Thursday, 24 October 2019

Latest BardSong: "Mirrors, Mirrors on the Wall"

Another entry in the weekly FaithWriters.com competition. The theme was "Reflection," so I took them literally! I called it "Mirrors, Mirrors on the Wall."
Yes, it has a slight reference to Snow White's evil witch -- not that I identify as her at all. :)
It placed 7th overall with an "Editors Choice" award.




“The Hall of Mirrors” it was signed. “Enter if you’re so inclined,
But will you like what you will see? That remains a mystery.”
Now, such a challenge, such intrigue I thought was quite within my league.
I confidently sallied through – a reckless step I well may rue.

Mirrors! Mirrors ev’rywhere, staring back each way I stare.
And none the same, so it appeared, for every one looked kind of weird.
Some had magic, elf-like frames, while others bore the strangest names.
So was my courage strong enough to look into this eerie stuff?

Now Snow White in the fairy tale, to match her looks I’m sure I’d fail.
Nor the wicked witch-queen, me, with agonies of jealousy.
But I looked good when washed and shaved (except my mirror misbehaved.
And note: before the mirror broke, it showed a decent-looking bloke.)

The first few frames to me displayed some freaks that left me undismayed.
Some showed me fat, and others, thin. One made me look like Gungha Din.
In some, a super-hero stood, like Superman or Robin Hood,
Or evil dudes like Palpatine, the meanest baddies ever seen.

At most I laughed, at some I huffed. At one, I felt extremely chuffed.
A legendary champion – the kind fair ladies swoon upon.
An all-round nice guy. (Anyway, that’s what my employees say.)
Well, it was fun but somehow hollow. Was there something that would follow?

At length I found another room, whose name forbodes some kind of doom:
“The Mirrors of the Soul” it read, “Come through to face the things you dread!”
‘Why should I dread a piece of glass?’ scoffed I. ‘Me, I got too much class!’
With that, I strutted through the door to something I’d not seen before.

There was no roof -- just darkened sky. I saw no twinkling stars on high.
All lighting in that creepy hall came from the mirrors on the wall.
But as I turned in fright to flee, there was no entrance I could see!
So I began to sweat and swear just like a cornered grizzly bear.

In nightmares, I have found one tends to find strange objects are one’s friends.
The nearest screen began to speak: ‘How can I help? What do you seek?’
‘O mirror, mirror on the wall, I dunno why I’m here at all!
So, where’s the exit from this place? Please speak, or I’ll go off my face!’

The kind but glassy voice replied ‘It was your choice to come inside.
But never fear, give this a try. You’ll leave this place a better guy.
To find the exit is your goal? The real door is through your soul.’
So, rather puzzled and amazed, into its neighbour then I gazed.

Above it, fiery words were writ: “Your Ego’s here – beware of it!”
The flatt’ring image shown before was there again, but then no more,
He changed and aged before my eyes. The true Me threw off its disguise.
To my dismay it seems I saw that foolish fabled emper-or.

Without his clothes, his fame, his throne, and no true friends – he was alone!
Emaciated, weak and plain, he strutted like a peacock vain.
I shouted back: ‘This is not Me! Now this is not as it should be.
I’ve done my bit! I’ve paid my dues! A needy hand I don’t refuse!

Encouraging with words of cheer. I always shout my friends a beer.
You’ve shown me this distorted scene. Why can’t you show how good I’ve been?’
The screen went blank, so I moved on. My self-esteem was nearly gone.
The next one’s sign said, clear and brief: “Your Goodness” – much to my relief.

It showed me first as Santa Claus, dispensing presents without pause.
But when each gift they’d gratef’lly open, it was not what they were hopin’.
Just a note they found. One read: “You owe me one for what you said!”
Or: “Sorry! Strapped for cash this year. Instead you’ll get a can of beer.”

I thought the Santa thing was huge, but then he changed to look like Scrooge!
A harsh and calculating face – of my “Nice Guy” there was no trace.
The next was frighteningly bright, and I was blinded by its light!
This mirror showed God’s righteousness! Compared to Him, I was a mess!

