Megan Arkenberg

Speculative fiction writer, poet, and editor

Leanansidhe


The hour is late, the night is blind,
dark thoughts are running through my mind;
these pages with my words are lined
all of the Lady I must find
      deep in the darkness of the sea.
Her power, known through all the land,
gives poets power to command
if one but looks to take her hand--
      the lovely Leanansidhe.

 The Leanansidhe, she waits alone
for one who is worthy to be her own
to hear her wisdom, yet unknown
and kneel beside her coral throne
     far in the darkness of the sea.
For this, her gift, she makes a claim
that’s hardly near the worth of fame
but for her price, all fear the name
     of lovely Leanansidhe.

For if she finds your soul too proud,
your thoughts too coarse, your heart too loud,
your spirit crippled, bent and bowed,
your words untrue to what you’ve vowed
     black as the darkness of the sea
the lady takes your blood to fill
her cauldron red and deep, but still
how small a price for all the skill
     of lovely Leanansidhe!

I know now where she hides, away
from places where we mortals stray;
away from the harsh light of day
to be among the shadows gray
     within the darkness of the sea.
The Isle of Man is home, it’s said,
to that Fairy false hearts dread
and down this path at last I’m lead
     to lovely Leanansidhe!

Around me now the ocean roars
the blue waves crash on chalk-white shores.
Above my head a seabird soars.
From sea to sand, a gray fog pours--
     it holds the darkness of the sea.
And there, with hair as black as night,
with eyes that shine with silver light,
too beautiful for human sight
     is lovely Leanansidhe!

When I kneel, she bids me rise
and looks on me with mist-gray eyes.
She asks, “What gift shall I devise?
What do you ask this fairy, wise,
     and old as the darkness of the sea?”
I say, “I seek the skill you bring
to those who tightly to you cling
and to the poets, so fair a thing
     as lovely Leanansidhe.”

 She laughs: the air turns bitter cold.
“What right have you to be so bold?”
she sneers, “My gift will not be sold
for pretty words or all the gold
     found in the darkness of the sea.”
And as I stare into her eyes
I know she reads there all my lies.
Oh, who am I to claim the prize
     of lovely Leanansidhe?

She draws a knife, and as she nears
me my heart pounds with mounting fears.
I see in her a thousand years
of fading songs and falling tears
     to fill the darkness of the sea.
As my blood fills her cauldron red
I suddenly feel lifeless, dead.
I wish my path had never lead
     to lovely Leanansidhe!

 I feel my life flow into night
Is this the end, without a fight?
To fall so low from such a height?
Is this to be my final sight,
    the heavy darkness of the sea?
The Lady hears my hollow cry
she says, “You know the reason why —
You sought me here, but you must die
 
    for lovely Leanansidhe.

 “You are not worthy of my gift
but do not fear, for death is swift
and silent in this ocean rift
where poet spirits ever drift
     within the darkness of the sea.”
“No, I must live!” I gasp, but how?
My blood is in her cauldron now
and I have made a binding vow
     to lovely Leanansidhe.

 She hears and says, “There is a way
to take my gift and then repay
me with a gift of equal weigh--
to see the light of another day
     outside the darkness of the sea.
Write me a poem that will tell
the poets who now seek my spell
of this, my price, and warn them well
     of lovely Leanansidhe.”

“Yes!” I cry, “I’ll pay your price!”
She laughs: “I won’t be generous twice
Your poet’s skill had best suffice
to tell my tale!” Her voice is ice
     within the darkness of the sea.
Slowly now the gray mist pours
away, and now a seabird soars.
Around me now the ocean roars
 
    for lovely Leanansidhe.

But she is gone, I’m left alone
upon the beach that is her throne.
Her wisdom must remain unknown
until one comes to be her own,
     comes to the darkness of the sea.
A seabird flies down through the spray
but still I see her eyes of gray.
I know my heart will always stay
     with lovely Leanansidhe.

 And so I write this tale tonight
by the fading candlelight
of Leanansidhe, as dark as night,
Too beautiful for human sight
     or for the darkness of the sea!
If you seek a poet’s skill
she waits there in the darkness still.
Beware! Her gift is quick to kill--
    the lovely Leanansidhe.