Friday, September 4, 2015


By 1695, the duc de Saint-Simon writes,
Francois de Harlay de Champvallon, Archbishop of Paris,
Having lost the King’s favor, had became a lonely man.
He would spend long days with his mistress
(Whose name was even longer than his:
Paule Marguerite Francoise de Gondi,
Duchesse de Lesdiguieres; there was no room
In a coach for a third once the two of them
And their names had been helped inside and seated).
In the afternoon, they walk in his garden;
Behind them – too far to overhear what they say –
Two servants follow, with rakes, erasing
All traces of the archbishop and his duchesse.
It can not be a hard job; one man
And one rake should have sufficed.
But there are two, so that each of them
Has some company over the slow hours.
So; the Archbishop walks the gravelled paths
Arm in arm with the Duchesse; in the distance
Two liveried men who rise above their station
To pity their master, sotto voce. Behind them, can you see
Saint-Simon? Small, sharp-eyed, just turned twenty;
He it is who has invited me to witness the scene
So envision me somewhere behind him. He knows
That I am there, but etiquette forbids him to notice me
And I am shy of approaching a man, a duc no less,
Who is 347 years my senior. I now request
The pleasure of your company; come along.
There! the Archbishop has made the Duchesse smile.

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