Copyright © 2010 by William R. Mistele. All rights reserved.

The Knight, the Merman, and the Maiden

For the merman Ermot, the waters of the stream breathe and sigh, caressed by air, hiding in sand, seeping beneath rocks, falling in space, and circling in mountain pools.  Tiny currents crisscross at the edge of mirror-like water as it enfolds and flows around a rock.  The waters dip and turn, the bubbling ripples like hands of a dancer telling a story as they move in countless swirls and curves.  And on it goes, forever new, forever changing, drifting downstream to the sea, the waters of the stream laugh and dance like young girls carrying baskets of fresh fruit to a joyful celebration. 

    Not so the knight riding a mighty warhorse returning from foreign lands.  As he crosses the stream, he is weary and worn, his heart damaged and torn.  High ideals to which he is sworn—all the light and justice with which they did shine—the time of dreams such as these—they have expired. 

   The knight hears the hooves splashing in the water.  The merman hears with the ears of the water and foresees the future.  The knight has just entered the dream of a being from another domain, from a land so far away it has neither entered into nor is it portrayed in any of mankind’s mythologies.

   And in this moment, the merman is within the heart of the knight and sees the future open before him.  The path to the left that the knight plans to take, it leads to a home that is cold and empty. There the years and decades will fade away. There a life will lose its light and night shall fall with the knight wondering what was the meaning of it all.

   The horse stops where the road forks.  The knight does not realize his hands have pulled back on the reins.  “To the left is where I should go.  But life seems to flow the other way.  My castle waits. My lands require their lord. I have duties. I have a place in society I must take.”

  But life flows the other way. Without a thought crossing his mind, the reins pull to the right.  The horse turns. A day passes and a night.

   Another fork in the road.  “I know the way to a great city lies to the right,” the knight says to himself.  “To the left there are valleys and dark forests, places that are not well-marked.”

  Like a strong undertow, like a ship that rises up to ride a wave down its face, like praying all night in a church and the first rays of dawn make the candle’s flames obsolete, the way to the left calls out like a song. 

  The knight speaks aloud, “I have been to the city.  I am well-known in that place.  There is honor and respect and brothers in arms who will welcome me into their homes.  Why then would I choose to wander alone?”

  His hands on the reins decide for him. The horse turns to the left and knight follows another lonely road.

  Two days later, the knight enters a tavern.  The master of the house brings him mead, hot soup, and coarse bread.  And then the master’s daughter comes out.  She touches the knight’s shoulder from behind him and asks, “Is there anything else you require?”   

  Invisible to mortal eyes, a merman sits at a table in the corner.  He watches the dream unfold.  He watches as the knight turns and looks into the girl’s eyes.  In that moment ten thousand years of water splashing and dancing in streams all over England and all the feelings that lovers’ hearts may dream—these feelings flow from one through the other like water being poured into water.

  Another year later, the merman sits again unseen in the corner of a great hall in the knight’s castle at a wedding festival.  Early in the morning, just before dawn, the knight rises from the marriage bed and sits by the widow watching the indigo light of night fade as rays of rose and pink begin to play upon the horizon. 

  And then recites this poem for the girl from the tavern whom he has just married.  These are the very words the merman heard when the knight’s horse first entered the stream, words from a dream in the mind of a being from a race of a land so far away they as yet have no place among the stories of humanity—words that have now become reality--


On this night


On this night

The howling in the trees is gone

The wind sings a sweet song

The volcano’s devouring flames

Becomes tame

On this night

Because you are in my arms


On this night

The most bitter tears

The lost soul

The love that has grown cold

All terror and fear

Are images in a mirror

And now they are gone

Because I hold you in my arms


On this night

Decades thrown away

Dreams that would not stay

Hopes I could not defend

The broken heart that will not mend

But on this night

Love has found me again

She is my friend

Because you hold me in your arms