A Legend of Elsinore


O, BUT she had not her peer

In the kingdom, far or near;

For God’s hand had never made

      Such royalty before.

All proud passions seemed to dwell,

Like the voices in a shell,

In the snowy bosom’s swell

      Of Queen Maud of Elsinore.


As the folds of midnight cloud,

With their starry splendors, shroud

Pale Diana, as she moves

      Across the western skies;

So her midnight clouds of hair

Trailed upon her shoulders bare,

Shrouded all her forehead fair,

      And made shadows in her eyes.


From the dizzy castle tips,

She would watch the silent ships,

Like sheeted phantoms, coming

      And going evermore;

While the twilight settled down

On the sleepy little town,

On the gables, quaint and brown,

      That had sheltered kings of yore.

*        *        *        *        *

Her lone walks led all one way,

And all ended at the gray,

And the ragged, jagged rocks,

      That tooth the dreadful beach:

There Queen Maud would stand, the sweet!

With the white surf at her feet,

While above her wheeled the fleet

      Sparrow-hawk with startling screech.


When the stars had blossomed bright,

And the gardens of the night

Seemed all full of marigolds

      And violets astir,

Maiden Maud would sit alone,

And the sea with inner tone,

Half of melody and moan,

      Would rise up and speak with her.


And she ever loved the sea,—

God’s half-uttered mystery,—

With its million lips of shells,

      Its never-ceasing roar;

And ’t was well that, when she died,

They made Maud a grave beside

The blue pulses of the tide,

      ’Mong the crags of Elsinore.


One red-leaf falling morn,

Many russet autumns gone,

A lone ship with folded wings

      Lay dozing off the lea;

It came silently at night,

With its wings of murky white

Folded, after weary flight,—

      The worn nursling of the sea!


Crowds of peasants flocked the sands;

There were tears and clasping hands;

And a sailor from the ship

      Passed through the graveyard gate.

Only “Maud,” the headstone read;

Only Maud? Was ’t all it said?

Why did he bow his head,

      Weeping, “Late, alas! too late!”


And they called her cold. God knows,—

Underneath the winter snows,

The invisible hearts of flowers

      Grow ripe for blossoming;

And the lives that look so cold,

If their stories could be told,

Would seem cast in gentler mould,

      Would seem full of love and spring.