(A Winter’s Tale)
Unfitting here in gaudy palace halls,
Bohemia’s princess, soon Bohemia’s queen,
I see spring come, new peeled from soft-skinned skies,
And all those daffodils of March reflecting sun.
Sheep-shearing days return; now my heart yearns
For youthfulness that I have quite foregone,
Never to hand to children of my own.
The marbled stone of royal corridors
Feels hard and cold and dull beneath my feet,
Which at this time of year would dance unshod
Upon the giving grass.
Why then should I
Not take just once again a strange disguise,
Steal from the town and, thirsty, drink a draught
Of my old home? In that most secret glass
I see the shepherd’s cottage. I see you,
Yes, Doricles, as on that morning when,
Seeking a falcon, you found me. Caught fast,
I perch here, mute in cage. But now I dare
To be a swallow and to fly back home,
To see once more the place that was so fresh,
So green, so sweet until it all was cropped
By anger of a father.
I journeyed to Sicilia where I learned
That fury among fathers is not rare.
A basilisk, it kills and turns to stone.
A statue for a mother! Must I then
Be in this death-in-life a stone, a slab
Of art, Bohemia’s perfect queen? And so
My love will grow as cold, a deadened thing
And absent as my youth. A winter’s tale
Is all I have to tell. The teller’s name
Is Perdita. For I have lost it all:
Youth, love, true nature. Springtime green has drained
Into Bohemian hillsides; all is grey.
Perdita. Quite lost. My life has turned away.