The fair Lady Godifgu, the Lady of Coventry town;
In anguish she wept and with anger was fraught
At the misery, Leofric’s tax had brought down
Upon the folk who, ere the tax, already had naught.
At this she saddened and in her mind a plan was caught:
Godifgu, ‘tis said, came to Leofric when in chamber alone;
That he lift the tax, was all she pleadingly sought!
Yet laughing, he swore: Hypocrisy! I will not condone!
You! In your jewellery and garments finely sewn!
The spittle of his wrath speckled her face:
You dare accuse me of having a heart of stone?
You live this way, only through MY grace!
But yet I see a test of your resolve in this case:
Naked, as the day you were born, you shall ride
From one end to the other of the market place;
Only then, will relief from this tax be supplied!
Upset and shamed fled Godifgu to her tower and cried,
But strengthened yet her forceful mind.
Heralds she summoned once her eyes had dried
And despatched them forthwith, her plan well defined.
Hither I come, mounted, unclad as Leofric designed,
Through street and alley to the square,
And if this tax you wish me to grind,
Then, for my modesty, let not one citizen see me bare!
The Lady Godifgu unpinned her cascading hair
And as a snake shedding skin, stepped from her dress.
Trusting the good folk that none would stare,
Astride her steed she went, modesty free of duress.
And thus from her destiny, she could not digress,
As through deserted streets rode naked Godifgu, proud;
Her virtue and honour, the loyal town folk would not oppress
For the normally bustling streets, were now devoid of crowd.
Blank faced door and window of curtained shroud,
Were the only audience of her splendid quest.
For alone, in silence she rode, through streets once loud,
Chaste, not immoral, and all for Coventry’s best.
Her journey completed, she returned to the keep and dressed
And went once more to the Earl Leofric’s side:
Now lift this tax! I have done as you behest!
And that I am true to the people cannot be denied!
Leofric, muttering, sent orders far and wide,
For his agents to cease their onerous, collecting task.
A man of his word was he, who never lied,
And no greater thing, could a man of his wife, ask!
Once more in happiness, could Coventry bask,
And nowhere could be seen grimace or frown;
And from that day to this, many a beer cask
Has been opened to toast, the fair Lady Godiva of Coventry town.
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