Artwork: My wife, Michelle Niles-Brown
“I’ve got an everlasting love, so tall, so wide, so high above the rumble of thunder down below. It’s your love I need. It’s the only show. And it’s you on an everlasting dream can take us anywhere…(where) are the tears of yesterday? We killed the pain. We blew away the memories of the tears we cried. And an everlasting love will never die.” – An Everlasting Love, (1978). Recorded by: Andy Gibb. Composer: Barry Gibb
Author: Alan Scott-Brown
The pain in the heart of this prince couldn’t be matched, especially when he witnessed his betrothed in strife and struggle. He whispered to himself, “It is not yet our time.”
Long ago, a radiant prince discarded his crown, his robe, and his royal ring for a brief journey to his father’s subjects in the village below. The time had come to fulfill his duty as a suitor. As his father’s custom, as well as the tradition of the community, there had been an arranged marriage for the regal son. The prince was to be betrothed to a commoner. First, he agreed to shed his garments of nobility, exchanging them for the humble attire of the land. After all, this betrothal ceremony was to be unassuming, intimate, and somewhat mysterious to the fellow-villagers. The footmen and trumpeters made ready, but there was to be no fanfare.
For him, it was strange to walk freely among his father’s subjects, without his accompanying courtiers. He found tremendous pleasure visiting with the peasant farmers, the laborers at the village well, and the boisterous shepherds by the lone stable. Conversations among them all were telling of village life. On the walkway, one by one, citizens passed him, not recognizing his joyful face, or his distinct speech. It saddened him to see a grave disillusionment on each face as they carried out their daily routines. The burden of life wore heavily on the countenance of the people.
Nearby, a poor young maiden’s father and mother were expecting the prince to arrive. Not calculating the time the prince’s father decreed, they left an oil lamp burning in their window, ready and waiting.
It was the midnight hour on a full moon when the soft knock at their door came. Scurrying about, the parents awakened her. In haste, the mother set out the best goblets and rugs just before the third and fourth rap on the lintel. When her father opened the door, he saw a single man, dressed as a lowly workman, with a small bag hanging off his shoulder. The maiden’s mother spied through the lit window, expecting to see white horses bridled to chariots of gold, accompanied by a host of noblemen. She leaned closer to the pane, blinked once, twice, a third time, but there was no royal entourage to be seen. With expectation’s unfulfilled, the prince was invited into the house and offered a seat at their table.
As the young maiden remained in her chamber, the prince, withholding nothing, openly shared his true identity with her parents. He spoke of things only royalty could. He presented a scroll, marked with the sovereign’s seal. He broke the seal himself before presenting it to the father of the maiden. Enclosed were the fine details of a costly dowry to come, a dowry with a high price, generously offered by the father of the prince. For the moment, the parents were amazed, even silenced. Although he wasn’t arrayed like a prince, or traveled as a prince, there was understanding that he had been sent from the royal castle on the hill. Nonetheless, a mystery lingered in their minds.
The maiden was called to enter for a presentation by her father. Her entrance displayed a beautiful young maiden, adorned in a pristine, but common, white linen gown, weaved for the occasion. Just below her striking hazel eyes, a thin light blue veil was fastened. The prince arose from his chair in respect, coupled with great delight. At once, her brows raised as she was inquisitive concerning the appearance of the prince.
With suspicion in her speech, “Uh, father, this man is a commoner. I thought he…”
The father sharply interrupted her, “Young one, the time has come for you to sit at the table of decision.”
Sheepishly, she took her designated place at the table, across from the prince. In a softer tone, her mother explained that she, and her husband, would retreat to the back courtyard for a time. The kindly prince, who admired their traditions, remained standing until they made their exit.
As the parents took their leave, they couldn’t help recalling the last time a suitor appeared with the promise of a dowry. There was an older daughter at that time, the firstborn, who was of age for marriage. The charming suitor claimed knighthood from the sovereign’s court, complete with squires and armor-bearers. One hour after the betrothal ceremony, he returned, stealing her away, leaving the family in ruin. The daughter was never to be seen again. Rumors hovered for years that the damsel was enslaved, bound to serve in the chambers of a ruthless king in a far country. The infliction left them with undeserved fears echoing in their minds.
