Back when I was raising funds earlier this year to attend PantheaCon, I received a very generous commission from sidhebecomesknight for a poem. I was given several choices for shorter poems, or a longer poem, on a subject that has always been of interest to me from the Middle Welsh Culhwch ac Olwen. As often occurs, soon inspiration (or, awen, even, perhaps!) took over, and I wrote far over the suggested length, and the result can be found below.
And, if you like what I came up with, just think: if you sponsor me now for the World Parliament of Religions in a few months, something wonderful like this can also be attributed to your generosity for generations to come! Look for new perks listed on there in the coming days!
And now, the poetry…Thank you once again, sidhebecomesknight, for being an awesome individual and a true inspiration to my own work! :)
Gwyn ap Nudd and Cyledr Wyllt
Gwythyr ap Greidawl’s attack
by Gwyn ap Nudd beaten back
left men imprisoned inside
Caer Ynys Glas—the bright pride
of Annwfyn’s fortresses—
all for the fragrant tresses
of Creiddylad, fair daughter
of Lludd, sister of slaughter.
Gwythyr son of the great king—
Greidawl Galldonyd, bards sing—
in northern Prydain’s green lands
from dark peaks to white cliffs’ sands;
other kings his retinue
filled fine ranks the battle through:
Nwython grandson of Yrp, knight
and Alt Clut’s king waged the fight.
Nwython was taken in turn;
his freedom he could not earn
without son Cyledr’s gain
since they shared one binding chain;
royal hostages enjoy
what’s denied the low envoy,
and so Cyledr asked Gwyn
how awen in mind begins.
“Sit for a feast,” Gwyn replied,
and a cauldron the son spied;
it bubbled and sputtered foul—
whether cooking flesh or fowl—
and winds stirred it without spoons
the length of the waxing moon…
but at last smoked black but sweet,
and from it three bits of meat.
“Now eat the fine feast,” Gwyn said
to Cyledr, without bread,
“and three drops of wisdom pure
you may gain from it as cure
to all troubles, and captive
no more—liberty I give
to you and your father dear,
if you eat and are made seer.”
Cyledr picked at the flesh
that might make his mind refresh,
and chewed it three times, spitting
it from his mouth while sitting.
“It is well,” Gwyn said, laughing,
a servant his hall staffing
came and collected the meat
and placed it beneath his seat.
“It was not the heart of truth
you ate—and I am uncouth,
for it was the flesh of dog—
Dormarch his name—which would clog
your mind with words made of wind,
and all would say I have sinned
in withholding awen’s sweet
savor with such unfit meat.”
And white-bodied, and red-eared
the hound from beneath then peered,
and barked and howled, then he fled
where as feast he’d not be fed.
“But eat again, Cyledr,
you’ll like the next bit better,”
and two morsels on the plate
held Cyledr’s awen-fate.
He touched the next boiled morsel,
his mind not yet awen-full,
and took it to his lips and teeth
and tasted the scent of heath,
of acorn-rooting, truffles
hidden in leaf-fall shuffles…
but choked, regurgitated
the meat, still left unsated.
The servant took the sick-wad
and said the name of some God,
and placed it before the door
as it seethed with bile and gore.
“And yet, again, this feast wastes
young Cyledr’s refined tastes!
For it is the meat of boar
Twrch Trwyth, prince of the moor!”
And the boar’s full bulk filled hall
with four legs, old oak-trunk tall,
with two tusks lance-length and sharp
and bristles like strings of harp;
and a comb and silver shears
were nestled between its ears…
it bounded from the hall, quick,
sprung up from the ball of sick.
“There is one piece left, poor boy,
and no more will my feast toy
with your awen-seeking wish:
bright wisdom is now your dish.”
And Cyledr ate the meat,
red and bloody after heat
of cauldron drew its juices
from it…no more excuses.
It was hard, but was not tough,
this meat of awen’s sweet stuff,
and it was sour, but not quite
a stomach-turning food-spite;
it opened his mind chewing
from the cauldron’s strange brewing
and at last, he swallowed down
the fruit of awen’s brew-drown.
He felt in his limbs the wind
of a forest’s boughs, now thinned,
the Caledonian wood
no longer grew as it should,
cut down and made into groves
as it was plundered in troves,
its very heart in Strathclyde
sold off like un-bride-priced bride.
He could cry in every breath
the ten thousand pains of death
of animals and tall trees,
birds and fish in Autumn sprees,
of shrubs and herbs and the stones
and bees, from queens down to drones,
and the ants, and the lands’ names
now lost to unrightful claims.
And he screamed, like a flesh-fork
took him for a side of pork
and pried out heart from his chest…
and the feast was his detest.
“You are wise now, Cyledr,
and all the voices you hear
are as much from greatest Gods
as from the earth’s greenest sods.”
“But what was the meat I ate?”
Cyledr looked at his plate
and saw a bloody-red stain
as his mind was wracked with pain.
“You know the answer well, boy,
and will soon see through my ploy.”
But the truth still eluded,
his mind now fear-polluted.
“Your father is an ally
to my rival of blue sky,
the ‘Victor’ of bright summers,
by the words of harp-strummers;
from Greidawl Galldonyd’s wood
your fair father’s right rule could
marshal a host to defeat
my own, the struggle complete.”
“But now why is it I hear
the cries of ten-thousand deer,
the death-howls of wolves from glen
from wood Caledonian?”
And Gwyn laughed and near fell flat
from the question phrased like that,
and the truth dawned soon enough
to Cyledr’s senses’ rebuff.
“You have seen not the present,
but what will be unpleasant
when, in future times, small men
will do—again and again—
to the Old North and Logres
all in the name of ‘progress,’
to land and people and Gods…
what such a small man applauds…
“It will be such detriment
that few fears minds can invent
will compare to the horror…
hard work for the restorer!
But as king is tied to land
with a Goddess’ sacred hand,
so, too, in gaining your art,
you’ve eaten your father’s heart!”
And a groan from depths hellish,
which Gwyn did not much relish
erupted from Cyledr,
and shattered every fetter
upon him—every captive
to freedom was adaptive
and fled the Caer Ynys Glas
to deep wood and mountain pass.
Cyledr, out of his head,
did not know that not yet dead
was his father, like the hound
or the boar hunted and found;
still, he raved in northern wastes
as his price for awen’s tastes,
for death or poems or madness
is the fee for heart’s sadness.
And Cyledr was the third
of the Three—each like a bird—
of the Gwyllt in the north’s woods,
shunning people and their goods:
Myrddin Emrys the wild man,
known across Prydain’s wide span;
and Llew of the Skillful Hand
when Goronwy’s plot was planned.