Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
Alfred H. Miles, ed.  Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
Twilight Hours.
VI. By Command
By Sarah Williams (“Sadie”) (1841–1868)
(From “Child Poems”)

MY king sat out on his castle wall,
  And a royal command gave he:
“Come hither, come hither, ye people all,
  And a fairy tale bring me,
For of grammar, and crammer, and orthodox hammer,        5
  I have had quite enough,” quoth he.
My liege’s kingdom is small as yet,
  And his subjects are only two;
And sometimes it happens his Grace will fret,
  “Why, you dear, I have only you!”        10
And in such sad case it becomes my place
  The imperial will to do.
So I peeled a willow, so white, so white,
  The wand that the fairies love;
And I gathered the meadow-sweet, soft and light,        15
  And the fox’s crimson glove;
And I made a couch for the first stray sprite,
  With the down of a silver dove.
“Fairy, come home!
  Fairy, come home!        20
Where hast thou wandered to?
  Where dost thou roam?
“Here is thy dwelling,
  Here is thy place;
Fairy king, fairy king,        25
  Show us thy face!”
Three times round the meadow
  The little song did go;
Then there came a peal of bells
  Chiming soft and low:        30
“Coming, coming, coming,
  No one need to wait,
Wearily beseeching,
  At the fairy gate.
“For the fairies, like the mortals        35
  Love to be loved;
And the fairy palace portals
  Lightly are moved.”
Then a rain of footsteps
  Sounded on the sward,        40
And a page came kneeling—
  “What wills my lord?”
“I will a tournament,” said he,
  “Where no one shall be killed;
Where all shall gain the victory,        45
  And be supremely skilled.”
Up rode a fairy paladin,
  With coat of beetle’s mail;
Before the glistening green and gold
  Sure any heart must quail.        50
“I see no foe,” the king complained,
  “But wait,” the page implored.
And then the fairy paladin
  Drew out a shining sword;
He cut and thrust all round about,        55
  At neither sight nor sound,
Until a dastard knight they saw
  Lie dead upon the ground.
“The pledge is broken!” cried the king,
  “Not so,” the knight replied,        60
“It was my meaner self I slew,—
  I live, though it has died.”
Again the paladin rode forth,
  And this time seemed to seek
Some traitor that eluded him—        65
  The little king must speak;
“Where is the foe, Sir Knight, on whom
  You would your vengeance wreak?”
“It was a falsehood,” said the knight,
  “They uttered of my friend;        70
I tracked it down, and hunted it,
  And thus its life doth end!”
Once more the paladin rode forth—
  Beneath his horse’s feet
There seemed to be an enemy        75
  That he was loth to meet!
“Can you fear anything, Sir Knight?”
  His smile was sad and sweet.
“It was a cruel injury,
  An unforgiven pain;        80
But there it lieth tranquilly,—
  It will not stir again.”
Then lightly springs my little king,
  And merrily he sings,
“I too will be a paladin,        85
  And fight with evil things.”

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