Tales of the Gewissae (part 1)

The so-called Dark Ages fascinate me.
My major work is a series of partly fictional narratives interspersed with ballads and sonnets about the people of this land (the South West of England) from the end of the Roman Empire in Britain to the year 1065.  I love narrative verse.

The people who emerged as dominant, in what became known as Wessex, were originally called the Gewissae. They claimed descent from a legendary figure named Gewis. Their first recorded king, Cerdic (possibly a short form of the Welsh name Caradoc) was crowned in Winchester in the year 519.

My first narrative covers the mythical characters of their past. The second starts with Cerdic, King of the Gewissae.

As an aside the English royal family and all but three English Monarchs claim descent from the royal line of Cerdic. These were once known as the Cerdicingas.

The story starts after a defeat and their struggle just to survive as they sought aid from their Goddess.

Cerdic and the Soothsayer

Deep in the wood beneath a sacred ash
Lit by the moonlight of a waxing moon,,
As from the east there came a lightning flash
Thor’s booming thunder followed there and soon
There came a roaring squall a raging gale.
The soothsayer and the earl would face this night.
The mystic clad in furs the earl in mail,
When visions came then one of them felt fright.
Cerdic could face an army charging down
On horse, though he’d stand firm and mostly win the day.
This man of war and courage and renown
Stood terrified of gods and of the fey.
Yeoster the goddess of his kin was near;
‘Twas Cerdic not the sayer who felt fear!

Aelfwine feared not this goddess whom he knew,
But Cerdic faced what to him was unknown.
His faith in all the gods was firm and true,
Without their help he could not gain a throne.
That hill near Bath had seen a great defeat ,
Their army riven through they’d lost the day.
Though he could kill a foe in battle’s heat
When ransom’s paid then men increase their pay.
But Dux Bellorum’s men killed all they caught,
Their throats cut like a sacrificial beast.
For those who got away life had been fraught.
In time though all that harassing decreased.
So, this night in the woods by Frillford Heath
He stood here with this strange slime on his teeth.

Fly agaric may open doors ajar
And new perceptions may be seen
And opened minds may wander wide, afar,
And then may know what mysteries may mean
In time the door will firmly swing back shut
And then the body writhe in pain
Convulsing through the limbs, the chest, the gut
True visions may well help but cause such strain

He’d chewed that stuff that Aelfwine gave to him
Mid ruins of some temples to the gods .
It made him retch; its cloying taste was grim,
He did this now to even up the odds.
Without divine support their cause was done .
But none of his folk cared to be a slave
And Britons would enslave them when they won.
Now all of them would sooner face the grave
Than be the trophy of some oafish chief.
But Britons now engaged in fratricide;
Now was the time and Britons would know grief.
In time he hoped they could be forced aside,
So, here this night within this holy glade
He prayed the Goddess come now to his aid!

The gods sometimes they may toy with a man.
Whole nations may be used and thrown aside.
But there’s much to be done in one short span
And Faith told him his Goddess was his guide.
Then Aelfwine started some strange mythic hymn
But Cerdic did not know what these words meant.,
His vision blurred and all about seemed dim
The strength within his limbs now all was spent.
The ground there seemed to roll like waves at sea,
That rhythmic chant now echoed through his head.
He seemed to leave his body and float free.
The Goddess must be here, he was not dead,
As Aelfwine’s voice then dwindled to a hush,
Then phantoms swarmed about him in a rush.

Aelfwine’s Hymn to Yeoster

“Oh, Yeoster goddess of the earth
Eternal you must be.
Goddess of Death and all Rebirth
All seasons are in thee.

The spring, the summer and the fall
Winter with icy breath,
They are all at your beck and call
For you are life and death.

Dead things they go back to the earth,
So life may thrive and grow.
You bring all sadness and all mirth
On Midgard here below.

The fall, the winter and the spring
The summer, warm as well,
Are all the seasons that you bring
In this land where we dwell.

In cycles of the moon you showed
The holy females worth.
With them alone there is bestowed
The joy and pain of birth.

All things that grow from out the earth
They must all come from you
And all you give is of great worth,
Beneath the sky so blue.

All men who come from out the womb
They too have come from you.
Tween birth pangs and the dismal tomb
We give to you all due.

