From a story by Boccaccio
O fortune - how she is a fickle child;
our trusty chronicles show all too well
'If a bird builds a nest
To lay its eggs in it
Then, it never flies away again
But stays in it
I have a tale as strange as fantasy -
of deadly passions and possessive rage,
of gains in knowledge thrown in jeopardy -
set in Messina - in the dawning age
Riding the clouds of the turbulent skies -
clamourous hooves are your gathering voice,
mingling fast with your ominous cries -
thunder and lightning's your music of choice;
The bee-loved foxgloves could not charm the mead -
geraniums their full-lipped petals fend
against first frosts - bright roses not ascend
the cottage arbours - if they did not feed.
With wordless murmurs, clasped in agonies of pleasure,
they huddled in amorphous masses by the river;
writhing they gorged on joy and pain in equal measure,
waiting for the one thing that would them deliver.
Is it the nearby tread of furtive feet -
insistent in the darkness - or the sound
of nocturnal noses - probing the ground -
or trees - that rustle in this sleepless heat -
Two springs we drink from, since the days we met:
one is a silver stream - a draught brings joy,
tranports me far to fields that never cloy,
where drowsed on flowers, I would time forget.
To add more notes to birdsongs would - I know -
only mar the passing hearer's bliss,
more hues just cloy the glory of the rainbow;
monarchs crowned would little gain or miss
Could I cast spells - antique and gilded cup -
clay guardian - whose tableaux chronicle
these fishermen their sea-nets lifting up,
these foxes eyeing gleans in baskets full -
Old tales of knights and honour I have turned:
sat at baronial tables, seen a hall -
through plots I've overheard - now rise, now fall;
spied cloistered sighs, felt pangs of lovers spurned.
England - I never thought I'd feel
this need for damp and milder days;
abroad I roam yet wish to steal
from tiring rays.
With scanty roots upon an earthen stove
you sup by homely hearth; for long you dwell
within this city, sip its public well -
they call you Liberty; for you they strove -
Down on the heath I met my lover, by arches strewn with vines and flowers;
we kissed each other, then took cover, from skies portending April showers.
Well I remember then I said - as evening fell so still and solemn -
that 'flames will out, if too much fed' - as shadows grew around each column.
One morning in my garden - as the mist
dissolved - a thousand apples ripe and gold
I eager saw, that hung from boughs of gold.
I pondered which to eat, when through the mist -
The sky's as charmless as a filthy rag -
as daylight breaks, the traffic shuffles filed;
pavements are tired and littered, bins are piled,
the clay-like Sun's first smiles with sadness sag.
Disturb her not - she is not far;
she hears our voices - whisper low.
Death does not her beauty mar -
does not her candle wholly blow.
She's in the field, not in the valley,
and weaves a braid with fresh-blown flowers;
she's in the woods - not forests shady -
with nature's music passing hours.
My flower - do these blemishes you taint?
Do they betray the canker's cold caress
and call the sunset on your loveliness?
Does Mortality its crimson paint?
I am originally from Cornwall, UK. I have lived in London and Manchester, and now live in Bristol. I work as an English teacher and in hospitality while writing in my spare time. My hobbies include reading, music, films, walking and travelling. I have been published in Reach Poetry Magazine, Runcible Spoon, Scrittura Magazine, The Big Windows Review and The Society of Classical Poets. I have had one volume of poetry published - 'The Ballad of Lorianna, Ever Brush Away The Sleep, To Winter and other poems'. www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/55802747 www.chrislaverty.blogspot.com/)
The Misfortune Of Reynold The Knight
From a story by Boccaccio
O fortune - how she is a fickle child;
our trusty chronicles show all too well
how she would bless the souls on whom she smiled -
then throw them to the wild with wolves to dwell.
Yet sometimes all ends well, and I can tell
if you've an ear - a tale - set in our land -
of fortune springing from misfortune's hand.
It was the age of knights and ladies, passion
and fealty - honourable death and shame -
monastic reveries and courtly fashion.
One knight there was - throughout the land his fame
was greatly spoke of - Reynold was his name.
One evening he homewards rode - past inns -
past countryside - and here our tale begins.
Now cold it was, all day it had been snowing;
the sky was crisp, the stars were sharp, the moon
hung low and clear. Steadily he was going
as gallant Reynold rode all afternoon.
One serving-man accompanied him - but soon
he fell in with a passing company,
conversing with the folk unwarily.
He thought them merchants - well attired and coined,
and warmly ordering themselves to him,
but these in truth were robbers he had joined.
They spoke like humble men of toil and hymn,
and sought to gain his trust as it grew dim;
they, judging him a moneyed fellow, waited -
until they spied a woodlands isolated.
They fell to talk of orisons they make -
one of the highwaymen then asked our friend:
'Which say you on your journeys, when you wake? '
'I am a simple man', said he, 'and tend
to live old-fashioned; nevertheless, I'll send
St Julian a Pater and an Ave -
to grant in perils somewhere safe to stay'.
