Death of the Dux Bellorum – Not Mort D’Arthur

There is so much nonsense written about King Arthur.
He did not exist in the way he has been written about. The only near contemporary reference to the name is in Aneirin’s elegies “Yr Gododdin”
written in Brythonic. In one verse he says of a warrior that he was great “but he was not Arthur” and that is all there is.
The struggles of the period led to the early kingdoms of the English and the Welsh.
Tennyson wrote a lot about these myths in Blank verse. So I thought I would give it a try.

dux-bellorum

Death of the Dux Bellorum at Camlann A.D. 537

“A weary man sat propped against a stone
A massive stone beside a plundered church
A plundered church within a sundered land
Where leaders feud as foreign foes advance
The weary man who dying from his wound
He held his painful side whence seeped his blood.
This Dux Bellorum of a dying land
Had failed his land and lost the last of Hope
With foreigners awaiting his demise
Whose numbers grew, as did their firm resolve
And his life now was wasted in the fight
The futile fight between opposing clans
Of Britons who saw Saxons closing in
Together with the Jutes and Frisians too
And Angles who attacked on land and sea.
The futile fight now hastened on their end
He gazed up at the sky and fading light
This was the twilight of his people’s power
The mutiny of those who served them once
Had driven them far back to west and north
But he had rallied men who seemed well beat
Had rallied them and shown them ways to fight
The crows he’d fed with Jute and Saxon flesh
And Ravens and the Wolves had waxed replete
And now those crows here circled overhead
So now it was his turn to be their food
The fox and badger might well pick his bones.
And through the fading light here loomed a man
A man who had somehow survived this rout
“Who is that who remains alive still now?
How many are the men who yet may live?”
“I’m Bedevere one of your loyal men,
Now there may be a score of us who live
A motley lot not fit now for the fight
They’ve all been brave and fought long in your wars
But all would now go home and face their lot
Their fighting’s done and finished in this feud
They will be overwhelmed now by the foe
And they must choose a servile life – or death!
But in death there’s an end to choice or chance.
As for myself I go now to my home
High in Dumnonia’s hills there to the west
To save all that I can within my land.
Your cause is lost. You wasted it in feud.
I’ll stay with you ‘til death has closed your eyes
And then my oath to you is at an end.
So tell me what was Mordred’s grievous fault
That we fought him instead of foreign foe?
And was he worth those broken shattered men
Who all lie dead amongst their scattered arms?
We all must live with folk we do not like
Not all of us see this as cause for war
Nor do we feud in doors in rage and heat
While cattle raiders plunder all our stock
Though you brought us success – all men know that!
At end you brought us here unto this waste
This waste of men who could have saved our land.”
The dying Dux Bellorum smiled at him
A wry and kindly smile that bore no rage
The time was past for rage and wrath and hate
He choked a little as he tried to speak
The pool of blood wherein he sat spread wide
Though all the world seemed misty now, more dark
And yet his mind was as it always was
Still agile in this bloody dying form
“You must not let the foreign foes gain arms
You say our arms are scattered here about
Go gather them, as they’re no use to us
No ghost nor wraith has ever yet born arms
But future foes who may yet come for you
Would find some use in what’s left here about.
Go toss them in a meare or murky pool
And take my sword and shield and toss them too
I would not have my arms left here harm you
A curse against our folk they soon would be.
Make sure the water’s deep that none might see
Before they rot to rust and are all gone
Take with you to Dumnonia what you would
Your hills may yet secure you from the foes
And you have life and so you yet have Hope
Be gone now let me die alone. I’ve failed.
Your life goes on and I must feed the crows”
And Bedevere and those few men with him
Did as the Dux Bellorum bid them to
They gathered up the arms from all the dead
They gathered them and tossed them in the Brue
And then they went their ways to hearth and home
Where grateful kin had welcomed their return
And in the winter nights they told their tales
Of how they followed that great man of war
Of how they held up an advancing foe
Each year the tales got longer than before
In time they were well woven into myth
The myths that got passed on to future times.
Their foes that rose to rule those lands of theirs
Took on their myths and glorified their deeds.
To glorify their war is folly now
Now that we know so little of those folk
Of how they lived and how their slaves had lived.
A few brave names have come down – legends all
But who’s to know what those folk may have thought?
They lived and that’s as much as we may know.
Whilst they are gone – The sands of time still flow.”

