Henrietta Maria Prepares to Depart
The important things, the seductive things -
prisoners now in a blustery Cornish castle.
She watches a hungry troop march across the square,
discards the obligation to be who she was.
Is duty the enemy of enjoyment ?
she says and recalls a masque in which she played
the role of a pregnant queen –
pregnant with a nation’s joy –
who escaped the angry mob
through a white horse’s vale.
Her handmaidens brush a common dress,
tie a hessian bonnet for her to wear.
They stand together now, her image
reflected in an old pewter mirror –
no lacework across her shoulders
observes the intricate web of her God.
There is a dog and there are jewels and there is
silver plate ready to be traded for muskets and might.
She laughs: her dwarf is tugging at her hem.
He is gracious, in this, her melancholy hour.
A boat waits to receive her and she prays
with palm-beads: one, two, three times.
Her hair, once perfumed, is now a surrogate,
fiery as the inmates of this castle’s bedlam.
To leave this temporary room, to listen to
an ungracious God who roars against the sea –
What does He say ? What does He mean ?
A king will pile his crown at the gate of his grave.