Ken Gosse responds to our monthly historical photo prompt with the poem ‘Windows to the Next World.’
“Windows to the Next World”
Hradčany (Castle): pronounced harad-Channy
Defenestration, per Merriam-Webster.com:
1 : a throwing of a person or thing out of a window, as in an assassination
2 : an usually swift dismissal or expulsion (as from a political party or office)
In the history of nations, defenestrations
aren’t known for the good they achieve.
The most famous of all are just two, both by fall
beneath Hradčany Castle’s high eave.
Back in 1419, a stoned mob had been seen
running in through the castle’s great door.
They displayed peaceful strength till a stone thrown at length
had aroused them like never before.
Crimson actions can’t even a score.
Once inside, their displayed brand of justice dismayed
several leaders who helped run the town.
Their difference religious, both sides were litigious;
the Catholics who lost were thrown down.
It’s reported that King Wenceslaus heard this thing
and soon died from the shock — worse to worst!
(Not the one whom we sing; he’s a duke conferred king
by the Emperor Otto the First.)
This was just the first volley of Europe’s great folly,
the Hussite (Bohemian) Wars,
where hand-cannon debuted; 15 years to conclude
and the people were slaughtered by scores.
Such lessons our world still ignores.
Less than 200 years had gone by, and arrears
were still owed for the Protestants’ rights,
so in 1618, near-repeat of the scene,
Catholic regents and clerk took to flight.
Divine intervention is what Catholics mention,
surviving their five-story fall,
although Protestants claim that the saints aren’t to blame
but a dung-heap saved one and saved all.
The Thirty-Years War helped to settle that score.
Long-time worst in the history of man,
where eight million died — famine, plague, at war’s side —
far worse off than when fighting began.
Yet a worse imposition, a new inquisition
whose violence dwarfed even war’s goals
took its root in these days, and we still feel its ways,
as witch hunting took hold of their souls.
We’ve not yet broken free from its tolls.
One more defenestration (strange Prague obligation?)
took place in 1483,
when in Prague’s two Town Halls all eight leaders had falls;
“One and one-halfth” the name came to be.
Too few left for a war, probably.
The woodcut might be what the artist would see
had he been there some long years before.
Twenty-five to a hunderd years later ’twas rundered;
the credit’s anon, nothing more.
If he was there, he snuck out the door.
Each month, The Coil presents an ekphrastic challenge (photo prompt) for writers and lovers of history: We feature a different public domain historical photograph or illustration, and ask writers to respond to it. There is no wrong answer, and no set style guidelines. Poetry, prose, hybrid, fiction or nonfiction, experimental — anything goes that has a history bent. The best responses will be published on The Coil after the challenge ends. See all past challenges and responses.