Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Another Snippet from Ten Years a Bard

"King Arthur's Raid on Hell", as I said in my previous post, was written for an SCA competition. This piece, however, was written for my own satisfaction. It retells a story from the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogion from a different point of view. As before, this is only the beginning of a much longer poem.

Pryderi’s Pigs

From purple twilight full of mist and rain
into the torchlight at my gates they came,
twelve men in sodden cloaks, mud-splashed and cold,
and to my Porter said, as I was told,
that they were bards from Gwynedd in the north.
He did not ask their names, or state, or worth –
all peaceful men were welcome in my halls.
He lodged them well, brought water, wine and all,
and sent a boy to bring them to the feast.
They took their seats, and when the noise had ceased
I asked their chief if one of his young men,
to entertain us, might some story spin,
or sing a song, perchance, to make time fly.
He smiled and rose, and looked me in the eye,
and said the custom of their company was
the first night they arrived at some new house
the Chief Bard was the one who should perform,
and so he would.  In mellow voice and warm
he started then a story to unfold.
Tale followed tale until the night grew old,
and laughter, wonder, fear and even joy
he conjured up.  I never heard a boy
or man could any better story spin,
and when at last he came unto the end
I bade him join me at my table high.
He gladly sat, and heaved a weary sigh.
With mead I filled his cup, and merrily
we did converse, and pleasure ’twas to me.
His beard was black; to me he seemed full young –
a green-eyed lad, born with a silver tongue.
“Chieftain,” he said at last, “I’ll tell my task –
I’ve journeyed here, a boon of you to ask.
I’ve heard you own strange beasts: ‘pigs’ they are named –
not like wild boar, but creatures small and tamed.
I ask their gift.”  I sighed and shook my head.
“Alas, my friend, though I myself were glad
to give them you, I cannot – not my own
are they to give.  They came from dark Annwn,
whose lord was years ago my father’s friend,
and them I may not give or sell or lend
’til twice they’ve bred their number in this land.”
The stranger smiled.  “O lord, leave my demand
unanswered, ‘til tomorrow morn we meet,
and then I’ll show you how an answer sweet
to find, for when you see what I shall bring,
you may exchange them for some better thing.”
I laughed – it seemed a joke – no more was said.
We drank our mead, and off we went to bed.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Snippet from Ten Years a Bard...

Here is the beginning of my long poem "King Arthur's Raid on Hell". It's based, by the way, on material from Medieval Welsh poetry and stories, and was written for a competition at the SCA's 2000 AD Estrella War - which I won.

King Arthur’s Raid on Hell

The King was sitting in his winter hall
and for some song or story he did call
to cheer the evening and make waiting sweet
until such time the company sat at meat.

Of all his bards the eldest then stood up
and said, “My Lord, by Jesus’ Sacred Cup,
there is a story that in Wales men tell
of how King Arthur led a raid on Hell

to free a prisoner and great treasure bring
back to his court.” — The King commanded, “Sing!”

“In Winter’s darkness, e’en as now we are,
my tale begins.  One night there shone a star –
a burning dragon in its form and flight –
whose awful radiance reddened all the night.

The Porter came, the watchmen from the walls,
and all who saw it, into Arthur’s halls
to bring the news, and cried, ‘My lord, come see
this fearful sight, and tell us if it be

the Day of Judgment, for afraid we are.’
Then all within came out to see the star
which burned above them.  Arthur gazed full long
upon it, then spoke to his courtly throng –

‘Who reads this riddle, let him prove his worth!’ —
And Taliesin Chief of Bards stood forth.
‘My King, last night I dreamed a curious dream.
I stood beside a fortress, as it seemed,

and heard within a voice lamenting long
his heavy chains and most enduring wrong.
Then I awoke.  My lord, the only one
can read this riddle is Madrona’s son.

Mabon they called him – he’d no time to grow
into a longer name, as all men know,
for on the third night following his birth
he vanished –  none knows where on middle-earth

he is, or if he lives, or if he’s dead.
But he must read your riddle.’ — Arthur said,
‘Then who will find him?’ — Taliesin smiled
and said, ‘My Lord, I know of tame and wild

all that a man may know twixt earth and sky,
but there is one knows more of lore than I.’
Arthur then bade him, ‘Go, and bring me word
where Mabon lies, and when your tale I’ve heard

 I’ll forth and free him, I and all my men!’
And so the Bard his journey did begin.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Language studies...

 After playing with Duolingo for about a month in May (involving Russian, Latin, Modern Greek, and Welsh) I have moved on the the Cambridge University Classical Greek course. I bought the books and CDs a couple of years ago, but got diverted into other pursuits. The course involves 3 books - Reading, Grammar, and Independent study material, supplemented by listening to the CDs. I'm enjoying it. I'm also involved with Cymdeithas Madog's monthly Welsh chats and am looking forward to their virtual summer course next month. I haven't got much writing done lately, however - sigh.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

And coming soon...


Publication date: Sept. 1st: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1145123.

It includes 3 Mac Criomthann tales from The Fallen Stones plus two new ones:

  • How Mac Criomthann First Came to Ériu
  • Mac Criomthann and Airecal
  • Mac Criomthann and the Need for Light
  • Mac Criomthann and the Words that Kill
  • Mac Criomthann and the Men who Disappeared
Check it out now!


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

New poetry collection

 My new collection is now available in ebook (mobi & epub) and pdf formats at Smashwords.com: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1144836. You set the price :)

This is a combination of my two earliest collections - King Arthur's Raid on Hell and Pryderi's Pigs.

I'm currently working on the fifth Storyteller book (The Old Gods Endure) and a new collection of Mac Criomthann short stories (More Mac Criomthann Tales). The latter should  probably be on Smashwords on September 1st.