My Daughter

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by Michael Shindler (May 2019)
 


Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon, Caspar David Friedrich, 1824

 
 

‘My daughter, my only daughter,

What a strange crown you wear

Here on this lonesome riverbank

In the cold morning air.

The sky is white, the field is gray,

And the wild tree is bare.’

 

‘I see a ring tied in your locks

Of strange ore and strange make.

I fear it will never come loose

Nor bend nor melt nor break.  

And your hands, they seem damp and pale,

And now they seem to shake.’ 

 

My father, my only father,

By waters where fates float,

I was alone bathing and saw

A boy in a black boat:

His eyes were white, his face was gray,

And a noose rung his throat.

 

With a trembling and outstretched hand,

All wet and all unclad,

I gave to this boy a lily,

For it was all I had,

And he gave me a simple song,

Long and loving and sad.

 

I climbed up into his black boat

And we sailed through the night,

And for many an hour we gave

New names to every light

That holds up the shivering veil  

That hangs at heaven’s height.

 

And then he made for me a crown

More fine than words could tell,

Fit for a love, fit for a queen,

And made of pearl and shell.

He placed it upon me and said,

 “Together shall we dwell.”

 

After the hours had come and passed,

The boat and wind aligned,

And we came upon his palace

And there we danced and dined

And then he gave me this strange ring

To adorn and to bind.

 

And while he held me in his arms

I saw past him standing

Hundreds and hundreds of pale girls,

Each with a crown and ring,

And cold eyes as white as the sky,

But mouths that could not sing.

 

With pale hands, they would beckon me

As the moon does the tide.

My father, my only father,

I wept, I shook, I cried,

But my boy led me by the hand

And I became his bride.

 

Now whenever the tide comes in,

I shall this strange crown wear,

Beyond this lonesome riverbank

And the cold morning air,

As long as this, our sky, is white

And the wild tree is bare.

 
 

 

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Michael Shindler is a writer living in Washington, DC. His work has appeared in publications including The American ConservativeThe American SpectatorNational Review OnlineNew English Review, University Bookman, and Providence. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelShindler.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast

 

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