Classic and Contemporary Poetry
THE ROMAUNT OF KING MORDAMEER, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY Poet's Biography
First Line: Ho! Did ye hear of mordameer
Last Line: And met him face to face.
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Courts & Courtiers; Dreams; Fantasy; Sleep; Nightmares
HO! did ye hear of Mordameer,
The King of Slumberland!
A lotus-crown upon his brow --
A poppy in his hand,
And all the elves that people dreams
To bow at his command.
His throne is wrought of blackest night,
Enriched with rare designs
Wherein the blazing comet runs
And writhes and wreathes and twines
About a crescent angel-face
That ever smiling shines.
The dais is of woven rays
Of starlight fringed with shade,
And jeweled o'er with gems of dew,
And dyed and interlaid
With every gleaming tint and hue
Of which the flowers are made.
And when the day has died away
In darkness o'er the land,
The King bends down his dusky face
And takes the sleeper's hand,
And lightly o'er his folded eyes
He waves his magic wand.
And lo! within his princely home,
Upon his downy bed,
With soft and silken coverlets
And curtains round him spread,
The rich man rolls in troubled sleep,
And moans in restless dread:
His eyes are closed, yet Mordameer
May see their stony stare
As plainly fixed in agony
As though the orbs were bare
And glaring at the wizard throng
That fills the empty air: --
A thousand shapes, with phantom japes,
Dance o'er the sleeper's sight, --
With fingers bony-like and lean,
And faces pinched and white,
And withered cheeks, and sunken eyes
With ever-ravening sight.
And such the dreams that Mordameer
Brings to the child of Pride, --
The worn and wasted forms that he
Hath stinted and denied --
Of those who filled his coffers up
And empty-handed died.
And then again he waves his wand:
And from his lair of straw
The felon, with his fettered limbs,
Starts up with fear and awe,
And stares with starting eyes upon
A vision of the law:
A grim procession passes by,
The while he glares in fear --
With faces, from a wanton's smile
Down to a demon's leer, --
The woman marching at the front,
The hangman at the rear.
All ways are clear to Mordameer:
The ocean knows his tread;
His feet are free on land or sea: --
Above the sailor's head
He hangs a dream of home, and bends
Above his cottage-bed:
And, nestled in the mother's arms,
A child, surpassing fair,
In slumber lies, its tiny hands
Entangled in her hair,
And round its face a smile that moves
Its lips as though in prayer.
And lo! the good king feasts its eyes
With fruits from foreign shores,
And pink-lipped shells that ever mock
The ocean as it roars;
And in the mother's arms he folds
The form that she adores.
Through all the hovels of the poor
He steals with noiseless tread,
And presses kisses o'er and o'er
Where sorrow's tears are shed,
Till old caresses live once more
That are forever dead.
Above the soldier in his tent
Are glorious battles fought;
And o'er the prince's velvet couch,
And o'er the peasant's cot,
And o'er the pallet of disease
His wondrous spells are wrought.
He bends him o'er the artist's cot,
And fills his dazzled mind
With airy forms that float about
Like clouds in summer wind,
O'er landscapes that the angels wrought
And God Himself designed.
And drifting through the poet's dreams
The seraph trails her wings,
And fills the chancels of his soul
With heavenly whisperings,
Till, swooning with delight, he hears
The song he never sings.
He talks the wide world's every way,
This monarch grand and grim;
All paths that reach the human heart,
However faint and dim,
He journeys, for the darkest night
Is light as day to him.
And thus the lordly Mordameer
Rules o'er his mystic realm,
With gems from out the star's red core
To light his diadem,
And kings and emperors to kneel
And kiss his garment's hem.
For once, upon a night of dreams,
Adown the aisles of space
I strayed so far that I forgot
Mine own abiding-place,
And wandered into Slumberland,
And met him face to face.
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