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Posts Tagged ‘Taliesin’

A lot of my writing this year has been towards an art/word project inspired by The Black Book of Carmarthen, a small, handwritten manuscript containing poems collected over a lifetime by one person. It is the oldest known manuscript written in the Welsh language. A mixture of ancient bardic poems and prayers, it is at once mundane and transcendent, simple and utterly baffling. The words that come to me are either reflecting some of the imagery or subjects of the fifty odd pieces, or dwell on the nature of the author and the continuity of language and writing. The art works I am making mainly combine parts of the manuscript pages overlain with my own woodblock prints from decades ago. There will, probably, be a book that combines text with image. It is in no way a translation of the original text. It is one artist’s reflections of the magical mirror and timelessness of ancient books.

MER KERTEV KEIN (Black Book)

(The marrow of fine songs)

It is a river

Uncurling in caves,

A white torrent on dark slick rocks.

It is a shoreline cave where mystery is born by echoes,

Far from comfort, where opposites couple in the roaring of it.

Spanning centuries each word tumbles combining elements.

Shadow worlds are dressed in time to shatter and rebuild the fragments.

Oh, speckle-breasted thrush,

Thrice the song to sing.

Morning rain.

Rain of morning.

Dawn storm.

Eternal song.

A river where meaning slips like fishes,

A flash, a flank, and gone.

The next ripple, the next wave, the scintillating light.

Umbral echoes.

It dances from sound to sound.

A juggler slipping from stone to stone

In the midstream rush. Where next? Where next?

And the foaming roar of it:

The world dancing elements and prophecy

And the arc of words cast up and caught, too fast for the eye.

A stream, a stream, of passion itself.

Sound clothed in the names of things,

The naked, naked sound.

A river of God’s being,

A bowstring caught and released,

The mouth’s harp

And its breath drum rhythm song.

There are spirits here

There are ghosts

Where I see these landscapes,

Familiar, sunlit, wild

I have never been.

I am haunted by the names

And by the meanings

Within the meanings I know.

Other pages in other hands:

Mirrored, pushing through.

I am become a palimpsest of prayer-

The angels with clawed feet

Offering golden torcs.

A language of waves,

Of echoing empty hills.

My eyes water the seeds of words,

Grow vast forests.

The dance of sounds:

Lost timeless for a while,

We dance and dance.

The memories are not ours

That lodge in our hearts.

My soul fragments to the four quarters

As though I am already buried.

There is a cold wind from the north.

A woman who is not a woman

Moves at the edges of my sight

Whispering rhymes with berry-stained fingertips.

One of Three and Three in One.

Before Eden we quake.

The Tower was too high,

The Tree was too bright.

The Flaming Sword

That drove us outwards

We stole for shovels and mattocks.

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THE OLD TALIESIN

He does not have to raise his voice –

Silence comes with it like the tide on the shore.

Bent-backed, i see his strong staff, serpent-wrapped.

It is still a tree of fruits, sweet and bitter:

A crab apple scented with autumns, hard with frost

And the seeing of too much sorrow.

I see his bright brow, bald as the moon.

He is being chased again through the halls of the world

By another who shall not relent.

And he will change form again,

On wide, sunlit oceans again,

But not until the three drops congeal in truth,

Not until the chariot wheel is cracked,

Not until a new axle pin is shaped and smoothed.

A year and a day,

And we shall all change places.

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Because of their words:

A quantum entanglement.

Whether equation or story,

The ripples vibrate.

All metaphor is truth.

All truth, metaphor.

So said Euron.

So said Eurwys.

They wrap the bones

Of space in pictures.

Weave timelessness

With heroes.

By means of language

And of matter

They fashion magnificent trees,

The span of universes,

A melodious ocean.

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TALIESIN FRACTALS

1

Nyt o vam a that pan y’m digonat

Not from a mother or a father was I made

The druids know all things are born

From desire and a fear of extinction.

Here I am, beginningless, not born but made,

Unless before the world and before the beginning of the world.

A’m creu a’m creat o naw rith llafanat

And my creation was made for me from nine forms of consistency

I was waiting to be clothed, sound to word,

Word to meaning, meaning to understanding,

Understanding to knowledge, knowledge to wisdom,

Wisdom to poetry, poetry to creation of worlds,

Creation of worlds to fear and desire.

How many souls does the one created consist of?

What animates the articulations of a creature?

O ffrwydd, o ffrwytheu, o ffrwyth Duw dechreu

From a fruit, from fruits, from the fruit of God in the beginning.

