It’s my official function: framing verse,
But also to provide Lord Arthur’s court
With music for occasions such as these.
I am accompanied, of course; this court
Has such prestige that sound from one alone,
Were he even the legend of our time,
Would be an insult of the gravest kind.
I have my double harp, and raise my voice;
Beloved Blanchefleur shall play her lute;
Another brings a dulcimer to us,
And fourth, our fiddler now begins to tune.
This ball is held this day to celebrate
The birthday of a vassal (client king)
Whom Arthur justly favors, but I am
For these past weeks plunged into black despair,
Which only lifts when on my knees in prayer.
Each every other time this bleakness struck,
In music I found solace, peace, and joy—
Since music is my trade, and when well-done
It also then becomes a form of worship—
But music gives no solace to me now.
All holy joy is taken from my soul;
Not even my beloved, lingering near,
Can by her presence salve my troubled mind.
What’s worse, this celebration takes its place
Within a season of high joy and feasts;
As is too often the case, my state of mind
Now leads or lags behind the proper mode
By months—at least a season and a half.
Now, nothing can ruin a joyful ball
More quickly than a sad, sorrowful bard,
And my despair is writ upon my face
So only one half-dead could fail to see.
Therefore, my Blanchefleur takes me aside.
When I explain all this to her in brief,
She says, “I must speak more with you at length,
Taliesin, and in private.” I object:
“I, my lady, fear the doom, foretold,
Delay had turned aside—” She interrupts.
“Lord Taliesin, have you so little trust
In my obedience or self-control?
For while in fairest Llogres I remain
I am still under orders, and avowed
A celibate in body and in mind.”
My trust in the Lord, I manage the ball
Without my grief disturbing those who dance.
But, still, until this bleakness passes by,
No happiness shall pass beneath my pen:
No, I will write no more gladness or joy.
Laments I will create, songs of sadness,
Hymns of grief—For though the Lord is with me,
I have not his joy.
This is yet another poem in my series of poems set in the Arthuriad. It’s moderately late in both order of composition and internal chronology. And while it was originally quasi-free verse, I (tried to) regularize the meter into blank verse as part of a thorough revision in preparation for posting it today.
As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, suggestions, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. (In other words, if you liked this poem, or you didn’t like it, or it made you think of something, or … please leave a comment to let me know.) If you liked this, you can also read other poems I’ve written here on my blog (starting with yesterday’s archive installment, since the full archive is by now, at over a hundred poems, somewhat daunting); I’d especially like to know which poems you think are my best.
This poem is also archived on my wiki.