The Clockmaker's Daughter



The leaves were falling in spirals,
On the slate roof of her shop.
She sat in her room without windows
Fixing a clock that had stopped.


She moved precisely and sharply
Her hair was red and long.
Her fingers were quick as minnows;
And her eyes each as round as a gong.


The wonder of all the township,
Her fame spread more, and more.
The clockmaker’s only daughter
And heir to her father’s store.


She never cared for the mountains
Nor the forest, the sea, the sky.
All of nature, to her, seemed fleeting,
But machinery did not die.


She made clocks to chime the hour
And dancers to dance for kings;
All brass and steel, spring and wheel
With gilded golden wings.

She built herself a garden
Of metal, and powered by steam.
The flowers opened on timers,
With steel-scaled fish in the stream.


The roses climbed up the trellis
Quite artistically arranged.
Frozen in metal perfection,
Their color remained unchanged.


The leaves were falling in spirals,
But her garden’s mechanical spring
Was never disturbed by the autumn:
Mechanical birds always sing.


Each autumn day he came ambling;
With the wind as sharp as a sword
He knew the pathway well enough
And walked it without a word.


He’d a face that girls would swoon for
And a gallant, carefree air;
He loved the clockmaker’s daughter,
And that she could not bear.

He claimed his love was eternal.
But she would not hear of such things —
The only eternal was clockwork
And the click of coiled springs.


He begged and pleaded sadly;
At last her answer came:
I will build you one last clockwork,
One that will bring me fame.


You will not see it’s likeness
If you searched for all your life.
Allow me to build one last clockwork —
Then I will be your wife.


He left the house at evening;
When the noise of his feet was gone
She sat down and drew a blueprint
And did not sleep till dawn.


She built a clockwork angel,
As perfect as any saint,
She carved its eyes with sapphire,
And embroidered its robes with paint.


Its wings were carved of silver,
Its hair of fine silk thread,
With graceful jointed fingers,
And a face of whitest lead.

Her angel was waiting for winding,
Serene and still in the dew
And the clicking of cogwheels told her:
There is only one thing left to do.

She polished up its brass garments,
And tightened the final screws,
And was turning the key to wind it
When he came to claim his dues.

One week, one week, she asked him
To bid her garden goodbye,
To wind down each gilded lily
And let the steam engines die.


As soon as he turned from the threshold,
She drew up a second plan.
The angel whirred softly, smiling,
With a sparrow on its cold hand.


The angel angled its fair head,
And she told it with a sigh:
“I know you can’t understand me,
But we’re the same, you and I.”

He knocked on her door on a Sunday:
The house was as silent as snow.
When he turned the knob it opened
And spilled out a candlelight glow.

He found her on the stairway,
By tracking the bloody trail.
She’d slit each wrist precisely
And died by the filigree rail.

Out to the metal garden
He ran as if in a trance;
There the angel and clockmaker’s daughter
Were dancing a clockwork dance.

Her eyes were carved of rubies
And her hair of burnished bronze,
Veiled with golden roses
And woven with silver fronds.

He threw his arms about her,
Weeping shocked, glinting tears,
But drew back when he heard not heartbeats
But the gentle whirring of gears.

They finished their waltz with a flourish
Bowed and left hand in hand
Without feeling the sun on their foreheads
Or the pathway’s gleaming sand.

The leaves are falling in spirals
But her garden is always in spring
Where the angel and clockmaker’s daughter
Sit and watch tin sparrows sing.

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