Legends of Castle Rouge


Figment, illusion, stately mirage,

Sudden and swift as a frost-borne beam

Revealed in fulgent splendour, she

Fades and flees to a fairyland dream …

Thus presents mysterious Castle Rouge

Oft-perceived from olden vessel or van

Adventurous souls who stay the course

Discover reward at the journey's end

The indomitable “Red Fortress”

Lost prize of ancient wonder

No barbarian raid nor Nature's wrath

Endured to rent her walls asunder …

Luminaries round the globe

Voyage to majestic Castle Rouge

Final rest for our illustrious thief

And her celebrated swain's refuge

They come to see 'living' portraits

Of legends extant two centuries:

The Master Painter's Sir Felix Gallant

And Simone – Goddess of Thieves …


“Now we enter Rouge Great Hall,”

The curator reverently explains,

“Where once a hundred portraits

Glared fixedly from their frames

“An unbroken chain of  lineage

Of earls, dukes, princes and kings

And, of course, their lovely ladies,

Duchesses, princesses and queens

“Persian arras mask naked walls,

Shorn of late regal majesties

Solitude for Sir Felix Gallant

And Simone – Goddess of Thieves

“Please take a seat o' honoured guests

While I recite for you a story

Of fealty, passion and love

Of tragedy, pain and glory.”

Breathless, mute and riveted

Transfixed by the Artist's hand

The contingent defer to sit

For the portraits have command

No mote of dust nor silken weft

Colours glisten as though undried

A score of decades senescence

Potent brush strokes have defied

On the left, a dashing cavalier

Smilingly holds a valiant pose

Navy tunic, white ruffled shirt,

Over his heart a scarlet rose

Diamond studs linked on cuffs

Rapier and pistol tucked in sash

Glinting eye and ruddy cheeks

Dark curls, a thin moustache

Shaded 'neath an aged olive

Above a cerulean sea

His mein daring and bold

A champion of nobility

And, to right, an enchantress rare

Herself a masterwork of God

A beauty to make the angels weep

And deities applaud

Cascading locks of raven hair

Caress pink cheeks and fall to waist

Red parted lips and coquette smile

Beguile a bent of the unchaste

Bustled gown of satin peach

Full gloves on hands and arms

A shimmering stole loosely tossed

Alluringly veils the lady's charms

A bejewelled carcanet of gold

To capture Cleopatra's eye

A set of emerald earrings–

Trophies from days gone-by

The Artisan has her featured

Holding the reins of a Lipizzan

The rubied hilt of a stiletto

Visible near her empty hand

Sadly, the miraculous oeuvres

Bear no signature nor sign

Legend claims such inspiration

Could only have been Divine

'These portraits have no rival,'

Avow pundits of two centuries,

'No brush shall match Sir Gallant

And Simone – Goddess of Thieves'

More urgently calls the curator

His company reluctantly convene

Unmoved, the painted guardians

Serenely gaze upon the scene

The smiling host of Castle Rouge

An elocutionist of acclaim

Subtly anchors his gallery

With aural pictures frame by frame

Sporadic bursts of crescendo

Descend to whispered calm

While gestures and expressions

Complement the auditory balm

“Sir Felix Gallant,” he says,

“Greatest detective of them all,

Along with lovely Lady Simone,

Deserve sole title to Great Hall

“For their mark remains indelible

Across time, through histories,

Sir Gallant – ferret of the felonious

Lady Simone – sovereign of all thieves

“Gallant rose from the streets of Paris

Well-schooled on both sides of the law

His observations and deductions

Rendering conclusions without flaw

“Knighted by George III of Britain

For solving crimes upon the Isle

Through Europe and West Asia

He led evil masterminds to trial

“And, our beloved thief, Simone,

Her extraction remains obscure

Whispers claim of royal bloodlines

Though historians are not sure

“Perhaps a tale of rags to riches

Or a onetime princess dethroned

She strove for wealth and notoriety

Machiavellian, fearless and alone

“Two rivals, o' so very clever

Peerless, beyond quotidian beings

She stole anything from anyone

His skill and savvy sought by kings

“And though strong adversaries

In professions that they chose

A latent love lay breathless

As the winter stills the rose

“At a convent hospice in Barcelona

Sir Gallant's life slowly ebbed

A young nun maintained a vigil

Day and night at his death bed

“A priest came to serve last rites

But the sister refused to let him die

Only when the raging fever eased

Did she quit Sir Gallant's side

Sans farewell, the nun did vanish

No one knew from whence she came

In delirium Gallant beheld an angel

Sister Simone was her name”

