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Five Poems in Prose

THERE was a queen of goodness and of beauty living in a
lonely wood where, at morn and at evening, birds sang for
very love of her. Around her the grasses grew that they
might feel the softness of her feet, and above her the stars shone
that they might mirror themselves in her hair. The trees bent down
to kiss her, bringing rich gifts of fruit and foliage: the winds sang
lowly and sweetly with desire and love of her. Sometimes she
lay by a stream in dreams, and when her tresses fell over her head
into the water, she wondered why she was so beautiful, and why
those ripening lips and eyes and comely neck had been given to
her. And she dreamed of knights who were far away, tall and
straight as a pine.

    At night she would linger under the stars and weave strange
letters and messages out of the skies, longing and longing for love.
And many a king came by in robes of gold, with gifts of rich gar-
ments and promises of thrones, and they lay in worship at her
feet, begging that she might love them. Yet not one dared to say
within himself that he loved her—she was so beautiful that none
could think himself worthy. And she tired of the kings and fine
courtiers, and went forth among the shepherds on the hills and the
ploughmen in the fields, but they all bent low and kissed her feet
because they dared not to love her.

    Until one day, when love had come not, as the sun was
setting, and all the great kings and princes of the world had wor-
shipped at her feet, sorrow came upon her, great sorrow for the
love that came not. And she lay down and died near the red
berries of a holly-tree; and when maidens came by to smooth out
her soft limbs, and close her lovely lips and eyes, they found
written on her breast:

    Beauty is a burden too great to be borne.


ONE day two lovers were lying together on a bed of green rushes
by the river, and the man’s lips were pressed to the lips of his
beloved, and her hair fell down over his head. But a man came

by, who was the World, to punish them for their sin; and he told
them to follow him to the place of justice. Then the young man
replied: “Thee have I never followed, and thy justice is not my
justice.” And he said again to the World: “Are there any of thy
children starving—go and feed them. Are there any of thy
children thirsty—give them drink. Are they naked—clothe them.
All these things thou hast not done, because thou hast thought
the days too short and the labour too great, and thou art hard
with selfishness. Yet when love comes by with food and drink
and clothes more beautiful than all the food and clothes and drink
the World can give, thou callest him sinful, and would’st drive him
away. Cease not to get money for thy tills and rich viands to
glut thine appetite. Continue ever-grasping, unhappy and greedy,
but seek thou not Love that gives all things. That, you can never
find, for Love is Sacrifice.


A MAN came slowly along the road, a white stick in his hand,
singing sorrowfully of something that was lying on his heart. He
was old and withered, with weary eyes, and in his steps there was
great heaviness, for he had ceased to care for one place more than
another. And when he ceased to sing he spoke to himself:

    “Aye, it is long since and I a strong farmer, and foolish
was I not to have her, that girl with the dark hair and eyes that
had the colour of sloes. White she was on the forehead, and
whiter was that fine soft neck of hers that put me in mind of a
swan. And long will I be wandering until I hear again a thrush
as sweet as the girl I could have had for the asking. Black and
bitter was the day I listened to my mother with her talk of cows
and of horses and of money. Black and bitter was the day
I listened to the priest and his talk of fine marriages. Black and
bitter was the day there was no fire and no life in my heart and
I let the girl that was sweeter than the new honey go away from
me. Sorrow and black misery that have been with me since and
the buying of cows and of heifers for the woman of the
Kavanaghs that I married. Surely she has spread out the bed

                                      Five Poems in Prose

well for me and has cared me well: and there isn’t a better woman
at butter-making in the parish. But there’s a cold wind always
blowing through the thatch and a queer pain in my heart when
I’m thinking of the girl that was comelier than Deirdre. And it is
likely it will be there until I find my death.”


