Alice

The paynims seized her in the wood
Where shadows moved alive,
Where steep rocks made a well of shade,
And no sweet flowers might thrive.

One from her hair the pearl-strings tore:
She seemed as fair again;
The pearls, the only gems she wore,
Lost all their lustre then.

A cry she cried: “Help, help, dear love!”
They gagged her with her lace;
Her scarf—white silk, like foaming milk—
They bound across her face.

Pale, dumb with lust, they rent her robes;
She thanked God for her hair.
White in the wood, unsheathed she stood,
The only flower there.

But when she felt her nakedness,
These wolves she clasped and clung;
Their eyes devoured her sweet distress,
And low their laughter rung.

The ruthless paynims then cast lots
Who should possess her first.
“Hark, Alice! hist! I keep my tryst!”
And in her lover burst.

He fought the three, and felled each foe,
That none should ever rise;
Then stood. She loosed her scarf; and lo,
Their souls were in their eyes.

Right as her quickened spirit rose
Her shuddering body dawned;
Her arms would veil the tinted snows,
Her sight restore its bond.

But shame, the body's false friend, died—
Flame in the sun's clear frown:
Only her virgin soul he eyed;
Her arms hung meekly down.

He leapt the space between; her eyes
Held his with trembling power.
No word they spoke; wrapped in his cloak,
He bore her to her bower.
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