King Richard II’s Ode to his Handkerchief

The first glance at this week’s W3 Weekly Poetry Prompt #46 by poet of the week Michelle Ayon Navajas, inspired me to jot down a quick rhyme. I wrote it in the time to pour a half pint! (I measure the time to write a poem in weights and measures and consider it a quick poem if you finish it at the time you finish a half pint). It’s my equivalent of how long is a piece of string. Here is the quickie, which is called THE HANDKERCHIEF.

I sniff
and I blow
into your gentle softness. 
Of cotton and silk (or paper)
You don’t complain
Not a single jot
At all my tears
and all my snot.

Lesley Scoble, March, 2023

Then, of course, I concentrated on the rules and guidelines of the prompt. An ode? It is asking for an ode? What’s an ode?

Michelle’s prompt guidelines

1.Take out your handkerchief (yes, the one in your pocket right now- no cheating). 
•Remember that during the Renaissance period, a handkerchief was considered to be a powerful symbol of a woman. Giving this item to a woman meant true love, honesty, commitment, and righteousness.
2.If by chance you don’t have a handkerchief, explore your creative side and imagine you are holding one right now.
3.Write an ode to your handkerchief (or make-believe handkerchief). Make it sound like a love ode.

Oh, no! I’ve written an ode about King Richard II’s handkerchief! I’ve just read point 3. which states the handkerchief is YOUR handkerchief. I give up! I can’t read rules! My first poem (can you call it that?) is closer to the guidelines than my ode is! Anyway, I can’t change it now. Heigh ho. Pretend that I am Richard.

What is an Ode?

The Pindaric Ode is the Greek form of lyrical poetry written in couplets, in which a long line is followed by a shorter one. It has a strict structure of strophes (make sure your teeth are secure before saying this). It has three parts. There is the strophe, the antistrophe and epode. I visualise this as the strophe is the first comment/point of view. The antistrophe is the opposite or contrasting comment. The epode is the summing up and resolution to the ode. The rhyme scheme of the stanzas (or strophes) is in an aab, aab, format. The structure is strict, so I can’t see myself writing my ode in this form.

The Horation Ode is of Greek origin and known as the Homostrophic Ode (meaning the lines are identical in length and share the same rhyme scheme). You can write as many stanzas as you like. They must all be in the identical format as decided by the poet. This sounds like the ode to suit me. I can decide on the format! It seems perfect for someone who doesn’t have a clue with odes.

The Cowleyan Ode is of English origin and attributed to Abraham Cowley (1618-1667). We also know it as the irregular ode. It has any amount of structured unidentical stanzas.

The Elemental Ode is of Chilean origin and is a poem glorifying the everyday. It sounds like a poem designed for the common man. It is full of passion and rhapsody. The lines are brief and may be in free verse (that means non-rhyming, doesn’t it?). Maybe this is the type of ode I should choose? Hmm, but I want to write about a hanky designed and owned by King Richard II. He wasn’t a common man, was he? Nope, this type of ode won’t suit the fancy hanky of a king.

My First Ode

Well, here goes. Here is my first ode. I do not know what type of ode it is, but it’s an ode! An ode needs to be sung. I hope you have your medieval instrument ready to play? It’s in 4/4 time. I shall count you in… And, a one, and a two, and a three, and four! 🎶

King Richard II’s Ode to his Handkerchief

Richard II, Ode to his Handkerchief | Artwork©️Lesley Scoble
King Richard II’s Ode to his Handkerchief 

Oh, handkerchief! Thou art the final friend of a king 
The only solace in my cold and lonely cell, 
Where death looms large, where I’ve lost everything 
To this abyss of darkness hell, I bid farewell. 

Thou art my creation, my gift to this world, 
A small piece of cloth to mark my reign, 
A token of love, in silk and linen unfurled, 
That wipes away tears and soothes the pain. 

Thou wert there, O fine woven cloth
When Anne and I, did plight our troth.
When she died, Thou wast a bandage on my broken heart
I cried, bereft when she left, and it tore me apart

Thou hast dried the sweat of my brow, 
when I battled foes unforeseen 
and muffled the sob of a holy vow, 
As I knelt to woo my age six queen. 

Oh, handkerchief! Thou art a treasure to behold, 
A balm to the weary, a friend to the forlorn, 
A shield to the weak, a comfort to the old. 
A ray of hope and succour in a newborn dawn. 

And now, as I lie here, starving and alone, 
Thou art my only source of relief, 
My constant companion, my trusted one. 
My silent witness to my grief. 