Not the seed, not the tree, not the beginning,

Begun from the ripened, time-ripened exudate of the creator.

Not from one, but from many,

Not after but at the start of the beginning.

From the tree of God, from God’s fruit,

From the Garden of Eden was I made.

From the vegetal elements of the world, before the world.

Made by God and by enchanters –

Enchanters chanting sounds, chanting word,

Giving fruit its form, giving God a voice.

2

What he says:

I am not a human.

I was given form with plants,

From fruit, from fruits, from God’s first fruit

(And what was that?).

Made from the elements of the natural world,

From plants, from soil, from water.

I was, yet I continued to be shaped

Or given form, or recreated:

From God’s fruit, from the soil,

Water and plants.

From Math, from Gwydion,

Reared by Eurwys, by Euron,

By Modron, by Math, by Gwydion,

These five enchanters.

Made from within a desert, a fire, a conflagration,

Made before the world was finished.

Brewed, even. The plants collected, the elements combined

With water, the fire of the pot, the fermentation,

Becoming the same but changed.

I fall from the first tree, a fruit of God, ripe and ready.

I melt into earth, become plants, become blossoms, become trees.

All mulched, all matter there is, rotted, fermented, made from that.

And is this ‘I’ one or many?

Singular or compound?

Changed before completion

By enchantments of the five.

Before the world in what should have been,

When there was nothing but fire.

Sacred from the cauldron heated,

Stirred in, changed by fire,

Reared by enchanters,

Made new and new and new again.

Rising from the sullen earth golden-topped,

Golden-browed, filled with voices,

Filled with light.

From the houses of earth, I, We,

Arise. We, Taliesin, a fun guy.

Some. Soma. Filled with exhilaration,

Full, frothing, leaping, loud.

The words come from the deep.

From the dripping dark the waters speak.

As clear as thunder, they will echo

Until they find meaning in minds ablaze.

It is a million voices fractured and combined,

Playing in the light, dreaming in purple night.

The wonders are named and renamed,

Calibrated in wandering souls to measure their worth,

Their awakeness, their clarity.

Dressed in monstrous words

Are the names of being and non-being.

The mediocre can never live forever

Except as soil and falling petals.

3

I, the poet

Who is and is not

And also outside the world

Inhabiting all worlds.

Word warring, slicing meanings.

My spear and shield awen,

My crow awen, my cauldron awen.

From God and also

From the enchanters before creation was.

These words are all lies and all perfect.

They are here to shepherd you

Towards a delightful oblivion,

Towards fire and water and the one tree.

The most holy fruit, the fermented fall

Of exultation beyond meaning.

4

Clarity from confusion.

Not jumping to conclusions.

Floating on the thermals of meaning.

The paths that lead nowhere

Lead everywhere.

And the unexpected provides answers.

Turn away from the problem to find the solution.

The deep world beneath the world:

Everything the same, but shining.

The power of seeing patterns

And of remembering the stories that are used

To make excuses to do the same as before.

5

These bright words:

A skitter rhythmic ricochet

Scattering meanings across centuries.

No weir, no tickle or hook,

No line or net will keep them held for long.

Proud words, free words, unimprisoned,

Validated in memories

Springing out of rushing waters, upstream, upstream,

To seed in still minds,

To become vast again

In distant worlds.

6

Yesterday I was sure of its meaning.

Today I am not certain.

Tomorrow I shall start again

following other threads, other roots

down into the dark soil.

The seeds unfurl though they still

see no light. They taste

many futures and that is enough.

Allowing the breeze to bring its news,

breathing softly, trying

not to possess an outcome.

The wind lifts the smoke upwards,

the edges of the day retreat.

It is in silence the song can be heard.

It builds and dissipates

as clouds do at sunset.

Whole kingdoms dissolve.

Endless blue, then one,

then another star.

7

This world is clothed in words.

Shaped by enchanter’s song.

Brought to being and non-being by utterance.

Silence does not dispel it.

There are always echoes,

Always fading recollections

Into the next world.

8

Whose voice is this, whose words,

Yours or mine, and who is this I?

That is, and was, and will be?

The wind bends down the trees:

They kneel, they sigh, they dance,

They moan seeking shelter in song.

They can do little else when moved.

Where do the winds arise?

From beyond what horizons?

A word was spoken- the first word –

A little breath, and it has been uttered ever since.

The wind growing stormy – no birds are in the sky.

This powerful song has driven away all other thought.

You kneel and bend and sigh,

What else can you do?

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IN HER HOUSE (Dakini Day)

.

In her house of stars

the dark one’s hunger is unabated.

