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something celtic

17 March 2010

in honor of the day:

Listen! Hear the tale
of fierce battles fought
under tree and under star;
hear, children of Albion,
island of the mighty,
the words of a bard ;
hear and understand
the meaning of the life
whose purpose was sought
in the quest of kingship.
Three fifties of warriors
round Gwydion ap Don
were gathered ; he fathered
strong sons, seven in number,
warriors, bards, enchanters all.
Mighty among men
were those great lords;
to be counted among their number
more honorable than the thrones
of lesser kings ; the people sing
the praises of the king-and-bard,
the Lord Gwydion, by them adored.
When fire and sword were brought
to the sacred shores of Albion
of old by the Boars of Blight,
the hated race, the ancient enemy,
then did the great Gwydion perform
the greatest of all feats ; the feet
of many a fell-man he hewed,
defeated many a barbarian
by the skill of his swords
and the skill of his words.
He played a borrowed harp
and sang his own songs
and the songs of those gone on
long and long before ; the shore
of sacred land had never known
the depths of his lore, his speech
a thousand apple blossoms
on the rocky beach.
He stood before the Great Boar,
his seven sons stood ’round,
and at the sound of his drums
he issued challenge ; Swineheart,
proud, the barbarian king
accepting came forth, armed
with glistening steel, tusks
of flesh-ripping.
Two champions, each a king,
clashed on the open plain ;
sword-thrust, spear-feint,
the steelsong sang loud and long
as day followed night, and
day and night again ; skill unmatched
by men of later days was seen
in the rock-strength of arms,
in the dance of death between them.
The stars came out, twilight
on the third day, the fight at a lull;
the barbarian’s priests prayed
to black gods, demons of fire,
burning a thousand warriors
on a pyre, giving strength to their lord ;
the hated and abhored sight,
the stench of charred flesh
stirred fear in the breast of the warriors
of Lord Gwydion ; his sons began
a song, a charm of strength,
clean, pure, like a stream of water
subduing great dragons of doubt ;
the Lord Gwydion gave a shout
and his voice carried long over the land.
Rocks trembled, earth-drinking roots
of great oaks upturned, and the challenge
again renewed ; the Boar of Blight
made to smite the Champion of Albion
to no avail ; the smell of hell-fire
that to him clung became a weight,
a chain, a millstone about his neck
as the seven sons of Gwydion sang
as their father fought ; again again
the deafening roar of battle,
the fierceness of a stuck Boar,
tasting fear, blood in his mouth,
pressed once more ; overthrown
by the Golden Lord, brought low
with a heavy blow from Gwdion’s sword.
He fell.
The sons of Albion cheered loud,
the proud faces of seven sons,
each a bard and each a king
thought then a new song to sing ;
but as voices lifted then in praise
the coward, in death then arrayed,
sought one last vengeance then to take–
with poisoned dagger, long concealed
he struck the heel of Albion’s king,
opening the flesh from heel-to-toe,
and the bitter sting of death-venom
felled the bright-shining lord low.
Bitter was that morning,
as red dawn the sun on the land of Albion,
her fairest champion slain
at the death-clasped hands
of her foulest foe.
Weep, and give lamentation
o mothers of children, children
of Albion! For no more will there be
such a king, no court or warband,
no such giver of torcs and rings!
Lament and mourn, for he is slain,
and shall never be again.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Melissa permalink
    17 March 2010 13:32

    Rarely do they write these kinds of poems anymore, but the oldest poems are like this… And this was the work of bards, to keep the story going, to entertain. Thank you for continuing the tradition (I hope you feel that is a compliment to you.)

  2. 17 March 2010 15:49

    Melissa! Thank you very much! It is, indeed, a compliment. Yes, sadly, narrative and epic are no longer a mainstay of any poetic tradition. Of course, writing poetry about a Welsh demigod (the story spun from my private mythology as well) in honor of St. Pat is probably a bit of a faux pas, but the spirit of all things Celtic are good to remember today. And, despite what our Irish friends believe, St. Pat–though the Patron of Eire–was himself originally a Welshman, too.

    Dia dhuit!

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