The Princes' Quest - Part the Third

So without rest or tarriance all that night,
Until the world was blear with coming light,
Forth fared the princely fugitive, nor stayed
His wearied feet till morn returning made
Some village all a-hum with wakeful stir;
And from that place the royal wayfarer
Went ever faster on and yet more fast,
Till, ere the noontide sultriness was past,
Upon his ear the burden of the seas
Came dreamlike, heard upon a cool fresh breeze
That tempered gratefully a fervent sky.
And many an hour ere sundown he drew nigh
A fair-built seaport, warder of the land
And watcher of the wave, with odours fanned
Of green fields and of blue from either side;-
A pleasant place, wherein he might abide,
Unknown of man or woman, till such time
As any ship should sail to that far clime
Where lived the famous great astrologer.

Entered within its gates, a wanderer
Besoiled with dust and no-wise richly drest,
Yet therewithal a prince and princeliest
Of princes, with the press of motley folk
He mixed unheeded and unknown, nor spoke
To any, no man speaking unto him,
But, being wearied sore in every limb,
Sought out a goodly hostel where he might
Rest him and eat and tarry for the night:
And having eaten he arose and passed
Down to the wharves where many a sail and mast
Showed fiery-dark against the setting sun:
There, holding talk with whom he chanced upon,
In that same hour by great good hap he found
The master of a vessel outward-bound
Upon the morrow for that selfsame port
Whither he sought to go (where dwelt at court
The mage deep-read in starry charact'ry).
An honest man and pleasant-tongued was he,
This worthy master-mariner; and since
He had no scorn of well-got gain, the Prince
Agreed to pay him certain sums in gold,
And go aboard his vessel, ere were told
Two hours of sunlight on the coming day;
And thus agreed they wended each his way,
For the dusk hour was nigh, and all the West
Lay emptied of its sun. But as he pressed
Up the long seaward-sloping street that ran
Through half the town, the Prince sought out a man
Who dealt in pearls and diamonds and all
Manner of stones which men do precious call;
To whom the least of his three gems he sold
For a great price, and laden with the gold
Forthwith returned unto his hostelry
And dreamed all night of seaports and the sea.

Early the morrow-morn, a fair soft gale
Blowing from overland, the ship set sail
At turning of the tide; and from her deck
The Prince gazed till the town was but a speck,
And all the shore became a memory:
And still he gazed, though more he might not see
Than the wide waters and the great wide sky.
And many a long unchangeful day went by
Ere land was sighted, but at length uprose
A doubtful dusky something, toward the close
Of the last hour before one sultry noon:
Most like an isle of cloud it seemed, but soon
The sailors knew it for the wishèd strand,
And ere the evenfall they reached the land,
And that same night the royal wanderer lay
In a strange city, amid strange folk, till Day
Rose from the dim sea's lap and with his wings
Fanned into wakefulness all breathing things.

Then he uprose, but going forth that morn
A sadness came upon him, and forlorn
He felt within himself, and nowise light
Of heart: for all his lonely travel might
Prove void and fruitless and of no avail,
(Thus pondered he) and should it wholly fail,
What then were left him for to do? Return
To his own country, that his kin might learn
To know him duped and fooled of fantasies,
Blown hither and thither by an idle breeze
From Dreamland? Or in lieu, perchance, of this,
Wander unresting, reft of hope and bliss,
A mariner on a sea that hath no coast,
Seeking a shade, himself a shade, and lost
In shadows, as a wave is lost i' the sea.

Thus in a heart not lightsome pondered he,
And roamed from unfamiliar street to street,
Much marvelling that all he chanced to meet
Showed faces troubled as his own: for some
Did weep outright, and over all a gloom
Hung, as a cloud that blotteth out the sun.
Wherefore the Prince addressed him unto one
Of sadder visage even than the rest,
Who, ever as he walked, or beat his breast
Or groaned aloud or with his fingers rent
His robe, and, being besought to say what meant
This look of rue on all men's faces, cried
In loud amazement, 'What, can any abide
Within this city, having ears to hear,
Yet know not how this morn the mighty seer
Hath died and left the land all desolate?
For now, when sudden ills befall the state,
There will be none to warn or p
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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 Third" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 11 Dec. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/42049/the-princes'-quest---part-the-third>.

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