The Castle Perilous
The princess sat at her window,
weaving her jet-black hair,
and all the folk who saw her swore
that there was none so fair.
Down flew a raven to her sill
and croaked, “Princess, make haste:
seek out the Castle Perilous
where your true love’s held fast.”
The princess ran down from her room,
heeding her destiny,
and saddled up her roan horse
to find where he might be.
The red deer and the red fox saw
her ride by out of doors,
the golden eagle watched her pass
over the purple moors.
She rode through dire woods and glens,
day and night without pause,
and reached the Castle Perilous
whose ramparts snarled like jaws.
Inside she saw a dreadful sight,
so grim her heart’s blood froze:
the bravest man that she had seen,
fighting three ghastly foes.
Three phantoms came on every side
to assail her brave knight,
and though he slew them every day
they rose again each night.
The sorceress stood at the gate,
smiling like gleaming knives.
“Come in, my fair princess,” she said,
“where mortals try their lives.”
“Answer my riddles,” said the witch,
“before you may depart,
or my three wights will kill your man
and I will eat your heart.”
“What is the blackest thing of all?
Tell me, my pretty dove.”
“Blacker than my hair is the heart
that never has known love.”
“What is the whitest thing of all?
Tell, or I eat you whole.”
“Whitest is the white purity
of a true loving soul.”
“What is the strongest thing of all?
Answer, my fair young maid.”
“Stronger than steel is the vow
that two true loves have made.”
The witch and spectres howled and fled,
the castle fell to sand.
She stepped across the clean bare ground
and took her true love’s hand.
He set her on her roan horse
and led her home again;
and peace and plenty blessed the land
through their long loving reign.