Hello again, friends, and sorry about my absence. I’ve been traveling about the UK and now I’m back in Canada feeling somewhat jet-lagged. I remembered a conversation I had with fellow blogger and wonderful poet Christy Birmingham of Poetic Parfait about Walter de la Mare. I wanted to tell her about one of my favorite poems by this author, but couldn’t find a link to it anywhere.
So I guess it’s up to me to put this masterpiece on the internet for all to enjoy.
This poems comes from a book called Rhymes and Verses: Collected poems for Young People. Some of the poems are quite creepy, though, and can be thoroughly enjoyed by adults as well. De la Mare often wrote about supernatural creatures such as ghosts, witches, fairies, or just mysterious unexplained things.
Anyhow, this particular poem has always been a favorite of mine because it’s about a dashing mouse prince who could quite easily have been a romance hero if some mouse maid could have reformed him from his rakish ways.
I also love the creative rhyming here which approaches Gilbert and Sullivan levels, such as rhyming ‘slices’ with ‘nice is’ and ‘Peridarchus’ with ‘a carcass!’
The Prince by Walter De La Mare
Sweet Peridarchus was a Prince,
The Prince he was of—Mouses;
He roved and roamed the haunts of Men,
And ranged about their houses.
He gnawed his way along a street
Through holes in every wainscot,
Fandangoed in the attics and
From basement on to basement.
His eyes like bits of rubies shone;
His coat, as sleek as satin,
With teeth as sharp as needle-points
He kept to keep him fat in.
His squeak so sharp in the small hours rang
That every waker wondered;
He trimmed his whiskers stiff as wire,
Had sweethearts by the hundred.
He’d gut a Cheshire cheese with ease,
Plum cake devoured in slices,
Lard, haggis, suet, sausages,
And everything that nice is.
Cork out, he’d dangle down his tail
For oil that was in bottle;
Nothing too sweet, nothing too fat
For Peridarchus’ throttle.
He’d dance upon a chimney-pot,
The merry stars a-twinkling;
Or, scampering up a chandelier,
Set all the lustres tinkling.
He’s skip in to a pianoforte
To listen how it sounded;
He bored into a butt of wine,
And so was nearly drownded.
At midnight when he sat at meat,
Twelve saucy sonsy maidens,
With bee-sweet voices ditties sang,
Some sad ones, and some gay ones.
For bodyguard he had a score
Of warriors grim and hardy;
They raided every larder round,
From Peebles to Cromarty.
Girmalkin—deep in dreams she lay,
Comes he, with these gay friskers,
Steals up and gnaws away her claws,
And plucks out all her whiskers.
He scaled a bell-rope where there sonred
The Bailiff and his Lady;
Danced on his nose, nibbled her toes,
And kissed the squalling Baby.
A merry life was his, I trow,
Despite it was a short one;
One night he met a mort of rats—
He bared his teeth, and fought one:
A bully ruffian, thrice his size;
But when the conflict ended,
He sighed, “Alack, my back is broke,
And that can ne’er be mended.”
They laid him lifeless on a bier,
They lapped him up in ermine;
They lit a candle, inches thick,
His Uncle preached the sermon:
“O Mouseland, mourn for him that’s gone,
Our noble Peridarchus!
In valiant fight but yesternight,
And now, alas, a carcass!
A Hero—Mouse or Man—is one
Who never wails or winces;
Friends, shed a tear for him that’s here,
The Princeliest of Princes!”