The Princes' Quest - Part the Second

A fearful and a lovely thing is Sleep,
And mighty store of secrets hath in keep;
And those there were of old who well could guess
What meant his fearfulness and loveliness,
And all his many shapes of life and death,
And all the secret things he uttereth.
But Wisdom lacketh sons like those that were,
And Sleep hath never an interpreter:
So there be none that know to read aright
The riddles he propoundeth every night.

And verily, of all the wondrous things
By potence wrought of mortal visionings
In that dark house whereof Sleep hath the keys-
Of suchlike miracles and mysteries
Not least, meseems, is this among them all:
That one in dream enamoured should fall,
And ever afterward, in waking thought,
Worship the phantom which the dream hath brought.
Howbeit such things have been, and in such wise
Did that king's son behold, with mortal eyes,
A more than mortal loveliness, and thus
Was stricken through with love miraculous.

For evermore thereafter he did seem
To see that royal maiden of his dream
Unto her palace riding sovranly;
And much he marvelled where that land might be
That basking lay beneath her beauty's beams,
Well knowing in his heart that suchlike dreams
Come not in idleness but evermore
Are Fate's veiled heralds that do fly before
Their mighty master as he journeyeth,
And sing strange songs of life and love and death.
And so he did scarce aught but dream all day
Of that far land revealed of sleep, that lay
He knew not where; and musing more and more
On her the mistress of that unknown shore,
There fell a sadness on him, thus to be
Vext with desire of her he might not see
Yet could not choose but long for; till erewhile
Nor man nor woman might behold the smile
Make sudden morning of his countenance,
But likest one he seemed half-sunk, in trance,
That wanders groping in a shadowy land,
Hearing strange things that none can understand.
Now after many days and nights had passed,
The queen, his mother well-beloved, at last,
Being sad at heart because his heart was sad,
Would e'en be told what hidden cause he had
To be cast down in so mysterious wise:
And he, beholding by her tearful eyes
How of his grief she was compassionate,
No more a secret made thereof, but straight
Discovered to her all about his dream-
The mystic happy marvel of the stream.
A fountain running Youth to all the land;
Flowing with deep dim woods on either hand
Where through the boughs did birds of strange song flit:
And all beside the bloomy banks of it
The city with its towers and domes far-seen.
And then he told her how that city's queen
Did pass before him like a breathing flower,
That he had loved her image from that hour.
'And sure am I,' upspake the Prince at last,
'That somewhere in this world so wide and vast
Lieth the land mine eyes have inly seen;-
Perhaps in very truth my spirit hath been
Translated thither, and in very truth
Hath seen the brightness of that city of youth.
Who knows?-for I have heard a wise man say
How that in sleep the souls of mortals may,
At certain seasons which the stars decree,
From bondage of the body be set free
To visit farthest countries, and be borne
Back to their fleshly houses ere the morn.'

At this the good queen, greatly marvelling,
Made haste to tell the story to the king;
Who hearing laughed her tale to scorn. But when
Weeks followed one another, and all men
About his person had begun to say
'What ails our Prince? He groweth day by day
Less like the Prince we knew… wan cheeks, and eyes
Hollow for lack of sleep, and secret sighs….
Some hidden grief the youth must surely have,'-
Then like his queen the king himself wox grave;
And thus it chanced one summer eventide,
They sitting in an arbour side by side,
All unawares the Pince passed by that way,
And as he passed, unmark'd of either-they
Nought heeding but their own discourse-could hear
Amidst thereof his own name uttered clear,
And straight was 'ware it was the queen who spake,
And spake of him; whereat the king 'gan make
Answer in this wise, somewhat angerly:
'The youth is crazed, and but one remedy
Know I, to cure such madness-he shall wed
Some princess; ere another day be sped,
Myself will bid this dreamer go prepare
To take whom I shall choose to wife; some fair
And highborn maiden, worthy to be queen
Hereafter.'-So the Prince, albeit unseen,
Heard, and his soul rebelled against the thing
His sire had willed; and slowly wandering
About the darkling pleasance-all amid
A maze of intertangled walks, or hid
In ceda
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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 Second" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 18 Jul 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/42045/the-princes'-quest---part-the-second>.

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