And the sea rose, rocked and
Like a beaker in the hand,
Till the moon-hung tide broke tether
And stampeded in for land.
All day long with doom portentous,
Shreds of pennons shrieked and flew
Over Ys; and black fear shuddered
On the hearthstone all night through.
Fear, which freezes up the
Of the heart, from door to door
Like a plague went through the city,
And filled up the devil’s score;
Filled her tally of the craven,
To the sea-wind’s dismal note;
While a panic superstition
Took the people by the throat.
As with morning still the
With vast wreckage on the tide,
And their pasture rills, grown rivers,
Thundered in the mountain side,
gods to vengeance!”
Rose a storm of muttering;
And the human flood came pouring
To the palace of the king.
“Save, O king, before
In the whirlpools of the sea,
Ys thy city, us thy people!”
Growled the king then, “What would ye?”
But his wolf’s eyes
And his bearded mouth meant scorn.
“O our king, the gods are angry;
And no longer to be borne
“Is the shameless face
that greets us
From thy windows, at thy side,
Smiling infamy. And therefore
Thou shall take her up, and ride
“Down with her into
the sea’s mouth,
And there leave her; else we die,
And thy name goes down to story
A new word for cruelty.”
Ah, but she was fair, this
Warm and flaxen waved her hair;
Her blue Breton eyes made summer
In that bleak December air.
There she stood whose burning
Made the world’s high roof tree ring,
A white poppy tall and wind-blown
In the garden of the king.
Her throat shook, but not
Her eyes swam, but not with fear;
While her two hands caught and clung to
The one man they had found dear.
“Lord and lover,”—thus
she smiled him
Her last word,—“it shall be so,
Only the sea’s arms shall hold me,
When from out thine arms I go.”
Swore he, “By the gods,
Thou shall have queen’s burial.
Pearls and amber shall thy tomb be;
Shot with gold and green thy pall.
“And a million-throated
Shall take up thy dirge to-night;
Where thy slumber’s starry watch-fires
Shall a thousand years be bright.”
Then they brought the coal-black
Chafing on the bit. Astride
Sprang the young king; shouted, “Way there!”
Caught the girl up to his side;
And a path through that scared
Rode in pageant to the sea.
And the coal-black mane was mingled
With gold hair against his knee.