The Axeman

Ring around the rosies,
Pocket full of posies,
Axeman! Axeman!
All fall down.
                        Jacobean variation on a medieval English nursery rhyme.
1.

The King

The axeman comes, you say?
I trust he’s tall, as well as stout.
Rude, unlettered, to be sure a lout,
all the merits of a Scottish laird today
without the verbal gout.

Stop thumbing through the Holy Text!
God chose me clear, by birth and right,
to be anointed British Rex,
and then abandoned me at Naseby to defeat and flight.
I was God’s Will but not, it seems, his Instrument of Right.
Now there’s a wit that parses men beyond our royal best.

Be calm, my dear, it’s only death.
Kings are murdered daily, and I go calmly to my grave,
but not consenting! It’s not a hand that steals my breath,
not peasants’ need, a son’s ambition or an errant wave.
It is the apparatus of the State which claims to save
the Realm and does so with my head.
God and my successors: read my grave.

What? Ah, yes, I see him now. Quite tall.
Good. I would prefer the single strike to two!
Smile, my dear, give no pleasure to the mob or hall.
No. No. Stay now. From here I walk alone. Adieu!
I go to meet my human fate and royal fall,
smiling at my justice: my royal tutored issue.

 

2.

The Axeman

What pretense! Politicians speak
and cite a law to justify their greed.
A king must die so others may his powers seek.
That alone is sum of this day’s deed.

My face concealed by mask according to that law.
My eyes revealed to terrify exactly whom?
My suit is black, my blade a silver claw,
and all to welcome one soul to his doom.

My father was a headsman, and his father too.
I spring from line as ancient as this king,
for death and kingship are the golden twins that hew
an order from the chaos of the human wellspring.

He comes, not shy, not fearful nor in dread.
Shall I whisper to him, as I have to any other?
“Close your eyes. Do not turn your head,
and death shall come as soft as kiss from mother.”

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