The Day in History – Henri the Fourth of France Assassinated

Henri-Pourbus

By Frans Pourbus the Younger – from web, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8918292

Today in 1610, King Henry the Fourth of France was assassinated.

Henri, although baptised as a Catholic, was brought up as a Protestant. Due to the inflammatory religious situation in France and his background, he was at times considered an enemy by both Catholics and Protestants alike. As a result, there were many previous assassination attempts.

Despite often being unpopular during his reign, he was nevertheless considered a successful king, in economic, cultural, military and diplomatic terms, but only achieved his current status as a great king posthumously, when a virtual cult arose in his memory.

He was assassinated on May 14 1610 by a fanatic called Ravaillac in the Rue de la Ferronnerie, Paris.

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The Elemental North Norfolk Coast

boatsoffcromer©dfbarker

Cromer, North Norfolk

No excuses, just thought I’d share again a couple of my past impressions of one of my favourite places.

foam

Titchwell, North Norfolk

If I ever got serious about oil painting and painting in general again, I think I would have to visit more places abroad. Like the south of France where the light is glorious, so I am told!

Of course North Norfolk’s geographical position is almost unique in England, which gives it its particularly quality of light, strong blues; whereas in the Mediterranean, for example, the brighter colours predominate.

Poem: A Picture

pariscafe

Like a heavy Thirties’ vibrato, the early
talkie movie strings exquisite
yet tainting,

your restrained pose remains
steadfast before the storm, long shadows
of a vengeance which threatens

you, barely withheld. Still
your smiling eyes stare
back from Paris cafés through

mists of Gitanes, drenched
in sepia, like the relics of some
melancholy sun

© copyright David F. Barker 2013

Poem ‘A Tale of Love’

I first fell in love with you in a map,
a sort of pentagon, sacré, teased out
a touch like a stretched piece of dough. Then
it was the names, the easy non-phonetics
conjuring visions and colour through
Fontainebleau and Versailles. But then,
of course, it’s the history that defines me
and you, those first tragic lines etched
large, bold and bloody by le Bâtard, a family
dispute of a single culture cleaved
by hatred and greed, melded by chivalry.
For so long la Manche was not a divide
(and never la différence), more a conduit
of ideas flowing north, longbows sailing
south. Oh, we have divided since; your gift
for re-invention, dispensing with kings, that’s
something I cannot conceive, even though
we did have a go. But I only have to
look at Claude and Edouard, Paul
and Vincent, to get it, to understand— there’s
a love neither can openly express, though
look more closely, you will find it in our eyes

© copyright David F. Barker 2012

Poem ‘The Artist’

The Artist

Black paint on the front door
was peeling badly. Before knocking
I ran a crackling finger over it,
flakes falling into shade around my feet.
A small grey lady in garish pink
dressed for bed, squinted up at me,
something akin to Stravinsky
played in the darkness behind her.
“Take a pew!” – words betraying her age,
her station, a headmistress perhaps,
Arnold’s paintings in primaries all over low,
leaning walls in a room of gloom,
as if yellowed by years of smoke
and smelling of rose and age.
His preference for palette knife
and fingers were evident at once –
then a portrait, blue eyes staring at me,
almost violet, gorgeous like Liz Taylor
and hints of a grey uniform with pips.
Tea and scone arrived on Royal Albert
with shuffles of pink slipper.
“The portrait,” I pointed.
“Oh, that’s me, circa 1944,” she croaked,
standing bent. “But not his usual style.”
“No,” I had to agree, writing frantically,
excitement like sap
sent tingling up my spine.

So, let’s get this right:
She had trained in Ireland,
was deployed to France,
following allied troops into Germany
all the way to the end, in Berlin.
Hers an eccentric family of noble stock,
a quite irregular life lived on the edge.
Did I believe her? At first, yes.
At least until I closed the door
with that peeling paint.
Then I noticed the corner in the road,
breathed in the fresh air,
saw the rush of wind in poplars
and rooks cawing their honest presence.
The further I drove the less I believed.
Narrow roads led into town, a realisation
that still – the artist had eluded me

Poem and image © copyright df barker 2012

Poem ‘Pomegranates’

Pomegranates

They smile when I shut the heavy, creaking door,
from behind their neat wooden kiosks
stuffed with pamphlets and insipid books.
Smiles of recognition, a nodding
acceptance as if to say –
‘Oh, it’s you!’ Volunteer women serving Christ
better than those above them in Church.

I walk along the emphatic southern aisle under
über-Norman arches, at the far end of which
hangs a limp flag of Saint Andrew,
in honour of Mary Queen of France, Scotland
and some say of England, too.
Glancing to my left a young man kneels,
wringing hands beneath a life-size figure

of a crucified Jesus, hanging high in space.
He stares upwards, rocking gently back and forth,
as if imploring Him to be real,
to writhe, sweat, bleed, perhaps to save Himself
and then, somehow, to save him as well.
I’m here to light a candle outside
Saint Oswald’s shrine and to sit for a time

in silence inside the tidy chapel,
to pray for a poor boy in pain,
perhaps to ponder on those relics,
those bits of bodies and other things,
worshipped once and then dispersed,
despised in fractured minds,
to us now mostly objects of indifference.

Oswald’s arm must lie hereabouts,
known to someone who still believes
in its restorative power, like the monks
who consumed this place, where Domesday
came and went without event,
where the Chronicle of a people faded to grey
in an undrying ink. Still it awaits the next line.

In this fossil the dead are lucky.
They are dead but in faith, whereas I roam
restlessly among echoes and whispers,
a heartless void. I cut across through the choir
to find I’m not alone, where the true
Queen of Hearts lies. Letters of gold spell
her name to all, but for me she smiles

brighter than anyone alive,
a smile from scorched Iberian lands,
her fate to end up on this drab island
where fashioned pomegranates mark her spot,
from which she expects to rise
at some glorious hour, where, until then,
the anonymous faithful lay fresh fruit

and flowers to mark her special days.
I watch a tourist, a German tricolour sewn
onto his rucksack, as he reads
the commemorative words. A sudden,
unexpected pride washes over me
while he pauses on her ground to think –
where I was once intrigued.

Almost believing.

image and poem © copyright dfbarker 2012
*poem first published in poetry collection ‘Anonymous Lines’, available at amazon.com
**image from part of an historical reconstruction I did in watercolour of Spalding Priory, as it might have appeared in the fifteenth century.

Poem ‘Safe Distance’

Trench Warfare, General Conditions: A party of...

Image via Wikipedia

Safe Distance

Another old soldier who never speaks.
Sitting stiffly in braces and polished leather,
his medals left in bric-a-brac drawers

with sovereigns and half crowns,
concealing the nugget –
the tale worth telling from this safe distance.

A story of a corporal who carried
a limp subaltern from no man’s land
to safety through a Belgian quagmire.

Lieutenant Turnbull was a right bastard,
but no point in resentment or fear
when a bullet could tear through your head

at any time. Simply had to do it and get on.
His blank eyes, though still blue,
cannot disguise the bare brown soul,

like the pounded landscape, the kit bag
he carries around everywhere.
Until the lights go out.

© copyright df barker 2012
First published in poetry collection ‘Anonymous Lines’, available at amazon.com