poet David Lewis Paget

David Lewis Paget

As You Like It

The Lady Mary took to her bed
On the last of the mad March days,
She’d strained her constitution, she said
At that upstart, Shakespeare’s plays,
The ruffians at the Globe were known
To be often rotten with fleas,
‘I must have been bitten, ’ Milady said
With her skirt drawn up to her knees.

The footman fastened a painted sign
‘No Visitors’ up at the door,
While one of the maids got down on her knees
And scrubbed at the parquet floor,
Milady took to her poster bed
By a window out to the square,
‘You’d best get down to the Fleet, ’ she said,
‘Lord Orton is working there.’

The doctor came with his physic
Carried a nosegay close to his face,
The cane that he prodded Milady with
Would leave her with little grace,
‘The swellings down in Milady’s groin
Will have to be truly bled,
A mixture of clay and violets then
Applied to the sores, ’ he said.

The mist swept in and the night came down
As the fever grew apace,
And dark black pustules grew and swarmed
At the Lady Mary’s face,
A shadow fell on the window pane
Of a man stood out in the square,
‘Who is that nightly visitant,
And what is he doing there? ’

She couldn’t make out his features for
His hat was broad of brim,
Shading his face and hawk-like nose
Though he kept on looking in,
‘I have a terrible feeling that
I’ve seen that man before,
He’s come from the coffin-maker, and
He waits outside my door.’

She slipped off into unconsciousness
So the footman let him in,
To measure her with a piece of twine
From her head to below her shin,
They waited then for an hour or two
While the doctor had her bled,
She cried aloud at a fancied shroud
And she shrank from it, in dread.

Late on the second day she woke
Lord Orton at her side,
Holding a faded nosegay to
Protect him from his bride,
She heard the clatter of wheels pull up
Outside in the darkened court,
And cried, ‘My Lord, will you leave me now
That my time is running short? ’

She lapsed back into a coma, but
She could feel the tremors start,
And something strange had begun to change
In the beating of her heart,
A rattle deep in her throat began
And resounded through her head,
Just as a voice, it seemed to her,
Called out, ‘Bring out your dead! ’

29 July 2013

Poem Submitted: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Poem Edited: Sunday, July 28, 2013

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