Goddess of life bring love and joy
Pray let us all live long.
Oh, let your gifts your folk enjoy,
Let none here do you wrong.

Oh, Yeoster goddess of the earth
Eternal you must be.
Goddess of Death and all Rebirth
Pray Goddess come to me”

And then it was the sky and moon were gone
And both of them were in a lofty hall
And he could see his Goddess and she shone;
Her sensual form smelled sweet and she was tall.
In turns she then seemed girl child, wife and crone;
All phases of the life of womankind.
He wondered in what ways he could atone
For having had such limits to his mind.
When Yeoster spoke to Aelfwine then at last
He knew that here it’s he that must be mute.
He listened as she spoke of things long past
Yet Aelfwine here would be calm and astute
And Aelfwine asked of Yeoster that they see;
Not just things past but what was yet to be…

A mist it swirled around about them there
As Yeoster took the two men by the hand.
It was as though at once they were elsewhere
There to the south on Cerdic’s own sweet land.
His son stood there beside an open grave
His weapons and his shield lay on the ground.
Some old man spoke some words, said “…he was brave”,
And all about there was a wailing sound.
That mist it swirled about them there once more.
He saw his son’s shield burning on a pyre,
A man somewhat like him stood to the fore
Intoning prayers before that funeral fire.
“Your third king is the one who’ll win this fight
And bring an end to Britons and their spite”

“You tried hard to fit in and to belong
Your only use here was to fight and die.
These Britons though they know not right from wrong
They offered you good pay – that was a lie.
There’s no way that they’ll let you integrate,
It seems they feel they are more gods than men
And you were used as tools for their proud state,
And now you’re stuck here in their demon’s den.
Your homeland is long lost beneath the sea,
The gods of water drove you to this land
And Fate has blown you here like some ash key
Windblown it has no need to understand.
Like ash that puts down roots in this damp earth
This land will be your folks – they are of worth”

“For now, your task here is to stay alive
Until your foe completes their fratricide.
There is no shame in those who just survive,
There’s folly in a fight that’s suicide!
Behold a Grandson stands at your son’s pyre,
Some ten miles from Mount Badon he will win,
And kill three kings and put three towns to fire
And cleanse this foe of all their foulest sin.
Enlarging then a realm ruled by your line,
Three hundred years will pass ‘til ravens feed
As hungry serpents gorge and then entwine
And hybrid forms across this land will breed.
Now you may see no more of what’ to come
The dawn will kiss the east – this night is done!”

Confused awhile he felt as though quite lost,
As hoar frost formed upon the morning ground
And yet a crocus flowered here in the frost.
So now it seemed those answers he had found.
A giddy swirling sense possessed them now
As each sank back into their worldly flesh.
It seemed the goddess was this mist, somehow
The air about was cold and damp but fresh
And bore the faintest hint of Yeoster’s scent.
He knew now that she was here everywhere.
He knew too that his foe would soon relent
And also that he must now tread with care;
Impetuous men find circumspection hard,
When Death’s about all must be on their guard!

The storm was gone this mist hung limp about,
Two men lay still in vomit on the ground.
Quite close they heard some foreign horsemen shout;
Both prayed to Yeoster that they be not found.
While mist is soft and all know it must yield,
It filled that woodland and the morning air
And so, two heathen men now lay concealed
From Britons who would calmly kill them there.
Both lay there then quite still throughout that day.
That night the moon was full and shone on high,
Two canny men then softly slipped away
Beneath a starry, lovely springtime sky.
The Dragon may well be a ravening beast
But Cerdic’s folk survived and then increased!

From: Cerdic and the Soothsayer

Notes.

The defeat near Bath was the battle of Mons Badonicus.

The fungus, Fly Ageric is common locally and a hallucinogen.

I situate this in Woods near Frilford Heath the site of ruined Roman Temples and the place of my birth.

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Hooded man in the wood

We have many myths.  Some are based on real characters or events, some not.
Sadly we cannot tell which are and which are not.  In a way this does not matter.  We all ought to enjoy some stories.

 

Hooded man in the wood

The path meandered through the wood.
A walker walked that way.
He wore a heavy woven hood,
This was a brand-new day.

It seemed strange as he walked along
There through the silent trees.
This day he could not hear bird song
So, he was ill at ease.

