(to Robert Browning)

My mother said to me: “Now mind,

You must be generous and kind

To lords and servants, great and small;

You are a duchess, after all.”

This seemed like good advice; I took it

Much to heart.  A friendly look, it

drew from me a blush, or smile,

and everybody loved me, while

I lived. They even loved my lord

the duke, for my sake, and ignored

the steady rising of the taxes.

Pity he relied on axes

for unpleasant work.  They would

an accident have understood;

a temporary leave of senses.

Cruelty, though, has consequences.

Now his name (nine-hundred years

of history) and all his fears

have fallen with him.  From the wall

my painted smile observed it all.