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:
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.
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.”
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