THE WHITE LADY & THE PARLIAMENT OF OWLS

The first time I saw the Ruined Tower, it took me by surprise, for it was in Summer, and the crown of oak-trees on its motte of earth were in full leaf; it was only very close by that I could see the fallen, ivy-covered building within. But I have seen it in all seasons now, and in Winter it stands out upon its hill, and dominates the landscape out among the vines, at what used to be the Eastern Edge of the Domaine. These days, it no longer belongs to La Rigaud, to the Master’s House, but rather is the sign and symbol of one of the neighbouring vineyards which encroached and absorbed the different fields of vines at that time fifty years ago when the family found that they must sell them all. That vineyard has a name it calls itself, and the Wicked Uncle – who knows these things – tells me that it’s a very old local name. But I cannot help but read it with my suspicious literary mind, and find that it resembles the French phrase for the Three Kings – the Magi. This makes symbolic sense to me; as too does the fact that Wicked Uncle Charles says it used to be a windmill, in fact. Of course it did, it cuts and winnows the Wind with its sails, with its blades. But there is more, much more. 

For when I look at it, when I walk around it, I cannot help but think of my French literature classes, and the things that captured my imagination as a teenager: things that are part of the Big Thing, that led me here, that led me to skip out on life and pursue some dream of decadence and voluptuousness across the serried rooftops of Paris, through garrets, along river-banks, to Montmartre in the Dawn; and finally to here, to now, to this place, to the Lost Domaine. To the Manor Born. The Master’s House. 

Precocious, I would translate French poetry: Rimbaud’s “Ophélie” the first, found at random, before I knew Rimbaud, or his story; when I was just to learn of Ophelia, and hers. I can still remember the opening lines: “Sur l’onde calme et noire où dorment les étoiles
La blanche Ophélia flotte comme un grand lys”, their gentle, seductive music. Little did I know that these would be the beginning of a love-affair, with the fin de siècle, with the Decadents, the Symbolistes. I was already in love with France, and had been since my family and I lived in a little village near Toulouse for a year when I was nine: as a teenager, in the West of Ireland, I dreamed of those bright troubled days of my girlhood. I dreamed myself into French poetry, French prose, French thought. I wrote my History Special Topic in school on Symbolism in Art and Literature, 1880-1913. They had no idea what to make of it. My father simply looked at it and sighed, as he saw the new-flowered academic researcher in his seventeen-year-old daughter, and simply handed over his pass to the University Library. I began to read Baudelaire and Huysmans, Pagnol, Apollinaire; I watched French films at the Cinéclub in town, and smoked Gauloises and wanted to look like some strange cross between Colette and Jean Seburg in A bout de souffle. 

Then I went to University, and it all only got worse. A year in Paris as an undergraduate, and my heart was ravished and lost forever. As soon as I graduated, I must return there, to see if I could recreate those bohemian days and nights, those times I talked in garrets until dawn with poets, those times I walked across the Pont Neuf carrying my shoes, and a bottle of wine in the other hand. Those times I read my poetry aloud in sweaty vaulted cellars, with Tumbleweeds and Lost Generation Wannabes. But it was different. I lived here now. I had a job. I had friends, and ordinary things. I had to ride the métro to work. It’s true though, my work was in a bookshop, where Marcel Schwob used to buy his English books in the 1880s, where we found privately printed literary erotica from Olympia Press hidden in a secret shelf in the reserve, and were told that they used to be sold in brown paper packets under the counter, like condoms or love-philtres. 

