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Aurorielle

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An Arthurian fairy story told entirely in verse - 196 pages.



It is 517 AD. The land of Logres has suffered from poor summers and blighted crops for several years. While King Arthur prepares to defend his realm against the Saxons, Merlin goes to discover how the famine has affected the people of Dinefwr. Finding that desperation has driven them back to paganism, Merlin frees their intended sacrifice, Trefor, foreseeing the youngster has been chosen for a quest no knight would undertake.

Trefor begins a lonely journey on which he meets the mysterious Fay, who help him to reach the secluded realm of Sir Robert. Robert has taken captive the Fay Aurorielle, who is the embodiment of the seasons; by doing so, he has confined her blessings to his own land.

Though he is only on the verge of manhood, Trefor has promised to help the Fay by freeing Aurorielle. In this he has their assistance, yet their actions seem to him more puzzling than helpful.

Written throughout in rhythmic poetry, 'Aurorielle' is a short novel in the tradition of works such as 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'.



The Love of Aurorielle


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(Artwork by permisson of leonard_da_quirm@hotmail.com)

The Love of Aurorielle



Aching wasteland, shattered shores,
far Sir Robert’s blighted moors;
heaven’s blessing never pours
on this, his drear and dreadful realm.
No harvest sun nor sowing rains
bring comfort unto dusty plains;
among a land of listless lanes,
down from the hills a trickle drains -
the rambling river, Durrinelm.

Hardy folk endure the night,
waiting for dawn to bring them light;
guards and witch-hag fear the knight,
hunched on an isle amidst the stream.
Beneath the shining full spring moon
she cuts herself; they hear her croon
lost in an otherworldly tune –
the dawn cannot arrive too soon,
or so Sir Robert’s guardsmen deem.

Silence falls; the cackling crone
ceases to weep and wail and moan.
Nervous, the guardsmen wait like stone
her oracle at last to hear.
The ancient woman turns to aim
her finger t’wards their lord, the same
who brought them here to play his game;
but oracles will not be tame –
entranced, she speaks for Robert’s ear:

“You are the one who cursed the land!
Tyranny reaps rewards unplanned;
heaven withholds its blessing hand
because your evil holds all sway.
No baser man was ever born!
No crops, and neither hide nor horn,
shall bless your reign, unless this morn
from you the kingdom’s seal is torn
and given to a Queen of Fay!”

Robert’s men all catch their breath;
he stands before them pale as death –
grimaces hard, and then he saith:
“Be sure that you’ll receive your pay!
Everything shall proceed as planned.
I will retain the guiding hand;
never shall fairies rule the land!
Surely my right you understand –
employ your powers without delay!”

A downy swan’s nest makes a bed
for four small infants, drugged and bled,
whose pale pinched bodies, underfed,
lie cold beneath the starry sky.
The men, though troubled, must obey
to live their lives another day;
they and Sir Robert go their way,
and leave the witch to have her say.
Unto the east she turns her eye.

All along the Eastern coasts,
dawn unveils its splendid hosts;
heaven’s creatures take their posts,
through Logres’ lands to ply their way.
Here at their head is Nature’s Queen,
beauteous fairy few have seen;
bright as the sun her lovely sheen;
under her wings the gleaners glean;
Aurorielle, the mighty Fay.

Her smile was not like smiles that others smile;
it shone as though it lit up all the world.
At dawn she smiled, and so the sky unfurled
that she should flit in it a little while.
Her voice did not speak words as others spoke;
its kindness was enough to heal the land;
its singing, song of waves along the sand;
its laughter lifted every heavy yoke.
Her wings were not as those of bird or bat –
their delicacy clothed her form with grace;
their shiny shimm’ring spoke of silken lace;
her flight was what the wind would wonder at.
Men marvelled whence their hope and gladness came -
Aurorielle, heavenly fairy, was her name.

Gazing down, the Fairy sees
babes abandoned ‘midst the trees.
Summoning a spiral breeze,
appalled, she flits to spy the isle.
There in a clearing doth she find
beside the babes, the witch-hag, blind;
struck to her heart, the fairy kind
leaves all her duties far behind
and seeks to tend each child a while.

“Rarely I pass this way,” she said,
“Other lands I serve instead,
those the ones to which I’m led;
for heav’n dictates my every deed.
But never would I pass this by –
to see your children suffer and die,
would make my service like a lie!
How have you come to this? Can I
approach the throne, your cause to plead?”

With saltless tears she feigns to weep,
shameless the witch explains, “They sleep
lost in enchantments dark and deep;
they die, unless they wake today.
Unless some other dreams their dream,
while e’er their names shall live, I deem,
their faces ne’er again shall beam;
their lives shall but an instant seem,
unless their dream is tak’n away.

