Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Saturday, October 15, 2016

#15: Versailles and 'blue' musings on the election

Entry to Versailles (Camp 2004)


Met by pigeons, we enter the gate,
the crest of the king in gold filigree and iron,
the grand promenade, a car park,
before us, massive Versailles,
residence of French kings since the 17th Century.
Guards monitor our passing,
our sandals and tennis shoes, a Gallic shrug.
Would the king have said,
“Off with their heads!”

Should the king wish to pray,
his private chapel awaits, surely ornate enough
To inspire thoughts of God.

Ceiling, Upper columns,
King's Private Chapel (Camp 2004)

We walk past the king’s bedroom,
Courtiers arrived each morning
to assist him in dressing, even to the chamber pot.

The King's bedroom (Camp 2004)

Stunned by opulence, we wander 
down the Hall of Mirrors so arranged
the king could admire his progress
to the Queen’s bedroom or beyond.

Hall of Mirrors (Camp 2004)

Who could imagine
at the end of World War I,
Germany signed the Treaty of Peace here?

Detail, Queen's Bedroom (Camp 2004)

Would a jug of wine, a loaf of bread
be sufficient in such a place?
The long halls, empty of furniture and portable art,
throng now with tourists and history.

In the Royal Theater, 3,000 wax candles
burned at each performance.
Perhaps artisans were well rewarded,
I only recall this excess
led to the French Revolution.

Versailles (Wikipedia)


NOTE: The last time I watched television with such intensity was the coverage of John F. Kennedy's funeral. I am so dismayed by the news coverage, highlights of press conferences, the sheer vituperation in the dialogues online and off during these last weeks before the election. Poetry seems very far from my heart. 

So today I'm sharing a poem from 2014 about a visit to Versailles ten years ago. Perhaps I worry now about how fragile our democracy is. Maybe this reminder of what sheer, untrammeled power can wreak on the people of France can remind us to not stay home in protest, but to vote. 

And we're not going to "vote early and often" as was said here in the U.S. in the 1900s to describe ballot stuffing. Allen remembers a time in Philadelphia in the late 1950s when certain precinct leaders met voters in a bar with a $10 bill and a name to use. Or stories about ballot boxes conveniently 'lost' in Southern rural areas in the 1970s. Or the time, again in Philadelphia in the 1980s, that two big bruisers offered to come into that tiny, private, curtained election booth with me because the levers to vote for the 'other' party would not work. I got dirty looks because precinct watchers called the 'malfunction' in.

Does all this make me 'blue' -- for blue is today's poetry prompt from OctPoWriMo. Nope. The more I write, the more determined I become . . . to keep writing and to vote! 


Check out what other folks writing for OctPoWriMo have written HERE