 

Trevor Morgan

Myths do not have to be true but it helps if they are ripping yarns.

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The Public Records Office at Kew

After a ship decommissions its documents are archived.
On the Albion in 1964, I remember tying up bundles of charts and binding with a red ribbon and pouring sealing wax over the knot. All was neat and sealed and dispatched. The Log Book and Letters in Passage were similarly parcelled up and dispatched.
Recently, I wanted to look at a particular set so contacted the Public Records Office at Kew. I was told they would not be made public for 100 years!
How strange, I wonder what might be in there?
 

 

The Public Records Office at Kew

After every action then
Reports were written up.
They told of what we had done when
We’d drunk from out that cup.

Reports prepared in triplicate
Was what we used to do.
We kept the first and duplicate;
The third must go to Kew

After thirty years or so
And for true history’s sake,
They are then put on public show;
Though some may be a fake!

Now can a State so that candid
And show off all its shame?
Who needs to know all that it did?
Lies keep it safe from blame!

© Trevor Morgan 2009

Note:

The Royal Navy is an old institution and good at record keeping. Documents can be lost when a ship is destroyed in action but even then there is an attempt to save the Log Book at a very minimum.
Only one Log Book has ever gone missing and that was the Log Book of HMS Conqueror, the submarine that sank the Argentine cruiser Belgrano during the Falklands War.
That seems to have been politically convenient.

Gosport Ferry Song

Before the First World War two young people met on a ferry.
One of them I knew, the other was to be his wife and the mother of his two children. He was in the Royal Navy and would go through battle and survive, she would be killed by the Flu epidemic just after the war ceased.
From “Jutland and After”.
That sad eyed old man I knew had been young and in love once upon a time.

 

 Gosport Ferry Song

“There’s bright sunshine on the harbour
Winter winds are blowing chill,
Cold hard frost reflects the sunlight
And I’m longing for you still.

Chorus

Our best dreams can be so empty
And our longings give no thrill.
Love is turned cold indifference
And I’m longing for you still.

There’s a thick fog on the harbour,
Mists are hanging grey and still.
Cold hard frost reflects the lamplight
And I’m longing for you still.

Chorus

There’s an oil slick on the harbour,
Slimy streaks clear waters kill.
Rainbow tint reflects the bright light
And I’m longing for you still.

Chorus

There’s cold moonlight on the harbour
I had wanted you until,
Cold hard fate extinguished love’s light;
Yet I’m longing for you still

Chorus

There’s ice floating on the harbour
Winter winds are blowing chill,
Cold hard frost reflects the warm light
And I’m longing for you still.

Chorus

Cold hard frost reflects the warm light
And I’m longing for you still.

I am longing for you still,

Longing, longing for you still.”

 

 

Rest in Peace Uncle Arthur

More Champers Davie Dear?

I will never be totally loyal to a political party.
Many feel our politicians in Parliament are of limited ability.
That may be the case. However politicians of the real pits operate at the level of what we call “local government”. They do not actually govern, they administer at a local level under centrally determined rules.
Some who have had no visible additional means of income seem to live quite lavish lives. I guess they must be frugal with the housekeeping…

At the time I wrote this I lived in a Labour Controlled area. I moved to a Liberal Democrat area that changed to Tory control. These verses would fit all three parties in some areas at local area.
I do not doubt there are many well run local councils and this would not apply to any of them.

A Song for Some Municipal Politicians:-

More Champers Davie Dear?
(tune: Blaydon Races)

Oh, Labour has its policies
‘bout which there is no doubt
They represent philosophies
That are turned inside out.

