Soon, the king proclaims the soldier
To be his heir. He hands him the key
To the princesses’ room and bid him
Choose the one to his liking.
The old soldier’s pride is satisfied:
He sees the look of shame on the bashful
Cheeks of all the princesses…but one.
The eldest looks straight into his eye,
Throws back her neck, pouting.
That I shall have – he cries.
Picture by Alise Alinari via pexels.com
All good things come to a stop.
Dawn breaks the magic of the night.
Princesses and princes – hot and ruffled –
Rush to their boats; away, to the other shore.
Back in their room, their hearts still
Pounding in delight, the princesses
Believe their secret to be safe.
But the soldier runs to the king.
For three nights he followed the princesses.
He snapped a silver twig on the first night,
And took a golden leaf and a diamond apple
On the second. On the third, he snatched
A gold cup from the castle of enchanted
There you have it – your princesses
Dance all night long. Twelve princes
Attend to their pleasure in the enchanted
Castle beyond the dark lake.
The dances are wild. The old soldier
Gapes under his cloak.
The twelve princesses untie their long
Hair, they untie their corsets, drop them
To the floor. They dance in their sleeveless
Shirts; their feet – in the dancing shoes –
Twirl and jump in ecstasy.
They heave, sigh, laugh and cry,
They cleave to their princes all night.
The music intoxicates, propels the dance
Forward to the brink of madness.
No musician is to be seen. Yet, the music
Plays on and on.
While the old soldier feigns to be asleep,
The eldest princess opens the floor-lid.
She summons twelve princes.
They are ready in their twelve boats.
Each princess in a different boat,
With her prince.
They row and row, they glide, they
May well be flying on the lake.
The water is still, heavy and polished
Like a dark mirror in the moonless
The lovers giggle and whisper,
Smile and embrace in glee.
On the shore, a hooded figure awaits.
He escorts them inside the castle
Of all the dances.
Photo by David Skyrius via Pexels.
Take a paranoid king, brooding over disgrace
Add an old, battered soldier coming back
From the bloodiest of battles.
The soldier feels his bad luck is an unfair
Blow of fate. Life has been hard on him.
The king wants to know where his twelve
Daughters go at night, for, despite being
Locked away, every morning their dancing
Shoes are worn to pieces.
Whoever finds out will live to be his heir
And pick a wife out of the twelve princesses.
However, who fails will lose his life.
Now, an old hag sees the soldier coming.
She waits for him at the city gate and tells
Him how he can change his luck:
Do not drink of the eldest princess’s wine
Of sleep and forgetfulness;
Wear this cloak of invisibility to follow
The twelve princesses at night.
The soldier nods and complies.
Picture by Luiz Clas via pexels.com