Wonderful Days here in Portland. Warm, the plants are going crazy with growth… Dragon Flys abound. More than I have seen in years. All the Fledglings in the local trees are trying their wings. Pretty exciting times for them! We had a Squirrel Tribe pound across the roof this morning, 5 of them moving together like the hoodlums that they can be.
Tonights entry is dedicated to the Lady in the Lake in all Ladies… Here is to your mysterious ways. I, am still enchanted.
On The Menu:
The Lady of the Lake
To Nimue by Wildfrid Scawen Blunt
The Story of Nimue by Thomas De Beverley (George Newcomen)
The Lady of the Lake
(From The Britannica)
The Tradition: The Lady of the Lake was the foster-mother of Sir Lancelot and raised him beneath the murky waters of her Lake. She is, however, best known for her presentation to King Arthur of his magical sword Excalibur, through the intervention of the King’s druidic advisor, Merlin (Myrddin) who was constantly worried that his monarch would fall in battle.
Merlin had met the Lady at the Fountain of Barenton (Brittany) and fallen so deeply in love with her that he agreed to teach her all his mystical powers. The lady became Merlin’s scribe, who recorded his prophecies, as well as his lover. Unfortunately however, over the years, the Lady became so powerful that her magical skills outshone even her teacher and she imprisoned him in Glass Tower (or similar dungeon). To some extent she stepped into Merlin’s role at King Arthur’s side, but the old man’s removal contributed considerably to the great monarch’s downfall. The Lady of the Lake was eventually obliged to reclaim her sword when Arthur was fatally wounded at the Battle of Camlann and Excalibur was hurled back to misty waters. She was later one of the three Queens who escorted the King to Avalon.
Her Name: The Lady of the Lake is usually referred to by various spellings of the names Nimue or Vivienne. Nimue is thought to be related to Mneme, the shortened form of Mnemosyne, one of the nine water-nymph Muses of Roman and Greek Mythology who gave weapons, not unlike Arthur’s sword, to the heroic Perseus. Vivienne betrays the Lady’s Celtic form, for “Vi-Vianna” probably derives from “Co-Vianna”, a variant of the widespread Celtic water-goddess, Coventina. Remembering Latin pronunciation, this name probably relates to Merlin’s original partner in early poetry, his wife Gwendoloena. Thus Gw-end(-ol)-oena = Cov-ent-ina. There have also been attempts to show Vivienne as a corrupt form of Diana or Rhiannon. Though possible, these theories seem unlikely.
Dedication to Coventina from CarrawburghAncient Origins: Water deities were extremely popular with Celtic Society for they controlled the essential essence of life itself. The spontaneous movement of springs, rivers and lakes clearly showed the supernatural powers of the goddesses who lived within; and offerings at such aquatic features were commonplace, especially of weapons and other valuables. The practice continues today at wishing wells across the country, and the Lady of the Lake is remembered as “Lady Luck”!
Her names clearly reveal this Lady to have been the Celtic Water-Goddess Coventina (presumably identified by the Romans with their Mnemosyne). This lady was worshipped throughout the Western Roman Empire, in Britain, the Narbonne area of Gaul and North-Western Iberia too. She is most celebrated for her shrine at Brocolitia (Carrawburgh) on Hadrian’s Wall. Here a quadrangular temple surrounded a central pool fed by a sacred spring. Coin, jewellery and small bronze figurine offerings have been excavated as well as numerous altars dedicated by the local soldiers.
Since the Lady of the Lake’s place as Merlin’s student and lover was largely overtaken by Morgan Le Fay, a lady whose very name in Breton indicates a water-nymph, it seems that the two were aspects of the same character. Indeed, as both appear among the three queens who escort Arthur to Avalon, she no doubt had a third aspect making up the well-known theme of a Celtic Triple-Goddess.
WILDFRID SCAWEN BLUNT
I had clean forgotten all, her face who had caused my trouble.
Gone was she as a cloud, as a bird which passed in the wind, as a glittering stream-borne bubble,
As a shadow set by a ship on the sea, where the sail looks down on its double.
I had laid her face to the wall, on the shelf where my fancies sleep.
I had laid my pain in its grave, in its rose-leaf passionless grave, with the things I had dared not keep.
I had left it there. I had dried my tears. I had said, “Ah, why should I weep?”
I will not be fooled by her, by the spell of her fair child’s face.
What is its meaning to me, who have seen, who have known, who have loved what miracle forms of grace?
What are its innocent wiles, its smiles, its idle sweet girlishness?
I will not love without love. I despise the ways of a fool.