But when I got up from the floor, at last! I saw an opened door.
Outside, a cross stood on a hill. The Man who died there calls me still.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

"Love's Labour is Not Lost"

Another entry for a recent FaithWriters.com weekly writing challenge. This one at least got an "Editor's Choice" award. 
It's called "Love's Labour is Not Lost", but has nothing to do with Shakespeare's famous work.

 Young Johorem, son of Jareh, laughed as he watched his fellow-slave toiling hard at the woodpile.
‘I will never understand you, Eliabin, son of Yonahan,’ he mocked. ‘Master and mistress are gone to Shiloh until Shabbat, yet you still break your back as though Pharaoh himself was behind you, whip in hand. A true slave indeed you are! Are you not a son of Abraham? We have long forsaken the land of bondage! Has my lord Nahshon commanded you this?’

Eliabin paused in the act of attacking the stubborn log before him. He wearily wiped the sweat from his eyes without looking up. He spoke with restraint but gripped the axe hard.
‘No he has not, Johorem, you sluggard! But winter comes on apace, and the household must keep good store of wood.’

‘Sluggard, am I? Ha! At least I am no fool! Will the master thank you for it? I think not.’

‘A fool, am I? Then, so be it!’ retorted Eliabin with an angry glance. ‘I do it for the love of my master, my mistress and above all, for Yahweh the Lord.’
Then honesty compelled him to add softly: ‘…and to keep Bathamah warm.’
He turned his eyes wistfully toward the scullery.

Johorem burst out laughing. ‘You?! Do you still dream of possessing her? When she has eyes for none but me? Am I not far taller and fairer?’

The other glanced at his own plain but pleasant image in the well nearby.
‘It is true,’ he sighed. ‘She deserves her good fortune.’ He resumed his chopping.

‘Good fortune…. yes! Am I not the son of Jareh, mighty man of valour?’ cried Johorem pompously. ‘It is only one moon until the Year of Release. Soon we shall all be free again! The chains of tyranny we cast off! I shall become rich. I shall wed the fair Bathamah and raise an house and name that will rival Nahshon’s himself!’

It was his rival’s turn to look scornful.
‘How shall this be? You have few skills, even though master has tried to school you. His patience is unbounded! He is no tyrant, nor is our mistress. She treats the fair Bathamah more as her own daughter, rather than her handmaid. You chose to be a slave, as did I when our sires died impoverished. My lord will release us with a gift also, as decreed by lord Moses. But what will you do with your freedom then? You boast much, but will you succeed?’

But Johorem was flying high.
‘I shall rise to be an officer in lord Joshua’s army when we defeat these accursed Canaanites. I am bold and courageous! A mere shepherd, farmer or herdsman? Never!’

Observing the lack of enthusiasm in his audience, he paused in his boasting, and sneered.
‘And you, O ant-who-stays-not-his-labours? Will you be content with a few sheep and goats? Will you till the earth until you die?’

Eliabin took a breath and faced him, resolution in his eyes.
‘I shall not leave my master. I shall go to the door, and be marked as his servant forever.’
He returned to his labour with even greater vigour.

The other gasped and stared at him.
‘Are you sun-crazed? The awl-pierced earlobe? Is there no end to your folly? Why?’

‘Perhaps he understands the value of love better than you, Johorem.’
The gentle, clear voice behind them made them both spin around. The axe fell from nerveless, shaking fingers.
Even in modest handmaid’s garments, Bathamah could not conceal her beauty, grace and sweetness. Both men gazed at her hungrily.

Johorem strode forward and took her hands possessively.
‘What, my beloved? Fear not. Soon we shall both be free and wed. Then you shall know what love truly is.’

She pulled her hands away and stepped back, looking solemnly into his eyes.
‘No, son of Jareh. I also shall go to the door, and serve my mistress forever.’

‘Bathamah! Why??’

‘It is true that I was captive to your manly charms when we first met, Jehorem,’ she replied, gently but firmly. ‘I wish you well. But I now desire a man of honour, kindness, diligence – not a wild man of war.’

She glided slowly over to Eliabin, who stood stunned, and took his roughened hands between hers.
‘You have laboured long and hard for six years to win my heart, little though you knew, son of Yonahan. It was a labour of love for our master, for Yahweh the Lord, and for me.’

Thursday, 18 July 2019

"The Weird World of Wigs."

