The Witch

Here, I revisit a poem written by me 56 years ago - when I was 15. I revisit it now because yesterday's poem reminded me of that experience: yesterday I penned the poem "Shawn in my New House" as soon as possible after waking up with a dream, and its potential expression in a poem, in my head.

While some readers will regard yesterday's poem as not a poem at all, because it neither rhymes nor follows a regular metre, both poems are full of symbols and hidden messages relevant to my personal development.
For example, who do the "great giants" and what do the "vast halls" represent? I reckon the poem is an expression of my vulnerable and adventurous stage of life, where
  • The great giants are symbols of the political leaders, teachers, priests, police, judges and others who shape the society into which I must venture soon. 
  • The vast halls are symbols of the courthouses, parliament buildings, banks, colleges and such like, where power is wielded. 
  • "Colloquy" is more than talking; it is participating in hidden and esoteric discussions that shape society and my life.
  • Hanging their great spears indicates that their positions and decisions are backed by violence, hidden from the civilised process of colloquy, but ever-present in the background.
  • Great goldern rivers are the rivers of life, from the various streams of which one must sweep me away from my present life. 

Fifty six years ago, it was a stormy night in March and I drifted in and out of sleep - as the wind boomed and gushed around the house - forming this poem in my mind.

In school, I had just been introduced, (enthusiastically by Br Cornelius Finn, who said, "This is great stuff"), to Coleridge's "Kubla Khan," and the music of that poem affected my composition.

Next day, I separated myself from society at the first opportunity and tried to get the words onto paper. Of course, like Coleridge himself, I felt I had not quite captured the composition of the night before.

Where great giants gather
For colloquy in vast halls,
And hang their mighty spears
From ropes around the walls;

And great, golden rivers
Rush forever to the sea,
Mid rugged hills, grey rocks
And wild scenery;

 In a sudden flowery valley,
Where sweet scents filled the air,
There stood a mighty mansion
Where lived eight sisters fair.
One upon a thorn tree
Forever did repose,
But the other seven sisters
The softest luxury chose. 

The gold, gleaming in the river,
Matched their golden hair,
As the seven sisters played
In languid leisure there.  

But, when a wizard bade them
To wish inside their head,
They wished, each, for a handsome man
With whom to share her bed. 

Just then, as if by magic,
Seven handsome lads appeared
Galloping round the birch wood
That formed their magic screen. 

The sparks flew from the horses hooves
As the gallant lads drew nigher,
And, in the seven sisters’ hearts
There grew a torrent of desire.

They stopped; their eyes were caught
In the golden hair:
Seven smiling faces
That were oh! So fair!

They sniffed the scent of roses
And gazed the glen around
To where the deepest, dark woods
Cast shadows on the ground.

Down a dim-lit stairway,
By a magic well,
They saw the fairest face
That one can ever tell. 

Her hair was oh! So dark!
As dark as ripest sloe.
Her skin was oh! So white!
Nor whiter is the snow.

Her eyes were deep and witching,
A deep and witching grey;
And each swore to be her slave
And follow her alway.

There was a flowery valley,
But the flowers are dead and gone,
And, from the deepest, dark wood,
There comes a mournful song.

Some old, old men are moaning
Down by the thorny tree;
They’ll mourn and mourn forever
Into eternity.

And the giants in their mighty halls
Shall hearken to their calling,
Where the great and golden waters
Are forever falling;

For the witch upon the thorn tree
Has weaved her spell of woe;
Has sapped their strength, has taken flight;
Aye, to the sky has flown. 

And every night I hear her
When the wind is blowing loud,
For her shrill laugh re-echoes
From the deepest, dark cloud;

And I know that she will laugh,
And laugh until she burst,
For the hearts she has broken,
The people she cursed.


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