The Dullahan

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The schoolmaster stayed too late tonight;
The crescent moon has taken flight.
He walks ahead with cloak clutched tight,
Though home is far and out of sight.

Amidst the trees he does not tarry.
Though not because he finds them scary.
He whistles a tune to show he's merry,
And fears neither beast nor mythic faerie.

Not even those of the Court Unseelie
Who'd kill any mortal they might see
Walking home beneath stars and trees
No matter how fast he tried to flee.

For he put no stock in old wives' dread.
Nor even what his nephew had said
About seeing a horseman without any head;
If a dullahan he'd met, then he'd be dead.

The creature hunts those who walk alone.
It carried a whip made from victims' bones.
Not even a castle's thick wall of stone
Could keep it from making their head its own.

He ceases whistling and slows to stop
When from behind he hears a clip-clop.
He turns to look; though he is no fop,
A single glimpse makes his firm heart drop.

A headless rider atop a black horse —
No, the monster's holding its head, of course:
Moldy face smiling without any remorse.
The man has already screamed himself hoarse.

The branches lash his arms and legs.
Run! For no matter how hard he begs:
He knows, as sure as eggs is eggs,
Of him, it would leave not even dregs.

The man, near spent, now calls to mind
That dullahan, unlike most of its kind
Has one fear: It would leave him behind
At the sight of gold. But can he find —?

With all his might he tosses his ring.
Small price to pay to live ‘til spring.
Desperate to get away from that thing,
He waits not to see the result of his fling.

The rider halts to watch the man run:
His clever charade now over and done.
He dismounts to retrieve his prize hard-won
Some gold, after all, is better than none.

He rests his mare but doesn't long stay:
He leaves the woods to prepare for day.
Once home, the costume he tucks away.
It's not honest work, but it is good pay!


Image of Through the Woods


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