Time seemed to stand still as the prince, and the maiden, spoke privately of family, faith, and freedom. An immediate connection was being fashioned. There was laughter for a time, only to meld into soft tears as he spoke of the hopelessness he witnessed among the villagers. For her, she had grown accustomed to it, never anticipating a change. As prince, he vowed to her, he would present the entire community with a free gift of insight to a life well beyond the boundaries they had set for themselves.
He reflected on his father in great reverence and love. She was all agog concerning the enigma of the castle, and life within it. The more the prince unveiled about the state of royalty behind the great wall, the more she wanted to cast aside speculations. The maiden wanted to know more of his majesty’s likeness, his persona, and his plans for them both.
“My father embraces all manner of loveliness and is rich in laughter,” he explained in boldness. “Not one thing has he ever withheld from me, as well as those he holds in his heart. The land is unaware of his immense compassion for his people. Soon, he will prove it to them. In time, as he greets you, you will find we are alike.”
The sheer enthusiasm in his voice moved her to a place she had never been. Although his speech was authoritative in nature, there was a soft grace about him. The maiden acknowledged how his simple joy invaded the distrust nesting in the caverns deep in her soul. In her very core, she wanted to escape the cloud surrounding her people. Her dreams cascaded with the memory of her sister who had vanished at the hands of the evil knight. Yet, for this moment, the maiden found she was wooed by this lamb of a prince, as well as the words of his promises.
Despite the night seemingly frozen in place, the time had come for them to separate. The prince reached into his bag, pulling out a small loaf of bread, just enough for the two of them. He explained the loaf was baked by him alone, and not the royal chef. She was eager to taste of it. Just before her hand reached for the bread, he then presented a small jar of clay filled with red wine. He told her it was just enough for one goblet. The color was brilliant against the table’s candlelight. She asked him in which vineyard was it harvested. With a sparkle in his smiling eyes he answered, “This is from my father’s vineyard. The vine comes out of the earth with ease by his nurturing hand.”
Pinching off a piece of the loaf, he offered it to her.
Just before the maiden bit into the bread, he said, “No doubt, even though I must go, you will always remember this bread when you think of us, here tonight.”
As her eyes gleamed from the flavor of the loaf, he fetched the holiday goblet her mother had set out. As he poured the wine in the cup, he reminded her of the tradition of the act of betrothal.
In humble sincerity he spoke directly, “Recall that you have a choice remaining. You can decide now to refuse to drink of my wine, decline the dowry, and the arrangement will be dissolved. Or, you can drink from this goblet, sealing the covenant that our wedding will take place. By this, you will forsake all other suitors who come after I depart.”
As he explained the tradition of their culture, he placed the cup in front of her while watching intently with overwhelming eagerness. She slowly wrapped her fingers around the goblet, holding it in her hand while sniffing the aroma. Her mind raced with what her future might be as a princess of a great land. With that, the maiden closed her eyes, placed the the cup carefully beneath the veil, and drank all of it. Without hesitation, the two of them cheered, clapped their hands, and shouted in the excitement of love’s contract. They hugged, they danced around the table, leaving them longing to catch their breath.
The table of decision was over. It was time for him to journey back up the hill. A sense of melancholy fell over the room. He held her hand tightly as he reached into his sleeve, retrieving a beautiful scarlet scarf of silk which had been concealed from view.
As he carefully wrapped it around her left wrist, he gently explained, “This silk scarf is to always remain fixed onto your wrist. Wherever you go, it will be a sign for others you have sipped the royal wine of the prince. For you, it will always be a reminder of our bonding as one mind, one heart.”
“I will, sweet prince. I will,” she gladly proclaimed.
The prince continued, “Meanwhile, there is preparation to be done for the coronation.”
With a gasp the maiden shouted, “A CORONATION?”
Delivered with a chuckle, “Yes, you are to be queen of the kingdom. The wedding itself will be like nothing this village has ever seen, or put to ink.”
“Tell me! Paint my mind with the image,” the maiden replied as she closed her eyes.
“Of course,” he remarked, “There will be multitudes of guests who will be at the pinnacle of awe. You will be given the brightest snow-white gown, with a train that will fill the castle. You will be clad in the finest of jewels, mined from the ends of the earth. Kings and queens will ask to kiss your white gloved hand adorned with rings. I am certain even the animals will bow down to you. (They both reveled in laughter.) With each step you make, my father’s servants will dip in affirmation of your right as queen. All of the kingdom’s knights will bend the knee. They all will be at your disposal. This is how you will be welcomed.”
