“Inevitably She Declined”

“Inevitably She Declined”

On a bishop’s backless chair, inevitably, upright she declined
Watching an empire flicker & die out. Morning, an anodyne
Of undrugged sleep, her attendant files the wedding ring embedded
In her flesh for half a century, an unhinged sapphire unmarrying
A monarch to this life of beautiful bastard sovereignty, unwedding
England’s bloated hand. By evening an heirless country waits to bury
A distended queen with hawthorn boughs, bonfires blazing majusculed
Letters in the streets. She will go on watching them, upright & inevitable.
When Elizabeth sat dying, she would not lie down, for fear
She would never rise again, her high neck propped with molecules
Of lace, circling a countenance decked with the small queer
Embellishments of monarchy. In a breathless hour, her virguled
Breath, a speechless pilgrim grateful for a little death, minuscule
Between moments, squall of air reclining, upright bolt, declining vertical.

Lucie Brock-Broido

This sonnet is sheer bliss for anyone who loves the English language. Brock-Broido accomplishes vertigineous verbal acrobatics without once sacrificing intelligence or sense. Count how many of the words have at least double meanings! I’ve read this poem out loud  and taken great pleasure in the way you must read the words slowly, with love and pomp. The sonnet is brocaded with “b” sounds–as brocaded as the Queen’s dress. As we make a slow and stately progress through this sonnet, we go back and revisit sounds and images. “Majusculed” marries “molecules” and “virguled” and reminds us of majesty. “Virguled” (a wonderful word here) leads us to vertical and makes us think of the Virgin Queen.

I also like the “un”-ness of the poem: Elizabeth is characterized by what she is not as much as by what she is, when dying: “undrugged” “unmarrying” wearing an “unhinged” sapphire, “unwedding” England as she inevitably dies.

It’s amazing–“boughs, bonfires blazing” and the “bishop’s backless chair”. This kind of language and these images are, to me, what catnip is to cats and Happy Meals to toddlers. Intoxicatingly wonderful. Nor do I find this poem an exercise in academic language–I feel for the queen, declining and dying. She is fully humanized for me here. That final breath is a precious pilgrim gone to seek another world by ending the sonnet with grace and majesty.

Victorian Reading Challenge: 2017

Another challenge set by the active Becky of blbooks.blogspot.com:

I have to do this one; it’s my favorite period.
_ 1. A book under 200 pages
_ 2. A book over 400 pages
_ 3. A book that REALLY intimidates you
_ 4. A book you REALLY want to reread
_ 5. A new-to-you book by a FAVORITE author
_ 6. A book with illustrations
_ 7. A book that was originally published serially
_ 8. A book published between 1837-1849
_ 9. A book published between 1850-1860
_ 10. A book published between 1861-1870
_ 11. A book published between 1871-1880
_ 12. A book published between 1881-1890
_ 13. A book published between 1891-1901
_ 14. A book published between 1902-1999 with a Victorian setting
_ 15. A book published between 2000-2017 with a Victorian setting
_ 16. A book by Charles Dickens
_ 17. A book by Wilkie Collins
_ 18. A book by Anthony Trollope
_ 19. A book by Elizabeth Gaskell
_ 20. A book by George Eliot
_ 21. A book by a new-to-you male author
_ 22. A book by a new-to-you female author
_ 23. A book translated into English
_ 24. A fiction or nonfiction book about Queen Victoria
_ 25. A book that has been filmed as movie, miniseries, or television show
_ 26. A play OR a collection of short stories OR a collection of poems
_ 27. Biography, Autobiography, or NONFICTION book about the Victorian era
_ 28. Genre or Subgenre of your choice (mystery, suspense, romance, gothic, adventure, western, science fiction, fantasy)
_ 29. Book with a name as the title
_ 30. Book You’ve Started but Never Finished
_ 31. A Christian book fiction or nonfiction
_ 32. A children’s book


  • Fiction or nonfiction.
  • Books, e-books, audio books all are fine.
  • Books and movies can be reviewed together or separately.
  • You can create a reading list if you want, but it’s not a requirement
  • If you do make a list, consider adding a list of five books you’d recommend to others
  • If possible try to try a new-to-you author! I know it can be really tempting to stick with familiar favorites.
  • Children’s books published during these years should not be forgotten!
  • Rereads are definitely allowed if you have favorites!
  • A blog is not required, a review is not required, but, if you don’t review please consider sharing what you read in a comment with one or two sentences of ‘reaction’ or ‘response.’
  • Any qualifying book reviewed in 2017 counts towards the challenge. If you’re like me, perhaps you try to schedule posts a week ahead of time. So if it’s reviewed in 2017, it counts. Even if you finished the book the last week or two of 2016!

<a href=”http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2016/12/2017-reading-challenges-victoria.html”>Becky’s Book Reviews: 2017 Reading Challenges: Victorian</a>