As I walked out one morning

All in the soft fine rain

It seemed as though a silver veil

Was shining over hill and vale

As though some lovely long-lost spell

Had made all new again.

And through that shimmer in the air I

seemed to hear a sound

As though a distant horn were blown in

some lost land that I had known

That seemed to speak from tree and stone

And echo all around.

And with the music came these words:

‘Poet, take up the tale!

Take up the tale this land still keeps,

In earth and water magic sleeps

The dryad sighs, the naiad weeps

But you can lift the veil.

From where the waves wash Cornwall’s caves

Out to the white horse vale

The lands still hold the tale of old

Like hidden treasure, buried gold

Once more the story must be told

Poet take up the tale.

Tell of the king who will return

Tell of the holy grail

Tell of old knights and chivalry

Tell of the pristine mystery

Of Merlin’s Isle of Gramaryre

Poet take up the tale.

Take up the tale of courtesy

Take up the tale of grace

Revive the lands’ long memory

Summon the fair folk, let them be,

something of faery, wild and free

Still lingers in this place.

Lift up your eyes to see the light

On Glastonbury Tor

Then come down from that far green hill

To where the sacred waters spill

And shine within the chalice well

And listen to their lore.

Yea, listen well before you start,

Be still ere you begin

See through the surface round about

The noise, the rush, the fear, the doubt

Though Modern Britain lies without

Fair Logres lives within.

You may yet walk through Merlin’s isle

By oak and ash and thorn

The ancient hills do not forget

And you might wake their wisdom yet

Who knows what wonders might be met

On this midsummer morn.

So I have taken up the tale

To tell it full and free

The tale that makes my heart rejoice

I tell it, for I have no choice

I tell it till another voice

Takes up the tale from me.

‘Take up the Tale’ is the prologue to Merlin’s Isle, Malcolm Guite’s new Arthurian epic. This prologue reveals the inspiration behind the poetry, which called on him to put his fountain pen to paper. ‘Galahad’s Childhood’ is the opening ballad in a sequence about Galahad and the Holy Grail, which will be part of his forthcoming Merlin’s Isle epic. We await the publication of Guite’s first volume of Merlin’s Isle, the Grail Sequence, sometime next year.

Citation Information

Malcolm Guite, “Take Up the Tale,” An Unexpected Journal: King Arthur Legendarium 6, no. 2. (Summer 2023), 66-69.