The Tricoteuses

The starving market women marched,
marched on Versailles with kitchen knives;
both marching and not marching meant
they were endangering their lives.

The ball got rolling, and the king
was soon removed from absolute
pow’r; then they were prevented from
reaping their risky labour’s fruit.

The new regime, just like the old,
was not concerned about the poor,
and so the women now were left
outside the great Convention’s door.

As heads kept rolling they looked on,
thankful they were not theirs, perhaps;
they sat beside the guillotine
and kept on knitting liberty caps.

Today we often vote against
the ones in power, just to find
the ones we voted for are of
a similarly selfish mind.

One crowd is out, the next is in,
and yet no changes can be seen:
what else is there for us to do
than knit beside the guillotine?



The Evil Host

Once a landlord in a pretty
valley ran its inn. His chilling
look was feared, and so the city
called his place ‘The Evil Host’s’:
with every room he offered for a shilling
he used to moan about his ha’penny costs.

All the time he was forgetting
salt and change for every table,
every room that he was letting
was minute and bare and cold,
his meals were small and dear, his chairs unstable,
his ale was flat and thin, his bread was old.

He was wealthy, he was greedy,
and he roamed the streets with pleasure:
there he robbed the poor and needy,
and he snatched the beggars’ hats.
Another fav’rite pastime in his leisure
was kicking wife and children, dogs and cats.

On the outskirts of the valley
lived the rich and cultivated.
Once he walked along their alley,
and the host became upset:
he didn’t know them, for they celebrated
in their own mansions every time they met.

As the city’s sole purveyor
he announced a public meeting
to appoint himself Lord Mayor
and proclaim the mayor’s law:
no visit was allowed, no talk, no greeting
outside the city’s inn for evermore;

Everybody had to render
contributions to his dive now;
every critic and offender
would be put to death at once;
no public enemy’d be left alive now;
the may’r will be succeeded by his sons.

Thus enforcing law and orders
his regime was constituted,
and within the valley’s borders
no one dared to talk again;
the few who did were swiftly executed,
and every night the inn was full of men.

Nothing passed unknown: no stealthy
visit and no word of gumption.
His new customers were wealthy,
so he charged a higher price:
this caused his guests to limit their consumption
which activated once again his vice.
With a club he struck their heads and
took their money and possessions,
tore their mantles into shreds and
left them bleeding on the floor.
Nightclubbing was the strongest of his passions
until they brought their valuables no more.

Soon some helpers were recruited:
his own wife, his sons and daughters
broke into their homes and looted
them and took what they could find.
The host was bringing them their ales or waters;
meanwhile his clan left not a nail behind.

Facing poverty, his latest
customers were now refraining
from their visits, and his greatest
business loss aroused his hate:
mere fractions of his profits were remaining,
and once again the host became irate.

Thinking of a vengeful gesture,
finally, one Sunday morning
after Mass he changed his vesture
and put on the mayor’s gown.
He went to their estates; without a warning
he lit a torch and burnt their houses down.

Mighty flames were now appearing
which destroyed their living places;
after hours the smoke was clearing
where their mansions once had been.
In ragged clothes and with disfigured faces
the few survivors stood before the inn.

‘Help us, please! Our living centre
is destroyed, and we are leaving
from the ruins – let us enter!’
But he laughed and held his spouse,
‘Why should we share the wealth we’ve been achieving?
Go home and get a job and build a house!’

Some preferred to die as quickly
as they could and started speaking
to each other while some sickly
ones went to the woods and prayed,
and some refused to leave; the host was freaking,
and with his guests he shot the ones who stayed.

Soon the city celebrated
with its self-appointed leader,
and the Evil Host created
loopholes for their hunting game.
I’ll meet you in his inn tonight, dear reader:
the host still serves, and Europe is his name.



Frank L. Ludwig was born in Hamburg in 1964 and has lived in Sligo, Ireland since 1996. In 1999 he published The Reaper’s Valentine, his first poetry collection and was awarded a scholarship to the Yeats Summer School (where Seamus Heaney complimented him on “a very good feeling for the rhythm and the rhyme”). His poems have been published in magazines and anthologies in Ireland, the UK, the US, Switzerland and Germany. All of his works can be found here:

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6 Responses

  1. Paul Oratofsky

    For “The Tricoteuses,” I submit that the last two stanzas say it all, and if the first four stanzas were eliminated, it would be a much stronger poem. Those last two stanzas are excellent.

    I feel the second poem needs a lot of work – especially fixing [too many] lines whose meter is [too far] off.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Paul, you accurately identified some of the problems with these poems, but there are others: the narrative in both poems is rather flaccid, and the diction often seems to serve no other purpose than to force a rhyme. And then there is the specter of false profundity. We all know already that politicians are corrupt — this isn’t news. No sane person would search for deeper meaning in a poem, if I happened to have written it, that went like this:

      I now so sorely wish
      That I had caught a fish.

      The second poem, in particular, strains a reader’s tolerance for random acts that lack specific motivation other than the author’s desire to move the story along. If the author’s idea is that acts of violence in the service of greed are senseless, then, as senselessly as the idea has been presented, the author has accomplished his self-appointed task. But I wouldn’t trust him with a pencil in his hand.

  2. Monty

    Any piece – be it poetry or prose – which has as its first sentence: “Once a landlord in a pretty valley ran its inn” . . is thereafter beyond recovery.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Monty, Apparently, at some time or another, we both supped and took lodging at the very same inn. While you were there, did you hear the one about the traveling salesman and the farmer? It was, indeed, quite a pretty valley, but in a way it reminded me of the slough of despair.

      • Monty

        Indeed, I did once spend a night there. I’m afraid I didn’t hear the one about the travelling salesman and the farmer; but I did manage to catch the one about the travelling diction and the syntax . . and I can’t say I found it that funny.

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