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Pellinore’s Fancy
by Michael R. Burch

King Pellinore was famous for hunting the Questing Beast, a rather odd, fantastical creature. Does its name suggest that the beast was dreamed up, or invented for the purpose of questing after it? Perhaps Pellinore simply didn’t want to stay home and needed a good (if farfetched) excuse to furnish his wife . . .

What do you do when your wife is a nag
and has sworn you to hunt neither fish, fowl, nor stag?
When the land is at peace, but at home you have none,
Is that, perchance, when ... the Questing Beasts run?

Keywords/Tags: King Pellinore, questing beast, hunt, Arthurian, legend, myth, wife, nag
The Last Enchantment
by Michael R. Burch

Oh, Lancelot, my truest friend,
how time has thinned your ragged mane
and pinched your features; still you seem
though, much, much changed—somehow unchanged.

Your sword hand is, as ever, ready,
although the time for swords has passed.
Your eyes are fierce, and yet so steady
meeting mine ... you must not ask.

The time is not, nor ever shall be,
for Merlyn’s words were only words;
and now his last enchantment wanes,
and we must put aside our swords ...

Originally published by Trinacria. Keywords/Tags: Lancelot, King Arthur, Arthurian, Merlin, last enchantment, round table, knights, sword, swords, England, stone, Excalibur, chivalry, Camelot, loyalty, friendship, magic, prophecy, Once and future King, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon
The Pictish Faeries
by Michael R. Burch

Smaller and darker
than their closest kin,
    the faeries learned only too well
    never to dwell
close to the villages of larger men.

Only to dance in the starlight
when the moon was full
    and men were afraid.
    Only to worship in the farthest glade,
ever heeding the raven and the gull.

The invincible Roman legions were never able to subdue the Scottish Picts, and eventually built Hadrian’s Wall to protect themselves! Did the Picts give rise to our myths of fairies, elves and leprechauns? Keywords/Tags: Picts, Scots, Scottish, fairies, glade, raven, gull, King Arthur, Arthurian, Morgause, Merlin, round table, knights, England, stone, Excalibur, chivalry, Camelot, Saxon
Morgause’s Song
by Michael R. Burch

Before he was my brother,
he was my lover,
though certainly not the best.

I found no joy
in that addled boy,
nor he at my breast.

Why him? Why him?
The years grow dim.
Now it’s harder and harder to say ...

Perhaps girls and boys
are the god’s toys
when the skies are gray.

Published by Celtic Twilight

Keywords/Tags: King Arthur, Arthurian, Morgause, Merlin, round table, knights, England, stone, Excalibur, chivalry, Camelot, Uther Pendragon, Colgrim, Saxon
It Is Not the Sword!
by Michael R. Burch

This poem illustrates the strong correlation between the names that appear in Welsh and Irish mythology. Much of this lore predates the Arthurian legends, and was assimilated as Arthur’s fame (and hyperbole) grew. Caladbolg is the name of a mythical Irish sword, while Caladvwlch is its Welsh equivalent. Caliburn and Excalibur are later variants.

“It is not the sword,
but the man,”
said Merlyn.
But the people demanded a sign—
the sword of Macsen Wledig,
Caladbolg, the “lightning-shard.”

“It is not the sword,
but the words men follow.”
Still, he set it in the stone
—Caladvwlch, the sword of kings—
and many a man did strive, and swore,
and many a man did moan.

But none could budge it from the stone.

“It is not the sword
or the strength,”
said Merlyn,
“that makes a man a king,
but the truth and the conviction
that ring in his iron word.”

“It is NOT the sword!”
cried Merlyn,
crowd-jostled, marveling
as Arthur drew forth Caliburn
with never a gasp,
with never a word,

and so became their king.

Published by Songs of Innocence, Neovictorian/Cochlea, Romantics Quarterly and Celtic Twilight. Keywords/Tags: King Arthur, Arthurian, Merlin, round table, knights, stone, sword, Excalibur, chivalry, Camelot, Uther Pendragon, England
Uther’s Last Battle
by Michael R. Burch

When Uther, the High King,
unable to walk, borne upon a litter
went to fight Colgrim, the Saxon King,
his legs were weak, and his visage bitter.
“Where is Merlyn, the sage?
For today I truly feel my age.”

All day long the battle raged
and the dragon banner was sorely pressed,
but the courage of Uther never waned
till the sun hung low upon the west.
“Oh, where is Merlyn to speak my doom,
for truly I feel the chill of the tomb.”

