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RAPUNZEL

by William Morris

THE PRINCE, being in the wood near the tower, in the evening.

I could not even think
What made me weep that day,
When out of the council-hall
The courtiers pass'd away,--

THE WITCH.

Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair!

RAPUNZEL.

Is it not true that every day
She climbeth up the same strange way,
Her scarlet cloak spread broad and gay,
Over my golden hair?

THE PRINCE.

And left me there alone,
To think on what they said:
'Thou art a king's own son,
'Tis fit that thou should'st wed.'

THE WITCH.

Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair!

RAPUNZEL.

When I undo the knotted mass,
Fathoms below the shadows pass
Over my hair along the grass.
O my golden hair!

THE PRINCE.

I put my armour on,
Thinking on what they said:
'Thou art a king's own son,
'Tis fit that thou should'st wed.'

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Rapunzel by Emma Florence Harrison

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  • THE WITCH.

    Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
    Let down your hair!

    RAPUNZEL.

    See on the marble parapet,
    I lean my brow, strive to forget
    That fathoms below my hair grows wet
    With the dew, my golden hair.

    THE PRINCE.

    I rode throughout the town,
    Men did not bow the head,
    Though I was the king's own son:
    He rides to dream, they said.

    THE WITCH.

    Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
    Wind up your hair!

    RAPUNZEL.

    See on the marble parapet,
    The faint red stains with tears are wet;
    The long years pass, no help comes yet
    To free my golden hair.

    THE PRINCE.

    For leagues and leagues I rode,
    Till hot my armour grew,
    Till underneath the leaves
    I felt the evening dew.

    THE WITCH.

    Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
    Weep through your hair!

    RAPUNZEL.

    And yet: but I am growing old,
    For want of love my heart is cold;
    Years pass, the while I loose and fold
    The fathoms of my hair.


    THE PRINCE, in the morning.

    I have heard tales of men, who in the night
    Saw paths of stars let down to earth from heaven,
    Who followed them until they reach'd the light
    Wherein they dwell, whose sins are all forgiven;

    But who went backward when they saw the gate
    Of diamond, nor dared to enter in;
    All their life long they were content to wait,
    Purging them patiently of every sin.

    I must have had a dream of some such thing,
    And now am just awaking from that dream;
    For even in grey dawn those strange words ring
    Through heart and brain, and still I see that gleam.

    For in my dream at sunset-time I lay
    Beneath these beeches, mail and helmet off,
    Right full of joy that I had come away
    From court; for I was patient of the scoff

    That met me always there from day to day,
    From any knave or coward of them all:
    I was content to live that wretched way;
    For truly till I left the council-hall,

    And rode forth arm'd beneath the burning sun,
    My gleams of happiness were faint and few,
    But then I saw my real life had begun,
    And that I should be strong quite well I knew.

    For I was riding out to look for love,
    Therefore the birds within the thickets sung,
    Even in hot noontide; as I pass'd, above
    The elms o'ersway'd with longing towards me hung.

    Now some few fathoms from the place where I
    Lay in the beech-wood, was a tower fair,
    The marble corners faint against the sky;
    And dreamily I wonder'd what lived there:

    Because it seem'd a dwelling for a queen,
    No belfry for the swinging of great bells.
    No bolt or stone had ever crush'd the green
    Shafts, amber and rose walls, no soot that tells

    Of the Norse torches burning up the roofs,
    On the flower-carven marble could I see;
    But rather on all sides I saw the proofs
    Of a great loneliness that sicken'd me;

    Making me feel a doubt that was not fear,
    Whether my whole life long had been a dream,
    And I should wake up soon in some place, where
    The piled-up arms of the fighting angels gleam;

    Not born as yet, but going to be born,
    No naked baby as I was at first,
    But an armed knight, whom fire, hate and scorn
    Could turn from nothing: my heart almost burst

    Beneath the beeches, as I lay a-dreaming,
    I tried so hard to read this riddle through,
    To catch some golden cord that I saw gleaming
    Like gossamer against the autumn blue.

    But while I ponder'd these things, from the wood
    There came a black-hair'd woman, tall and bold,
    Who strode straight up to where the tower stood,
    And cried out shrilly words, whereon behold--

    THE WITCH, from the tower.

    Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
    Let down your hair!

    THE PRINCE.

    Ah Christ! it was no dream then, but there stood
    (She comes again) a maiden passing fair,
    Against the roof, with face turn'd to the wood,
    Bearing within her arms waves of her yellow hair.

    I read my riddle when I saw her stand,
    Poor love! her face quite pale against her hair,
    Praying to all the leagues of empty land
    To save her from the woe she suffer'd there.

