ONE

Beauty and the Beast

TWO

East of the Sun

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 1987 by Harley White

All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Excercise”

 

 

                                                                       The poetry muscle

                                                                                  bends

                                                                                              stretches

                                                                                                          pulls

                                               cramps

                                                                       flexes.

                                   Rhythm

                                               rhymes.

                                                                       Rhyme

                                                                                  rhythms.

                                                                                              Meaning

                                                                       Jack-be-nimbles

                                                                                                          around sound.

                                               I crook my little finger

                                                                                  and call forth the words…

 

______________________________

 

 

Narrator Chorus

 

Far away— far, far away— yet not so far away at all,

In a land where in winter to take refuge the swallows fly,

Lived a King who had eleven sons, some still small,

And one daughter, Elyse, the apple of his eye.

 

The eleven brothers— princes they were, of course—

Went to school, each astride his horse.

With stars upon their chests, swords at their sides, these boys

Were to their father equally his prides and joys.

 

With diamond pencils on golden slates they did their writing,

And as good as they were at reading were they at reciting

Their lessons backwards and forwards straight from the book.–

One could tell at once they were princes with just a look.

 

Their sister, Elyse, who did not go to school,

Sat by herself on a little glass stool

And had a picture book none could deny

Had cost a good half the kingdom to buy.

 

How Elyse did dream, as high above

She followed with longing the flight of birds!

Still in her heart was a special love,

For she yearned to create with the wonder of words.

 

 

 

“I Love Words”

Elyse

 

 

I love to tumble, climb, and soar—

to rollick and frolic in words.

I love to mumble, rhyme, and roar—

compose a bucolic,

satire vitriolic,

write lines epistolic,

to be hyperbolic—

 

I love words—

the gristle, the bumps, the grinds of words—

the bristles, the humps, the winds of words—

the whistles, the thumps— all kinds of words—

 

Conjunctive connections to which I add—

Those odd interjections— zounds or egad!—

 

Some words are all but dead,

like the species brontosaurus.

Some words are newly said,

making language fresher for us.

Some words are only read

in a book like the thesaurus.

Some words are overhead,

like the constellation Taurus.

 

I love words—

the lyrical lilt and tilt of words,

the spherical to the hilt of words,

the miracle that is built of words.

 

Some find a panacea in flowery verse.

There’s onomatopoeia and diction that’s terse.

 

Some words are flimsy;

Some bubbly with whimsy.

They’re joined into mazes

And coined into phrases.

 

Words are immortal when they strike a chord,

And the pen is mightier than the sword.

 

The lowest form of humor is the pun—

So goes the rumor— but what fun!—

Where a bit of levity’s fit,

‘If brevity’s wit, here’s it.’—

 

I love words—

the whirl, the swirl, the twirl of words—

the pretty, the nitty-gritty of words—

the round, the profound, the sound of words—

 

like hemidemisemiquaver—

waver, favor, flavor, savor—

incandescent, evanescent,

effervescent, acquiescent—

hammer, clamor, grammar, stammer, glamour, enamor–

ironic, sardonic, laconic, mnemonic, platonic,

or stereophonic.

 

I love to glide—

                   astride to sit

I love to ride

                   the lickety-split

                              roller coaster of verbiage—

                              like loquacious, voracious,

                              mendacious, tenacious,

                              chortle and snortle,

chasm and spasm,

like rapid or vapid,

            pathos or bathos,

            livid and vivid,

            torrid and horrid,

            iota and quota,

            eclectic, electric,

like feckless or reckless,

            sedulous, credulous,

dazzle and frazzle,

admonish, astonish,

elastic, fantastic,

voluble, soluble,

phantasmagoric

or prehistoric,

inchoate—

            You know it!—

I love words!

 

______________________________

 

 

Ah yes, these children were happy— such a fine time had they;

But it was not to last forever, sad to say.

 

Their father who over the whole country did reign

Married a wicked Queen,

Who looked upon the children with disdain.—

Oh, she was mean!—

 

They felt this on the very first day.

All over the palace there were great doings

For the wedding.— So the children were left to play

At ‘visitors’.— They followed their own pursuings.

 

But instead of their getting their usual fill

Of cakes and baked apples with much goodwill,

It was her command

They have nothing but sand

To put in a teacup and just pretend

It was something real.

No, this Queen was not the children’s friend.—

That she did reveal.

 

 

 

“Mine Mine Mine”

Stepmother / Queen

 

 

Well, all’s been done and said,

And to this king I’m wed.

The marriage feast is over,

And I’m at last in clover.

 

His royal highness now belongs to me

And a kingdom vast as the eye can see.

Who could wish for a grander monarchy?!

 

Yet I could cry with disappointment,

For there’s a big fly in the ointment.

By his kin I’m completely outnumbered.

I’ve become a queen sorely encumbered.

 

I’d put up with perhaps a single cousin,

Although it would not be easy.

But to tolerate offspring by the dozen—

The thought of it makes me queasy!

No no no no no no!

They simply have to go!

 

Around my finger the king I’ll twist,

As his children I malign,

Till he sees we cannot coexist.

Yes, the power will be mine!

 

My witchcraft I will put to use—

Such evil spells I can produce—

Along with regular abuse,

If it proves necessary.

 

I’ll show them I am no one’s fool.

With terror I shall reign and rule.

I’ll make myself into a ghoul.

Indeed, I can be scary.

 

His sons and daughter we’ll disown,

So that they shan’t usurp the throne.

Then one day I’ll be queen alone.

For now, though, I’ll be wary.

 

Around my finger the king I’ll twist,

As his children I malign,

Till he sees we cannot coexist.

Yes, the power will be mine!

 

Mine mine mine— I’ll be divine!

Yes, the power will be mine!

Mine mine mine mine— How I’ll shine!

Yes, the power will be mine!

 

______________________________

 

 

The following week she sent Elyse away

To the country with some farm people to stay.

 

Poor little Elyse— so swallowed was she in grief

That first night that there could be no sleep.—

Such desolation knows no boundaries nor relief.—

Her anguish was so deep she could not even weep.

 

Alas, the Queen continued with her evil plot.—

Now she put such ideas into the King’s head

About the poor princes that soon he gave them not

A thought.— To their father they were as good as dead.

 

Yet still she could not rest.— Great was her greed.—

Her envy on the smallest thing did feed.—

These sons could to their father’s throne succeed.—

She must drive them away with all due speed.

The Queen did more than that.— She did indeed.

 

 

 

“Fly Away”

Stepmother / Queen

 

 

Upon your lives this spell I cast,

With hocus-pocus words—

Fly out into the world so vast!

Become big voiceless birds!

 

Fee fie fiddle-faddle

Dim damndoozle,

Hey diddle skeedaddle

Bim bamboozle!

 

Your days as humans all shall end.

With wings of birds you’re doomed to fly,

And for yourselves you now must fend—

Uttering not a single cry!

 

Fee fie fiddle-faddle

Dim damndoozle,

Hey diddle skeedaddle

Bim bamboozle!

 

Fly away— fly far away,

From shore to distant shore!

Begone with you now I say

And return nevermore!

 

______________________________

 

 

But all the same the Queen could not do

All the harm to them she wanted to,

For the princes turned into— amazing to see!—

Eleven wild swans, beautiful as could be.

 

With a strange cry the swans did fly

Out of the palace windows and on—

Further and further they soared on high

Over fields and woods, till all were gone.

 

While Elyse in the arms of the night above

Lay cold, clinging to a wish upon a star

That she could regain her father’s love.—

Oh how ingenuous children are!

 

 

 

“Father, Father”

Elyse

 

 

Father, father, burning bright,

By my bedside in the night—

Superman of all my dreams—

Rider of the white moonbeams—

Great protector, absentee,

Of my brothers all and me.

 

______________________________

 

 

It was still quite early in the morning—

The sun was barely the day adorning—

When over the farmhouse the wild swans passed

Where their sister Elyse lay asleep at last.

 

Flapping their wings, their long necks twisting,

Above the roof they helplessly hovered

Desperately, frantically, bravely persisting,

Yet no one at all their presence discovered.

 

Then finally they had to fly away—

For as wild swans they could not stay—

On upward toward the clouds so high,

Far into the wide world through the sky;

Till over a forest they did soar,

So great that it stretched right to the shore.—

Here they settled their strength to restore.

 

Poor little Elyse was left alone

In the farmhouse to play with a green leaf she found

Lying on Mother Nature’s ground—

For no other toys did the girl now own.

