the Song of the Mad Prince

February 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Who said, “Peacock Pie?”
The old King to the sparrow:
Who said, “Crops are ripe?”
Rust to the harrow:
Who said, “Where sleeps she now?
Where rests she now her head,
Bathed in eve’s loveliness”? —
That’s what I said.

Who said, “Ay, mum’s the word”?
Sexton to willow:
Who said, “Green dusk for dreams,
Moss for a pillow”?
Who said, “All Time’s delight
Hath she for narrow bed;
Life’s troubled bubble broken”? —
That’s what I said.

– Walter de la Mare

This little lyric starts innocently with the bird names twittered back and forth like a child’s guide to ornithology, but the whimsy is soon bellied by the mad prince’s unusual inquiries, the foreboding “troubled bubble broken”, and the allusions to tragic Hamlet and Ophelia.

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