"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.
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.