Poem: The Vigil of the Troubadour


Troubadour, troubadour, waiting outside

The castle walls – after dancing through

All the many seasons of court, hadn’t you

Better wend your way elsewhere?


You’ve been waiting here so long, and

Only slenderly let in; the archers regard

You warily through the ramparts; your bones

Rise to the surface as prosecutors of your hunger,

And only irregularly does the porter scatter you

With crumbs, when he hears the honking of geese

In the water


The rest of your merry band have long since ridden

On, whilst you wait outside, composing

Verses upon the parchment of your mind – you never

Learned to read or write – but from the tutelage of

Your lady’s face, you feasted upon Mercury’s eloquence,

And even as you starve, every cell of you still loves to sing,

To take the sky as your song book, and share with the world

All that you hear


It is a sad life being a musician,

For you know you can never have children;

Your melodies, your words, they are your offspring,

The Halflings of your hearth – every note you sing only

Further miscarries any hopes you might have, and your

Genealogy withers like the tail of a dying salamander;

You must perforce become your own father and

Daughter as you weep into your ladyship’s walls



But your tabor did not always beat out so bleak;

When back in the early days of dying summer,

And on through the pageants of the last revels

Of winter, you were appointed ‘The Purveyor

Of Pleasance,’ – your heart swelled with feasts,

Fancies, masques, and dances – a horn of plenty

Bulging with festivities, your lady presiding over

The head of the court, like the aspen at the

End of the world


And you still use those memories to warm you

Against the assurance of winter, when spring

Seems like a faraway promise you’re not sure

Will ever come hither


And, when you are feeling most brave, and hope

Does not feel like such a heavy thorn pressing against

Your heart, you allow yourself to think back to that night

In September, when your Ladyship lead you secretly into

Her chamber – the walls fanfaring with the sombre

Resplendence of tapestries; lyrics frothing to the pale

Motions of her limbs as she closed the door behind you


“I have a secret to tell you,” said she,

“And it must never be repeated or cast

Back against me; for what are for your

Ears, eyes, and touch alone must be as

Improbable fantasies to your wayward



And, without delaying, she opened a book;

An illuminated manuscript, your heart as

Though on a hook, and those pages were

Gilded and lettered with a truth you did

Not need to be a scholar to see you own

Face in



But, it would be uncouth to say more –

To say, how, in your Ladyship’s chamber,

You received music that did not rely upon

The plucking of strings, or the aeration

Of throats – how there is a certain

Languid eloquence in the soulful sharing

Of silence – how color is not just something

You see, but can also feel in the parting of lips,

As they speak to you of your future



But, you are still outside.

And if anybody asks you

What you are doing, you say:

“I am waiting for my lady,”

And if anybody, in response,

Asked you what your lady

Was doing, your face would

Collapse in a centrifuge of its

Own uncertain tears


Because you do not what your ladyship is doing,

Anymore than you can read the meaning of the




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