|Lavina, Canto 1: Lavina and the Prince (Part 1 of 2)|
by Julian X  /  poetry  /  19 Sep 2007
Lavina was an honest maid: she had come from a poor country family,
and grew in a cottage in the small town of Halpytus. One day,
when she was fourteen, a nobleman came through the town
on a rare inspection of his lands. Prince Guyesp,
then nineteen and newly-made a lord,
had demanded such a tour under the auspices of his ailing father.
All Halpytus had been prepared; the buildings repainted;
the people dressed in their best finement, such as it was,
and lined the streets to throw petals and cheers at the passing prince;
while the undesirables with naught but rags
were secreted out of sight, lest they sully the prince’s eyes.
As for young Lavina, none had cared inform her of the visit,
and so the new-made prince, passing with his retinue,
first spied her, unprepared in simple country dress,
while she shook out the carpets in her family’s modest garden.
The prince was instantly taken and bade his men to stop.
“Who is that girl?” he asked his men,
who asked the local mayor in turn –
and came the answer, “just some farmer’s daughter, your majesty.
She’s of no importance.” But the lord would not hear of it,
and leapt from his carriage at once, saying,
“Of no importance? Why, this face alone would argue otherwise:
I’ve not seen its match in all my realms. Of no importance?
Surely such a creature as this comes of noble stock.
I must see her father.” Now, Prince Guyesp
had approached sweet Lavina, who looked down bashfully,
not knowing how to act before a lord such as this.
The mayor himself went inside the little cottage
and retrieved the girl’s father, who, once outside,
quickly fell on his feet and praised “your majesty,
the glory of all the land.” The prince
dismissed this display, interrupted and bade the man
to stand. Lavina’s father complied, nervously brushing the mud
from his pants, as his daughter stood mute and watching.
“I mean to take your daughter as my wife,”
Guyesp revealed, and all his entourage stood agape.
He spoke to them, saying, “Would any of you deny
that I am entitled to the most beautiful woman
in all my lands? What matters her birth?”
Again he spoke to Lavina’s father: “Now, I know
you cannot afford a dowry. But if you give your consent,
I shall care for your daughter from my lordly purse
and she shall live forever more in luxury. Do you consent?”
The father replied immediately, but with a stammer:
“Y-y-yes, your majesty. It is a great honor... I...
I can deny your lordship nothing... I...”
“Good then,” interrupted the prince. “But I would not wed
a maid of such beauty against her will.” He approached
the young maiden, still standing in the garden.
Though she had heard everything, she made no eye contact
with the lord, but kept her head down in humility.
“Young maid?” he asked and he touched her chin.
“I will make you a lord and put you before a gilded table
of sweet meats from all my lands. But, love you as I do,
I cannot take you if you do not love me too.
Say, then, if you did not feel something flutter
in your breast when you first saw me.
You have only to say no, and I will leave you in peace
to this cottage and this loving father
for the remainder of your days. But mouth a yes,
say you too felt the prick of love
upon first seeing me, and you
shall ever more be mine.”
Still looking down, though now blushing from his words,
the girl confessed with two brief words:
a softly spoken “I did.”
Prince Guyesp threw his hands in the air with joy
and walked straight to the girl’s father, asking
“Say, what is the girl’s name?”
“Lavina, the pride of my loins,” her father replied.
“Oh, no, that simply won’t do. I’m sorry:
truly it is a hateful thing to say this to a father, but that name –
that name was held by one of my ancestors...
a dreadful woman who killed herself
along with her husband and her children,
truth be told. Oh, dreadful coincidence! What to do?”
But Lavina’s father volunteered straight away, “sire,
beloved lord, what’s in a name? Does it matter whether
she shares the name of some wench generations before?
She is Lavina, my daughter – a poor countryman’s girl.”
“Oh, no, that simply won’t do,” came again the prince.
“Yet,” he continued, gazing over at the darling girl,
“I love her too much, and the thought of leaving without her
pains my heart. Perhaps – yes, perhaps – I could rename her.
Yes, rename her as pontiffs on the throne, as I
have but recently myself. For surely she is to be raised
at least as far, and more. Would you object, good man?”
“Far be it for me to object, sir,” replied the father.
“Good,” said Guyesp, then called to his men,
“Fetch the gold and bring the priest:
I’m to be married here and today.”
“Here, sire?” they replied, but he assured them,
“Yes, now bring the money and the priest:
we shall sanctify this tiny cottage.”
From one of the carriages in the rear,
the priest was fetched, came running to that garden.
Lavina’s father was beside himself with glee
and joined the rest of his family,
who had gathered at the door to watch.
“Lavina, you’re to be married today,” he told his daughter,
and her mother wept tears of joy, adding,
“It’s more than we could have ever wanted.”
The priest performed the ceremony right there,
and in that little garden a prince of the land did wed
the sweet but obscure Lavina. They exchanged their vows,
her to love, honor, and obey. It was done in a moment,
and the prince handed Lavina’s father a handful of gold
with all his well-wishes. Then, holding Lavina’s face
up to look at his, he said that he pronounced her
Isabel, then repeated the name to all aloud.
All cheered, for in their eyes
the prince was married that day to the town as well as the girl,
but the prince refused to stay, explaining the firm schedule
of his ongoing trip and what would come after.
Lavina joined Guyesp in his carriage, and servants
held her hand as she stepped up into it.
Her family stood and waved and cried,
and she did too as the whole entourage started away,
processing long past this now historic cottage.
Lavina could barely believe the sumptuous interior
of her husband’s carriage, all covered with silk,
the seats a soft red velvet over softer feathers,
softness such as she had never felt in all her life.
And think, she thought, this is just his traveling conditions!
A new life had begun, one far beyond her grandest aspiration,
beyond even any story whispered by her mother in her childish ear,
tales of elves and vampires and princesses made.
When the carriage had some time passed the city’s edge,
Prince Guyesp ordered the whole procession stopped.
While the world waited, the lord and his new bride made love
on satin, silk, and velvet. The driver heard her virgin cry,
but inside the noble caught her blood on rarest silk.
The meadows and the hills ‘round Halpytus
echoed with the sounds of lovemaking,
and all the carriages and carts and horses and men
stood still before the echoing chorus.
Some weeks later, Lavina’s family heard the public news
of their lord’s marriage to one Isabel, from the country,
and all the town rejoiced with pride: Halpytus town
soon erected a sign that read “home of our lord’s wife”
and a marker in that garden, explaining the wonderful tale
of the prince who saw the country girl, more beautiful
than all the world’s princesses, fell in love at sight,
and took her, there in that very flowerbed, as his wife.
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