This month's BardSong actually won First Prize in the weekly FaithWriters Challenge.


As the department stores
At night, close their doors,
And the staff have gone home to their rest,
All the products arise,
Shake the sleep from their eyes
And they hold what is called a “Stockfest.”

The beauty/hair section
Has its own resurrection.
All the wigs become quite animated.
Shoppers compared – 
How they looked, how they fared,
And the heads they have liked or have hated.

Now wigs, I admit,
They have more hair than wit.
For variety, they take the cake.
From the wildly artistic
To the sheer narcissistic.
O, the folly of follicles fake!

The Long Blond, of course,
(From the tail of a horse)
Is the queen of this glam’rous display.
When asked: Was she proud
To rule over this crowd?
All she’d say was a bray or a Neigh.

The cheeky Brunette, 
Well, she poses a threat.
For her tresses are long and luxurious. 
Moreover, she flirts 
With the bargain men’s shirts
Which renders Queen Blondie quite furious.

There’s dark Lady Afro
(Manufactured by Sapphro)
With ancestors north of the Nile.
See her polymer face
And of pallor – no trace,
Except for her gleaming white smile.

While old man Toupée,
Who has so much to say,
Disapproves of these fashions and trends:
‘Young people these days
And their crazy new craze,
Out-hairing their hairy-lout friends!’

Nearly-bald Number 1
Never has any fun.
He prophesies doom and much gloom.
He’d tear out his hair,
But there isn’t much there,
And he bores ev’ry one in the room.

Young, nonchalant Spikes,
With his 15k “Likes”,
Reads his phone at a 2-degree angle.
He said ‘Hey, dude! Just chill!
Like, the planet’s here still.
So don’t get your tips in a tangle.’

The dark short-bobbed Curly
Is often quite surly,
And agitates for equal rights.
She complains: ‘You’re too Nice!
The poor downtrodden lice!
So put up with their itches and bites.’


There’s a wig for a judge
Who bears a big grudge
Against all those who challenge tradition.
The rich or the poor
Who will brush with the law,
To comb them all out is his mission.

‘Dig my cool Dreadlocks, man,
Wit’ de West Indies tan
On de face,’ said the Jamaican model.
‘I look like Bob Marley
When riding de Harley.
I finally got off de boddle!’


Then, amidst all the boasting,
The clamour, the roasting,
One story reduced them to silence.
Twas the tale of a child
Who had gone rather wild
And had suffered addiction and violence.

For a soft, short brown Rémy
Spoke with tears of young Amy,
A street girl who died from lung cancer.
The treatments bereft her
Of all the hair left her.
She’d hoped one day she’d be a dancer!


‘I, alone, was her solace
In this cruel metro-polis.
She clung to me right to the end.
Not one relation,
On this sad occasion
Would see her! I was her sole friend.

But in her despair
She prayed a sad prayer.
Was she hopelessly lost, God-forsaken?
Then a kindly old guy
With a smile in his eye
Called in to help hope reawaken.

From his Bible he read
That One rose from the dead
Bringing grace and forgiveness to all.
If repenting we take it
To heaven we’d make it,
No matter how far we did fall.

Then Amy believed him,
And gladly received Him
Whose love had brought hope to her story.
Then Amy departed
This life – but light-hearted,
And now she is dancing in Glory.’

Then vanity vanished
And pride was soon banished.
The hard, plastic faces were shamed.
For His grace makes us humble
And pride it must crumble
Wherever the Saviour is named.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

"Biological Warfare (in the Heavenlies.)"

One of my latest entries to the FaithWriters.com Writing Challenge. It was given a "Highly Commended" award.

Demon Prince Kankerworm was furious.

He was progressively subjugating those Christians (the smug ones anyway) in his city. Suddenly, “reinforcements” arrived in the form of that arrogant and meddlesome Prince Pestilence.

‘If it hadn’t been for orders from Below, I’d tell you to get lost, Prince Pest!’ he fumed at the grinning newcomer. ‘Why‘d they send you here, anyway? You’ve already spoilt our operations in Africa, driving so many to repentance! Then they formed their strong Christian communities!’

