by David Barber
These are the scenes he seemed to remember:
A blade raised silver in the battled air;
An oath to Arthur, sworn when others sold
Their loyalty for coin; all the mighty
Who yielded to his will; a nameless knight
Unhorsed beside a ford, his wasteful blood
Stains the water red. Yet still he cannot
Recall his mother's face, or a childhood.
The burliest of them round the table
Sit spellbound as Arthur speaks of visions,
Mailed fists thumping approval for the quest.
The greatest knight is their invention,
A role that Launcelot dons like armour.
Riding with Guinevere to Camelot,
We learn their fate is to betray the king
And the grail was never for Launcelot.
Divided from himself, the future dims.
He slays the unarmed kindred of Gawain
Without reason, and as Arthur sickens
The Orkney faction seize upon revenge.
The kingdom starts to slip away; soon
The waters will reclaim the fated sword.
Only Merlin, the cambion, suspects
Their lives were always someone else's words.