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Swan Lake

A ballad

As a swan I float, I glide
Head held high, though not in pride
White I am, but not within
This form I swear rewards my sin

The sun sinks low, twilight descends
Around my sisters and my friends
The flock who have now come ashore
Arise still pale, but swans no more.
A mist with an unearthly glow
Restores the forms we used to know
The forms we wore before we fell
Under this curse, under this spell:
By day to drift silent and white
Only to be ourselves by night.

Some can dance, and some can sleep
Some sit and sing while others weep,
Some try to comfort, stroke their hair
While others still just sadly stare.

Above the grass a ruin stands
And there she sits with head in hands;
The palest, fairest of the flock-
Out master crowned her head to mock
The royalty that she was born
And now she sits alone, forlorn.

This wistful, wan, exquisite sylph
Who seems born of no earthly filth
But shines with some angelic grace
And who could dream a fairer face?
Heartbreaking in her loveliness
Her eyes are soft, but they possess
Such sorrow, weariness of pain
Yet wisdom, light and hope remain.
And graceful is her air, her poise
And gentle is her silken voice
Divine each ripple of her hair
No swan, no maid can near compare.

The finest maid, the whitest swan
We were like stars by moon outshone
Though not a heart resented you,
Odette, the fairest - kindest too.

How can it be that such a curse
Deserved by us is also hers
Her malediction seemed unjust
Oh sweet Odette, you broke what trust?

Above us from the sable sky
There came a screech, an eerie cry
And then on silent wings came down
An eagle owl, immense and brown
Its eyes were burning, wild and fierce
The very soul they seemed to pierce
And when its talons touched the land
There was a flash, and now did stand
Our captor- he without a heart –
The warlock Baron von Rothbart.

His presence filled our souls with fear
And yet his power drew us near
His face, as he surveyed his flock
Betrayed no feelings, save to mock.
‘The feathers that you each display
Throughout the hours of the day…
Yes you may cower, be afraid!
I pity not ye who betrayed
The hearts of men and lovers’ trust
Ye slaves of greed and whores of lust!
Elegant still, enjoy your curse
Be grateful, all deserve far worse!’

Odette her voice a soft lament
Asked ‘When and how may we repent?
We may have done the things you say,
But no one did them every day.
Yet every day you punish us;
Until we die must it be thus?
Though she could not suppress her sighs
With dignity she met his eyes.

To see her face, so sad, so pure,
Who could believe it masked a whore?
What sin could be hers to repent
When shone her eyes so innocent?
All souls must carry some regret
But none seemed sweeter than Odette,
Whatever secret plagued her mind
We knew her only meek and kind.

Though she had risked the wizard’s wrath
Instead Von Rothbart deeply laughed:
‘You may yet be free; if you find
A mortal true in heart and mind
If to be yours he makes a vow-
And keeps it- this I promise now;
That all your friends will I set free
And no more you’ll need fear of me!
So find him, but should he betray
You’re mine until your dying day!’

‘What chance of this? If any man
Did come across me as a swan…
Love me? Why he should sooner kill…
Ah, some release this would be still-
From you and your demonic craft…’
The baron, hearing this, just laughed
‘If this be true, then hide, then wilt
And drown in your remorse and guilt!’
Then into darkness he was gone
And we were left subdued, alone.

Beyond the woods there lay a land
O’ershadowed by a female hand
The regent queen her state enjoyed
And all her guile she now employed
To keep her son from court and throne
For power Clothilde craved alone.
And knowing Siegfried’s cast of mind
Queen Clothilde plotted and designed
To have him choose a bride to wed
And find distraction, in her bed,
From notions he might entertain
To take his place, as king to reign.
A masquerade the queen would stage
To show the prince had come of age.

Enriching the prospected feast
With savoured flesh of bird and beast
Did adequate excuse provide
For Siegfried and his friends to ride
Into the wild, with crossbows slung
And merry song on every tongue

On foot they passed between the trees
The game was rich, they slew with ease-
Their arrows flew and killed and maimed
Many a boar and deer they claimed.
‘Ah good,’ said Benno. ‘We shall feast,
The banquet need not lack at least-
And if tis true as rumours tell
Your bride’s flesh will be sweet as well!
Your choice is of princesses grand
Of fat dowry and dainty hand!’
For once Prince Siegfried failed to smile
‘Friend, I would hunt alone awhile.
Pray take ye all back to the court.
Present our Lady with our sport;
Your company you know is dear
But I have my own thoughts to clear.
Friends worry not and get thee gone
And grant your prince some time alone!’

Alone Prince Siegfried picked his way
As dimmer drew the dying day;
He knew not what his aim, his quest,
But something in him could not rest.
The branches reached, like wizened fingers
Clawing from the bleeding sky
An atmosphere of evil lingered
The darkness seemed to hiss and sigh.
The trunks had faces in their bark
With leering mouths and hollow eyes,
The forest grew more thick, more dark
And brambles dense began to rise
As if by some enchantment led
He struggled on and forged ahead.

