A Fairy Tale

by Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell

On winter nights beside the nursery fire

We read the fairy tale, while glowing coals

Builded its pictures. There before our eyes

We saw the vaulted hall of traceried stone

Uprear itself, the distant ceiling hung

With pendent stalactites like frozen vines;

And all along the walls at intervals,

Curled upwards into pillars, roses climbed,

And ramped and were confined, and clustered leaves

Divided where there peered a laughing face.

The foliage seemed to rustle in the wind,

A silent murmur, carved in still, gray stone.

High pointed windows pierced the southern wall

Whence proud escutcheons flung prismatic fires

To stain the tessellated marble floor

With pools of red, and quivering green, and blue;

And in the shade beyond the further door,

Its sober squares of black and white were hid

Beneath a restless, shuffling, wide-eyed mob

Of lackeys and retainers come to view

The Christening.

A sudden blare of trumpets, and the throng

About the entrance parted as the guests

Filed singly in with rare and precious gifts.

Our eager fancies noted all they brought,

The glorious, unattainable delights!

But always there was one unbidden guest

Who cursed the child and left it bitterness.

The fire falls asunder, all is changed,

I am no more a child, and what I see

Is not a fairy tale, but life, my life.

The gifts are there, the many pleasant things:

Health, wealth, long-settled friendships, with a name

Which honors all who bear it, and the power

Of making words obedient. This is much;

But overshadowing all is still the curse,

That never shall I be fulfilled by love!

Along the parching highroad of the world

No other soul shall bear mine company.

Always shall I be teased with semblances,

With cruel impostures, which I trust awhile

Then dash to pieces, as a careless boy

Flings a kaleidoscope, which shattering

Strews all the ground about with coloured sherds.

So I behold my visions on the ground

No longer radiant, an ignoble heap

Of broken, dusty glass. And so, unlit,

Even by hope or faith, my dragging steps

Force me forever through the passing days.