On liberty’s last morning, he said mass
in the Great Tower – the chapel was cold
as winter. August’s sun warmed the rebels
riding along the estuary shore,
their drums silent. He watched from the walls.
At his back, the seas breaking on Ireland. King
and Usurper, first cousins, exchanged
purple words in the base court, a surfeit of
epithets: bombast, self-pity. Serfs
were indifferent but Richard’s dog fawned
on new majesty. The epicure
who bespoke a coat of cloth of gold
rode captive from Fflint to London in the same
suit of clothes. Through Chester he was jeered, stoned.
Twenty miles inland, a sandstone hill
– sheer to the west – rises from the plain.
Parliament’s army sacked the castle.
Westwards there is the estuary’s mouth,
the livid sea. Above twitching fern,
a hawk stoops. Stones, flung into the well’s blackness,
fall through the hill seawards and never sound.
Note: the poem was originally published on the site September 2009.
Richard II; Henry Bolingbroke; Henry IV; Ireland; Flint; London; Chester; Parliament; epicure; cloth of gold; serfs; King; Usurper.