“Taliesin on Blanchefleur’s Birthday”

It is a hard reminder. (Oh, alas! alack!)
A single year has not yet passed since we first met,
And I am deep in love with her, and she with me,
A draught of mutual love—Yet here, on this the day
That, scarce few years ago, she drew her natal breath,
Our new awareness ever thrusts upon me that
(As Merlin spoke to warn us) such must not yet be,
Lest we tempt fate, to Llogres’ death or detriment.

This day, above all others (if I were my own!)
My instinct is to give her all I have and more,
Mere trifles, only, all for her who holds my heart—
But with what I and Merlin see, I must hold back.
All that I dare is one chaste kiss upon her hand
And such small, trivial gifts as I routinely give
To any other of her station in the court.

I hold aloof, and my heart breaks. She that I love
I may not yet love for many a year to come—
And she, and I, on Merlin’s word agreed to this.
But still I am not fit for this. She’s my first love,
And I will ever hold her fondly in my heart,
Reserving there a place apart for her sole use,
Come what may.

I wrote this several years ago. It’s one of the later ones in my series of Arthurian poems, probably dating to around the time that I did a mass reorganization (since this poem existed in identical form in my “old” and “new” directories). I revised it—recasting it from hesitant free verse to a regular, fairly steady meter, and breaking it into (verse) paragraphs—in preparation for posting today.

As always, I earnestly welcome your (further) 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 follow this blog, which includes one of my poems every Friday, or read other poems I’ve written here on my blog (starting with yesterday’s archive installment, since the full archive is by now, at well over a hundred poems, somewhat daunting); I’d especially like to know, as part of my preparations for a collection, which poems you think are my best. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

This poem is also mirrored on my wiki.

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9 thoughts on ““Taliesin on Blanchefleur’s Birthday”

    • There was some discussion of the origin of the character of Taliesin in the comments on “Taliesin and Blanchefleur” a little over a year ago. But to sum that up: Taliesin is King Arthur’s court bard in Malory’s Le Mort Darthur, but is also the subject of his own set of tales (which I am barely familiar with at best) in Welsh myth. And, most relevant to me, he’s the central figure of Charles Williams’ Taliessin Through Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars.

      Blanchefleur is very slightly based on another character in Williams’ poetry (a slave girl Taliessin—in Williams’ eclectic spelling—buys in Byzantium and manumits after bringing her to Camelot), but is otherwise, as far as I can tell, entirely my own invention, as is their combined story, which I’ve explored here and in other poems in the cycle.

      • And perhaps “very slightly” underestimates the degree of influence Williams’ poetry had on the character of Blanchefleur in mine; in looking up another poem from his cycle, I found that there is a character of that name (whom he also calls “Dindrane”) in his legendarium and perhaps in the myths more generally. She is Percival’s sister, and a nun, famous for her chastity; in Williams’ poems she dies after giving her blood so that another sick woman may live. How much of that will filter into my conception of her going forward remains to be seen.

    • Thank you, Maria. I certainly wouldn’t have put it in that category, but I’ve long known that my instinctive estimation has more to do with how strongly the emotional charge from which a poem originally sprang still resonates than with any real sense for true quality. So it’s helpful to hear from someone less “close” to the poem, and gratifying to see you praise it so highly.

          • I understand and am glad. The poems about Taliesin and Blanchefleur are really lovely.

            I’ve never mentioned that in my current novel, which is on the back burner at the moment, there is a Blanchefleur also. She is a pious young woman, whose father mistakenly arranges a marriage for her with an unworthy man.

            • The relationship between Taliesin and Blanchefleur is a tangent that’s sort of “taken over”; in the original concept Taliesin and Merlin were to be the center of the cycle, somewhat like Taliessin is in Williams’ (only if anything more so), and Blanchefleur had not even entered my imagination. But since that subplot has become the most developed part of the cycle, at some point I’m going to need to (“inspiration” or no) think hard about, and then buckle down and write about, the other figures, themes, and reationships in the legends—I don’t want my cycle to be nothing but mere “romance,” no matter how coruscant the poems, but rather to serve that Love Who was made incarnate, as Williams sought to do. I doubt that I shall produce something on the level of “Bors to Elayne On the King’s Coins” any time soon (if ever), but I ought to make an attempt.

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