Peace Crane by Hilary Taylor

Peace Crane by Hilary Taylor
Picture by Justin Wyatt
To read Hilary's story buy this special book...

This magical story has a touch of the supernatural. When an injured crane is found and nursed, something happens, something magical and inspiring...

Gentle Footprints launched- AS SEEN ON TV

Gentle Footprints was officially launched Fri June 4th at the Hay Festival with guest speaker Virginia McKenna and some of the authors

Buy from Bridge House Publishing by clicking on the link BUY:


Virginia McKenna at Hay Launch

Virginia McKenna at Hay Launch

Animal Anthology To Raise Funds for Born Free

Bridge House Publishing announce new book coming Spring 2010. For more about Bridge House please see their website.
This book is the annual charity book for Born Free...if you want to get involved with promoting and selling this book- email me!

Visit the Born Free Website to find out more about their valuable work...

Visit the Born Free Website to find out more about their valuable work...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Swans in our Culture

There are many stories of swans in our culture. Hans Anderson brings us The Wild Swans, which may be based on The Children of Lir, the Irish legend. I don’t normally write poetry, but I have completed a retelling in verse form, which I’ve included below. I rather like the drama of the poem. These particular swans are extraordinary in that they live for over 900 years but then soon die after they are turned back into human form. These are fictitious swans but their tenacity and bravery is reminiscent of the real animal.

The Children of Lir
By Gill James

It has been a hard life.
A long one too,
Nine hundred years
Since we played joyfully in our mother’s presence.
She was beautiful, and full of grace,
Warm and kind, too good to live.

Our father, despairng, wanted to follow
Wanted to die peacefully,
But was persauded instead
To marry our mother’s sister,
Whose jealousy, of that love and kindness
He showed to us,
Lead her in turn
To turn on us
With a curse
That made us the long-necked creatures we did become.

Even she, though eaten up with loathing,
Did show us some compassion,
And seeing our sorrowful state
Allowed us yet the power of speech.
With one another we could still converse,
Though others only heard a faery music,
Softer and more plaintive than any of this world.

We kept our human minds.
Our swan-bodies,
As even she had promised,
Caused us no distress.

To our grandfather, the King Bov Derg,
She did lie, and say,
That Lir, our father, no longer loved him,
Would no longer trust us to him.
Bov Derg saw the treachery and told our father,
Who made out at once to the shore.

We spoke to him. We asked him why
The great carriages, and where they were going.
“I’m looking for my children,” he said.
“But you are swans yet speak with human voices”
“We are swans, and we are your children!” we replied.
His love for his children
Made him hear us as we heard each other.

The joy of this meeting could not last.
Once more we saw our father bowed in grief,
Grief which would not lessen,
When we told him
Of our prognosis.

Three hundred years we were to remain
Upon the lake of Darvra,
Three hundred years more
Upon the Sea of Moyle,
Three hundred years yet upon the Western Sea.
Not until the great St Patrick
Could bring one pure faith to this island,
Not until the Christian bells should ring
Would we be freed.

A cherished child she had been to Bov Derg.
He had adopted her and loved her,
But now despised her.
In anger he struck his druid’s staff
Upon the ground.
She became what she most dreaded,
A demon of the heavens!
She fled, wings open,
With piercing cries of rage
Knowing that she would keep
This hated shape
Until the end of time.
We, at least, would have an end
To our troubles.

Our time upon the Lake of Darvra was quite sweet.
Both nations of this Isle, Milesians and Dedanaans alike,
Came to the shore to hear our other-wordly song.
Our singing healed the sick and comforted the sad.
But soon it was time to go, to face the Sea of Moyle..

What grim cruelty faced us there.
Dark cliffs with sharp rocky steeps,
Black waves hurling themselves
Against soulless boulders.
No shore. No sand. No sense of home.
Overhead, storm-laden clouds, threatening destruction.

Prudently we did decide
Where we should meet
If ever wind should calm itself.

The winds howled all night.
We clung to our perches.
Great forks of light
Tore the air apart.
The waves rose to crash with clouds.
Rain stung and penetrated
Even our well-oiled wings.
After that first night,
When wind and sea had calmed,
I called to my bothers.
One be one they came.
Wounded. Weary. Worn down.
But whole, at least, and alive.

Many a storm we so endured
Upon that dreadful sea.
But there were lighter times.
The Spring brought calmer waters.
We found the shielded bays.
We knew where best to shelter.
We even were visited
By faithful Dedanaans
Who gave us news
Of Lir and Bov Derg.
They, now much older,
Had begun to make merry,
And had taken to playing
The Festival of Old Age,
While we stayed yet young.

Three hundred years passed.

The Western Sea treated
Us no less cruelly,
Was even fiercer,
Even stronger.
Our time there,
Seeming longer.

There came one night,
A frost so bitter,
The sea was thick with ice.
I could bring no comfort
To my dear brothers.
Doubted even
That we would survive.
I could only cry out
That we should put our trust
In that one God of truth
Who had put upon this earth
All creatures of the sea and sky.
“We trust in Him” replied my brothers.
“God of all protection and knowledge,”
Answered I.

From that time on
We feared no violence
That the sea would offer,
Feared not what man could do to man,
Knew always that we would return
As promised.

The day came at last.
We could rejoin our home.

But what desolation we found there.
Houses in ruins. Crumbled by briars.
No sign of human habitation.
No fires in the hearths.
No food in the larders.
We had to search
Our old hunting grounds
Even as far
As those forbidding seas.

But with faith in the story
We returned every evening,
Awaiting the sound
Of the Christian bells.

We heard that sweet sound,
Dear Kemoc,
The day that you found us,
Singing our song at the edge of the water.
For Patrick had come.

We lived at peace with you, dear Kemoc.
Happy we were, yet swans still,
Now, forgetting our hardships.

Until that day that Decca demanded,
To meet us, befriend us, keep us as hers.
The King, her father, refused to deprive you,
Of our company that you richly deserved.
But then the King relented,
When his dear daughter,
Enraged and embittered,
Fled from home and disappeared,
He asked this time if he could take us.

The girl then appeared at our door.
With what shock she saw this gnarled old woman,
Sparse of hair, and bent of back.
Three old men with stooping gestures,
Dribbling, hairless, teeth all black.

Kemoc, Kemoc, grieve not for us.
Rather, baptize us quickly,
For we must go. Children of Lir
We are no more.
But if you look, look up to Heaven,
You will see, four radiant infants,
Taken to their Father on wings of swans.

Bury our bodies next to each other.
Weep then if you must.

But listen, listen to this.

Our life was hard. Hard and cold.
Without that cold, how could we know warmth?
Without her hate, how could we know love?
Without desolation, how could we know God?

Remember the Children of Lir!

Remember when you read The Man Pond that the whole story is based on what actually happened to the Outwood swans. These swans were certainly brave and tenacious.
The swan is a graceful animal when swimming. No wonder this animal was the inspiration for one of our most well-known ballets. And if you want to draw a picture of a swan swimming, it’s actually relatively easy. Just put a three-dimensional figure 2 on to the water.

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