William Watson

(1858-1935 / England)

The Princes' Quest - Part The Fifth - Poem by William Watson

So, being risen, the Prince in brief while went
Forth to the market-place, where babblement
Of them that bought and them that sold was one
Of many sounds in murmurous union-
buzzing as of bees about their hives,
With shriller gossiping of garrulous wives
Piping a tuneless treble thereunto:
In midst whereof he went his way as who
Looketh about him well before he buys,
To mark the manner of their merchandise;
Till chancing upon one who cried for sale
A horse, and seeing it well-limb'd and hale,
And therewithal right goodly to behold,
He bought the beast and paid the man in gold,
And having gotten him the needful gear
Rode from the market, nothing loth to hear
Its garrulous wives no longer, and the din
Of them that daily bought and sold therein.
So from the place he passed, and slowly down
Street after street betook him till the town
Behind him and the gates before him were,
And all without was cornland greenly fair.

And through the cornland wending many a mile,
And through the meadowland, he came erewhile
To where the highways parted, and no man
Was nigh to tell him whitherward they ran;
But while he halted all in doubtful mood,
An eagle, as if mourning for her brood
Stolen, above him sped with rueful cry;
And when that he perceived the fowl to fly
Plaining aloud, unto himself he said,
'Now shall yon mournful mother overhead
Instruct the wandering of my feet, and they
Shall follow where she leadeth:' and away
The bird went winging westward clamorously,
That westward even in her wake went he.
And it may be that in his heart there stirred
Some feeling as of fellowship with the bird;
For he, like her, was bound on a lone quest;
And for his feet, as for her wings, no rest
Might be, but only urgence of desire,
And one far goal that seemed not ever nigher.

So through that country wended he his way,
Resting anights, till on the seventh day
He passed unwares into another land,
Whose people's speech he could not understand-
A tract o'er-run with tribes barbarian,
And blood-red from the strife of man with man:
And truly 'twas a thing miraculous
That one should traverse all that rude land thus,
And no man rid him of his gold, nor raise
A hand to make abridgment of his days;
But there was that about him could make men's
Hearts, ere they knew it, yield him reverence,-
Perchance a sovran something in his eye,
Whereat the fierce heart failed, it wist not why;-
Perchance that Fate which (hovering like a doubt
Athwart his being) hemmed him round about,
Gloomed as a visible shadow across his way,
And made men fearful. Be this as it may,
No harm befell him in that land, and so
He came at last to where the ebb and flow
Of other seas than he had wandered o'er
Upflung to landward an attempered roar;
And wandering downward to the beach, he clomb
To topmost of a tall grey cliff, wherefrom
He saw a smoke as of men's houses, far
Off, from a jutting point peninsular
Uprising: whence he deemed that there a town
Must surely be. And so he clambered down
The cliff, and getting him again to horse
Thither along the seabound held his course,
And reached that city about sunset-tide
The smoking of whose hearths he had espied.

There at an hostel rested he, and there
Tarried the coming of the morn. But ere
He fell asleep that night, a wandering thought,
Through darkling byeways of the spirit brought,
Knock'd at his soul for entrance, whispering low
'What if to-night thou dream The Dream, and know
To-morrow, when thou wakest from that bliss,
The land wherein thou liest to be his
Who hath the mystic jewel in his keep?'
So, full of flattering hope he fell asleep,
And sleeping dreamed, but dreamed not that he would:
For at one time it seemed as if he stood
Alone upon a sterile neck of land,
Where round about him upon either hand
Was darkness, and the cry of a dark sea,
And worldwide vapours glooming thunderously;
And ever as he stood, the unstable ground
Slid from beneath his feet with a great sound,
Till he could find no foothold anywhere
That seemed not unsubstantial as the air.
At otherwhiles he wandered all alone
About a lonely land, and heard a moan
As of some bird that sang and singing grieved;
And peering all about the woods thick-leaved
If so he might espy the bird, he found
At length, after long searching, that the sound
Even from the bottom of his own heart came,
And unawares his own mouth sang the same.
And then in dream 'twas like as years went by,
And still he journeyed, hardly knowing why,
Till at the last a mist about him fell,
And if the mist were death he could not tell,
For after that he knew no more. And so
He slept until the cock began to crow.

Then came the gladful morn, that sendeth sick
Dreams flying, and all shapes melàncholic
That vex the slumbers of the love-distraught.
Unto his heart the merry morning brought
Cheer, and forewhisperings of some far-off rest,
When he should end in sweet that bitter quest.
But going forth that morn, and with his feet
Threading the murmurous maze of street and street,
All strangely fell upon him everywhere
The things he saw and heard of foul or fair.
The thronging of the folk that filled the ways;
The hubbub of the street and market-place;
The sound of heavy wain-wheels on the stones;
The comely faces and ill-favoured ones;
The girls with apple-cheeks and hair of gold;
The grey locks and the wrinkles of the old;-
All these remote and unfamiliar
Seem'd, and himself a something from afar,
Looking at men as shadows on the wall
And even the veriest shadow among them all.

But now when all things dreamwise seemed to swim
About the dubious eyes and ears of him,
That nothing in the world might be believed,
It chanced that on a sudden he perceived
Where one that dealt in jewels sat within
His doorway, hearkening to the outer din,
As who cared no-wise to make fast his ears
Against the babble of the street-farers:
Whereat the merchant, seeing a stranger pass,
Guessed by his garb what countryman he was,
And giving him good-day right courteously
Bespake him in his mother-tongue; for he
Had wandered in his youth o'er distant seas
And knew full many lands and languages.
Wherefore with him the royal stranger fell
To talking cheerly, and besought him tell
Whence all his gems were had and costly things,
Talismans, amulets, and charmèd rings:
Whereto the other answered, They had come
Some from a country not far hence, and some
From out a land a thousand leagues away
To eastward, ev'n the birthplace of the Day,
The region of the sun's nativity;
And giving ear to this right readily
The Prince would fain be told of him the way
To that far homeland of the youngling Day.
So, being ask'd, the other answered, 'Sir,
There liveth but one master-mariner
Whose ship hath sailed so far: and that is he
Who hither brought the jewels thou dost see.
And now, as luck will have it for the nonce,
He wills to voyage thitherward but once
Before he die-for he is old like me-
And even this day se'nnight saileth he.
Wherefore if thou be fain to see that land,
There needeth only gold within thy hand:
For gold, if that it jingle true and clear,
Hath still a merry music for man's ear,
And where is he that hateth sound of it?'
So saying, the merchant bade the stranger sit,
But the Prince thanked him for his courtesy,
And went his way. And that day se'nnight he
Was sailing toward the far-off morningland,
And felt the skies about him like a band,
And heard the low wind uttering numerous noise,
And all the great sea singing as one voice.


Comments about The Princes' Quest - Part The Fifth by William Watson

There is no comment submitted by members..



Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?



Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 10, 2010

Poem Edited: Saturday, May 7, 2011


[Report Error]