    To think! they trod upon her golden hair
    In the witches' sabbaths; it was a delight
    For these foul things, while she, with thin feet bare,
    Stood on the roof upon the winter night,

    To plait her dear hair into many plaits,
    And then, while God's eye look'd upon the thing,
    In the very likenesses of Devil's bats,
    Upon the ends of her long hair to swing.

    And now she stood above the parapet,
    And, spreading out her arms, let her hair flow,
    Beneath that veil her smooth white forehead set
    Upon the marble, more I do not know;

    Because before my eyes a film of gold
    Floated, as now it floats. O unknown love,
    Would that I could thy yellow stair behold,
    If still thou standest the lead roof above!

    THE WITCH, as she passes.

    Is there any who will dare
    To climb up the yellow stair,
    Glorious Rapunzel's golden hair?

    THE PRINCE.

    If it would please God make you sing again,
    I think that I might very sweetly die,
    My soul somehow reach heaven in joyous pain,
    My heavy body on the beech-nuts lie.

    Now I remember what a most strange year,
    Most strange and awful, in the beechen wood
    I have pass'd now; I still have a faint fear
    It is a kind of dream not understood.

    I have seen no one in this wood except
    The witch and her; have heard no human tones,
    But when the witches' revelry has crept
    Between the very jointing of my bones.

    Ah! I know now; I could not go away,
    But needs must stop to hear her sing that song
    She always sings at dawning of the day.
    I am not happy here, for I am strong,

    And every morning do I whet my sword,
    Yet Rapunzel still weeps within the tower,
    And still God ties me down to the green sward,
    Because I cannot see the gold stair floating lower.

    RAPUNZEL sings from the tower.

    My mother taught me prayers
    To say when I had need;
    I have so many cares,
    That I can take no heed
    Of many words in them;
    But I remember this:
    Christ, bring me to thy bliss.
    Mary, maid withouten wem,
    Keep me! I am lone, I wis,
    Yet besides I have made this
    By myself: Give me a kiss,
    Dear God dwelling up in heaven!
    Also: Send me a true knight,
    Lord Christ, with a steel sword, bright,
    Broad, and trenchant; yea, and seven
    Spans from hilt to point, O Lord!
    And let the handle of his sword
    Be gold on silver, Lord in heaven!
    Such a sword as I see gleam
    Sometimes, when they let me dream.

    Yea, besides, I have made this:
    Lord, give Mary a dear kiss,
    And let gold Michael, who looked down,
    When I was there, on Rouen town
    From the spire, bring me that kiss
    On a lily! Lord do this!

    These prayers on the dreadful nights,
    When the witches plait my hair,
    And the fearfullest of sights
    On the earth and in the air,
    Will not let me close my eyes,
    I murmur often, mix'd with sighs,
    That my weak heart will not hold
    At some things that I behold.
    Nay, not sighs, but quiet groans,
    That swell out the little bones
    Of my bosom; till a trance
    God sends in middle of that dance,
    And I behold the countenance
    Of Michael, and can feel no more
    The bitter east wind biting sore
    My naked feet; can see no more
    The crayfish on the leaden floor,
    That mock with feeler and grim claw.

    Yea, often in that happy trance,
    Beside the blessed countenance
    Of golden Michael, on the spire
    Glowing all crimson in the fire
    Of sunset, I behold a face,
    Which sometime, if God give me grace,
    May kiss me in this very place.


    Evening in the tower.

    RAPUNZEL.

    It grows half way between the dark and light;
    Love, we have been six hours here alone:
    I fear that she will come before the night,
    And if she finds us thus we are undone.

    THE PRINCE.

    Nay, draw a little nearer, that your breath
    May touch my lips, let my cheek feel your arm;
    Now tell me, did you ever see a death,
    Or ever see a man take mortal harm?

    RAPUNZEL.

    Once came two knights and fought with swords below,
    And while they fought I scarce could look at all,
    My head swam so; after, a moaning low
    Drew my eyes down; I saw against the wall

    One knight lean dead, bleeding from head and breast,
    Yet seem'd it like a line of poppies red
    In the golden twilight, as he took his rest,
    In the dusky time he scarcely seemed dead.

    But the other, on his face, six paces off,
    Lay moaning, and the old familiar name
    He mutter'd through the grass, seem'd like a scoff
    Of some lost soul remembering his past fame.

    His helm all dinted lay beside him there,
    The visor-bars were twisted towards the face,
    The crest, which was a lady very fair,
    Wrought wonderfully, was shifted from its place.

