“The Glass King” by Eavan Boland

Isabella of Bavaria married Charles VI of France in 1385. In later years his madness took the form of believing he was made from glass.

When he is ready he is raised and carried
among his vaporish plants; the palms and the ferns flex;
they almost bend; you’d almost think they were going to kiss him,
and so they might; but she will not, his wife,

no she can’t kiss his lips in case he splinters
into a million Bourbons, mad pieces.
What can she do with him—her daft prince?
His nightmares are the Regency of France.

Yes, she’s been through it all, his Bavaroise,
blub-hipped and docile, urgent to be needed—
from churching to milk fever, from tongue-tied princess
to the queen of a mulish king—and now this.

They were each other’s fantasy in youth.
No splintering at all about that mouth
when they were flesh and muscle, woman and man,
fire and kindling? See that silk divan?

Enough said. Now the times themselves
are his asylum: these are the Middle Ages, sweet
and savage era of the saving grace; indulgences
are two a penny; under the stonesmith’s hand

stone turns into lace. I need his hand now.
Outside my window October soaks the stone;
you can hear it; you’d almost think
the brick was drinking it; the rowan drips

and history waits. Let it wait. I want
no elsewheres: the clover-smelling, stove-warm
air of Autumn catches cold; the year turns;
the leaves fall; the poem hesitates:

If we could see ourselves, not as we do—
in mirrors, self-deceptions, self-regardings—
but as we ought to be and as we have been:
poets, lute-stringers, makyres and abettors

of our necessary art, soothsayers of the ailment
and disease of our times, sweet singers,
truth tellers, intercessors for self-knowledge—
what would we think of these fin-de-siecle

half-hearted penitents we have become
at the sick bed of the century: hand-wringing
elegists with an ill-concealed greed
for the inheritance?
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxMy prince, demented

in a crystal past, a lost France, I elect you emblem
and ancestor of our lyric: it fits you like a glove—
doesn’t it?—the part; untouchable, outlandish,
esoteric, inarticulate and out of reach

of human love: studied every day by your wife,
an ordinary, honest woman out of place
in all this, wanting nothing more than the man
she married, all her sorrows in her stolid face.


– Eavan Boland, from Outside History

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2 Responses to “The Glass King” by Eavan Boland

  1. Jerome Bloom says:


    I SAY



  2. Pingback: Monday Reflections: Eavan Boland – whole cloth

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