ENDEPT
Marios Chatziprokopiou

Ballad of the Shepherd Girl

In the olden days
A Laird of the black art
Lived on a broad and wide farm, he did

And had a yearly gathering
Of story-telling that went on
from night till dawn, from night till dawn.

There was not much to eat or drink
But those of faithful heart who came
they feasted on the telling, and truly got their fill.

Each would begin a tale to sing
and for the best one of them all
the Laird would give a coin of gold

to the wildest story told
the most far fetched, the greatest fib.

The wind was howling of an eve
around the fire as they gathered
with only small pickings to eat and

drink
but with much merriment and laughter.

A cattleman was there as well,
a lad so poor with an untroubled soul
who didn't know much of the world at all
and made his nightly bed in straw.

They gave him some homebrew and asked
a story of him, “It's your turn”,

“Me? I have no story nor much else,
I know of the world as much,
as does a blind man, a blind man”.

The Laird took him up on that,
He didn't spare him one bit:
“If you have no gift of gab,
go to the river where my boat
sits weather worn, needing a spruce up,
go make yourself useful.”

The cattleman does like he's told
goes down to the river, jumps on board
but suddenly the boat's unmoored
and off it goes downstream, downstream it goes.

He casts an eye down on himself
and doesn't credit what he sees

his woolen breaches gone
and his mud spattered boots

now tiny slippers he has on
and silk-embroidered stockings.

And on the boat meanders
with no sail and no rudder
bearing the maiden hither and thither
downstream, way down to the Great River.

A sturdy lad stands on the bank
much taken by her sight, he draws near
reaches his hand, pulls her on dry land:

“Are you not frightened battling the waves,
all on your own, Beautiful One?
And will you join me in my humble hut?”

They got to know one another.
Passion was next to kindle

with no blessing from no priest
as betrothed they lied together

splendid children they begot,
as sweet a life as could be.

But then, a day came in May
(three full years had been and gone
two little-ones they'd sired)

and once again down they strolled
a happy man and wife
by the bank of that same river.

Amazed she calls out: - My love!
Look there if that isn't
my boat of old! It's come!
The very one that brought me to you!

Hardly were her exclamations done,
she leaps on board
- Come with me! Come along!

No sooner has she set foot in it
the boat becomes unmoored
the waves grow fierce and mighty
snatch her away from the shore.

The man plunges after his sweetheart
but she's to be found nowhere, no how

The maiden struggles with the boat
she tries to steer against the wind
- Love of my heart, my darling husband...

But halfway through the unwilling

sojourn
casting an eye down on himself

he sees: the boots and woolen breaches
spattered with mud and cow dung

lifting a hand up to his cheek
he feels a beard sprouting there.

His soul is crying out for his mate
as upriver the cruel boat takes him
back to the place of the beginning.

He sets his foot on dry land
though his eyes are far from dry,

the stars above twinkle in sorrow ,
the earth is heaving, his heart is breaking
My beloved, where? How? Why?

But then his steps take him uphill
back to the wide laying farm
and to the story-tellers' gathering,
just the same as when he left them
around the fire, yarn swapping.

The farm owner spots him and calls:
− Come inside, cattleman,
Where were you? Did you see to the

boat?

And he replies: That I did, now leave me well alone

− But what is it with you, then? Tell us, why the crying.

The cattleman comes in and sits among them
sobbing and crying bitter tears

and tells them of his husband and his children
all that he had and now has lost, all that he had and lost.

- By the blackness of this night
I never did hear a wilder yarn
Here's a coin of gold and another
and well earned they are.

- Sir, keep your gold
to me it's as nothing

but give me back the boat
to go across the water
back to my husband's arms.

Marios Chatziprokopiou

Marios Chatziprokopiou

Marios Chatziprokopiou

Marios Chatziprokopiou
A poet, performer, and researcher based in Athens, Greece. His first poetry book Local Tropics ('Topikoi Tropikoi') (Antipodes 2019) investigates issues of queer mourning and desire in relation to folk poetic traditions.
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