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The Morrigan's Dark Ministers / Giles Watson's poetry and prose
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The Morrigan's Dark Ministers

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説明Illustrations of corvid birds from F.O. Morris's Book of British Birds (1861-1891): graphic collage by Giles Watson.THE MORRIGAN'S DARK MINISTERS:Poems by Giles WatsonCú Chulainn and the MorrigánIt was a shriek to clot blood, or curdle milk;The night air hung in clumps about our room.I saw his buttock flash white in moonlight, the skinsThat lined our bed strewn behind him.With his britches I pursued him, grabbedHis sword, his gleaming battleaxe, his shield.His chainmail weighed me down. His breathHung behind him like a stain in crystal night.Her horse, blood-red in blenching moonshine,Tramped on a single leg, the chariot polePegged to his bleeding head, rammedThrough his body, out his sanguine, puckered arse,His whinny made angels writhe. And SheWas red as him, her eyebrows gore-tinged, her cloakDipped in dregs of battle. Beside them, a manDrove a cow by hazel-fork, with tonking bell, inanely grinning.My husband, goosepimpled in the dark, his bollocksTaut with cold, bellowed, “I am Cú Chulainn, cattle-masterAnd you, a cow-stealer. Submit, or feel my sword.”And she of the reddened brow strode up to him,Riled him with riddles, till he clutched the chariot wheelAnd wept with rage. Her screech made mud clotsIn the puddles where they stood. I felt ridiculous,Out at midnight, clutching britches, sword and axeAnd a chainmail suit, for a man, alone and naked.On his shoulder, a croaking crow.Source material: The Ulster cycle records a number of encounters between Cú Chulainn and the battle goddess, sometimes known as the Morrigán, and sometimes as the Babdh. This poem records a typical meeting between the two, from the perspective of Cú Chulainn’s wife. See Miranda Green, Celtic Goddesses: Warriors, Virgins and Mothers, British Museum Press, 1995, pp. 44-45: “The hero was lying asleep one night when he heard a fearful shriek and rushed, naked, outside, his wife following with his weapons and his clothes. He encountered the battle-fury in the image of a red woman, with red eyebrows and a red cloak, riding in a chariot to which was attached a single red horse with one leg, the chariot pole passing through its body and secured to its forehead with a peg. Next to the vehicle walked a man holding a fork of hazel, driving a cow. Cú Chulainn challenged the appropriation of this animal, since he was guardian over all the cattle of Ulster. The couple responded in riddles… the apparition disappeared save for the fury herself who remained, in the form of a crow.A Game of GwyddbwyllArmies of gold on a silver boardReflect the fractured facesOf a pair of kings.Distorted raven-shadowsWheel across themLike windblown ash.A king’s finger makes a move,Its whorled print spreadsAnd fades on yellow metal.Cries of men and raven-cronks,Flurries of black talonsAnd wings. The impassive facesOf two kings. Skulls crashTo ground, backbones fracture,Spleens rupture, gashes bleed.Eyes are picked out, suckingOut of sockets. Birds tussleFor dead-man morsels, and craw.A raven yawns; a bridge of bloodSpans his bristled gape. The kingWithdraws his hand.“Your move.”Source material: ‘The Dream of Rhonabwy’ from the Mabinogion, tells the story of a surreal battle between the forces of Arthur and Owain’s ravens. Arthur and Owain play Gwyddbwyll (a game similar to Chess), with golden pieces on a silver board, while the slaughter continues in the valley below. This poem describes the part of the battle in which the ravens have the upper hand, and destroy a large section of Arthur’s army by carrying the men into sky and smashing their bodies against the ground. The carnage of the battle is graphically depicted by Alan Lee in his illustrations to accompany Lady Charlotte Guest’s translation of the Mabinogion.TsauhaI am Tsauha,Arthur returnedWith bloodsword beakAnd burning eyes;I skywheel above DoverTo save fools from suicide.I am Chauk Daw,Blacker than a crow,With bloodstained legs,Becketed and blazonedOn Kentish bannersAbove their burnished blades.I am Killigrew,The Cornish Jack,Ousted from my homeland.In pinewoods andOn inland fields,I sneeze my own orisons.I am Palores,The darksome Celt,Drubbed for my druid waysBy Romans and by Christians.My black wings areFlapping above you.Source material: Francesca Greenoak, British Birds: their Folklore, Names and Literature, pp. 189-190. Tsauha, Chauk Daw, Killigrew, Cornish Jack and Palores are all common names for the Chough, which used to be specifically associated with Cornwall, but is now extinct there due to persecution. In King Lear, Edgar tells the blind and suicidal Gloucester that there are choughs wheeling high above the cliffs of Dover, suggesting that in Shakespeare’s day this was a distinctive feature of that area (it is not today). The bird is also associated with Thomas à Becket, and five of them appear upon the coat of arms of Canterbury. The association of the Chough with the returning Arthur suggests that in Celtic times, it was a much more vaunted bird than it is today. The lyricist’s own experience of a different species of Chough, acquired during a childhood in Australia, suggests that these birds adapt themselves superbly to introduced pine plantations; the English species has since been observed in comparable situations; once, mobbing an owl amongst scattered pines at Moor Copse near Reading.BrandreClaw the branches, darkened CrawAnd fly to join your friends.Wheel, a smudge in the fog,Soot clad, past bare elms,Sleeping oaks and dormant beeches.Perch on the crown of the hawless thorn.Fly to join your friends, black Rook,Fly to meet your black loverIn a wood to bring the cold,On a heath to bring down mistIn a town to bring a storm,In a field to bring rain.Fly to join your friends, black Brandre,Fly to meet your black lover,She and