An Extempore

An Extempore

by John Keats


An Extempore

When they were come into Faery’s Court

They rang, no one at home, all gone to sport

And dance and kiss and love as faerys do

For Faries be as human lovers true,

Amid the woods they were so lone and wild

Where even the Robin feels himself exil’d

And where the very books as if affraid

Hurry along to some less magic shade.

‘No one at home’! the fretful princess cry’d

‘And all for nothing such a dre[a]ry ride

And all for nothing my new diamond cross

No one to see my persian feathers toss

No one to see my Ape, my Dwarf, my Fool

Or how I pace my Otaheitan mule.

Ape, Dwarf and Fool why stand you gaping there

Burst the door open, quick, or I declare

I’ll switch you soundly and in pieces tear.’

The Dwarf began to tremble and the Ape

Star’d at the Fool, the Fool was all agape

The Princess grasp’d her switch but just in time

The Dwarf with piteous face began to rhyme.

“O mighty Princess did you ne’er hear tell

What your poor servants know but too too well

Know you the three great crimes in faery land

The first alas! poor Dwarf I understand

I made a whipstock of a faery’s wand

The next is snoring in their company

The next the last the direst of the three

Is making free when they are not at home.

I was a Prince, a baby prince, my doom

You see, I made a whipstock of a wand

My top has henceforth slept in faery land.

He was a Prince the Fool, a grown up Prince

But he has never been a King’s son since

He fell a snoring at a faery Ball

Your poor Ape was a Prince and he poor thing

But ape, so pray your highness stay awhile

‘Tis sooth indeed we know it to our sorrow,

Persist and you may be an ape tomorrow,

While the Dwarf spake the Princess all for spite

Peal’d the brown hazel twig to lilly white

Clench’d her small teeth, and held her lips apart

Try’d to look unconcerned with beating heart.

They saw her highness had made up her mind

And quaver’d like the reeds before the wind

And they had had it, but O happy chance

The Ape for very fear began to dance

And grin’d as all his uglyness did ache,

She staid her vixen fingers for his sake

He was so very ugly: then she took

Her pocket mirror and began to look

First at herself and [then] at him and then

She smil’d at her own beauteous face again.

Yet for all this, for all her pretty face

She took it in her head to see the place.

Women gain little from experience

Either in Lovers, husbands or expense.

The more their beauty the more fortune too

Beauty before the wide world never knew.

So each fair reasons, tho’ it oft miscarries.

She thought her pretty face would please the fa[e]ries.

“My darling Ape I wont whip you today

Give me the Picklock sirrah and go play.”

They all three wept but counsel was as vain

As crying cup biddy to drops of rain.

Yet lingeringly did the sad Ape forth draw

The Picklock from the Pocket in his Jaw.

The Princess took it and dismounting straight

Trip’d in blue silver’d slippers to the gate

And touch’d the wards, the Door full courteously

Opened, she enter’d with her servants three.

Again it clos’d and there was nothing seen

But the Mule grasing on the herbage green.


End of Canto xii.


Canto the xiii.


The Mule no sooner saw himself alone

Than he prick’d up his Ears, and said ‘well done!

At least unhappy Prince I may be free,

No more a Princess shall side saddle me

O King of Othaiete, tho’ a Mule

‘Aye every inch a King’, tho’ ‘Fortune’s fool.’

Well done, for by what Mr. Dwarfy said

I would not give a sixpence for her head.’

Even as he spake he trotted in high glee

To the knotty side of an old Pollard tree

And rub’d his sides against the mossed bark

Till his Girths burst and left him naked stark

Except his Bridle, how get rid of that

Buckled and tied with many a twist and plait.

At last it struck him to pretend to sleep

And then the thievish Monkies down would creep

And filch the unpleasant trammels quite away.

No sooner thought of than adown he lay

Sham’d a good snore, the Monkey-men descended

And whom they thought to injure they befriended.

They hung his Bridle on a topmost bough

And of[f] he went run, trot, or anyhow,


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