The Steward Speaks
An adaptation based on Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess"
That’s my eldest son painted on the wall.
A handsome lad, is he not? I recall
When he was born, my lady wife wept
Tears of joy. My own joy I kept
More decorous, it has never been my way
To wear my heart upon my sleeve, as they say.
The painter caught his look, that stance
He has, the shoulders square, his glance
Direct and fearless. But, perchance
You have seen him? He rides a black horse
And always bears our arms, of course.
Our device is plain, you know, white tree on white.
My son e’er frets himself, the sight
Of that plain banner troubles him, his pride
Would have us Kings. He knows, for I have tried
To tell him that our blood’s as pure and blue
As any, and as Steward I am King in truth.
As Steward I am King, in all but name.
To keep the vow of office is no shame
To me, or yet to Boromir, and yet he frowns
Because I sit upon a simple chair, down
From the high seat. He will not meet
Me in that chamber; the steward’s seat
Is too low for him. It may be that when I am gone
My son will put himself upon the throne.
His blood is high enough! Let no man doubt
His lineage. My wife was of a royal kin,
Dol Amroth’s prince her father. Since
She died, I do not know just how it is
That things have gone awry. All this,
The furniture, the hangings, was her choice.
At times, I think that I can hear her voice
Echoing in the silent rooms. The other one
Still misses her, I think. My younger son
Is quieter than Boromir, less bold in arms
And given much to study. No harm,
No harm! A man cannot expect that brothers
Will be exactly like each other.
The elder is the one who bears the future
Of our house, and of our city. It is sure
That deeds of his will be renowned and fame
And glory will raise higher yet our name.
I will not take the throne myself. I keep
To the old ways. Yet, I confess, that deep
In my heart I love to think of Boromir, as King
Of Gondor. See thou? I wear this plain ring
As Steward, but his hand is shaped to bear
A ruling Ring. He is man enough, and there
Can be no doubt the folk love him. They cry
After him in the streets, when he rides by.
“Boromir the Bold!” they shout, and run to see
Him on that black horse. I deem that none
Will speak against him, should he take the throne.
No, I will not step one foot beyond
The law that ever governs me. Ecthelion
My father held this rule, that honour must
Be first in what a man might do. Trust
Follows duty well performed. Yet times change
And maybe men must change with them. Strange
News comes daily now. The world we knew
Will be no more. New days, I deem, will then require
New ways. Boromir, when he has put his sire
To rest, will take the Crown of Elendil
To himself. He will bend this city to his will.
Come! Your glass is empty. Take some wine
And move closer to the fire; we will dine
Soon. My sons will join us, both of them,
I vow you’ve never seen such men.
My words, I fear, have seemed somewhat
Unwise; be sure I mean no treasonous plot
Against the law! Tis just a father’s dream.
And speak of dreams! Tell me, dost thou deem
That meaning may be found in such? There,
I hear the outer door, and booted feet upon the stair.
My sons, come in, be seated, take thine ease!
Put aside thy cares of duty. Let it please
Thee to talk of matters of less import; light
Converse, even jests, do oft delight
A man’s heart when duty may be set aside.
This matter of thy dreams—well, dreams have lied
Before, and led stout men to spend much thought
On things which in the light of day seem naught
But phantoms. Faramir, this dream of thine,
That once thy brother dreamed as well, you’ll find
That common sense will make all plain.
And yet it bears the telling once again;
Tell now thy tale, draw close to this our guest,
Say thou the verse that breaks thy rest.
Now, Boromir! Dreams, and such, we’ll set
Aside, you and I. We’ve things of import yet
To order. There is no need for dreams and signs
In Gondor! Let Faramir recite those lines
While you and I take counsel. Long have I thought
Of Gondor’s need, long have I wrought
In secret, thwarting him who means us harm.
Now we must move, our strength of arms
Is spread too thin. I fear our friends
Forget us and do not think to send
What aid they might. Our walls of stone
Must defend us, for we stand alone….
Nearer, son, there is no need for them to hear
Our words. I trust thee only, Boromir……