The voice lulled hypnotic

Listeners hung on every word

But for eyes drawn to portraits

Gentlemen nor ladies stirred

“A chancellor in old Germany

Once imprisoned our revered thief

Months she endured a dungeon hole

Foreseeing nothing of relief

“Then a foreign agent liberated

Lady Simone from that scrape

Indeed, the intrepid Sir Gallant

Had orchestrated her escape—”

One sharp gasp cut the narration

A guest swooned, turning white

The speaker hastened to discover

The source of the lady's plight

She swore the eye of Sir Gallant

Winked at her from his frame

But the orator could find no one

To corroborate her claim

A stout chap with thinning hair

Gruffly chided the anxious host

“Sir, continue with your story,

Surely no one has seen a ghost”

Then another stalwart gentleman

Broke the ensuing hush

“Friends, I have seen no winking

But note Lady Simone's blush”

Eyes revisited the portrait

Indeed the Lady's cheeks were red

“Is this a trick of Castle Rouge?”

Aghast, the orator shook his head

Desperation echoed in his words

As the assembly rose to their feet

“I beg of you, my honoured guests

The tale cannot go incomplete

“You must hear it in aggregate

For the Great Hall has mystic holds

These portals forestall release

Until the narrative unfolds”

One collective gasp of disbelief

Patrons bristled, mouths agape

But the narrator's grim visage

Thwarted intentions of escape

Quickly regaining composure

He rewove his unseen spell

Tiny ripples of foreboding

Faded like a distant knell

Soft and soothing articulation

Exorcised all lurking threat

Listeners slowly sank, ensnared,

Into the tale's intriguing net

“Gallant's treasured links of gold

With 'FG' etched upon the face

Were stolen from his boudoir

A diamond pair left in their place

“From the British, Simone pilfered

Plans for a Loyalist advance

And sold them across the channel

To Louis XVI of France

“Then, while circulating in Paris,

Awaiting King and council to approve

Simone filched a Rembrandt

Out of the Palace Louvre

“With a passion for opulence

And burning lust for the game

Her avowal, 'I can steal anything'

Befit Lady Simone's rise to fame

“Accordingly, she set her cap

Conceiving one more audacious plan

Then in plain sight and broad daylight,

Absconded with a prized Lipizzan

“Legends, myths and chronicles

Recitals of lore and histories

Enduring bruit of Sir Gallant

And Simone – Goddess of Thieves

“Princess, strumpet, nun or gypsy,

One hundred guises of Simone

A palace retreat in Austrian Alps

Served for her sanctuary home

“And at that lavish hideaway

While Simone slumbered in her bed

A rose Gallant did rest upon her breast

Then soundlessly he fled

“Of a morn he stropped his razor

Then felt his knees grow weak

For the mirrored reflection placed

A ruby lip print on his cheek

“Gallant, our heroic detective

To himself declared a pact

He could find and arrest Simone

But swore to catch her in the act

“Consequently, amassing evidence

Collecting bits, straws and strands

Sir Gallant contrived a notion

Of Lady Simone's grandiose plans

“So to Castle Rouge they came

The hunter and his prey

And, here, in this Great Hall

They clashed that fateful day …”

Pardoning himself a moment

The narrator paused for two sips

His company still and spellbound

Incisors clamped on lower lips

Once again the curator resumes

Words now muted with despair

His countenance grave and hollow

A shivering chill bestirs the air

Shifting from the past, perforce,

Time leaps to present tense

Audience pitches to the moment

Piqued and fervid with suspense

“For an instant burning eyes lock

Both see their unmasked love

Yet the bonds to their professions

Grasp too fierce to rise above

“Even as Simone's savage stiletto

Pierces Gallant's breaking heart

From his dying hand the pistol fires

Its cruel ball holds to mark

“As dark pools of blood adjoin

And in the throes of death

The lovers fall together

Kissing with their final breath … ”

