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The Voyage of the Wild Argyll

This is a song composed by King Lot following his voyage along the west coast of Britain, returning to the Orkneys from France. In it, he describes the events which took place on the way. This song was then written down by Lot's wife Morgawse when she wrote to her father, King Uther, asking help for Lot in regard of a strange and terrible danger which arose during his voyage.

The contents refer to features of the seas and islands near to the Orkneys, as well as various mythologies unique to that area. Those mythologies are at least as old as the Arthurian legends, probably considerably older. Space does not allow a full explanation of those places and myths, but the names and legends in this poem all refer to real places and ancient stories, not places or stories of my own invention.

~ Dave Knight.

The Voyage of the Wild Argyll

Whisper, you winds, on the cold, slow ocean;
talk to the waters, calling for home.
Rip at the mists from the North Walls falling -
glide o'er the tides as we ride the foam.
My fathers still frown from the stone-rowed coastline,
like countless mountains crowding the sky -
lost kings that were cursed from their birth; first turning
to ghostly stones where the bone-men lie.

I have taken the way to the far French forests,
and sailed on the sea to the southern shores,
where I sought for a lord of Gaul's great nation
to save all my sons from the serpent's jaws.
For the tide has turned in the hard heart's hollow;
the fire of my forbears flamed like a brand -
but I knelt to the gentle warm, wise woman
my father fetched from a foreign land.

Morgawse was the gift of the king, cruel Uther,
to Meginland's Master, a maiden mild -
to the northern court of the high wild islands,
a seed he sent for the sea-king's child.
And marry her merry did I, right blindly -
my lady's love for her other Lord
made this pagan crave what her whole heart hallowed -
to God I offered my soul and sword.

My life as King Lot had been swift, sweet splendour -
a rising tide, or a giddy game;
from Irish isles to the ice grim grinding,
from Orkney to Norway fared my fame.
But cold was the throne that I held; men's vengeance,
the bitter chills of our yester-years,
could guide with the bile of the heart's hot hatreds,
when tales of old terrors were told with tears.

My conscience was clear as we sailed so slowly;
my heart was high with the hope of peace,
when the wind that I wished for blew back banners
of mist, and I moaned for my soul's release.
For the stars stood still in the stark skies shining -
but green was the glint of the grinning glow
on the wild horizon, where death's dawn-dancers
flickered and flamed on the foam below.

Then the souls that had sailed to Ban's bright Benwick -
that Christian king in his fair free fane -
cowered and cringed 'neath the dread high heavens,
afraid of a fire in the angels' lane.
Some muttered the sun in fox-fires flashing
had come to curse us for courting Christ;
but others in wonder mocked men's madness,
and told them boldly their faith sufficed.

Then fumbling I fingered the cold calm cross
Morgawse had given; on chain of gold
'twas hung by my heart by that same brave lady
when first I followed her faith, so bold.
But dreadful the dream that our wide eyes watched there,
while Hether-Blether, the rising isle,
groaned as it rose from the sea's deep keeping -
vexing the voyage of the "Wild Argyll".

As if at a whim, the moist mist lifted;
then high in the night, that shining orb
the moon came mournful to light my nightmare -
that ghostly globe with its gleam did daub
beaches of seaweed, with streams soft sucking
the brine from the isle, as high she rode,
up from the cover of cold cross-currents -
a fell and dreadful Elves' abode.

The tide that had tarried whilst all sought Orkney
now leisurely lapped on this ghastly strand,
steering us near to the Finfolk's fastness,
calling us close by occult command.
O'er slippery slopes of grim grey granite
a lonely lane sought the centre-stone;
no word was heard in the ear's clear hearing -
inside the mind rose a mournful moan.

"Courage!" I cried. "In tales told truly,
the hero Hector claimed Hildaland
where Finfolk frolic no more, for surely
they ran from that Master of Meginland.
Thus did it come to be high Eynhallow,
a place where the hated race of Elves
yearn to return with singing wicked -
but Hether-Blether they kept for themselves."

Ignoring warnings from men made mindful
of former fables, and scorning fear,
I carried the sack of salt such sailors
as worked these waters now kept near.
For Hector's tale showed salt slew spell-men;
he made his way to the centre-stone,
then scattered and strew, to the Finfolk's fury;
on Hether-Blether, I strode alone.

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