is the link to some live recordings of prose-poem like folktales i have been working on. Please forgive my less than usual contribution to the blog - the Stanford residency begins just the other side of the new year, and bags are being packed, presents for loved ones prepared. Look out for a possible evening with myself and Coleman Barks at Stanford in february - will confirm when its nailed down.
Wishing you luck and warmth and companionship in this cold month - here's a few lines from one of the recordings - something of a battle speech from Merlin - something he lives to regret.
Well, viva peace! i say this christmas. More gadzooks, less humbug.
(From Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Vita Merlini 1150.)
It was then, in that time
that Myrddin - our Merlin-
drew wisdom and laws
from the nettle-grass
and horse chestnut
of South Wales.
He issued seership and instruction
to the proud Demeti.
He had the bracken ear
the coltish tongue
the dark speech
required for such largeness of task.
His gleeful word
could school the temperament of young princes.
His curling language could lend a swan elegance.
Unflinching with truth.
Ordering a firm house in the roar of court.
Son of an incubus -
he still claims residence
to some inner animal.
And he is friend
to the Old-Man-in-the-Fur-Coat - the bear.
He has gathered red berries by the cold stream,
He has pressed his mind
through gorse and hemlock.
To the men his outer-being is calm :
but inside it rattles with knowing,
a ripping hail, a speech-blizzard carving up
the skull of his woken-ness.
Double-tongued is he:
faithful enquirer to
the wolf’s epiphany
and the politics of the long-house.
To Merlin, alone in his secret den,
This gut-black-power, this second sight
has brought him a new worry.
Peredur of Wales,
prince of the Venedoti of the North,
was drinking blood-buckets
from the veins of the peoples of Gwenddolau,
-Gwenddolau, king of the woad-country
in the far north.
Britain sags with the keening.
The bruised hills hold a mother's terror,
The tree line is a blood-comb
from war’s many bragging roosters.
The bone hills fire-up across the moor.
A battle is arranged, punctual.
Warrior-gear a gleam; straight turf and firm;
Under foot, no bog: A good killing map.
Merlin backs Peredur,
as does Rodarch, High Man of Cumbria.
Rodarch’s brothers come too --three boars
tusk-drunk for the fight, chanting low behind him.
The good seer, Merlin--smeared thick with dirt and rook blood
struts a tawny mile in front of the soon-to-dying men.
His task is to raise a hail-storm in their souls.
He calls out the enemy :
Let your hearts rip like bursting cliffs.
Let shit fill your veins
Let your cocks shrivel;
Let your balls be lumped coal that never sires
your bowels cluck with terror
at the sight of we western men
We handsome destroyers.
Let your eyes be as milk
and battle-blindness descend
leading you to the red pasture
of Welsh blades.
Let you feel good horror
at our bastard strength and our hoof-power.
Let our anvil bludgeon
loose your feeble brain-mush
as compost for our noble soil.
Have at them.
This black father, Merlin,
Hurls dark speech like warfare
and all his loving sons charge the field.
The three brothers of Rodarch,
electrified by speech
seek the field's deepest trouble,
to be witnessed aflame by their terrified men.
Fame will not come
to those that don’t.
But speech can be fragile; as any man knows
our best prayers may land this side of the river.
Copyright Martin Shaw 2012