Clothe yourself in time and space and it will not be

Half enough

to approach her roaring silence.

The void around which the cauldron’s form is boiling:

All the gods burn bright

to feed that eternal heat.

Spinning arms dredge the web of roads between emptiness.

Vast is the well and vast the language.

The proud will not find it.

The worthy will not find it.

It is not what you are, nor what you would wish to be.

So hungry it can never be sated,

So full it can never be found.

Words approach and are swallowed.

Eternal dancers surround it.

Pillars of smoke are its witness:

The primal hole where gods ejaculate and die.

Supreme Glistening Darkness, we hear your song and tremble.

We draw your name as the moving waters do.

Down, down, down.

We do not know by knowing.

We do not remember anything by remembering.

Be still. Be silent.

The spiralling throne finds us and draws us in.

A cold breath passes through us.

We sigh and become glorious.

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TWENTY YEARS ( OF DRUID TRAINING)

1

It was like a rope of light

let down into the chaotic darkness.

Only later would we see

it was a deadly serpent

and the chains of enslavement.

But such is the nature of knowledge

and we shrugged, accepting all costs.

.

Nyt o vam a that

Pan y’m digonat

.

It was not from a mother and a father

That I was made.

.

2

One year we were held in complete silence.

No word spoken

but internal recitation of all the masters’ words.

Becoming each one, and their lilt,

moving into their expressions,

reclothed in passions,

Eyes opening in other worlds.

.

A’m creu a’m creat

O naw rith llafanat;

.

And my creation was created for me

From nine forms of consistency:

.

3

Another year we each were given

one word only, to unwrap.

To follow, to hunt to its uttermost,

to its bright birth,

In a name that has become ours alone.

A map of our journey,

a seal on our circumference.

.

O ffrwyth, o ffrwytheu,

O ffrwyth Duw dechreu;

.

From fruit, from fruits,

From God’s fruit in the beginning;

.

4

Once the words were learned

all the rhythms and the hidden wealth:

We could see how nothing existed

outside of those patterns of plaid.

No move, no colour, no conceit,

nothing that was not drawn

from that well of words.

And so we learnt to see around us,

in every hall, in every byre,

where each would walk

and where in each tale

they would place themselves.

And how with a word

it might be shifted

and how with a gesture

the plot might be moved on.

.

O vriallu a blodeu,

O vlawt gwyd a godeu,

.

From primroses and flowers,

From the blossom of trees and shrubs,

.

5

One year we were given

the gift of madness.

.

Prid o pridet

Pan y’m digonet,

.

From earth, from the sod

Was I made,

.

6

Another year we slept all the long days

and at night gathered around still pools

to learn the dance of stars, and their songs.

Our dreams would be strange then,

and our names, unpronounceable

.

O vlawt danat,

O dwfyr ton nawvet.

.

From nettle blossom

From the ninth wave’s water.

.

7

One year we would speak only lies,

until we knew that truth is itself a lie,

and that the tides beneath us

are drowning darknesses

and screaming passions.

.

A’m swynwys-i Vath

Kyn bum diameth.

.

Math created me

Before I was completed.

.

8

A year as birds

soaring and rising on thermals,

to find the fulcrum of the winds

and to twist the cloud rivers to rope

for sun or rain or storm.

To placate, to restore.

.

A’m swynwys-i Wytyon

Mawrut o brithron.

.

Gwydion fashioned me

Great enchantment wrought by a magic staff;

.

9

A year abiding by trees –

some would not return,

fertilising the world

with their eternal silences.

.

O Eurwys, o Euron,

O Euron, o Vodron;

.

By Eurwys, by Euron,

By Euron, by Modron;

.

10

Another, we hunted and slew all the gods,

taking their women and siring new progeny.

These we fed with our own blood and souls,

so that they would know us when we summoned them.

.

O pymp keluydon

Arthawon eil math –

Pan ymdygyaed.

.

By five enchanters

Of a kind like godparents –

Was I reared.

.

11

One year to placate and cajole poisons.

Those songs were enticing, sweet as death.

.

A’m swynwys-i wledic

Pan vei let loscedic.

.

A ruler fashioned me

When there would have been a burning extent.

.

12

Then we did all return to our own families

To serve one year, unrecognised, in their midst.

For many that was the final chain broken to the past.

Allegiance of blood once sweet, now rancid, old, bitter.

.

A’m swynwys sywyt

Sywydon kyn byt,

.

The wisdom of sages fashioned me

Before the world was made.

.

13

A year of folding secrets into the mundane;

Of speaking to the deep;

Of remaining human.

