“Long ago Lionel, legendary king,
forced from his lands by fierce foemen,
dreamed of dwelling deep in a secret.
Sailing the seas softly swelling
seeking new realms in wrath royal,
he found a country of field and forest.
Swift years peaceful and prosperous passed,
carving a kingdom loved by its countrymen;
honouring God, giving gladly
freedom and favour to those showing fealty.
Loyal, this land in the lone Northern waste,
faithful to Logres in fast friendship,
Sunderland, land of those sadly sundered
far from their forests of French fable.
Hard we laboured, to level the land,
felling such forest as Fay permitted,
going no further than gleaning gladly
food from the fields that we farmed with our hands.
Robert the Bastard, Bane of Brittany,
long sought Lionel, hating his line.
Scourge of the sighing forest, Broceliande,
servant of Satan, patron of sorcerers,
renegade regicide, regent of ruin,
craven and cruel, knight without conscience.
Finally forced from the forest, defeated,
hated by hordes of the humble people,
reaping the wrath and revenge of the robbed,
Robert then ran to the realm of Logres.
Civilly Arthur received him; but seeking
to keep up his guard against the godless,
of Merlin’s monishments sternly mindful
to regulate rank of the Round Table,
Arthur then rightly rated Sir Robert,
calling him braggart, boastful and bane;
and forced him to flee, without food or fire.
Cast on the seas, safe shores seeking,
to Sunderland blundered the Bastard, begging
refuge and rest, and feigning great rue.
The guard at the haven granted them gladly.
But learning himself in the land of Lionel,
Brittany’s Bane, bearing no tokens,
sought an audience of the Sire of Sunderland.
Lionel, graciously lending love
to the homeless knight, never knowing
who was the weary warrior warlike,
suffered to see him and judge the supplicant.
Before the throne, threatening and terrible,
Robert the Bastard wrought to ruin
Lionel the Kindly, lord of this land.
Taking as trove lands treasured,
holding as hostage the people he hated,
gathering guards from his grim shipmates,
Robert’s fell wrath made Sunderland wretched.
Barrenness blighted us; famine, not blessing
came with the cunning Bastard’s conquest;
Fay withheld favour; fields forlorn
perished in drought, and the people pleaded
that Robert would rule them a godly regent;
but Brittany’s Bane sought sorcerous blackguards,
fearing the fairy realm to fathom,
knowing they knew this knight godless.
Power desiring, plans he made potent;
brought here but barely, for boats would not bring her
lest sorcery dark were dared to drain them,
the witch of the west isle of wilderland;
Helga, the hag of Heligoland.
Grön is dat Land, rood is de Kant, witt is de Sand,
dat is de Flagg vun't hillige Land. *
Witch-Hag we called her, wild and wanton.
Cunning and cruel, crafty and pitiless,
bade she the Bastard to trap the beautiful;
here to harness the power of the happy,
plunge into prison the power of angels,
drag into Dreamworld the sky’s darling.
Quick was her quarry; Nature’s Queen,
powerful Aurorielle, pure and potent.
Pity her weakness, woe would warp it.
Children were brought, chosen cherubs,
four from the daughters of dotards made desolate;
drugged and then dragged into Dreamworld’s domain.
Out in the river, for Robert she wrestled
the fertile fairy from the far flung sky;
trapped nature’s treasure with treacherous counsel,
bringing her bounty to the barren land.
But Robert was wroth with the restive witch-hag
who named him the cause of the country’s curses.
Brashly he bade her be bound and beheaded;
now sleepless he suffers the curse of the sorceress.
Henceforth we harvested high and handsome,
living in fear of the Fay’s fury;
Robert sleeps never, but gnaws at nothing;
riches he reaps, but reckless rewards
sorcerers sought over land and sea
to seek him the sleep that the hag had stolen.
Draughts he drinks, but he dreams dully;
awake, he walks in the wild twilight.
Bereft of rest, wretched he sleeps not.
Robert would relish the reaper’s queen;
before from the sky he had fetched the fairy,
dammed he the river, deeming it danger
to leave beyond reach the love of the living.
Masons then made a masterful weir;
fourteen feet to the flow’s bottom
now ran the Durrinelm, dark and deep.
One of the streams Robert stayed for a season,
and thus did he thrust there a tunnel that under
the water doth wend, to the wild island.
Finally letting the flashing flood
take its course true, now a deep torrent;
a gate barred with hatred now guards his Fay guest.
But after the hag was hapless beheaded,
the water was cursed - it cannot be crossed,
for all that would sail it, sink like a stone.
Told is the tale of the terrible tyrant;
lost is the land of the free and the loved;
fast is the sleep of the fluttering fairy;
long is the longing for Lionel’s avenger.”
* [This is a traditional verse in the dialect of Heligoland, which translates –
‘Green is the land,
red is the cliff,
white is the sand,
that is the flag of our holy land.’ ]