Tuesday, December 24, 2013

King Arthur's Christmas Tea

King Arthur’s Christmas Tea

‘Twas long ago in Camelot,
one snowy winter’s day –
King Arthur had been thinking
and to Merlin he did say,
“What shall we do for Christmas, bach,
to celebrate this year?
December’s hard upon us,
and the day is drawing near.

“This year I don’t want any wars,
or green men with an ax,
I don’t want any dragons,
or anything to tax
myself or my Round Table.” –
“Well,” said Merlin with a grin,
“let’s have a good old Welsh te bach,
and ask the neighbors in.”

“I like the idea,” Arthur said.
“I’ll leave it up to you –
you’re the Welshest man among us,
and I know you love a ‘do’.”
“All right,” said Merlin, “if you wish –
I think I can contrive.
Just leave the whole thing up to me
until the guests arrive.”

Merlin sat and made a list
of debts he had to pay.
He looked in all his address books –
the cards went out that day –
and in the country round about
there soon began to be
a great anticipation of
King Arthur’s Christmas Tea.

Then Merlin made arrangements,
and recruited helpers, too –
Queen Guenevere and half her maids
signed up for kitchen crew.
And half of the Round Table
soon were helping them as well –
a Christmas application
of a very special spell!

Camelot got house-cleaned
from the bottom to the top –
Sir Lancelot turned out to be
a dab hand with a mop.
Sir Lionel and Dinodan
then polished up the floors,
while Percival and Galahad
hung holly on the doors.

Sir Modred and Sir Tristram
soon set up the Christmas tree
right in the center of the hall –
a fine fair sight to see.
Then Lamarok and Sagamore
hung paper-chains and balls,
and lastly Merlin lit the lights
that twinkled through the hall.

Meanwhile in the kitchens
they were baking up a storm –
teisennau bach and crempog,
and Welsh cakes fresh and warm,
Pwdin Mynwy, bara brith,
and tons of gingerbread –
they made them all by bushels
so the guests could all be fed.

Then everyone dispersed to change
into their Christmas best,
and Merlin went to Arthur,
telling him he’d soon have guests.
Then he himself went off as well,
to tidy up a bit,
and draw a breath or two in peace
before the panic hit.

Of course some guests came early –
there always are a few
who must anticipate the start
of almost any “do”!
So Merlin set them all to work
to help and make the tea
which as usual wasn’t ready
by the time that it should be!

Merlin poured the sherry –
he had made it all himself,
and let it set to age at least
three hours on the shelf,
then added just a pinch of bat –
he wanted it to be
the very best of beverages
for Arthur’s Christmas tea.

King Melwas arrived early
with the Lady of the Lake,
and Niniane not far behind –
they each had brought a cake!
King Mark and Queen Iseult came late –
Cornwall was quite a drive –
but they wouldn’t want to miss it,
not while Tristram was alive.

King Lot came down from Orkney
on the wings of the North Wind
with his Queen and sons and servants –
it was clear they meant to spend
the holidays at Camelot –
invited they were not.
But that’s the way with relatives –
some put you on the spot!

Kings Urien and Charlemagne
and Maelgwyn Gwynedd came
and several hundred others
who I won’t attempt to name.
There was tea and cakes a-plenty,
there was sherry, port, and rum,
and whatever you can think of,
why, I’m sure the guests had some!

They ate and drank and laughed and talked –
the children had a ball
when they found the Christmas crackers
Merlin hid around the hall.
There was music, too – the harpers played
until their strings wore out! –
and conversation filled the place
until you had to shout.

The party lasted half that day
and half the night as well –
if the food and drink had not run out,
I think they’d be there still.
and when at last the guests had gone
Arthur surveyed the hall,
and said to Merlin, “Merlin, bach,
you really gave your all.”

“It’s a special magic,” Merlin said,
and sighed, for he was tired,
and Arthur nodded.  “Yes, it is –
and one you’ve well acquired.
I’ve never seen a party
was so full of Christmas cheer.
let’s have another like it, please –
but not before next year!”

(from King Arthur's Raid on Hell and Other Poems, (c) 2007 G. R. Grove)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Midwinter Solstice song

Midwinter: Pwyll

In Arawn's halls you spent a year
atoning for your actions ill;
you sorrowed not, nor did you fear
except at night, while you lay still

beside a woman passing fair –
fell Arawn's wife. You did not stir
to touch, or stoke her shining hair;
your forethought kept you safe from her.

At end of year, to fight you went
with summer's king, and cut him down;
refused to strike him twice; and spent,
he lifeless lay on bloody ground.

A prince again in your own land,
you found the woman whom you sought
and married her. Your warrior band
dispatched the badger that you caught.

At last a son was born to you,
but vanished quite; her women made
a plan, and to avoid their due,
the blame on fair Rhiannon laid.

But Teyrnon, he who found the boy,
and reared him with his loving wife
perceived a likeness; to your joy
they then restored him to your life.

Still friends with Arawn, gifts you made
to him, and he gave gifts to you;
perhaps in Annwn's gentle glades
you hunt with him in friendship true,

and wisdom's name which still you bear
befits you well. You journeyed long
to win the crown which now you wear.
Dark Annwn's head, receive our song!

(from "A Garland of High Day Songs" in Druid Songs, (c) 2013 G. R. Grove)

Thursday, December 12, 2013



Snow cloaked the fields. The river
armored with ice lay silent.
Shouts echoed faintly – shivers
of wind-borne mist, not violent.

Warfare and death seemed unreal.
Blood on the snow was not red
In the grey light of that field.
Snow-covered mounds were not dead.

Half-way twixt Annwn and earth,
with ice for arrows and spears,
armies of unhuman birth
were battling down the long years –

or so it seemed. But red blood
showed when our torches came.
Dead men lay mixed in the mud,
made real by that flickering flame.

Was it Llywelyn we found?
Or Arthur, on Camlann field?
Welsh blood defending Welsh ground,
Welsh bodies borne on Welsh shields

in the deep cold of that night –
our dream and our King brought low.
Darkness devoured his light
and left our blood on the snow.

(Copyright 2006 G. R. Grove)