(after Heine)

I saw the elves in the wood last night,

riding in the light of the moon;

I heard their little horns ring out,

their bony bells’ portentous tune.

They spurred past me as swift as thought

on mice whose antlers shone like gold;

those steeds flew silently as swans,

wild swans that range the southern cold.

Their queen nodded as she went by,

nodded and smiled (I held my breath).

Did that strange smile mean my new love,

or did that smile betoken death?