It was Goldilocks woke up in the morn
At the first of the shearing of the corn.
There stood his mother on the hearth
And of new-leased wheat was little dearth.
There stood his sisters by the quern,
For the high-noon cakes they needs must earn.
“O tell me Goldilocks my son,
Why hast thou coloured raiment on?”
“Why should I wear the hodden grey
When I am light of heart to-day?”
“O tell us, brother, why ye wear
In reaping-tide the scarlet gear?
Why hangeth the sharp sword at thy side
When through the land ’tis the hook goes wide?”
“Gay-clad am I that men may know
The freeman’s son where’er I go.
The grinded sword at side I bear
Lest I the dastard’s word should hear.”
“O tell me Goldilocks my son,
Of whither away thou wilt be gone?”
“The morn is fair and the world is wide
And here no more will I abide.”
“O Brother, when wilt thou come again?”
“The autumn drought, and the winter rain,
The frost and the snow, and St. David’s wind,
All these that were time out of mind,
All these a many times shall be
Ere the Upland Town again I see.”
“O Goldilocks my son, farewell,
As thou wendest the world ’twixt home and hell!”
“O brother Goldilocks, farewell,
Come back with a tale for men to tell!”
So ’tis wellaway for Goldilocks,
As he left the land of the wheaten shocks.
He’s gotten him far from the Upland Town,
And he’s gone by Dale and he’s gone by Down.
He’s come to the wild-wood dark and drear,
Where never the bird’s song doth he hear.
He has slept in the moonless wood and dim
With never a voice to comfort him.
He has risen up under the little light
Where the noon is as dark as the summer night.
Six days therein has he walked alone
Till his scrip was bare and his meat was done.
On the seventh morn in the mirk, mirk wood,
He saw sight that he deemed was good.
It was as one sees a flower a-bloom
In the dusky heat of a shuttered room.
He deemed the fair thing far aloof,
And would go and put it to the proof.
But the very first step he made from the place
He met a maiden face to face.
Face to face, and so close was she
That their lips met soft and lovingly.
Sweet-mouthed she was, and fair he wist;
And again in the darksome wood they kissed.
Then first in the wood her voice he heard,
As sweet as the song of the summer bird.
“O thou fair man with the golden head,
What is the name of thee?” she said.
“My name is Goldilocks,” said he;
“O sweet-breathed, what is the name of thee?”
“O Goldilocks the Swain,” she said,
“My name is Goldilocks the Maid.”
He spake, “Love me as I love thee,
And Goldilocks one flesh shall be.”
She said, “Fair man, I wot not how
Thou lovest, but I love thee now.
But come a little hence away,
That I may see thee in the day.
For hereby is a wood-lawn clear
And good for awhile for us it were.”
Therewith she took him by the hand
And led him into the lighter land.
There on the grass they sat adown.
Clad she was in a kirtle brown.
In all the world was never maid
So fair, so evilly arrayed.
No shoes upon her feet she had
And scantly were her shoulders clad;
Through her brown kirtle’s rents full wide
Shone out the sleekness of her side.
An old scrip hung about her neck,
Nought of her raiment did she reck.
No shame of all her rents had she;
She gazed upon him eagerly.
She leaned across the grassy space
And put her hands about his face.
She said: “O hunger-pale art thou,
Yet shalt thou eat though I hunger now.”
She took him apples from her scrip,
She kissed him, cheek and chin and lip.
She took him cakes of woodland bread:
“Whiles am I hunger-pinched,” she said.
She had a gourd and a pilgrim shell;
She took him water from the well.
She stroked his breast and his scarlet gear;
She spake, “How brave thou art and dear!”
Her arms about him did she wind;
He felt her body dear and kind.
“O love,” she said, “now two are one,
And whither hence shall we be gone?”
“Shall we fare further than this wood,”
Quoth he, “I deem it dear and good?”
She shook her head, and laughed, and spake;
“Rise up! For thee, not me, I quake.
Had she been minded me to slay
Sure she had done it ere to-day.
But thou: this hour the crone shall know
That thou art come, her very foe.
No minute more on tidings wait,
Lest e’en this minute be too late.”
She led him from the sunlit green,
Going sweet-stately as a queen.
