Actaeon, Aelfryth, Aethelred the Unready, Aethelwold, Aethylflaed, Artemis, Bathsheba, Cranbourne Chase, Dead Man's Plack, Harewood Forest, hubris, King David, King Edgar, Longparish, Narcissus, Nathan the prophet, nemesis, penitentiary, targe, The Goddess of Light, The Wild Hunt, Uriah, Wherwell, wolfhound
(Monument to Aethelwold at Longparish, Hants, UK)
I never saw myself as a ewe lamb-
a description more apt to Aethelflaed,
or ‘White Duck‘ as she was precisely known.
Not for me metaphor’s limitations.
I was once bound to the king’s betrayer.
A lie had thrown his Master off the scent.
It was reported that I was quite drab.
But the concupiscent wolfhound tracked me down.
Royal eyes didn’t have wool pulled over them.
I’d braided my hair by the burnished gleam
of my husband’s targe. I blinked at the king
and felt Edgar undress me with his gaze;
appraise me as a type of Bathsheba.
And when the king rode down from Cranbourne Chase,
Aethelwold met him in Harewood Forest,
to be stalked as ruthlessly as any prey,
his screams masked by the baying of the pack.
I’d willed that he should turn into a stag.
And maybe now he rides with The Wild Hunt.
It’s said their hooves don’t even touch the ground.
Aethelwold was the phantom in our bed.
I bore Prince Aethelred then Edgar strayed.
He nevermore trusted his advisors,
nor pious priests who would pointedly preach
about Uriah, Nathan and David.
Prophets really know how to rub it in.
Sometimes I watch a deer drink from a pond.
I hear its groan and see it torn by hounds.
Is it the hubristic Actaeon and
am I Artemis? Or, like Narcissus,
who loved his own reflection, will I look
into this stream and see my nemesis?
I cannot be The Goddess of Light for
she would not beat her son with a candle.
But I’ve produced a right royal milksop
who flinches before a taper and whines
for the company of his step-brother.
If I felt constrained at Wherwell years ago,
when I was wedded to my first husband,
I can tell you it was nothing like this:
an Abbess in a penitentiary.
I wish that I could morph into a hind
and flit through the forest with Aethelwold,
as fleet of foot as Artemis herself,
but leaving no trace to those who follow.
If only I’d seen the wood for the trees.
Aethelred the Unready, Black Death, Blessed Euphemia, cockatrice, corpse lights, Eadgyth, Edgar the Peaceable, Edward the Martyr, Elfrida, gloworms, Green's Acres, Matilda, Queen Emma, River Test, Romsey, Wherwell, William of Ypres
Hi! Candia here. You might have been wondering where I
have been. That Augustus Snodbury guy and his friends
have taken over my blog. What a silly old buffer he is.
Strange, but he has quite a following.
Well, it’s sunny and I have been out of doors, visiting a few
One Saturday I simply HAD to go to Wherwell, to walk in
peace and to go into the church. The River Test is beautifully
clear and the black and white cottages are stunning.
The history of the location is enthralling too.
I bought a booklet in the church and brooded on its contents
for a few weeks until I felt ready to hatch out my impressions,
in the discipline of iambic pentameter.
Here is the evocation of my mood and crystallised thoughts:
WHERWELL ABBEY- HAMPSHIRE.
Once in the abbey crypt, a duck-laid egg,
hatched by a toad, emerged a cockatrice,
which gorged on locals, till one man
took polished steel and dazzled this same beast.
Fighting its own reflection, it grew tired,
enabling Green to dispatch it forthwith.
Green’s Acres was the spot and there, at night,
an evening curfew tolled for many a year,
reminding all to seek those higher things;
show loyalty to their king, by offering up
archers and billmen for his war with France.
Queens Emma, Eadgyth sought their refuge here.
Elfrida, its first abbess, fell and drowned
in that same River Test.-she who deceived
her king and wed his servant, Aethelwold,
causing Edgar the Peaceable to kill
his rival, David-like. And then himself,
hoist by his own petard, by his own son,
Edward the Martyr, bloodily usurped
by Aethelred, known as ‘The Unready:’
a ten year old, whose conniving mother
found the gates of Salisbury shut her out.
She turned around and, to atone her sins,
founded the sacred abbey of Wherwell.,
where the Blessed Euphemia re-built
dorters to benefit the claustration
of nuns who possessed their vessels, holy,
in sanctification, in conditions
sanitary, to repel the Black Death.
Later Matilda would meet her defeat
by Stephen, as she tried to cross the Test-
cousins at war. She’d besieged the Bishop
at Winchester. No sanctuary was found
for her guards, as they took abbey refuge.
William of Ypres showed no mercy when
refusal to surrender guests was tried.
Flushing them out with fire was his response.
Corpse light glow worms pinpoint water meadows
where chaste ones once cultivated snowdrops
to cure the sick, or light the way
ambulant dead should trace through the mizmaze,
to leave behind corporeality-
a transformation more elevated
than Romsey sisters fleeing from the Danes;
losing their way in unfamiliar woods;
reproaching the Almighty and finding
their voices turn to those of feral cats.
Be still at dusk and sense those shifting eyes;
listen and one can hear the meowing cats.