WHEN FIRST THE MOON
LOVED A MAID
(copyright 2008, Ruth Keyes)
(For K. whose 'April Rose' inspired the tale)
Long long ago, before you or I or even our ancestors
ever dreamed of being, there was a far-distant
land watched over by thousands of stars. This story is very old indeed,
and the Moon who rose high above that far land was older, older still. But is is of the moon himself that the story soon will
For time untold the Moon had risen above that far away country, over waving grasses and mountain ranges, harvest fields
and fallow gardens, but of all the places on which the Moon had cast his light, he shone most brightly on a little meadow,
at the entrance to the mountains that made up the treacherous and danger-filled Bitter
It was in this little meadow that the Moon cast his eyes so steadily Earthward, for it was there that a lovely young
maiden would linger, night after night, turning her face to the sky. She sat
by the banks of the soft flowing stream, often playing upon a stringed instrument and singing a lonely lament, though the
Moon shone his best and brightest to try to please her. How that lovely maid
touched the Moon's good heart! Night after night he sent beams of light to caress her, night after night he caused the mountain
breezes to dry the tears from the soft pale slope of her cheek, and night after night he bade the stars to shine in her luminous
dark eyes. For Oh! The Moon so deeply loved that maid!
Every brush of the breeze through her hair to him was poetry, every sigh from her lips the most beautiful of music, and yet - though he sometimes thought perhaps he brought her comfort - still the maiden
never once heard his voice or looked up into his eyes. Thus things continued for some time.
Then, as surely as the turning tides and the ever cycling seasons, there came the day of difference. When the moon
rose that night over the mountains of the Bitter Thorn pass, he saw a figure approaching the little midnight meadow. It was
a young man the Moon saw traveling, his limbs strong and youthful, his eyes bright with some happy intention, and his stride
purposeful and determined, as he ascended the mountainside, walking by the Moon's own light.
It was there that the Youth met the Maiden, beneath the night time sky. It was there they embraced in
the moonlit and starry meadow, and it was there that the Moon felt his heart torn nigh asunder. For you see, the Moon had
eyes as well as any man, and it was plain in the shining tears, the joyous reunion
and the beaming, upturned faces, that here, indeed, was the lost love for whom the maid had lamented.
The Moon heard all their plans that night, as he hung in the sky so very high above them. Forbidden by her Father to
marry, the maid and her lover would flee across the mounatins, through the steep and treacherous Bitter Thorn pass, braving
death and daring tragedy, for the chance to start a new life together should they reach the other side.
All this the moon heard them say, though the sound of his own broken heart was still
ringing in his ears, and it was then he determined that at all costs he would somehow bring the maiden happiness, even though
it would cost him his own.
So the Moon shone brightly that night. He burned and he blazed and he reflected every light of the mountain, from firefly
to will-o-the-wisp, and he bathed the mountain path with light like the daybreak, though it cost his very soul. And with every heartbroken ounce of his strength, he lit their way safely across the Bitter Thorn pass.
Later that night, when the Maiden's flight was discovered, and her Father was seen to rage and fly into fury, the Moon
slid softly behind a bank of clouds, so the party that pursued them could not find the mouth of the pass at all.
All this the Moon did for the love of the maid.
From that day to this, the moon shines brightly, and the stars that surround him help to light the way for daring travelers
by night. But from that day to this, the green midnight meadow stands moonlit and silent and empty.
The Moon still rises in the Mountains of the Bitter Thorn pass, and his face still warms the grasses and reflects the
waters that dance through that long empty meadow, but after a time, his heart can bear it no further, and he turns his face
slowly away from the sight, until he is no more than a shining sliver in the sky, for he cannot bear to see the meadow without
Even today, if you watch him in the sky, you will see this to be true; for the maiden that he loved is over the hills
and far agone, and never in all the nights and months and years that have passed since last he saw her, has the Moon ever
once loved another.