The Song of Ondine (Part 1)


Beneath the surface of our time

The water works and spreads her song:

In patterned carpets, drifted, dripped,

In crumbled brickwork, lyrics worn.


She lives outside the centuries –

The business hours, the closing times.

The lives just pass her by like drips,

As moments in a steady fall.


The questions that she sings for us:

Renewal from the slow decay,

The dampness in the air which hangs,

Will last beyond the building’s walls.


The steady tap of rain on glass:

The song of lives, the song of pasts.

4 Comments to “The Song of Ondine (Part 1)”

  1. Very powerful poems, these, even for a prosaic individual like me who generally shies away from poetry. To take the tale of Ondine and make it eternally relevant is a wonderfully accomplished task.

    Parts of it (the bits set in Yorkshire) reminded me of Malham Cove and especially Gordale Scar, home to the water fey who gave her name to Janet’s Foss and partly inspired Kingsley’s The Water-Babies. Part of Kingsley’s proto-eco message was anticipated by the medieval Elucidation which was a kind of prequel to the Grail romances: the rape of the maidens who were the spirits of the well resulted in the desolation of the countryside, the Wasteland which the discovery of the Grail was meant to restore to its pristine state.

    Thanks for publishing these. I assume you found my post because of my mention of Undine in my review of A Fisherman of the Inland Sea, so I’m pleased to have followed this back from there.

  2. thanks for your comment – full of things to follow up! Funnily I received your comment the day after I had walked the Malham loop (up the Cove, round to Janet’s Foss via Gordale). It’s a place I know and love well (especially early in the morning…). I had the idea of Ondine/Undine as a more general water embodiment than is usual – and that everything is permeated with her. So yes, the Elucidation would seem to be in the same area. I had written the pieces after a series of Earthy poems (The Grassington Minotaur): they were an antidote of sorts… I did indeed find your post via the “A Fisherman…” piece. I should also mention I wrote the Ondine series after an immersive re-reading the Hainish cycle…

    • Wheels within wheels, then! Life is always full of coincidences, synchronicities. Mind you, I don’t see them as part of some Cosmic Joker’s plan, just that we create significances when experiences are contiguous or overlap.

      Must now look at your Minotaur poems. Cretan labyrinths are a bit of an obsession with me: I did them on beaches for our kids, and now do the same with grandkids; I can almost draw them out blindfold on paper too!

  3. Sorry, no time to make individual comments. These feel so surreal, so distant, yet so close. You have inspired me to get back to some of my writing of the elemental beings. I managed the Gnomes world, a book/supply store (large closet) in my children’s Waldorf school…many years ago. I wrote and read about many of your subjects and now will pull some of that work out.
    Thank you,

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