The Princess (part 5)



Now, scarce three paces measured from the mound,
We stumbled on a stationary voice,
And 'Stand, who goes?'  'Two from the palace' I.
'The second two:  they wait,' he said, 'pass on;
His Highness wakes:' and one, that clashed in arms,
By glimmering lanes and walls of canvas led
Threading the soldier-city, till we heard
The drowsy folds of our great ensign shake
From blazoned lions o'er the imperial tent
Whispers of war.
               Entering, the sudden light
Dazed me half-blind:  I stood and seemed to hear,
As in a poplar grove when a light wind wakes
A lisping of the innumerous leaf and dies,
Each hissing in his neighbour's ear; and then
A strangled titter, out of which there brake
On all sides, clamouring etiquette to death,
Unmeasured mirth; while now the two old kings
Began to wag their baldness up and down,
The fresh young captains flashed their glittering teeth,
The huge bush-bearded Barons heaved and blew,
And slain with laughter rolled the gilded Squire.

At length my Sire, his rough cheek wet with tears,
Panted from weary sides 'King, you are free!
We did but keep you surety for our son,
If this be he,--or a dragged mawkin, thou,
That tends to her bristled grunters in the sludge:'
For I was drenched with ooze, and torn with briers,
More crumpled than a poppy from the sheath,
And all one rag, disprinced from head to heel.
Then some one sent beneath his vaulted palm
A whispered jest to some one near him, 'Look,
He has been among his shadows.'  'Satan take
The old women and their shadows! (thus the King
Roared) make yourself a man to fight with men.
Go:  Cyril told us all.'
                       As boys that slink
From ferule and the trespass-chiding eye,
Away we stole, and transient in a trice
From what was left of faded woman-slough
To sheathing splendours and the golden scale
Of harness, issued in the sun, that now
Leapt from the dewy shoulders of the Earth,
And hit the Northern hills.  Here Cyril met us.
A little shy at first, but by and by
We twain, with mutual pardon asked and given
For stroke and song, resoldered peace, whereon
Followed his tale.  Amazed he fled away
Through the dark land, and later in the night
Had come on Psyche weeping:  'then we fell
Into your father's hand, and there she lies,
But will not speak, or stir.'
                            He showed a tent
A stone-shot off:  we entered in, and there
Among piled arms and rough accoutrements,
Pitiful sight, wrapped in a soldier's cloak,
Like some sweet sculpture draped from head to foot,
And pushed by rude hands from its pedestal,
All her fair length upon the ground she lay:
And at her head a follower of the camp,
A charred and wrinkled piece of womanhood,
Sat watching like the watcher by the dead.

Then Florian knelt, and 'Come' he whispered to her,
'Lift up your head, sweet sister:  lie not thus.
What have you done but right? you could not slay
Me, nor your prince:  look up:  be comforted:
Sweet is it to have done the thing one ought,
When fallen in darker ways.'  And likewise I:
'Be comforted:  have I not lost her too,
In whose least act abides the nameless charm
That none has else for me?'  She heard, she moved,
She moaned, a folded voice; and up she sat,
And raised the cloak from brows as pale and smooth
As those that mourn half-shrouded over death
In deathless marble.  'Her,' she said, 'my friend--
Parted from her--betrayed her cause and mine--
Where shall I breathe? why kept ye not your faith?
O base and bad! what comfort? none for me!'
To whom remorseful Cyril, 'Yet I pray
Take comfort:  live, dear lady, for your child!'
At which she lifted up her voice and cried.

'Ah me, my babe, my blossom, ah, my child,
My one sweet child, whom I shall see no more!
For now will cruel Ida keep her back;
And either she will die from want of care,
Or sicken with ill-usage, when they say
The child is hers--for every little fault,
The child is hers; and they will beat my girl
Remembering her mother:  O my flower!
Or they will take her, they will make her hard,
And she will pass me by in after-life
With some cold reverence worse than were she dead.
Ill mother that I was to leave her there,
To lag behind, scared by the cry they made,
The horror of the shame among them all:
But I will go and sit beside the doors,
And make a wild petition night and day,
Until they hate to hear me like a wind
Wailing for ever, till they open to me,
And lay my li
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

4:01 min read
34

Quick analysis:

Scheme XABCXDXEFGHXXIJEKXXLMX XNOPXALXXXEXJQEBXXXPXRBOCSHXITFUXXXXSXXD TRSXXBMXXXXKXXXNSVX VGXUSXXTXXDUXQXSXNN
Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 4,388
Words 813
Stanzas 4
Stanza Lengths 22, 40, 19, 19

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, FRS was Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during much of Queen Victoria's reign and remains one of the most popular British poets.  more…

All Alfred Lord Tennyson poems | Alfred Lord Tennyson Books

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