 

In the leaf she pricked a hole

And through it peeped up toward the sun.

This game her spirits did console,

For soon she fancied she’d begun

Her brothers’ dear bright eyes to see.

The warm rays shone upon her cheeks,

Awakening her memory

Of all their kisses.  Light danced in brilliant streaks,

Making a colorful array.—

So with her leaf Elyse did play.

 

Day by day by day went by

Each exactly like the other.—

Time like this does never fly

Except when told of by another.—

 

Now and then when the wind swept through

Outside the house where great rose bushes grew,

It whispered to them as it blew,

“Who can be prettier than you?”

 

But the roses shook their heads and said, “Elyse.”

And when the old wife in Sunday’s peace

Sat at the door her hymnbook to read,

The breeze turned the pages saying to the book,

“Could anyone be more devout than you indeed?”

“Elyse is,” answered the hymnbook, “just take a look.”

 

Yes the roses and the hymnbook knew,

For what they said was perfectly true.

 

When Elyse reached fifteen years of age

She was sent for and home she returned,

But her beauty filled the Queen with rage.—

Now her evil heart with hatred burned.

 

The Queen would gladly have cast a spell

To make Elyse a wild swan as well

As her brothers, but she dared not straightaway,

For the King wished to see his daughter.  So one day

She hatched a plan of wicked spite.

In the early morning’s rosy light

The Queen went into the great palace bath,

Adorned with soft cushions, of marble built,

And unloosed her plot of venomous wrath

To imbue Elyse with slander and guilt.

 

 

 

“Three Poisons”

Stepmother / Queen

 

 

Three poisons, three poisons I’ll give to this miss—

So witty, so pretty, so sweet.

With legerdemain these three toads I will kiss,

To make their enchantment complete.

 

My toads I will put into the clear water,

Which they’ll turn a venomous green;

And then I will bathe the king’s darling daughter.

I’ll tell you she won’t end up clean!

 

Now prestidigitation, do your trick!

You, little toad, are the first one I’ll pick.

Hasten to hop atop Elyse’s head.—

Render her stupid and dispirited.

 

My second toad, then you must sit

Right on her brow lickety-split,

So she may become as ugly as you—

Not a bit like the girl her father knew.

 

Now for my little toad number three—

You, too, must do your part.

With a witch’s kiss I’ll set you free—

Go and rest upon her heart.

 

Curse her with the foulest mind,

An evil spirit unrepented;

Let her only anguish find

and with wicked thoughts be tormented.

 

Three poisons, three poisons I’ll give to this miss—

So witty, so pretty, so sweet.

With legerdemain these three toads I did kiss.—

Their enchantment is now complete!

 

______________________________

 

 

Then the toads cursed as we’ve just seen

Were put into the water by the Queen.—

At once it took on a tinge of green.

 

Now to the bath Elyse she called.

Undressed her, and made her go

Into the water.  The first toad crawled

Into her hair with a hop or so—

And there the vile creature clung;

The second toad onto her forehead hung;

And the third attached itself to her breast.

But Elyse seemed not the least impressed—

With such innocence was she blessed;—

For when out of the water she did rise,

To the Queen’s horrified surprise,

The toads were to be seen nowhere.—

Three scarlet poppies floated there.

 

Elyse was so good and pure within

They’d have been red roses, we insist,

Had not the beasts so poisonous been

And by an evil sorceress kissed,—

Though, mind you, flowers they became

By merely resting on her head and heart.

The power of witchcraft was put to shame.

Yes, virtue proved a nobler art.

 

When the wicked Queen saw what had taken place,

Walnut-juice she rubbed into her skin so fair

And a foul-smelling ointment smeared on her face,—

Then she matted and tangled her lovely hair.

When she’d finished indulging her cruel caprice,

No one would have known the beautiful Elyse.

 

Then to her father she was taken—

Now impossible to recognize.

The sight of her left him quite shaken.

He backed away.— The fire in his eyes

Said someone was badly mistaken.

Oh, if only the King had been wise!

 

 

 

“This Is Not My Daughter”

Father / King

 

 

This is not my daughter—

Not this creature defiled.

Where’s the fool who brought her?!

How could she be my child?!

 

‘Twas a devil wrought her.

She’s a horror— a fright.

This is not my daughter.

Get her out of my sight!

 

______________________________

 

 

No, nobody at the palace knew her.

Only the animals could see through her

Disguise.  The watchdog discerned her features—

And the swallows— miserable creatures

That they were.— But whenever did a dumb beast

Have an opinion that counted in the least?

 

Poor Elyse crept away in sadness and shame—

Wondering if her brothers had shared the same

Fate— out of the palace with heavy heart,

For now from her father she must depart.

 

All day she wandered over field and moor,

Till to a great forest she finally came.

Lost, full of sorrow, and insecure,

She had no direction, hope nor aim.

 

Yet Elyse had a longing that did stir

The depths of the heart and soul of her

Driving out despair and fear—

To find her eleven brothers dear.—

They, too, she thought, must be roaming about

Somewhere, like herself, in the wide world, no doubt.

 

She had only been in the wood a short while

When darkness fell upon the day.

In night’s disorienting style

Elyse completely lost her way.

 

She found a soft and mossy place

With a tree stump pillow and down she lay,

Then summoning forth her father’s face

The only prayer she could did pray.

 

The night was mild, the air was still,

And yet Elyse felt winter’s chill.

Then all around the grass and moss

Appeared to shine with an eerie gloss.—

Hundreds of glowworms, a soundless choir,

Suffused the darkness with green fire.

 

Elyse reached up a bough to touch

Ever so gently— there followed such

A luminescent light display

It might have been the Milky Way

Overturning all its jars

In a shower of shooting stars.

 

Nevertheless the icy grip

Of solitude did tighten

Around Elyse.  The companionship

Of the insects only served to heighten

Her aloneness— father, brothers gone.—

It seemed an eternity till dawn.

 

At last the saving grace of sleep

Enveloped her in slumber deep.

With dreams there came a brief surcease

From sorrow, comforting Elyse.—

So does the soul devise release

To float awhile on wings of peace.

 

She dreamt of her brothers the whole night through;

Again together as children they played.—

On gold slates with diamond pencils they drew,

Though on the slates they no longer made

Simply naughts and crosses as they used to.—

Instead they wrote down all their exploits bold—

What they’d seen and done was told

In the tales they spun on the slates of gold.

 

She saw her treasured picture book

That had cost half the kingdom to buy,

And as at the pages they did look

The images seemed to solidify.—

 

Everything was alive.— The people walked

Right out of the book and talked

To them.  Even the birds sang.

But when she turned the page they sprang

Back at once as befit their strictures,

So as not to cause confusion in the pictures.

 

When Elyse awoke on her mossy bed,

The sun was already high overhead;

In fact she could not see it clearly

Because the tall trees their branches spread

So thickly above her that they nearly

Hid it completely from sight,

Though still some shimmering light

Shone through like fluttering gauze,

Triumphing over the night

In glimmers of silent applause.

 

A delicious fragrance fresh and green

Of forest grasses filled the air,

And the birds with their intuition keen

Seemed so delighted Elyse was there

That they would have perched upon her shoulder

Had they been a little bit bolder.

 

She heard a splashing water sound

From many springs all around.—

Upon exploring them she found

They flowed in rivulets beyond

And emptied into a beautiful pond

That had a fine sandy bottom to it,

Modeled as only nature can do it.

 

The pool was bordered with bushes dense,

Still there was one place in the thicket fence

Where a wide opening did appear,

Rooted out and trodden by deer.

 

Elyse made her way to the water here

Which was so transparent, so crystal clear

That had not the breeze the branches swayed

She would have thought a leafy glade

Had been painted on the bottom in the sand

By an unknown artist’s hand,

Such a true reflection was portrayed

Of every leaf in sunlight arrayed

As well as those that hung in the shade.

 

The moment Elyse her own face did see

She was shocked and horrified utterly,

So ugly and hideous did she look;

But when in her hand some water she took

And rubbed her forehead, eyes, and nose,

Her own fair skin appeared again.

So she laid aside all her clothes

And waded into the water then.—

Nowhere in all the wide world round

Could a lovelier royal child be found.

 

When Elyse had dressed and her long hair plaited,

She went to the bubbling spring and drank

From the cup of her hand till her thirst was sated;

Then she climbed the sloping bank

And wandered further into the wood

Just because she felt she should,

Although she had no way of knowing

Where on earth she might be going.