The maiden’s exuberance seemed to glow about the room. Yet, her eyes looked puzzled.
Seeing her bewilderment, he added, “Yes, now you do not realize, but YOU are to rule over the company of the noble knights.”
At this statement, she saw an odd transformation melt over his face. His countenance turned to concern.
“You look troubled, my prince. Is there more I should know?” asked the maiden.
He sat her down, leaned toward her in solemness, “There is a caution to disclose. To this point you have trusted in my words. So trust this, as well. Long ago, before you were born, there was a revolt among a remnant of the knights of the kingdom. Profane words were spoken in the very courts of my father. A coup was attempted to overthrow the throne. A war ensued. Many a knight joined in revolt against his majesty. Yet he, being greater than them all, cast the insurgents from the highest walls of the castle. To this day, the rebels do all in their power to spread myths about my father. They are strategically crafty with fallacies concerning me, and this very kingdom. With stealth, they charm, deceive, and even slaughter citizens here and foreign lands.”
His shoulders slumped, as great sadness washed over his eyes like a wave.
After a slight pause, “I know the dark knight who swindled your family, the one who robbed you of your sister,” he explained. “This one is a mighty adversary. He, and his brood’s code, is to do whatever it takes to end life as you know it, take possession of your treasures, and desolate all innocence. You, my precious, will be a trophy for their league. You will be marked by those who hate my father and our sovereignty. In fact, they will despise the sign of the scarlet gracing your wrist. There will be those who will even attempt to seduce you. Efforts will be made to dye your scarf of scarlet into a faded gray.
“How can this be?” asked the young maiden.
“They hate me, so they will hate you, as well,” he replied. “So, be on guard. Even some of your own friends and family will despise you. It is no secret that many of your neighbors do not favor my father. It all leads back to the uprising. So listen, and rest on my words of hope and triumph. There are multitudes of my warriors clothed as I am today, covertly living in this village. They keep watch. They are faithful to report. They will protect.”
The maiden responded to his curious, but comforting words, “Yes, I believe you. If I find myself enclosed by the enemy, I will look up to the castle for rescue. I will call out for you.”
The prince, speaking in a different manner, “I will listen for your voice…always. Know that I will attend to you. When you begin to doubt, just look at the scarlet of your scarf to remember this night’s cup. For now, I must return to my father with this joyful news of our betrothal.”
He turned toward the door to start his journey home.
The young maiden jumped from her chair with a quick response, “When will I see you again? Will we revisit with your bread and wine?”
Stopping as he heard her words, he turned slowly to face her. Gazing gently into her eyes he said, “Take comfort, precious one. Know that I will not be back for another filled goblet. But, I will drink a more superb vintage with you when you enter the castle for all time. For now, I must go. The time is short.”
The maiden spoke out with some sense of exasperation, “You didn’t say when I will see you again? When will we wed? When should I make ready?” Clasping her hands together and holding them to her chest, “Oh, I have a thousand questions to ask!”
“I understand, more than you know,” he replied. “The traditions of the land are clear. Betrothal, legal betrothal, can be short, or lengthy. It is not for the groomsman to dictate. My father created his calendar. He has his seasons. He alone designates the year, the day, the time concerning us. However, you will feel the time nearing, when others will not.”
The maiden challenged, “Since you and his majesty are alike, why can’t you tell me of his seasons? Why must the days pass so slowly?”
The prince answered, “They will pass as they should. No more, no less. While I am gone, I will be busy tailoring a whole new wing of the castle just for you. It will be more evidence that I will retrieve you for myself. Before the coronation and the wedding feast, his majesty expects the construction to be complete. It must be accomplished prior to your arrival. Don’t fret, I am known to do well at the process of building. Until then, you are to remain here, live here, and thrive here. All the more reason to hold to what happened in your father’s house tonight. Hold to my promises. Hold to your goblet.”
At this, he opened the door. At the threshold he stopped, turning to her one final time.
“Light your lamp in the window for me,” he said with a sparkling grin. “I will not be adorned like this again, but you will recognize me from the glow of your lamp. Meanwhile, you will hear from me often. Take heart, my love.”
With a better understanding, she accepted his words, “I will. My oil keg will be full.”
