Song of Merlyn – among the trees
By Neil Giles
This is a song few have heard
but many will know. I sing you this song.
I am a wild man, Merlyn the Mad.
Wise child was I,
born then sewn in a sack,
thrown to die in a storm-tossed sea
but hooked on a line,
fished out by someone that cared. Taught the mysteries
by the wise but I remained
a mystery to myself. I saw the future.
Kings sought me out. Folk clutched at my sleeve for snippets.
I have lived many lives …
been hated, been hunted,
lauded, revered …
but no cosset of court
claim of command
clamour of crowd
could turn me from my path.
Sooner will a Spring breeze
tear the Oak from the earth. I am steadfast.
I am magic’s man, a servant of power, a child of the forest.
Three times I died – I fell, I hung, I drowned – to live again.
Three great cries I uttered – shaking earth, air, water – to know power.
Now I am magic’s lover, power’s plaything and a passionate man.
Sometimes magic is the sigh of a breeze that wraps me
with dewdrops then beds me with leaves in exquisite repose.
Sometimes magic takes me, vulnerable, soaring, exultant …
beginning with a kiss, a gentle caress.
Oh then power surges, turning the soft enchantress
to a beast of wild abandon that tears my flesh with her furious fires.
Sometimes magic is a primal force,
a body blow, a staggering wallop
delivered by a giant from another world
where I am nothing but a slight pause in the minutest of actions.
Yet, a footloose lover when loving is done, magic leaves.
I am fatigued, disinterested, abandoned.
Perhaps the clasp of such immense power,
(with which nothing can compare)
wearies me. Somehow, afterwards,
everything of this world is less real.
The mundane fabric, transparent,
attenuated for those moments,
is no longer cogent, no longer enough.
That may be the reason I am tired. It may not.
I have lived too many years to believe that what I think matters much.
Or that thinking explains anything at all.
It is enough to say I am tired at such a time.
I am called a magician. I do not know why …
It’s like calling me a mountain because I have visited a high place.
I have been where power resides. Magic flows from such journeys.
I am called a magician because those who do not know me well
do not know what to call me.
The sunfire I know would scorch them.
They fear the shadows I walk in.
They cannot read beneath my moods.
They do not love solitude.
They cannot sing the name of each living tree.
They cannot dance … mad in the forest.
They are not friends to animals and the unseen ones.
They do not know me.
To them, I am a magician. It is well. It keeps a distance between us.
Folk are scared of magicians.
I have plotted with kings, and against them.
I have loved, been indifferent and hated.
I have fathered children I do not know, loved children I did not father.
I have feasted on wealth and scavenged for scraps.
I have fasted until the skin scraped my bones.
I have known what it is to walk unknown but know ‘myself’.
I have known what it is to have many names
and choose one that suits me … or the occasion.
Those who know me, the few, they have called me many things.
I am called Merlyn … though that is not my name.
I am called Nightfall … though that is not my name.
Perhaps, like Ulysses, I should call myself ‘nobody’. That way, when I visit
a place of power and speak my name aloud, power can say,
‘Nobody is here’. That is how power makes me feel.
Yet, in all that, I know who I am.
I am the man from the sea, made of foam and salt.
When I say magic fatigues me, do not think I dislike it.
Nowhere would I dwell but a place of power.
However, like all valuable things, it has a price.
Fatigue is a part of that price.
I do not like it. I do not dislike it. It is simply what must be.
What I like or dislike has no meaning.
Wisdom teaches that life has little to do with likes and dislikes.
I have dispensed with them. They are childish. I do what is needed.
As we survey the terrain of our choices, many things seem possible.
In the end, only one need be done.
That is being on a path.
In my life, I have learned to walk the path of magic.
I know little else.
I have no need to. It is a solitary road but what I have touched and seen
on the path of magic embraces all things.
I have lived in wild places.
Deep in the trees have I been,
folded by darkness,
bedded by mould,
cajoled then fondled by vagrant winds,
assailed by the sounds of an emptiness crowded with living things.
I have known the crawling and scurrying of insects, animals and wee folk.
To them I was nothing more
than an odd-shaped obstacle
on the path of their own busy days.
I have known loneliness, ringed by rocks, roughened by sleep-stealing earth.
Yet in such loneliness have I found the mother’s bosom of comfort
to succour my hungry mouth when all else failed me,
left me dying,
a fading shadow from a distant and meaningless world.