History flickers evanescent

Millennia of footfalls fade to nil

Muting centuries of monarchs

Transfixed, stunned, guests are still

Narrator's shoulders shudder

His hands go to his cheeks

He slumps into a nearby chair

No soul cries out nor speaks

Lachrymal orbs fixate on canvas

While the numbed gathering grieves

O! The tragic love of Sir Gallant

And Simone – Goddess of Thieves

Then in the tomb-loud hush

One single teardrop falls

To mingle with erstwhile stains

At the foot of portrait walls

Sorrow washes red cheeks pallid

Veiling lovely Simone's rosy bloom

Sir Felix Gallant's daring smile

Wanes wan across the room

A bolt is drawn, a latch is freed

Hinges swivel of their own accord

Entranced, the troupe troops out

Whist descends with closing doors


But the Great Hall is seldom empty

Echoes halloo from beyond

Master Painter instills His subjects

With Divinity's empyreal bond

For love manifests untethered

Transcending free of tomb

The earthly hour of man and beast

Is but gestation in the womb

From still life the spirit lovers

Descend and glide across the hall

Diaphanous hands and fingers touch

One light embrace begins the ball

The eidolon duo dance unfettered

To strains only they may hear

The Great Hall is their kingdom

No nighttide voyeur ventures near

Stepping lightly upon the bloody stain

That marks their woeful end

They resurrect that fateful kiss …

Portraits stir to life again

Ethereal bonds anneal

Essence forms of gossamer parts

Lava-hot the forge of passion

Bellows of lungs and beating hearts

Fortress glows pure polished silver

Amidst a sea of molten light

From shadows dash two lovers

Sprinting hand in hand into the night

Double astride the Lipizzan

They canter 'cross the lucent plains

Then, upon the light of dawn,

Hie back to their picture frames

For two hundred years Castle Rouge

Guards and servants have sworn

They have seen the portrait team

By moonlight or lightning storm

“They be alive as you and I,”

So every Rouge attendant believes,

“Immortally blest are Sir Gallant

And Simone – Goddess of Thieves”

Figment, illusion, stately mirage,

Sudden and swift as a frost-borne beam

Revealed in fulgent splendour, Rouge

Fades and flees to a fairyland dream…

*                        C.C. PHILLIPS,  Dec 2018*


Our town had troubles when he dropped in

I'm just not certain of where to begin

We had all the colours anyone could name

And each hue believed other hues were to blame

For the petty quarrels, the scraps and scrapes

We all bickered and brewed like rabid apes

Skin shades of black, red, white, yellow and brown

We had an ethnic rainbow in our little town

And none of us really knew right from wrong

We all believed it essential to not get along

Then this stranger showed up from far, far away

He might have been Christian but I couldn't say

Neither short nor tall his skin wasn't fair

He had bushy brows and a full head of hair

Unpretentious, unimposing not handsome nor plain

He just had an air that made folks look again

The long-tailed coat was black as the night

I was surprised not to find a collar of white

For at first he appeared a man of the cloth

Though showed no qualms about sipping the froth

And for reasons I cannot completely express

Our bigots showed deference to our new guest

The man seemed genuine, perhaps perfectly pure

He might have been Buddhist I'm not sure

Simply “Frank” was the moniker he preferred

Was it coincidence the name is also a word?

For we soon discovered Frank harboured no lies

And he didn't hate, loath, condemn or despise

The town had a cross-section of cultures and creed

Religions aplenty, more preachers than you need

And, the same as our olio of 'regular' folks,

'Men of God' share a plethora of ethnic jokes

That tradition waned and we have only to thank

The stranger who simply called himself “Frank”

No grandstanding, orating or formal address

He might have been Muslim, but I shouldn't guess

The stranger had arrived without herald or fanfare

In less than a month it seemed he'd always been there

Transgressors made an effort to abandon their course

Though Frank would not admit that he was the force

No clergy had seen him inside of a church

He favoured a spot beside a big weeping birch

He'd call out or chat with any and all passersby

Exchange platitudes but did not preach or pry

Staunch elders and deacons declared him a fraud

But Frank never once spread the Word of God

His trust and friendship were soon highly prized

He might have followed dharma, I'd not be surprised

Though he waged no war against bigots and sin

Frank lingered amongst all and always fit in

A brawler once called him out onto the street

After a fist to the jaw he turned the other cheek

The town went quiet after that morbid night

All found respect for a man who won't fight

Frank didn't meddle or intrude on folks' lives

If asked, he would counsel husbands and wives

Upon visiting the cell of a killer condemned

The convict looked forward to a tragic life's end

Wherever Frank walked he had friends in tow

He might have been atheist for all that I know

Our town had its share of dyed-in-the-wool fools

Off on a tangent from the 'normal' schools

Schools of thought, philosophy and hard knocks

Had shifted pure intellect out of their blocks

But Frank's persistence brought them around

Comfortably anchored on familiar ground

And then he tackled wizards who knew it all

Biasing their direction without making them stall

And none of us realized what we had become

While strolling from darkness into the sun

Frank projected a way, a truth and a light

He might have been Taoist if I reckon right

The same as he showed up, Frank went away

No farewell or good-bye, no word did he say

But he left us with something that we never had:

