Note: As you will have read in my post two weeks ago, I am now posting every other week instead of every week. You can read that post (which has a few more details and updates in it), A Light on the Road, here.
Take Up The Tale
by Malcolm Guite
As I walked out one morning
All in the soft fine rain
It seemed as though a silver veil
Was shining over hill and vale
As though some lovely long-lost spell
Had made all new again
And through that shimmer in the air
I seemed to hear a sound
As though a distant horn were blown
in some lost land that I had known
That seemed to speak from tree and stone
And echo all around.
And with the music came these words:
‘Poet, take up the tale!
Take up the tale this land still keeps
In earth and water magic sleeps
The dryad sighs, the naiad weeps
But you can lift the veil.
From where the waves wash Cornwall’s caves
Out to the white horse vale
The lands still hold the tale of old
Like hidden treasure, buried gold
Once more the story must be told
Poet take up the tale.
Tell of the king who will return
Tell of the holy grail
Tell of old knights and chivalry
Tell of the pristine mystery
Of Merlin’s Isle of gramaryre
Poet take up the tale.
Take up the tale of courtesy
Take up the tale of grace
Revive the lands’ long memory
Summon the fair folk, let them be,
something of faery, wild and free
Still lingers in this place
Lift up your eyes to see the light
On Glastonbury Tor
Then come down from that far green hill
To where the sacred waters spill
And shine within the chalice well
And listen to their lore.
Yea, listen well before you start,
Be still ere you begin
See through the surface round about
The noise, the rush, the fear, the doubt
Though Modern Britain lies without
Fair Logres lives within
You may yet walk through Merlin’s isle
By oak and ash and thorn
The ancient hills do not forget
And you might wake their wisdom yet
Who knows what wonders might be met
On this midsummer morn.’
So I have taken up the tale
To tell it full and free
The tale that makes my heart rejoice
I tell it, for I have no choice
I tell it till another voice
Takes up the tale from me.
You can listen to the poet read his poem aloud here.
Fall is a time for new beginnings. New journeys. New ideas. I often feel a fresh surge of traveller’s fernweh as autumn dawns. The elms are amber, their bark ebony. The aspens, gracefully Lothlorien-esque with their golden leaves and smooth silver bark. The sun tilts to the south, slanting its light ever so beckoningly, rays the colour of mead. This time, more than in spring, does it take all I can muster to keep from throwing textbooks, paper, and ink aside to heed the call for a walk.
And yet, fall is also the time when I feel most inspired to “take up the tale” anew. To pick up the languages laid aside during the bliss of summer, crack open long books, dust off bygone ideas, rethink old thoughts. To me, these things go together with the beginning of new ideas and new journeys.
Mr. Guite has graciously given me permission to share his poem, “Take Up The Tale,” with you. He is beginning a ballad version of the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and this poem serves as a sort of prologue. Guite has already begun to read his Galahad poetry aloud during his “Spells in the Library” on YouTube and you can watch and listen to some of them here.
Bits for extra wanderings:
- Malcolm Guite’s blog, where he shares his poetry. Each post includes an audio recording the poem.
- His post on “Take Up the Tale”
- His video on the same
- Guite’s “Spells in the Library.” These short videos are filled with little ponderings and readings of poetry and literature. I often pop in whenever I need a touch of literary refreshment.
2 thoughts on “Take Up The Tale, by Malcolm Guite”
Thank you so much for sharing this, Nicole. I have been following Malcolm Guite’s readings of his retelling of the Grail Quest in a series of short YouTube videos and I have loved them. What struck me as I listened was that I became lost in the story and my critical ear was quietened. I look forward to the publication of the complete poem.
I have not come across this introduction of the ballad before. What strikes me is the longing to hear older voices of dryad and naiad in the midst of the noise of modernity. I am reminded of the wonderful reflection on Logres and Britain at the end of C.S Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. I wrote about this on Brenton Dickieson’s blog as part of a series of posts that accompanied the publication of Arthur and the Inklings edited by Sørina Higgins and to which Brenton contributed an essay. I also tried to reflect upon the same theme in the last post on my blog as Caradhras denies the Fellowship passage across the mountains. Malcolm Guite longs for a reawakening of ancient voices. I was afraid of the power of Caradhras. I was also alone on Glastonbury Tor one Autumn evening and was afraid there too! Perhaps I am being called to courageously step out of the known ways of my life.
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As do I! It always stirs my thoughts when I think of how the earth holds history. People say things like “If these walls could speak,” but what if the earth could speak? Oh, the tales it could tell! “Though Modern Britain lies without / Fair Logres lives within.” England is rich with history and lore.
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