 

To her brothers her thoughts returned

As she journeyed.— How she yearned

To find them.  Surely providence

Would guide her, come to her defense.—

 

After all, great nature made the apples grow

To feed the hungry.  Now it seemed to show

Her just such a tree, the boughs bent

From the weight of the fruit opulent.

Here Elyse took nourishment,

Then beneath the branches props she set,

As though in payment of a debt.

 

Refreshed by the meal, Elyse went on

Into the forest’s darkest part.

Here quiet so heavily pressed upon

Her she almost heard the beats of her heart.—

 

Every footstep sounded like thunder.—

Each withered leaf that was crumpled under

Her feet made a noise of crackling fire,

As loud as a burning funeral pyre.

 

Not a bird was to be seen;

The tangled foliage formed a screen

No ray of sun could penetrate.

The tree trunks stood so tall

And close together that when Elyse looked straight

Ahead they seemed a giant wall.

 

She felt imprisoned— so bleak was her mood—

In the desolation of solitude.

Oh, here was loneliness to the core,

As Elyse had never known it before.

 

 

 

“Lonely”

Elyse

 

 

Lonely— I’m lonely.

I’ve never been so lonely—

Only hunger’s cold arms to hold me

And solitude to enfold me—

 

Lonely for someone—

A very special someone,

Who could stand and face the whole of me—

Somehow embrace the soul of me.

 

For love has always eluded me, excluded me—

How it seems

            to fly just beyond the rainbow’s reach

                       even in each

                                   of my dreams.

 

Lonely— I’m lonely.

Must I ever be lonely?

Will this emptiness end?

Is there a somewhere a friend

A lifelong loving hand to extend?

I’m lonely— so lonely am I.

 

Lonely— I’m lonely.

Must I ever be lonely?

Will this emptiness end?

Is there a somewhere a friend

A lifelong loving hand to extend,

Who would understand my varied ways

And want to share all my nights and days?

Oh, together could we

For eternity be

Like a pair of eyes;

And we’d harmonize

Like the sounds of words

Or the wings of birds,

Like the sun and the moon!—

May tomorrow come soon!

I’m lonely— so lonely am I…

 

______________________________

 

 

The night grew very dark with nary a moonbeam;

Not a single glowworm from the moss did gleam.

Sadly Elyse lay down to sleep,

Then somewhere in the forest deep,

Their long nocturnal watch to keep,

A chorus of owls began to hoot

In sonorous tones that seemed to suit

Her own inner musing

In the state interfusing

With the drowsy drifting sail

Into slumber’s silken veil.

 

______________________________

 

 

Now Elyse found herself in a cavernous pit,

Where also there was in a place indefinite

A ghoulish demon tearing at the ground

With its claws.  She dared not look around;

But, seeking to escape, a pathway found

With a stair-like ascent.  She began to climb,

Then the ghoulish demon losing no time

Scrambled up the pit’s steep wall

And loomed above her terribly tall

Blocking her path.  Elyse stood still

Trembling with fright.  She had not the will

Nor the courage to go on.

Suddenly a strange phenomenon

Occurred.— The black sky parted to reveal

A lovely white cloud from which was shot,

As quickly as a thunder-peal,

A shaft of light right by the spot

Where Elyse stood.  Within it could be seen

A most magnificent Fairy Queen

Mistily lit in the swirling blaze.

Though her manner exuded compassion,

She fixed a steady gaze

On the demon in a most confronting fashion,

Shattering its power like glass.

At length in a clear firm voice she spoke:

“She wants to find her brothers!  Let her pass!”

Then all dissolved and Elyse awoke.

 

It was morning, yet the vision seemed

Still to cast such an eerie spell

Over her— whether it had just been dreamed

Or not she simply couldn’t tell.

 

Elyse walked on, after she’d gone a short way

She met an old woman who had

A basket of berries and did say

She might have some.  Elyse was glad

To accept.  Then she asked if she hadn’t spied

Eleven princes riding through the wood.

“No,” the old woman replied,

“But yesterday I saw in this neighborhood

Eleven swans swimming down

The river, each with a golden crown

On its head.”  And the woman led

Elyse to the place she’d said

She had seen them— a high bank below

Which wound a mellifluous stream.

On either side the trees had found a way to grow

So their long branches did seem

To stretch across in an embrace,

And where their natural growth couldn’t bridge the space,

They had wrenched their roots out of the earth

Their leafy boughs to intertwine,

As though the touching made it worth

Whatever pain in their design.

 

To the old woman Elyse said goodbye

And followed the river’s winding flow,

Till the broad open shore before her did lie;

But now no further could she go.

 

Here was the glorious ocean’s expanse,

Yet it put her in a despondent trance,

For not a sail nor a boat met her glance.—

How in the world could she ever advance?

 

Weariness overcame her quite,

Sapping her strength like a morbid blight.

All the hurt and grief she had held inside

Suddenly had no place to hide—

For how much pain can a human bear?—

At last she gave in to her mounting despair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“True To Myself”

Elyse

 

 

True to myself— I’ll be true to myself—

Now that I have at last broken through to myself.

Though voices should shout,

‘You’ll never win!’

I’ll refuse to doubt

What I hear within.

 

True to myself— I’ll be true to myself.

All I ever need do is be true to myself

And go with the mystic flow of me.

Fearless and free like a lion I’ll be.

 

Though the dreams I dream be far afield,

They’ll always be my own.

Though darkness may try to make me yield,

I’ll find my way alone.

 

True to myself— I’ll be true to myself.

For eternity I will be true to myself

And follow the star where my wishes are,

To the purest gold of faith I will hold,

Riding right through the fire of earthly desire—

Through suffering, pleasure.—

My life I will treasure!

Yes true to myself — I’ll be

True to myself.

 

______________________________

 

 

She looked at the countless pebbles on the beach,

The grinding of water had worn each

One of them round.  Glass, iron, stones, the sand—

Everything washed up on the land

Had been shaped by what was softer than her hand.

 

“It never tires of rolling, and so,

Little by little, the rough

Becomes smooth.  I too will show

That I am tireless with fortitude enough.”

 

“Thank you for your lesson, billowing sea.

My heart tells me, one happy day to be,

To my beloved brothers you will carry me.”

 

Eleven white swan feathers lying on the ground,

Among the washed up sea wrack, Elyse now found.

Into a bunch she collected these;

Drops of water were on them, but whether the sea’s

Or from dew or tears no one could tell.

And her loneliness did the ocean dispel—

Its surging waves ever rearranging

Themselves.  Yes, it was constantly changing.

 

Within a few hours, more changes could appear

Than a freshwater lake would show in a year.

If a great black cloud spread across the sky,

It was as though the sea would say, “I

Too can look black.”  Then the wind blew

And the crests of the waves’ white manes grew.

 

But when the wind was lulled and the clouds shone red,

The sea turned into a lovely bed

Of roses with petals of brilliant hue.

Sometimes would be green, sometimes white its view.

 

Yet however quietly rested the ocean,

There was always a gentle motion

Along the shore; softly then the billows mild

Rose and fell like the breast of a sleeping child.

 

Just as the sun had begun to set

Streaking the sky with violet

And crimson, Elyse did behold

Eleven wild swans with gold

Crowns on their heads, flying toward the land;

One behind the other in a swaying band

They floated, looking for all the world

Like a long white ribbon streamer unfurled.

 

Elyse clambered up the bank and hurried to hide

Behind a bush.  The swans alighted beside

Her, flapping their great white wings.

When the sun below the horizon had gone,

The swans’ feather coverings

Fell away and handsome princes thereupon

Appeared and stood before her—

Elyse’s eleven brothers they were.

 

She uttered a loud cry, for although

They were so altered, she instinctively did know

Them.  Elyse sprang into their arms, calling

Them by name.  And the Princes were delighted

To see their sister who had grown so enthralling—

So tall, so lovely— and to be reunited.

 

They laughed and cried and were surprised

To learn everything about each other,

And from their sufferings they realized

How cruelly they’d been treated by their stepmother.

 

“As long as the sun’s in the sky,”

Said the eldest, “we brothers fly

As wild swans; but when it has set,

Our human shapes we once again get

Back.  So when night comes we must take care

To have solid ground under our feet,

For if we were then flying up in the air

As humans we would crash and at once our deaths meet.”

