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(madison icon)1902

King and Siren

from Shells
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox   1873

The harsh king, Winter, sat upon the hills,
  And reigned, and ruled the earth right royally.
He locked the rivers, lakes, and all the rills.
  "I am no puny, maudlin king," quoth he,
But a stern monarch, born to rule and reign,
  And I will show my power to the end;
The summer's flowery retinue I've slain.
  And taken the bold, free North-Wind for my friend.

Spring, Summer, Autumn--feeble queens they were,
  With their vast troops of flowers, birds, and bees,
And winds, that made the long, green grasses stir--
  They lost their own identity in these.
I scorn them all! nay, I defy them all!
  And none can wrest the sceptre from my hand.
The trusty North-Wind answers to my call,
  And breathes his icy breath upon the land."

The Siren, South-Wind, listening the while.
  Now floated airily across the lea.
"Oh, King!" she said, with tender tone and smile,
  "I come to do all homage unto thee.
In all the sunny region whence I came,
  I find none like thee, King, so brave and grand.
Thine is a well-deserved, unrivalled fame;
  I kiss in awe, dear King, thy cold white hand."

Her words were pleasing, and most fair her face.
  He listened wrapt, to her soft-whispered praise.
She nestled nearer, in her Siren grace;
  "Dear King," she said, "henceforth my voice shall raise
But songs of thy unrivalled splendor! Lo!
  How white thy brow is! How thy garments shine--
I tremble 'neath thy beaming glance, for oh,
  Thy wondrous beauty mak'st thee seem divine."

The vain king listened, in a trance of bliss,
  To this most sweet sweet voiced Siren from the south.
She nestled close, and pressed a lingering kiss
  Upon the stern white pallor of his mouth.
She hung upon his breast--she pressed his cheek--
  And he was nothing loth to hold her there.
While she such tender, loving words did speak
  And combed his white locks, with her fingers fair.

And so she bound him, in her Siren wiles,
  And stole his strength with every glance she gave,
And stabbed him through and through with tender smiles,
  And with her loving words she dug his grave.
And then she left him: old, and weak, and blind--
  And unlocked all the rivers, lakes and rills,
While the Queen Spring, with her whole troop behind,
  Of flowers, and birds, and bees, came over the hills.


Wilcox, Ella Wheeler. Shells. Milwaukee, Hauser & Storey, 1873.
From the Dept. of Special Collections, General Library System, UW-Madison: Cairns PS 3312 S5 1873