Legends of King Arthur – The Flight of Genevieve

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Estranged from friends, alone in mental drouth
His victories turned ashes in his mouth
Arthur in inner turmoil sits. A king
Of shadows. King in name. How anything
Can be made right? oppresses the king’s mind.
In whom can truth and faithfulness he find?
His wife is false. His ex best-friend likewise.
Arthur despairs of wisdom. How he tries
To cut the Gordian knots that bind his life!
He mourns his Genevieve, his faithless wife.
His anger burns a moment. To repay
On those whose vile deceit had found its way
To gnaw within the heart of his own realm
To spread their canker wide to overwhelm:
His rule, his life, his kingdom, and his throne.
What penalty this evil could atone?
How can such base deeds ever be undone?
To whom can the king trust – if anyone?

King Arthur sits. Disturb him none now dare.
Arthur for hours stares dully, unaware
Of ought but pain-wracked sorrow in his breast.
His path forward is dark, its end half-guessed.
His pain shuts out all thought except betrayal.
The Table Round intact – how could he fail?
Round Table broken – how could he succeed?
Now many knights would be condemned to bleed
To revenge injuries, to right his wrong.
Tomorrow he would rise and come forth strong:
A warrior to command what must be done.
But now, the king observes the setting sun
And moving not – keeps vigil through the night.
His attendants all keep far out of sight.
King Arthur’s thoughts – moody, angry and sad
Grieve for the past that’s lost. For what he had.
For what he thought was his in days bygone.
Soon comes the dawn. The king must carry on!
Alone, some tears slow-trickle while asleep.
King Arthur – as a man – lets himself weep.

Dawn has arrived. The king encased in steel
Demands his levies for the commonweal,
Commands his knights to summon men-at-arms,
Blares forth his trumpets. Sounds martial alarms.
The king, larger than life, readies to ride
His fate – and many others – to decide.
Majestic now he rides, royal and strong.
For vengeance. For redress. For Right or Wrong.

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Legends of King Arthur – Rebellion! Duo

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Ho! Sing a sword song!
The Lords’ rebellion waxes strong!
The Saxons march! The Saxons burn!
Can the king these rebels turn
With sword and lance and gauntlet-steel?
Let his sharp blade these traitors feel!

Ho! Seize the walled town!
Batter gates to bring them down!
Siege and flame and fire and sack
And slaughter all in fierce attack!
Harry Saxons, spear the knaves
And hew them down into their graves!
Hunt by forest, hunt by dale,
Arrowed corpses tell the tale
In ghastly grimace, bodies still.
Thus: learn to cross King Arthur’s will!

Hail! Saxon raiding fleet
Seen on the coast! Our blades will greet
The sea-wolves in their teeth with steel!
Let sea-raiders the king’s wrath feel!
Burn their boats! Their shield-wall
Ride down and thrust them where they fall!
No quarter asked. No quarter given!
When where pirates erst forgiven?

Ho! Barons in their tower
Resisting yet King Arthur’s power.
Let the stones and arrows sing
While liege-men follow their true king!
Ballistas roar as towers crash!
Dim-muffled as the engines smash
Their walls into dust-powdered stone.
The barons’ heads their deeds atone.

Hail Lord! The Saxons dead.
The rebels burnt. The pirates fled.
The barons reaped what they did sow.
King’s peace secured. To keep it so
The king creates a knightly order
To combat and dispel disorder.
To harness might to right all wrong.
To celebrate great deeds in song!
This order of the Table Round
At once the King decrees he’ll found.
He calls to him each hardy knight
To maintain royal law and might.
Each his reward is not forgot
Given by the King in Camelot.

Let bards sing out the victory-tale!
All hail! King Arthur – all hail!

Legends of King Arthur – Rebellion! Uno

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Divers and strong rebellious Lords
Dueled Arthur in the game of swords!
To the Barons the Saxons came
To put Logres to sword and flame.
King Arthur armed. King Arthur marched
To save London from being torched
By rebel-traitor named Colgrin
Who beaten off, lost many men.
Lord Colgrin fought before he flees
As round him he disaster sees
His levies – those alive – in rout.
From Arthur’s trap he scurries out
On horseback riding for the North
Ruing the day he had marched forth.
Arthur pursued him without pause
To quickly end the rebel’s cause.
Baldulf, Cheldric both bar his way:
No beardless boy will they obey!
King Arthur’s army arms and falls
Upon York town. Invested walls
By Arthur’s men leagued miles around.
The townsmen besieged hear the sound
Of catapult and mangonel
Whose missiles from the heavens fell
Crushing defenders underneath.
Lord Colgrin prays for some relief.