The sun was on the set once more
And so we clustered on the shore;
But as we made it onto land
A man we saw, crossbow in hand.
He gasped, he stared at us half dazed
Then to the aim his bolt he raised.

Back to the ruined shrine we flew
As deeper, darker, evening drew:
Except for one. Odette, our queen
Who stood fast, staring back serene.
Her white, wide rings she raised and spread
To cover those behind who fled.

Bewitched by now, the stranger stared
But nothing then could have prepared
Him for the change before his sight,
As fell the first rays of moonlight.
Under the floating, silver rays
The swan was lost in snow-white haze
(Before his disbelieving gaze)
We saw the wonder in his eyes
As he beheld our princess rise.

The crossbow from his fingers fell
And to his knees he dropped as well;
His mouth fell open in a gasp,
His heart his fingers rushed to clasp
To stop it bursting from his breast
He looked at her, he was possessed!
‘Who ere she is, what ere her curse,’
He whispered, ‘I am only hers!’

She shivered in her gown of silk,
All that she wore, as pale as milk.
‘Who are you hunter, who would pray
Before this thing you sought to slay?’
Her voice, though soft, spoke in reproof,
He felt remorse, he knew the truth
‘’Tis true, and vengeance is your right,
Take up my fallen bow this night
And let the loaded arrow fly:
And know how happy I will die
If your face is the last I see,
A thing more lovely cannot be!
Prince Siegfried’s life is yours to claim
But let thy victim know thy name!’

Her head bowed in a bird like tilt
She answered in a melting lilt:
‘Odette, and no victim you be.
Odette, the more accursed than thee.’
‘Nay, blessed, for I am your slave
What is your curse, how can I save
You - nought is there that I’d not do
For all my life I dreamt of you!
Forgive my tongue if truth be sin,
I cannot keep such love within!’

A smile half shy, a wistful sigh,
A melting look in her sweet eye;
She glanced about, her body shook:
‘To speak of it I cannot brook
To speak his name, I daren’t- I fear…
I feel him now, ah, he draws near!’
‘What is this terror on your face?’
(The prince took her in his embrace)
‘The one who turns you to a swan?’
‘And death for you, dear Lord, be gone!’
‘How came you thus – you need not tell
But know that I will break this spell!’
‘It is not safe, all will you know,
But for your life, I beg you, go!
Tonight there is too much to fear;
Tomorrow I’ll be waiting here.’
‘And I will come, yet would I stay;
What torment to be sent away!’

He left her, but not in his mind
Which from her nothing could unbind,
His eyes were vacant, senses dim;
Odette, meanwhile, could only swim.
Prince Siegfried planned to give his word
To keep her safe as maid or bird.
He paced while slowly hours passed,
Then took his steed and rode it fast
For madness and for love’s own sake
To the shores of the haunted lake;
Where in the ghostly lunar light
The maiden waited, all in white.
He ran to her, she sighed his name
And put her hands in his- ‘You came!’

As time went by the princess told
Of he by whom she was controlled
And on her cheek there gleamed a tear
And Siegfried vowed ‘You need not fear;
That fiend I shall send back to Hell!’
‘No Siegfried, you’d increase his spell-
The spell is cast so to endure
And keep us swans forever more!’
‘His powers, can they be so great?’
‘Aye, and his death would seal our fate.’

They walked along beside the lake
They talked ‘til the long dreaded break
Of day, and though their hearts were pained
Throughout her change her prince remained
Her sad head drooped across his knee
He stroked her: ‘Love, you will be free!’

He left the swan, and rode away
Beneath the sun’s accursed ray
Against the warlock’s name he raved
And for Odette's embrace he craved:
‘…And I will love her, come what may,
And I will set her free some day!’
At that a chill passed down his spine
And shadows hissed ‘Odette is mine!’

The halls were sumptuously bedecked
Beyond what monarchs might expect
The courtiers danced before the throne
Where Siegfried sat and felt alone.
He slumped, with cheek against his palm
Immune to any lady’s charm
Princesses passes before his eyes
Distracted, he passed only sighs.
Though they had come from far and wide
None of them would he name his bride;
Sweet they might glance, well they might dance
But not the finest stood a chance.
They flirted, he had no reply:
He craved but to his love to fly.

He rose at once, resolved to leave -
He saw, but could not quite believe -
A maid with flesh as moonlight bright
A maid in bless as black as night;
A maid with witchcraft in her grace
A maid with his beloved’s face!

‘Can it be? It cannot - and yet
‘Tis her, my more-than-love, Odette!
But who her escort, who this lord,
With flowing cloak and mighty sword?’
It mattered not for she was here,
All that he had come to revere.
He gazed at her and never dreamed
That things might not be as they seemed.

Odette’s face smiled, her body rushed
To Siegfried’s and to his he crushed
‘Odette! I love you, and I must!’
Odette’s lips smiled with love and lust.
They made their way down through the masque
The dance he had no need to ask.

