The Taking of Morgause

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The Taking of Morgause
written by John Masefield
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MORGAUSE the Merry played beside the burn:
The otter said "Go home: return, return."

But no; she wandered down to the seaside;
"Go home, 0 little friend," the gannets cried.

But no; she strayed to Erbin heaping wrack:
"Morgause," he said, "Beware, my dear; turn back."

But no; she laughed, and ran along the beach:
Blind Erbin cried: "Come back, dear, I beseech."

She ran with naked feet in the bright foam:
The shepherd on the cliff-top called "Go home."

But no, she did not hear, or could not care.
The little vixen stopped her with "Beware. . . .

Beyond this jutting headland, drawn to land,
A pirate's Drake-Ship lies upon the sand.

There, filling water, is the pirate's crew . .
Beware, lest, with the water, they take you."

But no, she heard the sweet-voiced pirates sing,
Filling their earthen beakers at the spring.

Above the cuckoos and the bees of June,
She heard the voices at the ancient tune:--

"My spear will feed me with another's bread,
House me, where once another laid his head,
And bride me with the girl another wed.

"Farewell, you women all, that once were dear;
Lovely is love, but warring makes more near
The man beside me with a fellow spear."

Then little Morgause longed to see and know
These dreaded pirates who were singing so.

She thought: 'One little peep among the fern,
To say I've seen them, then I will return.'

But as she went, the black-backed adder cried:
"You tread the road to trouble; turn aside."

The blunt-tailed field-mouse called with shrilly shrieks:
"Beware of iron claws and horny beaks."

Then the red robin, hopping, twittered: "Flee . .
These men are wicked, they flung stones at me."

* * * * *

Now, as she crouched among the grasses' stalks,
She saw the Drake-Ship on the roller-balks.

She was red-painted with a sweeping run,
Rowlocked for twelve, with shields for everyone.

A gilded Dragon eyed the way she went,
Aft, were Thor's Hammer and a scarlet tent.

Below the cataract that leapt the rock
The gold-ringed pirates filled their water-stock.

They filled red earthen jars: their King stood near
Whetting the deadly edges of a spear.

He was a young man, smiling, with black eyes;
In all a pirate's wisdom he was wise.

He wore a scarlet cloak above a mail
Of shining silver wrought like salmon-scale.

He eyed the grass where little Morgause lay,
But did not seem to see: he looked away.

He ceased the whetting of his weapon: then
He watched the work and chatted with his men.

At flood, he bade them run the Dragon down
To sea, across the beach-wrack tumbled brown.

They ran her seaward, crying "Heave" and "Hale";
'Now,' (little Morgause thought) 'I'll see her sail.'

* * * * *

They hoised her red sail, singing to the pull
A song which Morgause thought most beautiful.

The red sail filled and jangled; the calm sea
Lifted and lapsed the vessel not yet free.

The wading pirates loaded her with stores,
Unlasht the steering, shipped the rowing oars.

'There,' (Morgause thought) 'they are about to go,
And I, alone, of all the castle, know .

I shall return and tell them: "Look at me .
I saw the pirates whom you did not see.

They could not see me hidden in the flowers,
But there I snuggled, watching them for hours.

I was as near as you are to the King,
I heard him tell his boatswain what to sing.

He never saw me, but he came so near,
I could have touched him with a hunting-spear.

Now, after this, I'll wander where I choose,
And when I wish to, nor shall you refuse."'

* * * * *

So Morgause thought, but now the Dragon's sheets
Were homed; the after rowers took their seats;

The moorings slackt; the silver-harnesst lord
Spoke to two seamen as he climbed aboard.

The two men trotted inland: a call blew
Shrill, as the captain passed among his crew.

The oars were tosst together and let fall
Into the rowlocks at the "Ready all."

* * * * *

'Now,' (Morgause thought) 'they go away, away,
Oar-blades green-swirling, Dragon spouting spray;

Would I could go with them, to see and know
Where all the setting suns and planets go;

To hear the Mermaids singing, and to see
The spicy Phoenix in her burning tree;

And all the golden Apples that the Snake
Guards, lest the neighing Centaurs come to take;

And that dim Valley of the silver corn
Browsed in the moonlight by the Unicorn;

O would I could . . .' And suddenly she felt
Two pirates grip her grimly as she knelt.

* * * * *

King Lot, the silver-scaled, said "By-and-by,
When you are wiser, you will make a spy .

Meanwhile, my Morgause, you shall come with me
Over the thoughtless, ship-destroying sea,

North, to my Orkney kingdom's granite tower;
In that grim garden you shall be the flower."

* * * * *

Thither she went: within that stony place
She grew to loveliness of form and face.

And when the seasons made her seventeen,
King Lot of Orkney took her as his Queen.

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