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PAGE 3

The Plea Of The Midsummer Fairies
by [?]

XIV.

“Whenever to the clouds I tried to seek,
Such leaden weight dragg’d these Icarian wings,
My faithless wand was wavering and weak,
And slimy toads had trespass’d in our rings–
The birds refused to sing for me–all things
Disown’d their old allegiance to our spells;
The rude bees prick’d me with their rebel stings;
And, when I pass’d, the valley-lily’s bells
Rang out, methought, most melancholy knells.”

XV.

“And ever on the faint and flagging air
A doleful spirit with a dreary note
Cried in my fearful ear, ‘Prepare! prepare!’
Which soon I knew came from a raven’s throat,
Perch’d on a cypress-bough not far remote,–
A cursed bird, too crafty to be shot,
That alway cometh with his soot-black coat
To make hearts dreary:–for he is a blot
Upon the book of life, as well ye wot!–“

XVI.

“Wherefore some while I bribed him to be mute,
With bitter acorns stuffing his foul maw,
Which barely I appeased, when some fresh bruit
Startled me all aheap!–and soon I saw
The horridest shape that ever raised my awe,–
A monstrous giant, very huge and tall,
Such as in elder times, devoid of law,
With wicked might grieved the primeval ball,
And this was sure the deadliest of them all!”

XVII.

“Gaunt was he as a wolf of Languedoc,
With bloody jaws, and frost upon his crown
So from his barren poll one hoary lock
Over his wrinkled front fell far adown,
Well nigh to where his frosty brows did frown
Like jagged icicles at cottage eaves;
And for his coronal he wore some brown
And bristled ears gather’d from Ceres’ sheaves,
Entwined with certain sere and russet leaves.”

XVIII.

“And lo! upon a mast rear’d far aloft,
He bore a very bright and crescent blade,
The which he waved so dreadfully, and oft,
In meditative spite, that, sore dismay’d,
I crept into an acorn-cup for shade;
Meanwhile the horrid effigy went by:
I trow his look was dreadful, for it made
The trembling birds betake them to the sky,
For every leaf was lifted by his sigh.”

XIX.

“And ever, as he sigh’d, his foggy breath
Blurr’d out the landscape like a flight of smoke:
Thence knew I this was either dreary Death
Or Time, who leads all creatures to his stroke.
Ah wretched me!”–Here, even as she spoke,
The melancholy Shape came gliding in,
And lean’d his back against an antique oak,
Folding his wings, that were so fine and thin,
They scarce were seen against the Dryad’s skin.

XX.

Then what a fear seized all the little rout!
Look how a flock of panick’d sheep will stare–
And huddle close–and start–and wheel about,
Watching the roaming mongrel here and there,–
So did that sudden Apparition scare
All close aheap those small affrighted things;
Nor sought they now the safety of the air,
As if some leaden spell withheld their wings;
But who can fly that ancientest of Kings?

XXI.

Whom now the Queen, with a forestalling tear
And previous sigh, beginneth to entreat,
Bidding him spare, for love, her lieges dear:
“Alas!” quoth she, “is there no nodding wheat
Ripe for thy crooked weapon, and more meet,–
Or wither’d leaves to ravish from the tree,–
Or crumbling battlements for thy defeat?
Think but what vaunting monuments there be
Builded in spite and mockery of thee.”

XXII.

“O fret away the fabric walls of Fame,
And grind down marble Caesars with the dust:
Make tombs inscriptionless–raze each high name,
And waste old armors of renown with rust:
Do all of this, and thy revenge is just:
Make such decays the trophies of thy prime,
And check Ambition’s overweening lust,
That dares exterminating war with Time,–
But we are guiltless of that lofty crime.”