Her body swayed against his own
He heard her sigh, her gasp, her groan
He ran his fingers through her hair,
He raised his arms, stood to declare
‘I swear by God I’ll have no bride
Save she who is now at my side!’

At this there came a woeful scream
That shattered all as if a dream;
He turned to the window to see
Odette, now of her silence free!
Shut out, where raged a bitter storm
Then Odette lost her human form
And then a flash and she was gone
And the wind swept away a swan.

He looked to she in his embrace
And now she wore another’s face!
He stared at her in disbelief
Stepped back, and tore his hair in grief.

Darkness began to fill the hall
Its laughter echoed, wall to wall
‘Odette is mine, oath-breaking fool!’
The voice was wild, triumphant, cruel.
‘Behold Odile, my child, my spawn,’
Said Rothbart, ‘She to wed you’re sworn!’
‘Odette!’ was all the prince could wail
Before he fled into the gale.

Odette was carried to the lake
And tumbled from the sky
Her heart in agony did break
‘Oh lord, just let me die!’
And all these tragic things we learned
When our heartbroken queen returned
And human by the lake she fell
Her eyes betrayed her inner Hell.

‘I’ve lost him, I am desolate,
And we cannot escape our fate!’
We flocked about our queen so fair
No words could console such despair;
Silent as if the sun still shone
Each found herself as mute as swan.

‘I’ve lost him; ah, nothing is left-
I love him so- I am bereft!
I want to die, I cannot bear
To live without my Siegfried there!
Let me be, and let me die,
Forgive me, sisters, cursed as I!’

Meanwhile her Siegfried found a horse
And spurred it on with passion’s force
A desperate race, a frantic pace
To reach his lady’s dwelling place.

As he approached his love we parted,
Teary eyed, half broken hearted;
We all could see how he was bleeding,
On his knees he fell down pleading:
i love but you, I was deceived!’
She touched his face, and she believed
And then to each other they cleaved
As none have cleaved before.
Then thunder made the heavens quake
Then lightning flashed across the lake
And Rothbart stood above the shore:
‘Odette is mine forevermore!’
‘Not while I live!’ her lover swore,
‘I’ll kill you or die trying first!’
The warlock sneered: ‘Fool, do your worst
And Odette always will be cursed!’
‘You lied before, again you lie;
Release her or prepare to die!’
Then Siegfried rose and drew his sword
To add its metal to his word.
The prince advanced, his blade he swung
And drove it into Rothbart’s lung;
Then from the hilt red lightning bound
That threw Prince Siegfried to the ground.

Behind him water, wide and still,
Dark and fathomless and chill:
Before him Odette and her tears
While Rothbart’s laughter filled his ears.
As for the wound, the blade’s bright steel
Dissolved there, and they watched it heal;
Away from Rothbart dropped the hilt
But not a drop of blood was spilt!
‘Oath breaking fool and stupid boy,
Thought you to harm me with your toy?
Destroying you will I enjoy!
But first know your beloved’s doom:
No more this shape will she assume!’

Siegfried screwed shut his eyes in shame
But softly Odette spoke his name
Here lovely smile – her parting gift
He felt his soul to heaven lift
The world contained no light so sweet
His life, his dream, was nigh complete.

And next they passed a long deep glance
Below the seething sky
They knew there was to be no chance
They knew they had to die.
The demon of his game they’d cheat
And as he came they made retreat.
Heart in heart and hand in hand
They ran and jumped clear of the land,
They fell, and in the lake they died
Together crossing the divide.
They died as one, and if reborn
How could they evermore be torn?

Von Rothbart gave a frenzied roar
Above the lake’s accursed shore
And then he fell and was no more!
We felt his power lift.
We pulled the two from the abyss
Odette’s fair frozen brow we kisses
No one can say how she’ll be missed
But freedom was her gift.
For even as the daylight dawned
We human stayed, but still we mourned;
Ah freedom, but at such a cost:
Our Odette and her prince are lost!
Swan Lake in ballad form.
Add a Comment:
EnfantDeRiviere Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2008
This is truly gorgeous, and so well-done. dA has found a wondrous breach of its daily onslaught of emo poems. There's no rhyme-skeeching or line-stretching, the rhythm is consistent, and it has a wonderful mood and feel. :+fav:

Aleishan Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2007   Photographer
I never ever thought I would favourite any kind of text in deviantArt, but your ballad is simply amazing!!!! :clap:
LadyGhostDuchess Featured By Owner May 8, 2004  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Beautiful. Very well writen. You have a real talent for writing darling. It is very spactacularly done
dashinvaine Featured By Owner May 8, 2004
LadyGhostDuchess Featured By Owner May 8, 2004  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Your welcome
kasadeja Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2003
I adore it, I simply adore it :)
dashinvaine Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2003
Great! Thanks! (w00t!)
Add a Comment:

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Submitted on
October 15, 2003
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