Who would sleep a dream, life-long?
Who’d forego their years of song?
Only one of Faerie's throng
would take the vow that breaks the curse.”
The Fairy Queen let out a cry,
and said, “Thank God I fluttered nigh;
I live, when e’en the earth should die!
So while their names shall last, will I
dream on, and all be none the worse.”

Wonder crossed the hag’s cracked face.
“Thou art a Fay? What joyous grace!
Doubtless you could take their place.
To do so, only speak this vow;
‘I take their dream, and therefore sleep
to hold the dream in slumbers deep
while they shall wake, and sow, and reap.
This, till their names shall pass, I keep.’
Now speak it, fairy! Say it now!”

Love so pure, Aurorielle
more had in store than words can tell.
All for those babes she entered hell,
unknowing though she was, and Fay;
she spoke the words, and thus was bound.
“What are their names?” she sadly frowned
as into dreadful dreams she drowned.
“These shall they be! My wyrd profound –
Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall are they!”

Blindness feigned no longer now,
since the fairy took the vow,
Hag arrives to take her bow
in Robert’s keep, with children four.
“Her fate is sealed by words she said;
the fairy sleeps till earth is dead!
While yonder island makes her bed
your once-cursed land be blest instead.
My name shall live for evermore!

Keep the seasons’ names alive,
thus your land shall surely thrive –
fruit and grain and herd and hive.
And now, my lord – I’ll take my pay!”
Sir Robert smiled, and muttered low,
“You cursed me, but an hour ago,
while standing on the isle below.
For visions vile, the pay I know –
guards! Pay this witch with swords today!”



There by the tyrant lay the head
cut from the crone; but though it bled
far from her body, still it said:

“Cursed be this river! Nought shall float.
Around your isle, become a moat!
Cursed be its lord! Though land be blest,
within it, you shall never rest.
Cursed be your reign! Its end my scheme –
that one shall sleep, but both shall dream!”

They threw her in the river, then it stank
for seven days so badly no one drank;
until her rotted corpse washed off to sea,
and then began the rest of her decree.


Comment


Thus begins the captivity of Aurorielle, unknown to those who live beyond Robert's borders. The fertility of the land of Logres, which was her primary care, withers and fails as she ceases to fly over it. Meanwhile Sir Robert's hidden realm becomes boundlessly abundant, growing many valuable crops each year. These he sells to finance his military ambitions.

But Robert is not the true lord of his little land. The mysterious patience of the Fay is beyond his wisdom to assess. They will reclaim Aurorielle in their own good time - but quite why they do as they do, Trefor, who has promised to help them, despairs of understanding. His helpers are a horse too big for him to ride, a fool, a girl who believes in him, and a gift that seems to do nothing but put him into harm's way. Yet worse than all the perils he encounters when confronting Sir Robert, is to look upon Aurorielle, knowing he can never see her again.

Trefor's dilemma

“Oh agony! I cannot speak the rhyme;
for if I wake her up, then I must sleep!
How can I enter darkling dreamworlds deep,
if I’m denied her sight throughout all time?

I am forlorn. I have no hopes at all;
in life or death, forever incomplete.
Woe to the day when men bright angels meet! -
who guard eternal Paradise’s wall
to keep him out. But what if they themselves
should yet become the flaming heart’s desire?
For man descends still deeper down the mire,
if ever he desires bright heaven’s Elves!
Oh stars above! You beautify the night,
and when the sun goes slowly down to rest,
your angel-lights I always loved the best.
Here in your pretty glimmer lies my plight:
I dared to dream and die in deadly hell -
yet how can I forsake Aurorielle?”

Thus Trefor meets Aurorielle on the threshhold of manhood. Now he finds the quest set him by the Fay to be a crueller one than he could ever have imagined. Aurorielle's captor, Sir Robert, is on his way, so time is short. To save the land from famine, Trefor must free Aurorielle from the dream in which she is held captive. He need only speak a few lines of doggerel, which will cause him to lie in eternal sleep in her place. But whether he does so or not, one thing is certain - Trefor can never see her again. Now that he has finally found her after all his troubles, he realises this is the one thing in all the world he least desires.

Did God truly want this for Trefor - to lie in an evil dream forever, knowing he can never again see the most beautiful thing God made, having looked upon her as he falls into the dream? This is Trefor's agony. He has a few short minutes in which to find out just what his faith means, before he must decide. Only then can the King of the Angels reveal what he truly intended.

Comment

The uniqueness of 'Aurorielle'

It is my firm belief that very long poems in a single metre can become excruciatingly boring. The solution is to change the metre, just as the backing music of a film changes to reflect the action. Unlike many a poem of long ago whose author adopted a fixed metre and rhyme scheme throughout, the form of 'Aurorielle' changes to suit the story. Each character has their own unique rhythm of speech, developing as the speaker's character develops. The narrative also responds to the mood of the story. This is a poetic method I believe to be unique to 'Aurorielle'.

Audio sample

Click the link below to hear the author's reading:

Trefor in the Forest



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