David Lewis Paget
The Saxon Bride - Poem by David Lewis Paget
Lord Tremayne of the barren plain
Held his land in fief to the King,
The wily William Rufus, who
Ruled over everything,
But his lords were left to their own devise
And they wielded total power,
Over the land and the peasants
From the height of a wooden tower.
He rode abroad in the country and
He hunted deer and men,
Leading a band of Norman Knights
Who'd pillage and rape and burn,
To them, the country was just good sport
And they took more than they gave,
Taxing the poorest peasants from
The cradle, clear to the grave.
Their Castle was known as Hell's Despite
And it slowly rose in stone,
Built on the backs of the peasants who
Were imprisoned, far from home,
It slowly replaced the wooden tower
Its battlements raised in awe,
Towering over the countryside,
With a moat, and a bridge to draw.
But Lord Tremayne was a lonely man
And he longed for a virgin wife,
A woman to share his fireplace,
Give meaning to his life,
So he roamed abroad through the villages
In his search for a winsome bride,
And he took time from his pillages,
Lined up the women outside.
The girls were Anglo-Saxons with
The coarseness of their race,
Their features dull and Germanic, so
He longed for a pretty face,
‘Is there not one in this countryside
To make this Lord's heart glad? '
His soldiers pulled out a pretty one,
Her name was Aethelflaed.
She came from a line of Saxon Kings
The Normans had dispossessed,
She lived in a genteel poverty,
In a village, like the rest,
Her hair the colour of golden corn
Her eyes like a blue sapphire,
He said, ‘You're coming along with us, '
But her eyes were flashing fire.
‘I'll not have truck with a Norman pig,
You will have to do your worst,
Your soldiers may overpower me
But you'll have to kill me first! '
They bound her wrists and he dragged her back
Stumbling after his horse,
Up to the gates of Hell's Despite
And over the watercourse.
‘You'll never leave Hell's Despite again
Unless you're married to me.'
She answered, short in her temper then,
‘No thanks, I'd rather be free! '
‘You'll do as I have commanded,
There's no woman that I can't tame…'
‘I'd sooner be dead in a midden,
Rather than add to our Saxon shame! '
For weeks he tried to persuade her
But she held to her single cry,
Rather than marry a Norman lord
She would rather lie down, and die.
He sent to the spinners of Bruges
For a suitable wedding gown,
Lavishing gifts of silver plate,
Only to see her frown.
He finally settled the wedding date
And he had her dressed in lace,
‘You will be a Norman Baroness,
I'll raise you above your race.'
She wandered moodily down the aisle,
A soldier at each side,
Then lifted a potion to her lips,
Fell at his feet, and died.
Tremayne cursed long in his native tongue,
And he raved about the nave,
‘I'll not be denied this saxon bitch
After all the gifts I gave.'
The soldiers lifted her to her feet
And the service went ahead,
And when they asked if she'd marry him,
A soldier nodded her head.
They took her up to her chambers
Sat her up in a high-backed chair,
Then held the wedding reception
Though in truth, she wasn't there.
Tremayne then toasted his baroness
And the knights all stood in line,
Raising each glass to Aethelflaed
Who looked on with a glassy eye.
She sat and she mouldered, year on year
‘Til a skull was all you could see,
Tremayne would sit and he'd talk to her
And ask, ‘What's wrong with me?
I gave you everything I could give
But you just lay down and died…'
He never could understand, it was
A question of Saxon pride.
18 January 2013
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