Hello! I wanted to come back and take a look at your poetry. This title has been intriguing me since I first saw it on your author page, and I was not disappointed.
I do not write poetry myself, but I watch my husband write it. It takes so long to find the perfect word for each part of the poem and then to put all those words in the right place. It is truly a craft, and I take my hat off to you. This poem is beautiful and very moving.
You’ve chosen such a wonderful moment for this poem. I think that Narcissa is an underrated character, but she decided the fate of the war as much as anyone else. One of my favorite moments in the whole series is in Half Blood Prince when Narcissa tells Bellatrix that there is nothing she wouldn’t do anymore. She is going to keep her son safe at any cost. She’s as brave a mother as Lily Potter or Molly Weasley.
I’m going to go stanza by stanza.
The first two lines paint such a global picture with “the forest floor” and “ancient branches soar.” They draw us instantly into this moment with Narcissa. She’s in a group of people, but she is alone in this moment. The line “except for which, it could be Draco there,” punches me in the heart.
Narcissa is in her head, ruminating about the terrible position she is in. “How did it come to this? It was all lies”—such an important line. It was all lies and now they will pay for following Voldemort. I’ve often thought that the real problem with joining evil men is that they don’t play by the rules. Nothing will stop them from turning on you.
The most important line in this stanza to me was the question “What was so bad with what we had before?” What a humbling realization for this proud woman.
She’s remembering how it all started—promises of glory, especially for Lucius. Of course she wanted what Voldemort promised. He just couldn’t deliver. I love how you juxtapose the images of the glorious dream at the beginning of the stanza with the reality of where they ended up. “Mayhem in her house, blood on the floor”—wonderful image! Also “trapped like vermin.” Another humbling realization for Narcissa.
This bridge in italics is perfect. How did they go from being rulers to being spineless creatures desperate to live one more hour? Another punch in the gut.
How horrible to join Narcissa’s enumeration of her shame. How awful that she knows that she’s dishonored the name of Black by her lies to the Dark Lord. It’s not an honor to have him, but she’s said that it is every day for how long? She’s done what she has to do and she can’t even feel shame in it anymore. This poor woman!
Even though she was willing to go along with Lucius and Voldemort at the beginning, she calls a spade a spade with the line “With murdered children’s blood….” She’s a mother, after all. She knows what a sin it is to murder children. “The wages of their sins is death…”
And then she calls out her husband in a couplet. She followed him into this madness and now it’s up to her to get them out.
I love this picture of Narcissa willing Draco to live. It doesn’t matter to her anymore if she survives the night, if only her son can.
And she calls out herself in the next couplet. If more of them had chosen the other side, they wouldn’t be in this mess. There wouldn’t be so much blood on the floor.
“his face a blend of triumph and of doubt” I love this line. Voldemort is such a coward at the end of the day. He’s just killed, or seriously injured a very young man—barely more than a child. And yet, he’s afraid to see if he’s killed his opponent. So he sends someone else instead.
And this line: “Oh thank you blessed Merlin, he chose me!” Perfect! Voldemort has sealed his doom with his cowardice and his choice of Narcissa.
I love that she is praying in this stanza. And I love this pair: “His life is in my hands, our lives are in his/A moment to atone, and to forgive.” They need each other now and Narcissa is not afraid to do what needs to be done.
“The glorious lie, no sin.” This line is so perfect. It is a glorious lie, and surely no sin. What a powerful end to this beautiful poem.
Thanks for this treat of a poem! I love your work :-)
Thank you for reviewing this poem and for the carefull stanza-by-stanza comments. I wrote it for my daughter because she particularly liked this point in the story (but then, don't we all?). I got the beginning part and the ending part fairly soon, and then the paper sat on my table for a few weeks or a month until I went back to it and filled in the middle. The book does not get into Narcissa's head at this point, since of course the story is entirely from Harry's point of view. The only hint is the line before she declares him dead: "He felt the hand on his chest contract; her nails pierced him. Then it was withdrawn." So how are we to interpret that? It seems like an agressive or hostile gesture, and yet she has just chosen to save his life, at peril to herself if her lie is discovered. Perhaps it means that, although she has given up on the side of the war that she once went along with (I won't say 'embraced'), she has not completely rid herself of the long-held belief that Harry Potter was the enemy. The question of who the good guys are/were and who the bad guys are/were is still muddled in her mind. All she knows for sure is that Voldemort has to be destroyed and the war has to end.