(The metamorphoses of the young Prince Arthur, then under the tutelage of the Wizard Merlin…)
Flick of fin and gulp of throat
What fun to swim down in the moat!
Flick of muscle, shiny scale
Who’d believe a student’s tale
If he said he’d transmogrify
Into a small fish by-and-by?
If wizard-taught, then well may he
One day perforce a fish may be!
But when facing the predatory pike
Who at the moat’s dank bottom there holds sway
With awful power: teeth that snap and strike
The weak, the lame, and too the unwary
The boy-turned-tench his vital lesson learned
What power can do – and too what it cannot.
A kingly lesson: though with danger earned.
How needful for a king of Camelot!
Up to the bank, spurning cold waters deep –
Where predatory jaws there never sleep –
To reassume his own form back on land
His human shape assuming on demand.
Feathers rustle, chirping squawk.
Upon his perch – the pigeon hawk.
Face the windows, searching why
He’s not allowed into the sky?
Hawking, diving, killing game –
Waiting here is not the same
As drinking blood from a new-kill
Or soaring through the air with skill
To then return to claim reward.
Hawking is an aerial sword!
When the merlins line the mews
For resting, each their perch they choose
And speak in voices low but clear –
For they the softest sounds can hear.
While speaking of what they enjoy:
In-listens close the hawk-once-boy.
The pigeon-hawk? Who is this guest?
To stay here – he must past the test!
The guest accepts the test with gladness
Till confronted with the madness
Of a damaged hunting bird
Confront your fears! Without a word
Face down the eyes deranged and crazed:
The courage of his heart displays.
Lunge and tear – dodge-down, escape
Then reassume the human shape.
Dodge and weave! To live – be swift!
This lesson is his teacher’s gift.
Live ants in armies march and drill
Deep-delving into their ant-hill
To labour, build defensive screen
To do – or die – all for their queen!
Their deeds for royalty all ants do give.
To die is good. To serve is but to live.
All for their monarch. Every day their thought
Is: how best raise the honour of her court?
The soldier-ants – their strength doth guard the weak.
The workers – work. To serve the hive all seek.
The boy-turned-ant works daily as their slave
Seeing the workers work, until the grave
Receives her own again, their bodies all
Are recycled as finally they fall.
The workers, worn: their carcasses imbued
With value still: recycled to be food
To feed the hatching larva. Cycles life
From birth to grave: with toil, and sometimes strife.
This enervating law the boy descries
While working, seeing this with his own eyes.
Release from ant-bound slavery is sought
The boy then reappears, consumed in thought.
Look and listen. Launch and flit.
Soar in shadow – small owlet!
Hearing sharper than them all –
Listen! Hear the creatures call
And stumble, running through the dark.
Claws clinging to crumbling bark.
Night-eyes see deeply into shade.
Launch! Soar! Swoop! The killing’s made
Dinner for an owl: one meal.
Now up on silent pinions steal:
Up, away, by bole, by tree
Hunting, flying silently.
The boy-turned-owl moves silently. By night
None other soars as quietly in flight
As does the owl. Select, for each task then
Who is most suited: whether beast or men.
Kill what and when you must: and never more.
The owl the young man’s shape does then restore.
Geese take wing! Now soaring! Fly!
Rise into the endless sky!
Boundaries are but of earth:
Skies unbounded! The world’s girth
Encompassed by the paths we fly
The very clouds go tumbling by!
The boy-turned-goose his wings moves aerially
And gazes on the world ethereally
Cutting across the liquid paths of air
Seeing the big picture. Perspective there
Is real. How can land-squabbles matter?
The earth is wide! Like so much geese-mad chatter
Is politicking over such rich soil
Which men consume, as angry wars embroil
Each kingdom against kingdom. Sordid gain
Kindles a king to envy once again!
To be a king: perspective must be true!
And the big picture must be kept in view!
A shimmer – and the magic change is wrought.
The young man re-emerges, wrapped in thought.
Dig and delve! Dig deep the earth
Explore the country of your birth
From underside, where the sun’s rays
Are hid in endless night. The days
Pass by unnoticed underneath
The earth. Each burrow is a sheath
Concealing life that it protects.
To live here, one at last expects
An inner peace to settle in
And fill one’s mind. Deep reflection
In solitary night well pays
The loss of a few sunny days.
The boy-cum-badger looks around the hall
And contemplates the meaning of it all.
Each animal is given its own tools –
As: teeth, claws, fur, strong limbs. The God who rules
Gave each one what they needed. Such His plan.
So what did good God give when he made man?
Humanity. What is it? Just a brain?
No – more. A soul? Indeed. But to be plain:
A man is more than animated sod.
A man is meant to image forth his God!
To rule. To reign. To worship. And to think!
A whirl of magic-thunder. In the blink
Of time, an ex-badger and young man stands.
His claws no more – he feels again two hands!
Each beast therefore its own wisdom may bring
To teach the lad Merlin trained to be king!