Chorus

Oh’ do please shut the door
We want no poor in here,
They really are a chore

– More champers Davie dear?-

Yes, where we were once reputed
As champions of the poor,
That’s now been refuted
An’ we’re rotten to the core.

Chorus

– More champers Cherrie dear? –

Our leader’s gone and bunked it
He’s no friend any more,
We hear he’s gone and flunked it
‘cos students must pay more.

Chorus

– More champers Harriot dear? –

To him betrayal’s not a sin
And learning must be bought
While it won’t cause his ruin
Seems like he stands for nought

Chorus

– More champers Flunkey dear? –

Well the poor are always with us
An’ they are such a chore.
We just can’t understand the fuss
For Poverty’s a bore!

Chorus

– More champers John my dear? –

Oh, Labour has its policies
‘bout which there is no doubt
They represent philosophies
That are turned inside out

Chorus

– More champers Tony dear? –

 

Optional verse:

There’s free booze for the elect few
Credit cards on the rates,
There’s nothing either fair or true
In Labour’s own estates.

Chorus
– More champers Councillor dear? –

© Trevor Morgan 1997

Note:
Any similarity to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

Widow’s Sea

I was recovering from an injury sat on the shore.
This was in Worthing. There was a strong scent of seaweed in the air.
Near by sat a women with two young children playing.
Here eyes were red, she had been crying.
I wrote this as I sat there:

Widow’s sea

The boat rolls gently on the wave,
A small bird’s flying by.
We know the sea’s a sailor’s grave
And like the breeze we sigh.

The seaweed’s washed up on the beach
It’s scent is on the air.
Her sailor’s soul is out of reach,
Winds blow the widow’s hair.

A raven soars above the shore,
The tide is on the turn,
It flies above the sailor’s grave;
A widow’s left to yearn.

A tern dives in the gentle wave,
Then rises to the skies
And flies above the sailor’s grave;
A lonely widow cries.

Whitebait are caught there in a net,
The fisherman’s at sea.
There are to be more widows yet;
It’s what is going to be.

The widow’s weeping by the bay,
The orphans by her side.
Yet these sad times will pass away,
For goodness will abide.

The boat lulls on the gentle calm,
Soon no clouds in the sky.
In stillness is a gentle balm;
And widow’s tears will dry.

Trevor Morgan 1999

Sonnet – Folly of Regrets

The sonnet is a supreme poetic form.
I love the limitations and restrictions of the discipline required in writing a sonnet.
However, there may well be just so much pointless folly in this.

Folly of regrets

He gazed upon a shipwreck and he saw it was his life
With all the bits of Hope along the shore.
For Fate it seems it likes to twist the knife
A missed chance passed beyond him like before.
Ambition was in bits like flotsam now,
Each little piece like what just might have been
Turned his beach to a sort of mess somehow.
This was a thing he wished he had not seen.
To seek to do good work leads to a fall,
To strive with might and main a pointless thing.
To dream you might achieve a clarion call;
It’s life not death that bears the poison sting.
The earth it spiralled on about the sun,
This dying microbe grieved for things not done.

© Trevor Morgan 2014

From: “Tales of the children of Gewis”

“All political careers not matter how illustrious ultimately end in disappointment.”
Enoch Powell

Drowned Sailor

HMS Goodall was torpedoed on 29th April 1945.
Hitler was already dead and the war was lost by the Third Reich.
Goodall was sunk in the confined waters of the Kola Inlet in Russia.
She was the last Royal Navy ship lost in the war with Germany.
I really hate the submarine that did this. It was a pointless act of killing.

Drowned Sailor

Limp and lifeless drifting downward
Sinking slowly through the cold.
Washed so slowly there to landward,
He would never now grow old.

Though no more he would face fear
Back at home old folk will weep.
Blue clothes cling about him here,
Though all’s blackness in the deep.

Bubbles rising from this clothing
His warm blood is now all chill.
Drifting, sinking just a dead thing
Arctic cold was quick to kill.

Fate was sealed and death was grim
For U-boats were here about.
He’d called out as ships passed him;
Passing matelots heard him shout.

