Among the Millet

by Archibald Lampman


 

THE LITTLE HANDMAIDEN


 

The King’s son walks in the garden fair—
    Oh, the maiden’s heart is merry!
He little knows for his toil and care,
That the bride is gone and the bower is bare.
    Put on garments of white, my maidens!                                5

The sun shines bright through the casement high—
    Oh, the maiden’s heart is merry!
The little handmaid, with a laughing eye,
Looks down on the king’s son, strolling by.
    Put on garments of white, my maidens!                              10

"He little knows that the bride is gone,
    And the Earl knows little as he;
She is fled with her lover afar last night
    And the King’s son is left to me."

And back to her chamber with velvety step                              15
    The little handmaid did glide,
And a gold key took from her bosom sweet,
    And opened the great chests wide.

She bound her hair with a band of blue,
    And a garland of lilies sweet;                                                 20
And put on her delicate silken shoes,
    With roses at her feet.

She clad her body in spotless white,
    With a girdle as red as blood.
The glad white raiment her beauty bound,                                25
    As the sepels blind the bud.

And round and round her white neck she flung
    A necklace of sapphires blue;
On one white finger of either hand
    A shining ring she drew.                                                         30

And down the stairway and out of the door
    She glided, as soft and light,
As an airy tuft of a thistle seed
    Might glide through the grasses bright.

And into the garden sweet she stole—                                     35
    The little birds carolled loud—
Her beauty shone as a star might shine
    In the rift of the morning cloud.

The King’s son walked in the garden fair,
    And the little handmaiden came,                                           40
Through the midst of a shimmer of roses red,
    Like a sunbeam through a flame.

The King’s son marvelled, his heart leaped up,
    "And art thou my bride?" said he,
"For, North or South, I have never beheld                                45
    A lovelier maid than thee."

"And dost thou love me?" the little maid cried,
    "A fine King’s son, I wis!"
And the king’s son took her with both his hands,
    And her ruddy lips did kiss.                                                  50

And the little maid laughed till the beaded tears,
    Ran down in a silver rain.
"O foolish King’s son!" and she clapped her hands,
    Till the gold rings rang again.

"O King’s son, foolish and fooled art thou,                             55
    For a goodly game is played:
Thy bride is away with her lover last night,
    And I am her little handmaid."

And the King’s son sware a great oath, said he—
    Oh, the maiden’s heart is merry!                                       60
"If the Earl’s fair daughter a traitress be,
The little handmaid is enough for me."
    Put on garments of white, my maidens!

The King’s son walks in the garden fair—
    Oh, the maiden’s heart is merry!                                      
65
And the little handmaiden walketh there,
But the old Earl pulleth his beard for care.
    Put on garments of white, my maidens!