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.
Malcolm Guite is a poet and priest, working as Chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge. He also teaches for the Divinity Faculty and for the Cambridge Theological Federation, and lectures widely in England and North America on Theology and Literature. He is the author of What do Christians Believe? (Granta 2006), Faith Hope and Poetry (Ashgate 2010, paperback 2012), Sounding the Seasons; Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year (Canterbury 2012), The Singing Bowl; Collected Poems (Canterbury 2013), The Word in the Wilderness (Canterbury 2014), Waiting on the Word (Canterbury 2015), and Parable and Paradox (Canterbury Press 2016). He contributed the Chapter on Lewis as a poet to the Cambridge Companion to CS Lewis (CUP 2010)
Malcolm Guite, “Take Up the Tale,” An Unexpected Journal: King Arthur Legendarium 6, no. 2. (Summer 2023), 66-69.