Song for O’Carolan

Beneath the tree of Inverness
Shadows fall, and deaf men dream
Weeping women waiting there
In the hall of audience,
Its majesty now cavernous,
The echoing of muted strings
Humming now through space and more —
And, beyond the Bridge of Time,
An old, blind harpist sings, forever,
Greensleeves.

Beyond the field of Pontyprrid,
Tombs stand empty, empty still,
Waiting then for men to fill them,
Men to fall in battle there.
Five leagues south, a fight is raging,
Breaking through the bounds of space —
And, beyond the Bridge of Time,
An old, blind harpist sings, forever,
Greensleeves.

Upon the hills of Mancha’s plain,
Battered steed strides ever onward,
Old grey hero on his back
Garbed in steel and still parading
Broken lance and barber’s helmet.
With faithful squire the Don is riding,
Riding still through space and more —
And, beyond the Bridge of Time,
An old, blind harpist sings, forever,
Greensleeves.

Between the eaves of Arberth hall
Pwyll’s throne stands sitterless.
While Gofannon is waiting there
To bring the Cauldron to their feasting,
Deathday feasting for their princes,
Twice there now Rhiannon lingers,
Holding to the memories dear —
And, beyond the Bridge of Time,
An old, blind harpist sings, forever,
Greensleeves.

And southernly, in Camelot,
With borrowed arms Sir Lancelot
There wins the day
Then on Elaine gets Galahad,
And Guinevere is overwrought.
Mordred plots ‘gainst Taliesin,
Merlin sees through space and more —
And, beyond the Bridge of Time,
An old, blind harpist still is singing
Greensleeves.

This was probably my first intentionally free verse poem (sophomore year of high school or so?), and probably my first experience of the phenomenon where a poem practically writes itself. Inverness and Pontypridd, cities in Scotland, were chosen for the sound of their names, but the other allusions are significant: O’Carolan was a 17th-century harper, composer, and bard of particular note. The stanza beginning “Between the eaves of Arberth hall” alludes to the Welsh Mabinogion‘s First Branch, while the next stanza refers to several events in the Arthuriad. I’m also posting it on my wiki. And as always, feedback of any sort–comments, criticism, compliments, or anything else–is both anxiously solicited and graciously appreciated.

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