There in the dusky wood, and dim,
As forth they went, she spake to him:
“Fair man, few people have I seen
Amidst this world of woodland green:
But I would have thee tell me now
If there be many such as thou.”
“Betwixt the mountains and the sea,
O Sweet, be many such,” said he.
Athwart the glimmering air and dim
With wistful eyes she looked on him.
“But ne’er an one so shapely made
Mine eyes have looked upon,” she said.
He kissed her face, and cried in mirth:
“Where hast thou dwelt then on the earth?”
“Ever,” she said, “I dwell alone
With a hard-handed cruel crone.
And of this crone am I the thrall
To serve her still in bower and hall;
And fetch and carry in the wood,
And do whate’er she deemeth good.
But whiles a sort of folk there come
And seek my mistress at her home;
But such-like are they to behold
As make my very blood run cold.
Oft have I thought, if there be none
On earth save these, would all were done!
Forsooth, I knew it was nought so,
But that fairer folk on earth did grow.
But fain and full is the heart in me
To know that folk are like to thee.”
Then hand in hand they stood awhile
Till her tears rose up beneath his smile.
And he must fold her to his breast
To give her heart a while of rest.
Till sundered she and gazed about,
And bent her brows as one in doubt.
She spake: “The wood is growing thin,
Into the full light soon shall we win.
Now crouch we that we be not seen,
Under yon bramble-bushes green.”
Under the bramble-bush they lay
Betwixt the dusk and the open day.
“O Goldilocks my love, look forth
And let me know what thou seest of worth.”
He said: “I see a house of stone,
A castle excellently done.”
“Yea,” quoth she, “There doth the mistress dwell
What next thou seest shalt thou tell.”
“What lookest thou to see come forth?”
“Maybe a white bear of the North.”
“Then shall my sharp sword lock his mouth.”
“Nay,” she said, “or a worm of the South.”
“Then shall my sword his hot blood cool.”
“Nay, or a whelming poison-pool.”
“The trees its swelling flood shall stay,
And thrust its venomed lip away.”
“Nay, it may be a wild-fire flash
To burn thy lovely limbs to ash.”
“On mine own hallows shall I call,
And dead its flickering flame shall fall.”
“O Goldilocks my love, I fear
That ugly death shall seek us here.
Look forth, O Goldilocks my love,
That I thine hardy heart may prove.
What cometh down the stone-wrought stair
That leadeth up to the castle fair?”
“Adown the doorward stair of stone
There cometh a woman all alone.”
“Yea, that forsooth shall my mistress be:
O Goldilocks, what like is she?”
“O fair she is of her array,
As hitherward she wends her way.”
“Unlike her wont is that indeed:
Is she not foul beneath her weed?”
“O nay, nay! But most wondrous fair
Of all the women earth doth bear.”
“O Goldilocks, my heart, my heart!
Woe, woe! for now we drift apart.”
But up he sprang from the bramble-side,
And “O thou fairest one!” he cried:
And forth he ran that Queen to meet,
And fell before her gold-clad feet.
About his neck her arms she cast,
And into the fair-built house they passed.
And under the bramble-bushes lay
Unholpen, Goldilocks the may.
Thenceforth a while of time there wore,
And Goldilocks came forth no more.
Throughout that house he wandered wide,
Both up and down, from side to side.
But never he saw an evil crone,
But a full fair Queen on a golden throne.
Never a barefoot maid did he see,
But a gay and gallant company.
He sat upon the golden throne,
And beside him sat the Queen alone.
Kind she was, as she loved him well,
And many a merry tale did tell.
But nought he laughed, nor spake again,
For all his life was waste and vain.
Cold was his heart, and all afraid
To think on Goldilocks the Maid.
Withal now was the wedding dight
When he should wed that lady bright.
The night was gone, and the day was up
When they should drink the bridal cup.
And he sat at the board beside the Queen,
Amidst of a guest-folk well beseen.
But scarce was midmorn on the hall,
When down did the mirk of midnight fall.
Then up and down from the board they ran,
And man laid angry hand on man.
There was the cry, and the laughter shrill,
And every manner word of ill.
Whoso of men had hearkened it,
Had deemed he had woke up over the Pit.
Then spake the Queen o’er all the crowd,
And grim was her speech, and harsh, and loud:
“Hold now your peace, ye routing swine,
While I sit with mine own love over the wine!
