First the glory, then the strife.
Nay, but first thy trouble dree,
So thy peace shall sweeter be.
First to work and then to rest,
Is the way for our humanity,
Ay, she sayeth that loves thee best,
We must forth and from this strife
Buy the best part of man’s life;
Best and worst thou holdest still
Subject to a witch’s will.
Thus I rede thee counsel deep,
Thou didst ill to sell thy sleep;
Take the crown from off thy head,
Give it the white-witch instead,
If in that she say thee nay,
Get the night,—and give the day.’
Then the king (amazed, mild,
As one reasoning with a child
All his speech): ’My wife! my fair!
And his hand on her brown hair
Trembles; ’Lady, dost indeed
Weigh the meaning of thy rede?
Would’st thou dare the dropping away
Of allegiance, should our sway
And sweet splendour and renown
All be risked? (methinks a crown
Doth become thee marvellous well).
We ourself are, truth to tell,
Kingly both of wont and kind,
Suits not such the craven mind.’
‘Yet this weird thou can’st not dree.’
Quoth the queen, ‘And live;’ then he,
’I must die and leave the fair
Unborn, long-desired heir
To his rightful heritage.’
But this queen arisen doth high
Her two hands uplifting, sigh
‘God forbid.’ And he to assuage
Her keen sorrow, for his part
Searcheth, nor can find in his heart
Words. And weeping she will rest
Her sweet cheek upon his breast,
Whispering, ’Dost thou verily
Know thou art to blame? Ah me,
Come,’ and yet beseecheth she,
‘Ah me, come.’
For good for ill,
Whom man loveth hath her will.
Court and castle left behind,
Stolen forth in the rain and wind,
Soon they are deep in the forest, fain
The white-witch to raise again;
Down and deep where flat o’erhead
Layer on layer do cedars spread,
Down where lordly maples strain,
Wrestling with the storm amain.
Wide-wing’d eagles struck on high
Headlong fall’n break through, and lie
With their prey in piteous wise,
And no film on their dead eyes.
Matted branches grind and crash,
Into darkness dives the flash,
Stabs, a dread gold dirk of fire,
Loads the lift with splinters dire.
Then a pause i’ the deadly feud—
And a sick cowed quietude.
Soh! A pillar misty and grey,
’T is the white-witch in the way.
Shall man deal with her and gain?
I trow not. Albeit the twain
Costly gear and gems and gold
Freely offer, she will hold
Sleep and token for the pay
She did get for greatening day.