The Crone and the Maiden

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for Idril

*

At Avebury, on Solstice eve, a crone and a maiden sat

The crone wore a weary wisdom, and the maid wore a flowery hat

And as the sun sank ‘neath the hill, and the sky flushed rosy red

The maid, her eyes all full of flame, turned to the crone and said

‘I know nothing of love, speak to me, of marrying, and men

How will I know if I lie with a man, that he’ll come to me again

How will I know if I lie with him, that his heart be faithful and true

They say that the crone knows everything, so tell me, tell me do’

The crone put down her weaving, sighed a little, thought, and spoke

‘How do you know that the bees will buzz, or the wren will sing in the oak

How do you know that the night will flee, or the birds fly free on the morn

As sure as you know that the sun will rise, and the stones be here at dawn’

‘That isn’t an answer,’ said the maid, ‘I want more certainty

How will I know that he speaks the truth when he lies down with me

How will I know by the look in his eye, or the touch of his hand on my breast

Whether he be the man for me, and king above all the rest’

‘You won’t,’ said the crone, ‘you’ll never know, ‘tis up to fate and chance

‘Tis biology, mystery, fantasy, a curse, and a merry dance

Just drink of the wild heat of him, while fire still burns in the sky

For men will come and go, my dear, all suns will fade and die’

The maiden sighed a little, and the crone a little too

‘It seems like only yesterday that I was a maid like you

With oak and roses in my hair, and eyes all full of flame’

‘Best get some in,’ the maid said

‘Ay,’ the crone said, ‘that’s the game’

At Avebury, on Solstice eve, a crone and a maiden sat

The maid wore a little wisdom, and the crone wore the maiden’s hat

And time passed by in a wheel of stars, till dark gave way to the dawn

And the sun rose pink upon the hill, and the king rode in on the morn

*

© Gail Foster 17th June 2017

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She Comes

Silbury Spring

A rhyme written for the Spring Equinox

and the Gorsedd of the Bards

at Avebury, Wiltshire

*

For all the night she trod the furrowed earth

As she has walked all winter in her wake

In seeking for the child she brought to birth

The maiden bride whom Hades chose to take

The gibbous moon is waxing to the bright

And shedding shifting shadows on the lands

One single moonbeam spills down through the night

Upon the rutted earth on which she stands

Made heavy by the weight of mother’s tears

The ground beneath her feet begins to yield

The imprint of a child’s foot appears

Emerging from the darkness of the field

The dawn is tinting grey the silken skies

The lifting mist moves gulls to take the air

She swears she hears these words within their cries

She comes, she comes, she comes, is nearly there…

Around the hill of Silbury swirl the springs

From many sources meeting there as one

Upon the fence a bardic blackbird sings

His songs of seasons ended and begun

The heron stands in wait down by the brook

The willows’ leaves weave rills upon the stream

The cormorant is fishing for the rook

Whose shadow shapes a fish from daybreak’s gleam

From alder trees drip drops of ancient dew

Like shining crystals, in to waters deep

The grey of morn becomes a brighter blue

New lambs are woken from the dark womb’s sleep

A muffled drumbeat pounds within her bones

Thrills through her feet and trembles in her chest

Draws from four corners people of the stones

To stand and lay the winter to his rest

Can it be so, she thinks, that she will come

And willingly escape the thrall of Hades

Be called by this fast beating of the drum

To dance among the wild lords-and-ladies

The drum, the drum, the Druid in the East

The daylight shattering the glass of night

Behold the mead and cake that form the feast

Behold the glorious blessing of the light

The blazing gorse flames yellow on the hill

Bright shafts of sun surround the Druid’s head

She comes, she comes, my daughter liveth still

Released at last from fathoms of the dead

Her eyes are purple crocuses; her hair

Is woven through with wood anemones

She shocks the eyes, her presence is so rare

And strong, as hyacinths upon the breeze

She wears the sun a-shimmer on her dress

In folds of drops of snow and celandines

And, as befits she with the power to bless

Comes riding on a stag of seven tines

She speaks unto the awed and silent crowd

“I come” she says “I bring the fire of life

I come to cast my seeds on fields ploughed

To quell your hunger and relieve your strife

I bring you daylight from the depths of hell

Where I with Hades am forever wed

Of Christ and Dionysus I shall tell

In sacred stories of the risen dead”

The crowd are stunned to silence, robbed of breath

She came, she came, brought winter to his knees

Defied the dreadful tide of dark and death

To bless the ground with shoots, and trees with leaves

The ancient Druid offers up the cup

The wine of her libations there to sip

He bows his head, as down she stoops to sup

And touch the cup upon her rosy lip

And with this act the sunlight floods the sky

The spell is broken by the touch of earth

And Demeter runs forward with a cry

To hold the maiden that she brought to birth

The seasons come, the seasons go, and all

Shall rise and fall and fade and reappear

And Spring shall once more answer to the call

Of Hades at the dying of the year

But here, by mother love and heat of day

Persephone is made a child again

To run upon the hills; to dance and play

And plant her flowers in the world of men

*

© Gail Foster 2016