Poem: “The Fiddler and the Devil”

My Fiddle

I’ve been learning the fiddle for the past couple of years. I used this photo of my fiddle to go along with a previous post on poetry, Cara Dillon and Irish fiddle music.

This month, Mary Larsen, the editor of Fiddler Magazine was most gracious to publish my poem, ‘The Fiddler and the Devil’ in the Fall issue.

I’m just an ol’ fiddler fiddlin’ daily for his bread
With an oat sack stuffed with straw to lay my weary head
And shoes full of holes and pockets full of air.
The crowds they pass me by without a single care.
Strollin’ couples arm-in-arm seldom stop to listen.
If they do it’s to embrace or do a little kissin’.

One evening, dark and chill, a stranger came and listened quietly.
Then in my hat a coin did toss–its golden gleam flashed brightly.
I gave my head a nod in thanks and continued with a merry reel.
When I had finished, he comes up and says to me, “Fiddler, here’s the deal.
I’ll give you all your heart desires if you would only play for me.”
(Down at the bottom in fine print:  for all eternity.)

Don’t ask me how, but faster than you can blink one eye,
In the fanciest restaurant I’ve ever seen stood he and I,
With tables laden with silver-plattered meats, wine and cheese.
“You shall dine here thrice a day if you would only play for me.”
“No thank ye, “ my mouth a-waterin’, I said,
“But I prefer a good stout ale and a crust or two of bread.”

Another eye’s blink–faster than fallin’ down a short well–
Found us standin’ on the stage of the Theatre Royale
With velvet-cushioned seats stretchin’ out as far as the eye could see.
“You shall perform here every evening if you would only play for me.”
“No thank ye,” I said tryin’ to sound as if I didn’t care,
“But a fiddle sounds the sweetest played out on the open air.”

Another eye’s blink found us (thankfully) not lower,
But totterin’ high atop the town hall’s clock tower
With the city spreadin’ out far, far below;
Its lights sparklin’ stars afloat on a moonless meadow.
“All this shall be yours and all of it for free
If you would play only for me.”
“No thank ye,” again I reluctantly declined,
“But my only desire is to play this fiddle of mine.”

“Bah, you foolish old fiddler,” he said disappearing in a tizzy,
Leaving me back on my corner with my noggin feelin’ dizzy
With the same ol’ crowds still not stoppin’ for a listen.
The coin sittin’ in my hat, its gold still a-glistenin’.
But I wish he had taken his money back with him,
For dealin’ with the Devil is nothin’ but a sin.
I don’t need his riches or any of his pleasures,
For I have my fiddle and my soul: my two most precious treasures.

(First Printed in Fiddler Magazine, Fall, 2012, Vol.19, No. 3, p. 35. “The Fiddler and the Devil” © Poeticmeditation, 2012. All rights reserved. )


About poeticmeditations

A 19th-century romantic poet living in the 21st-century. The Romantic poets, nib pens, candlelight, waistcoats, and pocket watches are a few of my favorite things.
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