In the latest issue:

Loathed by Huysmans

Julian Barnes

Too early or too late?

David Runciman

Short Cuts: Five Victorian Marriages

Tom Crewe

Society as a Broadband Network

William Davies

Indefinite Lent

Thomas Jones

In 1348

James Meek

The Yorkists

John Guy

At the Movies: Pasolini’s ‘Teorema’

Michael Wood

Whitehall Spookery

Neal Ascherson

Poem: ‘The Bannisters’

Paul Muldoon

Clarice Lispector

Rivka Galchen

Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison

At the Foundling Museum: ‘Portraying Pregnancy’

Joanne O’Leary

Gordon v. O’Connor

Rupert Thomson

Revism

Joe Dunthorne

Poem: ‘The Reach of the Sea’

Maureen N. McLane

Diary: Where water used to be

Rosa Lyster

The Story of AlouetteCiaran Carson
Close
Close
Vol. 29 No. 20 · 18 October 2007
Poem

The Story of Alouette

Ciaran Carson

313 words

You were telling me a story of your great-grandmother’s
over a bottle of Burgundy by a bubbling fire.

Deep in the Forest of Language there dwelt a manikin
not called Rumpelstiltskin. His name was not that important.

One day a riderless mare trotted to a halt at his door.
The manikin brought her to stable and fed her some hay.

He was surprised when the mare upped and spoke in the King’s French.
I am not a mare, she said, but the King’s daughter bewitched.

And because you have fed and stabled me I shall become
princess again. And she changed as she spoke before his eyes.

In return you have three wishes. I only want one wish,
said the manikin. I’m a manikin. Make me a man.

The by now fully-formed beautiful woman blinked at him
and in the blank and pupil of her eye he became man.

You took a long sip of wine. And what happened then? I said.
The princess summoned a horse from nowhere and galloped home.

The man walked to a great city. He became a joiner.
He grew skilled at his trade and his heart was in all he made.

He grew justly famous for his miniature chests of drawers,
each crafted from a plank of his oak house in the forest.

But still he pined for the day that he’d set the princess free.
He never looked at a woman until the day he died,

his last wish to be buried in the Forest of Language,
his body to be laid in a box of his own device.

To this day, if you happen to pass that shadowy glade
you may see a ghostly rider riding a ghostly mare.

You lit a cigarette. And as for the princess? I said.
She married an English prince and got beheaded, you said.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences