The Princess and the Gypsies

As I looked out one May morning
I saw the tree-tops green;
I said: ‘My crown I will lay down
And live no more a queen.’

Then I tripped down my golden steps
Dressed in my silken gown,
And when I stood in the open wood
I met some gypsies brown.

‘O gentle, gentle gypsies
That roam the wide world through,
Because I hate my crown and state,
O let me come with you!

‘My councillors are old and grey
And sit in narrow chairs,
But you can hear the birds sing clear
And your hearts are as light as theirs.’

‘If you would come along with us
Then you must count the cost,
For though in Spring the sweet birds sing,
In Winter comes the frost.

‘Your ladies serve you all the day
With courtesy and care,
Your fine-shod feet they tread so neat
But a gypsy's feet go bare.

‘You wash in water running warm
Through basins all of gold;
The streams where we roam have silvery foam,
But the streams, the streams are cold.

‘And barley bread is bitter to taste,
Whilst sugary cakes they please.
Which will you choose, O which will you choose,
Which will you choose of these?

‘For if you choose the mountain streams
And barely bread to eat,
Your heart will be free as the birds in the tree
But the stones will cut your feet.

‘The mud will spoil your silken gown
And stain your insteps high,
The dogs in the farm will wish you harm
And bark as you go by.

‘And though your heart grow deep and gay
Your heart grow wise and rich,
The cold will make your bones to ache
And you will die in a ditch.’

‘O gentle, gentle gypsies
That roam the wide world through,
Although I praise your wandering ways
I dare not come with you.’

I hung about their fingers brown
My ruby rings and chain,
And with my head as heavy as lead
I turned me back again.

As I went up the palace steps
I heard the gypsies laugh;
The birds of spring so sweet did sing,
It broke my heart in half.

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