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