Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Wandering Court

Friends - if you enjoy what you read on the blog, then please consider doing us the great courtesy of sharing/liking/sending smoke signals for the news of the tenth anniversary of the year programme. Ideally have a look at our temporary, and none too grand facebook page - soon there will be much more in a vivid tapestry of image on our re-booted website. Link here:

Ten Years of the Programme

Places strictly limited to 20 students. No concessions.


£200 per weekend - email for sign up.

A migration through the grandeur of language, mythos and place.

In the old bardic schools, home was less a building of stone, more a grand lintle of speech overhead, a flint-spark of sound, dry in the hand. They rested in the hut of themselves.

When the bards travelled, this wandering court would stand at dusk outside the nights dwelling and pass a poem down the line of their merry pack, stanza by stanza, to demonstrate their agile and storied tongue. In this manner they arrived with a feast.

To celebrate our tenth year of work we will travel also and take a rambling but purposeful route across the stories of Ireland, Siberia, the Caucasus Mountains, Scandinavia, and return, finally, to bed down in our beloved green seat of Dartmoor. Myth is our currency, our study, our passion - mythtelling the most effective vehicle for communicating its genius.

The business of stories
Is not enchantment.

The business of stories
Is not escape.

The business of stories
Is waking up.

April 25-27th
Beginnings - oral culture, the bardic schools of Ireland, myths insistence on daemonic vocation. We hoof the vast acres of Gaelic and Welsh culture, beginning with a telling of the life of Finn Mac Coll, and a reading of the Vita Merlina.

Rather than endless choice, is there a chthonic compulsion to become something quite specific?

June 13-15th
Paradox and the art of growing down into the mud and smoke of life - the movement from the pastoral to the prophetic - experiencing the tempering of consequence. We trail the nomad stories of the Yakut and the Romanian Gypsies.
We will wrap our speech round the un-lettered language of sheep-herders and horse thieves, locate sounds not corralled into dictionaries.

What is the difference between shelter and comfort?

August 1-3rd
Stories from the north. The forging of language from landscape - the primary mnemonic. Wintering out in the longhouse - repetition and the storytellers range. Encountering the occult animal. Anchoring discipline and craft to the longing for epiphany.

What are the stories the West tells itself in private?

Oct 3-5th
Is Camelot Scythian in origin? The move to nobility and service, as the old tales disclose. Speech as wealth, inflation as necessity. How story creates a den for our grandeur, and transmutes it to a gift.

How does true generosity reveal its hand?

Dec 5th - 7th
Apprenticing to a five mile radius of story, land, herb and song. The labour of becoming a cultural historian of place. Myths that migrate, stories of slow ground. Facing the luminous ordinary as mythic territory.

How does a tired road become a song-line?

Bard-Come-A-Fire: Vita Merlina

On the first weekend we will be working through a new translation i have been making of the Vita Merlina - so here's a few lines as a teaser.


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.


Merlin awild.

He swims out past the bay of human affection.

Now no summering lament .
He enters wood with vigor,

drives his body to a blue shape sculpted by wind.
Survives on crusts of frozen moss.

He does not miss the law-court,
or the jokes of the marketplace.

One night, death-bringing cold sweeps away all cloud.

A good hawk, Merlin perches in his nest,
observing all the courses of the stars.

They remind him of his old life he has given up.

He was married once, then abandoned her:
Gwendolen, the long suffering,

when he took the forest for his home;
for this life sharpened on the sparks of muddy ecstasy.

It was the way the planets glittered that told him
of his wife’s new love.

This night, that old story has a new chapter.

Venus - I read your frosted message in the dark;
As faithfully you follow down your consort sun.
My beak snaps at your heels with wonder.

“I see another ray, that arcs from you,
The ray that splits lovers:
Gwendolen has bed-knowledge of another.

And the stars tell me of a wedding.”

The man gazes up
at the yellow breast of the moon
and remembers.

Copyright Martin Shaw 2013

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