Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Entry #68

On the Cold Hill's Side
by Stephen Wylder

"And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill's side."

John Keats, "La Belle Dame Sans Merci"

It was our Eildon Tree. We both loved the old ballads, and our favorite was "Thomas the Rhymer." In it, the Queen of Elfland visits Thomas while he sits under the Eildon Tree. She offers him a challenge:

"If ye dare to kiss my lips,/Sure of your bodie I will be," she said. And Thomas took her dare:

"Betide me weal, betide me woe,
That weird shall never daunten me."
Syne he has kissed her rosy lips,
All underneath the Eildon Tree

"Weird," as we both knew, meant fate. Thomas's fate was to serve the Queen for seven years. I served my Queen for less than two.

I would sit under the tree, and she would come and dare me to kiss her. I remember those kisses, even more than what came after. Perhaps she believed she was the Queen of Elfland, able to seduce any man with her magical beauty. And there came a time when she returned from school and dismissed me, and with me, our tree. My Elf Queen had become Keats's "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," and I found myself "on the cold hill's side."

In the years since then, we both married and divorced, and perhaps she recognized that being a femme fatale could not bring her happiness. So I still walk to our tree, hoping she might return, even now, when no birds sing.


Anonymous said...

Lovely incorporation of poetry. Fabulous last line.

Sarah Hina said...

I loved the Keats inspiration here! "I served my Queen for less than two." is such a great line, as is your last.

This was a beautiful elegy for a doomed relationship. Great work!!

Anonymous said...

A broken relationship brought out with spirit and grace. Wonderful stuff!

paisley said...

you really covered a lot of ground here,, the additions of the poem and the fantasy really made it special....

Unknown said...

This is a remarkable piece of writing, incorporating as it does poetry, fantasy and reality. It is beautifully and poignantly handled and creates for a very powerful and graceful piece of writing. Really well done.

Beth said...

I can't help it, ditto to Sarah as I'd be rephrasing everything she wrote.

steve on the slow train said...

Thank you all. This is a very supportive community. I have yet to read all the entries, but I have yet to read one that's badly written or uninteresting.

SzélsőFa said...

I like how the two poems illustrated the two different stages of a love. The last line is superb, Steve.

Dottie Camptown said...

Steve, your character is very self-aware and able to see her in such a clear and mature way. Alot came through and I enjoyed your story.

steve on the slow train said...

Szelosfa--When I read of the contest in your blog, I imagined the tree you use as an avatar, and thought of the Eildon Tree. But the bare tree on the hillside made me think of the Keats poem. So I tried to combine them. I had a girlfriend in high school who thought she was a femme fatale, and maybe she was. I'm thankful to have married a woman who, though beautiful, never exploited her beauty. Thank you for letting me know about this contest.

Dottie, Thank you for your words of support. I thought your entry was excellent. This is a wonderful community of writers.

Anonymous said...

Wow. This reminds me of the old truth that loving someone doesn't mean he/she is good for you. Interesting take on this depthless subject. Well done. High marks!

Aine said...

Nicely written! I like how you used the two poems to describe the evolution of the affair.

I would love to hear her perspective (as would he, I'm sure). And, as others have commented, that last line is the perfect conclusion!