 

“We don’t live here.  There’s a land beyond the sea

As beautiful as this, but faraway;

We must cross the mighty ocean there to be,

And there’s no island on our course where we may stay

The night.  Indeed there is only

One single resting place— a lonely

Little rock just large enough for us to stand

Huddled together.  Rough seas dash spray on us, and

Yet were it not for this

We could never visit our dear fatherland

Which we so desperately miss.”

 

“It takes two of the longest days for our flight,

And there in our human forms we pass the night.

We are allowed but once a year

To visit our own home; here,

Because of our wild swan ways,

All we may stay is eleven days.”

 

“Over this great forest we fly

And catch a glimpse of the Palace from on high

Where we were born and where our father does dwell;

Beyond it we can see the church bell tower as well

Where our mother lies buried.  Here we feel the trees

And bushes are somehow akin

To us; here the wild horses gallop over these

Plains, where since our childhood they’ve always been.”

 

“Here the charcoal burner sings the old

Songs we used to dance to; here is the land we hold

So dear, where memories of our loved ones abound;

And here, darling sister, you at last we have found.”

 

“We’ve still two days to stay here, but then

We must fly away across the sea again

To a glorious country, yet not our own.

How can we carry you all alone,

For we have neither ship nor boat,

And there’s no way we can postpone

Our journey to this land remote?”

 

“If only I could set you free!” she cried.

And brothers and sister did talk and confide

Their troubles and yearnings to each other, deep

Into the night with but a few hours of sleep.

 

Elyse was awakened by the rustling sound

Of swans’ wings above her.  The brothers were once more

Transformed and were flying round

In great circles overhead, before

Wheeling off and soaring away—

Though one of them, the youngest, did stay

Behind.  The swan laid its head as white as milk

Against her bosom, while she stroked each feather

Of its wings which were softer than velvet or silk.

All day long they remained together.

Then toward evening the others returned, and when

The sun was down they took their human shapes again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We must fly away from here tomorrow

And dare not return for a whole year,

But to leave you like this would bring us sorrow.

Have you the courage to come with us, sister dear?”

 

“My arm can carry you through the wood—

It is strong enough easily—

So surely our wings’ united strength could

Bear you safely across the sea.”

 

“Yes take me with you,” said Elyse.

The whole night their labors did not cease.

They wove a net out of supple willow bark

And bound it together with rushes tough,—

While the moon beamed down to light the dark—

Till it seemed to them large and strong enough.

 

Elyse lay down upon the net.

When the sun appeared and the brothers did get

Their wild swan shapes, they seized it in their beaks and flew

High up toward the clouds with their sister, who

Was still asleep.  The rays of the sun

Fell straight on her face, and so one

Of the swans flew over her head and made

With its outstretched wings a place of shade.

 

They were far from land when Elyse awoke.

To be carried high in the air did evoke

Such a strange and wondrous emotion

That she at first had the notion

She was dreaming of flying over the ocean.

 

Beside her was a branch full of delicious

Ripe berries and a bunch of nutritious

Savory roots, which her youngest brother— to stave

Off her hunger— had gathered and put there.  She gave

Him a grateful smile, for it was he,

She knew, who was staying— with his wings outspread—

Above her and forming a canopy

From the hot sunbeams to shield her head.

 

They were so high up as they soared through the sky

That a ship down below, which they happened to spy,

Looked like a white seagull floating by.

 

A great cloud— huge as a mountain— came up behind

Them, and on it— as giant as could be—

The shadow of herself combined

With those of the wild swans Elyse could see.—

 

It was quite an amazing vision of flight.—

Never before had she seen such a sight;

But as the sun climbed higher it seemed to dispel

The shadowy picture and the cloud fell

Farther behind and dwindled away.

The swans whizzed through the air like arrows all day,

Yet their pace was slower than in the past,

For they couldn’t carry their sister as fast.

 

A storm came up as evening drew near.

Threatening clouds filled the atmosphere.

Oh what if the rock did not appear?!

Elyse sang a song to quiet her fear.

 

 

 

“White Wings”

Elyse

 

 

White wings— they never grow weary.

They carry me cheerily over the sea.

Night comes.  My eyes— they grow teary.

Oh brothers— dear swans— how I wish you were free!

 

______________________________

 

 

Then Elyse was terrified to see

The sun sinking and yet no sign

Of the solitary rock.  She

Fancied, in her position supine,

That the swans more quickly their wings were plying.

Oh dear!  It was her fault they were not flying

Fast enough.  The moment the sun went down

The wild swans would again

Immediately turn into men

And crash into the ocean and drown.

 

She entreated fate with all her might—

Still the rock did not come into sight.

 

Black clouds formed a leaden veil.

Violent squalls foretold a gale.

Streaks of lightning flashed on high.

Thunder cracked the angry sky.

 

Now the sun touched the very rim of the sea,

And Elyse’s heart trembled; suddenly

The swans plunged downward in such swift descent

She thought she must fall— but, to her astonishment,

They glided again.  Half of the sun was below

The horizon, and then at last

The rock, as small as a seal’s head, did show

Above the water.  The sun was sinking fast;

No bigger than a star did it glow.

 

Elyse’s foot touched solid ground,

As the sun went out like the vapor

Of a final spark that might be found

On a bit of burning paper.

She saw her brothers standing arm in arm around

Her— but there was only room for them and her

And no more.  They dared not stir,

For the sea beat against the rocks and would have dashed

Them to pieces.  The waves like torrents of rain splashed

Fiercely, so that they were under

A continual deluge.  The heavens blazed

With flaring fires; peal after peal of thunder

Rolled; but the brothers and sisters, amazed

To be safe on their tiny spot of land,

Held each other tightly by the hand.

 

To give themselves comfort and courage they sang;—

From the rock in the middle of the sea rang

Out their resounding voices, pure and strong,

All the tempest-tossed night long.

 

 

 

Reprise— “White Wings”

 

 

Elyse

 

White wings— they never grow weary.

They carry me cheerily over the sea.

Night comes.  My eyes— they grow teary.

Oh brothers— dear ones— how I wish you were free!

 

 

Eleven Brothers

 

White wings— they never grow weary.

They carry us cheerily over the sea.

Night comes.  Our eyes— they grow teary.

Oh sister— dear one— how we long to be free!

 

______________________________

 

 

The air at dawn was calm and clear.

As soon as the sun did appear,

The swans— each an instinctive pilot—

Flew off with Elyse from the islet.

 

The sea was still rough, and from the height

At which they were flying, the white

Foam floating on the water’s dark green

Looked like millions of swans in an enchanted scene.

 

When the sun rose higher, Elyse saw ahead

Of her, half-swimming in space, a range

Of mountains with masses of ice like glitter spread

On the rocky peaks; and in the midst of this strange

And wondrous land rose a Treasure Tower— suspended

In midair— adorned with precious gems— so splendid,

Dazzling, and stupendous in size

That Elyse could hardly believe her eyes.

 

There were rows and rows of majestic colonnades.

Below were groves of gorgeous trees and wooded glades

Where fabulous blossoms as large as millwheels grew.

She asked the swans whether this was the country they

Were bound for; but shaking their heads, on they flew,

For the spectacular phenomenon which lay

In her view was the ever-changing cloud

Palace of Fata Morgana.  Common mortals,

Furthermore, were not allowed

To pass through the portals

Of this kingdom of eternally tranquil light.

As Elyse stared at this amazing sight,

The trees and mountains vanished and in their place

Stood stately temples, all alike, and yet

Each possessing its own distinct grandeur and grace.

Elyse knew in her heart she’d never forget

This vision magnificent,

Awesome, profound.

With wonderment

She gazed around…

                               spellbound.

 

 

 

“Ceremony in the Air”

Elyse, Fata Morgana, and Chorus Of Enlightened Beings

 

 

What is the fabric of this vision,

                                 this ceremony in the air—

Each cloud-capped column and temple solemn

                                 arising like a prayer?!

 

What is the fabric of this vision,

                                 this ceremony in the air—

A Treasure Tower of splendid power

                                 bejeweled everywhere?!

 

Music of the spheres resounds, as you see

Flowers from the heavens fall!

The great globe itself is lapis lazuli,

And the rustling winds are virtues all!

 

What is the fabric of this vision,

                                 this ceremony in the air—

                                                        beyond compare?!

 

We are such stuff as dreams are made on!

This is the stage that life is played on!

 

May I fathom the fabric of this vision deep,

Before my life is rounded with a sleep!

 

______________________________

 

 

Elyse fancied an organ she could hear,

But it was the sound of the sea.

