The Girl And The Poem

Matthew Donnellon

Photo by Lenin Estrada on Unsplash

It was supposed to be a good day.

A magical day.

Well, there was a little magic, but not the kind anyone expected.

Everyone in the village was gathered for the biggest day of the year. The mayor’s daughter was getting married to the first son of some minor lord.

But he was still a lord and so it would keep the village in good standing for ages. They would be under the protection of the new lord.

Raiders would be less likely to attack the village.

Their grievances could be heard by the king.

It was all that a small village at the edge of the realm could hope for.

The courtship lasted a whole year.

In the dead of winter, he sent a thousand red roses, grown in his father’s greenhouses.

In the spring, amongst the cold rain, he sent enough grain to feed the whole town. It was brought in carriages brought by a dozen white stallions.

In the summer, he brought ice from frozen lakes far to the north.

This time he accompanied the shipment. He arrives atop his house, the finest charger in his father’s livery. His armor was polished and shone in the sun. The lord’s son and a mayor’s daughter met in the town square.

“Lord Rylan,” she said.

“Please, my father is the lord. Cassandra?”

“Yes. I must say you said in your letters you never mentioned how tall you were,” she said smiling.

“I don’t like to brag,” he said, “and my retainers spoke of your beauty, but none of them came close.”

“Why thank you.”

And they went to the manor house to dine and they spent their days reading, riding in the fields, and all the things young couples do.

And some months later there was an engagement and the whole town went to work. Everyone pitched in.

The hunters went to the forest and brought back stags and boars. Enough to feed the whole town twice over. The bakers made endless pastries. Carpenters made benches so the whole town could attend. Musicians from all over arrived in the little town. It was the event everyone would be talking about for years to come.

During the final night of the preparations, the young woman stood out on the balcony of the manor house.

She spotted a young woodsman in the crowd, as he looked up a single tear ran down her cheek.

The next morning marked the main event. It was as picturesque as the legends say. The sun was out but not hot. The sky was a deep azure sea above them. The air was cool and calm, as if nature herself was attending.

They all wandered to the pavilion near where the woods met the town just along the lake. It was a scene songs could be written about. Songs written about it actually.

And finally they all gathered, the lord’s son stood with his father at the front with the high priest. They all watched with bated breath as a dozen white chargers brought a carriage.

When the door opened the guests gasped as no one had ever seen a sight like it. Her dress was a white as fresh snow, her hair the color of raven’s wings, and her eyes the color of the first leaves of spring. She wore a crown of wild flowers around her head.

She strode silently with her father by her side. It was so quiet who could hear a heart beating. No one knew if it was the bride’s or the groom’s.

They joined hands and the priest spoke the words so many people the crowd had heard before.

There was a brief pause when asked, “If there is any reason these two should not be married please speak now.”

The pregnant pause was no more than a second but seemed to last a thousand years.

Just as the priest started the next line someone cried from the audience.

“Wait! Stop!”

The whole crowd turned to see the woodsman. Most faces showed shock, some showed anger.

The bride’s smile was so wide and bright that the moon would be jealous that night.

“I claim to end this marriage by Law of Poetry.”

If the crowd was not silent before they were silent now as the ancient tradition was invoked. There was no older law. No one quite knew when it started. Some say it’s because the first marriage happened when a man asked for “a day, and poem” to win a woman’s heart.

Some say the vows they all use was that first poem.

But in any matter, the woodsman was serious. You see, the Law of Poetry gives anyone the right to break up the marriage by presenting a poem to all the parties involved.

It’s a simple thing really. There’s no greater sign of love. Poems are old magic, and the writer cannot lie. Poems are written by the heart by blood.

But if the woodsman could not convince them with his poem then he’d be sentenced to death. So the practice was all but extinct.

History records few successes among those that tried, but many of the gravestones in the town’s cemetery bore the name’s of unskilled poets.

And now everyone was staring at the woodsman as he approached the dias with a slip of paper.

First, he handed the poem to the woman. She read it and smiled even wider. She handed it to her father, the mayor, who read it along with the priest and the lord.

The paper was but a single sheet but the three men stood there for what seemed like ages.

Finally the three men nodded to the young woman and she turned and ran into the woodsman’s arms, kissing him, as they were married now by Law of Poetry.

The crowd cheered and that day and night marked a celebration unlike any since.

The lord and the mayor spoke and agreed he’d still honor the alliance, as he struck by the woodsman’s words.

As the evening wound down, the young bride and her new husband sojourned to the woods to live at his small cabin.

The lord’s son could give her castles, and gold, and the finest lace, but the woodsman had his words.

And sometimes words are enough.

The lord’s son sat down and read the poem and sighed. He had to admit it was a pretty good poem.

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Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories

Detroit, MI

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