Legends of King Arthur – To Avalon

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King Arthur swooning, lies upon the ground
With Modred’s henchmen strewn all around:
Their bloody gore drenched the field grass and flowers.
A stillness filled that place. The hostile powers
Had fought, had slain, and ceased: when all were dead!
A few victors remained – the rest had fled.
King Arthur stirred, and opening his eyes
Gazed from the battle-field to the skies.
His strength was gone. His spirit strove to seek
Another place where he was not so weak.
His fevered brain attempted to make sense
Where he now was. The battle. Hark – from whence
Did Mordred’s men come on? Did he prevail?
The king laid back, his battered body frail.
‘Twas night? No – day. Forenoon – not early morn.
The king, wearied, lay musing. As a lorn
And injured lamb lies dying on the heath:
So there King Arthur’s blood soaks underneath
His cooling frame. His armour heavy lies
Upon his smitten trunk. He thinks he spies
A crow come down to feast upon the slain.
He smiles grimly. Somewhere on the plain
His shield in pieces lay. His mighty sword –
Beside him still – had fetched the blow toward
The armoured chest of Mordred. All lay still.
But Arthur was unable, by his will
To stand – or even move. Yet now it seems
Before his eyes proceeded living dreams
Of people long since dead or gone away.

“Dear Merlin? Here? Whatever can you say
To me? Where did you go? I you besought
In vain! In what bad magic were you caught?
I wished to ask – forever me asking!
Will I still be the Once and Future King?
It puzzles me. Your riddles so profound
With wisdom – and with mysteries – abound!
With Vivien? Ah yes – I now recall
That daughter of perdition caused your fall.
Where is she? Ah – dear Merlin? You are gone?
But I abide. But why should I live on?”

“Dear Gen – why did you do it? Did you see
What must befall of a sure certainty
When all was known? Have you come to say
Something? How now – why do you turn away?
I – I forgive. Come back!” He gives a sigh
And murmurs “Why? Dear Gen, just tell me – why?”

“Good Galahad? Fair knight? Still here by me?
They said you’d had departed oversea –
Called there by God. I mourned you as a friend.
Have you returned to see my latter end?
A knight from such a father! Oh my boy!
Come closer. Let my ears your tales enjoy
About all you have seen. What? Gone again?”

So Arthur murmurs. Then sees other men
Before his eyes and talks with them each one –
Knights lost on quest before this war begun:
Heroes, companions from the years ago.
The rising sun to dawn-break rises slow
When all is still and silent. Bedivere
Alone walks round the corpses drawing near
To where King Arthur lay. He is making
A careful search to find where lay his king:
He asks himself: the King alive? Or dead?
Upon his quest of mercy his feet sped
Directed by the power of heaven divine:
He finds King Arthur bleeding, still, supine
Yet murmuring faintly. Bedivere sheds tears –
The first he’s shed for many, many years.
His strong limbs lift aloft his royal lord.
They leave the field. Their leaving might afford
Some chance of safety, healing, and of rest.

The king lies swooning, clasped to the knight’s chest
While Caliburn is carried by his side.
A broken chapel nearby is espied.
Arthur is carried to that shelter there.

King Arthur knows the faithful Bedivere
As he is laid upon the altar stone.
He indicates his sword – his will makes known
In broken speech. Sir Bedivere obeys
And leaves the king, who near-expiring lays
Upon the altar. Visions fill his head:
What was, and what will be he sees instead
Of where he is: his old friend Lancelot.
His lovely Genevieve. And others not
Now clothed with mortal bodies once they had.
King Arthur smiles. Memories both glad
And sorrowful both dance before his eyes.
He has not long to live before he dies.
His life decreases. Where is Bedivere?

The knight returns without Excalibur
And pale as though that brave man shook with fright
As though he saw strange creatures of the night
When tasked to throw his master’s blade away
Into the lake nearby. He will not say
Precisely what he saw. His king murmurs
“So – it is done?” Sir Bedivere avers.

Arthur’s then down towards the sea.
Sir Bedivere hears sounds of minstrelsy:
He looks about.
A boat, with samite black
Draped lies waiting. Down a narrow track
The knight walks to the shore. Four ladies grave
Stand on its deck. The ship rocks in the wave
Sir Bedivere deposits Arthur there
Upon the samite draped over a bier
Set mid-deck. The four women give a cry
To let their keening carry to the sky.
Sir Bedivere nursing a heavy heart
Returns to land. That instant they depart:
The ship – with hands invisible – off-cast
And towards deeper waters raises mast
To sail to Western isles unnamed, unknown:
Except unto perhaps the few. Isles lone
Rumor has named as Avalon.
On land
Sir Bedivere awaited on the sand
To watch the ebon ship much smaller grow
As far horizons it sought out to know.
Up to the headland later the knight climbed
To see if its black sails he could find:
Yet from all mortal sight had vanished king
And boat and women all. A soft keening
Of womens’ voices faintly reached his ear.
Here ends all that befell good Bedivere
After the final battle on the day
When King Arthur was carried far away.

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Legends of King Arthur – The Siege of Joyous Guard

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They had marched quickly to the slaughter. Now their army spilled over the plain.
They had burned and pillaged and plundered. The hills were covered with slain.
But King Arthur’s heart was disquieted. As he sat by a wounded knight
And he looked to the battlements strong and high that resisted his earnest might.
Sir Gawain was so badly wounded now, that his wounds ran red with blood.
For his vengeance had moved him to take the field, where he slew in his wrath as he would.
There his sword had widowed more mother’s hearts in the course of a single day
Then he ever had done since he’d been a knight: since his brothers were slain in the fray –
Killed by Lancelot, once King Arthur’s friend – but turned traitor to realm and blood.
Then King Arthur sighed. While King Arthur mourned for new evil that sprung from the good.
For the Table Round was a shattered wheel, while his kingdom itself consumed
In this civil war, knight against knight. All their golden years subsumed
By this own false Queen, by Round Table knights, sinful arrogance and pride.
Kingdoms brought to wrack, to disintegrate, by the factions of every side.

Arthur sighed as he looked at the strong ramparts still defended by his ex-friend.
They were strong. Well-built. But he had siege-craft. He would break through them in the end.
Gawain slumbered on, in his bed of pain – whimpering now as his deep wounds made
Memories of pain penetrate his dreams. Arthur had at the first dismayed
Of his life when at first he was carried in on his shield, to his tent brought in.
But the healers worked with the royal leech, ministering to the paladin.
All his wounds were bathed, swathed in linen white. After hours to the king they said
Gawain should survive were he given time to recover on a healing bed.
Arthur breathed a prayer. Death had passed Gawain by.
The King rises, to depart prepares.
For great Joyous Guard of Sir Lancelot will be leveled by the one who dares.
Their great mangonels and large trebuchets, with their nearby piles of rocks and stones
All stacked in great heaps, all are within range. Were such wars of kingdoms, kings and thrones
Worth so many men?
Gawain weakly calls for his armour, for his sword and lance
For his heart still wished – despite all weakness – to make battle and take every chance
To kill Lancelot for his own revenge. Arthur turning saw him writhe in pain.
The king gave command to the attendants there, who would duly the sick knight restrain.

Arthur left the tent. On the battlements, torches burnt giving warning light.
‘Twas a grand castle. Under God’s own stars, Joyous Guarde appeared a glorious tonight.
But he would not leave till its walls fell to the dust, and it was overthrown
To preserve – if he could – his kingdom from ruin. But the evil that’s already sown
Springs a full-grown crop of the devil’s work to dissolve all ancient bonds that tie.
Could the king still stand if his kingdom fell? Then, perhaps it was his time to die.

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.

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.