The sun rose silent in the sky,
The wood seemed denser yet.
He dropped his purse but let it lie;
He had no cares nor debt.

There may be care most everywhere
He felt no care nor fear
Some things you do you may not share
Soon he would lie dead here

He’d fought his last fight late last night,
Alone he’d walked away.
His wound at first had seemed quite light;
It seemed not so this day.

Alone he had struck out for home,
In pain he’d wandered on.
Then he let out a muffled moan,
Right there his strength seemed gone.

I found him dead beneath a yew,
Cobwebs upon his face.
He’d done what others dared not do:
They live on in disgrace!

I dug his grave deep in the wood
But took his hood to keep.
I think he thought he had done good.
How so, when many weep?

© T Morgan, 21 October 2017

Cultural Clashes

We are told to “celebrate diversity”!  What nonsense that is.
We are told we live in a multicultural society.  Again that is nonsense. Multiculturalism can, at most be, a passing phase as cultures blend or clash as the case may happen.
Kipling wrote that: “East is east and west is west and n’ere the twain shall meet”.  That is not strictly true some east and west cultures can blend over time, some cannot.

 

Deformed not natural

Some cultures grow that are quite ill at ease
And cannot face the facts where they cause woe.
Where they can they will do just as they please,
They’re greater risk to allies than to foe.
Up front’s a friendly face as false as lies.
Insides a twisted soul that frights itself.
Complaining all the time aloud each cries.
While seeking all the time for some new pelf,
Old long past wrongs they use to justify
An ally whom they poison for his purse.
At other’s grief they’re never known to sigh
But just moan that they have themselves fared worse.
These folk deformed and twisted up with hate
Could cast a shadow dark upon our fate!

 

Cultural Clashes

Where cultures clash then only one may win.
For multiples of cultures lead to strife
And all but one are labelled as true sin
And worthy of the need for taking life.
The rational where feuders rationalise
Is that their cause is just and true and right.
Those not quite of their ilk they may despise
And treat them to the dark side and to spite.
And when at last one cause may seem supreme,
Hegemony obtains its stable rule.
But strength may fall and fade just like some dream,
All through the misrule of a single fool.
As strength returns to those who were once weak,
To those who were once strong all now turns bleak.

 

From: “Freothogar’s Tale”, 2012

 

The dream in Priddy Ring

Railway waiting rooms remind me of this first poem.  Waiting can be a chore.  I tend to nod off into a sort of half sleep and dream though part of me is awake.  I guess this is my alternative to boredom!
I imagined this dream of a soldier asleep in Priddy Ring during the retreat from Chippenham in the winter of 878AD.  I wrote it down on a train journey home.

 

The lone soldier at Priddy Ring

The circle of stones on the moor
Dripped wet with the drizzling rain.
It seemed like he’d been here before
In ways that he could not explain.

The tingle he felt on his head
As his heart now, it started to race.
Aware here of souls of the dead,
His blood now was drained from his face

The Dead seemed about everywhere.
The future seemed almost to speak.
The cold clammy feel of the air,
Made him feel as though he was weak.

He stopped and he knelt on the ground,
Embracing some soul who seemed wan.
He uttered an eerie low sound,
And all in a trice he was gone.

Gone out from that dreary wet day,
No longer alone in the rain,
The clear sky was blue and not grey.
All sorrow was gone from his brain.

The long dead they danced in the ring,
Though few seemed to see him stood there.
The stones in the henge seemed to sing,
Sweet perfumes now scented the air.

There seemed a strange joy in his mind,
The lives of these souls had been good.
Nowhere in this world would he find
Such joys as here where he stood.

That soul he embraced spoke to him,
She’d lived in an age long ago.
She told him his lot might be grim,
Because of the ravening foe.

“In your time you’ll be welcome back here
When your soul has gone unto Grace,
But for now you’ve no need to fear,
Be touched by the joy of this place”

The sun in the sky seemed to turn,
Reversing its course in the sky!
To her time they seemed to return,
Surrounded by green fields of rye.

She showed him that henge in the past,
She showed him the view from up there,
She showed him expanses so vast,
Her knowledge was his now to share.

He learned all the lay of the land,
He knew of each path and each stream…
He awoke with his face on his hand;
Had her soul just been a strange dream?

