Had one marked that palfrey led
To the tower, he sooth had said,
These are royal folk and rare—
Jewels in her plaited hair
Shine not clearer than her eyes,
And her lord in goodly wise
With his plumed cap in ’s hand
Moves in the measure of command.
Had one marked where stole forth two
From the friendly tower anew,
‘Common folk’ he sooth had said,
Making for the mountain track.
Common, common, man and maid,
Clad in russet, and of kind
Meet for russet. On his back
A wallet bears the stalwart hind;
She, all shy, in rustic grace
Steps beside her man apace,
And wild roses match her face.
Whither speed they? Where are toss’d
Like sea foam the dwarfed pines
At the jagged sharp inclines;
To the country of the frost
Up the mountains to be lost,
Lost. No better now may be,
Lost where mighty hollows thrust
’Twixt the fierce teeth of the world,
Fill themselves with crimson dust
When the tumbling sun down hurl’d
Stares among them drearily,
As a’ wondering at the lone
Gulfs that weird gaunt company
Fenceth in. Lost there unknown,
Lineage, nation, name, and throne.
Lo, in a crevice choked with ling
And fir, this man, not now the king,
This Sigismund, hath made a fire,
And by his wife in the dark night
He leans at watch, her guard and squire.
His wide eyes stare out for the light
Weary. He needs must chide on fate,
And she is asleep. ’Poor brooding mate,
What! wilt thou on the mountain crest
Slippery and cold scoop thy first nest?
Or must I clear some uncouth cave
That laired the mother wolf, and save—
Spearing her cubs—the grey pelt fine
To be a bed for thee and thine?
It is my doing. Ay,’ quoth he,
’Mine; but who dares to pity thee
Shall pity, not for loss of all,
But that thou wert my wife perdie,
E’en wife unto a witch’s thrall,—
A man beholden to the cold
Cloud for a covering, he being sold
And hunted for reward of gold.
But who shall chronicle the ways
Of common folk—the nights and days
Spent with rough goatherds on their snows,
Of travellers come whence no man knows,
Then gone aloft on some sharp height
In the dumb peace and the great light
Amid brown eagles and wild roes?