Algernon Charles Swinburne
The King's Daughter
WE WERE ten maidens in the green corn,
Small red leaves in the mill-water:
Fairer maidens never were born,
Apples of gold for the king’s daughter.
We were ten maidens by a well-head,
Small white birds in the mill-water:
Sweeter maidens never were wed,
Rings of red for the king’s daughter.
The first to spin, the second to sing,
Seeds of wheat in the mill-water;
The third may was a goodly thing,
White bread and brown for the king’s daughter.
The fourth to sew and the fifth to play,
Fair green weed in the mill-water;
The sixth may was a goodly may,
White wine and red for the king’s daughter.
The seventh to woo, the eighth to wed,
Fair thin reeds in the mill-water;
The ninth had gold work on her head,
Honey in the comb for the king’s daughter.
The ninth had gold work round her hair,
Fallen flowers in the mill-water;
The tenth may was goodly and fair,
Golden gloves for the king’s daughter.
We were ten maidens in a field green,
Fallen fruit in the mill-water;
Fairer maidens never have been,
Golden sleeves for the king’s daughter.
By there comes the king’s young son,
A little wind in the mill-water;
“Out of ten maidens ye’ll grant me one,”
A crown of red for the king’s daughter.
“Out of ten mays ye’ll give me the best,”
A little rain in the mill-water;
A bed of yellow straw for all the rest,
A bed of gold for the king’s daughter.
He’s ta’en out the goodliest,
Rain that rains in the mill-water;
A comb of yellow shell for all the rest,
A comb of gold for the king’s daughter.
He’s made her bed to the goodliest,
Wind and hail in the mill-water;
A grass girdle for all the rest,
A girdle of arms for the king’s daughter.
He’s set his heart to the goodliest,
Snow that snows in the mill-water;
Nine little kisses for all the rest,
An hundredfold for the king’s daughter.
He’s ta’en his leave at the goodliest,
Broken boats in the mill-water;
Golden gifts for all the rest,
Sorrow of heart for the king’s daughter.
“Ye’ll make a grave for my fair body,”
Running rain in the mill-water;
“And ye’ll streek my brother at the side of me,”
The pains of hell for the king’s daughter.
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