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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Taliesin / RS Thomas


- 13th century illustration of Merlin dictating his poems

Even if you never read medieval history but simply Celtic themed fantasy novels :-) you're bound to come across the legendary Welsh bard Taliesin. And of course, poetry will also do ..... Tennyson's Idylls of the King has him at King Arthur's court (sometimes he's mixed up with Merlin). Here's a more modern poem of him by RS Thomas, and below that, a bit from a page on him at Wikipedia ....

Taliesin

I have been all men known to history,
Wondering at the world and at time passing;
I have seen evil, and the light blessing
Innocent love under a spring sky.

I have been Merlin wandering in the woods
Of a far country, where the winds waken
Unnatural voices, my mind broken
By a sudden acquaintance with man's rage.

I have been Glyn Dwr set in the vast night,
Scanning the stars for the propitious omen,
A leader of men, yet cursed by the crazed women
Mourning their dead under the same stars.

I have been Goronwy, forced from my own land
To taste the bitterness of the salt ocean;
I have known exile and a wild passion
Of longing changing to a cold ache.

King, beggar and fool, I have been all by turns,
Knowing the body's sweetness, the mind's treason;
Taliesin still, I show you a new world, risen,
Stubborn with beauty, out of the heart's need.

*

Taliesin or Taliessin (c. 534 – c. 599) is the earliest poet of the Welsh language whose work has survived. His name is associated with the Book of Taliesin, a book of poems that was written down in the Middle Ages (John Gwenogvryn Evans dated it to around 1275). Most of the poems are quite late in date (around 10th to 12th century), but a few are earlier, and eleven of them, according to Ifor Williams, date from the 6th century. He is believed to have been a bard in the courts of at least three British kings of that era. In legend he attained the status "Chief Bard of Britain" and as such would have been responsible for judging poetry competitions among all the royal bards of Britain. A few of the marks awarded for poems are extant in the margins of manuscripts. Taliesin's life was later the subject of 16th century mythological work by Elis Gruffydd, who may have relied on existing oral tradition about him .....


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