THE TAMING OF THE BEAST, by Brinsley Gale:

He rode through darkling forest mere, feeling that the dawn was near
And closed his eyes to banish fear; he rode to slay the beast.
The Dragon slept within his keep, tossing in a dreamful sleep
By little left of a village sheep, remains of last night’s feast.
That last lamb’s price was on his head: his death at very least.

It was not long ‘fore he awoke, snorting fire and spouting smoke
To shouting from the Knight who spoke, “Come forth! Pay for your sin!”
Returned the grunt, “Another fool, come playing at another duel,
Riding some flea-bitten mule. Go back and save your skin!
I do not wish to spill your blood; go back to where you have been.”

“One thousand years I’ve had since birth! One thousand years I’ve walked this earth,
One thousand years to gain this girth — few are more great than I.
So do not grudge me some small meat, for one must live so one must eat
But face me and you face defeat. Play Fool, and you will die.
Now turn and I will let you go, for dragons do not lie.”

Reluctance the Knight took for fright. Misjudging grossly his own might
He charged there in the growing light, straight to the toothy maw.
His last thought was of his mistake before receiving such a shake
That he felt neck and limbs all break. The last sight that he saw
Was a snarl of anger and disgust upon the Dragon’s jaw.

When Dragon’s sight began to clear, his eyes were sorrowful, drear.
These men had hunted many deer and more had run away.
Too few remained for dragons now, so he would take a sheep or cow,
A ripe young lamb, a fattened sow when hunger had its way.
He did not eat the flesh of men and rued his deed today.

In sadness and with drooping head he turned back to his fitful bed
Once he had buried well the dead. He sank down with a sigh.
One thousand years are hard to bear for one who deigns at all to care.
Alone he was, with none to share, to laugh with nor to cry —
And when he went to sleep he dreamt his doom was drawing nigh.

Tidings were not long to come of poor Knight’s death, and there were some
That toasted him with wine and rum, who wept and did not speak.
But other men were filled with rage and they sought counsel from the Sage
With ancient book and ancient page. He said, “There is one to seek:
A goddess, pure and wise and strong. Find her, for we are weak!”

They worked out all things in due course: they saw to man, supply and horse
And set off strong with no remorse to seek the beast his bane.
For that is what they thought of she, this goddess out among the trees;
That she would bring him to his knees, the beast in might and main.
They went to seek the Ancient One to be the Dragon’s bane.

A fortnight searching through the wood and, in a clearing, there she stood,
An ancient being, bright and good, not knowing they drew near.
Not wishing to disturb her grace they stood away from her a space.
They studied her from toe to face and one assayed his fear
To whisper, “Can she be so strong? Seems thin and frail from here.”

Beautiful she was, and tall, moonlit white her raiment all
And to her feet her hair did fall, all golden from her crown.
Antlers also did she bear like to a buck’s upon her hair
And suddenly, with fixéd stare, she swung her gaze around.
Under such eyes none doubted now, and every man fell down.

They took no time to plead their case; that they would take her to a place
Where stood a Beast so mean, so base, that she must strike him dead.
They watched her close, both tall and straight, her face seeming to contemplate
All the mysteries of fate. She shook her antlered head,
But, “You will take me to this place,” were all the words she said.

So, silently with them she strode, pacing with the men who rode;
The sun and moon both from her glowed, ethereal their light.
A silence over men now hung when normally they would have sung,
But each among them held his tongue, in reverence of that sight.
Though pure, so knowing were her eyes that they were strangely bright.

Walking by her radiant gleaming, now the journey had the seeming
Of traveling the woodland’s dreaming; they knew not what they knew.
Then, on return, they tarried not, and took her to the Dragon’s spot
Then tallied all, lest she forgot, the men and beasts he slew.
She must go to face him now, for men they had too few.

Nodding, she began to stride, powerful, devoid of pride
Years of wisdom as her guide, so young while yet so old.
She stood upon the Dragon-hill and everyone who watched grew still;
The blood within their veins was chill. She spoke like burnished gold,
“Come forth the beast that lies here who has eaten of the fold.”

All those standing ‘round drew back for fear of fire and attack
But she upon the hill was slack. The beast came from his hole.
She peered directly in his eye and spoke with voice like cloudless sky,
“Come to me and here stand by you beast as dark as coal.”
He did, for her eyes struck him hard, straight down to his own soul.

And so she tamed the Dragon-king. She also then began to sing
With her hand raised up beckoning his face to her draw near.
Her hand could hold only a tithe of his great face on neck so lithe
With curvéd horns like to a scythe, and yet she had no fear.
He, looking down into her eyes, felt his begin to tear.

A thousand years of sorrow broke; the floodgates opened as she spoke.
Each word to him was as a stroke; his passions grew and rose.
She now stood off but one small pace but, oh so strange! she closed that space
And reaching up to meet his face, she gently kissed his nose.
A single dragon tear stood forth from eyes that could not close.

That single tear escaped and fled to Dragon’s horror and his dread —
The only tear he ever shed — the only tear he could.
But when he raised his shameful eyes, to his astonishéd surprise
The lady’s own cheeks were not dry, that Ancient of the wood.
She shed tears as well as he, for sorrow she too understood.

Brinsley grew up in northern B.C. and went to University in the lower mainland. After that, she took up work as a “Professional Vagabond,” enjoying life in the U.K. and Europe before finally returning to Canada where she has nearly decided that it is time to make a proper living. In England, her poetry appeared in Aesthetica and Decanto magazines. Check her out on Facebook:


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