Once I loved a fairy, Queen Mab it was. Her voice Was like a little Fountain That bids the birds rejoice. Her face was wise and solemn, Her hair was brown and fine. Her dress was pansy velvet, A butterfly design.
To see her hover round me Or walk the hills of air, Awakened love's deep pulses And boyhood's first despair; A passion like a sword-blade That pierced me thro' and thro': Her fingers healed the sorrow Her whisper would renew. We sighed and reigned and feasted Within a hollow tree, We vowed our love was boundless, Eternal as the sea.
She banished from her kingdom The mortal boy I grew â€” So tall and crude and noisy, I killed grasshoppers too. I threw big rocks at pigeons, I plucked and tore apart The weeping, wailing daisies, And broke my lady's heart. At length I grew to manhood, I scarcely could believe I ever loved the lady, Or caused her court to grieve, Until a dream came to me, One bleak first night of Spring, Ere tides of apple blossoms Rolled in o'er everything, While rain and sleet and snowbanks Were still a-vexing men, Ere robin and his comrades Were nesting once again.
I saw Mab's Book of Judgment â€” Its clasps were iron and stone, Its leaves were mammoth ivory, Its boards were mammoth bone, â€” Hid in her seaside mountains, Forgotten or unkept, Beneath its mighty covers Her wrath against me slept. And deeply I repented Of brash and boyish crime, Of murder of things lovely Now and in olden time. I cursed my vain ambition, My would-be worldly days, And craved the paths of wonder, Of dewy dawns and fays. I cried, "Our love was boundless, Eternal as the sea, O Queen, reverse the sentence, Come back and master me!"
The book was by the cliff-side Upon its edge upright. I laid me by it softly, And wept throughout the night. And there at dawn I saw it, No book now, but a door, Upon its panels written, "Judgment is no more." The bolt flew back with thunder, I saw within that place A mermaid wrapped in seaweed With Mab's immortal face, Yet grown now to a woman, A woman to the knee. She cried, she clasped me fondly, We soon were in the sea.
Ah, she was wise and subtle, And gay and strong and sleek, We chained the wicked sword-fish, We played at hide and seek. We floated on the water, We heard the dawn-wind sing, I made from ocean-wonders, Her bridal wreath and ring. All mortal girls were shadows, All earth-life but a mist, When deep beneath the maelstrom, The mermaid's heart I kissed.
I woke beside the church-door Of our small inland town, Bowing to a maiden In a pansy-velvet gown, Who had not heard of fairies, Yet seemed of love to dream. We planned an earthly cottage Beside an earthly stream.
Our wedding long is over, With toil the years fill up, Yet in the evening silence, We drink a deep-sea cup. Nothing the fay remembers, Yet when she turns to me, We meet beneath the whirlpool, We swim the golden sea.