Then, with the battle almost lost
and the king besieged on every side,
a prince appeared, clad all in white,
and threw himself against the tide.
“Oh, where is Merlyn, who stole my son?
For, truly, now my life is done.”

Then Merlyn came unto the king
as the Saxons fled before a sword
that flashed like lightning in the hand
of a prince that day become a lord.
“Oh, Merlyn, speak not, for I see
my son has truly come to me.

And today I need no prophecy
to see how bright his days will be.”
So Uther, then, the valiant king
met his son, and kissed him twice—
the one, the first, the one, the last—
and smiled, and then his time was past.

Keywords/Tags: King Arthur, Arthurian, Merlin, Uther Pendragon, Colgrim, Saxon, round table, knights, England, chivalry, Camelot
Uther’s Last Battle
by Michael R. Burch

When Uther, the High King,
unable to walk, borne upon a litter
went to fight Colgrim, the Saxon King,
his legs were weak, and his visage bitter.
“Where is Merlyn, the sage?
For today I truly feel my age.”

All day long the battle raged
and the dragon banner was sorely pressed,
but the courage of Uther never waned
till the sun hung low upon the west.
“Oh, where is Merlyn to speak my doom,
for truly I feel the chill of the tomb.”

Then, with the battle almost lost
and the king besieged on every side,
a prince appeared, clad all in white,
and threw himself against the tide.
“Oh, where is Merlyn, who stole my son?
For, truly, now my life is done.”

Then Merlyn came unto the king
as the Saxons fled before a sword
that flashed like lightning in the hand
of a prince that day become a lord.
“Oh, Merlyn, speak not, for I see
my son has truly come to me.

And today I need no prophecy
to see how bright his days will be.”
So Uther, then, the valiant king
met his son, and kissed him twice—
the one, the first, the one, the last—
and smiled, and then his time was past.

Keywords/Tags: King Arthur, Arthurian, Merlin, round table, knights, England, Uther Pendragon
Merlyn’s First Prophecy
by Michael R. Burch

Vortigern commanded a tower to be built upon Snowden,
but the earth would churn and within an hour its walls would cave in.

Then his druid said only the virginal blood of a fatherless son,
recently shed, would ever hold the foundation.

“There is, in Caer Myrrdin, a faery lad, a son with no father;
his name is Merlyn, and with his blood you would have your tower.”

So Vortigern had them bring the boy, the child of the demon,
and, taciturn and without joy, looked out over Snowden.

“To **** a child brings little praise, but many tears.”
Then the mountain slopes rang with the brays of Merlyn’s jeers.

“Pure poppycock! You fumble and bumble and heed a fool.
At the base of the rock the foundations crumble into a pool!”

When they drained the pool, two dragons arose, one white and one red,
and since the old druid was blowing his nose, young Merlyn said:

“Vortigern is the white, Ambrosius the red; now, watch, indeed.”
Then the former died as the latter fed and Vortigern peed.

Originally published by Celtic Twilight

Keywords/Tags: King Arthur, Arthurian, Merlin, round table, knights, Ambrosius, Vortigern, dragons
Merlyn, on His Birth
by Michael R. Burch

I was born in Gwynedd,
or not born, as men may claim,
and the Zephyr of Caer Myrrdin
gave me my name.

My father was Madog Morfeyn
but our eyes were never the same,
nor our skin, nor our hair;
for his were dark, dark
—as our people’s are—
and mine were fairer than fair.

The night of my birth, the Zephyr
carved of white stone a rune;
and the ringed stars of Ursa Major
outshone the cool pale moon;
and my grandfather, Morydd, the seer
saw wheeling, a-gyre in the sky,
a falcon with terrible yellow-gold eyes
when falcons never fly.

Legend has it that Zephyr was an ancestor of Merlin. In this poem, I suggest that Merlin may have been an albino, which might have led to seemingly outlandish claims that he had no father, due to radical physical differences between father and son. This would have also added to his appearance as a mystical figure. The reference to Ursa Major, the bear, ties the birth of Merlin to the future birth of Arthur, whose Welsh name (“Artos” or “Artur”) means “bear.” Morydd is a another possible ancestor of Merlin’s.
Keywords/Tags: King Arthur, Arthurian, Merlin, round table, knights, England, chivalry, Camelot
Lance-Lot
by Michael R. Burch

Preposterous bird!
Inelegant! Absurd!

Until the great & mighty heron
brandishes his fearsome sword.

I wrote this poem for a great blue heron who visits a pond that I pass on my daily walks — a truly majestic bird and the ultimate spear-fisher.
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