William Watson

(1858-1935 / England)

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

That night within the City of Youth there stood
Musicians playing to the multitude
On many a gold and silver instrument
Whose differing souls yet chimed in glad consent.
And sooth-tongued singers, throated like the bird
All darkness holds its breath to hear, were heard
Chanting aloud before the comely folk,
Chanting aloud till none-for listening spoke,
Chanting aloud that all the city rang;
And whoso will may hear the song they sang:-

I

O happy hearts, O youths and damsels, pray
What new and wondrous thing hath chanced to-day,
O happy hearts, what wondrous thing and new?
Set the gold sun with kinglier-mightful glance,
Rose the maid-moon with queenlier countenance,
Came the stars forth a merrier madder crew,
Than ever sun or maiden-moon before,
Or jostling stars that shook the darkness' floor
With night-wide tremor 'neath their dizzy dance?

Strong is the Sun, but strong alway was he;
The Moon is fair, but ever fair showed she;
The Stars are many, and who hath known them few?
As now they be, so heretofore were they:
What is the wondrous thing hath chanced to-day,
O happy hearts, the wondrous thing and new,
Whereof ye are glad together even more
Than of the sunlight or the moonlight or
The light o' the stars that strow the milky-way?

For all your many maidens have the head
In goodly festal wise engarlanded,
With flowers at noon the banquet of the bees,
And leaves that in some grove at midday grew:
And ever since the falling of the dew
Your streets are full of pomps and pageantries,
Laughter and song, feasting and dancing:-nay,
Surely some wondrous thing hath chanced to-day;
O happy hearts, what wondrous thing and new?

II

No, no, ye need not answer any word!
Heard have we all-who lives and hath not heard?-
What thing the sovran Fates have done to-day;
Who turn the tides of life which way they please,
And sit themselves aloft, aloof, at ease:
Dwellers in courts of marble silence they.
No need to ask what thing the Fates have done
Between the sunrise and the set of sun,
Mute-moving in their twilight fastnesses!

Changeless, aloft, aloof, mute-moving, dim,
In ancient fastnesses of twilight-him
Have they not sent this day, the long-foretold,
The long-foretold and much-desired, of whom
'Twas whilom written in the rolls of doom
How in a dream he should this land behold,
And hither come from worldwide wandering,
Hither where all the folk should hail him king,
Our king foredestined from his mother's womb?

Long time he tarried, but the time is past,
And he hath come ye waited for, at last:
The long-foretold, the much-desired, hath come.
And ye command your minstrels noise abroad
With lyre and tongue your joyance and his laud,
And, sooth to say, the minstrels are not dumb.
And ever in the pauses of our chant,
So for exceeding perfect joy ye pant,
We hear the beating of your hearts applaud!

III

And she our Queen-ah, who shall tell what hours
She bode his coming in her palace-towers,
Unmated she in all the land alone?
'Twas yours, O youths and maids, to clasp and kiss;
Desiring and desired ye had your bliss:
The Queen she sat upon her loveless throne.
Sleeping she saw his face, but could not find
Its phantom's phantom when she waked, nor wind
About her finger one gold hair of his.

Often when evening sobered all the air,
No doubt but she would sit and marvel where
He tarried, by the bounds of what strange sea;
And peradventure look at intervals
Forth of the windows of her palace walls,
And watch the gloaming darken fount and tree;
And think on twilight shores, with dreaming caves
Full of the groping of bewildered waves,
Full of the murmur of their hollow halls.

As flowers desire the kisses of the rain,
She his, and many a year desired in vain:
She waits no more who waited long enow.
Nor listeth he to wander any more
Who went as go the winds from sea to shore,
From shore to sea who went as the winds go.
The winds do seek a place of rest; the flowers
Look for the rain; but in a while the showers
Come, and the winds lie down, their wanderings o'er.


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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 10, 2010

Poem Edited: Saturday, May 7, 2011


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