For this dusk is the very deed of a foe,
Or under the sun no man I know.”
And hard she spake, and loud she cried
Till the noise of the bickering guests had died.
Then again she spake amidst of the mirk,
In a voice like an unoiled wheel at work:
“Whoso would have a goodly gift,
Let him bring aback the sun to the lift.
Let him bring aback the light and the day,
And rich and in peace he shall go his way.”
Out spake a voice was clean and clear:
“Lo, I am she to dight your gear;
But I for the deed a gift shall gain,
To sit by Goldilocks the Swain.
I shall sit at the board by the bride-groom’s side,
And be betwixt him and the bride.
I shall eat of his dish and drink of his cup,
Until for the bride-bed ye rise up.”
Then was the Queen’s word wailing-wild:
“E’en so must it be, thou Angel’s child.
Thou shalt sit by my groom till the dawn of night,
And then shalt thou wend thy ways aright.”
Said the voice, “Yet shalt thou swear an oath
That free I shall go though ye be loth.”
“How shall I swear?” the false Queen spake:
“Wherewith the sure oath shall I make?”
“Thou shalt swear by the one eye left in thine head,
And the throng of the ghosts of the evil dead.”
She swore the oath, and then she spake:
“Now let the second dawn awake.”
And e’en therewith the thing was done;
There was peace in the hall, and the light of the sun.
And again the Queen was calm and fair,
And courteous sat the guest-folk there.
Yet unto Goldilocks it seemed
As if amidst the night he dreamed;
As if he sat in a grassy place,
While slim hands framed his hungry face;
As if in the clearing of the wood
One gave him bread and apples good;
And nought he saw of the guest-folk gay,
And nought of all the Queen’s array.
Yet saw he betwixt board and door,
A slim maid tread the chequered floor.
Her gown of green so fair was wrought,
That clad her body seemed with nought
But blossoms of the summer-tide,
That wreathed her, limbs and breast and side.
And, stepping towards him daintily,
A basket in her hand had she.
And as she went, from head to feet,
Surely was she most dainty-sweet.
Love floated round her, and her eyes
Gazed from her fairness glad and wise;
But babbling-loud the guests were grown;
Unnoted was she and unknown.
Now Goldilocks she sat beside,
But nothing changed was the Queenly bride;
Yea too, and Goldilocks the Swain
Was grown but dull and dazed again.
The Queen smiled o’er the guest-rich board,
Although his wine the Maiden poured;
Though from his dish the Maiden ate,
The Queen sat happy and sedate.
But now the Maiden fell to speak
From lips that well-nigh touched his cheek:
“O Goldilocks, dost thou forget?
Or mindest thou the mirk-wood yet?
Forgettest thou the hunger-pain
And all thy young life made but vain?
How there was nought to help or aid,
But for poor Goldilocks the Maid?”
She murmured, “Each to each we two,
Our faces from the wood-mirk grew.
Hast thou forgot the grassy place,
And love betwixt us face to face?
Hast thou forgot how fair I deemed
Thy face? How fair thy garment seemed?
Thy kisses on my shoulders bare,
Through rents of the poor raiment there?
My arms that loved thee nought unkissed
All o’er from shoulder unto wrist?
Hast thou forgot how brave thou wert,
Thou with thy fathers’ weapon girt;
When underneath the bramble-bush
I quaked like river-shaken rush,
Wondering what new-wrought shape of death
Should quench my new love-quickened breath?
Or else: forget’st thou, Goldilocks,
Thine own land of the wheaten shocks?
Thy mother and thy sisters dear,
Thou said’st would bide thy true-love there?
Hast thou forgot? Hast thou forgot?
O love, my love, I move thee not.”
Silent the fair Queen sat and smiled
And heeded nought the Angel’s child,
For like an image fashioned fair
Still sat the Swain with empty stare.
These words seemed spoken not, but writ
As foolish tales through night-dreams flit.
Vague pictures passed before his sight,
As in the first dream of the night.
But the Maiden opened her basket fair,
And set two doves on the table there.
And soft they cooed, and sweet they billed
Like man and maid with love fulfilled.
