Alec Derwent Hope
Year after year the princess lies asleep
Until the hundred years foretold are done,
Easily drawing her enchanted breath.
Caught on the monstrous thorns around the keep,
Bones of the youths who sought her, one by one
Rot loose and rattle to the ground beneath.
But when the Destined Lover at last shall come,
For whom alone Fortune reserves the prize
The thorns give way; he mounts the cobwebbed stair
Unerring he finds the tower, the door, the room,
The bed where, waking at his kiss she lies
Smiling in the loose fragrance of her hair.
That night, embracing on the bed of state,
He ravishes her century of sleep
And she repays the debt of that long dream;
Future and Past compose their vast debate;
His seed now sown, her harvest ripe to reap
Enact a variation on the theme.
For in her womb another princess waits,
A sleeping cell, a globule of bright dew.
Jostling their way up that mysterious stair,
A horde of lovers bursts between the gates,
All doomed but one, the destined suitor, who
By luck first reaches her and takes her there.
A parable of all we are or do!
The life of Nature is a formal dance
In which each step is ruled by what has been
And yet the pattern emerges always new
The marriage of linked cause and random chance
Gives birth perpetually to the unforeseen.
One parable for the body and the mind:
With science and heredity to thank
The heart is quite predictable as a pump,
But, let love change its beat, the choice is blind.
‘Now’ is a cross-roads where all maps prove blank,
And no one knows which way the cat will jump.
So here stand I, by birth a cross between
Determined pattern and incredible chance,
Each with an equal share in what I am.
Though I should read the code stored in the gene,
Yet the blind lottery of circumstance
Mocks all solutions to its cryptogram.
As in my flesh, so in my spirit stand I
When does this hundred years draw to its close?
The hedge of thorns before me gives no clue.
My predecessor’s carcass, shrunk and dry,
Stares at me through the spikes. Oh well, here goes!
I have this thing, and only this, to do.