green island and bear sway
On shores more shining than the front of day
And cliffs whose brightness dulls the morning’s brow,
That son of sorceries and of seas art thou.
Nay, now thy tongue it is that plays on men;
And yet no siren’s honey, Guendolen,
Is this fair speech, though soft as breathes the south,
Which thus I kiss to silence on thy mouth.
Thy soul is softer than this boy’s of thine:
His heart is all toward battle. Was it mine
That put such fire in his? for none that heard
Thy flatteries—nay, I take not back the word—
A flattering lover lives my loving lord—
Could guess thine hand so great with spear or sword.
What have I done for thee to mock with praise
And make the boy’s eyes widen? All my days
Are worth not all a week, if war be all,
Of his that loved no bloodless festival—
Thy sire, and sire of slaughters: this was one
Who craved no more of comfort from the sun
But light to lighten him toward battle: I
Love no such life as bids men kill or die.
Wert thou not woman more in word than act,
Then unrevenged thy brother Albanact
Had given his blood to guard his realm and thine:
But he that slew him found thy stroke, Locrine,
Strong as thy speech is gentle.
The dead our friends and foes!
A goodly spoil
Was that thine hand made then by Humber’s banks
Of all who swelled the Scythian’s riotous ranks
With storm of inland surf and surge of steel:
None there were left, if tongues ring true, to feel
The yoke of days that breathe submissive breath
More bitter than the bitterest edge of death.
This was then a day of blood. I heard,
But know not whence I caught the wandering word,
Strange women were there of that outland crew,
Whom ruthlessly thy soldiers ravening slew.
Nay, Scythians then had we been, worse than they.
These that were taken, then, thou didst not slay?
I did not say we spared them.
Slay nor spare?
How if they were not?
What albeit they were?
Small hurt, meseems, my husband, had it been
Though British hands had haled a Scythian queen—
If such were found—some woman foul and fierce—
To death—or aught we hold for shame’s sake worse.
For shame’s own sake the hand that should not fear
To take such monstrous work upon it here,
And did not wither from the wrist, should be
Hewn off ere hanging. Wolves or men are we,
That thou shouldst question this?
Not wolves, but men,
Surely: for beasts are loyal.
What irks thee?
Nought save grief and love; Locrine,
A grievous love, a loving grief is mine.
Here stands my husband: there my father lies:
I know not if there live in either’s eyes
More love, more life of comfort. This our son
Loves me: but is there else left living one
That loves me back as I love?
Nay, but how
Has this wild question fired thine heart?
No part have I—nay, never had I part—
Our child that hears me knows it—in thine heart.
Thy sire it was that bade our hands be one
For love of mine, his brother: thou, his son,
Didst give not—no—but yield thy hand to mine,
To mine thy lips—not thee to me, Locrine.
Thy heart has dwelt far off me all these years;
Yet have I never sought with smiles or tears
To lure or melt it meward. I have borne—
I that have borne to thee this boy—thy scorn,
Thy gentleness, thy tender words that bite
More deep than shame would, shouldst thou spurn or smite
These limbs and lips made thine by contract—made
No wife’s, no queen’s—a servant’s—nay, thy shade.
The shadow am I, my lord and king, of thee,
Who art spirit and substance, body and soul to me.
And now,—nay, speak not—now my sire is dead
Thou think’st to cast me crownless from thy bed
Wherein I brought thee forth a son that now
Shall perish with me, if thou wilt—and thou
Shalt live and laugh to think of us—or yet
Play faith more foul—play falser, and forget.
Sharp grief has crazed thy brain. Thou knowest of me—
I know that nought I know, Locrine, of thee.
What bids thee then revile me, knowing no cause?
Strong sorrow knows but sorrow’s lawless laws.
Yet these should turn not grief to raging fire.
They should not, had my heart my heart’s desire.
Would God that love, my queen, could give thee this!
Thou dost not call me wife—nor call’st amiss.
What name should serve to stay this fitful strife?
Thou dost not ill to call me not thy wife.
My sister wellnigh wast thou once: and now—
Thy sister never I: my brother thou.
How shall man sound this riddle? Read it me.
As loves a sister, never loved I thee.
Not when we played as twinborn child with child?
If then thou thought’st it, both were sore beguiled.
I thought thee sweeter then than summer doves.
Yet not like theirs—woe worth it!—were our loves.