CWNY has mentioned Friedrich de la Motte Foque’s novella “Undine” in recent posts. I had it in mind to read but life got busy. I remembered it weeks later when my job proved morally challenging. Around the same time, I discovered a scenic overlook near my new home – a forest path that winds down and parallels a river. Most of the locals avoid it but to me, having been landlocked and deprived of aesthetic beauty, it was everything I could have wanted.
I read it there, under a sprawling oak near the water’s edge. It has a charm that infused itself (in my mind) with the overlook and to this day, every time I go, I remember Undine. It helps that the river resembles the Danube. I go there whenever time allows; it’s peaceful and offers relief from the evils of modernity.
I thought of Undine again after hearing about the horrible rampage in Cologne. Once again German knights (if there are any) had abandoned their lovely charges to rapine and death. CWNY compares modern Europeans to Undines (peoples without souls). The Undine in the story had a soul. She had to earn it – through tears and pain, she had to earn it. If she were real and in the bottom of the sea, she’d be weeping there for her sisters who have European souls. It’s to her and to them I dedicate this poem:
I wish I had a love
to write upon the wall
that stands beside the stream
which from the mountain falls.
And to the mountain from
the dusty sky it comes
merrily through the air
from a land that’s wet and fair.
And in that land a maid,
under the water cries,
behold the shameful tears,
from whence the waters rise.
They flow to me from across the sea,
And all at once, I’m alive to see,
The maiden crying and calling me,
“Oh someone, anyone! Rescue me!”
But there is no power granted me,
So I looked upon my knife with glee,
And on the wall carved happily,
From my heart and across the sea:
I’m still here,
And I’m still alive,
And I can hear you crying,
My sweet Undine.