut and scarred.
And at their head, a man who marred
the Earth itself. A step for him
would cause the plants to wilt and dim
the sun. Reprobus knew the band,
had sought them out to pledge his hand
and sword in service to their chief,
the lord of hell who rules beneath
the earth. Reprobus bent a knee,
and raised his sword in fealty
to Satan. Demon-lord agreed,
for he will always have a need
of souls to serve among his horde.
And mortal man believed the lord
he served would never face defeat.
For years, he sat upon the seat
at Satan’s hand with joyous grin,
although he served the lord of sin.

Yet once, they saw from up ahead
a cross, and Satan nearly fled
the scene. He led his men aside,
and drove them in a circle wide
around the sign. Reprobus gazed,
for as they passed, he was amazed
to see the devil groan and wince.
The servant now was not convinced
his lord was greatest of them all.
He brought his doubts, both great and small,
before his master, who replied:
“A man named Christ was charged and tried,
and stuck with nails to such a cross.
And ever since, I’m forced to toss
my head and stamp my feet in fear,
whenever I approach too near
another. Seeing even one,
I think on Christ and need to run.”

Reprobus knew that he had erred
in thinking no one else compared
to Satan. Drawing on his cloak,
he faced the devil, and he spoke
these words: “My time with you is done.
I know that you are not the one
I thought you were when first we met,
a mighty lord and potent threat
to every challenge in your way.
But now I hear that still today
this Christ can cause your heart to quake?
I leave you now, and I will take
my arms to him in heaven’s hall.
Let Christ arise and Satan fall.”

Taking counsel with a priest,
Reprobus built himself the least
of huts beside a raging stream.
No simple brook, the river seemed
to carry off the weak of limb.
But not Reprobus, who could swim
the length against the current’s force.
He ferried pilgrims who, in course
of travels came upon the shore,
from his own bank, across the roar
of water, to the other side.
And in this action, took he pride
that he was serving Christ above.
And sure indeed, he gained the love
of God. For once it chanced at dawn,
he heard a shout, and he was drawn
outside his home to see a youth,
a boy who asked, without reproof,
to journey forth to yonder shore.
The man agreed to do the chore
assigned. He took a sturdy staff,
and ventured out. He was not half
the way across the river’s length,
when suddenly it seemed his strength
had left him. Swift the water rushed,
and on his shoulders felt he crushed
by child’s weight. He massed as lead,
and now the man was full in dread
that he would drown. But on he went,
and when he thought his strength was spent
in full, he gained the other side.
Relieved, he gasped for air, then eyed
the boy who’d brought him near him end,
who said, “Today your joy ascends
on high, for I am who you seek:
the one who made both strong and weak
alike, created all the world.
For I am Christ.” And then he twirled
about and vanished to his throne,
leaving mortal man alone.

Attend, my lords, the end draws near,
and if it seems the words you hear
within my song are known to you,
as if the painting that I drew
in verse can fit another tale,
it is because I yet have failed
to say our hero’s other name.
Reprobus now is known to fame
as Christopher, the holy saint.
If such as he, full blind by taint
of pride, could turn his eyes from sin
and see that power lies within
the one on heaven’s lofty throne
and not the other, lying prone
in fiery depths, condemned to hell –
then you and I, who never fell
to equal depths for worldly gain
can entry win and leave obtain
to sit beside him. Hope endures
that his reward shall be as yours.

2 Comments

  1. 2 tooks said,

    July 9, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Thank you for your beautiful poem. It made me think about how I live my life.

  2. Jablko said,

    July 25, 2013 at 7:13 am

    Thanks a lot! I like it!!! Blanche


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: