Wednesday 9 February 2022

Knight of the Rose - Prose Poem/Short Story by Greg Patrick

 


Knight of the Rose 

By Greg Patrick

 

“Time held me green and dying

Though I sang in my chains like the sea”-Dylan Thomas

 

            A lone horseman reined-in at the threshold of forest’s dark sanctuary. A chill wind sang

through the canopies of oaks as he raised his forearm. A gyrfalcon pale-feathered as 

moonbeams rose gracefully to the beacon of a lit window in yonder castle afar. Bound to its

talons was a message for eyes of the green of fathomless Celtic sea. The falcon was emblazoned

against the rising full moon on whose tides he sailed for this shore.

            The raptor’s feathers falling like ghost tears for the slain chieftains on whom the grass

had grown. Its shrill cry like a land bereaved of heirs sang, seeming to herald his homecoming to

a green Ithaka. Moonbeams tinged green as they filtered through the swaying banners of leaves

lit his face like a highwayman’s mask as he sighed a name like the title of the song, his breath

steaming in the cold.

            He had fallen asleep sheltered amid ancient standing stones, his sleep haunted by strange

dreams. It had been many ages since the hills and enemies had trembled under the great

charioteer warriors. The legends banished from the songs of the clans, but they existed in dream

and in songs in the depths of forest like forbidden love songs to one beyond their station.

Wreaths of mist crowned the kings in ghostly coronation as he whispered bardic songs in his

sleep.

            He awoke to the rising light as he rode through the monoliths of ancient clans long

passed, architects of dreams and mystery in a storied land. He had paused, eyes closed like the

last faithful scribe at the deathbed of a Highking. The last loyal retainer in a dark empty

throne room recording his echoing words.

 

            In the misty dawn a herd of red deer scattered as a horse and rider broke cover from the

sentinel-like trees. Sensing they were not his quarry they paused and looked on curiously as he

rode towards the distant castle. Landscape seemed dreamscape like the radiance of dawn

fluttering at a dreamer’s opening eyes. Fields adorned with flowers like a gown of a princess

who awaited to be reunited with a returned prince in homecoming.

            It was as if roses piled in memory of one lost at the sea were cast up instead hailing the

seafarer’s unexpected return. The hooves fell in synchrony with his heart and the wind roared in

his ears. Like a cold shadow cast suddenly by gathering clouds he remembered when last he rode

these fields they were red-ashed in aftermath of battle and the besieged castle was like an

Atlantean bastion all but falling under stormswept waves of flame.

            He had marched at the vanguard of a rebel band to the shrill of bagpipes in renegade

intervention when his chieftain had taken oath of fealty to a lord across the sea. He would not

disavow his love’s clan when the enemy marched on their walls.

            In exile he had looked back across the wake with Orphean valediction to the diminishing

shore before setting his eyes grimly to the Shaharazadian allure of the dark horizon on a voyage

to Eastern lands and crusade, vowing to return. The last sight of his homeland was the distant

trees of the fall like red banners.

            “When the leaves are green again, I shall return for thee…”

            The ocean-bound wind swept from the trees to his hair and closed his eyes, his lips

moving in soundless prayer. Now the horse of an exotic breed from lands of oasisless mirages

and dunes, tossed red petals from its mane like sparks and blood particles as his warhorse had

done when he last strode these realms.

            And his laughter was a soloist song privy to his own daydreams that beckoned him forth.

He halted the stallion, its flanks heaving. He caressed the harp he bore at his side, feeling the

Aeolian-stirred song of her laughter in memory. So distant the memory as to seem the time of

legends, as distant as the voids between the stars by which the nomad and mariner found their

path.

            Flurries of crimson petals like a druidic bonfire’s immolation swirled around him. Lips

spoke her name like a wound reopening when it had pulsed in the cold. The words that came to

him were like disembodied voices of the spirits of glen and stream. The blood chant of his heart

throbbed to the beat of words unsung, but all great words begin forbidden. They echo in

catacombal secrecy before they are sung gentiley before court and empress.

            He wore the garb of a humble itinerant minstrel, but the ravens had seen the chainmail

and scabbard before he donned it and cowled his face. They knew death rode with him and they

hovered over him like a dark retinue. He fell in with a band of entertainers seeking a lordly

patron as they thronged the road and hastened against the threat of rain to the castle holding court

for a betrothal. He passed into the cold shadow of the Norman keep’s gate, squaring his

shoulders as it closed behind.

            Gaelic was forbidden in the castle court now. Troubadours and minstrels sang by lute in

the stead of the Hibernian bards, but when his “name” was called he strode to the harp of the hall

like returned Odysseus to the bow only his hand could truly string as the suitors looked on

haughtily.

            He strummed at first non-committedly then as their eyes met as she sat engarlanded like a

floral enhaloment and gowned in white ermine and gossamer. A bard’s vision of beauty behind

startingly green eyes and natural crown of red. The merriment of the table that had drowned out

the other minstrels. The jests and mirth fell silent as if by incantation as the harpsong

cast its apparitional spell with the moonbeams.

            His very words that incantation under the enchantment of the muse. He told their story in

the props and trappings of the Norman lord’s own land, to the castles of the

Loire valley. In turn the song was cathartic as a letter written on eve of battle and at others the

song was aloof as a soloist or pilgrim lighting a shrine candle for his own dream.

            It was like Orion’s song in the eternal wilds of the stars haunting the earthbound.

He played as maleficiently as he had amid the pavilion fires of the crusader armies

so far from tuliped fields of Christendom before they were to cross sword with scimitar.

            It was written that “moonlight was sculpture” but harpsong is like the art of a tapestry-

maker. A storyboard of scenes of battle and chase seemed to be woven before spellbound eyes in

phantasmal procession. The fire that silhouetted him like a rebel angel playing in the flames

sighed like charmed serpents as flames were granted form and face to enact scenes before

they faded back into the embers.

             It was said that “all memories happen to music”. His eyes sang their duet to hers

face mirrored in voluminous depth of green. As if the smile alone like notes read by a

Stradivarius-player transported them with the raw wild beauty of the song to the shore of a loch

with the twilight-reddened waves lapping at her feet as she stood like a poem written against the

sunset.

            As he doffed his helm and a sash of green bound his arm before battle on the morrow.

Under cover of darkness, vines flowing like a green tapestry from the castle walls were scaled

hand over hand.

            A waiting horse’s tether held by a kern was passed to a gauntleted wolf-pelt sleeved

hand. In answer to a serenade, she appeared at the window like a PreRaphealite masterpiece

subject framed. The very essence of a Celtic bard’s inspiration. Her hand held to his forehead a

gesture approaching veneration, she was raised to the saddle by a knight clad in black night-

attack armour. A sentry cried out and a Gaelic battle cry answered in defiance.

            Fire arrows meant to illuminate the grounds like flares, streaked around. The horse reared

terrified but he held his saddle. When the hooves fell again, he drew an exotic weapon from

Eastern lands, a horse archer’s bow and answered the attack. Men fell from the battlements as the

iron-shod hooves smote the cobbles in flight. A cauldrenous mist seemed to gather as if the

ghosts haunting ruins and standing stones thronged the warrior poet to hear his songs. Mist

seemed to shroud the protectively as if they passed into legend.

 




A dual citizen of Ireland and the states, Greg Patrick is an Irish/Armenian traveller poet and the son of a Navy enlisted man.  He is also a former Humanitarian aid worker who worked with great horses for years and loves the wilds of Connemara and Galway in the rain where he's written many stories. Greg spent his youth in the South Pacific and Europe and currently resides in Galway, Ireland and sometimes the states.

 

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