Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE KING OF THE CROCODILES, by ROBERT SOUTHEY



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THE KING OF THE CROCODILES, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Now, woman, why without your veil?
Last Line: And I will make a meal of thee.
Subject(s): Children - Lost; Courts & Courtiers; Crocodiles; Egypt; Grief; Mothers; Trust; Sorrow; Sadness


NOW, woman, why without your veil?
And wherefore do you look so pale?
And woman, why do you groan so sad,
And beat your breast, as you were mad?

Oh! I have lost my darling boy,
In whom my soul had all its joy;
And I for sorrow have torn my veil,
And sorrow hath made my very heart pale.

Oh, I have lost my darling child,
And that's the loss that makes me wild;
He stoop'd to the river down to drink,
And there was a crocodile by the brink.

He did not venture in to swim,
He only stoop'd to drink at the brim;
But under the reeds the crocodile lay,
And struck with his tail and swept him away.

Now take me in your boat, I pray,
For down the river lies my way;
And me to the reed-island bring,
For I will go to the crocodile king.

The king of the crocodiles never does wrong—
He has no tail so stiff and strong,
He has no tail to strike and slay,
But he has ears to hear what I say.

And to the king I will complain
How my poor child was wickedly slain;
The king of the crocodiles he is good,
And I shall have the murderer's blood.

The man replied, No, woman, no,
To the island of reeds I will not go;
I would not, for any worldly thing,
See the face of the crocodile king.

Then lend me now your little boat,
And I will down the river float.
I tell thee that no worldly thing
Shall keep me from the crocodile king.

The woman she leapt into the boat,
And down the river alone did she float,
And fast with the stream the boat proceeds,
And now she is come to the island of reeds.

The king of the crocodiles there was seen,
He sat upon the eggs of his queen,
And all around, a numerous rout,
The young prince crocodiles crawl'd about.

The woman shook every limb with fear,
As she to the crocodile king came near,
For never man without fear and awe
The face of his crocodile majesty saw.

She fell upon her bended knee,
And said, O king, have pity on me,
For I have lost my darling child,
And that's the loss that makes me wild.

A crocodile ate him for his food,
Now let me have the murderer's blood,
Let me have vengeance for my boy,
The only thing that can give me joy.

I know that you, sire! never do wrong;
You have no tail so stiff and strong,
You have no tail to strike and slay,
But you have ears to hear what I say.

You have done well, the king replies,
And fix'd on her his little eyes;
Good woman, yes, you have done right,
But you have not described me quite.

I have no tail to strike and slay,
And I have ears to hear what you say;
I have teeth, moreover, as you may see,
And I will make a meal of thee.





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