I sing of Arthur and Excalibur,
The Table Round and fealty professed
By knights devoted to a noble quest
For what was right and good, and pure.

I sing of Percival and Bedivere;
Of Tristan, Kay, Gareth and Adragain;
Of Galahad, Gaheris, and Gawain;
Of Lancelot Du Lac . . . and Guinevere.

I sing of Merlin, and the sordid plot
Of Mordred’s treachery, and vows betrayed;
Of Holy Grail and promises unmade.
I sing of chivalry and Camelot.

I sing of Roland and of Durendal,
And those who fought and fell at Ronceveaux
Defending France against a Muslim foe
Who sought to hold all Christendom in thrall.

I sing of Oliver and knightly pride,
Of noble warriors on the field slain,
Of truant Oliphant, and Charlemagne
Who wept when he discovered all had died.

I sing of minstrels and of Taillefer
Who sang of Roland as the battle raged
At Hastings and, with sword in hand, engaged
The foe and died, a gallant ioglere.

I sing of kings and knights, of serfs and vassals.
Regal queens and outlaw paladins;
Of jousts, and tournaments, and talismans;
Of troubadours and crenellated castles.

I sing of battles won and kingdoms lost.
I sing of Stirling Bridge and Agincourt;
Of Bannockburn, Nicopolis, and Tours;
Each one a savage, feudal holocaust.

I sing of glory, shame, and sacrifice.
I sing of power gained by force of might
And freedom wrested back from evil’s blight.
And those who bore the cost and paid the price.

I sing of ages long since passed away,
Of martyr, hero, saint, and vagabond,
Who each survived their own slough of despond
To teach us and inspire us today.

I sing of history and what has been,
And though the past shines like a distant star
It nonetheless is part of who we are;
Our heritage of glory and chagrin.

I sing of ancient, Medieval things
To help ensure their memory survives.
Such memories illuminate our lives,
And so, I sing of Roland and of kings.

 

James A. Tweedie is a recently retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He likes to walk on the beach with his wife. He has written and self-published four novels and a collection of short stories. He has several hundred unpublished poems tucked away in drawers.

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16 Responses

    • James A. Tweedie

      A cryptic name is “B. in black,”
      A name both secretive and bold.
      A name, like “Launcelot du Lac,”
      That hints of stories yet untold.
      For blessing, and for kindly words expressed,
      May you and yours, in turn, be blessed.

      Reply
    • James A. TweedieA

      Thank you, Amy. Every culture is shaped by its history and its myths. The Middle Ages contributed plenty of each in shaping Western Civilization. It is all too easy to forget the past. It takes effort to preserve it–and even more effort to learn from it! While I’m at it, I’ll take the opportunity to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas!

      Reply
  1. Sally Cook

    Socialism and Communism both rely on their contempt for the masses they claim to represent. Such contempt for individual is reprehensible.

    Strangely it is circular in nature, having been carefully taught by these fascist groups to the people they say they serve. The first tenet is Forget the Past. We were ignorant then. Religion is irrelevant, male and female are the same, and can be changed at will.

    The Constitution is a living document; can and should be changed. Beauty is irrelevant; so are knowledge and skill of any kind. Manners which lead to respect, are unimportant. Education and refinement are irrelevant.Throw logic and education out the window. There is nothing sacred about family, marriage, or human life.

    So they say,

    That is why, when I see someone memorializing our lost past in any art form, I rejoice.

    Thank you.

    Socialism and Communism both rely on their contempt for the masses they claim to represent. Such contempt for individual is reprehensible.

    Strangely it is circular in nature, having been carefully taught by these fascist groups to the people they say they serve. The first tenet is Forget the Past. We were ignorant then. Religion is irrelevant, male and female are the same, and can be changed at will.

    The Constitution is a living document; can and should be changed. Beauty is irrelevant; so are knowledge and skill of any kind. Manners which lead to respect, are unimportant. Throw logic and education out the window. There is nothing sacred about family, marriage, or human life.

    That is why, when I see someone memorializing the past in any art form I rejoice. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Sally Cook

      Do not know what happened here but it must have occurred while I was struggling to send a reply Sorry!

      Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        Sally, I have an unpublished Middle Grade novel that sets the scene with these words, spoken by the protagonist, a 15-year old girl living on a fictional planet: “All my life I have been taught that before the Liberators arrived people were simple, ignorant, and uncivilized. The Liberators brought a new way of life based on Reason and Truth. They destroyed everything connected with the past, including monuments and shrines, and decreed it was now against the law to even talk about such things. “There is no more past,” they said. “There is no more present. There is only the future, and the HEART will lead you there.” The rest of the book deals with her struggle to rediscover and reclaim the past. I suppose my poem reflects the same theme.