By this time the temples she saw quite near,

And then they were changed mystically

Into a fleet of ships sailing beneath her.

She looked down through the undulating ether…

And it was nothing but a thin

Layer of fog scudding across the water.  Yes,

A graphic scene— whatever its origin—

Constantly changing, kept passing in vividness

Before her eyes, till finally she sighted

The real country for which she was bound.

There were beautiful blue mountains that invited

Her— cedar woods, towns, and castles in the background.

Long before the sun went down, the swans alighted.

 

Soon Elyse was sitting on the mountainside

Before a large cavern, whose wide

Mouth was overgrown with delicate green

Creeping plants that looked like embroidered velveteen

Curtains.  “Now let’s see what you’ll dream of here tonight,”

Said the youngest brother, as he showed her where

She was to sleep.  “If only I might

Dream how to set you free!” she said.— And this prayer

For her brothers Elyse was decreeing,

As though with her entire being

Their deliverance she was seeing.

 

 

 

“As I Hunger”

Elyse

 

 

As I hunger for food and for water thirst—

As I long for a lover, so now do I pray.

Let me free my brothers, so sadly accursed.

But to see them be happy— I live for that day.

 

How can I feel pleasure or earthly delight

While my loved ones still suffer?— Their anguish I share.

Oh, if I could save them from their lonely plight,

I would brave any hardship or go anywhere.

 

As a flower reaches toward the sun,

As the moon appears when day is done,

As the grasses sway when a zephyr blows,

From the depths of my heart this yearning flows.

 

If my wishes had wings I’d ride through the skies,

And with merciful joy I would light up the way

For my wild swan brothers.  Oh, may I be wise!—

Let me save them from sorrow.— So now do I pray.

 

______________________________

 

 

She went on praying even in her sleep.

Then she seemed to fly in a giant leap

High up through the air to the land of nirvana

And the cloud palace of Fata Morgana.

 

The Fairy Queen came to welcome her,

All beautiful and dazzling, yet it did occur

To Elyse how much she resembled the old

Woman who had given her the berries and told

Her of the wild swans she had seen in the wood,

Each with a golden crown on its head.

Now as though all of life she understood,

Presently Fata Morgana said:

 

 

 

“Dream Song—Recitative”

Fata Morgana

 

 

Elyse, Elyse, Elyse, my dear—

Your pure seeking spirit has brought you here.

To discard the shallow and seek the profound

Does courage, great courage require.

Obstacles will abound.—

If you follow the path of true desire,

You’ll encounter the wrath of raging fire.

Yet the awesome Treasure Tower you saw

Is your life— the life of the Mystic Law.

 

Elyse, you alone your mission can fulfill.

As you progress devils and demons will

Without a doubt appear,

Vying with each other to interfere.—

Each fearsome wraith

Will test your faith.

Powerful enemies you must face

Doubt and slander to erase.

 

In order to win

Tap the truth within,

And you’ll be protected no matter what.—

In this there can be no if, and, or but.

 

Within the Treasure Tower

Is truly unlimited power

And a wondrous ocean vast,

But only those with faith can enter.

If you prove to be steadfast,

You’ll discover a mystic center—

Your enlightened life that never ends.

On the strength of your faith all depends.

 

Elyse, now hearken unto me.

You can set your brothers free.

My every word you must heed.—

Such courage you will need—

Like flowing water to endure,

With conviction strong and sure.

 

Softer is the sea than your delicate hands,

Still such powers it commands,

Changing the shape of the hardest stone.—

So, too, must you stand alone.

But no heart or mind has the sea;—

It does not suffer the agony—

The fear, the despair

You will have to bear—

The pain your fingers will feel.

Now this secret I’ll reveal.

 

Do you see these stinging nettles I hold?—

Round the cave where you sleep lots of them grow.—

Their worth to you will be pure gold.

Only these, you must know,

And the ones that come up on a churchyard grave

Will enable you your brothers to save.

 

These nettles with your feet you must crush into flax,

Although they’ll blister your skin.—

Not for a moment can you relax—

For then all this you must spin

And eleven shirts carefully weave,

Hemmed and finished to each long sleeve.

Over your wild swan brothers these cast—

And the terrible curse will be broken at last.

 

But one thing you must remember well,

If you would eradicate this spell.—

From the moment that you start

Your work, till it’s complete—

Though they be years apart—

The first word you utter will mean defeat

And pierce like a dagger each brother’s heart—

A deadly dagger, alas!

Yes, years may pass.—

No matter what, you are not to speak.—

Your deeds must be unsung.

Lest your courage should ever be weak,

Their lives will depend on your tongue.—

One careless word how you’d regret!

These things, Elyse, you must not forget!

 

______________________________

 

 

So saying, she touched Elyse’s hand

With the nettles; they burnt like fire,

Awakening her like a reprimand.

Sunlight dressed the day in brilliant attire;

And close to the place where she had slept

Lay a nettle like those she had seen in her dream.

With determination Elyse was swept,

For in her heart new hope did gleam.

Oh, gladly this task she would accept!—

Now, indeed, her life had a purpose supreme!

 

 

 

“I’ve a Mission”

Elyse

 

 

I’ve a mission only I can fulfill…

And a lofty goal— a special role—

With noble ambition my heart does thrill.

 

I have a true quest I shall undertake.

With yearning my guide… and faith inside

To challenge every test… my way I’ll make.

 

Though mountains may rise before me,

Though darkness should shut me in,

Though the Fates seem to abhor me,

Somehow, someway I must win.

 

I’ll tap the power… deep within my life.

Though alone I stand… at my command

Is a Treasure Tower… through endless strife

My soul to instill… with ‘I can’ and ‘I will’—

For I’ve a mission only I can fulfill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forthwith Elyse went out of the cave

To begin the work her brothers to save.

With her delicate hands she took hold

Of the horrible nettles, which seared

Like flames; the thought of her mission consoled

Her, as on her hands and arms great blisters appeared.

With her bare feet she crushed the nettles— every one;

And then from this substance the green flax she spun.

 

At sundown the brothers came back and were alarmed

To find her so silent.  They thought she had been charmed

By their wicked stepmother with some fresh piece

Of witchcraft; but they knew that what Elyse

Was doing was for their sake when they saw

Her hands.  The youngest brother wept, and where

His tears fell she felt no more pain, and the raw

Blisters vanished as though healed by his loving care.

 

She spent the whole night working, for indeed

She could not rest until she had freed

Her dear brothers.  All the next day,

While the swans were away,

She sat by the cave alone,

And yet never so quickly had the time flown.

One shirt was finished faster than she’d reckoned,

And without pause she set to work on the second.

 

Just then, hunting horns rang out among the hills.

Elyse trembled, as chills

Of fear shot through her.  The sounds

Came nearer; she could hear the baying of hounds.

 

Into the cavern she frantically rushed,

And tying the nettles she had gathered and crushed

Into a bundle, herself she seated

Upon what work she had completed.

 

Suddenly a big hound came bounding

Out of the thicket, and then another and still

Another.  They ran to and fro, surrounding

The cavern, and barked loudly, until

In a very short time the entire hunt

Was there outside the cave; handsomest of them all

Was the King of the land.  He came forward in front

Of Elyse— as she wondered what would befall

Her; never had he seen a fairer maid.

“How came you here, you lovely child?” said he.

Elyse shook her head and stayed

Where she was, guarding her work.  She

Dared not speak nor the slightest utterance make;

Her brothers’ freedom— their very lives were at stake.

 

She hid her hands under her apron, that the King

Might not see what she was suffering.

While he, gazing entranced, could not bring

Himself to leave this beautiful girl.

He stood dumbfounded, his head in a whirl.

 

At length the King did his feelings confide

To his friend, the huntsman, at his side.

And, whether providence or happenstance,—

Who knows in matters of romance?—

He counseled the King to take a chance.

 

 

 

“Take the Gamble”

Huntsman

 

 

Take the gamble… for the love of your life.

Better scramble— better make her your wife.

This is the moment you’ll never forget.

Why should your memory just be regret?

 

Take the gamble, though you might be afraid.

From the bramble, woo away this fair maid.

It’s now or never, so you must choose.

Just take a chance, friend, and win or lose.

 

Take the gamble… and be wise, don’t be smart.

For preamble, why not offer your heart?

Play your hand and make this your lucky day,

Before once in a lifetime slips away.

 

______________________________

 

 

Now his mind made up, the King before Elyse stood.

