Beside the old hall-fire, upon my nurse's knee,
Of happy fairy days what tales were told to me!
I thought the world was once all peopled with princesses,
And my heart would beat to hear their loves and
And many a quiet night, in slumber sweet and deep,
The pretty fairy people would visit me in sleep.
I saw them in my dreams come flying east and west,
With wondrous fairy gifts the new-born babe they bless'd;
One has brought a jewel and one a crown of gold,
And one has brought a curse—but she is wrinkled and old.
The gentle queen turns pale to hear those words of sin,
But the king he only laughs and bids the dance begin.
The babe has grown to be the fairest of the land,
And rides the forest green, a hawk upon her hand;
An ambling palfrey white, a golden robe and crown,
I've seen her in my dreams, riding up and down,
And heard the ogre laugh, as she fell into his snare,
At the little tender creature who wept and tore her hair.
But ever when it seemed her need was at the sorest,
A prince in shining mail comes prancing through the forest,
A waving ostrich-plume, a buckler burnished bright;
I've seen him in my dreams—good sooth! a gallant knight.
His lips are coral-red beneath a dark moustache;
See how he waves his hand and how his blue eyes flash!
"Come forth, thou Paynim knight!" he shouts in accents clear.
The giant and the maid both tremble his voice to hear.
Saint Mary guard him well!—he draws his falchion keen,
The giant and the knight are fighting on the green.
I see them in my dreams, his blade gives stroke on stroke.
The giant pants and reels, and tumbles like an oak!
With what a blushing grace he falls upon his knee
And takes the lady's hand and whispers, "You are free!"
Ah! happy childish tales of knight and faërie!
I waken from my dreams, but there's ne'er a knight for me;
I waken from my dreams and wish that I could be
A child by the old hall-fire upon my nurse's knee!