'I hope it stands you in good stead', then thought
the highwayman that asked. 'This orison',
said he, 'I've heard of but was never taught -
and always found I lodgings after Sun.
No, De Profundiis is for me the one,
the prayer that my grandmother deemed the best -
and later we shall see who'll find good rest.'
Discoursing of these matters on their way,
while waiting for a quiet place and time,
they came across a river - late that day,
beyond which distant spires stood sublime,
and here the robbers carried out their crime.
Stealing his money, clothes and horse, they departed,
saying - while turning back with laughs wholehearted -
'We hope St Julian for you will find
good lodgings for tonight, even as ours.'.
Passing the river, they left him behind,
stood only in his shirt at those late hours,
far from the church's gleaming gothic towers -
while Reynold's knavish servant, turning his horse -
abandoned him - and townwards steered his course.
Poor Reynold - trembling with his teeth - he turned
and looked about for shelter from the frost;
but war had been there in those parts, and burned
was everything. Instead, the stream he crossed,
and sought the town, while fearing getting lost.
But curfew fell and he arrived so late,
he found they'd raised the bridge and shut the gate.
There, shivering and disconsolate he stood -
as it began once more that day to snow;
he spied an outhouse building made of wood
projecting from the wall. The warming glow
of fires within he saw from down below.
Once there, the door was locked - although he found
a bed of straw, and lay there on the ground.
He sighed - and to St Julian made plaint -
saying that this was not what he was fain
to know of faith; however, soon the saint
provided him with lodgings once again.
Within a widow lived, upon whose chain
was kept the keys to every gate and door;
her husband perished lately in the war.
She'd had her maid prepare a bath and meal -
most sumptuous - for her expected lover;
but fortune had been turning back her wheel,
and through a serving-man she did discover
that he'd been called away to some place other -
on urgent business. She resolved instead
to take the bath herself, then go to bed.
The bath she entered in was near the door,
behind which Reynold lay beside the wall -
and soon she heard his weeping full and sore.
Concerned, her maid she summoned from the hall,
and said, when she had answered to her call:
'Kindly see who is at the postern-foot,
while I prepare the supper that was put.'.
The maid went - finding Reynold in his shirt -
and barefoot - in the clear air trembling much,
lying there wretched in the straw and dirt.
She asked him who he was - he told her such -
and of his troubles - which her heart did touch.
Her lady, once informed, was likewise piteous,
and of this handsome stranger curious.
The maid - commending her for her compassion -
let Reynold in; 'Quick - take the bath that's there',
she said, seeing his face from coldness ashen;
while he obeyed, they found him clothes to wear.
Reviving in the warmth, he said a prayer -
thanking St Julian and God for this,
as all around him seemed a scene of bliss.
Within the dining hall was lit a fire,
where sat the lady; soon her maid there came -
and of this stranger's state she did enquire.
'Madam - he's clad himself; he's of good name,
and handsome, with a well-proportioned frame.'.
The lady, hearing this, wished him to meet,
and said: 'Go dear - invite him here to eat.'.
Accordingly, Reynold entered the hall, and saw
the lady, thanking her for kindness done;
she asked how he had come beside the door -
a spirited narration he begun -
how he was robbed beneath the setting sun.
She'd seen his serving-man that day - so true
she thought it, telling Reynold what she knew.
Afterwards, Reynold sat with her to sup.
Her lover gone that night, many a time
she glanced at him while drinking from her cup -
as he was comely, pleasant - in his prime;
her passions roused, she thought them not a crime.
She found her maid in order to confer
if she should use what fortune sent to her.
The maid, who clearly saw her lady's drift,
encouraged her to go, as she could best,
and take advantage of this earthly gift.
Returning to the fireside, where sat her guest,
she gazed on him, filled with romantic zest,
and said: 'Why look you lost and melancholy?
Your stolen things can be requited wholly.
Come now - be comfortable and of good cheer;
take ease, and treat this house as your own place.
I'll tell your something more - to see you here -
a hundred times I've wished you to embrace,
but feared that you would find this a disgrace.
Had I not thought that you might be displeased,
the opportunity I would have seized.'
Reynold advanced on her with open arms,
saying: 'Madam, considering I owe
so much to you, not to enjoy your charms
a great unmanliness in me would show.
Your persuasion is not needed though;
to look upon your face I am content -
there I can see the winning argument.'
No more was said. The lady, full of longing,
straight threw herself at him; many a caress
and kiss each gave - with inner passions thronging -
while now his troubles he could only bless
that brought such moments of expansiveness.
When daylight trickled round the room he rose,
and went to find his servant with his clothes.
The sun was bright, the city gates unlocked,
and searching round his serving-man he found;
he praised St Julian, whom they had mocked,
when next a miracle would him astound.
Those highwaymen appeared, in shackles bound,
arrested by the watchmen for some deed
that same night done - all ended well indeed.
The men confessed - returned his items too;
climbing his horse, he soon forgot his plight,
and homewards rode. To her he bid adieu;
the memories would fill him with delight.
And now so ends my tale of this good knight,
my homely tale of unexpected things -
of how misfortune sometimes fortune brings.