A LAIN, the poet, fell asleep one day
In the lords’ chamber, when it chanced the Queen
With her twelve maids of honor passed that way,—
She like a slim white lily set between
Twelve glossy leaves, for they were robed in green.
A forest of gold pillars propped the roof,
And from the heavy corbels of carved stone
Yawned drowsy dwarfs, with satyr’s face and hoof:
Like one of those bright pillars overthrown,
The slanted sunlight through the casement shone,
Gleaming across the body of Alain,—
As if the airy column in its fall
Had caught and crushed him. So the laughing train
Came on him suddenly, and one and all
Drew back, affrighted, midway in the hall.
Like some huge beetle curled up in the sun
Was this man lying in the noontide glare,
Deformed, and hideous to look upon,
With sunken eyes and masses of coarse hair,
And sallow cheeks deep seamed with time and care.
Forth from her maidens stood Queen Margaret:
The royal blood up to her temples crept
Like a wild vine with faint red roses set,
As she across the pillared chamber swept,
And, kneeling, kissed the poet while he slept.
Then from her knees uprose the stately Queen,
And, seeing her ladies titter, ’gan to frown
With those great eyes wherein me thinks were seen
Lights that outflashed the lustres in her crown, —
Great eyes that looked the shallow women down.
“Nay, not for love,” — ’t was like a sudden bliss,
The full sweet measured music of her tongue,—
“Nay, not for love’s sake did I give the kiss,
Not for his beauty who ’s nor fair nor young,
But for the songs which those mute lips have sung! ”