The Poet's Princess

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Anne's wedding

Anno Domini 1642, they cloth Anne Geneviève de Bourbon in a wedding dress of white satin embroidered with silver lilies. They braid her long pale hair in heavy plaits. They crown her frail brow with a glittering tiara. A necklace of diamonds of the purest water sparkles like dew on her alabaster throat.

The fleeting scent of flowering meadows permeates the stale church-odour blending with the heavy perfume of the lilies, more heady than opium vapours. They are thousands of them: white lilies with huge bell-shaped petals, waxy to touch. Saffron-coloured lilies, sparkling like the feathers of the birds of Paradise. Mortagon lilies, pink like the sunset after a windy day. Blood-red turban lilies. Pyrenean lilies with a yellowish tint of melting snow and savagely beautiful tiger lilies.

Leaning upon her father’s arm, her eyes, screened by her long blonde lashes whose shadow palpitates upon her cheeks with subdued sweetness, Anne floats down towards the altar. The narcotic stillness of the church is punctured by the howl of the organ bemoaning the fate of the virgin delivered into the trembling hands of a debauched old man. The Duke’s crumpled flesh, quivering with the foretaste of lust, propels its viscous tentacles towards the Princess while the bridal procession snakes in an ominous silence along the nave upon the scarlet carpets mottled by the tapering candle flames.

Three steps from the altar the cortège comes to a still stand. The flat, viper-like head of the Duke de Longueville heaves up at the young girl’s side. His arm sneaks onto the bride wan as a wilted water-lily.

Ritual phrases are pronounced.

Deal is done.

Sickened with impotent loathing, the poet witnesses this lewd act sharpening his only weapon, the words.

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