As the prince walked out the door, she leaned against the lintel, struck in a swelling impression of amazement and awe. The young maiden kept her eyes trained on him in the light of the full moon, as he traveled back up the hill toward the castle in the distance. Just then, a peasant stranger carrying a clay pot of water was passing by the house. At first thought, she felt it odd, for the hour was late. She only acknowledged his presence by moving her head slightly, as the man obstructed her view for a wisp of a moment.
The stranger nodded, and spoke with certainty as he walked by, “No need to worry, dear one. If he promised to come for you, he will. If you watch, you will see him arrive from that very gate.”
She was stunned at the peasant’s knowledge. She wondered if he had overheard from the window. In her daze, she looked up to the hill once again. After he disappeared from view, she was enraptured by the hours they had spent. Later, the maiden was taken aback to learn from her parents the length of his visit was only thirty-three minutes.
The hours turned to days. The days turned to months. The months added years to the longing of unification. Daily the prince stood watch at his window from the castle tower. Day and night, his eyes were roving over the entire village below, keeping watch over his beloved.
Forces from the enemy of the kingdom covertly eroded the lives of each citizen of the community, even the following generations. There were evil times of plunder and pillage throughout the land. Knights of the court reported each detail back to the prince. The wicked hordes raided deep in the night, destroying and abducting for their own sadistic possession. Although the royal knights, loyal to his majesty, who stayed among the commoners were far more superior in strength than the adversaries’ agents, the battles delivered burdensome tolls.
The prince, wanting to encourage his young princess, wrote love letters to be sent directly by his heralds. Knowing the times of turmoil, he wrote words on his scrolls like, “Endure,” “Love the villagers and their enemies, just as I have loved you,” “Tend to the wounded,” and “Watch and wait until I come for you.” Such writings were a treasure chest of his heart and mind. The maiden read them often. His words assured his love was not only intact, but active. So powerful were the words, the maiden began to emulate his heart as she lived out her days without him. Her quill copied the letters word for word in efforts to share them with her village neighbors to guide and incite a defense against the rebels. Couriers were dispatched for public readings in village squares elsewhere. Over the years, multitudes heard the words of the prince because of the copies. During that season of the kingdom, there were twenty-seven letters in all.
Soon after the scrolls of the prince were known, suitors from across the land came with false dowries, scheming to woo the young maiden away from the prince. A number of them arrived wearing the regal robes. Their armored steeds were fed by envy, mixed with a hunger for power. Yet, she held to his promises from that first moonlit night long ago. In the midst of it all, the villagers were being persuaded to proclaim allegiance through the art of mimics, misdirection, and misleading tactics. Like trained blind animals, many turned from the reign of his majesty and his gifts.
As the years moved through the realities of that time, with her view washed in clarity, her soul surged within her, developing an everlasting, faithful love for her groomsman.
Standing at his tower window, the pain in the heart of this prince couldn’t be matched, especially when he witnessed his betrothed in strife and struggle. He whispered to himself, “It is not yet our time.”
It was a night of the new moon, when the maiden’s house was burned to the ground by enemy torches. Her parents were placed on a wagon and taken outside the village. They, as well as many others, vanished in a far country.
Although the maiden survived, her eyes shifted to the hill crying, “How long, oh, prince? How much longer?”
During the changing of the seasons, after counseling with his father in his chamber, concerning the plight of his people, he returned to the tower window. The prince observed the streets once again. The maiden appeared at the far end, drawing water from the community well. His heart was sore as he witnessed her draped in old soiled raiment, stained and tattered from the doings of trials, coupled with trauma. She had grown older while still in her youth. Her skin was weathered from a battered life among the continuing struggle. Although seemingly weak outwardly, he beheld her as strong. Although ragged and stained, he counted her as clean as virgin snow.
Moved again with compassion for her, he sent spoken words to be delivered aloud. Special selections were made for the messengers to dispatch. The words were consistent with his love letters of the past. As she listened to the messages, her aged, scarred hand clutched her scarlet silk scarf of promise. In a still, unassuming voice within her, she heard the words, “It is not yet our time.”
For some groomsmen of those times, a blemished, soiled bride in ragged garments was often denied promises established during more fetching days. However, this groomsman beheld the truth of her ragged, stained, peasant garment, yet loved her still.
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him the glory. For the marriage of the lamb (prince) has come, and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the lamb (prince).'” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”” – (The writings of John.) Revelation 19:7-9 (NAS)