Learning that love and hate

Are the gravity that keeps us here.

.

Pan vei genhyf-y vot,

Pan vei vach veint byt.

.

When I had being,

When the extent of the world was still small.

.

14

A year polishing swords and mirrors

And placing the singing spells

Of vision and death within them.

.

Hard bard bud angnawt,

Yt uedaf ar wawt

A traetho tauawt.

.

A fair poet, of unusual gifts,

I control in song

That which the tongue utters.

.

15

The genealogies of the lost

And the equations of gods;

Their doorways, their doorkeepers.

The mysteries under the earth

Where the stars wander,

Passionate light on an endless river.

.

Gwaryeis yn llychwr,

Kysceis ym porffor.

.

I played in the light,

I slept wrapped in purple.

.

16

The transmutation of the body into smoke;

To see without eyes;

To move the shining streams.

.

Neu bum yn yscor

Gan Dylan Eil Mor,

.

I was in the citadel

With Dylan Son of the Sea,

.

17

To become free in chains;

To remember the first cauldron

And the journey from there.

Brightness remaining.

To give everything away,

Yet remain undiminished.

.

Yg kylchet ym perued

Rwg deulin teyrned.

.

My bed in the interior

Between the knees of kings.

.

18

To summon guards and guardians;

To curse the dreams of kings;

To know the stars’ positions in daylight;

To travel out on rays of light;

.

Yn deu wayw anchwant:

O Nef pan doethant.

.

My two keen spears:

From Heaven did they come.

.

19

To know one’s manner and time of death;

To move into other forms;

To prophesy and to escape from prophecy.

Transformation at the moment of death;

To remember every name and

The shape and hungers of souls.

.

Yn Annwfyn llifereint

Wrth urwydrin dybydant.

.

In the streams of Annwfn

They come ready for battle.

.

20

To return to simple words,

To return to silence;

To remember and forget,

To move freely without ripples.

Three drops spinning –

Their taste, the honey moment.

To know that all is song.

That all is one song, one river,

And to listen to the winds from the hills there,

From the rapids, from the shallows,

To leap upstream, to float downstream.

To inhabit the world that inhabits the wise.

.

Ef gwrith, ef datwrith,

Ef gwrith ieithoed.

.

He made, he remade,

He made languages.

.

Llachar y enw llawffer,

Much llywei nifer;

.

Radiant his name, strong his hand

Brilliantly did he direct a host;

.

Ysceinynt yn ufel

O dosas yn uchel.

.

They were scattering in sparks

From a drop in the heights.

The Welsh is taken from ‘Cad Godeu’, a long and mysterious poem attributed to Taliesin. It is not meant as a commentary on my verses, nor the other way round. But perhaps they both come from the same place and act as a counterpoint in time and space.

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THE TALIESIN SHADOWS

1

He comes forth by words,

out of darkness and brightness

(we, watching, blinded by both).

.

Out from blood, out from skulls,

out from the groves and the mist.

.

They tumble, birds from nets,

these wild words seeking skies.

.

The scent of oak and moss,

the scent of rust and iron blood.

.

A thousand years,

and still no-one has fathomed its depths.

.

The evening sky swept clear of life and death,

autumn clear with the tooth cold edge to it.

.

He has learnt to weave the shadows.

Mystery is his cloak, a feathered cloak of wings,

wings of words.

.

The meat of the past, the blood and muscle

of all forebears held in rhythm and sound.

.

They have perfected their own shadow,

full of mystery and silent horror.

.

Persistent dreaming encourages a certain familiarity

with dear monsters. “My awen is an ash spear”.

.

We talk to the spirits of the dead,

recounting their stories, reviving their memories,

reincarnating the spirit.

.

I will sing and sing and sing your words.

Your voice feeds my nerves

and I become, first, between, then other, then empty,

and you can walk in.

.

My shadow

becomes your shadow,

your words,

my words.

.

2

I open my mouth.

There is silence.

But now the wind

From the graves

Forms sound, the vowels,

The rivers of sound from the caves of wisdom,

From the mounds of remembrance.

.

I will not sing to the lords, to the rich kings.

I sing to the free, who lack good weather,

Who seek rain in drought, seek sun in storm.

.

The space of song.

They listen and travel through these words

To become closer to the divine.

This is my space. The protective weaving of poets’ words.

Enwrapped, entranced, protected within the poet’s rhythm.

3

Cauldron

This cauldron: iron hard consonants

Wrapped round and shaped by the curve of vowel.

What will it not encompass?

What shall never be encompassed by it?

