The Castle

Goodrich Castle by Hugh William ‘Grecian’ Williams
via Wikimedia Commons

The Castle

All through that summer at ease we lay,
And daily from the turret wall
We watched the mowers in the hay
And the enemy half a mile away
They seemed no threat to us at all.

For what, we thought, had we to fear
With our arms and provender, load on load,
Our towering battlements, tier on tier,
And friendly allies drawing near
On every leafy summer road.

Our gates were strong, our walls were thick,
So smooth and high, no man could win
A foothold there, no clever trick
Could take us, have us dead or quick.
Only a bird could have got in.

What could they offer us for bait?
Our captain was brave and we were true….
There was a little private gate,
A little wicked wicket gate.
The wizened warder let them through.

Oh then our maze of tunneled stone
Grew thin and treacherous as air.
The cause was lost without a groan,
The famous citadel overthrown,
And all its secret galleries bare.

How can this shameful tale be told?
I will maintain until my death
We could do nothing, being sold;
Our only enemy was gold,
And we had no arms to fight it with.

I was flipping through the Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes anthology, The School Bag, today and found this poem by Edwin Muir. I love the imagery and the word play. “A little wicked wicket gate” is just delightful.

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2 Responses to The Castle

  1. Stephanie April 27, 2017 at 6:50 pm #

    Love this. Clutches at my heart, actually. As you said, especially “A little wicked wicket gate”- the heart-breaking ordinariness of a home-made hurdle gate- so light and easily kicked down or cut through. But even that wasn’t needed, just the taking advantage of the weakness or innocence of an elderly retainer.
    And “Our only enemy was gold,
    And we had no arms to fight it with”- years of efforts and preparation was no protection. The foe was of another kind. There was no fair fight- just trickery and the human weakness of our own…

    Similar reaction to “they cried for a broken gourd”. It brought back memories of when I’ve endured personally very difficult stuff only to break down in tears at the loss of a tiny thing.

    • Melanie Bettinelli April 27, 2017 at 11:26 pm #

      I hadn’t thought of reading the two poems in conjunction with each other, but they do make an interesting pairing, don’t they? Both speaking about loss and the experience of betrayal, being sold for gold.

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