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Elizabeth Jane Timms



Empress Mathilda


And like Paul, they lowered me in a basket

From the castle walls, the chill air having taken me prisoner

And the December night having taken away

The fire from the arrows that flew against me.

Covering my face with my white cloak,

I was snow, falling through the hands of Stephen.

I left no trace upon the pale ground,

And my silver lips spoke no words.

As I crossed the icy river at Oxford,

Winter, my faithful ally – did not throw me to the wolves,

But with her cold hand turn all to ice,

So that the ground kept secret my steps,

And the mouth of the river did not betray me.



In Memoriam to Keats


They buried him in his books.

So when I opened the book’s leather cover,

It was like the heavy door of an old house,

And I took it as my pillow, leaning my head against it

To hear the world of its voices and sounds,

And between the pages, I pressed a flower for the poet.

I entered the book, between whose pages his life still breathed.

Could I but put an ear to his desk, to hear the pounding

Of the poet’s heart, as if my head were against his chest,

The pulse that beat softly in the writing wrist,

The romance that poured from the pen poised on the paper.

Poems! And those flowers at his ceiling are as if

Already in a vase in his memorial.

And he was the amber in which those last moments

Shall be ever living.

And he died, with the domes of Rome beneath his lids,

The Spanish steps, the waiting inkwell,

The Roman sunshine on his feverish brow.

The lanterns were burning again, to inspire him.

But the blank page was waiting in vain,

Longing to unlock the world of those words

From his wrist, as yet unborn.

So they buried him in his books.

Covered his pages with tissue,

Laid a frontispiece over his face,

And wrapped his life in leather.

He had now become a book, waiting to be bound,

To be picked up and set down,

To take his place in a man’s library.



Elizabeth Jane Timms is a historian, freelance writer and poet, based in Oxford.