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Merlin intervenes

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Mount Badon

Thus passed the causeway. Sudden at the end,
a little hill rose out of all the bogs.
At last they left the lane men laid with logs,
and climbed a winding road around a bend.
Then, pausing on the top to rest the horse,
old Merlin pointed out with wizened hand
a mound that cast a shadow ‘cross the land,
and Trefor saw the home of Arthur’s force.
Three miles away across the rolling realm,
Mount Badon stood aloof midst fallow field;
the king who held its heights would never yield,
sailing a sea of foemen at its helm.

Atop that mount, tall towers looked out afar
above the lands below, imperious stood;
by day no flutt’ring flags e’er looked so good;
at night a lighted lamp looked like a star.
Once more young Trefor gasped, struck dumb with awe,
to see such works in Britain’s darkest age;
the fruit of cunning king and mystic mage,
the chosen ground on which to wage a war.
Though Trefor dreaded Saxons in his heart,
the sight of Badon banished every fear;
let heathen hordes of hellish men draw near -
this fatal fort would make them all depart!

Through fold and field the road was ridd’n with ease,
in manner like the Romans built of old;
and on it high-piled wagons ever rolled,
for down the river ships could reach the seas.
Thus was the king from famine made secure;
his fortress fed on food from foreign lands,
while plans were made for Arthur’s armoured bands,
making this ancient rock the Saxon’s lure.
But Trefor gazed at every passing knight
who travelled from the town towards the bridge;
riding along the road from ridge to ridge,
stopping to rest his horse, and view the height.

Said Trefor, “I would dearly love to be
one such as these, who rid the land of thieves,
who sweep away the foe like fallen leaves,
and one whom sweet fair maidens long to see.”
At this his old companion laughed out loud,
and said, “You shall for sure become a knight,
though how it happens lies beyond my sight,
and all your deeds will make some maiden proud.
Your quest will be to bring the summer back
that she should summon up the sun again,
the timely showers of spring and autumn rain,
those things the kingdom now doth sadly lack.”

A third time speechless Trefor fell that day,
and as the sun began to sink down low,
they reached the hill up which they had to go,
that marked the end of all their arduous way.
The town of Badon nestled in the shade;
a few thatched dwellings round a village green
by which a great encampment could be seen,
where craftsmen worked at each and every trade.
All Logres had been set to work to fight,
and here decide the fate of Arthur’s lands;
his fortress rock required now many hands
that eagerly would hammer day and night.

Around the hill there led a little lane;
beside, there grew the waxy leaves of trees;
the laurel and the holly on the knees
of Badon, later called the Saxon’s bane.
At last they reached an inn where they could rest,
and Trefor found the horse a stable there.
They ate a hearty meal of humble fare
and listened to a minstrel sing and jest.
‘The Holly Bush’, the sign declared outside;
and when they’d cleared the plate and drained the cup,
between the holly climbed they ever up
the winding road; a short but strenuous stride.

At last aloft, they stood atop a cliff.
For many miles around could all be seen;
the fields were sickly sour shades of green.
Old Merlin set his jaw, beard bristling stiff.
“Now come with me, and we will see your king,
but once inside, be sure you shall not speak;
be silent, though the audience take a week!
Of knighthood you must never say a thing.”
They entered in the fortress by the gate;
no splendour greets a visitor within.
From towers tall the deadly engines grin,
that only Saxon blood will ever sate.

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