Monday, September 22, 2014

Xie and the Faerie-folk

~ A Tale in Seven Staves ~


Young Xie heard a lyric strain,
a music seeming magic-made,
between the drops of falling rain
plunging deep into ivy-shade.

Melodic voices among the trees,
and sweet beneath the autumn rain,
were mingled with varied minstrelsies
and stirred her heart with tender pain.

But heaven was draped in druid-cowls,
the world was close to daylight-death;
a cold wind blew with wolfish howls
and night crept near with seething breath.

Yet in that wild and shadowed wood,
she, with summer-golden hair
resplendent under woolen hood,
would seek the font of music fair.


Just beneath the forest-eaves,
she found a slender walking-trail
strewn with red and yellow leaves
leading down the woodland vale.

The notes grew keener in her ears
the further through the wood she strode;
they made her heedless of all fears
as on a gentle wind they rode.

Scarlet maples were dancing nigh,
firs were swaying in gladsome green;
pines were sweeping clean the sky
and glittering starlight could be seen.

And coming in time around a bend,
she beheld a warm and ruddy glow,
just off the trail, and so she grinned
and crept towards it soft and low.


A glen she found ablaze with light,
as bright as winter hearth-fires shine,
and there before her gaping sight
were throngs of persons small and fine.

All singing and dancing to a reel,
to flutes and fiddles in the open air;
laughing and capering in a wheel
round and round the clearing there.

She saw among them maidens fair
with hair as sun and skin as milk,
and beaming bright without a care
bedecked with flowers and finest silk.

They went round merrily arm-in-arm
with little fellows gnarled and bent
who, lacking every grace and charm,
yet frolicked with full abandonment.

Never had she seen in her nine years
such giddy legs and ludicrous poses,
such flapping arms and crooked ears,
such winking eyes and wrinkled noses!

And quite unknowing, she laughed aloud
and lo! the music and merriment fair
suddenly ceased and the entire crowd
turned and saw the young girl there!


Xie was startled and turned to flee;
but she heard a voice in kindness say:
"Come now, girl-child, come and see,
and tarry with us tonight, we pray."

And so, still dazed in her surprise,
she stepped down into the enchanted glen
where many strange faces with shining eyes
gazed on this child of mortal kin.

She saw him who had called her down;
he appeared to be their kindly king,
with a merry face under a golden crown,
and wearing a royal signet ring.

On his right arm was surely the queen,
so exquisite and regal in bearing was she;
the loveliest lady Xie ever had seen,
resplendent in all of her fair majesty.

"Tell us thy name," the king said to the child,
"thou with charm of the young mortal sort."
"Alexandria," she answered, timid and mild,
"but most just call me 'Xie' for short."

"Xie, my dear, thou hast brought us great joy,
for it has been now many a year,
since we have had either a girl or a boy
to come visit us humble folk here."

Xie smiled in the midst of that merry throng,
all festive in the bright ruddy light;
then they led her into their dance and song
which continued late into the night.


At the pinnacle of that marvelous night,
the queen sang an aria into the air,
and two owls entered the blazing light
carrying a gown exceedingly fair.

It was of white silk and ornaments of pearl,
and sewn intricately with glittering thread;
they flew with it over to the delighted girl,
and draped it over her bright golden head.

The gown covered fully her rustic brown dress,
her woolen green sweater and grey hooded-cloak;
she was then clothed as fair as an elven princess
there in the light under maple and oak.

They adorned her with many beautiful things,
with jewelry of a kind she never had seen:
with garnet bracelets, sapphire rings,
a necklace of beryl and aquamarine.

With delicate braids they plaited her hair,
and set diamonds in her locks of gold;
at last, they laid a circlet of silver there,
and she was a beauty indeed to behold.


Quite overwhelmed, Xie said: “My dear friends,
you have all been so generous to me;
and for such lovely gifts, I must make amends;
what do I have? now let me see."

Then to her throat she reached up her hand
and grasped a locket hanging there by a string,
a locket she once found on her family's land
and which she now held out to the king.

But the king and his folk frowned and recoiled
and all their faces were suddenly changed;
their eyes became fierce and with anger they boiled;
their expressions grew wild and deranged.

"How dare you!" yelled the king. "Impudent child!"
and then the radiant glen became dark;
but she could still see their eyes, all wicked and wild;
she could hear them start to snarl and bark.

She screamed and ran away as fast as she could
with the horde in pursuit close behind;
she plunged straight through the tangled wood
for the trail she was unable to find.

Thorns tore her clothes as further she flew,
the very trees sought to hinder her flight;
yet fear spurred her on and greater it grew
as she fled through the darkness of night.

Looking back, she caught glimpses of gaping maws,
of dreadful beings, all twisted and mean;
wicked eyes and faces, sharp teeth and claws,
like no creatures she ever had seen.

She heard them behind her snarling and growling,
and their slavering augmented her fears;
like wolves on the hunt, they were yelping and howling
so close it was hurting her ears.

But the end of the wood was just up ahead,
her escape seemed to be within sight;
she burst through the bramble and faster she fled
across the meadows asleep in the night.

But the horde held pursuit beyond the dark trees;
they closed around her and she began to swoon;
she collapsed to the ground as a sudden strong breeze
rushed past her there under the moon.


"Xie! Xie! Thank God you aren’t dead!
But you gave your old granny a fright!
Why did you make the bare earth your bed
and sleep out here all of the night?"

The fresh light of dawn was on the child's face,
as she opened her water-blue eyes;
a smile beamed down with grandmotherly grace
and behind were the bright morning skies.

"Oh granny! Last night...I went into the wood
and met some faeries who were friendly to me;
but I did something I think they misunderstood,
and then they turned on me mercilessly."

Xie shed a few tears and wiped them away,
then asked her granny how she liked her hair,
all braided and bright with a circlet which they
had bestowed on her when she was there.

"Oh Xie, it's nothing but a tangled mess,
with old leaves sticking out everywhere."
"Well then, do you like my pretty new dress?
Now isn't it exquisite and fair?"

Her old granny frowned as she looked at her
and Xie looked down at her own clothes too;
she saw just her old tattered dress covered over
with spider-webs glittering with dew.

"You must have gone walking in your sleep last night,
and wandered out into the wood;
but I'm glad your adventure has ended all right,
let's get inside now, I think we should."

"But don't you hear them now, laughing at us
from the edge of those nearest dark trees?"
"'Tis only crows, my dear, making a fuss
in the chill of this damp autumn breeze."

And indeed a multitude of coal-black birds
arose from the wood into the light of day,
and after circling around with cackling words,
they flew across the brown fields and away.

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