Of course that’s where I met him; he strode in one day as if he owned the place. I asked him if I could help him, and he burst out laughing. Not a cruel laugh. Not completely. He did own the place, or he would when the succession was complete. They were grooming him. He was well-groomed. They were preparing him to take on the Mantle, and indeed it would sit well upon him; everything did. We would all go out to dinners and parties together, all of the young and international staff of the bookshop. His mother hired them; she cared nothing for books, wishing only to sell quilting patterns and cat-memorabilia, but she had a strange unerring sense for weird and wonderful people. Such a motley crew, such a merry band of pranksters were we, delighting in our puns in several languages, our humorous direct translations from the French. But one night, we were all to meet, and only he and I showed up. He took me to a little place he knew, where they knew him, and over the apéro (champagne, he insisted; I demurred, and then concurred), he looked at me very frankly, and asked me if I remembered when I first arrived, and had such a crush on him. I blushed and babbled, denied it three times. But he shrugged, ever so Gallic, and let my objections peter out. He said: “I’m starting to come around to your way of thinking”, and the rest is history. The rest is poetry. The rest is simple biology. 

And then that Summer, he brought me to the Lost Domaine for the first time, and nothing he had said prepared me. Turning down the avenue of lime-trees, seeing the rambling, half-ruined buildings and the Weeping Willow, and the Great Cedar, the Orchard and the Wood, the Meadow and the crumbling ruins that the House faded into on the North End; seeing the Secret Rose Garden, and the Gallery, the Louis XV staircase, and the fireplace you could roast a boar in … My heart was ravished clean away, and I thought “I have come home”. But how could I presume? It’s far from Manor Houses in Aquitaine that I was reared, as they were wont to say at home. A wild-haired streelish girleen from the Banner County. We were not sophisticated, where I came from. We had no ancestral manors, we had not grown or known wine. We did not have terroir. I began to learn the meaning of that word, with him. It is the Land, and the Territory, in its most specific, local sense. It is the combination of features, of the earth, the slope, the sunlight, and the wind and rain; it is the entire ecosystem and the entire weather-system that make up what drives the green fuse through the flower, what makes the fruit of the vine that is the work of human hands; I learned the words of wine-tasting. I learned the words of wood and hill and hollow, all in French. My mouth tasted language I had never had a need for. There are words I cannot say in English; some, I suspect, have no equivalent, for we do not have these subtle shades of flavour, colour, sun-baked land with twisted, ancient fruit trees. We do not have these nourishments of the Earth, at least in my Old Country; for there all was lost, and nothing saved, except for things so basic and so ordinary that they cannot hold a candle. 

Here I learned the Land, and walked the Land. I took the shepherd’s baton he had bought me on that mysterious trip we went on through the Cevennes, where he seemed to move me through a Catechism and a Mystery Play; to tangle up my senses and my symbols all with his, to speak his poems into me and make me breathe them. He ended that spiral dance in a Castle of Air (or so I read the name, in my whimsical rapture), and asked me to be his wife. I cannot remember if he spoke English or French, or in what language my heart leapt and jumped into my mouth in enthusiastic consent. Perhaps that was a good sign, or a bad?

Here in the Lost Domaine, I took my staff, my baton de berger, my pilgrim’s stick, and with its steel-shod point I perforated all along the edges of what I imagined to have been the once-boundaries of the Old Manor; I took in within my circuit all the vines I counted “ours” (for he had encouraged me to let myself feel at home: I did not need asking twice). They had taken me in, and taken to me: an English girl would not quite have done, and American, much less. Were I to be from Southern or Eastern Europe, much the worse (or, whisper it! from further afield, where abroad turns into l’étranger). So I must think that only Irish or Scandinavian would do, in the end. And Irish much the best, as these were not Nordic people, no, they were Occitan, or Aquitain. They were from here, for centuries (but even at that, Wicked Uncle Charles told me, they had originally come from elsewhere: these wild lawless lands were parcelled out and castellated by “immigrant knights” from Auvergne, in the 15th century. But still: the sign at the end of the little road that leads here says: “La Rigaud”; how many families do you know whose name is the name of the Land they live on?). They had ties to Ireland, once upon a time, they told me. La Prieuré, the “summer house” of one of their Great Aunts (a vast place with mosaics and huge sweeping staircases, and a graceful park around it), used to belong to an Irish family of négociants or wine-merchants, back in the 17th century. They felt a kinship, obscure though it may be. But how is an Irish girl to fathom what it means to live and work the land your family’s lived and worked for five centuries? I mean, she gets the rooted in place part, but the building, and the growing, and the cultivating, not just of fruit trees and wine, but of manners, of taste, of the collection of objects, of wealth, of “good marriages”, of dowries, of high positions in the Civil Service, when once the men of the family were forced to stoop to paid employment. How’s an Irish girl to understand this stockpiling of wealth and privilege, these deep bonds to the Land, and to its deeds and titles, to be its Lords? For in the surrounding villages, when I would go exploring with him, the locals recognised him, and treated him with a strange mixture of amiability and deference. He told me: “They still see me as the Jeune Maître from the Château.” Oh Maître mine. How masterful you are. 