“Come with me,” he said.  “This is no place

For you.  If you are as good

As you are beautiful, I will dress you in lace,

Silk, and velvet, put a golden crown on your head,

And in my richest palace your home shall be.”

Then he lifted her onto his horse, but instead

Of being glad she wept and sorrowfully

Wrung her hands.  Seeking to relieve her distress,

The King said, “I only desire your happiness.

One day you will thank me.”  Then without delay,

Holding her before him on his horse, away

Through the mountains he galloped, high-spirited,

While the huntsman hurriedly after them sped.

 

As the sun went down, the magnificent

Capital with its prominent

Spires and domes lay ahead

Of them; and the King led

Her into his palace, where in the marble halls

Great fountains plashed and where the walls

And ceiling with splendid paintings glowed.

But she had no eyes for that— from hers tears flowed—

For she could feel only sorrow.  Listlessly

She allowed the women to dress

Her in royal clothes and finery;

To weave pearls in her hair with artful finesse;

And, further enhancing her elegant charms,

To draw soft gloves over her blistered hands and arms.

 

Standing there arrayed in all her splendor,

So effulgent was her beauty

That the courtiers, seeking to attend her,

Bowed even deeper than the call of duty;

And the King chose her to be his bride,

Although the Archbishop shook his head,

For he simply could not abide

The thought of the King to her being wed.

 

He whispered that this lovely wood-maiden surely

Was a witch who had dazzled their eyes

And captivated the King demurely

With her clever enchanting disguise.

 

The King paid no attention

To the Archbishop’s apprehension;

So he withdrew his intervention,

But secretly muttered his dissension.

 

 

 

“Archbishop’s Epiphany”

Archbishop

 

           

This wicked witch who cannot speak

The sovereign’s heart did capture;

For love is blind, the flesh is weak.—

God, end his sinful rapture!

 

The people’s welfare we control—

The king and I do reign;

She’ll take possession of his soul,

And that is my domain.

 

The threat to us all is nefarious.

Our survival is precarious.

She’ll steal his power and his health—

Not to mention the kingdom’s wealth.

 

With her pretty looks and sorcery

This maid will rule the king.

Let me overthrow her tyranny,

So freedom still may ring.

 

By God in heaven I will prove

That she’s an evil one—

Her cursed treachery remove.

The witch shall be undone!

 

The threat to us all is nefarious.

Our survival is precarious.

She’ll steal his power and his health—

Not to mention the kingdom’s wealth.

 

What mortal man can e’er resist

A depraved infatuation,

When by some witchcraft he’s been kissed.—

There is no inoculation.

 

With all that’s holy— all that’s pure—

I’ll prevail upon his highness

And find a sure if painful cure

For this fiend’s corrupting slyness.

 

The threat to us all is nefarious.

Our survival is precarious.

She’ll steal his power and his health—

Not to mention the kingdom’s wealth.

 

______________________________

 

 

Now the King ordered the music to play,

The costliest dishes to be brought,

And the fairest girls to dance straightway—

So that she should lack for naught.

 

Through fragrant gardens she was taken

Into gorgeous rooms, yet she could hardly bear to

Look, for nothing a smile could awaken;

Sorrow seemed all she could ever be heir to.

 

Then to a little chamber the King

Opened the door, nearby where she was to sleep.

It was decked out with everything—

Costly green hangings that seemed to creep

Like vines on the walls— all had been made

To resemble exactly the cave

Where he’d found her.  On the floor had been laid

The bundle of flax she’d spun— it gave

Her heart a thrill of hope— and from the ceiling

Hung the shirt she had finished.  A feeling

Of joy came over her.  All this had been brought

By one of the huntsmen as an afterthought,

For it had seemed to him to be

An interesting curiosity.

 

“Here you may dream you are once again

In your former home,” said the King.  “Here

Is the work you were doing when

You were there.  Now, in the midst of this atmosphere

Of splendor, you may find

It amusing to call those days to mind.”

 

Surrounded by the things so dear to her,

Elyse at last began to smile.

Perhaps this King so near to her

Was the one she had been longing for while

Enduring each lonely night

In the woods.  As she thought with delight

Of being able to save her brothers,

The color rushed back to her cheeks.

No matter what others

Might think of her in the weeks,

Months, even years ahead, she must

Never falter in what she had undertaken.

This King who wanted to marry her— could she trust

Him?  Or would she find herself one day forsaken?

 

Already she felt warmth, tenderness, and more.

Was this the opening of a door

To love?  Standing there, her hand in his,

Over and over she asked herself, ‘Who is

He to me?’  And the King, for his part,

Felt such strong and passionate love in his heart

That in eager anticipation

He could not hold back his own frustration.

 

 

 

“Beyond the Shadow of a Doubt”

Elyse

 

 

Can this man somehow someway see through me?

Would he love me if he really knew me?

Could we find true happiness to share?

Oh, is he the answer to my prayer?

 

Beyond the shadow of a doubt, would he be there?—

Beyond the shadow of a doubt— and would he care

No matter what— no matter why?

Would his be love that would never die?

 

Beyond the shadow of a doubt, would our trust grow?—

Beyond the shadow of a doubt— How do I know

Whether we’d have a happy fate?

Is he my one and only soul mate?

 

I’ve never known such fond devotion

From anyone else before.

His touch goes deeper than an ocean

That hasn’t a single shore.

 

Beyond the shadow of a doubt, he has found me.

And now how can I live without his arms around me?

I’ve wished upon the stars above

For the very wondrous thing called love.

 

Could it be here

With this one so dear?

I wish it were clear!

 

Would his love be sure and strong

To endure our whole lives long—

Love pure, love ever devout—

Beyond the shadow of a doubt?

 

Could it be here

With this one so dear?

How I wish I knew!

What is this passion all about?

Would our love be true—

Love ever and ever devout—

Beyond the shadow of a doubt?

 

 

 

“More Than a Friend”

King

 

 

You’re more than a friend

And less than a lover—

Which do you intend to be?

This off and on thing—

This here and gone thing—

Is very upsetting—

It’s getting to me.

 

My feelings are much too there to ignore.

I can’t take this up in the air anymore.

My composure is starting to slip.

Are we in or out of this relationship?

 

If my lady’s you

Give Cupid his due,

And let me know it.

Somehow just show it.

 

The dream of my life

Is to make you my wife.—

But if being with me

Isn’t your cup of tea,

Please make it crystal clear… my dear.—

 

Let’s get this over with here and now.

Why prolong the agony anyhow?

Later’s too late—

Open up.— Why be shy?

Don’t hesitate.— Look me straight in the eye.—

I need to see if you can love me by and by.

 

______________________________

 

 

With a look that all lovers understand,

Elyse reached out and kissed the King’s hand.

He pressed her to his heart with zeal;

Then he ordered all the church bells to peal

For the royal wedding festival grand.

The lovely dumb girl from the woods was to be

His bride— the Queen of the land.

The Archbishop, fearful of treachery,

Whispered slanderous words into the King’s ear;

But in the enchantment of love’s embrace

His heart simply refused to hear,

For the marriage was to take place.

 

So the solemn ceremony began—

The lifelong joining of woman and man.

Oh, how Elyse wished that the King might guess

All her innermost thoughts she could not express!

 

The Archbishop himself had to set the crown

On her head, and out of sheer spite he pressed down

The narrow circlet upon her brow

So tightly that it hurt her; yet somehow

A heavier ring encircled her heart—

Grief for her brothers, from whom she was now apart,

Kept her from feeling the physical pain.

Her lips were sealed, for her vow she must maintain;

A single word from her mouth would mean

Death to her brothers, but in her eyes could be seen

Deep affection for the noble and handsome King

Who tried to do everything

To make her happy.  Indeed she felt surrounded

With love, as he gave of his rapture unbounded.

 

 

 

“My Lady with Eloquent Eyes”

King

 

 

I see in your smile the bluest skies;—

I hear soft rhapsodies in your sighs;—

I sense in your soul a silence wise,—

My lady with eloquent eyes.—

 

My lady, my lady, my lady, my lady—

                     my lady with eloquent eyes.

 

To find you was such a sweet surprise;—

You made the sunlight of life arise;—

With you my future happiness lies,—

My lady with eloquent eyes.—

 

My lady, my lady, my lady, my lady—

                     my lady with eloquent eyes.

 

Let the heavens sing you lullabies,

As the moon and stars do harmonize;—

May ours be a love that never dies!—

My lady with eloquent eyes.—

 

My lady, my lady, my lady, my lady—

                     my lady with eloquent eyes.

