My lord, hearing lately of your opulence in promises and your house

  Busy with parasites, of your hands full of favours, your statutes

  Admirable as music, and no fear of your arms not prospering, 1 have

  Considered how to serve you and breed from my talents

  These few secrets which 1 shall make plain

  To your intelligent glory. You should understand that 1 have plotted,

  Being in command of all the ordinary engines

  Of defence and offence, a hundred and fifteen buildings

  Less others less complete: complete, some are courts of serene stone,

  Some the civil structures of a war-like elegance as bridges,

  Sewers, aqueducts and citadels of brick, with which 1 declare the fact

  That your nature is to vanquish. For these 1 have acquired a knowledge

  Of the habits of numbers and of various tempers, and skill in setting

  Firm sets of pure bare members which will rise, hanging together

  Like an argument, with beams, ties and sistering pilasters:

  The lintels and windows with mouldings as round as a girl's chin; thresholds

  To libraries; halls that cannot be entered without a sensation as of myrrh

  By your vermilion officers, your sages and dancers. There will be chambers

  Like the recovery of a sick man, your closet waiting not

  Less suitably shadowed than the heart, and the coffers of a ceiling

  To reflect your diplomatic taciturnities. You may commission

  Hospitals, huge granaries that will smile to bear your filial plunders,

  And stables washed with a silver lime in whose middle tower seated

  In the slight acridity you may watch

  The copper thunder kept in the sulky flanks of your horse, a rolling field

  Of necks glad to be groomed, the strong crupper, the edged hoof

  And the long back, seductive and rebellious to saddles.

  And barracks, fortresses, in need of no vest save light, light

  That to me is breath, food and drink, 1 live by effects of light, I live

  To catch it, to break it, as an orator plays off

  Against each other and his theme his casual gems, and so with light,

  Twisted in strings, plucked, crossed or knotted or crumbled

  As it may be allowed to be by leaves,

  Or clanged back by lakes and rocks or otherwise beaten,

  Or else spilt and spread like a feast of honey, dripping

  Through delightful voids and creeping along long fractures, brimming

  Carved canals, bowls and lachrymatories with pearls: all this the work

  Of now advancing, now withdrawing faces, whose use I know.

  I know what slabs thus will be soaked to a thumb's depth by the sun

  And where to rob them, what colour stifles in your intact quarries. what

  Sand silted in your river-gorges will well mix with the dust of flint; I know

  What wood to cut by what moon in what weather

  Of your sea-winds, your hill-wind: therefore tyrant, let me learn

  Your high-ways, ways of sandstone, roads of the oakleaf, and your sea-ways.

  Send me to dig dry graves, exposing what you want: I must

  Attend your orgies and debates (let others apply for austerities), admit me

  To your witty table, stuff me with urban levities, feed me, bind me

  To a prudish luxury, free me thus, and with a workshop

  From my household consisting

  Of a pregnant wife, one female and one boy child and an elder bastard

  With other properties; these let me regard, let me neglect, and let

  What I begin be finished. Save me, noble sir, from the agony

  Of starved and privy explorations such as those 1 stumble

  From a hot bed to make, to follow lines to which the night-sky

  Holds only faint contingencies. These flights with no end but failure,

  And failure not to end them, these palliate or prevent.

  I wish for liberty, let me then be tied: and seeing too much

  I aspire to be constrained by your emblems of birth and triumph,

  And between the obligations of your future and the checks of actual state

  To flourish, adapt the stubs of an interminable descent, and place

  The crested key to confident vaults; with a placid flurry of petals,

  And bosom and lips, will stony functionaries support

  The persuasion, so beyond proof, of your power. I will record

  In peculiar scrolls your alien alliances,

  Fit an apartment for your eastern hostage, extol in basalt

  Your father, praise with white festoons the goddess your lady;

  And for your death which will be mine prepare

  An encasement as if of solid blood. And so let me

  Forget, let me remember, that this is stone, stick, metal, trash

  Which I will pile and hack, my hands will stain and bend

  (None better knowing how to gain from the slow pains of a marble

  Bruised, breathing strange climates). Being pressed as I am, being broken

  By wealth and poverty, torn between strength and weakness, take me, choose

  To relieve me, to receive of me and must you not agree

  As you have been to some-a great giver of banquets, of respite from swords,

  Who shook out figured cloths, who rained coin,

  A donor of laurel and of grapes, a font of profuse intoxicants–and so,

  To be so too for me? And none too soon, since the panting mind

  Rather than barren will be prostitute, and once

  I served a herd of merchants; but since I will be faithful

  And my virtue is such, though far from home let what is yours be mine, and this be a match

  As many have been proved, enduring exiles and blazed

  Not without issue in returning shows: your miserly freaks

  Your envies, racks and poisons not out of mind

  Although not told, since often borne-indeed how should it be

  That you employed them less than we? but now be flattered a little

  To indulge the extravagant gist of this communication,

  For my pride puts all in doubt and at present I have no patience,

  I have simply hope, and I submit me

  To your judgement which will be just.      




F. T. Prince

Collected Poems 1935-1992

(Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1993), pp.13-16.