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Hexwood filk: the Wood contemplates the patterns it has woven out of the lives of Mordion, Vierran, Arthur and Martellian one of a set of four filk-songs I wrote in the mid 1990s to accompany the book Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones. This one is not only not very ose, on the traditional fannish scale of ose, morose and more morose, but almost nearly positively cheerful quite a difficult achievement in anything to do with Mordion Agenos. For those who have come here because you are following me as a writer, rather than because you have read Hexwood (although if you haven't, you really should), a summary of the background to the story can be found here: this particular song, however, is really intended for those who already know the book inside-out (inside-out being pretty-much its natural condition), in part because it's one long spoiler. You have been warned. These notes contain spoilers too.
I actually have mixed feelings about uploading this one. What it is is basically a catalogue set to music, listing cross-references between the themes in Hexwood and in the books of Caitlín and John Matthews. Caitlín and her husband are popular and populist Celtic scholars: they've done a huge amount of research and produced many scholary books, but their findings are not universally accepted. There are so many cross-connections that I suspect Diana had read their books and was deliberately playing spot-the-reference.
Relevant themes include the idea that the newly crowned king ceremonially marries the land, personified as Sovereignty, and the idea that just as the main Celtic goddess was divided into Maiden, Mother and Crone, so the principal god was divided into Youth, King/Poet and Sage, and various characters in Celtic mythology fall into that pattern. The Youth grows up and becomes in turn King and then Sage before progressing around the cycle and becoming a Youth again, just as Martellian becomes Reigner, then Merlin, then Mordion's adopted son and a child again, even though he's really Mordion's great-to-the-nth grandfather (which means that Martellian becomes his own great-to-the-nth+1 adoptive grandfather shriek!).
Arthur and Merlin are typical examples of King and Sage figures, but the most important character for our purposes is Mabon son of Modron, whose name just means Son, son of Mother, and who personifies the theme of the Youth as a captive who needs to be rescued. Mabon is stolen from his mother as a newborn infant and is kept in a terrible prison, sometimes in a place called Glass Castle, sometimes, under the name Gwydion, in Spiral Castle both names which resonate with Mordion's imprisonment in the spiral, flint-clad House of Balance. Sometimes, under the variant name Mabonograin, Son of the Sun, Mabon appears as a skilled and dangerous knight who has been dressed in scarlet and held captive in an orchard, where he is forced against his will to challenge and kill anyone who ventures through the gate.
The reason I have mixed feelings about uploading this filk is that it goes on a bit, even to me, yet I can't shorten it because there are just so many references needing to be included dozens and dozens of the bleeders and without the tune it doesn't scan very well. [You can hear me sing the tune in what I consider to be an irritatingly breathy voice here; answer "Yes" if asked whether you want to run blocked scripts or ActiveX controls.] There are bits of it I'm very pleased with, especially "Mabon was a Red Knight whose name was held in secret; // Comes now a day when all men shall speak it", but over all it's not one of my better things. Only somebody extremely patient would read it for pleasure but then again the references it lists will be of interest to dedicated Hexwood fen, and it's probably less dry set as a song than it would be as a plain list. So we have the verse first, and then below that the references, line by line. After much consideration I decided to intersperse the notes with the verses in this way to save a lot of scrolling up and down, and because the references are likely to be of more interest than the poetry.
The relevant works are Mabon and the Mysteries of Britain and Arthur and the Sovereignty of Britain by Caitlín Matthews and, to a lesser extent, The Arthurian Tarot A Hallowquest Handbook by Caitlín and John Matthews and Taliesin by John Matthews, listed respectively as MatMoB, AatSoB, AHH and T.
N.B. The fact that King Arthur spends part of Hexwood under the name Artegal suggests that the book also includes many allusions to Edmund Spenser's 16thC work The Faerie Queene. If so, a braver and more patient reader than I will have to find them. I've tried to read the thing, I really have, but sheer howling boredom eventually compelled me to give up about a quarter of the way through.
In Norse mythology Fitela, a.k.a. Sinfjötli, is the incestuously begotten son and nephew of Sigmund and his sister Signý, a mighty warior who is eventually poisoned by his stepmother and then borne away to Valhalla by Odin himself (one of the guises of Martellian). In the poem Beowulf the hero listens to a bard singing tales of the heroism of Sigmund and Fitela.
