Brat Farrar (bratfarrar) wrote,
Brat Farrar
bratfarrar

poem: the calling of arthur

This is where the title for the incomplete fic I just posted came from. It's from Charles Williams' Taliessen in Logres, and is my favorite of the cycle.

*

The Calling of Arthur

Arthur was young ; Merlin met him on the road.
Wolfish, the wizard stared, coming from the wild,
black with hair, bleak with hunger, defiled
from a bed in the dung of cattle, inhuman his eyes.

Bold stood Arthur ; the snow beat ; Merlin spoke :
Now am I Camelot ; now am I to be builded.
King Cradlemas sits by Thames ; a mask o'ergilded
covers his wrinkled face, all but one eye.

Cold and small he settles his rump in the cushions.
Through the emerald of Nero one short-sighted eye
peers at the pedlars of wealth that stand plausibly by.
The bleak mask is gilded with a maiden's motionless smile.

The high aged voice squeals with callous comfort.
He sits on the bank of Thames, a sea-snail's shell
fragile, fragilely carved, cast out by the swell
on the mud ; his spirit withers and dies.

He withers ; he peers at the tide ; he squeals.
He warms himself by the fire and eats his food
through a maiden's motionless mouth ; in his mood
he polishes his emerald, mistly with tears for the poor.

The waste of snow covers the waste of thorn ;
on the waste of hovels snow falls from a dreary sky ;
mallet and scythe are silent ; the children die.
King Cradlemas fears that the winter is hard for the poor.

Drawn now the tide, spring moon, swing now the depth ;
under the snow that falls over brink and prickle,
the people ebb ; draw up hammer and sickle.
The banner of Bors is abroad ; where is the king?

Bors is up ; his wife Elayne behind him
mends the farms, gets food from Gaul ; the south
is up with hammer and sickle, and holds Thames mouth.
Lancelot hastens, coming with wagons and ships.

The sea-snail lies by Thames ; O wave of Pendragon,
roll it, swallow it ; pull the mask o'ergilded
from the one-eyed face that blinks at the comfort builded
in London's ruins ; I am Camelot ; Arthur, raise me.

Arthur ran ; the people marched ; in the snow
King Cradlemas died in his litter ; a screaming few
fled ; Merlin came ; Camelot grew.
In Logres the king's friend landed, Lancelot of Gaul.

--Charles Williams
Tags: poetry
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