WHILE to the clarion blown by Marlowe’s breath
Tall Tragedy tramped by in hues of death,
And Shakespeare yet was tuning string by string—
With English hawthorn crowned, in that glad spring
When bright clouds melted in a sky serene,
Romance moved lightly to the pipe of Greene.
As fresh as buds half-open, pure as dew,
Two damsels came in forefront of her crew—
One native to the hedgerows and the meads,
The keeper’s lass, in simple country weeds,
Her firm white arms, as delicate as silk,
Below her smock-sleeve shining wet with milk;
No marvel the young noble learnt to woo
A maid so merry and frank and homely true.
The other with sad mien, though yet a bride,
Clad in man’s raiment softly stole aside
And grieved that he who should have been her stay
Would privily have done her life away,
For still his crime with bloodshot eyeballs grim
And dripping fangs turned back and hunted him.
Cast off, contemned and hated, stabbed, discrowned,
Still in her heart wide realm for him she found,
When earth and love and joy seemed to his hand,
Gripped madly, a waning measure of slipping sand.
Though lust and murder made of him a slave,
Her love set free, her purity forgave.
Humbled and hopeless, all his sins confessed,
By miracle his contrite soul was blessed,
And heavy tolling of those haunted days
Was turned to golden peals of joyous praise.
Ah, but this woeful lady, lily-pale,
Is no mere vision drifting through a tale;
The sad sweet picture of the patient Queen
Betrays the rebel heart of Robert Greene.