Tower of London with it's history of the macabre deeds, is at once, intriguing and fascinating...

Tower of London

Slip down the stairs of memory lane
Dip deep into the drain of history
Where waters flow ceaselessly
Through ages, again and again-
Yesterday, today and tomorrow,
Intermingle in the age-old waters of Thames...

Many changes it has seen along its banks
Many a scene witnessed as it swam
In and out of lives of Tudor lords,
Normans, Romans, Victorians and Scotts...

Thames has seen it all...

Now it stands privy to the thought
of William the Conqueror's fears of wrought:
A fort mighty is conceived on the 'Motte',
Between the bank and the Roman wall.
Deep trenches are dug in its soft bosom,
Stuffed with hard concrete rock.
A castle white of limestone and rock
begins to rise, as Thames watches shocked:

Heavy rocks are plied across it, day and night,
as it quietly bears and sighs,
as if foreseeing the doom of mankind,
about to take place when the Bell Tower chimes,
Ticking away the minutes and hours of Time...

Time takes a walk into history-
Thames flows and its waters carry
the burden of society; of murky ancestry...

First prisoner, Flambard, escapes in the year eleven hundred
and with him escapes a secret murky,
of that of Tower's bloody history...

Richard I went on the crusades deadly
And Longchamp behind him got frisky:
Dug up more motes and walls around the Tower.
John the king's brother did not like it.
Laid a siege on the tower, and had him arrested
Longchamp fought,
but had to give up when the food got scarce...
he was imprisoned and then executed.

Thus, the tower established its bloody history...

Boy king Henry III was severally invaded
By the nobles and Louis of France,
So the Wakefield and St. Thomas towers were added,
Which shielded him thrice, when he retreated (in 1230s)...

And the river bore the burden quietly...

Edward, the merciless, came and ruled:
Conquered Wales, invaded Scotland, expelled the Jews.
Built new walls, dug up new motes and
The Towers of St. Thomas and Beauchamp were built.
And when the 'Traitor's Gate' was nearly complete,
The first Ghost of Sir Thomas a' Becket came (in 1240):
Raking up a mighty storm and collapsing the gate,
He struck the walls with the crucifix,
And as the lightening and thunder raged-
so the legend goes- he proclaimed:
The building was not for the common good,
but for the 'injury and prejudice of Londoners', my brethren'...

And yet the evil deeds did not stop here,
they were in fact only beginning to take shape...

The Peasant's Revolt came in 1381,
the largest revolt in English history,
due to hugely unpopular type of a poll tax.
Richard hid in the Tower with his family,
While 20,000 rebels ransacked the tower extensively.
The revolt ended when the king promised to meet
The demands of people-
A promise, he never meant to keep...

Yet, water flowed down the Thames quietly...

The Tower saw the 'War of the Roses',
For along time into the fifteenth century,
When two noble families of Lancaster and York
Fought tooth and nail for the English throne,
With the tower playing its key role:
Two kings, Henry the VI and Edward the V,
Are both killed in mysterious circumstances...

The princes, Edward and Richard, aged 12 and 8,
Sons of Edward IV, disappeared in 1483,
Never to come out again...
Years later their bones were discovered buried in the ground
Under the Bloody Tower,
While their uncle Richard the III wore the crown...
And today, sometimes in the dead of the night,
The Yeoman Warder can hear the sobs of the boys in the casement,
Dressed in white night gowns their apparitions appear,
If you approach them they get scared,
And dissolve in the walls, they say...
The innocent inmates of the Bloody tower,
Still haunt the macabre place...

And every stone in the Tower knows their secret hiding place...
And Thames has heard their real cries hundreds of years ago...
And some of their tears still flow, in the cold waters of Thames...

The Civil Wars ended with Richard the third's reign.

And the Tudor kings Henry the seventh and eight came...

The formidable Henry the eight, made
the Tower into the most famous prison-gate:
So many innocent lives, including his own five wives,
Were imprisoned and executed here,
Till the Thames went red with their blood...

