Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
 
The Pastime of the Queen of Fairies
By Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1624?–1674)
 
QUEEN MAB 1 and all her Fairy fry,
Dance on a pleasant molehill high:
With fine straw pipes sweet music’s pleasure,
They make and keep just time and measure.
All hand in hand, around, around,        5
They dance upon the Fairy ground.
And when she leaves her dancing-hall
She doth for her attendants call,
To wait upon her to a bower,
Where she doth sit beneath a flower,        10
To shade her from the moonshine bright;
And gnats do sing for her delight.
The whilst the bat doth fly about
To keep in order all the rout.
She on a dewy leaf doth bathe,        15
And as she sits the leaf doth wave:
Like a new fallen flake of snow
All her white limbs in beauty show.
Her garments fair her maids put on,
Made of the pure light from the sun,        20
From whence such colours she inshades
In every object she invades.
Then to her dinner she goes straight,
Where all her imps in order wait.
Upon a mushroom there is spread        25
A cover fine of spiders web;
And for her stool a thistle-down;
And for her cup an acorn’s crown,
Wherein strong nectar there is filled,
That from sweet flower is distilled.        30
Flies of all sorts both fat and good,
For snipe, quail, partridge are her food.
Omelettes made of ant eggs new—
Of such high meats she eats but few.
Her milk is from the dormouse udder,        35
Which makes her cheese and cream and butter:
This they do mix in many a knack,
And fresh laid ants’ eggs therein crack:—
Both pudding, custard and seed-cake,
Her skilled cook well knows how to bake.        40
To sweeten them the bee doth bring
Pure honey gathered by her sting:
But for her guard serves grosser meat—
They of the stall-fed dormouse eat.
When dined she calls, to take the air,        45
Her coach which is a nutshell fair;
Lined soft it is and rich within,
Made of a glistening adders skin,
And there six crickets draw her fast,
When she a journey takes in haste:        50
Or else two serve to pace a round,
And trample on the Fairy ground.
To hawk sometimes she takes delight,
Her bird a hornet swift for flight,
Whose horns do serve for talons strong,        55
To gripe the partridge-fly among.
But if she will a hunting go,
The lizard answers for a doe;
It is so swift and fleet in chase,
That her slow coach cannot keep pace;        60
Then on the grasshopper she’ll ride
And gallop in the forest wide.
Her bow is of a willow branch,
To shoot the lizard on the haunch:
Her arrow sharp, much like a blade,        65
Of a rosemary leaf is made.
Then home she’s summoned by the cock,
Who gives her warning what’s o’clock,
And when the moon doth hide her head,
Her day is done, she goes to bed.        70
Meteors do serve, when they are bright,
As torches do, to give her light,
Glow-worms for candles are lit up,
Set on the table while she sup.
But women, the inconstant kind,        75
Ne’er in one place content their mind,
She calls her chariot and away
To upper earth—impatient of long stay.
 
The stately palace in which the Queen dwells
Is a fabric built of hodmandod shells:        80
The hangings thereof a rainbow that’s thin,
Which shew wondrous fine as you enter in;
The chambers are made of amber that’s clear
Which gives a sweet smell when fire is near:
Her bed is a cherry-stone carvèd throughout        85
And with a bright butterfly’s wing hung about:
Her sheets are made of dove’s eyes skin—
Her pillow’s a violet bud laid therein:
The doors of her chamber are transparent glass,
Where the Queen may be seen as within she doth pass.        90
The doors are locked fast with silver pins;
The Queen is asleep and now man’s day begins.
 
Note 1. The text here given is that of the Golden Treasury edition of Selections from the works of the Duke and Duchess of Newcastle, edited by Edward Jenkins, 1872. [back]
 
 
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