|The Ranworth Antiphonal, circa 1460-1480.
An interesting initial letter decoration
illustrating Psalm 51.
A mighty long book of poems, the manuscript stakes some claim to being a narrative because tells the progress of the Fool, although in fragments. The sequence includes poems about the friendship between the Red King and the Fool, necessarily an unequal pairing. The Fool is consistent, though he transforms, but the Red King's self is unpinned, and it may be one thing in one poem, another thing in another. The manuscript also contains a kind of love story about the Fool and his beloved, the Precious Wentletrap.
The whole is to some degree governed by alchemical transformation. The story felt transformative in the writing--just swooped out, some years ago, in a great rush. I have off and on tinkered with the poems and am now determined to turn in the book by the end of spring. As in the making of any object that aspires to gold, it benefits from the polishing.
Here's a little poem about the two friends. It was originally published in Mezzo Cammin (for more poems, go here.)
THE TWO TABLES
The King sets a table for the Fool,
Arranging the cloth and the whittled spool
That’s wound with gilt and silver thread,
A wheel of cheese with twisted bread,
The cup that holds a glowing star,
|precious wentletrap (Wikipedia)
Fetched place above the walls of world,
A flower of ice, the petals furled,
A wine that came some thousand miles
From the floating Fortunate Isles.
The Fool sets table for the King
With pins and ragged skittles-string,
With glossy feathers of a crow,
Tumblers spilling dust-hearted snow,
A cup of tears, a glass of rain,
A mug that chambers childish pain,
A stick with bells, a fool’s peaked cap,
A seed, a precious wentletrap
That jails so beautifully the sea
Of pulse and whispered mystery.
And here is a poem about the Red King, one where he is grander in his identity. This one was original published in At Length (go here for more.)
A STAR IN A BOX
In a green seed
Hidden in a shell
From the first walnut tree,
Wrapped in threads of Tensan silk,
Tucked in a giant wentletrap,
Placed inside a golden treasure box,
Swallowed by the roan-red bull on the hill
In the precincts of the Red King’s castle lands,
Inside a kingdom held against barbarians,
In a world that cares so little whether we outrage
Or whether we are bred to honor and civility—
In the out-rushing universe, the nursery house of stars,
Inside the multiverse with other worlds, each with its own Red King,
Inside the envelope that cauls all time and space in one conundrum,
The Red King keeps