Jerome Betts : A Quarto of Lethe

‘The longest, most elaborate and most detailed account of
the Conquest is E.A.Freeman’s The History of the Norman
Conquest, Its Causes and Its Results, published in six large
quarto volumes between 1867 and 1879 and containing
well over a million words. General Patton perused it before
D-Day in 1944, ostensibly to find out which roads William
had used in Normandy and Brittany, although possibly as
a soporific.’
                                                   - Professor Frank Barlow



Years of labour at a theory
Based on every fact he’d learnt,
Left him bald, bad-tempered, weary,
Life’s brief candle three parts burnt.

Still, his BOOK, a consolation
Causing rivals to perspire,
Duly set – sweet conflagration! –
Isis, Cam and Thames on fire.

Flushed with joy, he fell to dreaming
How such glory cheats the tomb –
When they woke him, he was screaming
Words of direst woe and doom!

For he’d travelled, in a vision,
Straight to Fame’s great marble hall,
Where, cut deep beyond excision,
Guess whose name shone over all?

Guess, too, what the pilgrims, winding
Round a floodlit crystal case,
Glimpsed there in its costly binding,
Open at a well-worn place?

On Page Five a gilded marker
Bore a legend large and clear.
So he’d read, as all grew darker,
Queen Elizabeth slept here.