Let me prevail as of old, as lover, as lord, as king, or have done with Love’s tyrant rule.
I was born to command, not serve, not obey. No boy am I in Love’s school.
I have fled to the fields, the plains, the desert places of rest,
To the forest’s infinite smile, where the cushat calls from the trees and the yaffle has lined her nest,
To the purple hills with the spray of the sea, when the wind blows loud from the west.
I have done with her love and her, the wine-draughts of human pleasure.
The voice of nature is best, the cradle song of the trees which is hymned to Time’s stateliest measure,
As once a boy in the woods I heard it and held it an exquisite treasure.
I had clean forgotten all. I had sung to the indolent hills
Songs of joy without grief, since grief is of human things the shadow of human ills.
I sang aloud in my pride of song to the chime of the answering rills.
And, behold, the whole world heard, the dull mad man-ridden Earth.
And they cried, “A prophet hath risen, a sage with the heart of a child, a bard of no human birth,
A soul that hath known nor pain, nor sin, a singer of infinite mirth.”
And she too heard it and came. And she knew it was I grown wise.
And she stood from the rest apart, and I watched her with pitying scorn, and then with a sad surprise,
And last with a new sweet passionate joy, for I saw there were tears in her eyes.
And she came and sat at my feet, as in days ere our grief began.
And I saw her a woman grown. And I was a prophet no more, but a desolate voiceless man.
And I clasped her fast in my arms in joy and kissed her tears as they ran.
And I shall not be fooled by her, though her face is fair as a rose.
And I shall not live without love, though the world should forget my songs and I should forget its woes,
And the purple hills should forget the sea and the spray when the west wind blows.
THE STORY OF NIMUE
THOMAS DE BEVERLEY (GEORGE NEWCOMEN)
Merlin, by arts of Grammarie,
Had woven a spell, right cunningly,
That his mortal life prolonged should be.
Of herbs he had made an elixir quaint
To prolong his life, ere his years were spent;
But Fate hath frustrated his intent.
A chalice, he lifted in his hand,
To drink the elixir which fate had banned.
It fell and was spilt upon the sand.
“But,” he thought, “it is not as yet too late.
I will go at once, nor a moment wait;
Though the night be dark and the hour be late.”
Nimue knew of Merlin’s guile;
How evil he veiled in a simple smile.
How his heart was laden with many a wile.
She had gone by night to a churchyard grey
And the herbs she had torn from the earth away.
And Merlin will curse this evil day.
For the wizard will be appalled to think
That he is trembling upon the brink
Of the grave: Life’s elixir no more he’ll drink.
Old he grew in a single night;
His limbs were palsied, his hair was white.
Helpless was he to set it right.
Nimue was a fairy maid,
In a Grecian garment of white arrayed.
And her hair was bound with a golden braid.
Black was her hair as ebony,
Her eyes the fairest a man might see,
Shining with magic mystery.
“Now,” she cried, “is the hour mine own,
As Merlin shall for his sins atone;
His power for evil is past and gone.”
When Merlin crawled on his weary way,
The little children would pause at play
To jeer at the wizard, old and grey.
He sat him down by a hollow tree,
And unto him came Nimue.
She sat her down on the Wizard’s knee.
Long had the dotard followed her;
Chasing the fair one, near and far.
“Nothing now my desire will bar.”
He thought for her long white arms entwined
Round his shrunken neck; and the wanton wind
Blew her hair in his face; and she seemed kind.
His shrivelled lips upon hers were prest;
His hands were fondling her warm soft breast;
As this ladie weird he in love caressed.
He told her of many a subtle spell;
And, hearing his secrets her heart doth swell
As she cries, “O Merlin, I love thee well!”
“I am thine for ever, for good or ill,
If the wish of my heart wilt thou fulfil.
If thou wilt obey me, thou hast thy will.”
” ‘Neath yonder stone, hast thou said to me,
Is a cave and only by grammarie,
From its mouth, that great stone mov’d may be.”
“But to me it seemeth impossible
That the stone could be lifted by any spell.
Raise it for me; for I love thee well.”
Merlin arose with an air sedate,
To a certain doom, impelled by fate,
He openeth now the rocky gate.
“Further, I’ll prove thee,” then said she,
“Enter this magic cave for me;
Shut thou the door, by grammarie.”
“Then shall thou roll the rock away,
Proving thy power by this assay,
Thou’llt stand again in the open day.”
She spake, and the stone was rolled aside,
And the old man entered the cavern wide–
Besotted by love and by foolish pride.
Loud laughed the fairie Nimue:
She uttered some words of mysterie,
No more shall that dark cave opened be.