briar rose

'He has, in his imagination (all that's left him), slashed his way through the briars, scaled the castle wall, and reached her bedside. He had expected to be aroused by the mere sight of her, this legendary beauty both doelike and feral, and indeed, stripped naked by the briars, his flesh stinging still from the pricking of the thorns which he seems to be wound in now like a martyr's shroud, he is aroused, but not by the grave creature who lies there before him, pale and motionless, wearing her ghostly beauty like an ancient ineradicable sorrow. His sense of vocation propels him forward and, pushed on by love and honor to complete this fabled adventure, he leans forward to kiss those soft coral lips, slightly parted, which have waited for him all these hundred years, that he might unbind her from her spell and so fulfil his own emblematic destiny. But he hesitates. What holds him back? Not this hollow rattle of bones all about. Something more like compassion perhaps. What is happily ever after, after all, but a fall into the ordinary, into human weakness, gathering despair, a fall into death? His fate to be sure, whether he makes his name or not (what does it matter?), but it need not be hers. He imagines the delirium of their union, the celebrations and consequent flowering of the moribund kingdom, the offspring that would follow, the joys thereof, the pains, the Kingship, the Queenship, her obligations, his, the days following upon the days, the exhaustion of the "inexhaustible fountain of their passion," the disappointments and frustrations and betrayals, the tedium, the doubts (was it really she after all? was it really he?), the disfigurements of time, the draining away of meaning and memory, the ensuing silences, the death of dreams; and, enrobed in pain, wilfully nameless, yet in his own way striving still, he slips back into the briars' embrace.'

Briar Rose
(Page 54-55)