  2. James Sale

    Well done, James, excellent work and it is important to remind ourselves of the ongoing struggle against the forces of evil, as Sally reminds us. Though Sally classes them together, it is good to be reminded too of the difference between communism and socialism. As your US commentator, Kevin Williamson, observed: “The difference between communism and socialism is that under socialism central planning ends with a gun in your face, whereas under communism central planning begins with a gun in your face”. What your poem celebrates is that resistance to coercion that constitutes freedom. Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Gregory Spicer

    Your splendid tribute to chivalry, as expected, generates many laments regarding that tradition’s apparent absence in the modern era. Much like any other attempt at amelioration of the evils of existence I suspect that chivalry, like socialism, capitalism, or any other “ism”, lived or died by the personal integrity of it’s alleged practitioners. We are quick to blame systems because it is challenging to pin down who specifically is at fault. Never the less and all things being equal otherwise I too possess a soft spot for chivalry. We can quibble with the delightful feminists who are also preoccupied with societal amelioration and how to go about it but I certainly think we as a species are better off with it than without it. It is a wild and crazy world out there and I’m sure it will prove unpopular for me to say it but I think it’s possible to be a chivalrous socialist. A rare animal to be sure but capitalism also provides it’s share of disappointment as well. Again, I am positive that it’s all a matter of personal integrity. That is part of what chivalry is about after all. Therefore, well done Mr. Tweedie! The concept does indeed require representation as does the requisite scholarship which you have on display. Many thanks!

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Thank you, Mr. Spicer, for your thoughtful comment. As it turns out, I did not write this poem to score political points one way or the other. Although readers are free to put any spin onto it that they wish, it is, in fact, neither anti- or pro- anything.

      It is also carefully written so as to avoid the temptation to romanticize the Middle Ages. “Singing” of something does not necessarily mean to sanctify it. The bloody wars referenced in the poem were, indeed, small-scale holocausts. There were heroes and villains admixed on each side in all of them. The Saxons were no more gallant or evil than the Normans. Shame and suffering are remembered along with lawless paladins and vagabonds. And, as is true with all of history, the Middle Ages are to be remembered with both “glory” and “chagrin.” The world we live in today, even with all of its faults, is, at least for us in the United States, much to be preferred over the misery, death, and feudal/religious conflict in the Middle Ages. I am not Miniver Cheevy, dreaming of a return of some far-distant “good old days.”

      The poem’s title is in reference to George Santayana’s famous quote, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” And that means that we must remember it all, not just to good bits or the bad bits, but all of it–the good, the bad and the ugly. Even the mythical Camelot had its share dyspeptic dysfunction.

      Even so, there is much to be admired and appreciated from those Medieval days. Indeed, there are so many stories to tell that the poem could have gone on for a hundred more stanzas without even scratching the surface. “I sing of Aucassin and Nicolette.” “I sing of Amiens, Beauvais, and Chartes.”
      “I sing of Abelard and Heloise.” “I sing of Hildegard and Brigid of Kildare.”

      “The Little Flowers of St. Francis,” “The Cloud of Unknowing,” the influential thought of Aquinas and Anselm, the Gothic arch, vault, and flying buttress, the music of Dunstable and Palestrina, the art of Fra Angelico, Giotto, and Van Eyk. The list is endless.

      My hope is that this poem, like the songs of the troubadours, will inspire, educate, and entertain as you feast on boiled mutton before the gaping maw of the stone fireplace in the Great Hall of your castle. Be sure to toss a coin on the Yule Log for me!

      Reply
  4. David Watt

    I very much enjoyed your rousing poem which presents a balanced view of history, warts and all. In quatrain seven the substitutions deviating from strict iambic meter are an interesting and effective touch.

    Reply
  5. James A. Tweedie

    David, note my habit of dropping the opening iamb following a feminine ending on the previous line. This seems to maintain the momentum. I do not do this when the feminine ending comes at the end of a quatrain since there is usually a full- or partial stop at that point. I’m glad you spotted the variation. I simply could not resist the pairing of vassels and castles.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thanks for the explanation James. Your technique works very well. It would be a pity to miss out on the pairing of castles with vassals, especially crenellated castles.

      Reply
  6. Bard Eucewelis

    Thematically, structurally, and in its general listing of names, etc., the impulse of the poem is Victorian, and somewhat Tennysonian. It inhabits the realm that Milton seriously considered, yet rejected, as his choice for an epic. Mr. Tweedie is absolutely correct: “the poem could have gone on for a hundred more stanzas without even scratching the surface”, as we have seen in other works, like those of Mr. Hoke’s sonnet on Joan of Arc, Mr. Rodriguez’ “The Warrior’s Song at Dusk”, Mr. Downs “Epistle to a Celt” or “The Curse of Charles the Bold”, Mr. Müller’s “The Ride of Godiva”, Ms. Vincent’s humourous “George and the Dragon”, and Mr. Salemi’s “Steel Masks”.

    Reply

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