The Wild Swans

Stave 2

 

Elisa thought of her brothers’ eyes

As she searched for swans in the changing skies.

When the warmth of the sun touched her cheeks,

She was reminded of their kisses. Days turned into weeks,

Each the same as the one before, and then into years,

But time could not quell the princess’s tears.

When the wind ruffled the roses on the farm,

It whispered: ‘Who could be more beautiful than you?’

And the roses replied: ‘Elisa is.’

When the wind turned the pages of a book of psalms,

It asked: ‘Who could be more pious than you?’

And the hymn book replied: ‘Elisa is.’

When she was fifteen years old, good and fair,

Elisa returned to her father’s castle. The hateful queen

Raged and wished to make her a swan flying in the air

But had to wait her time, until the king had seen her.

Early the next morning, before she had risen from her bed,

The queen placed three toads in Elisa’s bath and said

To the first one: ‘When she gets in, sit on Elisa’s head

And she will grow as sluggish as you.’

The second toad she commanded to sit on Elisa’s forehead

So that she would become unrecognisably ugly.

To the third she whispered: ‘Rest on her heart and give her an evil soul.’

The wicked queen called for her step-daughter,

Removed her gown and helped her into the water,

Where the toads took their places:

One on her head,

One on her forehead

And the third on her breast.

As Elisa arose from the bath, the toads became floating poppies:

She was too innocent and pious to be overpowered by sorcery.

The queen rubbed her stepdaughter with the juice of walnuts

Until she was no longer fair;

Smeared her face with stinking ointment;

And tangled her lovely hair.

When she brought Elisa before her father,

The king, with a horrified shout,

Refused to believe she was his daughter

And cast her out.

 

© Kim M. Russell, 2016

The Wild Swans Stave 2

Image found on Pinterest

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