Maerwynn the Plumed Feathered Snake

The child stared at the old man’s aged wrinkled face,
Her grandfather moaned and settled slowly in his place.
Fire hearth glow flickered about the hallowed hall,
Dancing shadows cast on the wooden rough hewed wall.
Outside the howl of a blizzard winter storm,
Beat for entry upon the house now safe and warm.
She reached out a perfect tiny pink fleshed hand,
To touch the heart and life of this aged man.
“Poppy” she called to catch his ear,
He turned his head to better hear.
“Poppy, tell me the story about a maiden fair,
A tale of Maerwynn with tasseled sun golden hair.”
As she spoke the name the moment seemed to sigh,
And a sparkle shown in the old man’s eyes.
Thus he began to weave a tale of long past glory,
The tale of how Maerwynn closed her life’s story.
“Twas far, far in the distant past,
Where lived Maerwynn on a high mountain pass.
Alone with her tomes of forgotten magical lore,
Piled about her on shelves and a cold stone floor.
She had studied all there was to the dark craft,
It had taken her soul, her smile, and stolen her laugh.
This life of magic had left her in a word, bored,
A failing the Wizard Maerwynn could not afford.
Flaring her wizard’s mantle she twirled about,
Strode to a parapet, and with resolution stepped out.
She wished for more than the powers now possessed,
She wished for more than the gods had her thus blessed.
From her castle keep she saw in the valley village below,
The windows of houses lit the night with cheery glow.
She stood where the thin chilled air danced with glee,
Where possessed she kept only cold stone as company.
From the parapet she heard music rising to her height,
The villagers sang and danced this festive night.
She wished for their joy, their warmth and their place,
To sit at their tables, to touch them, to know each face.
Their safety and their hearts became none of her concern,
Gripped with the greed for their lives within desire burned.
She was a protector charged with keeping safe the spells,
That held at bay the evil rushing through the gates of hell.
The kingdom was a place of beauty – a paradise it was said,
Though all that looked toward the pass did so with dread.
Maerwynn was one of the ancients of many through the years,
The thought of her filled villagers with silence and fear.
Her name was not spoken least even whispered it was heard,
Carried to Maerwynn by a spell cast black wing spying bird.
She could see beyond the forests and glide through any door,
Though not allowed to leave the pass or walk the valley floor.
A captive to her obligations a family yoke to bear,
Maerwynn was a hopeless prisoner to destiny there.
Then from within her a voice as beautiful as this maiden fair,
Cast out a chant through the moon bright mountain air.
The spell began Rocs soaring up to her from a craggy knoll,
Magical birds long forgotten grasped her mystical lonely soul.
The giant beasts swooped and cried in raptor delight,
They snatched her from the ramparts to fly into the starry night.
In the wink of an eye there appeared in the castle keep,
A figure dressed in scarlet, gold fringed, and silken sleek.
Surrounded by imps and fairies spreading fairy dust everywhere,
The gods choice for the new Maerwynn had already arrive there.
Thus they did set her down at the village mighty iron gate,
Where she stood still in silence to accept destiny’s fate.
For the gods had cast a spell upon this maiden’s brow,
Her time had come, her moment of completion prophesied was now.
As Maerwynn slipped her cloak slowly her form slide beneath,
Accepting that which the ancient gods had thus bequeathed.
Entering the realm of mortals the spell cast did take,
Maerwynn the woman now became a Plumed Feathered Snake.
As she had once been she would now forever be,
No more a life far above mortal humanity,
No more a castle on the mountains high,
No more to commune with spirits swirling the sky,
No more to know the lore and magical potion books,
No more to command all eagles, Rocs, dragons and rooks.
When she became consumed with that which she was not to be,
She broke her kismet thus written on the pages of eternity.
So Maerwynn now saw only the feet of those she had once reigned,
Slithering on her belly she was looked upon with disgust and disdain.”
Then the old man looked at his granddaughter with eyes of love,
Reaching out he placed his hand on hair as soft as that of a dove.
“The wisdom my granddaughter is when one is at such great height,
Do not desire another creature’s possessions or their meager plight.
For your wish may be granted from a fleeting careless desire,
That – once given will consume your being in a sin of mortal fire.
Maerwynn the Plumed Feathered Snake haunts forests, meadows and dales,
A hissing product of wishes granted by an oath taken and neglected spells.
Be true to yourself, be proud of your given family name,
Do not envy others, utter not oaths and do not pass blame.”
Rising the child smiled and kissed the crown of his head,
“Thank you Poppy, I like that story,” then she toddle off to bed.
The old man sat alone for a moment feeling the warmth of the air,
Barely speaking he said, “Maerwynn, I know you are there.”
Hidden in a corner recess where spirits lived in the gloom.
A Plumed Feathered Snake open its haunted eyes and peered into the room.

Copyright: 2008, Donald Harbour

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7 thoughts on “Maerwynn the Plumed Feathered Snake

  1. I really liked this once it got into the story, you use the rhyme and meter well, and the ending gave it a great twist in the tale… but somehow the opening didn’t grip me. For me it would somehow be more complete if you could bring the “moral” into the introduction too, e.g. suggesting that the tale is being told to the girl because she has been despising her friends in some way?

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  2. not only a well told story but a beautifully crafted piece of work as well… and especially dear to my heart,, as “poppy” was my name for my own grandfather……

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  3. You’ve written a narrative poem that reads like an ancient story found after being long lost, plus you created your own myth and morality tale. I’m impressed with how you crafted the poem as well. Wonderful poem!

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  4. beautiful… the period and rhyming were a sweet surprise to the story told… spellbound to the last line… snakes are always of interest.. plume feathered… boggles the mind… im thinking she got the raw deal either way… She broke her kismet thus written on the pages of eternity… i shall be careful… last two lines brought it in for a smooth landing…

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