Page images

Damp from the river ; and close behind her stood

Eight daughters of the plough, stronger than men, Huge women blowzed with health, and wind, and rain

And labour. Each was like a Druid rock ;

Or like a spire of land that stands apart
Cleft from the main, and clang'd about with mews.

Then, as we came, the crowd dividing clove An advent to the throne ; and therebeside,

Half-naked as if caught at once from bed
And tumbled on the purple footcloth, lay

The lily-shining child ; and on the left,
Bow'd on her palms and folded up


wrong, Her round white shoulder shaken with her sobs,

Melissa knelt ; but Lady Blanche erect

Stood up and spake, an affluent orator.


• It was not thus, 0 Princess, in old days : You prized my counsel, lived upon my lips : I led you

then to all the Castalies ;

I fed you with the milk of


Muse ; I loved you like this kneeler, and you me Your second mother : those were gracious times.

Then came your new friend : you began to change I saw it and grieved-to slacken and to cool;

Till taken with her seeming openness

You turn'd your warmer currents all to her,

To me you froze : this was my meed for all.

Yet I bore up in part from ancient love,
And partly that I hoped to win you back,
And partly conscious of my own deserts,
And partly that you were my civil head,
And chiefly you were born for something great
In which I might your fellow-worker be,

When time should serve ; and thus a noble scheme


up from seed we two long since had sown ; In us true growth, in her a Jonah's gourd,


Up in one night and due to sudden sun :
We took this palace ; but even from the first
You stood in your own light and darken'd mine.

What student came but that you planed her path
To Lady Psyche, younger, not so wise,
A foreigner, and I your countrywoman,

Ι your

old friend and tried, she new in all ?

But still her lists were swell’d and mine were lean;

Yet I bore up in hope she would be known :
Then came these wolves : they knew her : they endured,
Long-closeted with her the yestermorn,
To tell her what they were, and she to hear :
And me none told : not less to an eye like mine,
A lidless watcher of the public weal,
Last night, their mask was patent, and my

Was to you : but I thought again : I fear'd
To meet a cold • We thank you, we shall hear of it

From Lady Psyche : ' you had gone to her,

She told, perforce ; and winning easy grace,
No doubt, for slight delay, remain’d among us

In our young nursery still unknown, the stem

Less grain than touchwood, while my honest heat

Were all miscounted as malignant haste

To push my rival out of place and power
But public use required she should be known ;
And since my oath was ta'en for public use,
I broke the letter of it to keep the sense.
I spoke not then at first, but watch'd them well,
Saw that they kept apart, no mischief done ;
And yet this day (tho' you should hate me for it)
I came to tell you ; found that


gone, Ridd'n to the hills, she likewise : now, I thought, That surely she will speak ; if not, then I:

Did she? These monsters blazon'd what they were

According to the coarseness of their kind,
For thus I hear; and known at last (my work)

And full of cowardice and guilty shame,

I grant in her some sense of shame, she flies ;

And I remain on whom to wreak your rage,

I, that have lent my life to build up yours,

I that have wasted here health wealth and time

And talents, 1-you know it, I will not boast :
Dismiss me, and I prophesy your plan,

Divorced from my experience, will be chaff

For every gust of chance, and men will


We did not know the real light, but chased
The wisp that flickers where no foot can tread.'


She ceased : the Princess answer'd coldly Good : Your oath is broken : we dismiss you : go. For this lost lamb (she pointed to the child)

Our mind is changed: we take it to ourselves.'


[ocr errors]

Thereat the Lady stretch'd a vulture throat And shot from crooked lips a haggard smile. • The plan was mine. I built the nest’ she said • To hatch the cuckoo. Rise !' and stoop'd to updrag Melissa : she, half on her mother propt,


Half-drooping from her, turn'd her face, and cast

A liquid look on Ida, full of prayer,
Which melted Florian's fancy as she hung,

A Niobëan daughter, one arm out,

Appealing to the bolts of Heaven ; and while

« PreviousContinue »