• Joanna Seldon

  • Perdita

    (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.


                                                  After that,

    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.