While winter comes and goes—oh tedious
And while its nip-wind blows;
While bloom the bloodless lily and warm rose
Of lavish summer.
If any should force entrance he might see there
One buried yet not dead, 30
Before whose face I no more bow my head
Or bend my knee there;
But often in my worn life’s autumn weather
I watch there with clear eyes,
And think how it will be in Paradise
When we’re together.
I, a princess, king-descended, decked with jewels,
Would rather be a peasant with her baby at her breast,
For all I shine so like the sun, and am purple like the west.
Two and two my guards behind, two and two before,
Two and two on either hand, they guard me evermore;
Me, poor dove, that must not coo—eagle that must not soar.
All my fountains cast up perfumes, all my gardens
Scented woods and foreign spices, with all flowers in blow
That are costly, out of season as the seasons go.
All my walls are lost in mirrors, whereupon I trace
Self to right hand, self to left hand, self in every place,
Self-same solitary figure, self-same seeking face.
Then I have an ivory chair high to sit upon,
Almost like my father’s chair, which is an ivory throne;
There I sit uplift and upright, there I sit alone.
Alone by day, alone by night, alone days without end;
My father and my mother give me treasures, search and spend—
O my father! O my mother! have you ne’er a friend?
As I am a lofty princess, so my father is
A lofty king, accomplished in all kingly subtilties, 20
Holding in his strong right hand world-kingdoms’ balances.
He has quarrelled with his neighbours, he has scourged
Vassal counts and princes follow where his pennon goes,
Long-descended valiant lords whom the vulture knows,
On whose track the vulture swoops, when they ride
To break the strength of armies and topple down the great:
Each of these my courteous servant, none of these my mate.
My father counting up his strength sets down with
So many head of cattle, head of horses, head of men;
These for slaughter, these for breeding, with the how and when. 30
Some to work on roads, canals; some to man his ships;
Some to smart in mines beneath sharp overseers’ whips;
Some to trap fur-beasts in lands where utmost winter nips.
Once it came into my heart, and whelmed me like a
That these too are men and women, human flesh and blood;
Men with hearts and men with souls, though trodden down like mud.
Our feasting was not glad that night, our music was
On my mother’s graceful head I marked a thread of grey,
My father frowning at the fare seemed every dish to weigh.