The circle of stones on the moor
Were dry and there was now no rain.
They weren’t like they had been before
And his soul was now cleansed of pain.

This one man returned to his king,
To face the grim battle ahead
And soon with those souls he would sing,
For quite soon he too would be dead.

Then he danced up there on the moor
With the souls of the happy, not wan,
He’s melded with those passed before
Stones glint neath the sun as it shone.

 

The Ghostly Reel

The ghost and man
They danced about,
They danced a raunchy reel.
So who can say what’s in God’s plan,
Or know what God might feel.

The man and ghost
With Heavenly host,
They danced that day away.
For providence that is divine
Was there upon display.

The dance slowed down
All things must end,
Day ends with soft twilight.
Sleep caught the man he seemed to frown.
Then slept right through that night.

The sun arose
The dream was lost
Night ends with break of day
The brand new day would soon disclose
How strange may be God’s way

From the “Tale of the glistening lights”

The Day King Edgar came to Bath

I like the four line ballad form. It is useful for narratives.  I have many narratives to finish in the time that I have left.

Edgar at Bath (Whit Sunday A.D.973)

Besides the west door in a crowd
Frigar watched Edgar pass,
The sky was blue save one small cloud
As priests there call the mass.

That cloud it seemed to hover there
Like one small shade of doubt,
With happy faces everywhere
What could this be about?

The boy stood and gazed at the sky
Beneath that cloud so grey.
His heart heaved and he gave a sigh,
Then wept and walked away.

He wandered out across the town,
Went out the River gate.
Beneath an alder tree swooned down
Mid visions brought from Fate.

It seemed an ancient Dame was there,
Or was she but a maid?
There seemed all havoc everywhere,
Then silence in a glade.

And in that glade a woman stood
Her face a radiant glow.
“You’ll witness hate and great falsehood,
And you will be laid low.

Amongst the dead you’ll find new life,
You’d fight a soldier’s fight.
You’d never win through arms and strife;
At end you’ll conquer spite.

You’ll seek out joy through times all sad,
You’ll help a broken man.
You’ll comfort both the wan and sad,
You’ll do the best you can.

You are a part of my moist land,
You are my joyful boy.
The dark cloud showed you what’s at hand
Mid those crowds full of joy.

For you alone gazed at the sky
And saw that cloud all grey,
And you alone had pondered why,
Wept on this joyous day.

In sad days you will see the spite
That makes so many weep,
And you’ll see Wrong defeat the Right.
Watch wolves tear through the sheep.

You’ll help a mutilated man
Though his life may prove hard.
You’ll help the way a true friend can
Help him tell of Midgard”.

She held his hand that puzzled child,
She walked him through that glade,
She showed him things so strange and wild,
Then slowly seemed to fade…

What’s real and what’s a dream?
His brain it spun about
Is ought as it may seem?
The boy let out a shout…

“Dear Lady, Lady, tell me more,
Please do not fade away!
Pray do not leave me drenched with doubt,
Do tell me more I pray.”

Her voice remained though she had gone,
She said, “I’ll tell you true
And when you’re glad and when you’re wan,
Do know that I’m with you.

Spirits stood by when you were born,
It seems I am your one.
I’ll see that you’ll not stay forlorn,
When dark foul deeds are done.

Your heart it is a songster’s heart,
I’ll help you with each song
But now my sweet I will depart
You must my boy be strong”…

What’s a dream and what is real?
Now he seemed more sure.
A Spirit’s presence few may feel;
That holds this sweet allure…

He felt some rain upon his face
Beneath that alder bough.
It seemed he’d slept here in this place
Yet seemed not sleepy now.

There was a strange scent on the air,
A scent like womankind.
It seemed about him everywhere,
Was it just in his mind?

That rain dropped from a light blue sky,
That one small cloud was gone.
He fought against the urge to cry,
But his soul had turned wan.

In Bath that day the folk were glad,
The English had one king.
None saw that one boy oh, so sad,
The poor bedraggled thing.

For these strange visions left him weak
And sick throughout the day.
He sat about all sad, all bleak,
Yet watched the gleemen play.

They acted out some simple tale
As laughter echoed out.
Unseen a child stood drab and pale,
His soul was filled with doubt.

Then on the morrow they returned,
Back down the old Fosse Way.
He told his father what he’d learned
In Bath just yesterday.