Lord Baldulf tried to raise the siege
Rebelling ‘gainst his lawful liege.
Might Arthur fight? King Arthur would:
And Baldulf’s vain advance withstood
In turn advanced and made attack
Forcing Lord Baldulf’s army back
Towards the coast with fearful slaughter
Lord Baldulf’s men backed to the water.
Baldulf that day he lives to rue.
Colgrin breaks siege. He flees anew
Southwards for refuge with his brother
Hoping one might save the other.
Cheldric brings Saxon warbands
To bar the king, against him stands.
They battle over field and plain.
The Saxons fight – but fight in vain.
They skirmish over hill and dell
Saxons their lives they dearly sell.
The rebels fight. The rebels die.
Lord Cheldric sees. In misery
He there decides to end his life
Amidst the striking battle-strife
And plunged into a host of foes
Fights to the last as down he goes.
Weary of death by day and night
The Saxons weary of the fight.
Lord Cheldric dead. Why are they here?
Their resolve fainted into fear.
Baldulf fights on. His eyes are hard
But Baldulf’s live is now ill-starred.
He makes a last desperate attack
But enemy spears thrust front to back
Baldulf lies dead, by shafts impaled.
His rebellion had also failed.
Colgrin is left. His men advance
Charging on horse with leveled lance
They surge o’er plan and over hill
To seek their king – and him to kill!
King Arthur watches and he sees.
His sword from scabbard deftly frees
With mounted men he bravely rides
To cut off Colgrin from both sides.
Cavalries meet. The horses plunge.
Lances are thrown. The swordsmen lunge.
Horses are down. Men underneath
Pull down more riders to the heath.
The battle steed with iron hooves
Strikes powerfully. The man who moves
Too slow is left cut down or dead
Too frequently without his head.
Those who withstand the battle-shock
In close melee now interlock
In deadly blows of hand-to-hand
Over the plain unwooded land.
King Arthur wields Excalibur
With awful force. Its skirling blur
Of steel shatters shield and helms
And slicing armour overwhelms
All enemies. Arthur divines
Lord Colgrin in the battle lines
And quickly surges to advance.
Colgrin sees him and takes his chance
To end it all, to end it here.
For what is death? Nothing to fear.
Excalibur like burning light
Circles too fast for mortal sight
Lord Colgrin looks up with surprise
One last time with his hate-filled eyes.
Excalibur his helmet cleaves.
Colgrin’s black soul his body leaves.
The rebels dead. Most Saxons slain
Whose bodies litter all the plain.
Survivors flee – they are but few
Who must be forced for peace to sue.
They’re penned up quickly in a wood
With some water, but little food
In part of forest Caledon.
But King Arthur knew he had won.
The survivors he close beset
Royal patrols slew all they met.
The king’s archers infest the trees
To pick off all the men they please.
Those few now left capitulate
Before death too becomes their fate.
They kneel before the king and swear
Against Logres to never bear
Their arms again. The king’s command:
They shall return to their own land.
Soon by boat the Saxons leave.
Arthur has bought his land reprieve.
He has withstood the latest test.
Now time to heal, rebuild, and rest.

King Arthur’s army soon disbands
Most make return to farms and lands.
While others rest, the king cannot.
So on the way to Camelot
He with Merlin deliberates
How best to defend his estates
How best to build, how best to plan,
Amongst his lords who is the man
To watch and who the man to trust?
The king thinks on such things. He must!
To watch. To wait. To grow. To ward.
Complacency kings can’t afford.

Legends of King Arthur – Camelot

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Its fairy towers soar into the air.
The white stone walls reflect the sunlight fair.
Broad city ways are cobbled, clean-swept streets
Which please the eye. The eye up-lifted meets
The castle, garrisoned, its watch keeping.
The dragon-banners shout: here dwells the king!

Well-armed patrols make circuits of the wall.
Stout archers, ready, lookout over all.
The mighty lords, their knights, their ladies gay
Seek pleasure in the city’s glad display
Of pageantry and courtship, where each knight
Has taken oath as Arthur’s man to fight.

Silk gowns! Night dances! Revels at the court!
High festivals! When tournaments are fought
Sir Lancelot excels the field: they tell
A dozen knights before his prowess fell
To cheers resounding from the watching crowd
Who cheer the champion of the queen aloud!
In melee: battle-tests of knightly men
Between opposing teams engaging when
The queen of Tournament waving her hand
At where the trumpeters outfitted stand:
The trumpets sound. Each warrior doth contest
With all the might and prowess he possessed!
The king gives royal judgement. Then the cheers
Herald the victors as the night-tide nears.

The statuary of stone upon each roof
With magic wrought provide exquisite proof
Of Merlin’s mastery of magic spell:
Each statue’s face, deportment, is so well
Depicted that one feels they are alive!
So well did Merlin’s arts them all contrive.
Gargoyles watch, and flying creatures lurk
Protectively around the royal kirk.
Figures of man and woman, fowl and beast –
The mythical, the greatest and the least
Appear in stone charades upon each wall.
It seems they change position with the fall
Of evening. Many murmur they appear
In different poses as the morning clear
Dawns shining fresh-lit sunlight on their face.
These statues – whether they move or stay in place
Relate a story, or a prophecy
Of things to come: to those prepared to see
And read their secrets wrought into grey stone
Which Merlin worked therein when he alone
Raised up fair Camelot within a day
Upon its hill. At least, the many say:
Within short space Merlin the Mage had wrought
The city into being, out of nought.

