Monday, December 17, 2012

Give Me My Freedom and the Burning Stars

The Prisoner
by Lucy Maud Montgomery


I lash and writhe against my prison bars,
And watch with sullen eyes the gaping crowd.
Give me my freedom and the burning stars,
The hollow sky, and crags of moonlit cloud!

Once I might range across the trackless plain,
And roar with joy, until the desert air
And wide horizons echoed it amain:
I feared no foe, for I was monarch there!

I saw my shadow on the parching sand,
When the hot sun had kissed the mountain's rim;
And when the moon rose o'er long wastes of land,
I sought my prey by some still river's brim;

And with me my fierce love, my tawny mate,
Meet mother of strong cubs, meet lion's bride.
We made our lair in regions desolate,
The solitude of wildernesses wide.

They slew her...and I watched the life-blood flow
From her torn flank, and her proud eyes grow dim:
I howled her dirge above her while the low,
Red moon clomb up the black horizon's rim.

Me, they entrapped...cowards! They did not dare
To fight as brave men do, without disguise,
And face my unleashed rage! The hidden snare
Was their device to win an untamed prize.

I am a captive...not for me the vast,
White dome of sky above the blinding sand,
The sweeping rapture of the desert blast
Across long ranges of untrodden land!

Yet still they fetter not my thought! In dreams
I, desert-born, tread the hot wastes once more,
Quench my deep thirst in cool, untainted streams,
And shake the darkness with my kingly roar!

At this point in the grading, which is going more slowly than usual and seems to be compounded with some kind of bug or weird allergy doing evil things to my sinuses, I need something rousing. Lucy Maud Montgomery is, of course, Prince Edward Island's greatest literary figure. She is most famous for Anne of Green Gables, but she also wrote a considerable amount of high-quality poetry. While the conceit of this poem is a common one, the execution is quite exquisite -- it would be difficult to do better than she has done here.

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