Writings and Witterings



The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin
The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin

Today’s the day,
today’s the day they die.
In every line,
carved anguish
on fine-boned faces,
in bowed heads,
starved slump of shoulders,
nooses around necks,
the way city keys
in hot hands
held against hurting head,
today’s the day.
Today’s the day they die.

Calais besieged,
the envoys’ walk,
sandals tied with string
shuffling through dust,
as grit cuts;
rope pares skin.

Death imminent,
they stumble to the square
as yet unaware,
today, they’ll be saved
by a claim,
an omen,
an infant yet to be born.

Polly Stretton © 2014

For dVerse poets prompt: Rilke was influenced by Rodin when Rilke served as secretary to him. The artist greatly influenced the young poet. Check out Rodin sculptures on the Internet – find one that inspires you and write to it in the above way


38 thoughts on “Volunteers

  1. Ah.. what a terrible story.. the day you know that you will day.. the days of siege is not over… this still happens.


    • Evidently, this all happened in the 1300’s and Rodin created the sculpture in the 1800’s. Shame it is as you say, still happening…


  2. Hi Polly, I actually saw a version of this only recently in Henry Moore’s old studio garden and love the way you have tenderly evoked the story in this piece.. Thank you… With Best Wishes Scott http://www.scotthastie.com


    • Hi Scott—that must have been fab—I love sculpture and was in Barbara Hepworth’s home / museum / gallery in St Ives, Cornwall last year. Good to see you enjoyed the way I treated the story 🙂


  3. You set the tone perfectly here, Polly. I could feel them as they made their walk of doom.


  4. I got a chill just imagining the whole thing! Excellent Polly!


  5. Walking towards imminent death and doom must have been a dreadful experience…then the twist in the end, i think how cruel fate is ~ Good one Polly ~


  6. As written by you, this piece resonates with so many of us; a strong take on the prompt; brought to mind a boxcar of Jews heading to a concentration camp, the train stopping, the door sliding open, doom imminent, & then the realization the door was open by American liberators.


  7. What a sad, well written poem Polly. The other day I caught a glimpse of prisoners being walked to their death by Isis soldiers. It broke my heart, as does your poem. And how awfully history repeats itself sometimes..


    • You’re right, Myrna, seems like we don’t learn from our mistakes despite what we’re told…it is sad. At least the Burghers lived in the end, so the poem ends with hope 🙂


  8. The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.

    ~Marcus Tullius Cicero

    So sad…you wrote this very strong and deep.


  9. i’m so glad about the hope there in the close…


  10. we can always hope eh? even in our darkest hour…you have given depth to the statue for sharing the story behind it…


  11. I can see that sculpture really spoke to you Polly, very nice.


  12. the contrast of enduring the moments of horror and relief at the end is so well brought out….


  13. Polly, what a strong and heart-wrenching poem. Unfortunately there are many parallels in the present day!


  14. Beautiful poem that pulls into focus the story behind the Burghers of Calais. A fine sculpture by Rodin, a fine poem by you.


  15. You captured the grim reality Polly along with the suggestion of hope. Very well done.


    • In the midst of…

      There’s always hope, yet I can’t imagine that these six, walking though the city bound by nooses could possibly have held out much hope. Yet they were saved.


  16. poetry and history go hand in hand – Nice.


  17. Pingback: VerseWrights | Polly

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