Guest poem sent in by Mike Lynd
(Poem #1440) Hic Jacet Arthurus Rex Quondam Rexque Futurus
Arthur is gone . . . Tristram in Careol Sleeps, with a broken sword - and Yseult sleeps Beside him, where the Westering waters roll Over drowned Lyonesse to the outer deeps. Lancelot is fallen . . . The ardent helms that shone So knightly and the splintered lances rust In the anonymous mould of Avalon: Gawain and Gareth and Galahad - all are dust. Where do the vanes and towers of Camelot And tall Tintagel crumble? Where do those tragic Lovers and their bright eyed ladies rot? We cannot tell, for lost is Merlin's magic. And Guinevere - Call her not back again Lest she betray the loveliness time lent A name that blends the rapture and the pain Linked in the lonely nightingale's lament. Nor pry too deeply, lest you should discover The bower of Astolat a smokey hut Of mud and wattle - find the knightliest lover A braggart, and his lilymaid a slut. And all that coloured tale a tapestry Woven by poets. As the spider's skeins Are spun of its own substance, so have they Embroidered empty legend - What remains? This: That when Rome fell, like a writhen oak That age had sapped and cankered at the root, Resistant, from her topmost bough there broke The miracle of one unwithering shoot. Which was the spirit of Britain - that certain men Uncouth, untutored, of our island brood Loved freedom better than their lives; and when The tempest crashed around them, rose and stood And charged into the storm's black heart, with sword Lifted, or lance in rest, and rode there, helmed With a strange majesty that the heathen horde Remembered when all were overwhelmed; And made of them a legend, to their chief, Arthur, Ambrosius - no man knows his name - Granting a gallantry beyond belief, And to his knights imperishable fame. They were so few . . . We know not in what manner Or where they fell - whether they went Riding into the dark under Christ's banner Or died beneath the blood-red dragon of Gwent. But this we know; that when the Saxon rout Swept over them, the sun no longer shone On Britain, and the last lights flickered out; And men in darkness muttered: Arthur is gone . . .
Note: The Latin reads: "Here Lies Arthur, the Once and Future King" This poem by Francis Brett Young makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end! It offers a different perspective on the King Arthur legend, showing us that even if the courtly stories of Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur are merely romantic nonsense there may be sufficient importance in the underlying historical truth for the legend still to be worth knowing and remembering. Francis Brett Young was born in 1884 and died in 1954. He was a novelist, short-story writer and poet, and was born in born in Halesowen, Worcestershire, England. His father was a doctor and his mother also came from a medical family so it was natural that Francis trained at Birmingham University to become a physician. He started a practice at Brixham, Devon, in 1907 and married the following year. His wife was a singer and he accompanied her as well as setting poems to music for her. During the First World War he saw service in Africa in the Medical Corps but was invalided out in 1918, no longer able to practise medicine. The couple went to live in Capri until 1929 but travelled widely, including trips to South Africa, the United States and summers in the Lake District of England. They returned to live in England from 1932 and settled at Craycombe House, Fladbury, Worcestershire. At the end of the Second World War he moved to South Africa, dying in Cape Town in 1954. His ashes were returned to England and are in Worcester Cathedral. Further details to be found at: http://www.fbysociety.co.uk/ and at: http://www3.shropshire-cc.gov.uk/young.htm Best wishes, Mike Lynd