Therewith the Maiden reached a hand
To a dish that on the board did stand;
And she crumbled a share of the spice-loaf brown,
And the Swain upon her hand looked down;
Then unto the fowl his eyes he turned;
And as in a dream his bowels yearned
For somewhat that he could not name;
And into his heart a hope there came.
And still he looked on the hands of the Maid,
As before the fowl the crumbs she laid.
And he murmured low, “O Goldilocks!
Were we but amid the wheaten shocks!”
Then the false Queen knit her brows and laid
A fair white hand by the hand of the Maid.
He turned his eyes away thereat,
And closer to the Maiden sat.
But the queen-bird now the carle-bird fed
Till all was gone of the sugared bread.
Then with wheedling voice for more he craved,
And the Maid a share from the spice-loaf shaved;
And the crumbs within her hollow hand
She held where the creeping doves did stand.
But Goldilocks, he looked and longed,
And saw how the carle the queen-bird wronged.
For when she came to the hand to eat
The hungry queen-bird thence he beat.
Then Goldilocks the Swain spake low:
“Foul fall thee, bird, thou doest now
As I to Goldilocks, my sweet,
Who gave my hungry mouth to eat.”
He felt her hand as he did speak,
He felt her face against his cheek.
He turned and stood in the evil hall,
And swept her up in arms withal.
Then was there hubbub wild and strange,
And swiftly all things there ’gan change.
The fair Queen into a troll was grown,
A one-eyed, bow-backed, haggard crone.
And though the hall was yet full fair,
And bright the sunshine streamed in there,
On evil shapes it fell forsooth:
Swine-heads; small red eyes void of ruth;
And bare-boned bodies of vile things,
And evil-feathered bat-felled wings.
And all these mopped and mowed and grinned,
And sent strange noises down the wind.
There stood those twain unchanged alone
To face the horror of the crone;
She crouched against them by the board;
And cried the Maid: “Thy sword, thy sword!
Thy sword, O Goldilocks! For see
She will not keep her oath to me.”
Out flashed the blade therewith. He saw
The foul thing sidelong toward them draw,
Holding within her hand a cup
Wherein some dreadful drink seethed up.
Then Goldilocks cried out and smote,
And the sharp blade sheared the evil throat.
The head fell noseling to the floor;
The liquor from the cup did pour,
And ran along a sparkling flame
That nigh unto their footsoles came.
Then empty straightway was the hall,
Save for those twain, and she withal.
So fled away the Maid and Man,
And down the stony stairway ran.
Fast fled they o’er the sunny grass
Yet but a little way did pass
Ere cried the Maid: “Now cometh forth
The snow-white ice-bear of the North;
Turn Goldilocks, and heave up sword!”
Then fast he stood upon the sward,
And faced the beast, that whined and cried,
And shook his head from side to side.
But round him the Swain danced and leaped,
And soon the grisly head he reaped.
And then the ancient blade he sheathed,
And ran unto his love sweet-breathed;
And caught her in his arms and ran
Fast from that house, the bane of man.
Yet therewithal he spake her soft
And kissed her over oft and oft,
Until from kissed and trembling mouth
She cried: “The Dragon of the South!”
He set her down and turned about,
And drew the eager edges out.
And therewith scaly coil on coil
Reared ’gainst his face the mouth aboil:
The gaping jaw and teeth of dread
Was dark ’twixt heaven and his head.
But with no fear, no thought, no word,
He thrust the thin-edged ancient sword.
And the hot blood ran from the hairy throat,
And set the summer grass afloat.
Then back he turned and caught her hand,
And never a minute did they stand.
But as they ran on toward the wood,
He deemed her swift feet fair and good.
She looked back o’er her shoulder fair:
“The whelming poison-pool is here;
And now availeth nought the blade:
O if my cherished trees might aid!
But now my feet fail. Leave me then!
And hold my memory dear of men.”
He caught her in his arms again;
Of her dear side was he full fain.
Her body in his arms was dear:
“Sweet art thou, though we perish here!”
Like quicksilver came on the flood:
But lo, the borders of the wood!
She slid from out his arms and stayed;
Round a great oak her arms she laid.
“If e’er I saved thee, lovely tree,
From axe and saw, now, succour me:
Look how the venom creeps anigh,
Help! lest thou see me writhe and die.”