SHE was young, but pale and worn, her eyes were red with weep-
ing, and when they put her in the dock she wept again. They
read out of a long paper the story of her crime, of the little thing
she had borne into the world and to whom she had given suck
for a few months, and then put it to sleep beneath the waters, with
a heavy stone round its neck. And they asked her why she had
killed her child:

    “It was on a cold night,” she said, “when I came along the
road that leads by the river, and the moon was out and shining on
it, and I saw his father coming along the road—the man that had
been dead for a twelvemonth. And he stopped me and spoke to
me. ‘It is a long day for him to be without food,’ he said, ‘and
there is little pity for the tinker’s child. There is little need of
food in the grave.’ That was all he said, and I went down to the
river with my child.”

    And they put her in a prison lest her breasts might cease
to yearn.


A LONG avenue of poplars reached from the doorway of the house
to the gateway, where the porter’s lodge still remained—but un-
inhabited. And in the evening boys and girls would gather there
to dance. Especially in the summer evenings, or in those even-
ings of early autumn when the rich brown colour still remained;
and often from the house two would go forth to whisper some tale
of love to each other. It chanced so one evening when there was
great peacefulness and quiet on the air, and two people walked
along the avenue, past the great house, and down to the borders
of the lake, silent and sorrowful. For their love had grown cold,
and though each knew of it, neither dared to speak it. They spoke

only in cold, hesitant voices, of the trees, the evening lights, the
waters of the lake, the comeliness and beauty of the dark pine
woods; but of that love which had drawn them together they
spoke not.

    “You have dreamed foolishly,” a voice had whispered to
him, “she is less beautiful than a hundred beautiful maidens whom
you know; she is not worthy of your life. Seek you among the
maidens that but await you, and one will be found with white
beautiful hands to spread out the bed for you, and with young, full
lips to linger on yours. But do not rest with her who no longer
awakens desire in you.”

    And a voice would whisper to her: “Leave him who is not
brave and comely, for he loves you not, and seek one from among
the men who are great and strong to wrestle and to hunt. Love
ie no longer with you; seek now for one more worthy of your

    And both then thought of the years they had been together,
of the dreams they had woven out of one heart, the house where
they had first met, where they had first embraced, and the droop-
ing branches of the oak-tree under which they had first kissed.
Without speaking they rose to part. And he stood, while she
wandered down among the trees, and he heard her voice come
softly through the leaves, singing in mournful and plaintive strain:

                        Hear me, gentle maiden,
                            Whosoe’er you be;
                        When love cometh laden
                            With great ecstasy,

                        Sorrow he will bring thee,
                            Hear me, maiden fair;
                        Sorrow he will bring thee,
                            And a load of care.

                        Love with sorrow laden!
                            Such a fate was mine;
                        Hear me, gentle maiden,
                            Such fate be not thine!

                                      Five Poems in Prose

    He listened to the voice that was full of sorrow, and went
to follow it along the narrow path. As he came clear of the
bushes, he saw her step on the little wooden foot-bridge under
which the stream that joined two lakes flowed. He listened,
waiting to hear her sing again; but there came instead the crash
of the rotten bridge, and the sound of her fall into the waters; and
he saw for a moment the gleam of her white gown ere she sank.
He rushed into the waters that were eddying along, and when she
rose again, half-conscious, he clasped her in his arms, and she
clasped him so strongly he could not move. In vain he tried to
swim; they were borne on by the current. Soon he ceased to
struggle and, ere he became unconscious, laid his head on hers;
and with his mouth on her mouth they sank to rest.

    But the trees still sing of them, and those hear who have
ears for the old music:

                        True love lives for ever,
                            Never shall it pass;
                        Death is but a lover,
                            Life is but a lass.

                        ‘Neath the waters singing,
                            She lies smooth and fair,
                        While her love is twining
                            Garlands for her hair.

                                                              MAURICE JOY

MLA citation:

Joy, Maurice. “Five Poems in Prose.” The Venture: an Annual of Art and Literature, vol. 2, 1905, pp. 176-180. Venture Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2019-2022. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Toronto Metropolitan University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2022,