A bent for history

I have been dabbling in histories these last two weeks: Froissart’s astonishingly courteous Edward II, Daniel C. Matt’s translation of the Zohar, and most recently, Josephine Tey’s A Daughter of Time. In the form of a carefully researched commentary and a mystery, Tey makes a strong argument that Richard III did not murder his nephews — that in fact his family held strongly together, his rivals lived free and well cared for, and he came closer to settling the York/Lancastrian feud than anyone else. Every time I read the book, I wonder what would have happened if he had not died at the battle of Bosworth.

I picked it up this time, inspired by Read Write Poem and its challenge of threes. Here is a draft in his honor, and a toast to his memory.

Richard III Turns 30

On the last day of Christmas, his true love
gave to him six naming trees. She said they were —
one for his father, one for his son,
one each for his brothers, and one
for his wife, the companion of his childhood
— to hold in long needles drawn down with snow.

Speak of them she said. Speak of your loss.
The hemlocks clasped the frozen ground.
Edmund died at seventeen, in his first battle.
I was five.
He shook the trunk.
The stiff whorls of the blue spruce
slapped him with blood and ice.

Edward, never seasick or single, came
every night from his new throne
to roar beside our fire while we parsed Latin.
George landed head down in a tankard,
when his coat turned the colors of fall.

My father, with my own name,
nailed above the Micklegate Bar;
my own Edward, too light to break
this crust of snow; and Anne, oh God,
who held me in the unfamiliar south—

What good can come? I grant them bail,
pardon my own murderers,
hold the border against the Thanes,
and in this spot, six months hence
I will fill your mouth with raspberries
one, two, three four for the boys who will outlive me.

Snow shook down on his shoulders
as thick on his cloak as on the branches,
and under its canopy he kissed her.
In the darkening march of firs,
knit with ground pine, the kingship
was worth no more than a rogue horse.

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7 Responses to “A bent for history”

  1. Dave Bonta Says:

    Wow. That’s really good!

  2. springfarmalmanac Says:

    Thank you!

    I get defensive about Richard; he sounds like a warm, sensible man, and one who would have cared if he knew how his reputation was mangled… though he might have been amused by it, if he were alive to contradict it.

  3. jo Says:

    I loved this poem — it’s intelligent, interesting and beautifully done.

  4. mariacristina Says:

    A scholarly, thoughful poem. You bring Richard’s inner life to light, and make him live in the present.

  5. SweetTalkingGuy Says:

    Now you’re talking!
    My kingdom for a horse! – I like it, very informative.

  6. paisley Says:

    wow… that was a masterpiece..

  7. Dick Says:

    Exceptional, a real triumph. Such immediacy of narrative & richness of character, underpinned by cool historical commentary. Quite an achievement!

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