Am Maighdean-Mhara ( The Seal Maiden)
The fishermen of Pomona were sailing to Boray
The summer sun up in the sky promised a pleasant day.
And so the tiny fleet set forth, but not so far from land
The sky grew dark, the wind did howl and plague the fishing band.
And from the sea, grey fog came in till "keep on course!" they cried
And one by one they disappeared, crashed on the rocks and tide.
But one young man, he drifted on; alone and feared was he
Until he came to land upon a bleak dark promontory.
He tied his boat to seek for help when from all
Very near yet seeming far, a strange and beauteous sound.
The voices and the music drew him quickly to a place
Where skins of seals still wet from sea lay scattered in the space.
And on the shore the strangers danced and ate and drank in song
Then his memory served him well for 'twas the Eve of Good St John
The young man hid to watch the fun until the stars shone down
When upon the midnight hour rang St Magnus' bell in town.
And so the seal folk then made haste to don their
skins with cheer
Their merrymaking over now for yet another year.
Beside the fisherman there lay a little tawny skin
A garland of bright seaweed green and azure leaves within. He crept with stealth behind the rocks, the skin held in his hand
When a maiden came near to him, walking on the sand.
Her hair was tawny as the skin; her beauty and her grace Bewitched the man who held his gaze upon her dainty face.
She wound the garland round her hair; then she
looked for her skin
When she saw that it had gone, she wept for all her kin.
It was the same sound of the seal, it saddened the fisherman's heart
But he knew that he could not from that beauteous creature part.
And so he hid the little skin and went to make her calm She shrank in fear and trembling till she knew he meant no harm.
And so without her magic skin he led her to his boat
And dressed her body in a sail and gave her his old coat.
He took her home to Pomona and wed the selkie
Lived in a cottage by the sea, brought forth a child so fair.
But as the Eve of St John came, the seal wife, she did weep
Waited by the rocks till dark, on the shore to creep.
And when her husband left the house, searched for her tawny skin
But it was hidden in the loft wrapped in nets within.
And then one day his little son lay crying in his bed
It was the Eve of Good St John, his selkie wife had fled.
He went to find the little skin then could only
stand and stare
For she was sitting on the shore, grey seals around her there
He called to her as he ran "think of our son," he cried
But he saw her rise with her tawny skin, grey seals at her side.
He knew that she was lost to him, that their bond of love did sever
As with a strand of weed about her, she slipped in the water forever.
She's a selkie of the sea and a woman of the shore
But if you try to hold her, you will never see her more.
Linda Atherfold 2015
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