When Arthur entered by its open gate
To see its gardens, bowers roseate
With plashing fountains, twittering birdsong rose
To bid him welcome. Merlin did dispose
The city as his gift. The miracle
Of how it’s built is kept a secret still.

King Arthur reigned: ruling from Camelot
His capital. So from this central spot
The heralds might proclaim what he’s decreed.
King Arthur’s knights are given as their meed
Fair residence within the city’s bound
To constitute the royal Table Round.

In but one day this fabled city wrought.
But what is worked in one day may be brought
Down into nothing on a latter day:
Such revolutions often are the way
In history! If Merlin ceased to be –
What would become of this magic city?
Can white magic by black arts be undone?
In halycon days such questions troubled none.

Legends of King Arthur – Sword from the Stone

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Steel cased in stone. By harsh daylight
It had resisted all the might
Of every squire and every man
Who did what merely muscle can.
But now upheld for all to see:
Excalibur! Excitedly
The people cheer. Knights shake their head.
Will Arthur dare take Uther’s stead?
The mighty Barons standing near
Don’t bother to withhold a sneer.

“Whoever pulls me from the stone
Wins for himself this kingdom’s thone!”
This epigram in letters clear
Around the stone in gold appear.
The kingdom’s throne of which they spoke
Presages anarchy which broke
Out soon as one that sword held high.
King Arthur will his foes defy!

Quick Merlin hastens to his side
To whisper warning. Woe betide
Unwary kings! King Uther’s dead:
A still corpse on its chapel bed
To soon rest ‘neath layers of stone.
Not long had he resigned the throne –
His corpse is hardly buried when
A civil war explodes again.

The new King Arthur cries “To me!”
An awkward pause. Then suddenly
Threescore well armed and valiant men
Surge forwards in a group to then
Stand Arthur’s guard, ring him around
With drawn blades. Within that ground
He stands secure from attack.
The Barons and their knights forced back.
For now discretion trumps valour:
There’s time enough soon to wage war.
“The castle!” King Arthur commands.
A passage forced by armoured hands
Through yelling crowds they make a way
And Arthur is crowned king that day.

The commons cheer. The Barons curse.
Things quickly change from bad to worse.
Though none openly oppose him yet
The Barons will make good their threat
To replace Arthur with their own
Compliant weakling on the throne.
All call up men and fashion arms
Ready to answer war’s alarms.
For now, the King upon the throne
Prepares to face down rebellion.
The sage Merlin is by his side
To council him whate’er betide.
A silence settles on the land.
As though a storm were near at hand –
A tempest come, about to fall
Upon the kingdom. On them all!

The King’s levies assemble first.
King Arthur soon expects the worst.
Should he march south? Or march up north?
Which enemy will first come forth?
He gave his future to the fates.
King Arthur watched. King Arthur waits.

Legends of King Arthur – Merlin’s Metamorphoses

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(The metamorphoses of the young Prince Arthur, then under the tutelage of the Wizard Merlin…)

Tench

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.

Merlin

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.

Ant

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.

Owl

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.

Goose

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.

Badger

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!

Legends of King Arthur – Arthur’s Fostering

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From babe to boy. From boy to man
Arthur embarks on his lifespan.
Inside the hall the fosterling
Is unaware he will be king.
But Merlin, with observant eyes
Keeps a close watch in worn disguise
To keep King Uther in the dark:
Whose murderous, jealous wrath would spark
Into a blaze of bloody rage
Of killing and gory rampage.
So Merlin’s lips are firmly shut.
Arthur life remains safe. But
One slip! Assassins would arrive
From Uther commissioned to rive
The life from out poor Arthur’s corpse.
As chanced to poor Gorlois, perforce.

As Merlin watches, while he waits
He thinks. And thinking – hesitates:
Debating what he should reveal
To Arthur – when his lips unseal
His birth, his lineage, destiny –
Not yet. But soon perhaps. Maybe.

As Arthur grows into a man
He learns of knighthood best he can.
By day, his lessons by the bell.
He studies hard – and learns them well.
His tutors his quick mind well-led.
Including Merlin’s self, ’tis said.
Howsobeit, young Arthur learned
And mental work he never spurned.
Nor did he fail learning to fight
As well as any armoured knight.

Igraine is dead. Uther yet lives
Awhile. His future Merlin gives
A little longer to prepare.
And then his fosterling must fare
Into the world, fostered no more
To walk the road Fate has in store.

So Merlin watches. Merlin waits.
Entrusting to the threesome Fates
When Uther dies – aha! Till then
Arthur is hid from eyes of men.