Pride comes before a splash! Written for "The Lair" contest.
|What is this? Written for the "The Lair - CLOSED" , this poem tells a story reminiscent of the first known reference to a Leprechaun. In the original story, Fergus mac LĂ©ti, a king of Ulster, is being dragged into the water by some Leprechauns when he feels the water and wakes up. The Leprechauns offer him three wishes in exchange for their freedom, one of which he requests the ability to breathe under water. I greatly enjoyed the premise to this story and decided to give it a little spin. The Leprechaun described here fits the earliest description of such a mythical creature, not the traditional little green man. However, he is still a mischievous little shoemaker!
Editors' Points: I am still unsure of the first stanza. It seems a little too fable-y with all that sour milk. I was considering changing it to this:
Fergus mac LĂ©ti, a king he would make, / Whose mighty, strong arm could carve out a lake; / His face, a gift from his mother at birth, / Could make a sure end to the wars on this earth.
Let me know your preference and why!
Also, if you spy any rhyme or rhythm that seems off to you, please note it and let me know. There may be some syllables I still need to work out.
Fergus mac LĂ©ti, a king he would be,
Whose mighty, strong arm could dig out a sea;
His face, a gift from his mother at birth,
Could sweeten all milk thatâd been curled on this earth.
His countenance fair, his long and red hair,
His wit too sharp for a knife to compare,
Through townships he rode with a smile so wide,
His people could not help but greet him outside.
Through many a year he labored as such,
His handsome good looks his only real crutch:
For many a lass would wish for his hand,
Yet not for his greatness but good looks and land.
âHow can I prove myself,â he thought
As he pondered upon his lamentable lot;
âHere am I now, a leader of men,
Yet nil have I done that deserves this of them.â
For months he mused and thought of else naught:
âIf only there was a foe to have fought!â
But still, for no real reason or cause,
His people yet loved him and gave him applause.
But soon to his land there came a great beast,
A monstrous terror, an outrage at least!
For where there once were fertile, rolling green downs,
There was now only barren land, goldens and browns
And so for some reason unexplainable,
Their rich land was no longer sustainable,
And the people, once so full of mirth,
Began to wither in their nutrient dearth
Despair and gloom over all the land spread
From the richest merchant to the sick man in bed,
But Fergus mac LĂ©ti, not a tear did he shed,
For a marvelous thought to him had come instead.
âHere are my people, in sadness wrought,â
He smiled to himself as this great plan he thought:
âThis is my chance, as the Destinies make,
To prove who I am without my namesake!â
His eyes became wide as his waist became thin,
But he cared not, for it would soon begin:
He would save his people and grant them their fill.
It would be so, so strong was his will.
And so with a pride that a lion would wish
He set out to return with a thousand grand fish;
He could only imagine the fame he would earn
When with his great fortune he would soon return.
So without a word to his father or mother
Or telling his plan unto any other,
He sped out into the dark of the night
To come to the ocean at that dawnâs first light.
At last in the morn at the shore he arrived,
And in spite of fatigue in the water he dived;
For he had a mission, a purpose in mind:
To bring back those fish that he now had to find.
At last he found them several yards out,
In flocks and droves and schools no doubt,
For thousands of fish as long as his arm
Were peacefully swimming, unaware of his charm.
At first he tried flashing his devious smile,
But the fish he could in no way beguile
He showed them his might, his muscles so strong,
But he could not keep their attention for long.
He soon discovered his biggest drawback:
The need for air these fish seemed to lack,
For when he came close to catching a pair,
His lungs would cry out for a mouthful of air.
He tried this and that, all to no avail,
And for a short time he thought he might fail;
But the last sound thought that remained in his mind
Told him to rest, a solution to find.
And so, on the sand on the shore of his isle,
He closed his eyes to rest for a while;
His muscles were aching, his pride not at ease,
âSome sleep,â he thought, âmight these ailments appease.â
He slept for some time in deep, peaceful slumber,
No thought of his people could his rest cumber.
But long before his sleep was complete,
He felt cold water as something dragged his feet.
At once alert and ready to fight
He jumped to his feet, stood tall in his might,
But he had to look down to admire his foe
Who with wide eyes stood, his fear apropos.
But Fergus mac LĂ©ti did not strike him down,
Though this wee little man would have had him drown,
For not once in his life had he seen such a sprite,
And admire him closely he did in the light:
He stood hardly three small feet off the ground,
And almost as wide, his stomach so round;
His shined shoes wore buckles and he a cocked hat,
A red coat with buttons, each large, gold, and flat.