 

______________________________

 

 

Every day, with her whole heart, she loved him more

And more.  She longed to confide in him— to pour

Out her sufferings.  But dumb she must remain

And in silence labor to attain

Her desire, until her task was completed.  So

At night she would steal from his side and go

Into the little chamber decorated

Like the cavern.  There she dedicated

Herself to fulfilling her mission, weaving

One shirt after another— always believing,

In the depths of her soul,

That somehow she would achieve her goal.

 

 

 

“Someday, Someday”

Elyse

 

 

Each night I slip away

To work till dawn of day.

Though I may not sleep,

My vow to keep,

‘Tis a price I’ll gladly pay.

 

I wish I could explain

Why I endure this pain

To my husband dear,

Who slumbers near,

But for now I must refrain.

 

Someday, someday, he’ll understand—

Oh, how glad my heart will be!

Our love will find its Promised Land,

When I’ve set my brothers free.

 

My fingers start to tire.

The nettles burn like fire.

Yet with joy I’ll give

This life to live

And fulfill my deep desire.

 

Though soon will rise the sun,

When all is said and done,

Every cause I make

This curse to break

Is a victory I’ve won.

 

Someday, someday, he’ll understand—

Oh, how glad my heart will be!

Our love will find its Promised Land,

When I’ve set my brothers free.

 

Someday, someday, they’ll understand—

Oh, how grand that day will be!

Our world will find its Promised Land,—

When I’ve set my brothers free!

 

______________________________

 

 

Thus Elyse labored on, but just as she began

On the seventh shirt, she ran

Out of flax.  In the churchyard, she knew,

The nettles she required grew;

But she must gather them herself.  How

Was she to get there?  She could not give up now.

 

“Oh, what is the pain in my fingers compared

With this agony in my heart!” she thought.

“I must risk it.  Providence has cared

For me all this time and brought

Me good fortune.  It will again.”  Then with fear

In her heart, as though she were on

Some wicked errand, one night in the moon’s dear

Light she stole down to the garden and thereupon

Went out into the long avenues through

The empty streets till the churchyard came into view.

 

There, on one of the largest gravestones, sat a ring

Of lamias, that stopped her from continuing

So frightful were they.  These hideous witches took

Off their rags as if to bathe;— she could barely look—

With their bony fingers they clawed

In the new-made graves, snatched up the corpses, and gnawed

The flesh until their ghastly meal was eaten.

Elyse had to pass close by them; and she shrank back,

Feeling completely beaten

By this fiendishly evil attack.

 

The ghouls fastened their horrible eyes upon her

So that, transfixed with dread, she dared not even stir.

 

 

 

“Lamia Lambaste”

Lamias

 

 

Our name is lamia.

Our game will tame–e–a.

We will blame–e–a,

Shame-e–a, maim–e–a!

 

First we’ll sour you,

Overpower you!

Then in death we will devour you!

 

Now hear it!—

We’ll break your spirit!

We will scare you,

Snare you, impair you!

We’ll deplete you,

Beat you.  Defeat you!

 

Our name is lamia.

Our game will tame–e–a.

We will blame–e–a,

Shame-e–a, maim–e–a!

 

First we’ll sour you,

Overpower you!

Then in death we will devour you!

 

 

 

“Let Her Pass”

Elyse and Fata Morgana

 

 

Elyse

 

Devils of darkness,

Demons of doubt—

Within, without—

Have bound me—

Walls of despair

Surround me—

Alas, I cannot pass.—

 

Fata Morgana, where are you?

Appear to me now!

Help me keep my vow!

 

 

Fata Morgana

 

Let her pass!

Let her fulfill her mission!

Let her save her brothers!

 

Let her be!  Let her pass!

Don’t stand in her way!

Let her free her brothers

Without delay!

You demons of doubt,

Now desist and cease!

Get going!  Get out!

Don’t trouble Elyse!

 

 

Elyse

 

Let me be!  Let me pass!

Don’t stand in my way!

Let me free my brothers

Without delay!

You demons of doubt,

Now desist and cease!

Get going!  Get out!

Don’t trouble Elyse!

 

______________________________

 

 

So, having mustered her faith with all her might,

She gathered the stinging nettles and made

Her way back to the palace in the moonlit night,

Filled with determination, no longer afraid.

 

Only one person— the Archbishop— had seen

Her.  He was awake while others slept.

Everything was not as it should be with the Queen

After all.  She was a witch.  That was why she’d crept

Into the churchyard.  What he had suspected

Was true.  Her sorcery had infected

The King and cast a spell

Over all the people as well.

 

When the King came to confession

The Archbishop told him with discretion—

Though on his face he wore a smug expression—

What he had observed and what he feared;

And as the cruel words came from his tongue,

The carved images of the saints appeared

To shake their heads, as if they’d been so stung

By the accusations, they had to say,

“It isn’t true; Elyse is innocent.”

But the Archbishop explained it another way;

He said the saints were bearing witness against her,

That they shook their heads at her wicked character.

 

Then two great tears rolled down the King’s cheeks.

He returned home despondent and nonplussed,

For doubts had entered his heart like leaks

In the embankments of his faith and trust.

 

At night he pretended to be asleep,

But no peaceful slumber would come to keep

Him company.  Every night he noticed how

Elyse stole out of bed; and now

Each time he followed her quietly and saw

That she would always withdraw

Into her little private room.

Day by day his looks became more clouded with gloom.

Elyse was aware of this but couldn’t perceive

The reason why the King seemed to grieve.

 

It troubled her; and what she did not

Suffer at heart for her brothers!  Her hot

Tears ran down her royal robes and lay

There on the purple velvet like a grand display

Of diamonds sparkling in the sun;

And, indeed, everyone

Who saw the rich splendor of her attire

Wished to be Queen with fervent desire.

 

Meanwhile Elyse had almost finished

Her task; only one more shirt was to be made;

Still her resolve had not diminished,

No matter what price had to be paid.

But now flax she had none.

And nettles not a single one.

 

So once again— only this time would be the last—

She must go to the churchyard some handfuls to pluck.

Elyse tried her best to cast

Aside all doubts, yet she was terror-struck

At the thought of the lonely journey and worse

Of the lamias with their frightful curse.

Still her faith and will she did redouble,

For Elyse was no stranger to times of trouble.

 

She went on her quest, unaware that the King

And the Archbishop were secretly following.

They saw her disappear through the iron gates

Into the churchyard; and— as the Fates

Would have it— when they were near enough, there sat

The lamias on the gravestone

Just as Elyse had seen them.  At the sight of that

The King turned away, for his own

Dear wife— she whose head against his chest

Had rested that very evening— he guessed

Was among them.  Frozen in horror, dismayed,

To the depths of his soul he felt betrayed.

 

All hopes and dreams of love in him were dead.

“Let the people judge her,” he said.

 

 

 

“We the People”

People

 

 

Here’s the church—

Here’s the steeple—

Open the doors

And see the people!

 

We the people—

We the people

Are the court

Of last resort.

 

Join in our witch hunt—

It’s hot!

Let us be blunt—

Are you with us or not?!

 

Now face the grand inquisitor—

State your position— either, or.

Choose a side, for this is war!

 

Though you may detest and hate us,

Don’t ever underestimate us!

 

We the people—

We the people

Are the court

Of last resort.

 

______________________________

 

 

And the people condemned her to die by fire.

She was led away from the magnificent

Royal halls— where once all had seemed to admire

Her— to a dark damp dungeon of imprisonment.

 

The wind whistled through the barred

Windows, as though bemoaning her ill-starred

Destiny.  Instead of velvet and silk, they gave

Her the bundle of stinging nettles she

Had gathered; the witch, who had tried to deprave

Their King, could lay her head on that.  Befittingly,

The coarse burning shirts she had woven were to be

Her covering.  But little did they know

They could have given her nothing more

Precious.  Now she could go

On with her work and before

Morning perhaps even complete her task.

How urgently, fervently did she ask

The very heavens to assist her!  The street boys

Outside made a racket of jeering noise

And sang slanderous songs about her; not a word

Of kindness or comfort was there to be heard.

 

Yet, as Elyse labored in her cold lonely cell,

The King was enduring his own private hell.

 

 

 

“Lament”

King

 

 

They say she’s a witch— How could she be?

Such charm doesn’t seem like sorcery.

Our love was the sweetest ecstasy.

Oh, why have they taken her from me?

