The Man In The Iron Mask

Photos . . . WHB – Canterbury

THE IRON MASK

by Sian Napier

snapier@thekmgroup.co.uk

The huge mask which stood outside Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre from 2003 until it was demolished in 2009 has returned.

Bulkhead, to give it its real name, was moved back to the theatre in The Friars on Friday but now stands by the river in the newly-created outdoor seating area.

The mask is the work of sculptor Rick Kirby and arrived in the city as part of a sculpture festival called Blok.

It was so popular that Canterbury council bought it and had it installed by the old theatre’s forecourt where it stayed until the Marlowe was pulled down.

It was then removed to the council offices in Military Road where it remained outside until Friday.

Marlowe Theatre director Mark Everett said: “It’s wonderful that the Marlowe mask has returned to its rightful place and it was great to see it settling in to its new home by the riverside.

“The mask was always very popular with theatregoers and we know people will be delighted to see it return.”

THE IRON MASK . . . Poem by WHB

The authors in these lines of verse

Are from a distant time

From ages past into the mists

Of tragedy and rhyme.

Dumas was steeped in history

He set himself the task

Of counts and musketeers to write,

The Man in the Iron Mask

Kit Marlowe’s plays were tragedies

Of complex anguished beings

Of Tamburlaine and Faust he wrote

Portrayed their tortured feelings.

The Mask is that of Tragedy

The Greeks performed their dramas

It brings to mind Marlowe’s great themes

Which glimpse life’s endless traumas.

To me this linkage then arose

Between the two famed authors

Take or leave it for what it’s worth

It’s what this conceit proffers.

The Ballad Of Beggar’s Bridge

This bridge, in a traditional Pack Horse shape, has remained intact straddling the River Esk near the moorland village of Glaisdale, in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, for 400 years.   The village is about ten miles inland from Whitby, where the River Esk flows into the North Sea.
It is known as Beggar’s Bridge, and was built in 1619, by Tom Ferris, a local man, son of a poor moorland sheep farmer.   Having been turned down as a suitable suitor for his love, Agnes, by her wealthy land-owning father, Tom vowed to seek his fortune and to one day return to claim Agnes’ for his wife.  After many adventures at sea, Tom returned, now a rich man, married Agnes, and prospered, to such an extent that he eventually became the Lord Mayor of Hull.  The bridge, it is said, was erected by Tom as a memorial to his wife, and as a means for future lovers to cross the river without having to brave its often flooded waters.  The story, as it has been passed down, is a mix of fact and fiction.  The basic facts are essentially true, but the story, has become a local legend and has, no doubt been embellished over the course of time.

I have tried my hand at re-telling this story in a simple and traditional ballad style, the results of which efforts I give below . . .

THE BALLAD OF BEGGAR’S BRIDGE

He lived beside the river Esk
In a fair delightful dale
His story I must tell you now
A truly stirring tale.

Tom loved a lass of high estate
It was not meant to be
For she was of the Manor born
A lowly lad was he.

Her father disapproved the match
Tom was of lowly birth
No land, no money, no position,
Of very little worth.

But their shared love was sound and solid
So secretly they met.
They shared their passions willingly
But always under threat.

Poor Tom was restless and intent
To run away to sea;
He held fast to the thoughts that stirred
Inside him to be free.

He knew one day he’d win his bride,
He would not be gainsaid;
Beyond this dale there was a world
Where fortunes could be made.

So one dark night he set off late
To wish Agnes farewell
To promise to return for her
To ever with her dwell.

She lived beside the river too
But on the other side.
He therefore had to swim across
He would not be denied.

The Esk just then was in full spate
It swirled along the dale.
It almost took Tom’s life that night
He knew he must prevail.

With strength of ten he forged a path
Across the raging stream;
He dragged his aching body out
As if within a dream.

With his goodbyes Tom gave his word
That some day he’d return;
And Agnes gave her solemn oath
She’d wait for him in turn.

Tom took himself to Whitby town
And soon with Drake joined battle;
Against that Spanish fleet he fought
Saw off the invading rabble.

A rover in West Indies then
And piracy his game.
Plunder and pillage gave him wealth
And brought a kind of fame.

He felt that now he could return
To claim his promised bride;
Confront her father without fear,
With new found hope and pride.

And so to Glaisdale Tom returned
His roving days now past.
True to her word Agnes rejoiced,
Her hopes fulfilled at last.

They married soon and lived in bliss,
Or so the story goes.
Tom grew in wealth, in fame, in power,
Commanding all he chose.

Throughout the north he garnered fame
His name grew ever bigger.
Lord Mayor of Hull he then became,
Now a respected figure.

And when his Agnes died at last
Their story he declared,
Would with a bridge over the Esk
With all the world be shared.

A bridge to join the river’s banks
To help new lovers’ trysts;
A bridge secure from spate and flood
Which to this day exists.

The reason it’s called Beggar’s Bridge
No one is very sure.
‘Tis thought was done to prompt us all
That Tom was once so poor.

SONG – My First Romance

Is there a hope that I can hold,
A hope that I can to me fold
You in my arms,
Die by your charms?

Is there a word that I can say,
A word that will in part repay
You for your trust?
Hold you I must.

Is there in this a single tie,
A knot, a bond, a little lie
To bind, to fix,
Buttress the mix?

Is there a part that I can play?
Can I be certain from today?
Give me the chance –
My first romance.

CLYTIE

‘Clytie’ Sculpted by G.F.Watts … Pen & Ink sketch: WHB

In the verses below, I attempt to express Clytie’s plight when she finds her love for the Son God, Helios, rejected, and she is committed to watch his daily flight across the heavens in his winged chariot .  Eventually she is transformed into a sunflower or heliotrope , condemned for ever to follow the sun’s movements across the sky.

