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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889


By Helen Gray Cone (1859–1934)

[From Oberon and Puck: Verses Grave and Gay. 1885.]

IT is strange in Elsinore

Since the day King Hamlet died.

All the hearty sports of yore,

Sledge and skate, are laid aside;

Stilled the ancient mirth that rang,

Boisterous, down the fire-lit halls;

They forgot, at Yule, to hang

Berried holly on the walls.

Claudius lets the mead still flow

For the blue-eyed thanes that love it;

But they bend their brows above it,

And forever, to and fro,

’Round the board dull murmurs go:

“It is strange in Elsinore

Since the day King Hamlet died.”

And a swarm of courtiers flit,

New in slashed and satined trim,

With their freshly-fashioned wit

And their littleness of limb,—

Flit about the stairways wide,

Till the pale Prince Hamlet smiles,

As he walks, at twilight tide,

Through the galleries and the aisles.

For to him the castle seems—

This old castle, Elsinore—

Like a thing built up of dreams;

And the king’s a mask, no more;

And the courtiers seem but flights

Of the painted butterflies;

And the arras, wrought with fights,

Grows alive before his eyes.

Lo, its giant shapes of Danes,

As without a wind it waves,

Live more nobly than his thanes,

Sullen carpers, ale-fed slaves!

In the flickering of the fires,

Through his sleep at night there pass

Gay conceits and young desires—

Faces out of memory’s glass,

Fragments of the actor’s art,

Student’s pleasures, college broils,

Poesies that caught his heart,

Chances with the fencing foils;

Then he listens oftentimes

With his boyhood’s simple glee,

To dead Yorick’s quips and rhymes,

Leaning on his father’s knee.

To that mighty hand he clings,

Tender love that stern face charms;

All at once the casement rings

As with strength of angry arms.

From the couch he lifts his head,

With a shudder and a start;

All the fires are embers red,

And a weight is on his heart.

It is strange in Elsinore:

Sure some marvel cometh soon!

Underneath the icy moon

Footsteps pat the icy floor;

Voices haunt the midnights bleak,

When the wind goes singing keen;

And the hound, once kept so sleek,

Slinks and whimpers and grows lean

And the shivering sentinels,

Timorous, on their lonesome round,

Starting count the swinging bells,

Starting at the hollow sound;

And the pine-trees chafe and roar,

Though the snow would keep them still.

In the state there’s somewhat ill;

It is strange in Elsinore.