    The shower'd mail-rings on the speedwell lay,
    Perhaps my eyes were dazzled with the light
    That blazed in the west, yet surely on that day
    Some crimson thing had changed the grass from bright

    Pure green I love so. But the knight who died
    Lay there for days after the other went;
    Until one day I heard a voice that cried:
    Fair knight, I see Sir Robert we were sent

    To carry dead or living to the king.
    So the knights came and bore him straight away
    On their lance truncheons, such a batter'd thing,
    His mother had not known him on that day,

    But for his helm-crest, a gold lady fair
    Wrought wonderfully.

    THE PRINCE.

    Ah, they were brothers then,
    And often rode together, doubtless where
    The swords were thickest, and were loyal men,

    Until they fell in these same evil dreams.

    RAPUNZEL.

    Yea, love; but shall we not depart from hence?
    The white moon groweth golden fast, and gleams
    Between the aspens stems; I fear, and yet a sense

    Of fluttering victory comes over me,
    That will not let me fear aright; my heart,
    Feel how it beats, love, strives to get to thee;
    I breathe so fast that my lips needs must part;

    Your breath swims round my mouth, but let us go.

    THE PRINCE.

    I, Sebald, also, pluck from off the staff
    The crimson banner; let it lie below,
    Above it in the wind let grasses laugh.

    Now let us go, love, down the winding stair,
    With fingers intertwined: ay, feel my sword!
    I wrought it long ago, with golden hair
    Flowing about the hilts, because a word,

    Sung by a minstrel old, had set me dreaming
    Of a sweet bow'd down face with yellow hair;
    Betwixt green leaves I used to see it gleaming,
    A half smile on the lips, though lines of care

    Had sunk the cheeks, and made the great eyes hollow;
    What other work in all the world had I,
    But through all turns of fate that face to follow?
    But wars and business kept me there to die.

    O child, I should have slain my brother, too,
    My brother, Love, lain moaning in the grass,
    Had I not ridden out to look for you,
    When I had watch'd the gilded courtiers pass

    From the golden hall. But it is strange your name
    Is not the same the minstrel sung of yore;
    You call'd it Rapunzel, 'tis not the name.
    See, love, the stems shine through the open door.


    Morning in the woods.

    RAPUNZEL.

    O love! me and my unknown name you have well won;
    The witch's name was Rapunzel: eh! not so sweet?
    No! but is this real grass, love, that I tread upon?
    What call they these blue flowers that lean across my feet?

    THE PRINCE.

    Dip down your dear face in the dewy grass, O love!
    And ever let the sweet slim harebells, tenderly hung,
    Kiss both your parted lips; and I will hang above,
    And try to sing that song the dreamy harper sung.

    He sings.

    'Twixt the sunlight and the shade
    Float up memories of my maid:
    God, remember Guendolen!

    Gold or gems she did not wear,
    But her yellow rippled hair,
    Like a veil, hid Guendolen!

    'Twixt the sunlight and the shade,
    My rough hands so strangely made,
    Folded Golden Guendolen.

    Hands used to grip the sword-hilt hard,
    Framed her face, while on the sward
    Tears fell down from Guendolen.

    Guendolen now speaks no word,
    Hands fold round about the sword:
    Now no more of Guendolen.

    Only 'twixt the light and shade
    Floating memories of my maid
    Make me pray for Guendolen.

    GUENDOLEN.

    I kiss thee, new-found name! but I will never go:
    Your hands need never grip the hammer'd sword again,
    But all my golden hair shall ever round you flow,
    Between the light and shade from Golden Guendolen.


    Afterwards, in the Palace

    KING SEBALD.

    I took my armour off,
    Put on king's robes of gold;
    Over the kirtle green
    The gold fell fold on fold.

    THE WITCH, out of hell.

    Guendolen! Guendolen!
    One lock of hair!

    GUENDOLEN.

    I am so glad, for every day
    He kisses me much the same way
    As in the tower: under the sway
    Of all my golden hair.

    KING SEBALD.

    We rode throughout the town,
    A gold crown on my head;
    Through all the gold-hung streets,
    Praise God! the people said.

    THE WITCH.

    Gwendolen! Guendolen!
    Lend me your hair!

    GUENDOLEN.

    Verily, I seem like one
    Who, when day is almost done,
    Through a thick wood meets the sun
    That blazes in her hair.

    KING SEBALD.

    Yea, at the palace gates,
    Praise God! the great knights said,
    For Sebald the high king,
    And the lady's golden head.

    THE WITCH.

    Woe is me! Guendolen
    Sweeps back her hair.

    GUENDOLEN.

    Nothing wretched now, no screams;
    I was unhappy once in dreams,
    And even now a harsh voice seems
    To hang about my hair.

    THE WITCH.

    WOE! THAT ANY MAN COULD DARE
    TO CLIMB UP THE YELLOW STAIR,
    GLORIOUS GUENDOLEN'S GOLDEN HAIR.

    [ the end ]

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