He told his father of his dream,
And they spoke much of it.
But neither knew what Norns may scheme,
Nor knew what had been writ.

His father told him of Modron,
The day that he was born.
That this Midgard would soon be gone,
With futures so forlorn.

Though one would live to great old age,
The other was soon dead,
To leave a boy to grieve and rage;
That grief led on to dread.

Their household then was brought quite low,
His mother she grew ill.
Once happy homes may sink with woe,
As warmth may turn to chill.

That road through grief would twist and turn,
To travel there takes strength.
Through sorrows then the young may learn,
And gain through them at length.

From “Tale of Frigar”
© T Morgan 2007

 Aneirin and the Bards

I sat and wrote this in a car during a football match in a park in Worthing.  I just do not know where it came from as it just came out as fast as I can write and has needed no amendment.  Some verse arrive unannounced like that!

I guess I just like Aneirin’s poem “The Gododdin”.

 Aneirin and the Bards

Aneirin wrote an elegy
To each of his dead friends
At Catraeth through their strategy
His people’s history ends

When all of the Gododdin fell
Their names would not be lost
Aneirin in his verses tell
Of his people’s holocaust

The Angle host behind each shield
Had withstood their attack
That firm shield wall that did not yield
Each stag fell to the pack

There Ida’s line from Bamburgh Head
Established dominance
From Catraeth where the soil’s soaked red
Those Angles would advance

The lonesome bard was left to write
Gododdin’s elegy
The soul survivor of that fight
A dismal destiny

So sadly then this bard would roam
Lamenting his dead friends
And how his Briton’s home was lost
The story never ends

The Briton’s blood, the Briton’s soil
Had been merged into one
Their children would be left to toil
As slaves to those who won

But are those Angles known by name
Those men who won that fight
Without a Bard to sing their name
They have been lost from sight

The Angles had some power then
To dominate this land
Yet Bard’s words are remembered when
Old Glories turn to sand

Each elegy Aneirin wrote
Describes a long dead man
He does not rant, he does not gloat
Of chaff before a fan

For each one seems a close dear friend
And fit for sad lament
And now their fame may have no end
Bard’s words do not relent

The Poet and the Bard are here
To keep the dead alive
Defeated peoples find some cheer
Where their great deeds survive

A conquest by a stronger foe
Whose names are lost in time
Will let the future’s children know
All conquests are a crime

For Peoples and their lands are one
United, blood and place
Despite all of the wrongs been done
Defeats and past disgrace

Gododdin are still in this land
As stubbornness still shows
They’ve mingled through time’s flowing sand
As onward their line goes

At Catraeth British warriors died
The Bard has told their tale
Though widows and their orphans cried
Their blood line did not fail

The patterns in their genes are strong
Still here within this land
Despite who’s right, despite who’s wrong
There are new Bards at hand

Aneirin wrote of real things
All Bards should do the same
When of the past the singer sings
Old heroes live again

 

© Trevor Morgan 11 October 2003

Berserk mind set

It is in our history that we had death cults that encouraged our young to die in battle so they could serve divine power.  Our Norse and northern European ancestors generally had these cults long in the past.  The cult of the berserkers we do know about as their enemies wrote about them!

This is an extract from tales about the Battle of Edington in the Spring of 878.

The Mortal Wound at Edington

The Berserks dance then they advance
They knew that they would win
But where so much is down to chance
This pride would prove a sin

His foot stood on that foeman’s shield
The boy was down and done
Was confident that all would yield
But that downed boy had won

Beneath great feet you should be beat
When you are trodden on
But Fate can be a fickle cheat
Too soon you’re dead and gone

Through brave advance to sad mischance
All learning turned to dust
For then by some sad circumstance
Was felled by one sword thrust

The fire of pain raged through his brain
He knew that he was done
As down his legs there spread that stain
Yes, this felled foe had won!

