The Peregrine Knight ~ Part II

Submitted by Caleb on Tue, 11/06/2018 - 21:49

""Art thou one of Arthur’s men?" asked he.
"Yes, by my faith," he answered.
"A good service, truly, is that of Arthur. I have always been Arthur's enemy, and all such of his men as I have ever encountered I have slain."
~ From Peredur The Son of Evrawc, The Mabinogion

Author's age when written


Part II: The Knight Telleth Strange Tales of his Journeyings

So then to them strange wanderer tales he told
Of castles where he had been entertained,
And marvels he had seen in mountains cold,
How once on misty morn upon a plain
He saw a cairn, and serpent on it lain,
And drew his sword, all wary of its sting,
And battled with the worm till it was slain;
Then bright beneath the beast gold glistering
He saw, and for his pains did take, a golden ring.

Then told he how upon a sunny noon
He saw a forest great before him rise
Since olden time by foresters unhewn.
And as on olden oaks he lift his eyes,
He saw a shield with oaken leaf device
Above the path hung on a branch full stout.
Upon the shield with spear-shaft smote he thrice,
Till as a leaf it fell. Then rode there out
A knight with antlered helm and thus to him did shout:

“Whence come you knight?” “King Arthur’s court” he said
At which the forest knight in fury roared:
“All Arthur’s men that I have faced hang dead
Within this forest deep, slain by my sword.
I stand sworn enemy unto your lord,”
Then charged he swift as stag in forest glade.
But when the two did meet, the forest ward
Was swiftly thrown to ground, and there was made
To swear to Arthur faith, and cede his black steel blade.

Then told he how a tow’r as white as snow
In pass perilous he saw stand by the way.
Above its gate, all hanging in a row,
Full fifty shields bright-coloured were displayed,
From knights the lord who dwelt there had waylaid.
This lord then looking out saw decked for war
Him riding up, and to him challenge made.
So on that day, as two wild mountain boars,
They hurled themselves against each other hours four.

“Night fell” he said “before that lord did yield,
And to King Arthur pledged his faith at last,
As prize I took his driven snow-white shield.
Such perils I passed.” The maid, with eyes downcast,
Then spake: “Pray, take with us a poor repast,”
And came her maidens nine on them to wait.
But to herself she took her portion last,
And served the greatest portion to his plate,
And looked not on his face as though he were too great.

“My sister, I’ll the meat and drink divide”
On seeing how she favoured him he said,
“Not so” she answered soft, but he replied
“But by my faith I will” and broke the bread
Among them all, and she no longer pled,
Nor one more word at all to him did speak.
Her hair it was as black as jet, and red
As whatever is reddest was her cheek,
And every graceful move she made was soft and meek.

Then after meat, the lady sang a lay,
Her voice as forest stream on Summer morn,
The tale of how day after silent day,
The Lady of the Fountain watched forlorn
For her forgetful lord’s long pledged return.
Then from the candled hall the knight was led
Down wide and spiraling stair of stone foot-worn,
Till ‘neath a cobwebbed arch he found a bed
Beside a long cold hearth, and there he laid his head.

And he was just wondering, for he was a severe critic of his own work, whether that last line couldn't be polished up a bit...
~P.G. Wodehouse

According to Webster's Online, before the word peregrine came into our language as its own word (meaning having a tendency to wander) it was in our language in the name of the Peregrine Falcon whose name comes from the medieval latin name falco peregrinus (pilgrim falcon.) The original meaning of the latin word peregrinus is "coming from foreign parts."

The contents of this poem are drawn a great deal from the old Arthurian cycle, particularly an episode from the Welsh Mabinogion. I never thought of myself as someone deeply into the Arthurian stories (though I loved looking at the illustrations of them before I could read) but an incident in the Mabinogion (which I had come across many years before and somewhat misremembered) stuck with me, and became my leaping off point for this poem.

The reference to the Lady of the Fountain (the song she sings) refers to the story of Sir Owain.

And he was just wondering, for he was a severe critic of his own work, whether that last line couldn't be polished up a bit...
~P.G. Wodehouse