And yet, he did not seem to have the time, to walk the Land and feel it like I did. I wandered through the Woods, where he had shown me, the Menhir, the Lonely Oak, the Witch-Pond, the Druid Rock in the Grove, the Toad Hollow, the Spring, the Mere, the Souterrain, the Ruins, the Lower Wood. He showed me it all, proudly and scornfully. He waved his hand around in a gesture of presenting it to me: “All of what you see is mine”. And yet, he did not truly know it. Not like I came to know it. He did not take these long rambling walks and get lost among the vines. He did not tramp the little rights-of-way to climb the neighbouring hills and look back at the Domaine that you could see for miles, the Presiding Genius of the Great Cedar upon its eminence. Wicked Uncle Charles told me: “The Three Cedars in a Row were a Sign, you see. It told the weary wanderer that here, they would be welcomed. It was a safe-house for Protestants after the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, and the Edict of Nantes. The people here were Huguenots. It was they that built the Deconsecrated Chapel first. But the heirs converted, or fled, and the Chapel was let fall into disrepair. They did not merely deconsecrate it: they desecrated it, it is whispered in the region. Not quite true: I have been in. But it is all fenced off and boarded up now. Best not to poke around there, if I were you. The building is … unstable.” And he gave me one of those looks, and weighted that last word just so, so that I second-guessed his meaning, and read a volume into it. Uncle Charles was always like this. He spoke mainly in sous entendus, in subtext, in the under-stood. I was ever so receptive. I could read meaning into the back of a cereal box. I had a PhD in literature from the Sorbonne, after all. They loved that. It made me seem like the Right Kind of People. And so they opened their House to me, and their hearts, if not quite their arms (they do not hug in this family; that is part of why he is the way he is). 

The Ruined Tower did draw me back though, over and over. The Spirit of the Place was strong. It was old, and wily, and wizardly. It was a Mage King. It was a Watchtower. I would dream of it, and I would climb the motte in dreams, and pull at twisting thorns and oak-saplings to clamber up. I would fight, in dreams, the terrible Things that lived all round it: les Fleurs du Mal, malevolent blooms that sprang up with their lance-like stamens, with their heads all violet and green and purple, prickly budding flowers. With my staff, I battled them, I chopped at them. I cut them down, like bristling ranks of Enemies. These were the Guardians, the Minor Spirits that would block my passage. I would, as the years went, en-tune myself, en-chant myself more and more with all the Spirits of the Land. The Menhir was my Old Friend: she sang to me, in a low, vibrating tone: she was a Hagstone, riddled with holes all down one side: perhaps the reason she was chosen in the first place, who knows, over two thousand years ago? The vines have been here just as long, if not longer: for the Gauls planted them, and the Gallo-Romans certainly cultivated them. A Roman-Gaulish villa has been uncovered on the far far edge of what used to be the Domaine (now Lost). I would commune with the Lonely Oak. I would dip my feet in the Witch-Pond, and bring her bright shiny stones and shells to throw in. I would wash my face in water from the Source, and I would sit beneath the Great Cedar in the Dusk, and let His beautiful peace and protection enfold me, enlace me. 