‘Oh yeah, WartFace?’ retorted the horrible apparition before him. ‘We might have succeeded if you Subversives had done your job! If all your whisperings and Feel-Good Indoctrination had been effective, like you boasted it would, then they wouldn’t have sent all those fanatical Western Missionaries! So, now the Boss is sending in his Big Guns – Me – to disrupt and discourage your pathetic little saints you’re so spooked about. Show me where they are. I’ll fix ‘em!’
He dumped his huge pack of toxic explosives in front of his colleague.

‘Oh! “Big Guns”, is it?’ snarled the other sarcastically, though secretly impressed. ‘Well, let’s see how you cope with those saints Who-Know-Who-They-Are! Then you’ll understand what we Field Units are up against. C’mon, then!’

They flew down to the city below, and Pestilence immediately targeted the big cathedral with the tall steeple, dropping an Influenza virus-bomb through the walls. It exploded invisibly on the congregation inside, infecting them all immediately. He laughed uproariously.

‘No! You idiot!’ shouted Kankerworm from above, exasperatedly. ‘You can have your fun on unbelievers and compromisers in your own time. Very few Bible-believers there. We got work to do! You’re wasting your ammunition!’

He indicated a neat-looking Bible College down the street, then folded his arms sceptically, waiting to see what Pestilence would do.

‘Oh, I can handle religious people with a lot of theology in their silly heads!’ snorted his rival, and plunged through the walls to the lecture halls. He got as far as dropping a bomb inside one, but a heavenly warrior appeared and sat on it. It fizzed and infected only a few inattentive students nearby. 

The next lecture hall, he was stopped short by a huge, shining heavenly guard. Glancing fearfully at the notice board at the door, he saw “Principles of Faith – Biblical Perspectives” by one of the most feared Bible Lecturers that ever shook the gates of Hell. He was one who prayed fervently before his lectures. Throwing what toxic dust he could past the angel, he fled to the next lecture.

Here the notice read “Higher Criticism, and Including Other Religions.” No guards there!
‘That’s more like it!’

Getting ready to hurl a big one in amongst the attendees, he hesitated. What good would it do? Most were evidently entangled in their conflicting philosophies anyway and couldn’t do any damage. Kankerworm was right. Wasted ammo.

Scattering virus-dust on individuals he passed, he returned to where Kankerworm scornfully waited for him.
‘Not that easy, is it? Come this way, then.’

He flew off to the other side of the tracks, his fellow demon grumbling after him. Biblical Christians (those who knew their God at least) were hard work to subdue, little though he would admit it.

They came to a tidy but unprepossessing hall in the outer suburbs. 
Pestilence remembered. It was in a seedy, impoverished neighbourhood where vice thrived. A fledgling mission had begun there. He and his minions had blanket-bombed it previously with Cholera, AIDS and more, to put a stop to any evangelism. 
‘Ha! I bet many turned their back on this Saviour of theirs. Any figures on that?’

‘Sure have!’ came the grim answer. ‘Five oldies died and went to heaven.’

‘Only five??’

‘Yep! The moment the outbreaks came, the little mission reached out with medical help and fell to its knees in prayer. Miracles happened! Soon one family after another fell to the Enemy, the neighbourhood got cleaned up, the brothels closed down, the dealers and mobsters left town. The church is thriving! I’d show you if it wasn’t for the hordes of angel-guards. It was a disaster! So much for your blanket-bombings!’

‘Well, what happened to your gossips and scandals and such!’ yelled Pestilence, red-faced. ‘Aren’t you supposed to divide and conquer in that clever little way you boast about?’

‘You gotta give it time, you fool! Wait ‘til they get comfortable, complacent and fall for prosperity teaching and all that. That’s real sickness.’

‘Your pathetic praying missionaries didn’t catch it, though, did they?’

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

The Latest Excerpt from The Poor Preachers: Adventures of the First Lollards


The story so far.
Set in 14th Century England, a group of Reformer John Wycliffe's followers, known as his Poor Preachers, were being trained to go out and preach the Gospel. Young master Abingdon befriends a talented farmer's son, Thomas Plowman, who feels called to preach together with Father William Shephard, who has the same calling. Abingdon makes the introduction.

