Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
The Court Historian
By George Walter Thornbury (1828–1876)
LOWER EMPIRE. Circa A.D. 700

THE MONK Arnulphus uncork’d his ink
  That shone with a blood-red light
Just now as the sun began to sink;
  His vellum was pumiced a silvery white;
‘The Basileus’—for so he began—        5
‘Is a royal sagacious Mars of a man,
  Than the very lion bolder;
He has married the stately widow of Thrace—’
  ‘Hush!’ cried a voice at his shoulder.
His palette gleam’d with a burnish’d green,        10
  Bright as a dragon-fly’s skin:
His gold-leaf shone like the robe of a queen,
  His azure glow’d as a cloud worn thin,
Deep as the blue of the king-whale’s lair:
‘The Porphyrogenita Zoë the fair        15
  Is about to wed with a Prince much older,
Of an unpropitious mien and look—’
  ‘Hush!’ cried a voice at his shoulder.
The red flowers trellis’d the parchment page,
  The birds leap’d up on the spray,        20
The yellow fruit sway’d and droop’d and swung,
  It was Autumn mixt up with May.
(O, but his cheek was shrivell’d and shrunk!)
‘The child of the Basileus,’ wrote the Monk,
  ‘Is golden-hair’d—tender the Queen’s arms fold her.        25
Her step-mother Zoë doth love her so—’
  ‘Hush!’ cried a voice at his shoulder.
The Kings and Martyrs and Saints and Priests
  All gather’d to guard the text:
There was Daniel snug in the lions’ den        30
  Singing no whit perplex’d—
Brazen Samson with spear and helm—
‘The Queen,’ wrote the Monk, ‘rules firm this realm,
  For the King gets older and older.
The Norseman Thorkill is brave and fair—’        35
  ‘Hush!’ cried a voice at his shoulder.

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