The Bent-Back Man
© 1996 William Edward Isles
near a castle far away
the Bent-Back Man began his day.
Around the fortress wall he toiled
although his clothes were never soiled.
A friend to all who happened by
but rarely were they eye-to-eye.
His bent-back bent him low, alas
so his domain was dirt and grass.
He watered flowers and trimmed the hedge
protected nests built in the ledge.
The castle walls were grand, but then,
his favorite charge, a creatures den.
Some children passed him in the lane,
and having learned when to refrain,
delayed to ask their mum what caused
the Bent-Back Mans peculiar pose.
That night, when they had all been fed,
the mother, tween her lambs in bed,
began to tell the tale of woe,
of what transpired to make him so.
"When Bent-Back Man was young and tall
he lived within the castle wall.
His wife of then he did adore,
that mistress now who guards the door.
He loved her dearly, heaven knew.
He bowed and knelt to tie her shoe.
The more he gave, the more she wanted.
He just smiled and seemed undaunted.
He rubbed her back and combed her hair,
his shoulders only bore more care,
till time, and not a touch for mending,
turned the straight young man to bending.
He loved her still and bore the pain
to lift his head to see her plain.
But, since his view was mostly floor,
he lacked the stance to carry more.
Disgraced then, by her bent-back man,
the mistress soon contrived a plan.
Since he no longer stood to wait,
she banished him outside the gate.
Where, now, he tends the low and small
that live along the castle wall.
But, near the gate, he looks above
to catch a glimpse of his first love
So, now, my children, say Goodnight,
and let your dreams be sweet and bright.
From this tale dont pout or grieve,
just learn to give more than receive".
that night, when all were sleeping,
Bent-Back Man began his creeping.
Crawling through the creatures den,
he found the port known just to him.
Up to her bedroom, bound and certain,
he pulled back the chambers curtain.
Looking down (which he did best),
he gazed upon her face at rest.
In his mind, then, tall and strong,
he danced around and sang his song
"Oh, what bliss! What pure delight,
to wait upon my love tonight!"
He rubbed her back and combed her hair
and oiled her feet with utmost care.
She felt his touch, though sound asleep.
It stirred a dormant feeling deep.
She reached to him, to pull him near,
to kiss his face, his hand, his ear.
She cradled him in her embrace,
this object of her vain disgrace.
Suddenly, she woke alarmed,
while Bent-Back Man was in her arms.
"You wretched man! What bold deceit!"
the Bent-Back Man jumped to his feet.
He hurried from the ladys scorn
and through the den like one reborn.
He fled into the wood nearby
and stumbled through the weary night.
Now with the castle far away,
the Bent-Back Man began his day
collapsing on an earthen bed
to take his place among the dead.
For many hours, the man consumed
by unrequited loves deep wound,
lay with only shallow breath,
unwilling then to conquer death.
Then, something stirred him from his grave.
A hand a touch upon his face.
A maid with blistered feet was there,
who rubbed his back and combed his hair.
"Have I now passed from life to death?
No, not if I can feel her breath!
Oh maid! Your touch is pure and sweet.
Allow me to attend these feet".
To see pure love and then to mirror it,
lifted these two broken spirits.
For, to give and back be given,
soon gave strength and both were risen.
While in each others tight embrace,
he gazed astonished at her face.
Straightened back and mended feet,
they were fully whole, complete.
1996 William Edward Isles