The Princes' Quest - Part the Fifth

So, being risen, the Prince in brief while went
Forth to the market-place, where babblement
Of them that bought and them that sold was one
Of many sounds in murmurous union-
buzzing as of bees about their hives,
With shriller gossiping of garrulous wives
Piping a tuneless treble thereunto:
In midst whereof he went his way as who
Looketh about him well before he buys,
To mark the manner of their merchandise;
Till chancing upon one who cried for sale
A horse, and seeing it well-limb'd and hale,
And therewithal right goodly to behold,
He bought the beast and paid the man in gold,
And having gotten him the needful gear
Rode from the market, nothing loth to hear
Its garrulous wives no longer, and the din
Of them that daily bought and sold therein.
So from the place he passed, and slowly down
Street after street betook him till the town
Behind him and the gates before him were,
And all without was cornland greenly fair.

And through the cornland wending many a mile,
And through the meadowland, he came erewhile
To where the highways parted, and no man
Was nigh to tell him whitherward they ran;
But while he halted all in doubtful mood,
An eagle, as if mourning for her brood
Stolen, above him sped with rueful cry;
And when that he perceived the fowl to fly
Plaining aloud, unto himself he said,
'Now shall yon mournful mother overhead
Instruct the wandering of my feet, and they
Shall follow where she leadeth:' and away
The bird went winging westward clamorously,
That westward even in her wake went he.
And it may be that in his heart there stirred
Some feeling as of fellowship with the bird;
For he, like her, was bound on a lone quest;
And for his feet, as for her wings, no rest
Might be, but only urgence of desire,
And one far goal that seemed not ever nigher.

So through that country wended he his way,
Resting anights, till on the seventh day
He passed unwares into another land,
Whose people's speech he could not understand-
A tract o'er-run with tribes barbarian,
And blood-red from the strife of man with man:
And truly 'twas a thing miraculous
That one should traverse all that rude land thus,
And no man rid him of his gold, nor raise
A hand to make abridgment of his days;
But there was that about him could make men's
Hearts, ere they knew it, yield him reverence,-
Perchance a sovran something in his eye,
Whereat the fierce heart failed, it wist not why;-
Perchance that Fate which (hovering like a doubt
Athwart his being) hemmed him round about,
Gloomed as a visible shadow across his way,
And made men fearful. Be this as it may,
No harm befell him in that land, and so
He came at last to where the ebb and flow
Of other seas than he had wandered o'er
Upflung to landward an attempered roar;
And wandering downward to the beach, he clomb
To topmost of a tall grey cliff, wherefrom
He saw a smoke as of men's houses, far
Off, from a jutting point peninsular
Uprising: whence he deemed that there a town
Must surely be. And so he clambered down
The cliff, and getting him again to horse
Thither along the seabound held his course,
And reached that city about sunset-tide
The smoking of whose hearths he had espied.

There at an hostel rested he, and there
Tarried the coming of the morn. But ere
He fell asleep that night, a wandering thought,
Through darkling byeways of the spirit brought,
Knock'd at his soul for entrance, whispering low
'What if to-night thou dream The Dream, and know
To-morrow, when thou wakest from that bliss,
The land wherein thou liest to be his
Who hath the mystic jewel in his keep?'
So, full of flattering hope he fell asleep,
And sleeping dreamed, but dreamed not that he would:
For at one time it seemed as if he stood
Alone upon a sterile neck of land,
Where round about him upon either hand
Was darkness, and the cry of a dark sea,
And worldwide vapours glooming thunderously;
And ever as he stood, the unstable ground
Slid from beneath his feet with a great sound,
Till he could find no foothold anywhere
That seemed not unsubstantial as the air.
At otherwhiles he wandered all alone
About a lonely land, and heard a moan
As of some bird that sang and singing grieved;
And peering all about the woods thick-leaved
If so he might espy the bird, he found
At length, after long searching, that the sound
Even from the bottom of his own heart came,
And unawares his own mouth sang the same.
And then in dream 'twas like as years went by,
And still he journeyed, hardly knowing why,
Till at the last a
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William Watson

William Watson, was a surgeon in the 105th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers during the American Civil War. more…

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"The Princes' Quest - Part the Fifth" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 16 Oct. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/42042/the-princes'-quest---part-the-fifth>.

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