Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette was the Austrian wife of King Louis XVI of France. Both were executed in the Revolution. She reportedly had little interest in affairs of state and no understanding of the state the country’s poor or the country’s finances were in, but loved the Versailles gardens and performances in which she pretended to be a shepherdess in an idyllic landscape. She would have been familiar with the pretty but planned and controlled Vienna woods.




Remembering the beautiful woods, from wildness tidied

The invention of a quiet life in fine weather

Escaping courtiers’ whispers about this and that

Some fellow worrying about the state finances

She made herself a shepherdess, and even her heavy husband

Consented to be a shepherd for a day or two.


Meanwhile the grimy vacant-eyed peasants stumbled against starvation

And a little lawyer beyond bribes dreamt of a pure Republic

The wilderness banished from the woods woke up

And all the intricate customs of Vienna and Versailles

Shrivelled in a new dawn over green French hills

That looked for a moment like a troubled channel.



The revolutionary leader Maximilien Robespierre was a lawyer, small in stature, known before the revolution for being scrupulously honest: he became obsessed by the idea of political purity and could be said to be the father of Western totalitarianism. The Channel (French – La Manche) is the body of water that divided revolutionary and later Napoleonic France from its constant enemy Britain during long wars.


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  1. How clever when customs shrivel!

  2. How wonderful to learn about history and enjoy a poem at the same time! Simon, how do I become a follower of your blog? (I didn’t see a button to click etc)

    • Thanks, Christy. To follow, go to the home page and above the picture of the standing stones is a black bar with the word”follow” to click.

      I wrote “Marie Antoinette” in my mind while walking along the Orwell estuary in Suffolk. No idea why the idea came to me: she’s not a historical character I’d normally have much interest in. I have a History degree but it mostly shows in my poems through my fascination with time, though “Marston Moor” is about a battle of the English Civil War and I’ve written another subsequently about that same period.


      • Thanks Simon, I am now following! On board for another great post in the future!

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