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"The Battle of the Trees"

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The Battle of the Trees

The Book of Taliesin VIII.

From The Four Ancient Books of Wales

I HAVE been in a multitude of shapes,

Before I assumed a consistent form.

I have been a sword, narrow, variegated,

I will believe when it is apparent.

I have been a tear in the air,

I have been the dullest of stars.

I have been a word among letters,

I have been a book in the origin.

I have been the light of lanterns,

A year and a half.

I have been a continuing bridge,

Over three score Abers.

I have been a course, I have been an eagle.

I have been a coracle in the seas:

I have been compliant in the banquet.

I have been a drop in a shower;

I have been a sword in the grasp of the hand

I have been a shield in battle.

I have been a string in a harp,

Disguised for nine years.

in water, in foam.

I have been sponge in the fire,

I have been wood in the covert.

I am not he who will not sing of

A combat though small,

The conflict in the battle of Godeu of sprigs.

Against the Guledig of Prydain,

There passed central horses,

Fleets full of riches.

There passed an animal with wide jaws,

On it there were a hundred heads.

And a battle was contested

Under the root of his tongue;

And another battle there is

In his occiput.

A black sprawling toad,

With a hundred claws on it.

A snake speckled, crested.

A hundred souls through sin

Shall be tormented in its flesh

I have been in Caer Vevenir

Thither hastened grass and trees

Minstrels were singing

Warrior-bands were wondering

At the exaltation of the Brython,

That Gwydyon affected.

There was a calling on the Creator,

Upon Christ for causes,

Until when the Eternal

Should deliver those whom he had made.

The Lord answered them,

Through language and elements:

Take the forms of time prinncipal trees,

Arranging yourselves in battle array,

And restraining the public.

Inexperienced in battle hand to hand.

When the trees were enchanted,

In the expectation of not being trees,

The trees uttered their voices

From strings of harmony,

The disputes ceased.

Let us cut short heavy days,

A female restrained the din.

She came forth altogether lovely.

The head of the line, the head was a female.

The advantage of a sleepless cow

Would not make us give way.

The blood of men up to our thighs,

The greatest of importunate mental exertions

Sported in the world.

And one has ended

From considering the deluge,

And Christ crucified

And the day of judgement near at hand

The alder trees, the head of the line,

Formed the van.

The willows and quicken trees

Came late to the army.

Plum-trees, that are scarce,

Unlonged for of men

The elaborate medlar-trees

Tue objects of contention.

The prickly rose-bushes,

Against a host, of giants,

The raspberry brake did

What is better failed

For the security of life.

Privet and woodbine

And ivy on its front,

Like furze to the combat

The cherry-tree was provoked.

The birch, notwithstanding his high mind,

Was late before he was arrayed.

Not because of his cowardice,

But on account of his greatness.

The laburnuin held in mind,

That your wild nature was foreign.

Pine-trees in the porch,

The chair of disputation,

By me greatly exalted,

In the presence of kings

The elm with his retinue,

Did not go aside a foot

He would fight with the centre,

And the flanks, and the rear.

Hazel-trees, it was judged,

That ample was thy mental exertion

The privet, happy his lot,

The bull of battle, the lord of the world

Morawg and Morydd

Were made prosperous in pines.

Holly, it was tinted with green,

He was the hero.

The hawthorn, surrounded by prickles,

With pain at his hand.

The aspen-wood has been topped,

It was topped in battle.

The fern that was plundered

The broom, in the van of the army, in the trenches he was hurt.

The gorse did not do well,

Notwithstanding let it overspread.

The heath was victorious, keeping off on all sides.

The common people were charmed,

During time proceeding of the men.

The oak, quickly moving,

Before him, tremble heaven and earth.

A valiant door-keeper against an enenly,

his name is considered.

The blue-bells combined,

And caused a consternation.

In rejecting, were rejected,

Others, that were perforated.

Pear-trees, the best intruders

In time conflict of the plain.

A very wrathful wood,

The chestnut is bashful,

The opponent of happiness,

The jet has become black,

The mountain has become crooked,

The woods have become a kiln,

Existing formerly in the great seas

Since was heard the shout:--

The tops of the birch covered us with leaves,

And transformed us, and changed our faded state.

The branches of the oak have ensnared us

From the Gwarchan of Maelderw.

Laughing on the side of the rock,

The lord is not of an ardent nature.

Not of mother and father,

When I was made,

Did my Creator create me.

Of nine-formed faculties,

Of the fruit of fruits,

Of the fruit of the primordial God,

Of primroses and blossoms of time hill,

Of the flowers of trees and shrubs.

Of earth, of an earthly course,

When I was formed.

Of the flower of nettles,

Of the water of the ninth wave.