First it was the need for a second wife,
Supposedly for a son,
that made him change the Catholic Church,
to protestant Parish, through out England-

The faith of a whole country was changed at the whim of a king...

In went the Lord Chancellor, Thomas More,
Soon followed by the Bishop of Rochester,
To be imprisoned and later executed on the infamous Tower Hill;
Because they would not allow him to divorce
his first wife Catherine, and marry the beautiful Anne Boleyn!
Who also bore him a daughter, Elizabeth I!
So, she was charged with infidelity and treason
and soon imprisoned,
She met her death in the Tower Green,
where she went under the axe,
The golden axe that beheaded her was ordered from France
Specifically for this purpose....

And right behind the Bloody Tower,
on occasional restless night,
Walks the 'head-less' queen...
And sometimes, they say,
she is seen heading a procession of nobles
in the St, Peter ad Vincula's Chapel...

That was in 1536, and all along whoever would oppose him
was imprisoned, and removed by Henry the eighth...

In 1542, Catherine Howard, his 5th wife, was executed too...

In a habit to slay his wives, three more of total seven
were imprisoned for life...

They say the Thames was always red in his bloody reign...

And when Mary I, the catholic daughter of Catharine,
Ascended the throne, in true Tudor tradition,
She carried out the saddest of execution
Of Lady Jane Grey...
A pawn in the hands of Protestants,
she was beheaded eventually in 1554...

And the Shackles of the old iron Chains,
Remember many more prisoners there...
The executioners have perished too,
But the axe remembers the 'head it has slain'...
And in the heart of the stone on the walls of the Tower
Their names are engraved-
Each telling a tale...
Of long years in prison, darkness and torture...
And the instruments of torture are still displayed...

The famous Guy Fawkes of the 'Guy Fawkes Day'
Was caught red-handed, trying to blow up James I
and the House of Lords and Commons;
He was imprisoned, tortured and forced to confess,
And finally was hacked in year sixteen hundred and five...
The day is celebrated, still with fireworks, on fifth of November...

The most famous prisoner was the explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh;
Was imprisoned out of jealousy by Elizabeth one,
But, let off on the promise of sharing
the spoils of his expeditions...
A high profile pirate of sorts he made,
with the queen happy with a share in his loots...
But James I keen to make peace with the Spanish,
In 1603 imprisoned him again in the Bloody Tower,
Where he remained a prisoner for thirteen years.
Despite the scientific experiments and the books he wrote,
He was finally executed, in 1618, in Westminster...

And now he roams the Tower on stormy nights,
They say he comes to meet his old friends on such nights...

Then there were prisoners like the famous Nazi leader Rudolf Hess,
Who came flying over England in a plane,
Was caught and imprisoned and tried for his crimes,
And was imprisoned in 1945 for life...
And in Germany he died, at the ripe age of ninety-two...

And the Tower has witnessed these evil deeds
happening in it over the years...

And time takes stroll through history,
The Thames flows, and the water washes the bloody deeds,
Laden with the bodies of those slain,
God only knows how many lie embedded in the riverbed,
People more dead than alive are in there,

And the black Ravens sit and
Watch over and guard the tower of history...

And Yeomen, the Beefeaters, maintain history:
They wake up at six thirty and unlock the Tower
And lock it up again at 6pm, in the Keys Ceremony...

And the water of Thames flows down in Time,
And remains mute observer of history...
Yesterday, today and tomorrow merge
Time sees all and tries to purge...

Author: Zoya Zaidi
London, 2oth July 2006
Aligarh (UP), India
Copyright : Zoya Zaidi

Sketch: Tower of London, 'The white Tower' by and : Zoya Zaidi

Poetry by Zoya Zaidi
Read 696 times
Written on 2009-06-11 at 22:32

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An intruiging masterpiece Zoya. You make me feel ashamed, I lived many years in London, but you know much more about our history than I do!
If only those walls could speak! But you have spoken very eloquently for them. Well done. I used to stand at Traitor's gate and imagine the barge bringing the prisoners in the dead of night, and standing on Tower green it is impossible not to remember Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.