Category Archives: Welsh mythology

King Arthur comes alive with all of his knights!


Image of King Arthur and his knights

The knights of King Arthur from a fifteenth century manuscript – the Alliterative Morte Arthure captures the speed and thinking of the fourteenth century in one fabulous poetic creation.

Of all of the heroes of the British isles

There is none better known than noble King Arthur

Yet despite his renown and that of his Round Table

Most romances it seems were not written here.

Yet there is one which was worked up near Lincoln

That told of his torments when tackled by Rome;

Of his battle to take on Sir Lucius alone

To reclaim his lands that this man also claimed.

King Arthur’s Death is how many do know it,

A salutary tale of soldierly strength;

A poem that plucks great strings of pure valour,

A song for all folk who seek ancient heroes!

It speaks of his journey, of crossing great seas

To face down that Emperor and force him away;

It tells of the battles between boisterous knights

As the king crossed the continent to fight with Sir Lucius.

Yet this is no romance with ladies and courtiers,

This is no story of delicate deeds;

It tells of how kings in long distant times

Had to rally their leaders in loyal command.

Sir Lot and Sir Lancelot put others to flight;

Sir Cador of Cornwall crashes through knights;

Sir Gawain the mighty against his great foes,

Arthur’s great advocate advancing to fame!

But battles abroad cast a cautionary note

And for Arthur he shuddered for all his arms used;

Sir Mordred at home assumed that great kingdom

So Arthur again had to win back his lands.

He does so of course but at great kingly cost:

His once great Round Table was brought to low ruin;

His most loyal knights were all lost in the fight

And so with his sword that king sought his great foe

Alone.

He battled with Mordred

Until he heard him moan;

He killed that man stone dead

But so too his life was gone.


Pledge for this brand new book – and have your name in the back as a supporter!

This post celebrates a new translation I am working on of the Alliterative Morte Arthure (King Arthur’s Death), a magnificent poem of the alliterative revival of the fourteenth century written somewhere in Yorkshire or Lincolnshire in about 1400.

Like my translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, King Arthur’s Death will be published by Unbound and will be richly illustrated with over 30 of my pen-and-ink drawings, based on contemporary mediaeval manuscripts. The book can only happen with your help; if you would like to see it become reality – and have your name in the back for all time as a patron and subscriber, please click here for more information

Different pledge rewards available (see below)

The images below show three of the pledge rewards on offer for supporters of the book – but you can simply pledge for the book on its own. Every pledge received before the book is sent to print, no matter the size, will ensure your name appears in the back of the book.

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Filed under British History, English myths and legends, Gawain and the Green Knight, King Arthur, Knights of the Round Table, Poetry, Unbound, Welsh mythology

Castell Dinas Emrys – Ambrosius reborn


 

View of Dinas Emrys

Through Logres and across the crowing hills from Camelot, le Gringalet takes me deep into Gwynedd. Here, paths peter out in passes steep and the roads which you rely on rise up into the mountains to disappear in the mists, mounds and moss. And it is just here, when the world seems but a whisper that the warriors of Wales still live on in the crumbling castles and commotes of Hywel Dda, “the Good“.

 In the centuries which have slowly passed since I was sealed in this world, there are few sights which cheer me more than the soaring mountains of northern Wales. Turn your eyes to the eagles’ eyries and there, stone circles, walls and castles catch your straining glimpse. For in Wales it is not town life which predisposes the populace but places picked from the hillsides, remote and unforgiving.Those names conjure times I recall even more freshly than the few stones which now feature there: Castell-y-Bere, Cricieth, Carndochan – halls of the princes whose lands these once were. But one above all rises in emotion high and legend long, loyally keeping guard over the hearts of the people: Dinas Emrys, the hill of Ambrosius. The Mound of the Magician, Merlin – Myrddin Emrys.

I can tell you of magic marvels here at this mountain place, biding its time as the burgh of Beddgelert, for I saw these things happen. Where now a tumbled tower tottering, once a fine keep – the finest in the mountains – fit for the Sycharth-singing salutation of our fellow Iolo Goch, had he lived in those times. But friends I burrow further back and bide with Vortigern who did a city buildeth here when from the Saxons he retreated.

Vortigern the valiant was so advised as to build a citadel so strong that none so serving would with soldiers take it. But boulders built blew down and the maths of masons could not that castle master. Each time they built it, each time that hill would eke out its substance and tumbling it fell down.

Anguished, Vortigern sought solace from advisers and action demanded. And so they said that strength would come only from the spilled blood of a small boy, sacrificed on this sparse hill. I recall well how that boy stood up to our sire strong and would not his blood-spill let. “For I am Ambrosius, artful and astute – and I alone can assist you at this hour”.

Vortigern, as I recall, with volition vented thus: “tell me Ambrosius, answer me now and advise me of my path”. And Ambrosius said with solemnity stateful: “the cause of the crumbling lies in the clods. Below these boulders is a pool of brown waters where deep down two dragons bout in battle eternal as placed there by Lord Lludd Llaw Erient. And the red dragon shall defeat the white as Vortigern shall vanquish the Saxons.”

And so it is that in Wales the dragon red is in heraldry hailed as the high standard of those who Cwmraeg speak. But history tells us that Vortigern well vanquished was and in the valleys the Britons by reduced circumstance fell amongst themselves in petty squabbles and fighting.

The Welsh, the true people of Britain, languished warring for centuries as brothers wielded sword against brother and many thus were killed. In their ceaseless combat, the cold knights of Wales may in themselves be those dragons compelled for ever to fight each other as Britain round them falls.

So now at Dinas Emrys only eerie silence assaults the ears and the pool in which those dragons fought is but a miry marsh muzzling in the moss of that Welsh hill.

In stones it stands there still

By Merlin’s magic blessed

In the cold and dampening chill

A nation’s legend nests

Image of keep at Dinas Emrys

Another view of the keep at Dinas Emrys, the hill of Ambrosius

Image of enclosure at Dinas Emrys

This stone enclosure is of uncertain age. Built near the pool, some have suggested it was the original enclosure which held the dragons – but it may be a small dwelling or sheep pen.

Image of moss at Dinas Emrys

The clear, clean air of North Wales encourages moss of all kinds in the damp air.

Image of keep at Dinas Emrys

These footings, perhaps 6 feet high from the inside are all that remains of the mediaeval keep at Dinas Emrys.

A typical Welsh day, encapsualting the myth and mystery of the ancient Welsh people.

A typical Welsh day, encapsualting the myth and mystery of the ancient Welsh people.

Image of view down from Dinas Emrys

Dinas Emrys is protected on all sides by the hills. Here we look down on the area in which the pool resides which held the red dragon and the white.

Image of the keep at Dinas Emrys

The footings of the keep at Dinas Emrys – all that now remains of the mediaeval fort here.

Image of the pool at Dinas Emrys

The pool at Dinas Emrys in which the dragons fought

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Filed under British History, British Landscape, Castles, Castles of Wales, King Arthur, Sir Gawain and Le Gringalet, Touring Britain, Uncategorized, Welsh History, Welsh mythology