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Freedom and flight

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Robert's children

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“Since you have met sweet Summer, now I’ll tell
all that I know of those four poor sad souls
who were Sir Robert’s wards; it went not well,
once they became the means to gain his goals.
E’en in a land so small, from time to time,
tragedy strikes a home, and no one knows
how from the depths of sorrow can they climb
when a young mother dies of weary woes.
Thus are there ever children left unloved;
or if yet loved, abandoned through great pain.
Into the arms of others roughly shoved,
or as they walk a cold and lonely lane
finding a little bundle by the road
some parent sadly found too hard a load.

These to Sir Robert came, as Sund’rland’s ‘king’;
where else to take them then, but whence lies power?
Nowadays no one ever once would bring
even a dying child, for one last hour.
But when we knew not all the depths of him,
people supposed that since he took the throne,
he would accept the duties, often grim,
that every king must ponder, all alone.
What to be done with these? But Robert, cruel,
carefully put them by a space of days
into a nurse’s arms in case they mewl,
all for a purpose suiting wicked ways.
To him, all things are assets counted cold;
and thus he cursed the fertile field and fold.

Sadly you know the witch-hag’s tale too well;
after, however, years of toil were ours;
ever too rapid prospered crops in hell,
years did it take to raise up Robert’s towers.
And when the westward tower, the first, was done,
into the mortar poured the blood of Fall.
Robert, you see, complete dominion won.
And though we hated Robert, one and all,
his power has no check in all this land.
Sorcerers guide their lord as does them please.
Slaughtered was Fall, to suit their mad demand,
and in that knowledge, I fell on my knees
and begged our lord to let me take his form
to sea, as Robert wished; it was still warm.

From that time on, full knowing Robert’s heart,
I took a care to do whate’er I could.
Then many tasks became my painful part;
the little boy I carried through the wood,
and far within prepared his tiny grave
with many tears.
In castle cold, I tried my best to save
the girls from fears
as best I could.

The sisters never asked, but wondered why
their baby brother dear was tak’n away.
Henceforth a turret grasped the sullen sky,
that others called the Tower of Fall, that day.
Whenever chance afforded, in their bowers
I played them games;
and they, confused and lost, would hear me hours;
but all their names
suggested towers.

Then to the eastward rose another hulk
that shut the morning sky from those behind.
Young Winter soon began to moan and sulk,
but never shared her deep and secret mind;
and nothing would I ask, for how could I
answer her strife;
again, again I’d wait all night to try
end Robert’s life;
he never slept.

When spring began to bloom, Sir Robert rose,
and told the children soon they’d go with him
grandly on expeditions such as those
who slaughtered dragons, fighting battles grim.
The girls would there behold a proper knight!
And so he took
the three of them to see the private sight
in fairy nook;

He took me too, for even he did know
that all of them had called me closest friend.
And so I saw all nature’s blazing show,
as pure fertility without an end
filled all the isle with pow’r; the trees grew great
within a day.
But Summer shouted out with violent hate;
‘You made her stay!
She sleeps our dream!’

Sir Robert stared, then shoved us with a scowl
back in the tunnel only he had used.
Then locking up the gate, in hate Sir Foul
enacted us his vict’ry; he abused
the mem’ry of their mother with his sword
beside her throat.
‘I am the knight who struck her to the sward!’
he posed to gloat;
we shivered there.

When, on returning castlewards, his wrath
remained, his play not conjuring applause,
all his pretence was lost; the aftermath
was openly to treat the girls as whores,
as things not loved; they lacked respect or care.
‘That Tower’, he said,
‘which bears your brother’s name, yes, over there –
I laid him dead.
I spilled his blood.’

In days the Tower of Spring was made complete,
and though the workers, knowing, tried to slack,
unless Sir Robert’s angry urge they meet
their futures were the blackest of the black.
‘Since towers there are,’ Sir Robert told them clear,
‘from them you fall;
unless complete in time, then as you fear,
yes, one and all,
from top to ground.’

Spring was aware what came, and tried to smile,
so sisters might believe she knew not what
would happen to her in a little while.
And so she schemed; but fool me she could not.
Alas! One day I took her tiny corpse
up through the wood;
and hated every way that Robert warps
sad sisterhood;
and made her grave.

Now for the sisters two, life ever grim
would be, and nothing brought them cheer, of course;
Robert? At least they saw no more of him.
I cannot say how great was my remorse -
for what can save a girl from giddy grief,
when northward grows
a monument arising to her brief
and bitter life
all grown with crows?

In this condition, first I sought the Lord;
no other source of help remained to try.
Columba from her birth had Him adored,
and now I sought with deep and saddest sigh
in prayer from every corner of my heart -
become devout;
we people, from Broceliande apart,
could but cry out
where once we sang.

So Summer saw her sister go to death;
brave Winter simply scorned us all as fools,
She bade her sister cherish every breath
until rejoined with her ‘fore Him who rules.
They'd meet again, in better times, somewhere
all four as one;
some day to meet awake their mother fair,
when grief was gone
and worlds laid waste.

Another summer Summer lived this life;
the tower to the south made thus complete
this castle, whence Sir Robert caused us strife -
and being safe within, gave less to eat
to us poor fools who fought him not at first;
why did we not?
If we had died, he had not done his worst,
for what we got
was worse than death.

Then finally two years ago, she died,
and once again I wandered through the wild.
In forest fair I laid me down and cried
beside the tiny grave of each sad child.
But in that place so sacred to their names,
I heard a song;
I saw them, four, all joined in merry games,
and wondered long -
if sight is given men, to see such things,
are there in truth such angels as make rings
in forest fair?
Is death a place where children ever play,
and one who cares will wash their tears away,
who lingers there?”

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