But the Ruined Tower was not so friendly. It did not want me there, it seemed. Or rather, it must needs test me, hard. And I was not the only one who went to it, that much was clear. There were three paths up to the Door, all worn. And within the body of the Tower, down inside the circular floor, there were little things left: signs of small fires, occasionally bottles and cans (which would then disappear), occasionally maddeningly incomplete scraps of charred paper with seeming runes upon them that I could not make out. Of course, as soon as I had seen it, I thought of Gérard de Nerval, a proto-Symboliste, who used to walk a lobster in the Palais Royale, who hanged himself from a tree. The poem was one of my teenage favourites: its words were written on my heart, and I had assiduously worked at the translation, ‘til it clicked, and sang, and there is no better feeling: 

EL DESDICHADO – Gérard de Nerval

Je suis le ténébreux, – le veuf, – l’inconsolé,
Le prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie :
Ma seule étoile est morte – et mon luth constellé
Porte le soleil noire de la Mélancholie.
Dans la nuit du tombeau, toi qui m’as consolé,
Rends-moi la Pausilippe et la mer d’Italie,
La fleur qui plaisait tant à mon cœur désolé,
Et la treille où le pampre à la rose s’allie.

Suis-je Amour ou Phébus ? … Lusignan ou Biron ?
Mon front est rouge du baiser de la reine ;
J’ai rêvé dans la grotte où nage la sirène …

Et j’ai deux fois vainqueur traversé l’Achéron :
Modulant tour à tour sur la lyre d’Orphée
Les soupirs de la sainte et les cris de la fée.

EL DESDICHADO – THE DISPOSSESSED

I am the Shadowling – bereft – and unconsoled,
The Prince of Aquitaine, of the Vanquished Tower :
My lone star is dead – my harp, star cold,
Bears the black sun of Melancholy hours.

In the night of the tomb, you who consoled me,
Return Posillippo and the Adriatic to my side,
The flower, in my heart, such lovely things told me,
And the trellis where vine and the rose are allied.

Am I Cupid or Phoebus? Lusignan or Biron?
My forehead still bleeds from the kiss of the Queen ;
I’ve dreamed in the cave where the Siren has been.

I have, twice triumphant, traversed Acheron :
Turn by turn on the lyre of Orpheus I play
The sighs of the Virgin, the cries of the Fay.

This was my poem, and when I met him, I thought “at last”, for I had my very own Shadowling, my Desdichado. May all of your dreams come true. I know you, I sang to him, that night, I walked with you once upon a dream. I know you, though visions are hardly every quite what they seem … He was amused. He didn’t know the song. Only a few weeks later, as we lay in my narrow pallet in my garret with the sloping ceiling, and he traced his Mark upon my skin with languorous fingertips, I whispered him the poem, and my translation. He laughed with glee, and said: “So that’s where Kristeva gets the image of the ‘soleil noire de la Mélancholie’ then! If I had actually read her book, I’d probably know that. But it is enough to have an idea of her book and be able to talk about it. I’ll teach you how to do this. It is what booksellers and intellectuals learn: they build a library of books they haven’t read in their minds: a Hidden Library. The books there are simulacra, as Baudrillard would call them. I haven’t read him either, and I understand his work better because of it. I’ll teach you how to creatively un-read French Theory. It’s the only way to go.” His words thrilled me with their glorious and devil-may-care arrogance; and look, as it turned out: He was a Prince of Aquitaine! He did have a Vanquished Tower! It was about that time that I found my first Tarot Deck, a Tarot de Marseille, naturally. The Tower. The Tower. The Tower. It came up in every reading, at one point. He is the King of Coins, I am the Maid of Cups. In my cups, I would tell him nonsense like this: he would tolerate it, and be amused. He told me no, you are the Star. I shall call you Estella. That will be my name for you when we write each other long and heartsick letters while we are apart. I could not have been more weak at the knees just then. My knees longed to bend, to kneel, to implore him, to fall upon his mercy. He loved it so. 

