Page images
PDF
EPUB

At eight years old ; and still from time to time

Came murmurs of her beauty from the South,
And of her brethren, youths of puissance ;
And still I wore her picture by my heart,

And one dark tress; and all around them both

Sweet thoughts would swarm as bees about their queen.

But when the days drew nigh that I should wed, My father sent ambassadors with furs

And jewels, gifts, to fetch her : these brought back

A present, a great labour of the loom ;

And therewithal an answer vague as wind :

Besides, they saw the king ; he took the gifts ;
He said there was a compact ; that was true :

But then she had a will ; was he to blame?

And maiden fancies ; loved to live alone

Among her women ; certain, would not wed.

That morning in the presence room I stood With Cyril and with Florian, my two friends :

The first, a gentleman of broken means
(His father's fault) but given to starts and bursts
Of revel; and the last, my other heart,
My shadow, my half-self, for still we moved
Together, kin as horse's ear and eye.

Now, while they spake, I saw my father's face Grow long and troubled like a rising moon, Inflamed with wrath : he started on his feet,

Tore the king's letter, snow'd it down, and rent
The wonder of the loom thro'

warp

and woof

From skirt to skirt ; and at the last he sware

That he would send a hundred thousand men,

And bring her in a whirlwind : then he chew'd
The thrice-turn'd cud of wrath, and cook'd his spleen
Communing with his captains of the war.

At last I spoke. “My father, let me go
It cannot be but some gross error lies
In this report, this answer of a king,

Whom all men rate as kind and hospitable :

Or, maybe, I myself, my bride once seen,
Whate'er my grief to find her less than fame,
May rue the bargain made.' And Florian said :
• I have a sister at the foreign court,
Who moves about the Princess ; she, you know,

Who wedded with a nobleman from thence :

He, dying lately, left her, as I hear,

The lady of three castles in that land :

Thro’ her this matter might be sifted clean.'
Then whisper'd Cyril : Take me with you too.
Trust me, I 'll serve you better in a strait ;
I grate on rusty hinges here : ' but “No!'
Roar'd the rough king, you shall not; we ourself
Will crush these pretty maiden fancies dead

In iron gauntlets : break the council up.'

But when the council broke, I rose and past Thro' the wild woods that hung about the town ;

Found a still place, and pluck'd her likeness out ;

с

Laid it on flowers, and watch'd it lying bathed
In the green gleam of dewy-tassell'd trees :

What were those fancies? wherefore break her troth?

Proud look'd the lips : but while I meditated
A wind arose and rush'd upon the South,
And shook the songs, the whispers, and the shrieks
Of the wild woods together ; and a Voice

Went with it · Follow, follow, thou shalt win.'

Then, ere the silver sickle of that month

Became her golden shield, I stole from court
With Cyril and with Florian, unperceived.
Down from the bastion'd wall, suspense by night,

Like threaded spiders from a balk, we dropt,

And flying reach'd the frontier : then we crost
To a livelier land ; and so by tilth and grange,
And vines, and blowing bosks of wilderness,

We gain'd the mother-city thick with towers,
And in the imperial palace found the king.

His name was Gama ; crack'd and small his voice, But bland the smile that pucker'd up his cheeks ; A little dry old man, without a star, Not like a king : three days he feasted us, And on the fourth I spake of why we came, And my betroth'd. You do us, Prince,' he said, Airing a snowy hand and signet gem,

• All honour.

We remember love ourselves

In our sweet youth : there did a compact pass
Long summers back, a kind of ceremony-
I think the year in which our olives fail’d.
I would you had her, Prince, with all my

heart, With

my

full heart : but there were widows here,

Two widows, Lady Psyche, lady Blanche ;
They fed her theories, in and out of place
Maintaining that with equal husbandry
The woman were an equal to the man.
They harp'd on this ; with this our banquets rang ;
Our dances broke and buzz'd in knots of talk ;

Nothing but this ; my very ears were hot

« PreviousContinue »