I was enchanted by Math,

Before I became immortal,

I was enchanted by Gwydyon

The great purifier of the Brython,

Of Eurwys, of Euron,

Of Euron, of Modron.

Of five battalions of scientific ones.

Teachers, children of Math.

When the removal occurred,

I was enchanted by the Guledig.

When he was half-burnt,

I was enchanted by the sage

Of sages, in the primitive world.

When I had a being;

When the host of the world was in dignity,

The bard was accustomed to benefits.

To the song of praise I am inclined, which the tongue recites.

I played in the twilight,

I slept in purple;

I was truly in the enchantment

With Dylan, the son of the wave.

In the circumference, in the middle,

Between the knees of kings,

Scattering spears not keen,

From heaven when came,

To the great deep, floods,

In the battle there will be

Four score hundreds,

That will divide according to their will.

They are neither older nor younger,

Than myself in their divisions.

A wonder, Canhwr are born, every one of nine hundred.

He was with me also,

With my sword spotted with blood.

honour was allotted to me

By the Lord, and protection (was) where he was.

If I come to where the boar was killed,

He will compose, he will decompose,

He will form languages.

The strong-handed gleamer, his name,

With a gleam he rules his numbers.

They would spread out. in a flame,

When I shall go on high.

I have been a speckled snake on the hill,

I have been a viper in the Llyn.

I have been a bill-hook crooked that cuts,

I have been a ferocious spear

With my chasuble and bowl

I will prophesy not badly,

Four score smokes

On every one what will bring.

Five battalions of arms

Will be caught by my knife.

Six steeds of yellow hue

A hundred times better is

My cream-coloured steed,

Swift as the sea-mew

Which will not pass

Between the sea and the shore.

Am I not pre-eminent in the field of blood?

Over it are a hundred chieftains.

Crimson (is) the gem of my belt,

Gold my shield border.

There has not been born, in the gap,

That has been visiting me,

Except Goronwy,

From the dales of Edrywy.

Long white my fingers,

It is long since I have been a herdsman.

I travelled in the earth,

Before I was a proficient in learning.

I travelled, I made a circuit,

I slept in a hundred islands

A hundred Caers I have dwelt in.

Ye intelligent Druids,

Declare to Arthur,

What is there more early

Than I that they sing of.

And one is come

From considering the deluge,

And Christ crucified,

And the day of future doom.

A golden gem in a golden jewel.

I am splendid

And shall be wanton

From the oppression of the metal-workers


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I have read this a poem few times, looked it up on the Internet, thought about it, came at it from different angles, and I don't have a clue as to what point you were trying to make. Do you like this poem? Why not call it "A Tree Song" instead of swan? :)

One strange stream-of-consciousness image kept nagging at me every time I looked at this, so I might as well go ahead and share it. Several years ago I read an autobiography of an early Hollywood screenwriter named Anita Loos. I remember being very interested in her when I skimmed through her book in a used book store because she wrote many scripts for silent films (starting around 1912) and she was highly successful over the years. She is best known for her novel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, that was turned into a film starring Marilyn Monroe. I kept thinking that Ayn Rand must have known her or known about her. The autobiography is called A Girl Like I.

Now here is the weird part of this post. Loos tells a story in her book about some rich folks in Paris during the Roaring 20's. They had a huge mansion with a fountain out front. Apparently they were very vain about the fountain because they were always showing it off to Parisian high-society and anyone else who visited them. They had visitors every day because they entertained constantly and the booze flowed and flowed.

One day a friend of Anita Loos bought five turtles that looked alike, but were different sizes ranging from very small and going up steadily to fairly large. That night he put the small turtle in the fountain without telling anyone. The next day when the hosts took their guests out to see the fountain and brag about it, they noticed the turtle. As they all drank a lot, there was a lot of high-spirited discussion about where the turtle came from. After they retired, Loos's friend removed the small turtle and replaced it with the next size. The next day, when the hosts brought out their guests, they saw that the turtle had grown overnight and attributed this to some unknown property of the fountain. Lots and lots of discussion. Of course, after they went to bed, the guy exchanged this turtle for the next size going up and the fast-growing turtle became the rage of Parisian high-society. More and more people started coming to the parties just to see the amazing turtle.

After the largest size was reached, on the sixth day Loos's friend replaced the turtle with the next size going back down. On the following days he replaced the turtles in decreasing order all the way back to the smallest, then finally removed the turtle altogether. The hosts and guests couldn't get enough of it and this was discussed among the rich in Paris for weeks and weeks after there was no more turtle. They knew it just had to be the fountain...

For some damn reason, your poem brings this story by Anita Loos to mind and the story always comes unbidden. On its own. Every time I look at the poem.

Maybe we have "A Turtle Song"?


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