Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 5/Fairy children
From a quaint book of simple fairy lore,
I hold remembrance of an ancient story,—
How tricksy Mab or sweet Titania bore
Brave children, in the golden days of yore,
To some prowd knight renowned for deeds of glory.
Brave children—daughters pure and gentle-hearted,
A troop of sons high-honoured and strong-souled;
For whose sweet sake the father would have parted
With all his earthlier children, and have marted,
To dower these, his fame and lands and gold.
But these brave bastard children, strange to say,
(Though human-souled) in outward form and feature,
Were incorporeal like their mother-fay;
Impalpable to touch of grosser clay,
Invisible to eyes of earthly creature.
By some sixth sense, some strange clairvoyant power,
Our knight was conscious of this fairy brood;
And watched his spotless daughters bud and flower,
His sons to fullest moral stature tower;
And kept the sacred secret as he could.
And still, methinks, in these prosaic days
Like wonders happen. Many a sober mortal,
Whom none suspects of such improper ways,
Holds stolen assignations with the fays
In some heart-chamber with a secret portal.
Heart-chamber? Heart establishment! more stately
Than Belgrave mansions where the matrons dwell.
Mab driveth in her tiny brougham sedately;
In her boudoir elf-footmen delicately
Serve sweet Titania, as the poets tell.
Here are the fairy children born and bred—
King Priam’s self had never such a nursery:
How they are bathed and swathed, and put to bed,
With what ambrosial pap the rogues are fed,
Space lacks to tell in lines so brief and cursory.
Some are but weakly babes, and die in teething,
Of measles some,—half-mortal babes can die.
These fade away, in their decease bequeathing
What little strength they had to those still breathing,
So that the remnant lustier wax thereby.
Here these love-children dwell, and day by day
From stage to stage, like earthlier children, growing—
First word, first step, each progress on the way
That all must tread who have a touch of clay—
They set their father’s pride in triumph glowing.
Ah me! we men respectable and portly,
Whom none suspect of having souls at all;
Who speak dull platitudes in accents courtly,
Or mouldy truths sententiously and shortly;
Whose young romance seems dead beyond recall;
We ancient fogies, whom the youngsters think
Mere pulpy husks with no informing kernel,
Whose only functions are to eat and drink,
Write cheques alive, make wills upon the brink
Of death—we have our mysteries internal.
The bird doth not betray its nest, but flutters
Afar. Thus we our fairy broods conceal;
Closing o’er conscious eyes opaquest shutters,
Locking set lips, through which a tied tongue mutters
The opposites of what we really feel.
We live an inward life that shows no sign;
We have a sense beyond the outward senses,
Which recognises essences more fine
And subtle than the senses five combine
To render through the dull exterior fences.
We have our fairy children, still the dearer
That we have reared the bantlings from their birth
In silence babbling to no careless hearer
The sacred secret of a kindred nearer
Than those most loved who bear our name on earth.