Thou art a souvenir of my regnal glory, 
A symbol of my power, now lost and gone. 
A relic to my reign and fading story. 
A remnant of my life that will ere be done. 

Oh, handkerchief! Let me hold you near, dear friend, 
For now I must depart 
Thou wilt be with me till the end 
in my pocket, next my heart. 

I give one last royal command to you!
Dry this rain of salted sorrow from my eye 
The day is done, the time is nigh to wave goodbye.
For there is no tomorrow. And so, Adieu.

From power, refinement and majesty 
They doomed me to imprisonment, confinement and travesty. 
To you I surrender, YOU are my pennant for which I weep
I lay down my crown and dream of sleep.

Oh, handkerchief! I breathe my last breath 
My falling tears seep into your softness 
In the fineness of your weave, I die my Death, 
and take reluctant leave of thy faithfulness. 
Farewell, King Richard, may thy soul find rest,
And may thy legacy live on in thy handkerchief so blessed,
For thou hast shown us how a simple thing can be,
A symbol of hope, faith, of grace, and majesty.

Lesley Scoble, March, 2023

A Little Bit of History

The Youngest King in English History

King Richard II was born on January 6, 1367, in Bordeaux, France. He was the son of Edward, the Black Prince, and Joan of Kent. He became King of England in 1377 at 10 (after the death of his grandfather, King Edward III). Richard was the youngest king in English history (under the regency of his uncle, John of Gaunt).

The Peasants’ Revolt

The Peasants Revolt, and the murder of Wat Tyler, was a major event in English history. The revolting peasants (no pun intended) marched on Smithfield, London (just round the corner from where we live) to meet up with the king to present their demands. They were in protest against their impoverished conditions. Things got out of hand. An attendant of the king, William Walworth, the Lord Mayor of London, placed his name in the annals of history when he struck the leader Wat Tyler with his sword, mortally wounding him. The young king showed courage in handling the turbulent occasion, dispersing the peasants without further bloodshed. To live to protest another day.


King Richard II was married twice. His first queen was Anne of Bohemia in 1382. A political union that was also a love match. Anne was beautiful, intelligent, and compassionate. When she died in 1394, Richard was bereft.
Richard’s second marriage was part of a peace treaty between England and France. Isabella de Valois was the daughter of the French King, Charles VI. Isabella, aged 6, married King Richard, aged 29, in 1396. The marriage was never consummated (you don’t say!). When Richard was deposed and lost the crown to Henry of Bolingbrook (who became Henry IV). Isabella returned to France in 1401.

The Lords Appellant

In 1387, a powerful group of nobles known as the Lords Appellant rebelled against Richard. They cited his behaviour as making him unfit to rule (Some modern theorists suggest he suffered from a mental health issue, such as (NPD) Narcissistic Personality Disorder). This culminated in Richard surrendering his crown to Henry Bolingbroke (just returned from exile). Richard ought to have executed him while he had the chance!

Starved to death

They held Richard in captivity at Pontefract Castle, during which he attempted to regain his throne through a series of failed uprisings. It is probable they murdered him in his cell on the orders of Henry in 1400. The exact circumstances of his death are unclear, but some historians believe he starved to death or died from suffocation with a cushion.

The Handkerchief

Richard II’s reign benefited from his patronage of the arts, including literature and architecture. He was also responsible for promoting the English language (as opposed to French) spoken in his court. He Introduced the fashionable handkerchief as a refinement to court manners. He disliked his courtiers use of the sleeve to wipe their noses.

My thanks to David, The Skeptic’s Kaddish for hosting the poetry challenge, and my thanks to Michelle for her prompt and encouraging me to explore the Ode.

Artwork Credit
(to myself) Richard II, Ode to his Handkerchief | Digital Painting©️Lesley Scoble

28 responses to “King Richard II’s Ode to his Handkerchief”

  1. Wow, i admire your skills to explore your creativity. The first quick rhyme poem is really good i read it out loud and it sounded so good.

    And the second one, doesn’t matter if it was your hanky or not because it is so beautiful. If king Richard could read it he’d be so happy …

    I love your added commentary/info on King Richard, you freshen up my literary memory bank.

    Thank you for joining in..🌹❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Mich! I enjoyed the journey that your prompt led me on. History is a love of mine. I’m over the moon, that you liked my first poem!—and honoured you read it aloud. I’d love to hear your rendition! I am stunned that you also like the second.
      Thank you so much, 🙏❤️

      Liked by 1 person

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