This poem I wrote in a sheltered bower of a medieval castle garden in a slight rain, on one of the last days before I left England. The castle and surrounding walls in which I wrote had been taken on as a project, by a Victorian couple of some wealth. Over many years, they converted the dilapidated structure into a livable home. The saying “A man’s home is his castle” is inverted in the poem to ask, but can a man’s castle really be a home?
I had heard somewhere and now I don’t remember where, that the author Sir Arthur Canon Doyle, who is famous, especially for his works of fiction romanticizing the era of King Arthur and Camelot, influenced the European culture greatly in the nineteeth and early twentieth centuries. So much so, that it has been postulated that without his tales, the World Wars that followed might never have occurred.
I find this claim dubious, but you see evidence of Scott’s influence in many homes we toured, including Standen which is decorated with William Morris finery, and Osborne House where Victoria and Albert lived for a time. Wagner’s music seems to take up the same mantle, romantizing Germanic/Scandinavian lore in the same way, with an emphasis on valor and bravery and shining knights, saving helpless maidens. And it is hard to imagine Hitler without Wagner. This poem proposes this questionable but intriguing theory of the Wars’ origins, in verse.
Coffee, on a wind-proof bench,
Under ruined battlements.
Chapel, graced with Latin script,
Mid-medieval carving. It’s
Nothing, for the faint of heart–
Drizzly weather, steep ramparts–
To make a home a castle is
Something few would hassle with.
But Walter Scott and of his tribe
Exalted knights and regicide
And all things honor-bound and old,
Enticing those who had been told,
To build and rebuild on the ruin.
Warm the hearth. Find things to do in
Chambers, cold and wet and dank.
With ghosts, Nostalgia ate and drank.
My question is: Without this myth,
Without these tomes, would it exist?
(The shrapnel of the last World Wars,
For which Herr Wagner wrote the scores.)
Copyright 2023 Andrea LeDew
For other poems exalting knights of recent and more distant history, read The Wardrobe of Kings about James Comey in Trump’s FBI, and Enlightenment (An Ode to Sir Thomas Browne) about a natural philosopher living at the beginning of the Enlightenment Age, who was committed to clarifying the vulgar errors of the common man, but was himself, steeped in medieval hogwash.