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This poem is taken from PN Review 36, Volume 10 Number 4, March - April 1984.

The Nuptial Torches Tony Harrison
These human victims, chained and burning at the stake, were the blazing torches which lighted the monarch to his nuptial couch.
-J. L. Motley, The Rise of the Dutch Republic

Fish gnaw the Flushing capons, hauled from fleeced
Lutheran Holland, for tomorrow's feast.
The Netherlandish lengths, the Dutch heirlooms,
That might have graced my movements and my groom's
Fade on the fat sea's bellies where they hung
Like cover-sluts. Flesh, wet linen wrung
Bone dry in a washerwoman's raw, red,
Twisting hands, bed-clothes off a lovers' bed,
Falls off the chains. At Valladolid
It fell, flesh crumpled like a coverlid.

Young Carlos de Sessa stripped was good
For a girl to look at and he spat like wood
Green from the orchards for the cooking pots.
Flames ravelled up his flesh into dry knots
And he cried at the King: How can you stare
...


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