A real understanding of what is good and bad

That this world is our oyster and we are the jewel

Set your pace and follow your own golden rule

Folks will not stray if they stand firm at their helm

For the ships that we pilot cannot leave this realm

When darkness or whiteouts turn all the world blank

One can still find direction … simply turn to Frank

Holy, unholy, angel, saint or deity

He might have been God or so I believe

C.C. Phillips; November, 2018

Author's note: The stranger that I 'met' – the inspiration for this writing – was a Catholic priest.

Canine Angels

If thur ain't no dogs in Heaven
Wouldn't thet be Hell?
Like drawin' a bucket o' dust
From a dried up well

Thur ain't no point denyin'
Th' canine is a feller's bestest friend
An' shore as shootin' I'm ahopin'
Thur's dogs at th' Round-up's end

The pups ya meet 'crost a lifetime
Can amount t' quite a few
An' each an' every one
Is as special as me an' you

An' they leave a gapin' hole
No other critter kin ever fill
It's downright heartbreakin'
When they go over thet last hill

So I reckon thet there After-life
Includes every mutt an' pedigree
'Cause thur ain't no 'life' without dogs
Or so it seems t' me

An' most has earned thur spurs
Didn't come along jes' for th' ride
They done thur solemn duty
An' deserve a spot on th' other side

In fact, I bet th' Great Almighty
Keeps a passel for hisself
For a canine ya kin alwuss trust
When thur ain't nobody else

Shucks, thur could be dogs aplenty
Wigglin' and waggin' all over th' place
Barkin' an' chasin' thur tails
Or lickin' some angel's face

So, I figure t' go out with m' boots on
When I've played out m' last hand
Don' need no pipes or minstrels
Jes' a few dogs bayin' in th' band

They can escort me 'crost th' Deevide
An' through th' sorting gate
Let me renew canine acquaintance
An' I'll be contented with m' fate

Blazing Trails

(For Dusty)

As you struggle through life and forge ahead
There will be resistance a-plenty
And don't be surprised at the rainbow's end
If that 'pot of gold' turns up empty

Though it's all uphill with the wind in your face
No matter how far you may roam
It will be downhill and the wind at your back
Whenever your thoughts bring you home

Winging Minstrels

I search the skies for that first throng
To herald the Wintersmith's duty done
They honk and call their ancient song
“Another change of season's come”

So it has been since time untold.
And still I marvel as they wing
Do wild geese trail the shrinking cold
Or is it they who fetch the spring

The Last Adventure

Five hundred years ago
An outcast beggar came
Through the streets of Barcelona
To implore the King of Spain

His hair was long and white and wispy
His stride slow and bent
Los niños taunted insults
As, along the cobblestones he went

The years had sculpt their passing
And time had marked its turn
He had the far gaze of a sailor
And how those faded eyes did burn

With raised chin and squared posture
Through the royal portal he passed
Ferdinand must honour this petition
For it would surely be the last

El guardia roughly seized the cadger
And were surprised by his strength
As he was wrestled to the ground
The ancient bellowed out at length

“Scatter you meek peasants
The Queen has fled the hive
Por Dios! I should have audience
If fair Isabella were alive”

King Ferdinand in the courtyard
Heard the angry shout
He reached the palace gate
Before guards threw the beggar out

The voice of the mariner
Caused the sovereign concern
He ordered the guards release him
And bade the sailor speak his turn

The seaman begged, not for himself
But for his sons he plead
That they may live in honour
Long after he was dead

For well he'd served the country
Proven time and time again
This wretched soul had oft risked life
For the King and Queen of Spain

The King feigned compassion
And bade the sailor wait
While he called for a trifle
Then led the old man to the gate

Royalty soon forgot the moment
The old mariner passed away
In a tomb near Valladolid
At eternal rest he lay

A few historians may note
The monarch on that throne
Who meted out a pittance
And sent the weary beggar home

May all the world remember
The old sailor and the shame
Admiral of the Ocean Sea...
Christopher Columbus was his name