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A PRINCE I was, blue-eyed, and fair in face,
With lengths of yellow ringlet, like a girl,
For on my cradle shone the Northern star.
My mother was as mild as any saint,
And nearly canonized by all she knew,
So gracious was her tact and tenderness:
But my good father thought a king a king ;
He held his sceptre like a pedant's wand

To lash offence, and with long arms and hands
Reach'd out, and pick'd offenders from the mass
For judgment.

Now it chanced that I had been,

While life was yet in bud and blade, betroth'd To one, a neighbouring Princess: she to me Was proxy-wedded with a bootless calf

At eight years old; and still from time to time

Came murmurs of her beauty from the South,

And of her brethren, knights 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!'
Replied the king, 'you shall not; I myself
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 ; 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 walls we dropt by night,
And flying reach'd the frontier: then we crost
To a livelier land; and so by town and thorpe,
And tilth, 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 in voice;

A little dry old man, without a star,

Not like a king three days he feasted us,


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