C L Y T I E

As dusk takes over from the day
I stand on Helios’ shore and weep.

Light for my soul,
Lust for my life;
These no more can I strive to keep.

Yet there is hope because the night
Is followed by expectant day.
The sun will rise
With hope intact,
And I’ll revive my destined way.

The languid sun will lift at dawn
Over the shimmering tranquil sea.
It is my dreams,
My Holy Grail,
And promises new hopes to me.

The sun renews its daily task.
As Clytie, I still strive to meld
Lovers’ aubade,
Their serenade.
With this till dusk my life is held.

Time’s chariot, its path I trace;
Helios arcs across the sky.
Till evening ends
In blood red  gore,
And once again I die.

But then again the cycle breaks
When dawn extends to dusk its kiss.
It’s carmine clinch,
Crimson caress,
Herald again life’s feud with bliss.


A Fear-Full Life

A life lived through its worries,
Trying to forget.
The risks that come with being,
With which life is beset.

The siren prompted fear
In that kitchen-table home;
Dad away in the army,
And Jerry would cross the foam.

The smog was dark and dismal,
The midday sun obscured;
Cloaked in knife-cut cloud,
How was it we endured?

A dose of National Service –
Your country needs your youth;
Learn to fight for your country,
The threat – more than the truth.

The Bay of Pigs a worry,
Suez a cause for fear;
The lads fought in Korea,
While we were shivering here.


Then Aids brought worries aplenty;
Cold War a constant threat;
Always there were worries,
For ever fears to be met.

Polio and smallpox,
Diphtheria, whooping cough,
A plethora of scourges –
All those we have seen off.


And then we met with covid,
A world of worry and threat;
Another scourge to face,
None of them over yet.

A world so full of worry,
Yet life’s still worth the trouble
The joys in family and friends
Ensure we can face the struggle.

Stanley Spencer – A Happy Resurrection

Photograph of Spencer at work in Cookham Village … by WHB . . . 1957

Stanley Spencer, CBE RA (1891 – 1959)was an English painter. Shortly after leaving the Slade School of Art, Spencer became well known for his paintings depicting Biblical scenes occurring as if in Cookham, the small village beside the River Thames where he was born and spent much of his life. Wikipedia

The sleepers awake
from an imagined death
A teasing adventure in insubstantial earth

Pram pusher extraordinaire
in the Village that lit up his life
inspired his vision
Trundled easel hearse
put to work in progress
To see, to feel, to breathe
destiny on the village green
The past become the present
resurrected in tranquillity
Life-lite under the churchyard yew
this moulded flesh – full featured
bringing joy from the stern grave
Life’s resurrection imagined
in hope and the churchyard
in his eyes and his pigment
Drawn and deified
Death and Resurrection as Spring
As buttercups in the greenest of fields.


The sleepers awake
from an imagined death
A pleasing adventure in insubstantial earth

Stanley Spencer: ‘The Resurrection, Cobham … 1924-27. Tate Gallery

SENRYU #1: Freedom

Continuing my own experimentations with a variety of different verse forms, here is attempt at a SENRYU . . .

Senryū is a Japanese form of short poetry similar to haiku in construction: three lines with 17 morae (syllables). Senryū tend to be about human foibles while haiku tend to be about nature, and senryū are often cynical or darkly humorous while haiku are more serious. Wikipedia

FREEDOM

Longing for release
Knowing how Bonivar felt
I await freedom

N. B. Bonivar was the ‘The Prisoner of Chillon’. ‘The Prisoner of Chillon’ is a 392-line narrative poem by Lord Byron. Written in 1816, it chronicles the imprisonment of a Genevois monk, François Bonivard, from 1532 to 1536. Wikipedia

Goodbye Shilling

(The Decimal Day Legacy)

I remember the 1/-
that slash-dash sign
a favourite of mine
time gone
every shop had one
but
time passed
I know
it breathed its last
50 years ago

Yes
the shilling that was
two tanners or
a bob to me and those
as money comes and goes
5p to you now
twelve copper coppers
hence
one dozen pence
twenty to the sixties pound


But then
deemed unsound
and all became
continent bound
until
sad sight
they turned out the tills
overnight
onto and into counters
joined the farthings
and the thrupenny bits
and called it quits
the death of old-time dough
sad to see them go
Gone to memory’s locker
 to tomorrow’s antiques roadshow

In Memoriam: Lady Caroline Lamb

Sad
Glad
And contrary, I know
Moods swing as does the weather

Dark
Bright
Clouds they come and go
Coloured as is the Heather

For today
As every day
Is tempered by its season
I cannot but reflect its mood
With no rhyme or reason

For when the sun
Bursts through the clouds
Before those clouds return
My heart will leap
Before it sinks
As autumn browns the fern

NOTE:  ‘Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know’ was a phrase used to describe Lord Byron by his lover Lady Caroline Lamb.

IN THAT OTHER LIFE

Take me back to those distant days
When time stood boldly still;
The burbling beck flowed green and clean
Beside the bellowing forge;
When each day brought new hope
And the healing world invited me in.

With that street gang
I fearlessly fought,
Braved the imminent threats.
Regrets nor desire for retribution
Clouded no horizon
And danger held no thrall.


Little I knew or even thought
Of what new years might hold.
Each day brought its gratitude,
Each birthday took no toll…
No future promise was worth a penny
Beyond tomorrow’s stretch.


But now, even in my clouded vision,
I see with unblinkered sight,
The past held all my future
Up to its proffered light,
And could I but have known it then
I nothing would now overwrite.