To My Infant Son

IN what far land you dwelt before you came
To this our earth, truly I cannot tell;
But much I fear you hold yourself to blame
When you reflect, and doubt if you did well
To make the change. What wild caprice did move you
On quest so rash as changing worlds to prove you ?
Much of that world I wonder, while I try
If I may gather from your speech or mien
Some clue its place or sort may signify.
I surely something of that land unseen
May gather if I watch you very shrewdly,
Although, perchance, I form my guesses crudely.
It must a region be of sweetest clime
And wholesome air that one so fair has bred;
It much misheartens me that this world’s grime
Your milk-white soul may smirch ere all be said.
Brought you no amulet or magic token
By which all spells of evil may be broken ?
That you were wise with wisdom of that land
Your canny knowingness full well doth show ;
Though some strange vow I cannot understand
Has sealed your lips from telling what you know.
No hint can I beguile from your discretion
To give me of its lore the least impression.
I am assured by your right regal air
You were a prince therein, of sway supreme;
Sooth, it behooves me speak your Highness fair
Against the day you shall your crown redeem !
I pray consider, if at times I thwart you,
’T is but that useful lessons may be taught you.
Belike from your superior heights you deem
Much that I count of weight but little worth;
To you, no doubt, as idle fardels seem
The things men strive for in this gurly earth.
But do not by your former standards measure ;
These are the best we know of worth or pleasure.
Had we the knowledge renders you so wise,
We too, mayhap, would all these trifles scorn,
And hold earth’s honors as the emptiest lies,
Its gains as windle-straws trampled forlorn.
Yet, certes, we already hold them lightly;
Sad were our case to rate them yet more slightly.
Methinks I was a fool that your sweet speech,
When first you came, I did not strive to learn,
But cumbered rather mine to you to teach,
When surely yours had better served your turn,
If you were minded any hints to scatter
Of the hid way you came, or such high matter.
They much must miss you in your former place;
It chills my heart to think how lorn and sad
Would be the home had known, but missed, your grace.
Prithee consider, fair sojourning lad,
How little able I to live without you,
And slip not back, however fortune flout you.
Some time, it may be, fate will be so kind
As passports to us both at once to send;
And I myself your guest, perhaps, may find,
And watch you as you debonairly bend
To the glad plaudits of your subjects loyal,
Half mad with joy to greet their master royal.
Ah, well; if so it falls, though I should be
Far from the throne set in the lower ranks,
Yet I at least your kingly state may see,
And babble garrulous to those around of pranks
You played while here incognito you tarried,
And out of sight your wings and aureole carried.
Meanwhile, since my son’s shape you deign to wear,
If I fall short in aught, beseech you, naught
Set down to malice. Since within you share
A king’s state yet, with kingly kindness fraught
Be still your thought. Reflect: we both walk blindly;
Then why should either bear himself unkindly?
Arlo Bates.