The Witch of the River


The witch of the river has long green hair

Her tresses wave in the water’s flow

She dreams the mayflies out to mate

Her blood’s the current running slow

When her long slim fingers flex in sleep

Then the lithe and writhing silent fish

Disturb the surface: if she dreams

A shudder, then the wordless wish

Rouses the drunken river to spate

Till she gently, softly draws it down

She’ll treasure stones a child throws in

A coin, a cup, a sword, a crown

For they are young and she is very old

For they are of the sky and she the mud

She and the river too will die

But now she’ll dance, with running blood

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  1. Loved the last line Simon….could you tell me what inspired you to write about the river god or witch…is it mythological?

    • Hi, Neel. I wrote this poem after walking an English long-distance trail, the South Downs Way, which ends in Winchester. The river running through Winchester is just like the one described here and I watched long green waterweed rippling in the flow of the river. The first line came to me and I built up from there.

      Pre-Christian Celtic religion in Britain, like in much of Northern and central Europe, was full of ideas about gods of and in water. Watery places were seen as gateways to another world. Sacrifices were often made into water – occasionally human sacrifices, but often metal objects such as knives, often good quality and unused. The famous myth of King Arthur and the Lady of the Lake (who gave him a magic sword, and when he was dying, the sword had to be thrown back into the lake, whereupon the Lady of the Lake reached up and took it back) undoubtedly reflects these traditions. Another poem of mine, Iron and Water, more closely reflects these myths: I haven’t posted that one.

      I had all this in mind when I wrote the poem, but it wasn’t closely based on any particular myth.


  2. That was interesting; lot of poems in the stories you narrated there! I think you should put in a preface of the thought process behind the poems in your blog post….sometimes….not always….that would give a useful background for those who would want to know more about where the poem came from….just a thought…..

    • Thanks! I had been thinking of that. I don’t want to direct people’s reactions to the poems, and for example I can’t think of what I would add to “At the Seafront”; besides, there may be influences I’m not aware of. But for a poem like this one, it would make a lot of sense. I’ll add a bit of background.


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