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During the 16th century reign of Marguerite d’Angouleme, mystic queen of Navarre and author of Heptaméron, there lived at the crossroads near a village a wise woman, a witch of Saxon blood named Frances Clammety. Frances was

Marguerite of Navarre, known. as the Pearl of pearls, (1492-1549); portrait attributed to Jean Clouet or Leonardo daVinci.

born with a turned-in foot, considered a sign of the devil, and would have been drowned at infancy had not the cook of the royal kitchens taken pity on her, tending and raising the child near the great hearth ovens.

The following poem honours Marguerite and Frances in the form of a septime, an 8-stanza, 52-line poem that repeats a sequence of seven end words with a final envoi, a “setting forth” of seven-within-three lines. The word Heptaméron sources from Greek and means seven days. By means of this numeric doubling, we may draw closer to the healthful spirits of two fearless women and thereby raise our own spirits.

Women of Fire, Center of Calm

Hark ye, of darkened minds and sorrowing closed

hearts, draw near the fire to a time when pearl

of pearls, who held the throne with views oblique

and provident, had need of powers greater than the rank

ungodly priests, asphyxiating Christ upon His cross

with inquisitions, north and south, their storming

clouds fast blowing to Navarre a deadly cause.


The Saxon witch whom fools in their jesting cause

named France’s Calamity was tending pots of rank

and bitter herbs when did the carriage on a storming

eve arrive with inquiring royal blood. It is the pearl,

thought Frances, of whom I’ve dreamed. She closed

her book of spells and kissed the wooden cross

which hung beside the door, scarred and oblique.


O bleak they are, these times, said she of rank

noblesse who, cloaked and shivering, closed

the cottage door behind them. I bring a cause,

good Frances, that has need of your effect. Across

these mountains darkening forces rise, the pearl

of humanity to kill. I’ve heard your skills oblique

and true can overturn even the greatest storming.


The bawdy humour of the queen did cross

the sharply mind of Frances, who gazed oblique

upon her guest. It’s not your life, M’lady, or rank

you seek to save, but that of deeper storming.

‘Tis so, said Marguerite, I bring the cause

of universal woman and her pleasure-giving pearl

whom churches and weak husbands would see closed.


Dependent on no man the vibratory pearl

in darker courts they would excise; my storming

to the king avails me not. The market’s closed,

he says, to women who would claim joy’s cause

outside the marriage-sanctioned bed. He is oblique,

thereby not cruel but jealous guards my husband’s rank.

In sexly arts our swords do often clash and cross.


Womb powers rise they will again, storming,

said the witch, but fall ‘neath envious sisters’ cause;

we’ll find no friends of use behind the rugged cross

until we learn the oscillatory holy skills oblique

toward self-reliant stature that God gives holy rank

to mind above all else. Meanwhile, fast closed

we must remain to wrongful claimaints of our pearl.


The magicks that ‘twixt witch and queen oblique

transpired no earthly records ever will you cross,

to safeguard knowledge of the dew-kissed pearl

they buried casks with ancient secrets amid closed

and hidden chambers with impassioned storming;

their works, as one, assured deep pleasure’s cause

that would arouse both sexes to an everlasting rank.


If ye be man of goodly cause, embrace the storming

woman at the crossroads. Your rank she’ll lift oblique

by starlit pearl to heavens where no heart is closed.


© Elaine Stirling, 2012