Storm gathers over Albion. The realm
Is riven and corrupted: reckless rogues
Have seized it for themselves, and sold it cheap
To unseen powers and shadows. We are lost.
Where now is Arthur, once and future king;
What of his pledge to rise again in days
Of dreadful need and peril, and return
With shining sword to save us from ourselves?
Let word go out to Avalon; a plea
For aid and comfort in these fractured times:
Shake off the sleep of centuries, and ride
To drive the rot and ruin from our land.
A land undone, of hope and truth bereft,
Where only myth and fantasy are left.
The myth of King Arthur’s messianic return to save England from dire distress first appeared in 1125AD (and it was an old tale even then) when it was set down by the Anglo-Norman historian William of Malmesbury. Despite there being no documentary, archaeological or other credible evidence that Arthur ever existed, the story and its prophecy remain potent; and if ever there was a moment when Rex quondam, rexque futurus was called for, it’s now. Plus, let’s face it: is the resurrection of a fictional 6th-Century monarch any more far-fetched, or less likely to happen, than the deluded fantasies our present so-called leaders are pursuing? N.
Build me a ship; bid it bear me away
Beneath a broad white sail, across the sea
To some far distant island with no name,
Then burn it on the strand, and let the wind
Swirl high the ashes, leave no trace behind.
No grief nor hesitation; I would leave
Soon as the tide allowed and not look back,
But will my vessel onward with all speed;
Or else condemn myself to live confined
By phantom walls weak, frightened men defined.
We were to think
The First would be the last:
Now April’s lunacy lives on
Will lose its blue
And then the red will fade
Till all we’ll have to hoist will be
When all of this
Is done we will look back
And say that it was right, and good.
You Viking hordes,
Dread knights of Normandy:
Your swords would wound less deeply than
A Grendel stalks
Our land. Come, Beowulf:
Rise from the page and save us from
With local elections this Thursday, and the hideous spectre of next month’s general election haunting the nation, I decided to cheer myself up with another round of cinquains, aimed at what now passes for democracy in these isles. Pleased to report that I’m feeling much better. As Sir Thomas More astutely noted: ‘The devil…that proud spirit…cannot endure to be mocked.’ N.
Grows weary now,
Decides to call it quits
So draws the clouds across the sun
And shuffles into twilight. Blackbirds call
From treetops but it does not turn;
Just fades away and leaves
A lonely world
Is not against
The clock; no pack or prize
Impels you. All you have to beat
Is deep pain, your own doubt, the wasted days.
Recharge the lightning in your limbs,
Relight your inner fire:
I long to see
Revisiting rictameter. The second poem is for my beloved but somewhat banged-up whippet, who’s three weeks into a month-long convalescence from surgery to secure his left shoulder, which he dislocated in a fall at the beginning of April. He should make a full recovery given rest and time, but it’s going to be a long, slow job. Thank goodness for pet insurance…N.
And one by one
The lights still left to us
Are doused. How long will we await
Have read the signs
In wind and earth and tree.
One day, we will wake up to find
The flowered fields
And through the clean-clothed woods.
But where in all this life may I
Burns low, its light
Too faint to read, the flame
Too weak to warm my back; and soon
Moves slowly west
Into a great unknown
And who can tell us if they will
Today’s prosodic experiment is the cinquain. It’s quite similar to yesterday’s rictameter, in that it’s syllabic; the differences being that it’s five lines, not nine, made up of (respectively) one, two, three, four and one iambic feet. The final cinquain is inspired by the wonderful ‘slow TV’ documentary Reinflytting – minutt for minutt (literally ‘Reindeer migration – minute by minute’) currently showing live on Norwegian channel NRK. I shall try to write some more cheerful cinquains in due course, I promise. Just been one of those weeks. N.
I walked the woods, where Spring at last bestirred
Herself with bright abandon. All around
Bluebells and windflowers gleamed, and every bird
Rejoiced in lusty song. Then came the sound
Of angry scolding overhead: a coarse
And ragged band of brigands in full cry
As one by one, they swooped and swirled to force
The noble, broad-winged buzzard from their sky.
And thus when I, too, seek release in flight
Or silent solitude, the world’s dark woes
Rise up in loud pursuit, grant no respite
And crowd in, mobbing me like churlish crows.
How many years and miles before I find
A place to rest to my weary heart and mind?
Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary last Saturday has led to this sudden outbreak of sonnets; old and familiar ground, I know, but it’s still my favourite form to work with, and just feels right at this time of year. That said, spring is showing recidivist tendencies this week, with a bitter northerly pegging temperatures in single digits (C) and leaving the flowers wondering if they’ve accidentally skipped a few pages in their diaries. N.
The frost hits late; a hard bright scattering of crushed stars;
A white fallen sky, lit by daffodil suns.
A slow-waking winter, gripped with sudden jealousy
Snatches back the earth from spring’s warm, outstretched hand.
I could rail, resentful, against this cold selfishness;
Point to all I have endured, hoped for, dreamed of.
Yet with this day’s unlooked-for sting comes a clarity:
A sharper sense of all that is, and might be.
Doha is an Indian metrical poetic form, with each stanza consisting of two lines, the first with 13 syllables and the second with 11. In Hindi, there are specific stress patterns within the lines, but these are pretty much impossible to replicate in English. A true doha should also be a rhyming couplet, which I managed by the time I got to the fourth one! N.