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
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