In the springtime on the shoreline
Stinking corpses marred the shore.
Arctic daytime, chilly sunshine,
Clearing up a ghastly chore.

Those the gods love they all die young.
Gods can love a ship’s whole crew.
The sailors’ hymn is often sung,
Death at sea is nothing new.

Spirits of these dear departed
Heard upon a gentle breeze,
Kin and kith are broken hearted;
Sea birds’ calls sound ill at ease.

Trevor Morgan 1999

From: “Arctic Elegies”

Talking to an old man he told me that when a submarine was detected it was immediately attacked. This would mean abandoning men in the water. He remembered one shouting “Taxi, taxi can’t anyone get a bloody taxi round here”.
That man was joking in the face of a certain and immanent death. Jack has a unique sense of humour.

The sea breeze

There’s something calming about a gentle sea breeze.

The Sea Breeze

I listen to the waves that lap
Along the Sussex coast.
They healed me after that mishap
That made those braggarts boast.

The calming breezes of the sea
So gentle on the soul,
It’s here my spirit is set free,
My broken heart made whole.

I listen to a sea bird’s cry
Such plaintive lonesome sounds,
Yet I no longer need to sigh;
The hare’s escaped those hounds.

© Trevor Morgan October 2003

The Last Witch

Churchill repealed the Witchcraft Act in 1951.
When he was returned to power in 1951 this was in his first legislative proposals. To replace the old act he introduced The Fraudulent Mediums Act.

The last trial for witchcraft in England was held at the Old Bailey in 1944. Helen Duncan was convicted after she told relatives of sailors killed when HMS Barham was sunk that they were dead and the ship was sunk. At the time the sinking of the Barham was kept an official secret and it is not clear just how Helen Duncan could have known. Some still assert that she was genuine and dead sailors’ ghosts came to her and told her of the ship’s loss.

On hearing of the trial Churchill is supposed to have said to his Home Secretary “What tomfoolery is this”!

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The Southsea ‘Witch’

Speaking to women in her booth
Right there beside the shore,
Poor Helen Duncan spoke her truth;
The way she’d done before.

“Your James upon that battleship
Has died and gone to grace
I sense somehow, he lost his grip,
I see a stranger’s face.

He and your James were in the sea,
It seems their ship went down.
Dear God this surely cannot be
How can so many drown?

Why did you have to come today?
Why did I seek for you?
Oh, hear this what I have to say,
There’s nothing you can do!

Most of the Barham lads are gone,
Torpedoes sank the ship.
The visions that I gazed upon
Could make me lose my grip”

She asked the women then to leave,
She closed up for the day.
Those sights she saw then made her grieve;
Some scenes don’t go away.

Her Visions

This time those sights came from the blue,
She was not in control.
Confused she knew not what to do,
Hers was a troubled soul.

Each vivid sight each vivid smell
Tore right through her mind.
She saw those young men put through hell,
These visions were unkind.

She felt each shock she felt each pain
She felt dragged to the deep.
She felt she’d never breathe again,
She saw sad kin folk weep.

She saw herself stood in a dock,
She saw a prison yard.
Newspapers all would scoff and mock
And times they would be hard.

She thought to close down for a while,
To take a well-earned break.
Inside she’d lost the will to smile,
Her hands now seemed to shake.

Trevor Morgan 2001

Note:

My uncle Frank served on the Barham at the Battle of Matapan. He was transferred off of the ship days before her last voyage.

The Sinking was filmed by Barham’s own spotter plane that had been launched to search for submarines.
Click on link below:

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/hms-barham-1914-1941-aka-hms-barham-1914-41

Doubt

I do not think I am ever certain about anything.
I never was. I am certain of that!

Doubt

I should say without a doubt
Doubt should not be left without.
I should say I must be true
And say that I have doubt in you.

Doubt’s a gift of Charity
To save us when we are set free.
When those we love let us go;
Doubt can say “I told you so”!

Trevor Morgan 1967