 

This lady I chose to be my bride—

Yes, she was my future and my pride.

How cruelly did fate our lives divide!

I wish I could have her by my side!

 

Her dear little gestures echo grace.

Such beauty no time can e’er erase!

My hungering heart’s a haunted place.

I’ll never forget her lovely face!

 

I waited for her my whole life long—

Those eyes that could sing a silent song—

Our love was so perfect and so strong!

How could any love so right be wrong?…

 

______________________________

 

 

Oh, an agonizing day for him and her!

Then, toward evening, Elyse heard the whir

Of a swan’s wing close to the grating;

It was the youngest brother, at last locating

His sister.  She sobbed for joy, though she knew

That the coming night might be her only one

Left to live.  But now, it was true,

Her brothers were there and her work was nearly done.

 

The Archbishop came to spend

Her final hours with her.  He had promised the King

To be with her to the end.

But she shook her head, signaling

Him with looks and gestures to leave her.

That night was all she had to weave her

Last shirt.  Everything would have been in vain

If she did not finish her task— the pain,

The tears, the sleepless nights.  The Archbishop went

Away speaking bitter malevolent

Words about her, but Elyse

Continued her work with the peace

Of mind of knowing she was without guilt.

Unshakable determination, built

Step by step, welled up in her in this time of need.

Here was the supreme test of her faith, indeed.

 

 

 

“The Colder the Winter the Warmer the Spring”

Elyse

 

 

The colder the winter the warmer the spring,

Where from nature’s palette life’s colors are drawn—

Though mute I must be in my heart still I sing,

For the darker the night the brighter the dawn.

 

The deeper the sorrow the greater the joy,

As shadows and sunlight play alternately—

No doubt or despair can this longing destroy

For my wild swan brothers soon to be free.

 

When misunderstanding and envy abound,

When devilish obstacles threaten me,

I must tap an inner resource profound—

For the wise will rejoice and the foolish flee.

 

The fiercer the tempest the sweeter the calm

That will promise a splendid rainbow to bring—

Though muffled in silence may all hear my psalm—

The colder the winter the warmer the spring.

 

______________________________

 

 

Little mice scampered about the floor

And dragged the nettles to her feet,

To help by doing some tiny chore.

A thrush perched on a window bar and sang a sweet

Song all night long.  In its cheeriest tones it lent

Its voice to offer Elyse encouragement.

 

While deep within she had a sudden sense

Of a limitless mystic immanence

Beneath emotion, turmoil, and strife—

The eternal true entity of her life.

 

It was still about an hour before sunrise.

The eleven brothers in their human guise,

Had left their sister and were standing

At the palace gate, demanding

To be taken to the King.  This could not

Be done, was the answer they got.—

It was still night; the King was asleep and ought

Not to be disturbed.  They besought;

They threatened; the guard was turned out;

And finally the King himself came

And asked what it was all about.

But at that moment, like a burst of flame,

The sun rose, and the brothers were nowhere

To be seen, though high up in the air

Over the Palace eleven wild swans soared.

And now the whole population poured

Out of the city gate,

Eager to see the witch burnt—

A human stream of  hate

Rushing to watch, as if to die itself weren’t

Horrible enough.  A wretched old horse drew

The cart, in which she sat, through the avenue.

 

She’d been given a smock of coarse sackcloth to wear;

Her beautiful long hair

Hung loose about her shapely head, her face

Was deathly pale, and her lips moved

Slightly as her fingers kept their constant pace

Of twining the green flax.  Yes, she proved

Steadfast and would not give up,

Though on the road to her death;

Elyse was determined to live up

To her vow to her last breath.

 

The ten shirts she had finished lay at her feet

And she was doing the eleventh.  In the street

The mob jeered at the witch;

Their clamor now had reached a feverish pitch.

 

 

 

“Burn Her Burn Her Burn Her”

People

 

 

Look at the wicked witch—

How she clutches her black magic!

Such a malicious bitch

Does deserve an ending tragic!

Still she weaves her evil spell

Even on the way to hell!

 

What cheek!

I’ll bet she can speak!

 

See how the sorceress mutters,

Yet not a single word utters.

Someone so weird

Ought to be feared.

With her jezebel style

Our King she did beguile.

She’s absolutely vile!

 

Such greed!  Such foul desire!

The fiend must die by fire!

 

Burn her burn her burn her—

So her hex to break!

Burn her burn her burn her!

Burn her at the stake!

 

Devils and demons she commands.

Of witchcraft we must purge our lands.

Take her sorcery from her hands—

Tear it into a thousand shreds,

Before her loathsome magic spreads

And surely makes us lose our heads!

 

Burn her burn her burn her—

So her hex to break!

Burn her burn her burn her!

Burn her at the stake!

 

We must thwart her ugly aims—

Kill the ghoulish witch’s games.

Let her be consumed in flames!

 

Burn her burn her burn her—

So her hex to break!

Burn her burn her burn her!

Burn her at the stake!

           

______________________________

 

 

They all crowded in upon her and tried

To destroy her work.  But there came eleven

Swans flying and perched around her on each side

Of the cart.  “This is a sign from heaven!”

Many whispered, as the swans flapped their great

White wings till in panic the mob gave way;

“She must be innocent!” though they dared not state

It aloud nor make any effort to stay

The proceedings.  The executioner

Seized her by the hand, but she quickly threw

The eleven shirts over the swans and before her,

Lo and behold, in plain view

There stood eleven handsome princes.  But instead

Of one arm the youngest had a swan’s wing                 

Which, in the transformation, could not be shed;

For while Elyse’s harrowing

Ordeal was over, she had had to leave

Her youngest brother’s second sleeve

Unfinished— though her heart it rent.

“Now I may speak,” she said.  “I am innocent.”

 

And the people, seeing what had happened, bowed

Down to her as though she’d just been endowed

With sainthood; but the strain,

The anxiety, the suffering— all the pain

Had exhausted her, and Elyse sank back

Into her brothers’ arms, as if she now did lack

Any further will to live.  “Yes,

Innocent she is,” the eldest brother cried.

And he began to address

The crowd, telling how she had nearly died

To save them.  As he spoke there spread around

A fragrance as of a million roses blooming,

For every twig from the pyre into the ground

Had taken root and put forth branches perfuming

The air; and a high hedge with red roses stood there.

At the very top, as though in thankful prayer,

A single flower of pure white shone from above,

Like a beautiful dazzling star of love.

 

This the King broke off and laid on Elyse’s breast,

Seeking its healing blessings to impart;

And she awoke as from a luxurious rest

With peace and happiness in her heart.

 

Then, as though her victory they cheered,

All the church bells rang out of their own accord;

And huge flocks of flying birds appeared,

In promise of good fortune’s reward.

 

 

 

“To Our Hearts’ Content”

King, Elyse, and Eleven Brothers

 

 

The moment I saw you I knew

That the love of my life was you.

Through the pain and fire of earthly desire,

We have proven to be true.

 

Let us love to our hearts’ content,

Now that we have heaven’s consent.

May the sun and moon their blessings give,

While in happiness we live.

 

Let the birds of paradise sing

And the golden church bells ring.

May each turtledove and star above

Herald an eternal spring.

 

Like an ever-quenching pond,

We have formed a lasting bond

From life to life, as husband and wife—

So tender, so dear, so fond.

 

Let us love to our hearts’ content,

Through the times that are turbulent.

Together may we stand, still hand in hand,

With devotion never spent.

 

Let us love to our hearts’ content,

Till we know what the poets meant.

May the words ‘to cherish’ never perish

And love be benevolent.

 

______________________________

 

 

The bridal procession,

With merriment, rejoicing, and gladness galore,

Made quite an impression,

The like of which no King had ever seen before.

Then to the palace returned the jubilant train.—

Thus began the kingdom’s most providential reign.

 

This ends our story for the time being…

We hope what you’ve been hearing and seeing

Will leave you with your spirits uplifted

And a sense that everyone is gifted.

 

 

 

Finale— “A Single Human Life”

All

 

 

A single human life—

A single human life

Is truly an invaluable treasure.

To discover within

A diamond genuine

Is to live and love to the fullest measure.

 

In the sunlight, in the shadows,

In the laughter and the sorrow,

Let us challenge human destiny

And see a bright tomorrow.

 

One man— one woman standing tall

In dignity for one and all

Can show the way to everlasting pleasure.

A single human life—

A single human life

Is truly an invaluable treasure.

 

A single human life…

A single human life…

A single human life!!!