The True Tale of Thomas the Rhymer
The truth of it was different from the tale.
But, after all, was pretty much the same...
I lay beneath the Eildon Tree, and slept.
And unto me she came, the Faery Queen
And this was not a dream, I know its truth
By consequence that after followed.
It happened all within the compass of a dream
But nothing afterward was ere again the same.
She came for me, she knew that I was there
It was no accident that I was seen and chosen.
A poet and - it seems - some little more
That might be gifted by enchanted touch.
A touch of the lips - my lips, her hand.
(Not, by God!, her lips! - a fatal act!
I never was her lover - nothing like.
Those who know me can be sure of that.)
A touch of my lips upon her lily-white hand
And everything changed - for me and for the world.
I was a man stunned - she swept me up
With supernatural strength and ease
To sit behind upon her milk-white steed.
A sudden whirl of motion, shadows,
Rain, and was it blood? Upon a bank we sat.
Three roads, or paths, there were ahead.
A narrow thorny path to Heaven strait.
That one was not for me - nor was
A broad, sinister road, with stones beneath;
But a bonny heather track with ferns aside.
What joy! to take that lovely track
Of poetry, prophecy and love of her.
To be her leman chaste, her servant, een an angel
Between the worlds of Faery and of Men.
A touch, my lips upon her hand, and lo!
The truth of things was open, veils a-part.
I could speak no lies, I saw direct;
And what I saw I after spoke - and men took note.
I stayed in Faery seven years of learning
And of bliss - then I returned.
Where had I been? Oh nowhere far.
A time so fast that Men perceive it not, a blur.
All I did, we did, to Men a shimmer;
Not quite seen, not quite believed - not quite.
And then back I came to wake upon that bank,
Hardly changed - but little time had passed.
I had, however, been missed - I could not lie.
I told my residence, explained that Faery
Had me taken. Now I'm back, with messages -
They flowed like milk, like wine, like rivers...
Few poems I wrote - but where ere I went
I spoke the truth in rhyme - astonished all.
They wrote of it, as best they could - the sayings
Compiled in ledgers; learned, repeated.
All was true. From this Men knew
Their narrow world was compassed about
With something greater, deeper, wiser.
Many came to faith by me.
Seven more years were passed - I held a feast.
Music, song, speeches, poems - I stood...
All around me friends, lords, retainers, family...
My steward came and told of wonders new.
A hart, a hind, through Ercildoune were walking.
Moon-white, and glowed a whiter still.
I kissed my wife, my bairns, my Lord.
I bowed to all - the meaning was foretold.
Onto the moon-lit street... I recognized
The Queen's beasts. They turned - I followed
Into a darkling wood: Time lurched
And back to Faery instantly was drawn.
Centuries passed on Middle Earth - My story
Remains, inspires, glamours - is garbled.
But truth persists. The Eildon Hills
Still cast enchantment wide into the world.
Bruce Charlton - extempore 20 November 2015