The Princes' Qust - Part The Fourth - Poem by William Watson
That night he dreamed that over him there stole
A change miraculous, whereby his soul
Was parted from his body for a space,
And through a labyrinth of secret ways
Entered the world where dead men's ghosts abide
To seek the Seer who yestermorn had died.
And there in very truth he found the Seer,
Who gazing on him said, 'What would'st thou here,
O royal-born, who visitest the coasts
Of darkness, and the dwellings of the ghosts?'
Then said the Prince, 'I fain would know to find
The land as yet untrod of mortal-kind
Which I beheld by gracious leave of Sleep.'
To whom the Spirit: 'O Prince, the seas are deep
And very wide betwixt thee and that land,
And who shall say how many days do stand,
As dim-seen armed hosts between thy bliss
And thee?-Moreover, in the world there is
A certain Emerald Stone which some do call
The Emerald of the Virtues Mystical;
(Though what those Virtues Mystical may be
None living knows) and since, O youth, to me
Thou dost apply for counsel, be it known
Except thou have this wondrous emerald stone,
Go seek through all the world, thou shalt not find
The land thou wouldst: but like the houseless wind
That roams the world to seek a resting-place,
Thou through inhospitable time and space
Shalt roam, till time and space deliver thee,
To spaceless, timeless, mute eternity.
'For in a certain land there once did dwell
(How long ago it needs not I should tell)
At the king's court a great astrologer,
Ev'n such as erst was I, but mightier
And far excelling; and it came to pass
That he fell sick; and very old he was;
And knowing that his end was nigh, he said
To him that sat in sorrow by his bed,
'O master well-beloved and matchless king,
Take thou and keep this lowly offering
In memory of thy servant;' whereupon
The king perceived it was a gem that shone
Like the sea's heart: and on one side of it
This legend in an unknown tongue was writ-
Who holdeth Me may go where none hath fared
Before, and none shall follow afterward.
So the king took the bright green stone betwixt
His fingers, and upon the legend fixed
His eyes, and said unto the dying Seer,
'Now who shall render this dark scripture clear
That I may know the meaning of the gift?'
And the mage oped his mouth and strove to lift
His voice, but could not, for the wishèd word
Clave to his rattling throat, that no man heard:
Whereby the soul, departing, bore away
From all men living, even to this day,
The secret. And the jewel hath passed down
Seven times from sire to son, and in the crown
It shineth of that country's kings, being called
Ev'n to this day the mystic emerald;
But no man liveth in the world, of wit
To read the writing that is on it writ.'
'O Master,' said the Prince, 'and wilt not thou
Instruct me where to find the king who now
Weareth the jewel in his diadem?'
To whom the Spirit, 'O youth, and if the gem
Be worth the finding, is't not also worth
The little pain of seeking through the earth?-
Yet so thou may'st not wander witlessly,
Look thou forget not this I tell to thee:
When in thy journeyings thou shalt dream once more
The fateful dream thou haddest heretofore,
That filled thy veins with longing as with wine,
Till all thy being brimm'd over-by that sign
Thou mayest know thyself at last to be
Within the borders of his empery
Who hath the mystic emerald stone, whose gleam
Shall light thee to the country of thy dream.'
'But,' said the Prince, 'When all the world's highways
My feet have trod, till after length of days
I reach the land where lies the wondrous stone,
How shall I make so rare a, thing mine own?
For had I riches more than could be told,
What king would sell his jewels for my gold?'
And on this wise the answer of the Seer
Fell in the hollow of his dreaming ear:
'Behold this Iron Chain,-of power it is
To heal all manner of mortal maladies
In him that wears it round his neck but once,
Between the sun's downgoing and the sun's
Uprising: take it thou, and hold it fast
Until by seeking long thou find at last
The king that hath the mystic emerald stone:
And having found him, thou shalt e'en make known
The virtues lodged within this charmed chain:
Which when the king doth hear he will be fain
To have possession of so strange a thing;
And thou shalt make a bargain with the king
To give the Iron Chain in bartery
For that mysterious jewel whereof he
Knows not the secret worth. And when at last
The emerald stone in thy own hands thou hast,
Itself shall guide thee whither thou would'st go-
Ev'n to the land revealed of sleep, where no
Grief comes to mar their music, neither sound
Of sighing, while the golden years go round.'
So spake the Spirit unto him that dreamed,
And suddenly that world of shadow seemed
More shadowy; and all things began to blend
Together: and the dream was at an end.
Then slept the Prince a deep sweet sleep that knew
Nor dream nor vision; till the dawnlight grew
Up, and his soul a sudden halt did make
About the confines dim of sleep and wake,
Where wandering lights and wildered shadows meet.
But presently uprising to his feet
From tarriance in that frontier-region dim,
Exceeding wonderment laid hold on him;
For even while from off his bed he rose,
He heard a clinking as of metal, close
Thereby, and could in no-wise understand:
And lo the Iron Chain was in his hand!
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