from the Danish
A tower stands by the edge of a wood, an old weathered tower with
moss and creepers growing across the peepholes, with green moss
in the cracks and corners, and withered woodbine hanging like
stiff, dry hair down over the red stone. High up on the east side
is the only window in the crumbling walls.
Up there behind
the deep-set window a woman stands gazing out at the coming night.
She is small and thin, and her hands resting on the window-sill
are as white as moonlight, and her chin as pale and curved as
an arum-lily. But her eyes shine black as pitch which drips from
a burning torch. She stands gazing out at a plain as open as the
sea, while the rooks from the wood fly off over the trees and
wheel and tumble down over the crowns and cry deep in the wood.
Behind her the tower room is as cold as stone in the half-light,
and a cricket chirps shrilly in a crevice.
Out over the
plain there is nothing but the brown grass of Winter lying as
if the melted snow had flattened it, and in the grass lie pools
of water here and there. Near to the tower they reflect the red
western sky, while farther off they are as grey as the clouds.
looks out over the plain where the sky darkens and is stilled
by night mists, she listens for the winding stair to sound under
a footfall. She listens for the groping of a hand over the lock
of the iron door. She listens for the sound of another living
body in the dead tower. And she hears nothing but the cricket
and the hollow whine of the wind through the empty rooms beneath.
farther forward, and leans her elbows on the windowsill. They
are cold from the cold stone, but she does not notice. She does
not see that the red sky has faded in the pools in the grass,
nor that the plain which was as open as the sea has drawn itself
together. And she does not notice that the rooks are silent.
For she is
thinking of him who came one night and tied up his horse at the
door, climbed up to her room, slept in her bed - and was gone
before daylight. Of him who came to her like a squall, and whose
speech was like the wind soughing in a wood, and whose embrace
set all her dreams alight and brought the warmth of the sun into
her heart. Of him who left her alone with the marks where his
horse had pawed the ground at the foot of the tower. Sleepless,
dreamless and restless, she stares into the night.
It is Lonely
Yearning who sits mute at her window with the endless plain of
a wasted life before her, and a withered wood behind her - Lonely
Yearning, sick of her memory and as immortally young as the madness
The sun has
set. Around the tower creeps night's forest of darkness.
It is a long way, a long way away in the land where all the Fairy
Out on a flat,
snowcovered, endless barren field squats a tumbledown hut, and
in the hut's only room sits a bent old man breathing on the ice
on the windowpane. He is staring out over the lonely snow-plain
which is empty, cold and trackless, while and sterile all the
way to the frost-blue clouds on the horizon. The old man's breath
spreads like thin steam over the pane, and freezes. The frost
creaks in the woodwork. The cold steals in from outside through
cracks and chinks, and long icicles hang down from the eaves like
a lattice in front of the window.
The old man
does not move. He scarcely blinks his eyes, so fixedly does he
stare out at the horizon. Farthest out there where the flat white
snowfield draws a straight horizon-line with the darkling sky,
it runs down like the edge of a sea that rolls wave after wave,
slowly and endlessly along a shore.
It is Mankind's
Youth rushing to the Castle where the Princess and half the Kingdom
are to be won.
The old man
stretches his hands towards the cold window. He presses his forehead
against the ice-covered pane, and his mouth quivers as if he is
speaking. But no sound escapes his lips. He is as dumb as one
whose soul bears a sorrow no-one and nothing can alleviate. His
gaze is as fixed and tearless as in one who sees life withered
and wasted and can do nothing about it. Only his brain is alive.
It struggles desperately and monotonously with ever the same useless,
futile thought: to stop that host.
But even if
he had a megaphone they would not hear him. His voice would sound
like a bird crying above their heads. For out there where they
walk, the white snowfield looks like a meadow decked with poppies
and cornflowers, and his house looks like a jasmine-covered abode
of kisses and embraces and dreams, and the winter sky's leaden
clouds like the summer's clearest air. And the dead stillness
of the frost on the white field sounds like the song of unseen
larks. It is green and fertile and blossoming all around, while
far in front stands the castle with the Princess and half the
Kingdom like a song upon the lips.
Day in and
day out the old man sits and stares. The crowd never stops, and
no-one ever rides to the castle. But round about him he sees only
barren fields and lonely huts, huts that stand empty and waiting,
and huts where old men sit like he does, staring out of frozen
panes into a changeless winter, always the same, cold and white
- like a memory of what is forever dead...
that winter which is the Dragon slowly swallowing those who never
won the Princess.