A Dialogue between a Bountiful Knight and a Castle Ruined in War


Alas, poor Castle, how great is thy change2
From thy first form! To me thou dost seem strange.
I left thee comely and in perfect health;
Now thou art withered and decayed in wealth.

O noble Sir, I from your stock was raised,                                5
Flourished in plenty, and by all men praised,
For your most valiant father did me build,
Your brother furnished me, my neck did gild,
And towers on3 my head like crowns were placed,4
Walls, like a girdle, went about5 my waist.                              10
And on this pleasant hill he set me high,
To view6 the vales below as they do7 lie,
Where like a garden is each field and close,8
Where fresh green grass and yellow cowslip grows.9
There did I see fat sheep in pastures go,                                   15
And hear10 the cows, whose bags were full, to low.
By wars I’m11 now destroyed, all rights o’erpowered;
Beauty and innocency are devoured.
Before these wars I was in my full prime,
And held12 the greatest beauty in my time.                              20
But, noble Sir, since I did see you last,
Within me hath13 a garrison been placed,
Their guns, and pistols all about me hung,
And in despite their bullets at me flung,
Which through my sides those passages you see14                 25
Made, and destroyed the walls that circled me,15
And left16 my rubbish on huge heaps to lie.
With dust I’m17 choked, for want of water, dry,
For those small leaden pipes which winding lay
Under the ground, the water to convey,                                    30
Were all cut off; the water, murmuring,
Run back with grief to tell it to the spring.
My windows all are18 broke; the wind blows in;19
With cold I shake, with agues shivering.20
O pity me, dear Sir, release my band,                                        35
Or let me die by your most noble hand.

Alas, poor Castle, I small help can bring,
Yet shall my heart supply the former spring
From whence the water of fresh tears shall rise;
To quench thy drought, I’ll21 spout them from mine eyes.    40
That wealth I have22 for to release thy woe,
I’ll offer for a ransom to thy foe.
But to restore thy health and23 build thy wall,
I have not means enough to do’t withal.
Had I the art, no pains then24 I would spare,                            45
But all what’s25 broken down I would repair.

Most noble Sir, you that me freedom give,
May your great name in after ages live.
This your great26 bounty may the gods requite,
And keep you from such enemies and27 spite,                          50
And may great Fame your praises sound aloud.
Gods give me life to show my gratitude.28

  1. A marginal note in Cavendish’s 1664 and 1668 texts reads, “Bolsover Castle.” This note does not appear in 1653. The “Knight” in question is Sir Charles Cavendish, Margaret Cavendish’s brother-in-law, and the dedicatee of this volume. According to Whitaker, the meeting described in this poem happened when Charles visited the castle in 1652, when he had returned with Margaret Cavendish to England so she could petition for her husband’s estates; see Whitaker, Mad Madge, 148.
  2. great is thy change] thou now art chang’d 1653
  3. And towers on] Towers upon 1664, 1668
  4. A marginal note in Cavendish’s 1653 text reads, “The crest in the wainscot gilt.” This note does not appear in 1664 or 1668.
  5. Walls, like a girdle, went about] Like to a Girdle, Walls went round 1653
  6. To view] Viewing 1653
  7. do] did 1653
  8. like a garden is each field and close,] every Feild, like Gardens, is inclos’d, 1653
  9. cowslip grows.] Cowslips grow’d. 1653
  10. And hear] Hearing 1653
  11. I’m] am 1653
  12. held] thought 1653
  13. hath] has 1664, 1668
  14. those passages you see] they passages made out, 1653
  15. Made, and destroyed the walls that circled me,] Flung downe my Walls, that circl’d me about. 1653
  16. left] let 1653
  17. I’m] am 1653
  18. windows all are] Windows 1664, 1668
  19. in;] in, and make, 1664, 1668
  20. With cold I shake, with agues shivering.] That I with Cold like Shivering Agues shake: 1664; That I, with Cold, like Shivering Agues shake. 1668
  21. I’ll] will 1653
  22. I have] have I, 1664. In the 1664 Errata list, “have I” is corrected back to “I have”, which correction is also carried forward into 1668.
  23. But to restore thy health and] Thy Health recover, and to 1653
  24. then] that 1653
  25. But all what’s] For what is 1653
  26. This your great] For this your 1653
  27. and] of 1653
  28. gratitude.] Gratitude! 1664, 1668