Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

In Charles Williams’ Arthurian poetry Taliessin is Arthur’s court bard, and the King’s Poet’s Household is a group of friends that keep alive the ideals of the kingdom even after its fall.  My own Arthurian cycle is just the same, except different.  That is, I borrow the character of Taliessin and his function, but the adventures work out rather differently and the spiritual references are less allusive and obscure.  Up next is an episode from The Household of Taliessin:

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THE CONVERSATION OF TALIESSIN

When one of Arthur’s knights desired peace

For thought, he might traverse the colonnaded

Path which left the high hall toward the east,

Then through an arch into a secret, shaded

Garden, where all Nature’s bounty, aided

By unobtrusive Art, had made a place

Of richness and of order and of grace.

 

For there were coverts deep and shadowy,

And there was sunlight warm upon the grass,

And there were fountains bubbling merrily,

And there were pools as smooth and clear as glass.

There one on pathways lined with stones might pass

By flocks of deer that wandered unafraid

Through flowery meadow and enchanted glade.

 

And though it was not visible to sight,

A subtle patterning of symmetry,

A balance of proportion, never quite

Obvious–a hidden harmony

Of part and whole, a sound felicity

Of shape caused those who wandered there to find

Composure welling up within the mind.

 

And there at whiles Taliessin would walk,

Sometimes alone, sometimes with two or three

Of noble lords and ladies, and their talk

Would be of beauty and the brevity

Of life, of valor and of sanctity,

Of love; and often on such days their words

Would scale the heavens like a flight of birds.

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Sir Balin le Sauvage was not a knight

To dally much with love or courtesy.

His talk was all of puissant deeds in fight,

Of famous sieges, tourneys, strategy,

Of glory won by arms, of victory.

Why he was in the garden on that day

(‘Twas not his custom), no one there could say.

 

Taliessin was saying, “We must ever

Keep these things in mind and hold them fast.

For if we should lose them, they may never

Return in our time.  And if the past

Foretells the future, then they cannot last.”

In disbelief Sir Balin shook his head

And clapped the poet on the back, and said,

 

“My friend, thou needest purgatives I ween.

Come, be a man and don’t make such a fuss.

Why, look around you!  Has there ever been

A king so great and knights so glorious?”

The minstrel struck his harp and answered thus:

“Aye, by God’s grace they are indeed.  But, then,

I am a man, and they are only men.”

 

“And what is man?”

 

“Intricate engine angels might admire,

Material spirit, animated earth,

Crafted casket for celestial fire–

Doomed to die the day it has its birth.

Hands that open, befitting a gracious lord,

Able to touch a cheek as soft as mist,

To wield a pen, a brush, a harpsichord–

But just as apt to freeze into a fist.

Godlike image, able to stand erect,

Yet by what small and simple things laid low:

A sneeze, a scratch, a germ, and all is wrecked;

A few short years, the time has come to go.

Delicate instrument of Love or Lust,

Admirably compacted–out of dust.”

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And Balin turned disgustedly away

And clanked off in his armor, but Elayne

And Percivale to Taliessin said, “Pray,

Good Sir, continue.”  Down a grassy lane

They strolled, extolling in a gentle vein

The Virtues, and their conversation ran

On love and on the mystery of man.

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, due out Dec.1,, 2016, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Book-CSLTheology-Cover

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About gandalf30598

Theologian, philosopher, poet, and critic; minister of the Gospel who makes his living by teaching medieval and renaissance literature; dual citizen of Narnia and Middle Earth.

Posted on December 1, 2016, in Donald Williams, King Arthur, Poetry and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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