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Rachel Lyman Field

The Green Fiddler

As I came over the humpbacked hill

Where the trees crowd thick and black,

I met a little old man in green

With fiddle strapped on back.

His cap rose tall as an Elfin steeple,

His eyes shone water clear,

He bowed him low to see me go

And he said to me, "My dear,

"It's not for silver I'm asking you,

For shelter or meat or bread,

But pluck me four of your golden hairs,

Four bright gold hairs," he said.

"It's a little thing to ask," thought I.

"You're welcome enough to mine."

On the wood road dim, I gave them him.

He smiled to see them shine.

He reached the fiddle from off his back,

He threaded them one by one,

Brighter than golden wire they gleamed,

Finer than silk new spun.

Then swift as shadow the thin bow flew,

His fingers capered gay;

Birds, far and near, grew still to hear

That elfin fiddler play.

And shy wood creatures with still bright gaze

On soundless tread crept near,

The very leaves hung motionless

Above my head to hear.

I could not feel my own heart beat,

The breath died in my throat;

Stock still I stood in the shadowed wood,

Lest I should miss one note.

Twilight came stealing from tree to tree,

The little lights of town

Sprinkled the valley like buttercups,

Or stars turned upside down;

And the farthest one that I knew for mine,

It would not let me stay;

Oh, the tune was sweet, but my town-weighed feet,

They carried me away.

Carried me home to the valley lights,

To the ticking clock on the stair,

To fire and cupboard and table spread

With damask and willow ware.

So I laugh and gossip by candlelight

To the clatter of plate and spoon,

But my cheeks turn hot for a secret spot

And the lilt of a fairy tune.

And wherever I go and whatever I do

Silvery, wild, and shrill,

I am hearing that little old man in green

On the side of the humpbacked hill.

The neighbors may frown and shake their heads

To see me stand and stare.

What should they know of fiddle bow

And strings of golden hair?

Oh, I let them scold and I let them smile,

And whisper of me apart,

For I have a hidden fairy tune

In the bottom of my heart.