Blog Archives

CCXIII

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.”

This poem is from my Arthurian cycle, “Tales of Taliessin,” published in my book Stars Through the Clouds: The Collected Poetry of Donald T. Williams (Lynchburg: Lantern Hollow Press, 2011).   See below for ordering information.

Taliessen Performing this Poem at Camelot

 

AIR

A Song of Taliessin

While walking out under the greenwood fair

A maiden I chanced to meet

Who softly whistled a country air,

And the melody was sweet:

As sweet as the blossoms she twined in her hair

Or the grass ‘neath her dancing feet;

She softly whistled a country air

And the melody was sweet.

 

I hid me back of the cedarn bough,

The better that tune to hear:

It smoothed the furrows from off the brow

And filled the heart with cheer.

Like the lonely seaman who peers from the prow

With his home port drawing near,

It smoothed the furrows from off the brow

And filled the heart with cheer.

 

Never again did I see the maid;

The tune I cannot recall.

But every melody that’s played

And pleases me at all

Sends me back to that greenwood fair

And seems to echo the beat

Of a softly whistled country air

Whose melody was sweet;

The melody was sweet.

 

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, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Advertisements

CLXXX

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.”

 

Taliessin in Celtic lore and in Charles Williams’s Arthurian poetry is the bard at Arthur’s court, the king’s minstrel.  Here I use him as a symbol for my own relationship to a King even greater than Arthur.  That Christ should let any of us serve Him at all is a great mystery, a wonder worthy of song.

capture5

TALIESSIN REMINISCES

 

I was a Singer from my youth

In silence wandering;

I was a Seeker after Truth

On nothing pondering.

A student of the stars whose eyes

Were chained unto the earth;

An heir predestined to the Prize

Who could not come to birth.

 

A golden harp upon my back

On which no string was strung;

A scroll unwritten in my pack,

No music on my tongue:

Accoutered thus, through barren lands

I sought I knew not what–

‘Til, following unheard commands,

I came to Camelot.

 

What was it that you saw in me?

It couldn’t have been much:

A minstrel with no melody,

A harp no one could touch.

But I knew what I saw in you;

And all the passing years

Have only proved the vision true

Which first I glimpsed through tears.

 

What did I find in you, my King?

The song that I was born to sing!

And all the passing years

Have only proved the vision true

Which stung me first to tears.

capture9

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, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Book-CSLTheology-Cover

LIII

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.”

Happy Boxing Day!

 

If I don’t stop complaining about what passes for “spring” in the American Midwest, I will start sounding like a broken record.  But maybe the poems can avoid that fate more easily than the prose.  Let’s see.

 

TO SPRING IN ILLINOIS, 1975

 

It’s April now, but you would never know

To see the stubborn falling of the snow.

Except to show that Winter has its nerve,

I do not see what purpose it could serve,

This cruel encroachment on the rights of Spring.

In Georgia, we would never let the thing

Get near this far.  There, as in Camelot,

The Winter never stays where it should not.

But here it doesn’t have the sense to know

When its welcome’s gone, and it should go.

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://www.createspace.com/3562314 and order Stars Through the Clouds!

Why did the Knight in Shining Armor Cross the Road?

From Beowulf to Bilbo, and every knight who ever set a shiny, metallic toe in Camelot, fantasy heroes often seem to end up facing a dragon.

I was thinking about dragons today. Well, to be quite honest, I have been thinking about dragons nearly every day.  They are, I do not hesitate to say, my very favorite animal.

How, you might ask, can a fantastic beast of myth be your favorite animal?  I would first like to point out that you only think they are beasts of myth.  I, however, would posit that they have merely become very discreet, which is an admirable and impressive skill in a massive fire-breathing creature of legend.  Secondly, they are fascinating not just because they are fantastic, but because they have managed to worm – or should I say wyrm (for you, Brian) – their way into countless stories in a multitude of cultures in a myriad of forms.  They are, I think, the most versatile mythic monster, and well worthy of being called my favorite.

In this post, I would like to talk a little bit about a few of the western dragon’s earlier manifestations.  It seems to me that the dragon has evolved from the widely accepted monsters relatively free of personality to the complex, morally ambivalent creatures that are being used more and more often in modern fantasy. There is no hard and fast before and after, of course, but I find the general shift interesting.

The first that comes to my mind is found in the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf (dated c. AD 1000, though no one knows for sure). Beowulf’s great wyrm only appears at the end of a very long, impressive epic. It has the traditional ravaging, treasure-hoarding tendencies, and generally unpleasant nature.  It is also nameless and without any real personality.

In the 11th century Norse poem the Volsunga, Sigurd’s opponent Fafnir is a fiery serpent with quite a bit more personality.  Some might contest that Fafnir is not a true dragon, merely a shapeshifter, but whatever the case, he is certainly dragon enough to give Sigurd a fair fight before Sigurd cuts out his heart and has it for dinner.  This dragon has a name and a bit of character, but he is still quite villainous.

Sigurd becomes Siegfried in the German Song of the Nibelungs, wherein a dragon has a certain ring that causes a certain hero’s doom.  Sound vaguely familiar? Tolkien knew his Germanic mythology. Bilbo’s opponent Smaug is a slightly different sort of dragon, so expect to find him lurking my next post.

Before Bilbo, many a knight faced off with a dragon or two.  Dragons are quite well known for their taste for fair maidens as well as treasure.  No one can say for sure why a dragon would want to keep a fainting, screaming girl in a tower when gold is so much quieter, but many theorize that a single maiden can keep a dragon on a steady diet of roasted knight for weeks before she dies of unfulfilled longing… or the knights get tired of being eaten (the princess isn’t that beautiful after all).

In any case, early dragons seem to be determined to remain firmly in the Evil: Avoid at Any Cost section of the fantasy travel guide.  My favorite dragons, though, are the later ones that have both personality and a great deal more variety in their moral character or lack thereof.

More on those delightful beasts later.