Chapter 6: Yokefellows

‘And when they ministered to the Lord, and fasted,
The Holy Ghost said to them, Separate ye to me Saul and Barnabus
[part ye to me Saul and Barnabus],
into the work to which I have taken them.’

(Deeds of Apostles Chapter 13:2 Wycliffe-Purvey Translation/Revision.)


‘Thou’rt a Dorsetshire man -- even as I.’ observed William, hearing the stranger’s accent. ‘Doubly welcome art thou, Master Thomas Plowman.’
He invited the two of them to dine at Hereford’s quarters to hear his story. Such was the trust and esteem that his master had for him, William had earned the privilege of entertaining whomever he wished when Hereford was away.
Excitement grew in them all as first Tom, then William, shared their stories. Even without the naming of himself in Tom’s visitation, William knew in his heart that they were destined to minister together in a powerful way.
Tom, with his budding intuition, could see that William was not only his chosen mentor, but a yokefellow in the Lord’s work -- a mighty work, such as had not been seen for centuries.
When asked of his immediate plans, Tom explained that he had nothing fixed beyond his meeting with William and his aspirations to become a preacher of the gospel. He was willing to sleep in the hay-barn of a local farmer he had worked for until he found something more comfortable.
‘Holy Saints! In a hay-barn? God forbid!’ protested Benjamin. ‘Is there not a free bed in our dortoir at Merton, now Holloway hath departed? I shall speak with the Ward of Residence thither.’
He cut short Tom’s expression of thanks.

The next day, his friend brought him to Hereford’s quarters again, where William awaited them. Abyngdon was in high fettle, very pleased with his find. This was the second stranger he had befriended who showed great promise.
‘A right good fisher of men am I.’ he boasted laughingly. ‘Is he not an evangel sent of God, as Doctor Evangelicum hath so prayed for, Father William?’
‘So I think, and so saith mine heart.’ William agreed.  ‘It hath been in the heart of Doctor Hereford to begin classes for the training of these “poor preachers” that Doctor Evangelicus would raise up. Alas, we have not many students that art both graduate and willing to go forth among the poor folk. But need we a-many years of study for this task? Nay! Methinks that laymen will be needful, of especial them that be gifted and called for such a strange work.’
He looked speculatively at Tom and quoted a verse from Hereford’s translation of the Book of Esther: ‘Who knows but that thou art called into the Kingdom for such a time as this?’
‘But withal respect to Master Plowman, sickerly he is not so goodly countenanced to look upon as were the fair Queen Esther!’ objected Benjamin. 
Tom laughed and riposted, ‘Nay! Rather be I like to them that would have devoured the good prophet Daniel, or so ‘tis said.’
William was too obsessed with Wycliffe’s vision and their latest find to enter into the spirit of this. Smiling absently at the camaraderie of the other two men, he said, ‘Doctor Hereford hath pledged monies and more for this vision, and Doctor Evangelicus himself also. They live frugally that they may give oft to the poor; hence do they gather wealth for the kingdom of God. But what of thine own wealth, Master Plowman? Wherewithal shalt thou sup and faire if thou wouldst join us?’
‘Heed it not, Father, for labour I with mine hands for my needs,’ Tom answered eagerly. ‘Two farms hath I inherited and may be sold, if it be deemed needful to raise the wherewithal. But I be thy servant or disciple, yea, whatsoever thou would wish in all else, for so hath it been ordained, I trow.’ 
‘Good man! Gladly would I disciple thee,’ approved William, sensing once again the bond between them. ‘Thou’rt lettered?’
‘Father James of Gillingham hath so taught thy servant, and I read much when I may.’
A mischievous grin emerged.
 ‘But, alas, he hath not driven forth the demon of inquisitiveness that possesseth me.’
‘Ha!’ commented Benjamin. ‘I perceive that thou’rt a born scholar. Thou hast need to be so inquisitive, yea, and a little wood¹ also, et abnormis sapiens.’ 
As Tom looked mystified at this, Benjamin took on an air of superiority, in mimicry of the august Doctor Wadeford. ‘To be interpreted: A Natural Philosopher, my son.’
‘And I perceive that my friend shall instruct thee in thy Latin, God aid thee, e’er all is done,’ observed William. ‘Come thou to these quarters on the morrow, if thou wilt, and I shall observe thy cunning with the quill. Thou shalt copy some of Doctor Hereford’s tracts with me. There be many a student that hath so repaid the Masters for their sponsorship, and thus have read the scriptures in the mother tongue. So shalt thou earn thy faire also.’
‘Gladly will I do so, Father William,’ said Tom gratefully, dizzy at the thought of reading the Holy Scriptures himself, in his own tongue. ‘And I thank thee of thy kindness.’
‘Yea! But ‘ware the scourge of the dreaded chorea scriptorum², Master Plowman,’  added the irrepressible Benjamin in a voice of grave admonition. ‘‘Tis a grievous affliction that plagues us all in this task.’
Tom looked a little apprehensively toward William, as though he would be struck down by a demonic attack or horrible debilitating disease. William chuckled.
‘Fear not the doomsome words of yon jobbardly Jeremiah, Master Plowman. He maketh merry with us all oft and anon, and ‘twill be to his own undoing. But heed thou his warning that thine hand may have its Sabbath rest each day, that thy copying may not overburden it.’

