The Cap and Bells

Or, The Jealousies

A Faery Tale. Unfinished

In midmost Ind, beside Hydaspes cool,
There stood, or hovered, tremulous in the air,
A faery city, ’neath the potent rule
Of Emperor Elfinan; famed ev’rywhere
For love of mortal women, maidens fair,
Whose lips were solid, whose soft hands were made
Of a fit mould and beauty, ripe and rare,
To pamper his slight wooing, warm yet staid:
He loved girls smooth as shades, but hated a mere shade.

This was a crime forbidden by the law;
And all the priesthood of his city wept,
For ruin and dismay they well foresaw
If impious prince no bound or limit kept,
And faery Zendervester overstept;
They wept, he sinned, and still he would sin on,
They dreamt of sin, and he sinned while they slept;
In vain the pulpit thundered at the throne,
Caricature was vain, and vain the tart lampoon.

Which seeing, his high court of parliament
Laid a remonstrance at his Highness’ feet,
Praying his royal senses to content
Themselves with what in faery land was sweet,
Befitting best that shade with shade should meet:
Whereat, to calm their fears, he promised soon
From mortal tempters all to make retreat,—
Aye, even on the first of the new moon
An immaterial wife to espouse as heaven’s boon.

Meantime he sent a fluttering embassy
To Pigmio, of Imaus sovereign,
To half beg, and half demand, respectfully,
The hand of his fair daughter Bellanaine;
An audience had, and speeching done, they gain
Their point, and bring the weeping bride away;
Whom, with but one attendant, safely lain
Upon their wings, they bore in bright array,
While little harps were touched by many a lyric fay.

As in old pictures tender cherubim
A child’s soul thro’ the sapphired canvas bear,
So, thro’ a real heaven, on they swim
With the sweet princess on her plumaged lair,
Speed giving to the winds her lustrous hair;
And so she journeyed, sleeping or awake,
Save when, for healthful exercise and air
She chose topromener à Paile or take
A pigeon’s somerset, for sport or change’s sake

“Dear Princess, do not whisper me so loud,”
Quoth Coralline, nurse and confidant.
“Do not you see there, lurking in a cloud,
Close at your back, that sly old Crafticant?
He hears a whisper plainer than a rant:
Dry up your tears, and do not look so blue;
He’s Elfinan’s great state-spy militant,
His running, lying, flying footman too,—
Dear mistress, let him have no handle against you!

“Show him a mouse’s tail, and he will guess,
With metaphysic swiftness, at the mouse;
Show him a garden, and with speed no less
He’ll surmise sagely of a dwelling-house,
And plot, in the same minute, how to chouse
The owner out of it; show him a—” “Peace!
Peace! nor contrive thy mistress’ ire to rouse!”
Returned the Princess, “my tongue shall not cease
Till from this hated match I get a free release.

“Ah, beauteous mortal!” “Hush!” quoth Coralline,
“Really you must not talk of him, indeed.”
“You hush!” replied the mistress with a shine
Of anger in her eyes, enough to breed
In stouter hearts than nurse’s fear and dread:
’Twas not the glance itself made Nursey flinch,
But of its threat she took the utmost heed;
Not liking in her heart an hour-long pinch,
Or a sharp needle run into her back an inch.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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