In yet another, more frivolous allusion, Hexwood Farm was the central location in 1970s British children's comedy TV show Catweazle, about an 11thC wizard who is accidentally thrown forwards into modern England. If you go onto Google Images and look up the eponymous Catweazle, you'll see that he bears a distinct resemblance to an older, scruffier Mordion, right down to the brilliant, face-engulfing smile: although he doesn't quite have a monobrow.
Even the name Orm Pender is a play on the name of a dragon in Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea series. There are various dragons in Earthsea whose names begin with Orm Orm Embar, Orm Irian because of their descent from a common ancestor. A mighty and terrible dragon named Yevaud, who may or may not be descended from Orm, is known as the Dragon of Pendor. And Yevaud spends years hiding in a cave on the island of Sattins by transforming himself into a short, bow-legged, pigeon-toed, shy, awkward, incompetent and altogether fussy and harmless-seeming elderly wizard named (like Frodo) Mr Underhill, before resuming his true form and eating anyone who doesn't get away fast enough.
I am the Forest of Logres, I am the Land;
I will not be mastered by a foreign Hand
Except it come in reverence to serve me:
By Earth's far-scattered earth my power shall break the cruellest bars
To draw the Mabon to me from his prison among the stars
To set the wide worlds free:
That Merlin's blood might come to claim his own,
That Arthur's kin might come to claim the Throne.
Who from his mother's womb was cruelly reived,
Chained from his birth, unceasingly to grieve,
Who never once had lain between his mother and the wall:
The seed of Merlin, 'prisoned and in pain
In the house of stone of mine laments, but I shall break his chains
That he may come to rule:
That Merlin's blood may come to claim his own,
That Arthur's kin may come to claim the Throne.
Mabon was a hunter and a fine sweet bard:
This was set to hunt for men, from music he was barred;
His songs and tales were crushed and riven from his soul.
The hero of the tales was his mother's brother's son:
This was bred for like a beast by the mating of close kin,
Owned like any foal:
Merlin's blood who might not know his own,
Arthur's kin who might not claim the Throne.
Mabon was the foal of the mare of the Earth,
Rent from his mother on the day of his birth:
This was not truly born, for him no dam will mourn;
But he shall have the horse-girl, the Dark Maid,
Fated to mourn his sorrow and come to bring him aid
From the hour that she was born:
Merlin's blood sore-sundered from his own,
Arthur's kin in exile from the Throne.
The hero as a Servant was broken by a load
More than his strength would bear, with a cruel goad
To drive him as a horse in harness on his weary rounds:
But he shall come to sojourn in the Other Lands
To learn to hold his own fate in his own two hands,
Healed of the worlds' wounds:
Merlin's blood come here to claim his own,
Arthur's kin come here to claim the Throne.
Mabon was a Red Knight set to guard an orchard,
Bound and compelled into a service hard:
Forced to kill many men unwillingly.
I lure the red hawk out to me from his corroding hood
And he shall dress in brown and be the Guardian of the Wood,
Gentle and kingly:
Merlin's blood called here to claim his own,
Arthur's kin called here to claim the Throne.
In the wood the Herdsman stands dumb until you ask:
This must speak when spoken to, and wear a craven mask;
An owl to hunt in silence at his masters' whim.
But owls are wise and innocent, like Mabon he shall fly
To Merlin's Isle, there to learn to speak more Gramarye
Than those who "trained" him:
As Merlin's blood to come into his own,
As Arthur's kin to come unto the Throne.
Others claim it falsely but this is Fisher-Lord,
Sin-Eater without blame, whose shame cuts like a sword:
The knight who may not laugh for grieving deaths of children.
Unhealing shall he ever bleed for the blood upon his hands,
Yet he shall free the waters through the power of the Land
And learn to laugh again:
Merlin's blood ashamed to face his own,
Arthur's kin who dare not claim the Throne.
By Grail and Gaming Board I call my Champion in,
By Sword and Staff the ruling Game of Wood to win
My Springtime Lord come to me at the turning of Spring.
He shall learn to wield his power, to ensorcel and enchant;
He shall cast down the old rule of the Waste-begetting tyrant,
Cause of his suffering:
Merlin's blood, kept 'prisoned from his own,
As Arthur's kin here summoned to the Throne.
Champion and Tyrant both of mingled blood are bred;
In each one magery and mundane man are wed:
In one the brute is lord, in one the Power springing.
The wounded knight restores my strength, he'll mend the wounded land:
Blood-royal Healer heal the link from the mundane world of man
To the Other's singing:
Merlin's blood is summoned by his own,
Arthur's kin I call to claim his Throne.
