A Diary of Anne Boleyn

My ladies weep in the vernacular tongue
kneeling in the French style

I caught the wren as another’s head fell
and later perched for witness

at the place near the abbey a heart beat quiet
then loud the cat still as sculpture

artful ferocity in those bloody sinew lines
drew from these palms a sanctuary

a censer swings slowly for a thousand days
the metal clanging its catechism

open hands meet the knowledge of ravens
given voice from a wooden block

release an olive complexion by Wyatt written
in pulse of reformist contraband

arms drop at side outstretched fingers release
not falconery or master’s quiver

took flight a stalked harmless precious thing
away from the predator and papal manoeuvring

a scavenge of royal alchemists pecks to parts
the once kindest knit of souls

the loins of a king are as common as any man
tempested wings erupt impatient there

James Walton


annewren2James Walton is a celebrated Australian poet currently based in South Gippsland, Victoria. His poems have appeared in Eureka Street, The Wonder Book of Poetry, Bluepepper, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, Great Ocean Quarterly, Australian Poetry, Australian Love Poems, Bukowski On Wry, Australian Poetry Journal and many others.

His wonderful collection of poems, The Leviathan’s Apprentice, is available from Amazon.

You can find James on Facebook, and follow more of his writing at Poetry Hubgarden.

We asked what moved him to write this poem about Anne Boleyn, and his answer shows how strange and wonderful it is, that something small, in a place both so distant in time and place, can through a poem, join those experiences together.

This piece arose from silence outside my back door. I looked to see a wren motionless on a gumboot and a cat frozen in a stalking pose, and I immediately thought of the ravens at the Tower of London and the glass monument near the abbey where executions took place, including that of Anne Boleyn. Originally it included a line about glass shattering which I felt didn’t fit. I thought of Anne, captured not just physically, but emotionally too, and her bravery in supporting the Vernacular Bible and her quest for knowledge which is well documented.  The French style of execution where arms were stretched back and the victim remained still had become the manner of beheading. So brave and learned, and quiet in the face of it all – the accusations, the fight with Rome, the children, and her domestic captivity, which could only lead to one horrible conclusion. Portraits of her were destroyed, and this one is one of a few reconstructed/remaining. An intelligent woman, bound between a King and Rome, yet braver than the court in which she lived. I imagined how she would treat the wren and aid it – it escaped my porch, but Anne did not.

5 Responses

  1. Adrienne Dillard

    I love this. Very interesting how Anne seems to inspire the bird metaphor to many people 🙂

  2. C S Hughes

    Very true. Though most merely cage them for their song, they do not then dispatch them when they no longer like the tune.

  3. M.E. Lawrence

    It’s always interested me that although Anne was a polished court lady, poets like Walton and Wyatt see her as a bird or a deer, symbols of freedom and the wild.

    • Olga Hughes

      They’re both also symbols of captivity of sorts, the bird trapped in a gilded cage, the hind hunted by a king.

  4. Underdogge

    I like this. Thoughtful and moving. I love my cat but she thinks I’m an absolute stinker when I clap my hands to scare the bird if I see her creeping up on one – about 18 months ago I had an unwanted house call by some of Pixie’s and Dixie’s relationships (over now thankfully) and she was just laid back like “Yeah, mousie” and didn’t chase THEM. In the UK for a lot of us the best known “cultural” Australian products are “Neighbours” and “Home and Away” – haven’t watched either for ages, not saying they aren’t okay as a “light” watch. I think I’ve read one Criena Rohan (well she did die young) novel in my time and one Kylie Tennant one (was she the first of all the Kylies – I read it came from her mispronunciation of the name “Kathleen”? It’s good to know that there are other types of Australian writing out there (though maybe with Australia being such a large country it isn’t necessary for an Australian writer to make a name for himself/herself abroad to survive financially).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.