Posted 03.02.12 in Writing
And are you a king’s daughter?
I must admit this is not so
rather I am the daughter of trees
and broad Virginia valley,
of white-trimmed water and the skins of deer.
Of late, I am a daughter of the Lord, my lady
baptised in Jamestown these three years ago
and in this at least I am no more savage than you.
What say you of John Smith?
Indeed, I know not what to say.
There is a story that I saved his life,
laid my head upon his own
as my tribesmen gathered with clubs
to see the colour of a white man’s brains.
It might well have happened, it is a better tale
than to say that I was breaking the necks of birds
and plucking them, that I pitied him
as I did the naked birds.
My hands were full of feathers,
this is what I remember,
with tips as red as sand.
And how does England suit you, Mistress Rolfe?
Poorly at first, I will confess.
I did not care for the cold nor the crows,
the slimy depths of the Thames saddened me
too black for me to suppose it the Chickahominy.
Society was strange to me and still is
(forgive my bluntness, I mean no offence)
even with pearls in my ears
and Belgian lace at my throat.
My son is my joy,
Thomas Rolfe, named for the saint,
his skull is a tiny moon in my palm.
Like your children he will grow old here
and like any mother, I pray
he will not grow wise enough to see
how I stand out in any room
like an extraneous thumb.
Natasha Bailey wrote Rebecca Rolfe in response to Glyn Maxwell’s Dramatic Monologue Challenge.
Glyn Maxwell says: Natasha Bailey’s ‘Rebecca Rolfe’ splendidly evokes the plight of the transplanted Native American once known as Pocahontas. A profound longing sobs beneath the graceful manners of the new ‘English’ lady. The speech’s dignified poetry seems close at hand, natural to one who knows she will never see home again and has no other means of seeing it. The ‘slimy’ Thames is ‘too black for me to suppose it the Chickahominy…’ And how deftly Ms Bailey has Rebecca reach out to her strange new hosts, and by extension, to common humanity, as she shows them her baby son: ‘Like your children he will grow old here…’ Grave and true and beautifully judged.
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