Flight of the Earls

Princes, it seems, are seldom wise.

Most of them fall for a woman’s tears

Or else her laughter – think of Paris

Whose decision stretched to ten alarming years.

Nothing would suit

Until he’d brought

The kingdom down around his ears.


Now in the Middle Ages see

The legendary boy of king and queen:

A peacock of all chivalry

He dies at twenty on some battle-green

And ever since

The good Black Prince

Rides to the land of might-have-been.


Whether our own were foolish or wise

Hardly concerns us: death ran away with our chances

Of a meeting. Yet we strain our eyes

Hoping perhaps just one with his golden flounces

Has outwitted theft.

So are we left

Writing to headstones and forgotten princes.

— Eavan Boland