Nicolas Hereford had been delighted to meet Tom when William explained his circumstances and his calling. 
Like all of the leading Wycliffeite teachers, Hereford sponsored some of the more promising, but indigent, students through their studies at Oxford. These were mainly young men whom he had met on his travels, while preaching in churches throughout Leicestershire and Gloucestershire. Fired with a call to preach the gospel, they would often approach him, or William Shephard, at the end of his addresses. Hence, many students automatically adhered to Wycliffe’s movement at Oxford.
There were also a growing number of lay students, like Thomas Plowman, who had begun attending Hereford’s special classes for lay preachers.
By contrast, Doctor William Wadeford and his followers only accepted the sons of gentlemen or wealthy merchants for enrolment in his courses; only those who could pay their own way. He sneered at the ‘peasant-priests’, as he called them, in Wycliffe’s train, shaking his head disgustedly at how ‘basely the clerical vocation hath descended’.
‘How hath the mighty fallen!’ he quoted derisively, referring to Wycliffe, his rival.

Thomas Plowman would never have been considered fit for one of Doctor Wadeford’s classes, but with Hereford, it had been a different matter altogether. Based on his obvious intelligence, together with a recommendation from William, Hereford had willingly offered the young man a sponsorship.
‘Mine exceeding and grateful thanks, good Doctor.’ replied Tom with a kind of bucolic dignity. “Natheless, a proud son of the soil I be. I have vowed me that neither meat I shall take, nor bed shall I slumber in except that I have toiled for’t. Forgive me if churlishness this may seem.’
‘Thou’rt a man of honour, I deem, Master Plowman.’ replied Hereford approvingly. ‘Thy zeal doth commend itself to thy calling. But mark me well, there is a grave yoke that thou must also bear as an Oxenford cleric, and in especial one that be of Doctor Wycliffe’s party.’
He went on to enumerate the study disciplines and responsibilities that would be expected of him.
‘So this I would ask thee: Canst thou truly make provision for all thy need and yet attend unto all thine office?’
Tom opened his mouth to protest his capacity for an even greater load, but he looked up at William, standing behind Hereford’s chair, and caught the quizzical gleam in his eye. He bowed his head and smiled.
‘Good Doctor, mine own father once saith unto me: Not even the strongest oxen can plough two furrows. I will accept thine offer with thanks.’
‘So be it! Thou’st spoken as a true Wycliffeite preacher, my son.’
‘Amen!’ agreed William, his smile broadening. ‘An honest man is he. The labourer be worthy of his hire, and fear not, verily thou shalt labour for it indeed, Master Thomas.’