His face was old and wizened with age,
But his wisdom fit more the trickster than sage,
For his eyes, though wide in fright for his life,
Had a sparkle that glinted like light off a knife
Released from the spell of this strange little man
He gripped his small arm and said, âIf you can,
Please tell who and what you might be,
And why you wished to drown me in the sea!â
The man dressed in red looked down in shy fear
And explained who he was and why he was here:
âYou see,â he began, with a voice high and cracked,
âA Leprechaun am I, thatâs true, thatâs a fact!
âI mean no real trouble, you see,â he did say
âIt is simply that Iâve been born in this way:
A spirit quite evil my father had been,
And my mother, a fairy whoâd fallen in sin.
âAnd so here am I, a Leprechaun lad,
Not wholly good, but not wholly bad.
I thrive off of mischief, but I mean you no harm;
Iâm sorry if I have caused you alarm.â
But Fergus mac LĂ©ti saw through his faĂ§ade
And knew that this man in buckle-shoes shod
Was nothing more than a small impish god:
A trickster, deceiver and cheater, a fraud.
âLie to me not, scheming Leprechaun!â
He said once with one hand his sword he had drawn.
âI advise you to tell me honest, true words,
Or Iâll leave you in small enough pieces for birds.â
The Leprechaun, startled by his serious tone,
Began to plead, to cry, to moan:
âI swear to you I am not a faker!
A Leprechaun am I, a humble shoemaker!â
But then the mischievous man finally spotted
The weariness that on Fergusâs face was knotted,
And saw his clothes dripping, still wet from the day,
And knew just how he would get away.
For Leprechauns are more than little red men
Who delight in pranks every now and then;
No, a Leprechaun has a secret knife:
To know what a man wants most in his life.
âFergus mac LĂ©ti,â the Leprechaun said,
âI can help save your people and my own dear head,
For I know why to this shore you have come,
And how a true hero you can at last become.
âYou see, I know how you struggle each day:
A king you will be, though youâre not seen that way!
All you wish for is some recognition
Which is why you set off on this perilous mission.
âBut I tell you, you cannot fish with just charm,
Your smile and wit will do them no harm;
No long, gorgeous locks or stunning good looks
Without a deep breath, or some very sharp hooks.
âSo tell me, Fergus mac LĂ©ti the great:
What will it be, what will you use as bait?
Could you catch these fish if in water you breathed,
Or do you need the help of fishhooks unsheathed?â
And in that moment the Leprechaun hopped,
And onto his pointy, red hat he dropped;
But Fergus mac LĂ©ti noticed in his hands
Had appeared two solutions to his near-failing plans.
In the Leprechaunâs right was a loop of strong steel,
A fishhook that could capture many a meal;
But in the left of the upside-down sprite
Was a shimmering, glowing, resplendent, bright light.
Forgotten already was the cause for this deal,
The proud manâs lust for success now so real;
He thought that he knew what was held in that hand,
But he had to be sure, which he did then demand.
âThis,â the Leprechaun so wryly replied,
âIs a magic with power that to you can provide
Limitless air in the water so blue:
You could breathe there forever, I swear that itâs true!â
Fergus mac LĂ©ti was faced with a choice,
He had listened too much to that high squeaky voice,
And even now he began to believe
What the Leprechaun had said only to deceive.
For this great man, so proud and so vain,
Truly assumed what was clearly insane:
He was so consumed in his abilities,
He neglected all other possibilities.
If he could catch these fish on his own,
Without need of a single hook thrown,
How much more would his people admire his might?
Oh, what a wonderful, glorious sight!
For he would return to his people that day,
And the truth they would know, and of him they would say,
âLook at mac LĂ©ti, he saved us from harm:
He can breathe underwater and catch fish with his charm!â
So Fergus mac LĂ©ti, in a quick, sudden move,
Reached to the light that would his life improve
And dived in the water, so sure of himself,
Splashing just slightly the small, smiling elf.
Amazed at his fortune, he took a deep breath,
And though underwater, he did not meet his death,
For the water acted as air had once done!
He laughed out his breath and breathed in a new one.
He almost forgot in his pure elation
The one who had given him this grand donation,
So to the surface he swam to greet air
And give his thanks to the one who stood there.
But when his head broke the surface âfore long,
He realized something was terribly wrong,
For though in the water he could breathe with no pain,
The air made him choke and writhe with disdain.
The smug Leprechaun, now back on his feet,
Went to the waterâs edge and there took a seat;
He laughed and he rolled and he hollered in joy
At the successful workings of his devious ploy.
So Fergus mac LĂ©ti, the great king would-be,
The rest of his days spent awash in the sea,
For since he could not his pride have withdrawn
Found himself fooled by a small Leprechaun.