Cicely Fox Smith

(1 February 1882 – 8 April 1954 / Lymm, Cheshire)

The Crown Of Gold - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

There was grief in the land, -
Fear and ill-omen:
The foe was at hand
With his spears and his bowmen.
Famine was in the town,
Sorrow and crying,
And the sun seemed going down
On the land and her renown,
And the Queen was dying.

Dying 'mid want and war
In her youth and beauty,
She who had striven so sore
With a royal duty, -
Dying, poor widowed one,
In a time of sorrow,
Leaving her little son
To a dark to-morrow.

She lay near to death
In a twilight room:
Faintly came her breath:
In the gathering gloom
She lay with closed eyes now
As if a trance had bound her,
With still mouth and white brow
And her gold hair round her.

And she woke suddenly
With a great cry of fear,
And the waitingimaids drew near,
For they thought her like to die.
And she spake out hastily:
'Lo, I have dreamed a dream,
Loves are not true to me
Nor friends what they seem.
There's nought true at all
Nor hope for to-morrow, -
Nothing but tears to fall
And nought i' the world but sorrow.'

'Go forth now, hither call
My vassals one and all;
Bid them to ask of me
What most they crave,
Yea, and whate'er it be
I will give cheerily,
Eere I go to the grave.'

And they went forth weeping
And called in, as she bade,
Lords and courtiers, great and small,
From courtyard and hall,
And serving-man and maid.
And her old hound came creeping,
Creeping to her side,
Laid his head down, calm and grand,
In her listless hand,
And lay there satisfied.

'Lo,' she said, 'speak out, I pray,
O my servants, tried and true!
Fear not, but say your say
What you will that I should do:
Nought will I say you nay
That I may grant you!'

O and swift the answers came:
Nought of faltering, nought of shame
As they spake their hearts' desire, -
Wealth and power,
A fortune for a dower,
Or the half of a shire.

Then the Queen cried out again,
And there stood a mist of tears
In her eyes of blue:
'O my dream was true,
Nor false were my fears,
Nor my doubtings vain.
There's nought i' the world but sorrow:
O what shall my babe do
In the dark to-morrow?'

And there came in tramping then
All her great grim fighting-men,
With their weather-beaten faces
Scarred and seamed with war's rough traces,
Cap of steel, and sword on thigh.
Then one spake up huskily'
'Lady Queen, this boon we pray.
Little wealth, we know indeed,
Have these hard times left us now.
Therfore since we must to-day
Somewhat ask for - we (behold!)
Ask, our one and only meed,
Even the drown of gold
From off thy brow.'

Bitter flowed the salt tears down.
'Yea, take my golden crown,
And let me die.
Glad of an end am I,
For there's nought i' the world true,
Nought i' the world but sorrow;
Yet what shall my babe do
In the hard to-morrow?'

Swiftly came they then,
All her great grim fighting-men
Who had served her thro' long years.
Spur on heel and sword on thigh,
Half-smiling thro' their tears
Came they nigh.
Forth swept each cold blue blade
As a rough brown hand was laid
On her locks of gold.
And they passed one by one, - and behold
Each in his strong finger twining
Held, as it were wealth indeed,
The Queen's last meed
A lock of golden hair, gleaming and shining!

And she smiled again at last
Ere her spirit passed,
And her sea-blue eyes were glad
'Neath her sweet shorn brows serene.
And thus sake the Queen:
'O no longer sad
Am I for the morrow!
For I know in time of sorrow
While yet in all the realm
One bears in his helm
The guerdon that I gave,
My son shall never vainly crave,
Tho' ill days betide him,
A true sword to defend him,
A true heart to befriend him,
A true friend beside him!'

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Poem Submitted: Monday, August 30, 2010

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