Peter Bolton

(2nd April 1942 / Brecon)

The Surrogate Princess


King Hildred and Abril, his queen, could not bear children.
The appearance of a baby princess in the palace was therefore attributed to the attendance of some fairy godmother.
A gift.
Princess Melita grew into a strapping lass,
With ruddy cheeks and a high clear laugh.
She was taught the arts of gentility and learned them well.
The flicker of her eyelashes could send a tingle down a courtier’s spine,
But - her feet were too big.

One day perchance, at an invite from the king, Prince Dalmo came a courting this damsel fair, this rose so bright.
A fanfare long extended announced his passage through the gate.
He came expectant.
When Melita came before him to be presented, her womanly form was not displayed in all its sensuous beauty.
True, her gown was of the richest raiment gleaming,
But many yards there were of it, as she sought to hide her disfigurement.
It is as difficult to hide a visible woe as it is to have one seen that is invisible.

Size seven.
Any shoemaker will tell you that a princess does not wear size seven.
When Dalmo sought her in her apartments, she could not be found.
The train now standing in platform three goes all the way, to the end of the line.
From the window, Melita watched them pass,
The gothic spire, the curlicues of grand design,
The portals each with costumed sentries strutting.
The mayor’s hall, the buttressed bank,
The sky-blue pools where brokers took their pleasure,
And so to where boxed housing reigned, size one, size two, size three.
Amidst them all, oases green, marked out with flags most gay.

There were no packed grey terraces.
You must go from platform one to see those,
And the concrete halls where machinery sings.

Then came the fields, stretched out and heavy with their corn,
For the kingdom was prosperous.
Melita saw the busy farms,
The villages with their steeples,
And then the heath, the empty moorland marsh.
There is no village at the end of the line.
She alighted alone onto the platform bare
And the track therefrom was rough, untrodden.
The cot was empty, where she was born.
This is how it would be, for an orphan of the storm.
Her feet walked bare into the forest,
For only the source of her indignity could lead her on.
Until she came before the oak.

Here, she laid her burden down.

The oak is strong.
It will not break though its endurance be tested for ever.
Melita’s scarf was of the finest silk; the knot she tied secure.
Her feet, size seven, were no longer wearied by the world.
They would be chafed by the soil, so rough, no more.

I cannot tell you whether or not she still hangs there.

Submitted: Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Edited: Friday, October 11, 2013

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

Esme has unwittingly caused the death of her parents and she toys with the idea of suicide. In the end she distances herself from it.

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