Gateway to the Classics: Display Item
Alfred Noyes

Peter Quince

Peter Quince was nine year old

When he see'd what never was told.

When he crossed the fairy fern,

Peter had no more to learn.

Just as day began to die,

He see'd 'em rustling on the sky;

Ferns, like small green finger-prints

Pressed against them rosy tints,

Mother-o'-pearl and opal tinges

Dying along their whispering fringes,

Every colour, as it died,

Beaconing, Come, to the other side.

Up he crept, by the shrew-mouse track.

A robin chirped, You woant come back.

Through the ferns he crept to look.

· · ·

There he found a gurt wide book;

Much too big for a child to hold.

Its clasps were made of sunset gold.

It smelled as old ship's timbers do.

He began to read it through.

All the magic pictures burned,

Like stained windows, as he turned

Page by big black-lettered page,

Thick as cream, and ripe with age.

There he read, till all grew dim.

Then green glow-worms lighted him.

There he read till he forgot

All that ever his teachers taught.

· · ·

Someone, old as the moon, crept back,

Late that night by the shrew-mouse track.

Someone, taller maybe, by an inch.

Boys grow fast. He'll do at a pinch.

Only, folks that know'd him claim

Peter's wits were never the same.

Ev'ryone said that Peter Quince

H'aint been never the same child since.

Now he'd sit, in a trance, for hours,

Talkin' softly to bees and flowers.

Now, in the ingle-nook at night,

Turn his face from the candle-light;

Till, as you thought him fast asleep,

You'd see his eyes were wide and deep;

And, in their wild magic glow,

Rainbow colours 'ud come and go.

Dame Quince never could wholly wake him,

So they say, tho' she'd call and shake him.

He sat dreaming. He sat bowed

In a white sleep, like a cloud.

Over his dim face at whiles,

Flickered liddle elvish smiles.

· · ·

Once, the robin at the pane,

Tried to chirp the truth again.

Peter Quince has crossed the fern.

Peter Quince will not return.

Drive the changeling from your chair!

That's not Peter dreaming there.

Peter's crossed the fern to look.

Peter's found the magic book.

Ah, Dame Quince was busy sobbin',

So she couldn't hear poor Robin.

And the changeling, in a dream,

Supped that night, on pears and cream.

Night by night, he cleared his platter;

And—from moon to moon—grew fatter;

Mostly dumb, or muttering dimly

When the smoke blew down the chimley,

Peter's turned another page,

I have almost earned my wage.

Then the good dame's eyelids shone.

· · ·

This was many a year agone.

Peter Quince is reading on.