Sunday, November 04, 2007

310. The Irish Cycle: Lord Malahide

Fourteen years. Two children.
One miscarriage; her racking sobs in the night.
Her eyes reveal nothing; I hardly know her.

Her eyes are hazel with flecks of green,
She has noble carriage, a proud woman’s gait;
Her black sweeping hair has a blueish sheen,
She stands before me, my wife and mate.

- Dear wife.
- My lord husband.

Why have I ignored her all these years,
Under the one roof, food from the one table;
My voice when I speak holds back the tears:
Can I bridge this chasm, am I still able?

- The children?
- Quite safe, My Lord. They sleep.
- I have need to speak with you.
- My Lord?
- Come, let us move into a private chamber.
- Shall I disrobe?
- No, no, no, no, no – it’s not like that at all!
- Have I displeased you in some way?
- Not at all, my dear, quite the contrary.


- Sir, yes sir?
- Bring us some wine, like a good fellow.
- Very good, sir. The usual, is it?
- No, no … bring in the good Spanish.
- Not much left, sir. Are ye sure?
- Just do what I tell you, dammit!
- Rightyo, sir.
- And don’t say rightyo!
- Righty …very good, sir.

We move into the wind-cooled room,
It has Italian marble walls and floor;
There is a passing chill, a hint of the tomb,
I softly, firmly, shut the door.

- My Lord?
- My dear, I cherish and respect you.
- My Lord is most gracious.
- O, stop that! The fact is I love you.
- Love, my Lord?
- Perhaps I haven’t made my feelings plain.
- Lady Agnes, Lady Jane,
Lady Patricia, the parlour maid,
and that little blonde wench in the kitchen?
My Lord has made his feelings plain enough.
- O, come now, that means nothing!
- My Lord, I think it does.


- What now?
- The wine, sir.
- Bring it in, blast you!
- Rightyo, sir.
- And don’t you bloody well …
- Ah, sorry, sir.
The good Spanish, sir.
Not much left of it, mind,
I was just after telling the cook …
-Would you kindly pour the wine, O’Reilly?
Pour the wine, man, and clear off!
- There was fourteen sat down to breakfast
and every one, sir, was dead before dinner.
- What? Not now, O’Reilly.
- Tis a vision, sir. I saw it clearly.
These things will come to pass.
- I’ll wring your bloody neck, O’Reilly.
How’s that for a vision?
- Rightyo, sir.

A pause. A tasteless sip of priceless wine.

- My dear, the situation …
- I am aware of the situation.
The enemy has marched from Dublin.
We will soon be under attack.
- Yes, well, I suppose the whole castle knows.
- And now my Lord is … afraid?

When she spoke those words, love drained from my heart,
I gazed at her coldly from across four hundred years;
Like my forefathers I too could play my part,
I would never, could never, succumb to my fears.

- You misunderstand me, my Lady.
- I think I understand you well enough.
- I see. You will stay with the children.
Neither they nor you will come to any harm.

There was a glint in her eyes, a hint of derision,
a mockery in those hazel, green-flecked eyes,
and I could suddenly catch a glimpse of myself
as seen by this woman through all those years.
Upon this, not the battle, I reflected, ruefully,
as I strapped on my nearly new armour
and called for my old but sharpened sword.

Soon came the enemy to the gates:
dear God, these brazen, upstart English!
Well, it was the usual confused affair,
a lot of noise and dust and private agony.
We were deemed to have won since we didn’t quite lose,
the traditional form of Irish victory,
and our lives settled back to the normal round.

I continue to live at the castle,
Richard, Lord Admiral of Malahide
and the adjoining seas surrounding,
with my lady wife and children.
She looks at me now with apprehension.
O’Reilly has a brother, a prosperous smuggler;
we have twenty new barrels of good Spanish wine.
Upon occasion, as a means of diversion,
I ride to Dublin with a light escort,
there to visit certain friends of mine.

Malahide Castle was built by the Talbots in 1185 and remained in the family until the death of the last in the male line, Sir Milo, in 1973. On the morning of July 1, 1689 (by the Old Calendar) fourteen men of the family sat down together for breakfast and by nightfall all fourteen had fallen at the Battle of the Boyne. The castle and surrounding parklands were sold to the Irish State in 1975 and are a popular picnic destination for Dubliners. The pleasant seaside village bearing the same name is now home to Adam Clayton and the Edge of the rock band U2.