Painted Ladie - Poem by Laura E. Richards

Oh, the pretty painted ladies!
Oh, the naughty painted ladies,
That go running, climbing, running,
All about my cottage door.
Would you have their story, Johnny?
Sit beside me, Sweet-and-bonny!
You shall hear a sadder story
Than you ever beard before.

These were maidens fair and slender,
Some with dove-eyes, brown and tender,
Some with black, and some with blue eyes,
Locks of auburn, locks of gold.
Rosy cheeks, and lips of cherry,
Voices glad and laughter merry,
Ever smiling, ever singing,
Over gay and over bold.

And these maids were ever running,
Watching going, watching coming,
Asking questions of each other
And of every one they knew.
Peeping, peeping, here and yonder,
Ready still to guess and wonder,
"Was it she?" "And did he do it?"
"Tell me quickly!" "Tell me true!"

Oh, the pretty painted ladies!
Oh, the naughty painted ladies!
When the king came riding, riding,
For to seek him out a bride,
How they whispered, how they chattered;
Each herself in secret flattered
She could win him, she could wed him,
In an hour, if she tried.

So they prinked and pranked them gayly,
So they crimped and curled them daily,
Trying ring and trying jewel,
All their beauty to complete.
Not content with Nature's roses,
Fie! their cheeks are painted posies;
And their lips are red and reddest,
But alas! they are not sweet.

Then the king came riding stately,
On his charger set sedately,
With his golden robe about him,
And his crown upon his head.
Oh! a royal port and presence,
Meet for courtly love and pleasance;
Happy, happy is the maiden
He shall woo and he shall wed.

Oh, the pretty painted ladies!
Oh, the naughty painted ladies!
How they leaned from door and window,
Flinging roses 'neath his feet;
Silken robes and jewels shining,
White arms waving, tossing, twining,
Lips that laughed and eyes that languished,
Over bold and over sweet.

But the king looked gravely on them;
Cast no answering glance upon them;
Coldly turned from where they waited
In their beauty, in their pride.
"Find me out some modest maiden,
Not with silks and jewels laden,
One whose pureness, one whose sweetness
Fit her for a royal bride."

Oh, the pretty painted ladies!
Oh, the naughty painted ladies!
Red with shame and white with anger,
Back they pressed against the wall.
As they drew their silks around them,
Lo! some sudden magic bound them,
While they whispered, while they clustered,
Into flowers changed them all.

Glowing cheek and snowy bosom
Changed to white and ruddy blossom;
Locks of gold and locks of auburn
Into tendrils curling green.
While for silk and satin's shimmer,
And for jewels' rainbow glimmer,
Leaves that whispered, leaves that clustered, -
Only these were to be seen.

But the pretty painted ladies,
But the naughty painted ladies,
Still are running, climbing, running,
At the window, at the door.
Peeping, peeping, here and yonder,
"Is the story true?" you wonder;
Sure, I heard it from themselves, dear,
For they tell it o'er and o'er.