Upon the soil of Logres his own red blood to shed
For to raise up Merlin living from the dead,
Both son and father each to other as the Wheel turns:
Power in the scarlet blood flowing down the Staff,
Power in the Cup to grant them both a clean rebirth,
Freed from a past that burns:
Merlin by blood to come into his own,
Now Arthur's kin is come to claim the Throne.
Merlin was the old lord who gave up his Throne,
For to raise up Arthur to the place that was his own,
His heir become Pendragon as the seasons cycled:
Now Mabon shall be Pendragon, and Arthur cede his seat,
And Merlin shall rise from the earth like the slain and living wheat
As Mabon's new-made child:
Merlin once more to come into his own,
With Arthur's kin to come to claim the Throne.
Corn-Lord chained and captive in the Spiral Tower,
In Glass-Castle long alone, shall spring up green in power:
He shall change places with the old enchanter-lord.
To the Castle of the Game a strolling player, flaunting fine,
He'll come to call his true love out from her place within the line
Ranked at the ogres' board:
Merlin's blood who comes to claim his own,
Arthur's kin who comes to claim the Throne.
I sing of the Dark Maid who speaks only truth:
The servant of the Goddess, fierce, intemperate, uncouth;
Kind to heal and harsh to strengthen guides the Grail Knight.
She by her magics raised him as her foster,
Speaking him mind to mind a woman-warrior
Who in his dark brought light:
Thus Merlin's blood can come into his own,
Thus Arthur's kin can come to claim the Throne.
She passed by the marker at the boundary
Between the worlds passed by the marker-tree
To speak the truth unto the time-wracked Seeker there
And show him when and how he must now advance:
He with her aid now comes to restore the Balance
Pendragon's worthy heir:
See Merlin's blood come now to claim his own,
See Arthur's kin come now to claim the Throne.
In the old tales a maiden made all of flowers
Into an owl was turned, to hunt and to devour;
So this Child like an owl was shunned and set to slay:
Who would be leaves for shame believes himself a rending Worm;
Who dressed Wolf in wolf-skin shall dress in his true burning form
The beast of Sovereignty:
Merlin's blood in pain recalls his own,
Arthur's kin in shame to claim the Throne.
In the old tales a true maid she was enchanted
To a monstrous form which could not be supplanted
Until her true knight kissed her to a maid again:
The times they have changed, and now it is the Maiden
Who shall give the fier baiser and kiss the dragon,
Balm for all his pain:
And Merlin's blood comes now to claim his own,
And Arthur's kin comes now to claim the Throne.
Now as before two dragons in bloody strife
Upon the soil of Logres fight for their life
And by this combat choose if Merlin lives or dies:
Now as before one fights for the invaders
And you may mark the one who fights here for Logres
Being the one who cries:
Now Merlin's blood in blood shall win his own,
Now Arthur's kin by blood shall have the Throne.
Mabon was a Red Knight whose name was held in secret;
Comes now a day when all men shall speak it:
He that was Slave shall come to hold the mastery.
Mabon shall be Pendragon and Pendragon shall prevail:
His fate is fixed to follow the old pattern of the tale,
Freed and yet never free:
And Merlin's blood comes now into his own,
And Arthur's kin comes now unto the Throne.
And Arthur shall come waking out from his Hollow Hill,
Uphold Pendragon by his mighty will
The Young Lord come to reign as Servant of the Land,
Who shall supply the Question of the Graal:
Wise, wounded, innocent, to guard and care for all
All worlds beneath his Hand:
And Merlin's blood is come into his own,
And Arthur's kin is come unto the Throne.
This Lord has learned the lore of alder and of oak
Who wears the Forest and his long pain like a cloak:
He came to me a slave as shaman he shall govern.
Ten years spent in the Other Lands but he'll leave when he began,
To walk the worlds still wearing Logres like a second skin
The Land's true lover:
Now Merlin's blood is come into his own,
Now Arthur's kin is come unto the Throne.
I am the will of England, I call the Mabon
Child, foal and slave, owl, hawk, mage, knight and dragon
Out from the bitter prison of his suffering:
Son of the Mother who shall come to lordship over all,
Who shall come to lie between the Dark Maid and the wall
And sow the seed of Merlin:
And Merlin's blood shall come into its own,
And Arthur's kin shall sit upon the Throne.