Sunday, April 11, 2021

Requiem for a Royal Rose

Perhaps the speaker should be introduced:

departed from Greece, the far distant land,

where knighthood made him vow to win the hand

extended in favour, sea eyes, lucid—

of his lady. They would know him only

as her one handsome Duke of Edinburgh.

His calling might have been regal might, curbed,

to taste the flowers that emit honey,

to rest bouquet on whitened baby’s breath,

and to be father of both the lily

and the rose. For there are swords unwieldy,

and yet the love streams down, bright and bereft,

of our days upon the earth, and how we

walked through desert sands and through snowy fields.


He chose to speak, and this is what he spoke:

chance forbade this favour to have his voice,

duty forbade the end to have a choice,

his children’s Bible names are what he wrote.

He was not scribe, nor poet, nor a vice,

he was a consort, yet rule was quiet

leader, not daunting or preeminent,

but lilting his hoarse laugh rang more than twice

at the birth of a son, through these hallowed

now deserted halls. Each child would grow, leave,

for their own adult nefarious reels.

There was a book of Scripture, that mellowed

into dusty old regimented leaves,

turned grey doctrine into the grace that heals.


For a petal to fall from a rose bud

it must first blossom in royal red hue;

they crowned you first and always in the blue

garden valley—where the prophecy’s nudge

would enliven and wake us from death first;

recall the mountains—of sapphire martyred.

You were a Queen of domains uncharted,

and minions hid themselves beneath your skirts.

There was a ringing of the depth of rest—

in all your nation’s wisdom, and your smile

never betrayed your deepest warmest heart.

There was rose of cordiality’s crest

in every traversed field and forest mile,

you, in each hospitable gesture, art.


Her dark head bent over each sonorous

word, each syllable lent itself to sound,

the height of golden understanding crowned

beneath a tenet king incredulous—

His will to teach would be expedient:

just then, meek understanding of a verse

so solemn, vigorous, so full of mirth—

made his fa├žade no longer lenient.

There was a poem, sacred, resting there,

beneath her ivory breast, a nation

signed their signature into her white throat,

the reputation of a crown, best here

where the brown falcons rise at her station,

and “All Hail!” becomes majority vote.


The rose grew up the Windsor Castle wall

breathing wine, it will stand at attention

in red salute, military mention

with glossy mahogany in the hall.

Her figure was reflected in the glass:

there were no entwined figures in a tree;

spirit of love hath at long last slain me—

I will not die—I hope but not to fast

beneath the ground, when all is lost about.

Shall I be departed, or shall veiled you?

Deep-dark rugs shall no more hear or pardon

resting footsteps, my voice shall not ring out.

English bluebells fashioned themselves in twos

for your tiara, and in your gardens.


She bowed her head and proclaimed eight days rest.

For all of England was the duty mourned:

she married every royal child in gown;

the call was that she nursed them at her breast.

He forbade that one stray drop fall from this

precious vial of a Queen in gossamer.

Ruby diadem and service silver

appeared at her edict, knighted thistles

in several orders bent frosted heads.

Lord and lady, sword and shield now immersed

in her regal kingdom, ornate and bold,

took from their packs needle and navy threads,

for the sea eyes would command their commerce,

while endorsing plum fairy tales untold.


In the dark wood where the blithe fairies hide

a noiseless purple feather fell to earth;

from under the rib-cage of linear birth

that blessed diminutive blossomed bride.

The bird it came from no one knew of lived—

for it was not a bird of song, but one

of prey, and on the hunt led the way on

through the dank woodlands of trees in olive.

The horses thundered down, they braved the toil

of war and on from English soil they broached

enemies undeterred—to leave, reckoned,

blood red. Fleur-de-lis ampulla their oil—

they were a solemn front in royal coach,

silvered by death, opaque blossoms beckoned.

 —Emily Isaacson

Photo used by permission: Armstreet Clothing Company