CLIFFORD'S TOWER - A VILLANELLE

entry picture

(In 1190 the Jews of York were harried into Clifford's Tower where they sought sanctuary from the mob.  The Tower at that time was wooden.  History is unclear whether the mob broke in and killed them, setting the Tower on fire, or whether they did so themselves to affirm their faith.  Until recently York was the subject of an edict of Judaism that any Jew passing York should turn their head away.  York shared this "convention" with the likes of Auschwitz and Babi Yar).

 

For nine hundred years we’ve turned our faces

From wretched York – the gesture marks its shame,

And shunning this greatest of disgraces.

 

The city no longer now embraces

Its son of York – Malebrisse was his name;

The citizens of York turn their faces.

 

He urged them baying with swords and maces,

A screaming mob intent to kill and maim

The brethren – the direst of disgraces.

 

Unique among other English places

Approached on foot, on horseback, or by train,

For nine hundred years we’ve turned our faces.

 

The tower stands where a small child races

And innocently plays their timeless game,

Not knowing this darkest of disgraces.

 

We cheated murder through Jove’s good graces

But chose to die on sword-tip and by flame;

For nine hundred years we’ve turned our faces

Away from York’s greatest of disgraces.

◄ MUTTON

IF THEY COME ►

Comments

Profile image

John Coopey

Wed 25th Jan 2017 09:02

There was a wave of anti-Jewish sentiment throughout the country at that time. Usury (lending) was forbidden by the Church so loans were to be had from Jews. Getting rid of Jews was a good way to get rid of your debts! That's as I have read, MC.

Profile image

M.C. Newberry

Wed 25th Jan 2017 03:16

Which begs the age-old question...why?
But York has seen much that might be regretted with hindsight and history is full of regional "what ifs" on that score, with the Wars of the Roses surely representative of those savage medieval days.

Profile image

John Coopey

Tue 24th Jan 2017 17:47

I know what you mean, Hazel. There is a stone plaque in Hebrew at the base of the mound explaining its past.

Profile image

Hazel ettridge

Tue 24th Jan 2017 17:03

As a child growing up in York, I loved the museums and the minster but I always shied away from Clifford's tower. It just wasn't nice!

Profile image

John Coopey

Tue 24th Jan 2017 08:31

It doesn't make the cover of York's tourism literature, Greg.

Profile image

Greg Freeman

Tue 24th Jan 2017 00:09

Not the only stain on York's history, I'll guess, but, as you say, John, the most terrible one.

If you wish to post a comment you must login.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more Hide this message