THE WHITE ROSE: A POEM FOR RICHARD
Several years ago I was out at Bosworth to attend an author signing with one of my favourite Ricardian authors, Sharon Penman, who wrote the mighty epic The Sunne in Splendour. We were staying in the Royal Arms at Sutton Cheney, which has a public room filled with armour, memorabilia, paintings of the battle and of Richard and Tudor (I put the latter at my back!)
Our room was in an annexe that looked out over the fields. The light was grey, heavy; the soil of the field, newly ploughed, glistening after rain, looked red. Redemore. The Red Plain. In the distance the hedges wore little crowns of mist, and a single dark-winged crow sat on the fence, its shrill cry breaking a strange stillness. A haunting place.
We went to bed. In the night we heard rain drumming on the roof. We turned over,slept. In the early hours of the morning, I was woken by a ruckus overhead. There was crashes and bangs as if someone, or more like multiple someones, were streaming, charging over the roof of the building. I began to fancy them as hoofbeats and laughed at myself and my infamous imagination. It must surely be the hotel staff doing something in a room above us…but why the heck were they doing it pre-dawn when they had guests?
The sounds clattered away into nothingess. I went back to sleep. Later, when we got up and went to pack our things in the car, I looked back towards the building.
There was no upstairs room above ours.
This poem came out of that night….
THE WHITE ROSE
I walked upon Bosworth field,
the soil red beneath my feet
as rain pelted from a stormy sky
in a grey and stony sheet
Sutton Cheney’s stolid tower
was an upturned bucket in the mist
and the whole rolling landscape
a haunted vista twilight kissed.
Why do I feel such strangling sorrow
in that lonely, empty space
where amongst the bristling hedges
the small birds dart and race
soaring like souls into a sky
unchanged by the passing years,
still on this sullen summer’s day
pouring out its bitter tears.
I found a crooked, winding path
that crossed a farmer’s land…
so plain and oh so ordinary
you might dismiss it out of hand
But I knew that here was the place
where a banner once soared on high,
and a White Boar fighting rose and fell,
a betrayed man consigned to die
So history was written
and legends false and foul were born,
birthed out of blood and treachery
on a red-tinged summer’s morn
The victor writes the pages,
speechless dead cannot defend
but I swore I would speak for him
both now and till the end.
And when I returned later
to my little rented room
at midnight I heard thunder
like a banging drum of doom
or was it something greater
that tore across the brooding sky,
passing in flashes over Bosworth…
what does it really mean to die?
Westward like winter’s geese
I saw pale horsemen flying
while the echoes of ghostly horns,
drifted outward, fading, dying….
And on the rain-bright road
its petals teared with icy rain
lay a perfect snow-white rose…
King Richard rides again.
Art by Frances Quinn