The Ruined Tower, the Tour Abolie, at Twlilight, the third or fourth year we’d been going there: yes, that’s right, the year after our Alchemical Wedding, the year that I became a Part of the Family, officially (I could not bear to take his name: a rose by any other name, smells not so sweet; it smells like something other than “a Rose”). There were roses blooming all around the archway for our wedding. My Irish grandmother told me, don’t get married in the Month of May, it’s terrible bad luck. But if you must, you should find the hawthorn blossoms, and put them round the door, but never in the house. You know what it is called, Húath, hawthorn, but it also means “awe-full”. Úath fásach, a child’s phrase, “terrible”. My grandfather’s blessing: “How are you Joe?” … “Ach, terrible, thank God.” Slán agus beannacht. Be safe and be blessed. I gathered the hawthorn blossom, and Grand-mère saw it, and made it a part of the table centrepiece. I could not say no, to her, I never can, even now, as she lays dying, all alone in the Big House. 

At Twlight, did I approach the Ruined Tower. The light was soft and beguiling, a smoky misty light, in which the last rays of the down-going sun hung like golden syrup. The Vines were calling to me, and I took my little pilgrim’s stick, and walked among them. Tuathalach, Widdershins, the way my grandmother taught me, I wound the Wheel of the Land and the Year, it was past High Summer, the leaves were dry and curling and falling: soon it would be time for la rentrée, when all of France returns to the city, tanned and sleek and well-fed, on beauty, on stories, on wine, women and song. On terroir. The map is not the territory. But the terroir is territorial. The Terroir. The Terror. 

I walked the boundaries, past the Bois du Fou (the Madman’s Wood; what country place does not have one of them? Even in my youth, in Clare, there was a Lunatic who exposed himself to little girls, and was said to carry them off to his lair in a cave in the woods. What poor bedevilled hermit must that man have been, who was driven off with stones, when he ventured into town?). I walked past the overgrown field, where they had tried to set up a Motocross scrambling track, that roared all day on Sundays. It did not last; the Land turfed them out, and overgrew their efforts. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair. 

I walk all the way to the South, and then to the East, and I arrived at the Tower. Suddenly, the sun’s light leaked away out of the sky and Twilight turned to amethyst, and deep and deeper blue: we’ve got an hour or two, before it’s time to go, as he said. But I would reach my goal. I scrambled up through brambles, clinging on to the thin branches of the oak saplings, scratching my bare legs, feeling hot and bothered. But nevertheless, I persisted. I fought my way through a throng of invisible foes, to get to this place, and this time, and this Endless Twilight. 

I paused at the Door, the wooden plank door, half hanging on its hinges. The evening held its breath. Something was here. Something was watching, waiting. I knew. And, as if in a dream, I could not help but reach out my hand, and push, gently, the door inwards. Silently, it opened. And I ducked in and looked up the inside of the Tower, towards the fading sky to which it opened up above. And there She was. 

A tall pale Owl, perched up in the crumbling stonework, up above me, her whiteness glowing in the gloom. I was transfixed. I stood there, not daring to move. And suddenly, like a ghost she floated down on outspread wings, straight at me. I leapt back to the side, and the owl, enormous, was through the door, past me, but oh! she tangled in the thorn bushes, a powerful flurry of wide white wings, and she was free, and gliding silent off into the gloom to hunt. I watched her luminous shape sail off into the gathering Night, and then I fell to my knees, and began to pray. To what, I did not know yet. But I did know that I had just been in the presence of the Numinous, the Sacred, the Unspeakable. And there was something ….

The Tower, the Tour Abolie, the Tower Struck by Lightning, has always struck me, at least, as very Babel, as very “Works of Man”, and their downfall. It is the Edifice, it is the Empire, and it must Fall, and it must Crumble, just as the Manor does, just as their family will … Unless of course Grand-mère gets her way, and I provide them with an Heir. But I digress. 

