A Lady sat by a fireside in a warm and pleasant room.
The Lady was young, she was innocent of face and fair.
In the corner stood a harp, a mirror, a loom.
Deep and deeper into the heart of the glowing fire
She gazed seeing images flickering there
While she considered her hearts desire.
Her imagination set free, she wandered.
She saw pathways and forests and caves,
Fortunes won, lost and squandered,
Extravagant creatures with wings,
Battles, books and jewels and dark open graves,
Crowns and horses and rings.
Her heart beat fast and filled with desire
For all that she wanted from life.
She longed for adventure and never to tire,
Yearned for love and wealth and fame.
In a heartbeat, she forgot herself
And reached her hand into the flame.
She had passed through the fire,
Into the cave she had seen, encrusted with gems.
Diamonds, emeralds and rubies hung from the roof
Entwined and supported by golden stems,
She plucked them like fruit and hid them deep in her skirt..
She turned then toward the cave entrance,
When a sound she heard made her quickly alert.
She heard the song of a distant bird,
The like of which she had not heard before.
Having no plans or well-laid intentions
She decided to find the source of the song.
She stepped barefoot from the cave onto the mossy floor
Of a vast forest filled with the scent of flowers.
Looking about her she felt she didn’t walk long
But as the light fell she realised
She had been walking for hours and hours.
She saw a giant oak, gnarled, misshapen and ancient
In a clearing surrounded by lofty trees
And high in its leaves, on a far off branch, she saw the bird.
The bird continued to sing as if it intended to please.
The bird was unexceptional and grey of plumage
But its eye was very bright and in its beak it held a jewel.
She greeted the bird by instinct, feeling sure that it could speak
and then asked the question that burned in her heart
”Pray tell Sir Bird, what is that jewel you hold in your beak?”
The bird placed the stone beneath his feet
” Lady pray tell, what would you like it to be?”
She considered this question a while
Realising there was magic afoot
She answered, with what she hoped was an alluring smile,
”The Stone of Immortality”
”And why would you want such a thing?” said the Bird
”Surely this is what we all want” she replied.
The Bird cocked his head
”I can think of many things a girl such as you could want,
Happiness, peace, the joys of the bridal bed,
Knowledge, understanding, children, wealth…..?’’
”Yes I do want those things’ she said,
”But forever, in eternal good health!”
”You will have all else forever also” warned the Bird
”Grief, sorrow, loneliness, you may sometimes hunger or fear,
cruel words and dark thoughts are also a part of this dish.
Immortality is not a bed of roses, my dear.”
With that, he pushed the stone off the branch
To land at her feet. ”Pick it up, or not, as you wish.”
Without hesitation, the Lady stooped down and took it.
At first it dazzled and burned in her hand,
But finding herself in its possession she bid the Bird farewell
And set out smiling to further explore the land.
She gained fortune and fame
For she had long to develop her natural talents
And many came to revere her name.
She achieved every challenge to which she aspired.
Her fairness of face never changing
She found love and was much admired,
She fulfilled every one of her dreams.
But she also saw that with all these blessings
Immortality is not the gift it seems
And the Birds warning had been correct.
She saw all her loved ones pass on without her
And with this sorrow came the endless time to reflect
Upon her loss of all she had treasured most.
She watched her friends over aeons,
Numerous they were, a vast host,
One by one, in repeating pattern, pass away.
While she remained lovely and vibrant with health
They all seemed to go as if in a day.
She saw her lovers beauty and strength fade,
Her children grew old before her eyes.
She kept her fame, her knowledge, her wealth
But these are worth nothing when all we love dies.
Feeling tired, abandoned, alone, forlorn
She returned to the Forest, to seek the Bird.
She arrived at the clearing in the soft light of dawn.
The Bird sat as before high up in the Ancient Tree.
He no longer looked grey, unworthy of a glance.
This time she saw that he was a Dove.
The bird moved on his branch in a circular dance,
And then gently bowed to her. ”What is your desire?”
”I want to be mortal” she said ”and return through the fire
And accept my true fate, whatever is to become of me”
”I see” said the Dove, ”then I must ask you one question,
What is the greatest treasure anyone can possess?”
Without hesitation, the Lady answered, Love.”
”You have learned the greatest lesson my child”
The Bird bowed again, ”Now return through the fire,
Use this understanding well, for short and fleeting
Is your time in this world. Go now and find Love,
But most of all remember to nurture and live it.’’
”This will be the greatest gift you take from our meeting;
Love is not for the taking. Remember to give it.”