Saturday, 1 June 2013

'Arthur, like summer, waits'

On this sunny day, the first of June, here's John Masefield's 'On the Coming of Arthur', from his book of Arthurian poems, Midsummer Night (1928). Masefield was born on 1 June, 1878.

By ways unknown, unseen,
The summer makes things green,
The pastures and the boughs
Wherein birds house.

Summer will come again,
For sick things become sane,
And dead things fat the root
That brings forth fruit.

Arthur, like summer, waits,
For Wit and Will are gates,
Like those the summers pass
To green earth's grass.

Arthur will come like June,
Full meadow and full moon,
With roses up above
As red as love,

And may-bloom down below,
As white as fallen snow,
And no least linnet dumb,
O Arthur, come.

The third line of the second verse of this mesmerising poem puzzled me, so I looked up 'fat' (v) in the OED, and it means 'fertilize, enrich (soil)' - which is appropriate, for what does the Arthurian legend, or any legend like it, teach us but the richness of our soil, 'not any common earth / Water, wood or air...':

(This is the wonderful Sam Lee singing Peter Bellamy's setting of Kipling's poem, 'Puck's Song', from Puck of Pook's Hill. The book, and the song, refer to different points in the history of England but specifically to the area where East Sussex borders Kent - so it mentions the Weald, the ruins of Bayham, the town of Rye, and the site of the Battle of Hastings, of course.)

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