The Tower is His, and it is the Tower of the Mage-Kings and the Watchtower, and the Four Kings, and the Archangels, and the Elemental Fathers, and the Principalities and Powers. It is all of these things, and these are all the things that turned me off “Magick” when I first learned of it. Such a boy’s game. Taxonomy and hierarchy, and instructions to be followed to the letter, or you were Doing it Wrong. That’s why I took, like ducks to water, to the ways of Old Witchery and Faery Things; these were what I had been doing, unknowing, ever since I was a child. These were of the Woods, and the Streams, and the Standing Pool; not of the Study, of the Lamp, of the Candle Burning at Both Ends. The Tower of Ivory. I had enough of Study. Now I needed to Step Out. 

But here, was She. She was the Lady of the Tower. In French they call this (the Barn Owl, Tyto alba) they call Her la Dame Blanche, the White Lady. And there are other White Ladies, sown within the fabrics of the Land and the Legends: White Ladies are the Lamiae, White Ladies are the Fay. Little White Ladies in the Woods: these are who really spoke to all of those ecstatic peasant girls. They said the words in local dialect, una petita dama biancha, and the Priests all heard “the Virgin”, and declared a miracle. But they did not say they met “The Lady”, but only “a Lady”. A little one. A White Lady. And the owl is this. And I realised that I could claim the Tower as well. There was a line from a poem by a poet I had studied in Paris (though he was Irish and wrote in English, he lived in Paris all his adult life: the old old story, eh?). It was this “Let the Tower be of Fire, that burns within you Day and Night”. It goes on, but I wished that I too might have the Tower of Fire within. And the White Lady said to me: I come to you, now, as Time and Time is Done, at the Setting of the Sun. She chose me for her own. I did not know then all that I have since learned. I did not know who exactly She was (hoo hooo), I only knew that in that moment where we had locked eyes (her amber glowing eyes, like jewels in the dusk), and when she had flown down right at me …. I felt that her struggle to beat free of the thorns mirrored my own: to with my wings untangle myself from all the thorns that beset my life, my heart, my soul, and fly free through the Gathering Gloaming, to hunt, to float on silent wings, to be Death … She was what I wanted, and Her spirit announcing itself to me said “This Land is your Land too, this Tower is your Tower too. Be not afraid. I go before you always”. Little lines like that, from Mass or hymnal, still return and run through my head; I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

And so that time, late in August, on a Blue Moon that was a Harvest Moon, I sat in the Gallery after midnight, having crept out of bed in the Blue Room, where Grand-mère always liked to put us, with the four-poster bed, with the empty crib in a corner, sitting under a dust-sheet, lying in wait, for when I would Fall. In the Gallery, where I had written so many pages of my thesis in those long hot Summer days, there I sat, with a Silver Chalice of White Wine, with a Stone upon which I had etched my Pentacle, with my Bell, my Book, my Candle, with the Willow Wand, and the horn-handled knife that he had given me (I had to give him a symbolic coin for it, for it’s bad luck to receive a gift of a knife). The candles flickered most deliciously, and I bathed in their glow. The wine I had been drinking all evening hummed in my blood. The Full Moon sailed into view, the Gallery suddenly awash with silver light. And in the Wood, She gave her hollow, seeking cry. The Owl. La Dame Blanche. Also the Moon. Silver Lady. Silver Wheel. Ascend into the Spiral Castle, then. I did. 

As if in dream, I stood and snuffed the candles and I walked out into the Wood, among the trees. I walked up towards the Verge, the Orchard, where in the grass left wild the butterflies flitter all day long. There, in the soft sweep of pale moonlight, I slipped out of my dress, and lay in the long grass, and She and I communed, caressed, touched and tasted. The Lady in the Woods hooted, and shrieked a long and piercing cry at just the crucial moment. The crux. My Crux. I lay there, dreaming long in the Moonlight, and the Lady watched over me. I did not Know her, but I Knew her. I had walked with her once, twice, three times a Lady, once upon a dream. She had claimed me as Her Own. 

