Prince Yousuf And The Alcayde

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A Moorish Ballad
IN Grenada reigned Mohammed,
Sixth who bore the name was he;
But the rightful king, Prince Yousuf,
Pined in long captivity:
Yousuf, brother to Mohammed.
Him the king had seized and sent
Prisoner to a Moorish castle,
Where ten years his life was spent.
Ill and feeble, now the usurper
Felt his death was hastening on,
And would fain bequeath his kingdom
And his title to his son.
Calling then a trusty servant,
He to him a letter gave —
"Take my fleetest horse, and hasten,
If my life you wish to save.
"Hie thee to the brave Alcayde
Of my castle by the sea;
To his hands give thou this letter,
And his physician bring to me."
Then in haste his servant mounted,
And for many a league he rode,
Till he reached the court and castle
Where the captive prince abode.
There sat Yousuf and the Alcayde
In the castle, playing chess.
"What is this?"
the keeper muttered.
"Some bad tidings, as I guess."
Pale he grew, and sat and trembled,
While his eye the letter scanned;
And his voice was choked and speechless,
As he dropped it from his hand.
"Now what ails thee?"
cried Prince Yousuf.
"Doth the king demand my head?"
"Read it!"
gasps the good Alcayde.
"Ah, my lord — would I were dead!"
Yousuf read: "When this shall reach you,
Slay my brother, and his head
Straightway by the bearer send me;,,
So I may be sure he's dead."
"So" — cried Yousuf. "This I looked for.
Now let us play out our game.
I was losing — you were winning
When this ugly message came."
All confused, the poor Alcayde
Played his knights and bishops wrong;
And the prince his moves corrected.
So in silence sat they long.
In his mind Prince Yousuf pondered,
"Why this hasty message send,
If my kind and thoughtful brother
Were not hastening to his end?
"Surely he is ill or dying.
And if I must lose my head,
My young nephew will succeed him
O'er Grenada in my stead.
"Though my keeper still is friendly,
I must gain some hours' delay.
He is poor: the king may bribe him.
He may change ere close of day."
Then aloud — "Come, good Alcayde —
One more game before I die.
And be sure you make no blunders —
I may beat you yet. I'll try."
In his lonely life the keeper
Dearly loved his game of chess;
Therefore needs he little urging,
Though sad thoughts his soul oppress.
For an hour or two they battled,
And the Alcayde gained amain;
For the prince with restless glances
Gazed beyond the window-pane.
Still the chess-board lay between them;
And the Alcayde played his best;
Took no note of gliding hours,
Till the sunset fired the west.
Yet he gained not, for Prince Yousuf
With a sudden checkmate sprang
Unforeseen — and that same moment —
Hark — was that a bugle rang?
Through the western windows gazing
Far across the dusty plain,
Yousuf saw the flash of lances —
And the bugle rang again.
And two knights appeared advancing
Like two eagles on the wing.
Allah Akbar! From Grenada
Faces flushed with joy they bring.
The king is dead! Long live King Yousuf!
Long lost lord — our rightful king!

© Christopher Pearse Cranch