She crouched beside the upheaved root,
The bubbling venom touched her foot;
Then with a sucking gasping sound
It ebbed back o’er the blighted ground.
Up then she rose and took his hand
And never a moment did they stand.
“Come, love,” she cried, “the ways I know,
How thick soe’er the thickets grow.
O love, I love thee! O thine heart!
How mighty and how kind thou art!”
Therewith they saw the tree-dusk lit,
Bright grey the great boles gleamed on it.
“O flee,” she said, “the sword is nought
Against the flickering fire-flaught.”
“But this availeth yet,” said he,
“That Hallows All our love may see.”
He turned about and faced the glare:
“O Mother, help us, kind and fair!
Now help me, true St. Nicholas,
If ever truly thine I was!”
Therewith the wild-fire waned and paled
And in the wood the light nigh failed;
And all about ’twas as the night.
He said: “Now won is all our fight,
And now meseems all were but good
If thou mightst bring us from the wood.”
She fawned upon him, face and breast;
She said: “It hangs ’twixt worst and best.
And yet, O love, if thou be true,
One thing alone thou hast to do.”
Sweetly he kissed her, cheek and chin:
“What work thou biddest will I win.”
“O love, my love, I needs must sleep;
Wilt thou my slumbering body keep,
And, toiling sorely, still bear on
The love thou seemest to have won?”
“O easy toil,” he said, “to bless
Mine arms with all thy loveliness.”
She smiled; “Yea, easy it may seem,
But harder is it than ye deem.
For hearken! Whatso thou mayst see,
Piteous as it may seem to thee,
Heed not nor hearken! bear me forth,
As though nought else were aught of worth,
For all earth’s wealth that may be found
Lay me not sleeping on the ground,
To help, to hinder, or to save!
Or there for me thou diggest a grave.”
He took her body on his arm,
Her slumbering head lay on his barm.
Then glad he bore her on the way,
And the wood grew lighter with the day.
All still it was, till suddenly
He heard a bitter wail near by.
Yet on he went until he heard
The cry become a shapen word:
“Help me, O help, thou passer by!
Turn from the path, let me not die!
I am a woman; bound and left
To perish; of all help bereft.”
Then died the voice out in a moan;
He looked upon his love, his own,
And minding all she spake to him
Strode onward through the wild-wood dim.
But lighter grew the woodland green
Till clear the shapes of things were seen.
And therewith wild halloos he heard,
And shrieks, and cries of one afeard.
Nigher it grew and yet more nigh
Till burst from out a brake near by
A woman bare of breast and limb,
Who turned a piteous face to him
E’en as she ran: for hard at heel
Followed a man with brandished steel,
And yelling mouth. Then the swain stood
One moment in the glimmering wood
Trembling, ashamed: Yet now grown wise
Deemed all a snare for ears and eyes.
So onward swiftlier still he strode
And cast all thought on his fair load.
And yet in but a little space
Back came the yelling shrieking chase,
And well-nigh gripped now by the man,
Straight unto him the woman ran;
And underneath the gleaming steel
E’en at his very feet did kneel.
She looked up; sobs were all her speech,
Yet sorely did her face beseech.
While o’er her head the chaser stared,
Shaking aloft the edges bared.
Doubted the swain, and a while did stand
As she took his coat-lap in her hand.
Upon his hand he felt her breath
Hot with the dread of present death.
Sleek was her arm on his scarlet coat,
The sobbing passion rose in his throat.
But e’en therewith he looked aside
And saw the face of the sleeping bride.
Then he tore his coat from the woman’s hand,
And never a moment there did stand.
But swiftly thence away he strode
Along the dusky forest road.
And there rose behind him laughter shrill,
And then was the windless wood all still,
He looked around o’er all the place,
But saw no image of the chase.
And as he looked the night-mirk now
O’er all the tangled wood ’gan flow.
Then stirred the sweetling that he bore,
And she slid adown from his arms once more.
Nought might he see her well-loved face;
But he felt her lips in the mirky place.
“’Tis night,” she said, “and the false day’s gone,
And we twain in the wild-wood all alone.
Night o’er the earth; so rest we here
Until to-morrow’s sun is clear.
For overcome is every foe
And home to-morrow shall we go.”