After Edington

In confidence some naïve men
May not give foes their due
And all that follows on from then
Results from what they do…

A great Ash tree fell to the ground
That crash resounded so
With Valkyries there all around
They saw the fatal blow

The radiating agony
Those Valkyries then felt
A Bard who sang his elegy
Could make all cold hearts melt

So confident so young and bold
That breaker of great shields
So loved by gods he’d not grow old
One sword thrust and he yields

Flow the other way

The currents flowed so long
And they have flowed one way
The weak had now grown strong
Now they would have their way

Some confidence had gone
The bold now felt some doubt
The wrathful were now wan
Events had turned about

The long years of success are past
And much has turned awry
They knew the good times could not last
And each vain hope must die

A single sword thrust can change things
And alter great events
Lead to the rise and fall of kings
And to such sad laments

The sword between the legs
The manhood torn apart
Dragged down to the dregs
The dying process starts

The dying

That filthy wound gave monstrous pain
It held him on the ground
It oozed a great big spreading stain
Brave Haldane made no sound

He’d felled a foe who’d cut him down
Whilst there beneath his feet
That Gewissae showed such great renown
His counter thrust so neat

There’s irony here in his death
Where he died in this war
It stayed with him past his last breath
Perhaps forever more

The Wolf had taken Tyr’s right hand
Left their war god bereft
Yet he fought well on sea and land
And killed foes with his left

A Gewissae “Tyr” had cut him down
Left hand had thrust that blade
Despite the pain he lost his frown
His hero’s dues were paid

To die as if by Try’s own hand
A portent there maybe
All must be as the Norns had planned
This was his destiny

And now that Gewissae lay by him
Companions in Death
His spirit soared he was not grim
He yearned for his last breath

That young Gewissae he seemed to dream
And muttered in his sleep
The Norns they wove each dreadful scheme
But men were not their sheep

The Gewissae mumbled Mary’s name
He wondered, “Who was she?”
He did not rage he did not blame
He waited to be free

He hoped the Valkyries might come
Choose him for Odhinn’s hall
Through that long night his legs went numb
But saw no sights at all

He’d trained so hard to fight this foe
Who’d swept Gudrum aside
There was so much he did not know
Yet now he felt great pride

He’d done what he’d been asked to do
He’d do it all again
The dawn’s sweet glimmer came in view
He lay there racked in pain

His pain he’d earned and death is sweet
When men die – sword in hand
The Valkyries he had to greet
Here on the foeman’s land

Haldane Blood Hammer drew his sword
And prayed to Mother Fri
“Please let the gods speak just one word
Before I fade and die”

His groin oozed filth upon the earth
Sad Fri she wept a tear
She knew all things do have their worth
She said, “My child, I’m here”

Haldane through pain sought to explain
Fri said, “Peace child, I know”
There on that plain he’d not complain
Inside he felt aglow

Haldane reached out his arm at last
His sword he held up high
“Odhinn I see my life ebbs fast
And I know how to die”

Haldane then died but none there cried
One Gewissae felt some loss
As sunrise cast a shadow wide
That sword seemed like the Cross

A Valkyrie embraced him there
And led him to her steed
‘Til Ragnarök he’d know no care
Nor lack a single need

For Odhinn needed those like him
Brave souls who knew no fear
To face a future stark and Grim
As Odhinn’s death drew near

From: “Tale of a Half Dane” 2005

Wars and change

After the retreat of the Romans from our lands we enter into a period somewhat misnamed as the “Dark Ages”.  This comes from there being only a limited number of written records of the time.  We do have archaeology and now more recently DNA evidence.  The Dna map recently published (by the Welcome Trust I think) shows that most of our population has changed little.  Yes rulers come and go but the ordinary folk remain at where they call home.  This work is a part of a much longer book I am writing about the origins of those people who called themselves the Gewissae and went on to build the Kingdom of Wessex and to unify the English into one nation.  There’s was a history of wars, invasions, and eventual success in adversity followed by decline and the Norman Conquest.

This poem is about the immediate aftermath of the departure of the Romans in 410AD to the arrival of Hengest and Horsa and their defeat of Vortigern in 455AD.

The Midwife at the birth of change

“This land so pregnant here with change
Once then faced the starkest strife;
The birth of change is not so strange,
Where wars act as midwife!

The Picts would rally and rage down,
The Irish too would raid;
Then plague would empty many a town
As trade and wealth decayed.

One tyrant felt he could hold sway
With troops he got for hire.
These men they gained much more than pay;
That tyrant felt their ire.

For once they’d put the Picts to flight
And drove the Scotti out;
The hirer, them, he felt their might,
That tyrant faced his rout.