I have led a life in cities
where noise and betrayal
sliced my senses into tiny irregular portions
then served them to dogs like the remnants of yesterday’s meal.
I have walked highways, cobbled paths and tracks,
seeking numerous addresses where friends were supposed to have lived.
I found no one at home.
I have known court and luxury, gutter and poverty.
In both were displayed all things the cities of men have on offer for a price.
I found the price too much and fled.
I found the pull of them too great and returned.
As I said, I’ve led more than one life.
Such is the destiny of those who walk with magic.
All magic begins with the will. That is the truth of it.
No ceremony, chanting, rites, secret formula or talisman
will work if the Will is not focused.
They may enhance.
They will not ‘do’.
Only ‘the will’ will do.
The will is our deepest feeling, our wisest thought,
our greatest longing, our brightest fire.
The will is a fierce shaft to pierce the veil of the unknown land,
the strangest of all worlds … this world.
Finery, frippery, frolic and folderol, the trappings, the garments,
the banter of magic are leaves in the wind
but I am the tree.
What is the branch?
I am the branch.
What is the trunk?
I am the trunk.
What is the root?
I am the root, joined with the land in a timeless, ecstatic moment of always.
I am a tree and the trees are my people.
What is my advice … the counsel of trees?
Learn you are everything by learning you are nothing.
Forest will teach you.
All desire and the desire to ‘become’ is illusion.
On the path of humility, a step at a time, one foot in front of the other –
this is the way of walking.
One day, unbidden, the whirlwind will catch you up
and spin you ,,, take you to who knows where.
In the meantime, one step follows another.
Having begun, no beginning, no end …
To find focus for the will, you must begin by way of detachment,
a discipline, no natural state, one achieved
and maintained through choices.
Yet they are choices made from feeling.
The paradox – none can know true detachment
except through true feeling.
Be a tree in the forest – is the tree the forest? Is the forest the tree?
Both questions are answered ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
All things are born in a limitless sea, the ocean of life and life’s passion for life,
a sea of all being. No self.
So we rise like a wave from the sea of no self to be …
We flow like a river from that sea to an undiscovered land to be …
Ah! What things we can become.
We, the rising fire, we, the rolling wave, we set out … forgetting,
for a moment, our being, the sea.
We are spirit fire, each one a flame,
each one a rolling wave from a burning sea,
drawn from the forever fire at the heart of all things.
We are little flames, gatherers of dust
from the mother’s great body, borrowed dust.
We live in her garb, wearing her mantle of earth and forest,
water and stone,
breathing out desire and illusion, breathing them in,
touching self in another, another in self,
embracing all, then, at the last,
dispensing with all but the truth.
What is the truth?
The flame is not separate from the fire.
The wave is not separate from the sea.
So they must return to the source. Over lives, our resolve
to branch out, to become an adventurous, individual life
will begin to falter then fade. Somewhere,
on any journey,
we must begin to go home …
only to realize we have always been going home, even in leaving.
A moment, the first moment (it always comes)
of weakening, of letting go … is the hardest.
After that, we slowly surrender,
sinking into the deepest of wells to drink … of the self.
We tire of shapes and the game, wanting only return.
We. who once forgot being
to become, now forget becoming to remember being.
And, in remembering, are content.
Life’s passion for itself
creates only life that lives then dies then returns to the source.
Even the forest is born in the fire, and through fire returns.
Being is a thread woven into the fabric of life –
the unperceived colour that brightens the sun.
the drug of sleep that fills night with dreams.
the one dream that waits for a sleepwalker to return to his bed,
the scent of spirit carried on a breeze like the perfume of a flower far away.
When it comes to us, we must seek being, no matter the cost.
The invisible world summons us to return to our place of belonging.
As the passionate will walks a path
through such a world as this,
it is touched by secret messages, held by unseen hands,
lulled by unheard voices
till the words of returning awake in the heart.
Heart awakens to the call,
the will attunes itself to hidden things and magic is made.
I will make a prophecy:
One day the stars will fall and you will find me
One day the earth will crack and you will find me
One day the sea will swallow the land and you will find me
One day the forest will burn and you will find me
One day the mountains will crumble and you will find me
I will be meteor
You will find me in these and so find yourself.
Go well until then. Merlyn.
I’m thrilled to host another beautiful poem by the talented Neil Giles. Check out more of Neil’s work:
You can follow Neil Giles on Twitter @banquozghost