you, flocking in dimnessRoosting by the sun eclipsed.Your black and ragged musicFills the field.Source material: A Durham tradition holds that if rooks feed in a village, a storm is close at hand. Craw is the Lancashire, and Brandre the Cornish, name for the rook.The OracleThe curse of the oracle I bear:Baring uncomfortable truthsTo those with too much power.My heart, a small receptacleFor a kingly soul, beating old bloodAbout a body battered and maligned.I spoke truths of childrenSerpent tailed; Athene dropped her stoneIn wrath, making Lycabettus,And banished me from the Acropolis,Turning black my bone-whiteFeathers, beak and claw. *I shall draw the keeper’s wrathAway from jays and slit-eyed foxes.Of lead-shot cruelty I caw,And hang dead, wired up like lightningZigzag, or a hooked and hangingQuestion mark, zeroing to ground.Cut me down gently, bury me,Let my black fluid flow backTo Earth, who made me.The curse of the oracle I bear:Baring uncomfortable truthsTo those with too much power.Source material: In Greek mythology, the crow, personified as Cronus, was an oracular bird, and was said to house the soul of a sacred king after his sacrifice. The crow was cursed and banished by Athene after he reported to her that Herse, Pandrosos and Agraulos had plunged in terror from the Acropolis after uncovering a child with a serpent’s tail. She did this after dropping the stone which she had been carrying towards the Acropolis, thus forming the nearby Lycabettus Hill. See Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, 6, 7, 25, 50. The second half of the poem describes the plight of a particular crow, known to the author, who happened to fly within range of the gun of a bloodthirsty gamekeeper. Jack DawThe little JackPicks up sticks;Plugs holes with them,Inciting superstition.With daws and tchacks,The black beak clacks;Toenails tappingOn the chimney pot,With white eyeIn his cocked skull.The grey JackBlinks and bows.The rogue bird gambles,Drops sticks in soot;Counts the chinkOf pennies stolen.A wild card,A black headed knave,Fell down the chimneyDealing death.Source material: Jackdaws build their nests by dropping sticks into any available hole, until enough sticks snag against the sides for the nest to hold. Problems arise when a pair of jackdaws attempt this procedure using a chimney. In the north of England, the inevitable consequence – the collapse of the nest and the appearance of a disgruntled Jackdaw in the hearth – is said to be a portent of a death within the house. The name “Daw” has a high Germanic origin, and appears to be an imitation of one of the bird’s two characteristic calls. “Jack” is a relatively common bird-name prefix meaning “small” (for example, “Jack Snipe”, “Jack Doucker”), but is also commonly associated with knavery, which is a happy coincidence given the Jackdaw’s thieving habits. Male Jackdaws use a characteristic bowing motion during courtship. See Francesca Greenoak, British Birds: Their Folklore, Names and Literature, pp. 190-191. This poem is dedicated to Paul Ratcliffe, who personifies the name.Devil ScritchGarrulous, the Devil Scritch,The woodland screamer,Gathers acorns,Spies higher groundWith pale eyes,And scolds the gloom.Digs holes to bury them,Blue wings spreadOn the bare earth.Plants the forestsOf his forgetfulness,His screeches distantLike clatterings after fainting.Source material: The Jay, Garrulus glandarius, is known in Somerset as the Devil Scritch, and has earned the Gaelic name of Screachag choille, or “screamer of the woods”. “Scold” is another apt Somerset name. Jays habitually store acorns and beech mast for the winter, burying them in the ground, usually higher up the slope from oak woodlands. Since forgotten acorns are liable to germinate, the Jay is thought to play a significant part in spreading oak forests, to the benefit of its progeny. See Francesca Greenoak, British Birds: Their Folklore, Names and Literature, p. 187. The last two lines offer, I hope, an appropriate simile for a bluejay’s cacophony heard from a distance, although I accept that it may be lost on anyone who has never fainted.BranGrey Raven, my mother, flapAbout the old oak, batterHis wizened trunk with wingbeats,Fray your feathers on him.Grey Raven, my mother, snapAt gulls, and scornTheir loud garrulity.Drive them away, Grey Raven.Young Crow, my son, unsoilMy hoary wing with yourBroad bill, in our old oakUpon the shore.Young Crow, my son, remain,And fly not through the fogThat shrouds the sea again.Remain. Remain, Young Crow. Little Bird, our taunter, sing,And flaunt your flitting tail,Who never gave a golden ringOr rode an ocean gale. Source material: An ancient Breton poem relates the story of Bran and his mother, who spend eternity as a crow and a raven in an old oak tree overlooking the sea. After the victorious Battle of Kerloan, Bran was nonetheless taken prisoner by the vanquished foe. While he was languishing under arrest, he sent a messenger to go and seek his mother across the sea, entrusting him with a golden ring to give to her. He told the messenger to sail back flying a white flag if his mother was coming to be with him, and a black flag if she had refused. Day after day, Bran asked the prison guard if he could see the messenger’s ship returning. At last, the treacherous guard said that he could indeed see a ship on the horizon, and when Bran asked him whether it was flying a black or a white flag, he answered, “A black.” Hearing this and thinking that his mother had abandoned him, Bran faced the wall and died. Later that day, the messenger’s ship arrived, and Bran’s mother came looking for him. She found him lying dead in the prison, lifted his corpse up in her arms, and transformed herself into a raven, and Bran into a living crow. See William Sharp (Ed.) Lyra Celtica, Edinburgh, 1932, pp. 60-63. All poems copyright Giles Watson, 2004.
撮影日2008-11-28 18:52:02
撮影者Giles Watson's poetry and prose , Oxfordshire, England
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