A year ago, the chief architect for my palace became overly inventive, which is something I welcome. He suggested to embellish the look of my tower by adding an external staircase, with each stair projecting outward from the wall—which would be seen by everyone, from every hill surrounding the city, no matter how far. At the time I thought it was a good idea, because that would leave the internal staircase as a private approach to my chamber, to be used by me alone.
I approved his plan, because as a poet I enjoy solitude, and as a politician I need to relieve myself—on occasion—from the pressure of dealing with the crowds.
Once constructed, I found it offered one more advantage, which I had not foreseen before. The staircase put those who climbed up to my office on public display. It helped make them know their place once they got here.
For the most part, this works in my favor.
Since many of those who come happen to be of the opposite sex, my interest in them becomes truly notorious, whether I deserve it or not. For a king, this is not a bad thing. Depending upon whom you ask about it, my virility is hated, envied, or else, much revered.
So now when Bathsheba, my new bride, comes to me from the women’s quarters, she does it the same way as the rest of my wives.
Bending over the sill of my chamber window I spot her clambering up, slowly and heavily, around the tower.
She stops for a minute to wipe her brow, because the heat of this summer is more intense than usual. Short of breath, she holds one hand on the iron railing, and the other around her belly. On her, the climb takes its toll.
Bathsheba lowers her eyes and gives a shy, hesitant nod to one concubine after another, as they are coming down, measuring her top to bottom, and flinging their skirts about, with a happy whistle on their lips.
That uneasy scramble to the top has the questionable effect of humbling her. By the time she arrives, there are tears in her eyes.
This painting of Bathsheba is one of the frescos based on the life of king David painted by Salviati at the Palazzo Sacchetti in Rome. Salviati moves this story forward to the time she has come to the palace to see David. This inspired me to write of the reality Bathsheba must face once she comes to the palace, as one of many wives and concubines.
Salviati, Bathsheba goes to king David (fresco)
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