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Bardic Arts

The Unicorn's Lament

Ivone Pons Leyer

The moon is shining bright tonight it shines upon the shore
Waves whisper secrets to my ears tales found in fairy lore
I listen for a moment then I turn and walk away
The song she sings tonight is mine; and it hurts too much to stay

Full sixteen years ago it was though it seems like yesterday
When I found him here upon this beach in the early morning grey
A baby left to fend alone in a basket wove of kelp
A man's child or an elf's perhaps whose smile made my heart melt

No other creature on the beach just the little one and I
No parent there to care for him oh surely he would die
"Take him," hissed the waves to me "Raise him, bring him joy"
I shook my head "I have no way to care for a little boy."

"I am a unicorn" I said "My lot is not with men."
The waves hissed "He is meant for you As gift he has been sent"
"But I cannot care for a child," I said "such fate is not for me"
"Then leave him there and walk away" laughed the foaming sea

I turned to go but looked again as the child sea-borne
held out his arms and laughted in glee and grasped me by the horn
How could I refuse, this child this gift who melted me inside
The handle of the basket in my mouth to the woods I hied

The pixies were his fastest friends the elves for him sweet sang
As he grew up the woods echoed his laughter from trees rang
We sang we danced we told sweet tales He brought me so much joy
He braided flowers in my mane, my beautiful changeling boy

As he grew up the magic folk said of their kind he must be born
"No no" he said "that cannot be ... my mom's a unicorn.
When I grow up I want to be as wonderful as she
A mane and tail and shining hooves a unicorn I'll be."

My son, that cannot be," I smiled "For though you're raised by me
A unicorn you'll not become, a man's form you must keep"
"But why?" he cried "it is not fair your child should like you be"
"I did not give you birth my son, who did knows only the sea"

"Who am I then? What am I then? What ever will I be?"
"You are my son," I said to him. "A changeling," then said he.
A full four months he thought then hard But no answers did he find
Finally did he come to me and said "dear mother mine"

"Take me to the ocean please, oh take me to the shore
If the sea knows my past I want to hear I need to know some more."
So I took my child, not quite a man back to the sea one night
"Welcome" called the waves to him their crests gleaming white

"Where am I from? What is my fate?" My boy called to the sea
"What manner of creature will I become? What will my fortune be?"
"Child of the sea" the waves did hiss "To answer is my part
But the song for your ears only and it's sung deep in my heart.

The answers to your questions all within my breast do keep
Come join me swim into my midst and learn within my deep."
"Don't go!" I cried "Don't trust her tale Many she's drowned just so"
"Don't worry Mom I'll be back soon but the answers I must know"

"Don't leave me!" I cried "I need you still. You are my life my joy"
"Come with me and learn" hissed the waves to him and tempted still my boy
He placed his arms around my neck Tears mingled with my mane
"Don't worry mom, I'll be alright, and your son I'll always remain."

He kissed my cheek and smoothed my mane and "I love you" said to me
"But I need to find myself," he said and he walked into the sea
She held him close she covered him She took him to her heart
"Beautiful creature you have become; with him you I will not part."

"Give him back!" I cried to her "You can't keep him from me"
"What I gave I take away" hissed back at me the sea.
I call for him I search for him But never again I'll see
My son the sea had given and has taken back from me.


"This song has a very personal story behind it. My younger brother Ted (10 years my junior) had started accompanying my to SCA events as a 14 year-old. A few people had asked him if I were really his mother, and he laughed and said he was a changeling I had found washed up on shore. The main charge on my arms is a unicorn's head. Two weeks after his 16th birthday, Ted drowned in the ocean off the East Coast while on a SCUBA trip. He loved what we were up to in the SCA, and had great plans for the future in it. This was my tribute to him, first performed as a masterwork in the Bard of the Mists competition the month after he drowned." -- Ivone Pons Leyer

Copyright © 1990 Yvonne K. Reynolds


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