June 14, 2016

The Watcher in the Woods

        It’s time for another fantasy poem, and this one just might psych you out.  Oh, the first verse sounds all pretty and sentimental, but what is lurking in the woods?

  Deep in the wood’s recesses cool
  I see the fairy dancers glide,
  In cloth of gold, in gown of green,
  My lord and lady side by side.

  But who has hung from leaf to leaf,
  From flower to flower, a silken twine –
  A cloud of grey that holds the dew
  In globes of clear enchanted wine?

  Or stretches far from branch to branch,
  From thorn to thorn, in diamond rain,
  Who caught the cup of crystal pure
  And hung so fair the shining chain?

  ‘Tis death, the spider, in his net,
  Who lures the dancers as they glide,
  In cloth of gold, in gown of green,
  My lord and lady side by side.

        The poet, Dora Sigerson Shorter (Irish, 1866-1918), was active in the Irish Literary Revival, and her poetry is heavy on the usual themes of the movement: Irish mythology and folklore, tragic romanticism, ghosts, broken hearts, angels and demons, and smatterings of Irish words and phrases.  If I sound a little condescending it’s because I think her poetry is distinctly second-rate when compared with, for example, Yeats.  But to give her her due, I was amused by the twist in this poem, and any modern cynic should be satisfied by the image of pretty, gliding fairies being caught and devoured by devious spiders.

[Picture: Red Cross poster, lithograph by Basilio Cascella, c 1920 (Image from Wellcome Images).]
Poem from The Story and Song of Black Roderick, 1906.

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