Monday, June 13, 2016

Three British Ghosts: Geoffrey of Monmouth, Henry II, & Thomas Becket (Additions to "The Apology Box")

          Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Tale

We think with stories--nouns don’t wag themselves
Until some verb has given them a tale.
Once storied, terms turn temporal. They are
Man’s plot across the moral, cognitive,
Creative, and artistic realms.  God said:
“Fool, know thyself!”  Obedient, I read
And wrote much history to understand
Myself and therefore follow God's command.

As I was British, Britain and my race
Of course were my prime focuses.  To my
Dismay, I found few tomes about the two
And those I found were partial works at best.
I was compelled to remedy the void
And thus began inquiring back to Troy
Past Virgil who omitted British limbs
Of that vast, ancient Trojan tree.  Despite
The paucity of written volumes, I
Discovered much of what I needed in
Myself--I was a sumptuous gallery
Of Trojan portraits.  In my face I saw
Our brave Aeneas as he first set sail
As well as all the awful anguish he
Displayed at sea regarding Dido’s pyre.
I saw our diverse portraits of him as
He sought and then subdued all Italy.
I saw then subsequent great Romans all
Reflected in their English cousin.  I
Turned Northerly, saw Brutus, great-grandson
Of our Aeneas, drive the giants from
That Northern Isle and seed the Trojan race
In latitudes more rarefied.  I saw
Troy’s engineers grid out New Troy whose name
Would later be Trinovantum till changed
To London.  I saw portraits of the roads
And baths and amphitheaters they built,
Perused the faces of lawgivers such
As Queen Marcia and Molmutius,
Examined portraits of Belinus and
Brennius as they took both Gaul and Rome
Long years before their Roman cousins came
To Albion.  I saw Cordelia then
I glimpsed that brilliant jewel within the crown,
Our Arthur, then saw Merlin, too.  I looked
At Mordred’s features, feared that evil glance
Of treachery.  I saw the future, too,
When Trojans sailed abroad again to new
Uncharted regions, saw how, too, the sea
Itself acknowledged our hegemony.
I saw the continents and isles elect
To speak the British Trojan dialect
Beginning on a Carolina shore
That both Virginia Dare and mystery bore.
I saw the Trojans smiling in their graves
As Britain ruled both continents and waves.
And though I did not put it down in ink
I saw with certainty enough to think
Our cousins far across that western sea
Would some day walk upon the moon and we
Would tongue the heavens, too, with our own speech.

Now, Lord, I shelve myself here safe with you.
Just like the tomes we write, each man is, too,
A tale of both himself and of his race
Unique in aspect nothing can replace.
Like rarest books, same principles as well
Ban burning us in heaven or in hell.



            Henry II’s Short Ballade[1]

Now judgment day has come at last for me,
I hope the Heavens will recall the way
I used the jury, dropped the blasphemy
Of the ordeal.  It seemed too proud to say
Man speaks God’s language equally and may
Decipher him in contests fortune ran.
A human jury seemed the humbler way
Since no man knows the mind of God or can.

I also hope when Heaven’s judging me,
It will recall proud Becket and the way
I handled him.  It was vain blasphemy
For priests (no less than other men) to say
They are the only ones who know God.  May
We all be humbler!  Until others ran
Him down, I tried to coach a milder way
Since no man knows the Mind of God or can.

Lord, though I hope in judging me you may
Find the vast Christian polities I ran
Well ruled, I won’t presume.  I’ll just obey
Since no man knows the Mind of God or can.


               Becket’s Sonnet Acrostic
                   (A strict role player)

For me, my duty was the polar star
I navigated by.  As Chancellors are
Devoted to their kings, I was therefore
Unwavering as Joseph was before--
Country and Pharaoh first.  Then “serve the Lord
Instead,” Pharaoh commanded.  In accord,
Archbishop I became.  As God’s trustee,
Roles changed and Pharaoh lost command of me.
Your servant now, he called me enemy

From that first moment when he knew I swore
In following you I'd follow him no more.
Refusing any compromise of roles,
Struck down in church for focusing on souls,
This priest reciprocated Calvary.



[1] According to various sources, the poet’s 25th great-grandfather through Thomas Yale and 27th great-grandfather through Anne Lloyd Yale.

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