Once, when leaves on trees

whispered with human voices

to the night, Elina of the Lake

washed her newly sewn

white clothes, by the light

 

of the white moon who too washes

the earth in silvery water of her glow.

 

The seamstress sang as the water

lapped the lakeshore. Her voice

was a bird, trapped in a cage—

haunting, sweet, the sad sound

of love lost forever.

 

The spirit of the water, moved

by her voice, came and sat, and

watched, invisible to mortal eye.

 

At last, Elina finished her

wearisome work and turned to go.

 

“Wait!” the spirit cried.

“Wait, I am lonely.”

 

Elina whirled round,

face clothed in fright.

 

She called, “Who’s there?”

The light entranced her eyes.

 

The light on the water.  Like mist,

the spirit came to stand beside her,

like a wraith, a shadow, a shade.

 

“Stay.  I am lonely.”

 

“I cannot—”

 

“If you stay for one night,

sing as the wind sings to the earth,

I will give you a gift.”

 

Elina pondered by the pool, and sang

sweet songs of love, love lost,

of time’s treachery, of sounds

of moon-bathed night.  Dawn came,

rose air through green-topped trees.

 

“I give you my gift now,”

said the spirit. “I know the love

you held in your small hands

and lost to the night.  I am he

whom you lost—Palir, the hunter.”

 

And he spoke the special word

that was to be their sign of love forever.

Elina’s eyes blossomed wide, seeing her

dear love’s form, clear in the light,

standing near in rippling water.

 

She tried to embrace him, but slipped, fell in,

fell in over her head in deep water.

To protect her life, dear precious as gold,

 

Palir made her, with water-spirit’s power,

into a water lily, white and pure.

 

And together they stayed at peace, as one:

Water caressing flower, flower resting with water.