Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 11/A procession

A PROCESSION.

It was a Queen went forth
In pomp and state and bravery.
She was beloved, and so, in state,
She ever went, till she ceased to be
With circumstance and pomp elate.
But as she loved her people well
She bore the clamour of the bell
And saw the coloured banners wave,
And heard her lieges shout and rave,
As things unto her lot that clave.
And so she bowed with gentle mien,
Bending with sweet, untiring smile,
As rose on her slow course the while
Each shout, "God save the Queen!"

"To be a queen is a gallant thing,"
Sighed a poor, weary artisan
Who close by the royal carriage ran:
"'Tis a blessed lot to be a king,
To know you've a good roof over your head,
And never to feel the want of bread,
Or fear that the work will come to an end,
Or have to wait for bad times to mend.
It must be a blessed thing and good,
If sick, to be able to stay within,
And not to think you're committing sin
By neglecting the young ones' food.
And instead of trudging with blistered feet,
To ride in a coach with a nosegay sweet,
And soldiers fine
To keep the line.
And people hallooing all down the street."

But the artisan only spoke in his heart,
As beside the carriage he ran;
And the monarch had not the diviner's art
To read all the thoughts of man.
Nor did that weary workman know
What weariness in a soul may dwell,
A weight that a sceptre cannot dispel,
A hidden grief lips may not tell,
Like rivers dark 'neath the ice that flow.
And often that the temples crowned
Are prisoners in that golden round,
And a captive lone a king may be,
While all about his throne are free.

A city's streets the progress threads:
The mayor comes forth in a golden chain,
With red-cloaked burgesses in his train,
And on his knees
Presents the keys
Of the gates whose arch is over their heads;
And foliage and flowers hide the stones,
Like an infant's flesh on an old man's bones.
And the trumpet's bray
And the drum's deep bay
Are hushed for the mayor his address to say.

The Queen sits forward, all attent;
Though she cannot hear, she knows what's meant.
And as she waits in patient guise,
What object meets her wistful eyes?
Her eyes upon a casement fall,
A little oriel in the wall.
And there, behind the bean-pots gay,
Stands a blooming maiden tall;—
A blooming girl, with nut-brown hair
Knotted above her snowy neck.
With rounded cheek so rich, so fair,
That a young countess it might deck;

And eyes that shed a tender light,
Which read the heart where they are thrown,
And do not seek to hide her own.
With hands enclasped, the maiden stood
In the first morn of womanhood.
Th' excitement of the time and scene
Had sent more colour to her face;
But little wot she that her Queen,
Whose gaze seemed fixed on empty space,
Was watching with absorbing power,
Half hid by flowers, that fairest flower.
****The mayor had ended his address—
On the last words he laid such stress
It startled royalty's dreaming flight;
And brought back the mayor and his keys,
And the burgesses all on their knees.
And the queen, with a sigh, said the thing that was right,
And gently expressed delight;
And how glad she was
To be there,—because
Of that loyal and beautiful sight.

Then the air with the drums and trumpets shook;
And onward again
Moved the royal train
Through the gates in right royal guise,
And the weary Queen cast a lingering look
At the girl with the peaceful eyes.
"Ah, blessed lot!" said the pensive Queen,
As the laboured hours crept by,
‘Mid the foliage to dwell
Of a home one loves well,
And the heaven of privacy:
Shedding sweet light
Like a star on the night,
Or a glow-worm in grass-blades green!
Thrice happy girl of the nut-brown curl,
Of eyes and brow so sweet;
'Tis not in thy fate
For heaven to wait,
For heaven is about thy feet.
Whilst a weary world fights on its path,
Thou hast the peace that an angel hath!"
****The years rolled on and the Queen still ruled,
Still reigned in her people's heart;
To the duties a crown entails well schooled,
She bore a monarch's part.
But weary Time could not efface
That form of happy, youthful grace,
Which, like a tinkling stream
Heard from a dry and hot high road,
Or a blest memorable dream
That mocks our present tearful load,
Came back and back and back and back,
Amidst and between life's cloudy wrack,
And sometimes brought a sudden tear
To her eyes, which none might see;
And a long-drawn sigh when none was near—
A queen's humility,
Who knew that Heaven hath better things
To give than the gilded state of kings:—
A lightsome bosom and golden rest,
The sweetness of home, in some hidden nest,
And the presence of those the heart loves best.
Berni.