Twelfth Night, 1296 – Floris’ Epiphany in the Hall of Knights – As If Feasting

Floris V van Holland

Early in January 1296, Floris V leaves his court in The Hague for Paris, where – against his better wishes – he switches Holland’s ancient alliance with England to one with France. This sparks off treachery among some of Floris’ nobles, leading to his murder in June.

*

In his hall of knights –

Mental topers, tumblers, ravers

– Mad din of needy bingeing gluttons

*

Smoke-shrouds cling to blackened beams

Minstrels mock those braying, belching goblet-brandishers

Ranting voices drunk

*

Alone in that crowd

And at its centre, he sits

A silent moment.

***

*

Thoughts like words unborn

In a womb of forgetting

Flit through his spirit

*

Scared of too much thought

(Which drinking puts a stop to

– As if thoughts could drown):

***

*

Sacred hopes, our wished-for dreams

Float off like swans when we awake

They glide off on the glossy glassy lake

*

Worn out by living

(Which dying puts an end on

– As if our lives first wear, then strip us bare).

*

As if as if as

If, in drinking, sleep and dreams

And thoughts and words all drowned like shipwrecked memories

*

And yet and yet and

Yet we live and breathe and feed our fates,

Our lives float free of us.

***

*

He sits with his knights,

His ladies, fools, his dogs and serfs and clowns

One sated, bloated, slumbering moment

*

Comes as if to himself

In the din of that great hall

On his island in the lake –

*

Sees in that moment

The ghosts of future feasting,

Woken when he wakes.

 

Twelfth Night, 2018

 

 

Binnenhof The Hague in about 1290


Hall of Knights (Ridderzaal), Binnenhof, The Hague in the eighteenth century

new year 1296, the hague – floris wakes in the binnenhof (five haiku)


fazed, floris looks out

across the lake from his tower:

chilled, sluggish morning –

*

his household sleeping

off the feast, he’s alone, but for

the stork and the swan

*

one roosting above

on the roof, one swimming below –

fog-filled sky foreboding.

*

he rises from the bed

behind the banqueting hall,

kisses his lover –

*

blessing his domain

– his folk, that mindless morning –

his dark fate untold.