The Maiden’s Choice [poem by Menie Parkes]

[Editor: This poem by Menie Parkes was published in Poems (1867).]

The Maiden’s Choice.

Helpless, weary, sorrow-laden,
All my senses steeped in woe,
Moodily I sought the maiden —
Would she — could she — let me go?

Told I then, in low-toned cadence,
How I bowed before her shrine,
Worshipping her beauty’s radiance —
Would she — could she — e’er be mine?

Spake the maiden, smiling sadly:
“Beauty ever fades away;
I’ll not wed you, sir, so madly, —
Your love would die with its decay.”

Told I then of coffered treasure,
Wealth that holds the world in chains;
Of vassals waiting on my leisure,
And blood-steeds champing on their reins:

“Alas!” she said, “your wealth is large;
But dearer do I prize,
Than all your glittering golden charge,
The wealth of loving eyes.”

Told I then of castles olden,
Told of meadows far away,
And of orchards, hung with golden
Fruits beneath the summer’s day:

Smiled the maiden, sad, reproachful, —
“Very fair, your castled homes:
But, alas! were fairies trooping,
Unloved eyes would see but gnomes.”

Told I of my infant daughter,
Of her blue eyes’ truthful beaming,
Of her bright and joyous laughter,
And her ringlets’ golden-gleaming:

Spake the maiden — half-consenting —
“What, poor child! unmothered there?”
Oh, I felt her heart relenting,
And I spoke in tones of prayer.

Told I of this deepest sorrow,
How disgrace had blurred my name,
I must seek my loneliest dwelling,
Hide my head in unearned shame.

Swift the maiden’s words came sighing,
Trembling through her blushes rare —
“Oh, I know now I am wanted;
Mine the task thy woes to share!”

Left I soon that city scornful,
Sweet peace nestling at my heart;
And my bride and infant daughter
Clinging closely, ne’er to part.

Menie Parkes, Poems, F. Cunninghame, Sydney, [1867], pages 70-71

Editor’s notes:
spake = (archaic) spoke

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