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The Prince’s Progress
by [?]

Till all sweet gums and juices flow,
Till the blossom of blossoms blow,
The long hours go and come and go,
The bride she sleepeth, waketh, sleepeth,
Waiting for one whose coming is slow:–
Hark! the bride weepeth.

“How long shall I wait, come heat come rime?”–
“Till the strong Prince comes, who must come in time,”
Her women say. “There’s a mountain to climb,
A river to ford. Sleep, dream and sleep:
Sleep,” they say: “we’ve muffled the chime,
Better dream than weep.”

In his world-end palace the strong Prince sat,
Taking his ease on cushion and mat,
Close at hand lay his staff and his hat
“When wilt thou start? the bride waits, O youth.”–
“Now the moon’s at full; I tarried for that,
Now I start in truth.

“But tell me first, true voice of my doom,
Of my veiled bride in her maiden bloom;
Keeps she watch through glare and through gloom,
Watch for me asleep and awake?”–
“Spell-bound she watches in one white room,
And is patient for thy sake.

“By her head lilies and rosebuds grow;
The lilies droop,–will the rosebuds blow?
The silver slim lilies hang the head low;
Their stream is scanty, their sunshine rare;
Let the sun blaze out, and let the stream flow,
They will blossom and wax fair.

“Red and white poppies grow at her feet,
The blood-red wait for sweet summer heat,
Wrapped in bud-coats hairy and neat;
But the white buds swell; one day they will burst,
Will open their death-cups drowsy and sweet,–
Which will open the first?”

Then a hundred sad voices lifted a wail,
And a hundred glad voices piped on the gale:
“Time is short, life is short,” they took up the tale:
“Life is sweet, love is sweet, use to-day while you may;
Love is sweet, and to-morrow may fail;
Love is sweet, use to-day.”

While the song swept by, beseeching and meek,
Up rose the Prince with a flush on his cheek,
Up he rose to stir and to seek,
Going forth in the joy of his strength;
Strong of limb, if of purpose weak,
Starting at length.

Forth he set in the breezy morn,
Across green fields of nodding corn,
As goodly a Prince as ever was born,
Carolling with the carolling lark;–
Sure his bride will be won and worn,
Ere fall of the dark.

So light his step, so merry his smile,
A milkmaid loitered beside a stile,
Set down her pail and rested awhile,
A wave-haired milkmaid, rosy and white;
The Prince, who had journeyed at least a mile,
Grew athirst at the sight.

“Will you give me a morning draught?”–
“You’re kindly welcome,” she said, and laughed.
He lifted the pail, new milk he quaffed;
Then wiping his curly black beard like silk:
“Whitest cow that ever was calved
Surely gave you this milk.”

Was it milk now, or was it cream?
Was she a maid, or an evil dream?
Her eyes began to glitter and gleam;
He would have gone, but he stayed instead;
Green they gleamed as he looked in them:
“Give me my fee,” she said.–

“I will give you a jewel of gold.”–
“Not so; gold is heavy and cold.”–
“I will give you a velvet fold
Of foreign work your beauty to deck.”–
“Better I like my kerchief rolled
Light and white round my neck.”–

“Nay,” cried he, “but fix your own fee.”–
She laughed, “You may give the full moon to me;
Or else sit under this apple-tree
Here for one idle day by my side;
After that I’ll let you go free,
And the world is wide.”