Years later, after much study, when much had been revealed, there was another meeting, in the Ruined Tower, and this time there were Two; the Two Ladies, and my heart leapt, and I greeted them with a cry, and they climbed and flew away above. And I knew that all would be well, and all would be well, and all manner of things would be well. They were not well between him and me, but I knew that I could heal and fix and solve the riddle. Solve et coagula. I must perform my Woman’s Work, my alchemy, my herbalism, my enchantress’s wiles. His heart was a Stone, and only I could melt it. Or so I thought. But what was clear: with him or without him, the Land was mine now too; Grand-mère had told me as much; she had altered her Will. No-one knew but me, and possibly Uncle Charles. He approved. He set his Seal upon it. So now I only had to survive until it was time. 

And this time, now that we are finally here for good; this time, I went, and this time, I was met by the Parliament of Owls. Inside the Tower, I saw one, then two, then three, then four, fly off out and up, spiralling within the Tower to fly free into the Dusk. I’m sure they flew in all Four Cardinal Directions. I could just tell. And I went in, and began my spells and prayers and incantations, praying for his heart to melt, for his vice-like grip to soften (but oh for it to never slacken, that too, that too). And suddenly I realised, I was not alone: one Last White Lady, there she sat, in the nook of the crumbling stonework above. She looked right at me, with those glowing amber eyes, those jewels in the dark. She was a ghost of white upon the darkness of stone and night. She sat and looked, for what seemed forever, and She gave me Her Blessing. I am doing the right thing. We are in Right Relation, She and I, the Land and I. 

A few weeks later, on a Night of Eclipse, I could not sleep. Outside our open window, I heard Her cry, and a Sister cry just further off in the Woods. They cried for me. Their cry was a calling, an Evocation. They wished me to come out and play. I could not, for I was frightened. But they had brought the verdict of the Parliament of Owls: you are One with Us now, you must come and melt into the Night, and fade into the Woods. Would that I could. 

  Perhaps … There will come a night, in Late Summer, when the Moon is full again, and silver shadows play across the lawns, the Meadow, the Verge. Maybe, if that night comes, and the air is sultry and plays sensually across my skin as I lie breathing hard beside his still unmoving body, then I will arise and go, and walk across the dry sunburnt grass in my bare feet (where once they gathered dew), and I will be wearing a long diaphanous nightdress (where did it come from? I do not know. I found it at the back of the wardrobe, in the Little House). And I will hear the hooting and hollering of the frogs in the Hollow, and I will hear the whippoorwill, and the cicadas thrumming. And I will walk towards the Woods, and as I reach them, I will strip off these lendings, and walk with my skin bare to the Moonlight and the Night Air, and I will come to the Gap in the Hedge, the place where the tumbledown stone wall has a break in it. And I will Step Out. And I will race through the ridged earth between the vines heavy with their burden, and I will come at last to the Tower, and I will go to tell them: Desdichado, no more. I am not Dispossessed. I am Possessed. By You, by this Land. And I shall Possess You in turn. There shall be a Ceremony, in Secret, and then Peace! The Charm’s Wound Up. 


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Emily Collins
Romantic Pantheist Ecocritic Faery Doctor Masochist
PhD Candidate at Université de Paris-Nouvelle Athènes

7 thoughts on “THE WHITE LADY & THE PARLIAMENT OF OWLS

    1. Yvonne, you are so right in the association with the Lost Domaine in Le Grand Meaulnes! The author was haunted by that liminal space ever since reading an extract of it in a French children’s literary magazine in 1989! Years later, she read the whole novel in post-graduate work, and it all coalesced … The novel is in preparation, to be published by the Hollow Press in 2021. The provisional title is “The Master’s House”, a translation of the French “Maison de Maître”, but also a reference to the Occult tradition. Emily thanks you profusely for seeing what she was doing here. She is much encouraged ….

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        1. Thanks Yvonne! For news about the upcoming book, and other books from the Hollow Collective, check out thehollowbehindthehearthstone.com!
          The launch of the first book from us should be in Autumn this year (we’re hoping in time for Hallowe’en!) : “Unreal City”, a novel by Martin Caulder from the 1960s, with presentation and notes by Thomas Mulholland.

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