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The silence woke her. Beyond the locked door

by now her maids should be chattering

in that harsh tongue. She went to the window.

Even the gulls on the battlements were mute.

And no guards on the ramparts, nobody

in the bailey. The straits were the colour

of the emerald at her neck – her father’s

wedding gift. A barque moved edgily

through the sands. Its pennants spoke of home.

The island’s coast was clear in the sun.

She imagined the light summer wind

stirring its fecund, strategic fields.

Her door was unlocked, opened and flung wide.

The Prince held a red cloth. “Cover your eyes.”

As she tied the cloth in place, he said,

“‘Who can find a virtuous woman?”

He put his hand in the small of her back,

steering her from her chamber into his,

impelling her to the window. She felt

the gentle air from the valley, inhaled

the woods and the river. He pulled the cloth

hard from her head.  Eyes shocked wide in death,

her lover hung from a gibbet. She watched

the body move this way, that way; listened

to the rope creak; turned to her husband.

“Until I die, I shall count the years

I will have loved him as a benison.”



Note: this piece has been subsequently published in ‘A Jar of Sticklebacks’ –








© Copyright David Selzer
5 Responses
  • Anne Wynne
    July 29, 2009

    Far Above Rubies – I did get this one and I was shocked by the brutal ending. Actually I then re-read it a few times looking for clues that it was her husband who was leading her to the window. It is there that she is married but the full force of it it really hits us at the end. I thought it was a very dramatic poem – shocking and ugly which makes it powerful. It felt like this could be a play – I am really interested in this couple especially the husband and for me you have the plot of a brilliant story.

  • David
    August 11, 2009


    I think poems can tell ‘tiny stories’ – as one of the other commentators, John Plummer, calls them – very effectively: for example, Philip Larkin’s ‘The Explosion’ or Robert Browning’s ‘My Last Duchess.’

  • John Huddart
    August 15, 2009

    The tragedy of a woman isolated from her kind, and forced to look on her murdered lover. I find myself sharing the horror of the exile in a foreign land, cruelly confronted with the death of the heart’s desire. It is all summed up in the maids and their harsh-tongued chattering.

    Economical and precise – language as clear as air, telling a story which is both melodramatic and chillingly believable.

  • SCES
    August 29, 2009

    I love FAR ABOVE RUBIES -such a compelling and evocative story. There is such a strong visual element conjured up that I feel I have seen a Pre-Raphaelite painting that I know doesn’t exist. Or is the poem based on a true story and that’s what makes it feel terrifyingly familiar?

  • David
    September 2, 2009

    The poem is based partly on historical fact and partly on ancient gossip.

    In the village of Abergwyngregin, which is on the mainland shore of the Menai Straits, there is an artificial mound, which was the foundation of a castle built by Llewelyn the Great, a Prince of Wales. For reasons of state, Llewelyn married Princess Joan, daughter of the English king, John.

    Tradition has it, that Llewelyn, having taken the English noble, William de Braose, prisoner at the siege of Montgomery, held him at Abergwyngregin. William and Joan fell in love. De Braose was ransomed before Llewelyn found out. However, through an invitation to an Easter banquet at the Castle, Llewelyn effectively re-captured William. He hanged him and lead Joan to the window from which she could see the corpse.

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