My Last Steward

- Primula
(based on My Last Duchess by Robert Browning)

That's my last Steward dropping off the wall,
Still kicking as if he were alive. I call
That sight a wonder, now: For Gandalf's hands
Worked busily this day, and there he goes.
Will't please you sit and look at him fall? I said
Yes, Gandalf's by design, for never underestimate
Wizards like you might a man's skills,
The depth and passion of his chosen art.
From myself my Steward turned (since never I desired
The pyre he did build for himself, not I)
And seemed as he would ask me, if he durst,
How such a king came here; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 'twas not
His son's fever only, called that shriek
Of insanity unto the Steward's tongue: perhaps
As Gandalf chanced to say "The mantle laps
Over this lord's pride too much," or "Fireworks
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-sparkle that died along his descent.": such stuff,
Mere courtesy, I thought, and cause enough
For calling up that insane shriek. A whistle? He had
A mind--how shall I say?--too easily shaken,
Too easily deceived; he believed whate'er
He looked on, and his looks went everywhere.
Sir, 'twas all one deceit! A palantir at his breast,
The dropping of the fiery Steward off the cliff,
A fall from such height - no officious fool
To break that fall for him, because of the white tree
He wears upon his chest --thus pride goeth down, each
Spark draws from him quicker than bonfire,
Clean flame, at least. He used refined oil --good! and copper
Sulphate somehow--I know not how--perhaps from his ranking
Embroidery. That title of a many-hundred-years-old rank
Was too hard to give up. He'd stoop to blame,
To a sort of trifling first.  Even had he Saruman's skill
In speech--which he had not--to make his will
Quite clear with that crystal globe, and say, "Just this
Or that in you I'll see; here I'll look,
Or there I've aimed the mark"--and if he let
Himself be drawn in so, it plainly outstripped
His wits!, forsooth, he  made excuses,
--E'en then would he come stooping; though I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, he smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed him; but who passed without
Much the same hideous smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There he flails,
As if yet alive. See the flames and sparks rise? He'll meet
That haywagon below, then. I say,
Gandalf's a master with fireworks, known in municipality
And country, I'll warrant, and that no pretense
Of mine. Colored sparks! Ah, let them not be disallowed;
Though his fair fire's craft, as I avowed
Is just starting, it is my delight. Nay we'll go
Together to the ale-tent now, sir. Notice those hobbits, though,
Chugging a half-gallon, as if that ale were a rarity
Which Elrond of Rivendell brewed especially for me!