When lectures were in recess, Tom joined William in going among the village folk, working and talking with them. This was as the breath of life to him. His sunny temperament, hard work and enthusiasm soon won over many hearts, and he became just as popular as William.
In the beginning, he observed and listened to William’s style as he preached and prayed. Within a year, Tom’s confidence had grown to the extent that his own voice rang out in the streets of local towns and villages. 
William noticed that when Tom discovered some new revelation from the scriptures, he would share it fervently and skilfully with his street congregations, with powerful effect. Tom had a natural gift of words and a boldness that gave William a slight twinge of envy.
‘Ah, well!’ he said philosophically to Benjamin as they drank their ale at the Bull and Book. ‘He is an evangel preacher, a reaper of souls. I am but a shepherd.’
‘Aye, but one that feedeth those selfsame souls, Father William.’ said Benjamin firmly, with one of his occasional bursts of profundity. ‘Ye are destined to labour together, both. Have I not seen it oft? What will it profit the soul if it be born, but to perish through want of succour?’
‘‘Tis soothly said, my sage, and I thank thee of thy kind rebuke!’

The only serious fault William could find in Tom was a certain impetuosity that characterized him, and sometimes got him into trouble. When injustice was being done, Tom could not stand by and watch without intervening. On one occasion, William witnessed two of the more unruly students, whom Tom had found harassing an elderly woman, having their heads banged together.
Tom also found it hard not to confront the hecklers and gainsayers in the street crowds that came to hear them. More than one student or cleric that was hostile to his message, and said so, found himself semi-baptized, face down, in the miller’s pond or horse-trough nearby. It was not really a violent temper that prompted him to react in such a way, but rather, in Tom’s youth at Gillingham, it was often considered the normal way of disposing of one’s opponent to end a debate, whether verbal or physical. He sometimes did it before he realized what he had done.
William was usually able to smooth over the situation with diplomacy, and found it hard to castigate his erring disciple when he came to him later in genuine repentance.

One such incident occurred after one of Doctor Wadeford’s followers was left with his feet sticking out of a thornbush, kicking wildly. Muffled noises could be heard emanating from within the bush. Although William was present at the time, it had all happened too quickly for him to prevent. 
Tom immediately realized the enormity of what he had done. Not only would he receive a raking down from his mentor, he knew a complaint was sure to be made to the masters -- even Doctor Wycliffe himself. With a rueful lowering of his head, Tom turned to William, awaiting condemnation and an imposition of penance.
Eheu, Padre. Peccavi.’ he said soberly.
‘So though sayest!’ William snapped, rather annoyed. ‘But “Primum non nocere!”³ quoth I, thou jobbardly shakebuckler! Avoid him anon!’
But then exasperation slowly gave way to a smile on William’s face as Tom hastily obeyed. Then an irrepressible chuckle arose from deep inside, which gave way to helpless laughter as Tom, doing his best to conceal his relief, apologised to the shaken victim. William walked away, shaking his head and still chuckling -- a bubble of mirth that lasted well into the evening.

Tom largely grew out of such behaviour -- once William convinced him that it did more harm than good. 
‘Hark ye, Thomas!’ his mentor would say earnestly. ‘Wilt thou impart wood justice? And wilt thou debate with the sword or strong arm of the flesh? If thou wouldst make enemies unto thyself, beware lest it be to thy gainbite! Stint thou this witaldry! Mark thou the words of Holy Writ that sayeth: “Whatsoever ye mete shall be meted unto you.” Wilt thou reap that which thou sowest?’
Tom was silenced, remembering the words of his father and mother.
‘Well, be not discouraged, my son,’ added William, relenting. ‘Thou hast strange gifts for a strange task that is before thee, even more than I. Thou’st a great heart within thy breast, moreover. Thou’rt a shakebuckling rogue, Master Thomas Plowman, but I perceive we shall become boon comrades. And mark thou this: Ab ove maiori discit arare minor.’
Tom wrestled with the quotation for a moment, for his latin was still only half learnt. Then it dawned on him.. “From the older ox the younger learns to plow.” he laughed.  “But what if the younger be a froward beast, Father Ox, and drag thee onward beyond thy measured ploddings?”
“Then shall I avoid me the yoke, and ride upon the plough to look upon thee as thou toilest alone, Master Plowman. And wield I the goad also.’

In spite of William’s half-hearted attempts at disciplining him, the imp of mischief never really left Tom -- even to the end of his days.

1 "Wood". An old English expression meaning "Crazed"
2 "Corea scriptorum". Latin for "Writer's Cramp"
3 "Primum non nocere". Latin saying meaning "First of all, avoid all harm."

Also "Gainbite" is "Regret."
"Stint thou this witaldry!" is "Stop this buffoonery!"