.

Awen is greater than this cauldron’s expanse,

Awen is deeper than its deep resounding belly.

Powerful is the echo of that fortress of truth,

Yet an echo in the hills of distant thunder is what it is.

The ocean roar of awen in the cursive chambers of shell and bone:

A whisper of voices, millions, there are millions, from the deep before.

.

Deep as this cauldron is, and as ancient as its gigantic creators,

It cannot contain the horizons of Annwfn.

One part is understood and named,

Four-fifths remain eternally hidden.

A clear light blinds by its brightness

And the shadows deepen wherever it shines.

It cannot be named by names, it cannot be sung by songs,

It cannot be understood by philosophy,

It cannot be measured by maps.

Look up, look down, at the revolving stars:

It is there and not there.

Stir the bubbling verses in the honey cauldron:

It is there and not there.

In the breath and in the void

It escapes the understanding as the sun at sunset,

As the cuckoo in winter,

As the wren in the hedgerow.

There and not there,

A diminishing cry

Stirring the mind of poets.

.

He grows from his words – the seeds of sound

On the soil of listening silence.

Embodied, he is mystic light, a tricky one, iron hard steel.

An evolution of the world’s voice found in the dark tombs,

A clothing of golden brocade for liquid tongues.

They whisper in circles in their root-wrapped rooms.

The transcendence of death by the sages, by the brave,

By the wise, by the heroes who pass between, who pass on.

I have placed the words of the past in my body.

Golden, they rise up when my tongue bids it.

The mead flows, we drink and are drunk upon it.

.

The deep speaks, and it stirs the deeper still.

We are echoes and can trawl

The life beneath the single

Small light of the soul.

This voice overtones infrasound.

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WHOSE EYE

Whose eye now rests unblinking?

These sorrowful scattered things.

Whose perfect recollection

Recites names and causes?

Who knows and can name

The wide, free roads to destruction?

Is it that there is only ever one timeless voice,

Bright-browed and sharply bitter,

A wormwood for awakening?

Slew the game and shift the form,

It can never break from the following cloud.

The storm crow cries,

Carrion falls to feed new flocks.

Day and night is his mouth.

Dawn and sunset, dusk and midnight.

They are dreaming

Who listen to that song

Dreaming it is their dream alone.

There is peace beneath

The storm of words.

One world anchoring

The roaring others.

Gather back your souls, lost and scattered.

From this forest undergrowth.

From the peeling skies.

From the long dust roads.

Gather them in the heart of a song

That will not brook nor break.

One season returning with bright fruit.

One prayer reaching the throne of the Creator.

All this is the debris of glory.

The gold that feeds the gods-

These autumn grasses are brighter,

These few days, more precious.

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RISING, RETURNING

Rising through mist and rust and gold.

The rain coming and going and the oaks holding on.

History repeating itself, as it always does,

And the eternal poets weeping and laughing

In their sunlit words.

We shall reach home soon, as we always do,

Until the very last time when time shall slow and stop,

And the oaks, only, will be holding on then

In rust and gold and sunlit drifts.

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THE PERFECT MEMORY

Chapel oak frames the bright morning.

Crow’s wings: black, white, black, in the early sun.

I have reached into perfect memory

And drawn out a continuous stream,

Beyond names, beyond form.

A song from the bright, wondrous world.

.

My heart is burst into four,

Sundered and cast again into gold.

It hangs by threads strong enough for eternity.

Morning now as hushed as breath of nine maidens.

The slow, rotating mists that rise and sigh.

This summit cannot be reached by thought,

But by the rhythm of steady walking.

It goes beyond names, it goes beyond forms.

.

We have moved beyond safety in the ship of chant.

The confederacy of the senses murmurs in discontent.

Currents and cross-tides and the hidden lands beneath

Steer us whether we choose or not.

It has always been so: these sea roads as fixed as stars

And the stones that measure them staring from the shoreline cliffs.

.

A year and a day: that shall be the last feast.

Months-long travel for the final gathering of memory.

The sowing of seed, the tilling of the soil, the hiding of light.

The letting go, the letting go.

Bones buried, doors locked.

.

Pink thrift on the foreshore.

The horizon unsullied.

We shall sink down in grief here.

Washed away, washed away.

.

White crow, black crow, of perfect recollection.

Beyond names, beyond forms.

We are all gathered up –

The long roads mapped between stars,

The final feast where all is swallowed up.

.

Bright are the beams of its hall.

Its fires, a delight, and its succour complete.

Light and dark the chapel oak holds firm.

Vast are the teachings within silence.

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