Why risk your life to fight for pay
When you may gain much more.
The ways of old have had their day
These lands would now know war

New powers would be slow to rise
Like tides things ebb and flow
They fall from Grace who are not wise,
Proud hearts should know true woe.

The roots of trees may slowly spread
And topple any wall.
Ah, Pride, it has been often said
May cause the great to fall!

This land so pregnant here with change
Would now face such deadly strife;
The birth of change is not so strange,
Where wars acts as midwife!”

The Mariner and the Murmuration

I was on the Somerset Levels one early evening when I found myself amidst a myriad of starlings. Some flew so close I felt the draft from their wings. They then arose above me like a glorious host and filled the air, there must have been near to a million of them. I was transfixed. This was a very special gift to witness such an event. I saw a lone hen harrier stoop through the Murmuration and despite her efforts she failed to catch a single starling.  Her chicks went hungry that evening

Sonnet

The Murmuration of Starlings

“That streaming flight of birds went streaking by
It seemed as though they might block out the sun
A million starlings swarmed across the sky
The harrier there she stooped but she caught none
That flow of birds had parted round her flight
At sunset though the flock had settled near
They seemed to fill all trees within our sight
The twilight sky seemed calm and all was clear
The evening star grew bright until moonrise
Shone silvery light across the low wet land
Then myriad stars they seemed to fill the skies
There’s more to this than we may understand
Maybe there’s mystery in all we see
Yet none of us may know what is to be

Watching the Murmuration

The flock it seems to flow not fly
Like eddies in a brook
Above me there they filled the sky
And all here stopped to look

That flow of birds would twirl and roll
And reel around the sky
The sight of them they warmed his soul
As their flight rolled on by

A Mariner watched a harrier dive
And saw her pass straight through
I saw the starlings all survive
It was a wondrous view

The harrier passed right through the flock
Though it sought flesh to rend
Those myriad birds they seemed to mock
And seemed to part then blend

Coordination seemed the key
Each bird knew what to do
Was there in this some mystery
In how all these birds flew?

The harrier sought but it took nought
Each stoop here gained no prey
It rushed straight in the way some fought
This would not be her day

It seems attack is not the way
Where foes elude attack
We ought think of a better way
That we might now come back…

I watch each sunset full of Grace
Gaze at the evening star
I see the Moon’s big silvery face
And hear a lone night jar

Extract from a tale about Norse invaders

I have written a lot of tales in verse about our history between the years 410 and 1065, the so called “Anglo-Saxon” period.

This is a sample:

From the tale of the half Dane child

 

Ingvar’s Prayer to Odhinn

“What has been done can’t be undone
The dead are with Dark Lady Hel
There are great wars that must be won
Odhinn you’ve shown me this full well!

Guide me in all the fights ahead
Guide every arrow from my bow
Help me to leave these Christians dead
Help me destroy this loathsome foe

Show me good Odhinn all the ways
That we may fight these wicked swine
I promise you through all my days
I’ll sacrifice them as a sign

They have their symbols and their creeds
For everywhere they bring their cross
May I now show them by my deeds
That theirs will be the greater loss

If their lands should fall to your might
I swear that I’ll Blood-Eagle kings
I pray you will enjoy that sight
That special joy that vengeance brings”

He “cut an eagle on the back”
Of Edmund now a Saint
Nowhere was safe from his attack
Vengeance knows no restraint

He waged his wars across the land
With guile and with speed
His every battle was well planned
He made the Christians bleed

The Norn accepted Odhinn’s deed
Was passive for a while
But she would sow another seed
For she had much more guile

Now Ingvar was a mortal man
His time came and he died
All men may only live their span
At his death no one cried!

 

The wrongs of righteousness

As men go out to right each wrong
Then new wrongs they will do
The weak may well become the strong
But vengeance can’t be true

The righteousness of those wronged men
Will simmer deep inside
And will do much injustice when
It gets puffed up with pride

To justify each brand new wrong
Old wrongs are pointed to
Then vengeance will career along
And has so much to do

Some hungers cannot be fulfilled
Past wrongs can’t be put right
It matters not how each gets killed
In each new pointless fight

Before men seek to right a wrong
They may wish to refrain
New enemies may soon grow strong
And cycles they repeat again