Saturday, 20 October 2018

Latest Bardsong: The Rite of Redemption.

Here is an excerpt from "Wings in the Wind (Part 2): Seasons of the Sun" -- soon to be released.
It is an ancient song, supposedly written by the eagle-bards of Mawha, many generations ago, when peace had been established between the eagle-tribes of the Eyri winged peoples.
This rite was a ceremony which would re-establish the balance of nature, once disrupted by the pride and self-centredness of the Eyri, who fought among themselves.

The Rite of Redemption for us is ordained
By the Great Lord of Spirits, Who dwelleth above
To cleanse all our lands and our hearts that are stained
By the dark shades of evil that spurned His great love.

This darkness within us gross darkness will spawn,
For death and corruption is born in our soul.
Pride bringeth destruction. If justice we scorn,
All goodness and love by the wayside will fall.

Then Justice rose up and cried out in her pain:
‘O wing’d folk, shall evil then thrive unimpeded?
The blood of the helpless be shed yet again?
And the cry of the weak by the strong go unheeded?

If rocks forsake mountain-tops, shall they not fall?
The chick leaving mother, it shall become prey.
Forsook we the Great One, the Maker of all!
So fallen and dying are we to this day!’

The first Eyri fathers then saw their great sin
When the sun-spirit grieved and each tear turned to stone.
“Alas!” cried our fathers, “This darkness within,
How shall it be cleansed? How shall we atone?”

Then spake the Great Spirit by ClearEye the Seer:
‘O hearken ye wing-folk, Khan-harahe* speaketh
To hearts that will turn to Him in holy fear,
To the heart that is humbled and righteousness seeketh.

Though there is forgiveness, yet guilt it still standeth.
When justice you cry for, shall you be ignored?
In torment is Earth for what justice demandeth,
And Wrong ruleth Nature ‘til Right is restored.

But mercy abundant hath Khan-harahe,
And will not a father provide for his kin?
So Justice met mercy. The stain washed away
By a sacrifice, chosen to die for our sin.

Dry earth crieth out to the skies to bring rain
That the flow’r and the trees and the beasts may not perish.
The clouds yield their life-blood so we live again
And the streams bring the water of life that we cherish.

The beast yieldeth life that the Eyri may live,
So we eat and in thankfulness sing we in chorus.
The guiltless their blood for the guilty they give.
E’en so the Great Spirit bless’d hope He made for us.

Lo! Deep in the Northlands, the land of Mawha**,
A red altar standeth that He hath prepared.
To Paradise Valley, lords, come from afar!
For this deep, sacred rite with all Eyri is shared.

When the sun at his height shineth down the bless’d vale
All priests and their lords gather ‘round the red altar.
Ev’ry turn of the seasons do ye and not fail
That the blessings of Khan-harahe may not falter.

There find ye a lamb, one that beareth no stain.
Then bring him and bind him upon the red stones.
By the hands of the Priestess and High King ‘tis slain.
The blood of the guiltless for evil atones.

If the hearts of the Eyri-lords truly are humble
The fierce Claw of Judgement will strike from the skies.
The flesh of the lamb it shall burn and shall crumble
And evil shall perish and life shall arise.

Of darken’d lamb’s flesh then all witnesses eat,
As the priests and the WindSingers songs of praise sing.
Then the lords of the Eyri their vows shall repeat
To Khan-harahe serve and obey their high king.

Take heed, priests and lords, lest it all be in vain!
If right be your words and yet good intent faileth,
Then He Who hearts readeth His seal shall retain
Then suffering cometh, and death it prevaileth!

But if all your hearts will repent and stay true,
The hot seal of His hand it shall fall from the sky.
The cleansed Earth shall blossom, the rains shall renew
The dark storm is quelled, and the plague it shall die.

The Rite of Redemption for us is ordained
By the Great Lord of Spirits, Who dwelleth above
To cleanse all our lands and our hearts that are stained
By the dark shades of evil that spurned His great love.




* Khan-harahe - "Lord of Spirits". The deity of the Eyri winged peoples, although some had lapsed into polytheism.
** Mawha -  the beautiful, mountainous land where the most powerful Eyri tribe ( the Mawh'eyri) lived.