Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,
Alone and palely loitering?
The trees are blazing red and gold,
And campus bells ring.

Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
Thy schedule is an easy one,
Thy seminars, fun.

I see beard-stubble on thy jaw,
Tense and clenched - thy shoulders, too;
What ails thee now? Thy life is good!
Is this not true?

"I meet a lady in my dreams,
Full beautiful, a Faery Queen;
And in those dreams I walk with her
And see what I've been.

Not always nice, these lives of mine
But passion-filled, for good and ill;
Sometimes a bard, sometimes a slave
I perform her will.

Swordsman, lover, singer, thief -
I recognize my other self
Enchantment-bound and struggling,
Half human, half elf.

In waking life I am no knight
Nor slave besides - I teach and read,
And learn guitar, and volunteer;
Help friends in need.

But that life is the shadow-world,
Its dramas vague, its villains few,
And I belong in older tales
With people I knew.

And when immersed in dusty tomes
Of Valdemar, or Sherwood free,
Those heroic men, they live again,
And they accuse me.

'We are real! You knew us once!
You closed the door and left the hall;'
They cry 'La bonne vie sans merci
Hath thee in thrall!'

The Good Life is the cold hillside
Where dreams may come, pretended salve,
And tease me with the lives I know
But cannot have.

So which then is the crueler one?
The Faerie Queen, with all her strife?
Or day-to-day with mythic soul but
Having 'normal' life?"

(c) 1999 by Stef Mallory and Fox Mountain Music