Charlie Waterworth’s “The Prince and the Moon” was selected as the winning poem for the Creative Writing half of our Creative Writing and Art competition.
I’ll tell you of a princeling, residing in the East,
By day he studied learned texts, by night he loved to feast.
It was inferred which he preferred by how his gut increased.
His father was a Sultan, but his mother could have been
Any wench, Moorish to French, from the palace’s hareem
(A modest size, the Sultan surmised, of only thirty-three).
The prince was rather restless, as scions often are
He wished to travel land or sea: Algiers or Zanzibar.
But though his servants laboured and his desire was staunch,
His donkey would exhaust itself, his dhow would sink, not launch.
His swollen girth, a source of mirth, had made him much maligned.
This smirch upon his honour determined him to find
A good pursuit of fair repute to quell his restive mind.
And so our poor and luckless prince became an arrestee
A captured heart of that great art: of Selenology.
He bought a gilded telescope, observed the crimson Mars,
But, unrefined, his greedy mind cravèd only stars
He longed to fish them from the sky, like fireflies in jars:
The innumerable muses of coquettish Pegasi,
Or Aldebaran who could spur a man to write a verse, or try;
And who’d deny Ophiuchi, or smold’ring Betelgeuse,
The right to war with twin Castor for poets’ minds to seize.
And as to why these stars would vie: to have their pride appeased.
This prince was not a metricist, he could not write in verse,
And when he tried it was decried: “Too trite!” He was accursed.
One would find his mundane mind quite un-Parnassian:
His odes were too prosaic – but not to be outdone,
His poor quatrains were writ in vain, they sounded quite homespun.
Neither could he map the sky, nor fill an astral chart.
All could attest he’d not been blessed with cartographic heart.
The root of such ineptitude is found in book and quill:
In being taught, all came to naught, he took in only swill.
The stars stared back into the prince, cruel and blue and cold,
But his hubris was quite remiss, and silence made him bold.
“Let me pursue your mysteries!” he’d earnestly entreat,
But like eyes of ill-tempered toads, when prodded they’d retreat.
The prince attuned his spyglass to search and to appraise
An admiree, salutary to cure his deep malaise.
Vibrant Sol, too bright by far, the princeling’s eyes would blind,
Neither Mars nor Mercury – a gentler liege he’d find.
But night exhumed the mistress whom by day the Sun outshined.
“The Moon, promiscuous bitch!” he cried: so innocent, and yet
This noon façade she would discard after her husband set.
Oh come young heir, fair Luna cooed, and train your ‘scope on me
Of Empyrean pantheons, I am the apogee!
This temptress now had found a soul her beauty could mislead
Whether she was unchastely full, or teasing slim crescent.
To our prince one should evince, she was rather senescent.
Though lambent were the lunar charms int’which this princeling dove,
‘Twas all a trick, for on occult magicks she throve.
From nameless gods in bygone lands to Grecian Artemis,
This faux divine had snared mankind to heed her artifice:
Our prince’s whim was giving in to heathen avarice!
And from the cunning of the Moon, to test this debauchee,
She talked of passion for our prince, greased with flattery.
Our scion, deftly taken in, for though he was an heir,
His grossness vexed the female sex, attention had been spare.
With yearning this soft nightly rogue our prince’s head did sow
And like the tides she pulled aside, his lust did ebb and flow.
Love’s lure was now acronical, twilight turned his head,
His heart was fooled for crepuscule, and morning brought him dread
For as his lunar lover slept, she left an empty bed.
What ritual foul did she demand, this gory night goddess?
With harrowing devotion our prince burned in sacrifice
Two dogs, ten stoats, a mountain goat, and countless kitchen mice.
(On one damp mouse, the fire was doused; he had to burn it twice).
These offerings, our prince was sure, his mistress would impress
Yet come the climax of the Eastern month, he saw a moonless sky.
His lover gone, this young scion could not be mollified.
And though his love was back the next, he passed that very night,
Too brisk by far, this prince of ours, too late to be contrite!
He did not die of heartbreak, the reader is assured:
A nasty bout of lethal gout did his life defraud
And this disease conspired to cease this verse with great concord.