David Lewis Paget
The Castle In The Marsh - Poem by David Lewis Paget
The Castle out in the marshes ruled
The serfs with an iron rod,
The yeomen, hidden in cottages,
Were careful where they trod,
The soldiers poured from the Castle walls
And rode the peasants down,
They stole the women they caught abroad
And returned to the Castle grounds.
There was only a single causeway that
Was guarded, night and day,
Many a father came to grief
When crossing the moat, to pay,
To save his daughter from certain shame,
A fate that, worse than death,
Was tearing the heart from Amber Vale
As the mothers mourned, distressed.
The Baron, Ralph Fitzherbert held
His acres from the King,
(That William, known as Rufus, who
Would hunt most anything) ,
He was known as ‘Baron Slaughter'
For he murdered them at will,
He burdened them all with taxes,
Raped and pillaged, and then he'd kill.
The women held in the Castle Keep
Were set to work, and raped,
They scrubbed in the kitchen galley, cooked
The food, and cleaned the grate,
Two of their number were trusted to
Go out in the misty marsh,
Collecting the herbs and mushrooms for
The Captain of the Guard.
But Aethelflaed had been pregnant with
Fitzherbert's only son,
She came to term in the August and
She hated everyone:
‘The boy's as good as a Norman, I'm
The wife of a Saxon squire, '
She wept, and then she had strangled it,
Throwing it in the fire!
Fitzherbert ranted all day long,
Lamenting what she'd done,
‘I should have known that a Saxon whore's
Not fit to bear my son! '
He stripped and flayed ‘til the flesh had peeled,
‘Til he thought that his arm would tire,
Then dragged her over the hearth, and placed
Her hands in the blazing fire!
They hung her naked from a tree
As the villagers came to wail,
Then rode and murdered her husband there
In the village of Amber Vale,
The women held in the Castle wept
At the Normans' cruelty,
They'd whisper: ‘That was Aethelflaed,
But it might as well be me! '
The Baron held a feast that night
And they drank of their Norman wine,
From casks brought in from Normandy
But opened before they dined,
By midnight they were vomiting
Were helpless, caught in a trance,
From the berries of deadly nightshade squeezed
As the women began to dance.
They lopped off every soldier's head
As they lay, none thought it harsh,
Then they bound and carried the Baron out
And thrust him into the marsh,
With an apple jammed in his gaping jaw
And his glaring eyes so big,
He sank ‘til his head was all they saw
Like the head of a slaughtered pig.
The trees at Amber Vale were hung
With a strange but exotic fruit,
The heads of the soldiers hanging there
With their coats of mail, to suit,
They stormed the Castle and burnt it down
The ruins would make you quail,
For Belladonna is nurtured there
By the village of Amber Vale!
2 September 2012
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