So ’neath the trees they lay, those twain,
And to them the darksome night was gain.
But when the morrow’s dawn was grey
They woke and kissed whereas they lay.
And when on their feet they came to stand
Swain Goldilocks stretched out his hand.
And he spake: “O love, my love indeed,
Where now is gone thy goodly weed?
For again thy naked feet I see,
And thy sweet sleek arms so kind to me.
Through thy rent kirtle once again
Thy shining shoulder showeth plain.”
She blushed as red as the sun-sweet rose:
“My garments gay were e’en of those
That the false Queen dight to slay my heart;
And sore indeed was their fleshly smart.
Yet must I bear them, well-beloved,
Until thy truth and troth was proved.
And this tattered coat is now for a sign
That thou hast won me to be thine.
Now wilt thou lead along thy maid
To meet thy kindred unafraid.”
As stoops the falcon on the dove
He cast himself about her love.
He kissed her over, cheek and chin,
He kissed the sweetness of her skin.
Then hand in hand they went their way
Till the wood grew light with the outer day.
At last behind them lies the wood,
And before are the Upland Acres good.
On the hill’s brow awhile they stay
At midmorn of the merry day.
He sheareth a deal from his kirtle meet,
To make her sandals for her feet.
He windeth a wreath of the beechen tree,
Lest men her shining shoulders see.
And a wreath of woodbine sweet, to hide
The rended raiment of her side;
And a crown of poppies red as wine,
Lest on her head the hot sun shine.
She kissed her love withal and smiled:
“Lead forth, O love, the Woodland Child!
Most meet and right meseems it now
That I am clad with the woodland bough.
For betwixt the oak-tree and the thorn
Meseemeth erewhile was I born.
And if my mother aught I knew
It was of the woodland folk she grew.
And O that thou art well at ease
To wed the daughter of the trees!”
Now Goldilocks and Goldilocks
Go down amidst the wheaten shocks,
But when anigh to the town they come,
Lo there is the wain a-wending home,
And many a man and maid beside,
Who tossed the sickles up, and cried:
“O Goldilocks, now whither away?
And what wilt thou with the woodland may?”
“O this is Goldilocks my bride,
And we come adown from the wild-wood side,
And unto the Fathers’ House we wend
To dwell therein till life shall end.”
“Up then on the wain, that ye may see
From afar how thy mother bideth thee.
That ye may see how kith and kin
Abide thee, bridal brave to win.”
So Goldilocks and Goldilocks
Sit high aloft on the wheaten shocks,
And fair maids sing before the wain,
For all of Goldilocks are fain.
But when they came to the Fathers’ door,
There stood his mother old and hoar.
Yet was her hair with grey but blent,
When forth from the Upland Town he went.
There by the door his sisters stood;
Full fair they were and fresh of blood;
Little they were when he went away;
Now each is meet for a young man’s may.
“O tell me, Goldilocks, my son,
What are the deeds that thou hast done?”
“I have wooed me a wife in the forest wild,
And home I bring the Woodland Child.”
“A little deed to do, O son,
So long a while as thou wert gone.”
“O mother, yet is the summer here
Now I bring aback my true-love dear.
And therewith an Evil Thing have I slain;
Yet I come with the first-come harvest-wain.”
“O Goldilocks, my son, my son!
How good is the deed that thou hast done?
But how long the time that is worn away!
Lo! white is my hair that was but grey.
And lo these sisters here, thine own,
How tall, how meet for men-folk grown!
Come, see thy kin in the feasting-hall,
And tell me if thou knowest them all!
O son, O son, we are blithe and fain;
But the autumn drought, and the winter rain,
The frost and the snow, and St. David’s wind,
All these that were, time out of mind,
All these a many times have been
Since thou the Upland Town hast seen.”
Then never a word spake Goldilocks
Till they came adown from the wheaten shocks.
And there beside his love he stood
And he saw her body sweet and good.
Then round her love his arms he cast:
“The years are as a tale gone past.
But many the years that yet shall be
Of the merry tale of thee and me.
Come, love, and look on the Fathers’ Hall,
And the folk of the kindred one and all!
For now the Fathers’ House is kind,
And all the ill is left behind.
And Goldilocks and Goldilocks
Shall dwell in the land of the Wheaten Shocks.”